City airs $3B Willets Point building plan

Mayor Bloomberg announced an ambitious $3 billion retail

Mayor Bloomberg announced an ambitious $3 billion retail and entertainment complex around Citi Field. Photo Credit: Mayor's Office

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An ambitious $3 billion project would transform Willets Point -- a sprawling warren of auto body shops, dilapidated buildings, rutted roads and the occasional junkyard dog -- into a modern retail and entertainment complex around Citi Field.

In announcing the project at a Queens breakfast forum Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the project, which will involve the owners of the New York Mets, is expected to provide 12,000 construction jobs and 7,100 permanent jobs, plus hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue in an area where the ground is believed to be permeated with oils and other toxic wastes.

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"At Willets Point, where others have seen challenges, we have always seen enormous opportunities," Bloomberg said. "Today the 'valley of ashes' is well on its way to becoming the site of historic private investment, major job creation and unprecedented environmental remediation."

Bloomberg was referring to an industrial wasteland mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby."

Development will be carried out by Queens Development Group, a joint venture between Sterling Equities Inc., which owns the Mets, and Related Companies, a real estate developer headquartered in Manhattan. Related Companies developed the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and other projects, including rental apartments, said spokeswoman Cristyne Nicholas.

The $3 billion financing for the project is being guaranteed by Queens Development Group, she said. Details of the financing won't be released until the project is approved, Nicholas said. City officials don't expect any construction to begin for at least two years.

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The plans announced Thursday call for the environmental remediation of 23 acres of contaminated land east of Citi Field. The project was approved by the city in 2008, but faced unsuccessful legal challenges from property owners. Bloomberg said about 95 percent of the land in the eastern zone has been acquired by the city through purchases.

The latest proposal, which requires zoning changes, environmental review and approval by the City Council, adds some new elements, notably a Willets West project for an area immediately west of Citi Field. Willets West will convert current stadium parking into a 1-million-square-foot retail and entertainment center, with more than 200 retail stores of all sizes, movie theaters, restaurants, entertainment venues, a parking structure and surface parking for 2,500 cars, the city said.

The first redevelopment phase, an area east of Citi Field, calls for construction of retail, hotel and commercial space. Some 2,500 housing units are also provided for later, with 875 units labeled "affordable."

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