Willets Point Plan Gets Planning Approval

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The New York Sun

The city Planning Commission’s approval of Mayor Bloomberg’s $3 billion plan to redevelop Willets Point sets the stage for a final vote by the City Council.

The proposal for the 62-acre Queens site has now been approved by the local community board, the president of Queens, Helen Marshall, and the Planning Commission, but the council vote will be its biggest hurdle.

A majority of City Council members oppose the plan to build a mixed-use development, which would include a convention center, 5,500 units of housing, and office and retail space in the industrial area.

Leading the opposition is a Queens council member, Hiram Monserrate, who called yesterday’s Planning Commission 11-1 vote a “rubber stamp.”

“The current Willets Point plan sets a precedent for community planning by decree, rather than discussion. The City Planning Commission’s vote is further proof that the Administration is more interested in steamrolling this process rather than accepting the community’s many pleas for collaboration,” Mr. Monserrate said in a statement.

Last month, 31 council members signed a letter that expressed “absolute opposition” to the plan. The council vote will vote on the issue in November, and in the coming weeks the deputy mayor for economic development, Robert Lieber, will continue negotiations with local business owners and Mr. Monserrate.

The plan’s opponents are calling for better traffic mitigation measures for the site and for the possible use of eminent domain, which the city has not ruled out, to be taken off the table.

Another key point of contention is the percentage of housing that will be dedicated to affordable units. The city is proposing 20%, while Mr. Monserrate is seeking at least 50%.

In a statement issued yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg said the plan “must” go forward. “The plan will continue to be refined as City Council Members review the plan, ask questions and provide input. I am confident that, at the end of the day, they too will choose to address the challenges that have plagued Willets Point for decades and act to create new economic opportunities for all Queens residents,” the mayor said.

The New York Sun

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