By David Brand
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has released two formal redevelopment proposals put forth by the Willets Point Task Force, a group that formed in 2018 to create a plan for a 17-acre parcel of land next to Citi Field known as the “Iron Triangle.”
The site covers 23 total acres and the first phase of development, regardless of which proposal is selected, will include construction of 1,100 units of affordable housing on six acres, according to the NYCEDC.
The first proposal for the remaining 17 acres calls for creating “a true, high-density, mixed-use district” that is “primarily residential” and features housing at different levels of affordability, a new high school, retail space, a fire station and a health center, according to the NYCEDC.
The second proposal would create a 270,000 square-foot soccer stadium with capacity for 25,000 seats. The stadium would share parking with Citi Field. Task Force co-chairs Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilmember Francisco Moya have publicly supported the soccer stadium in the past.
In 2008, the City Council approved a plan that would designate 35 percent of 5,500 units — 1,925 units — as affordable housing for families who earn less than $99,840 a year, including 800 units for families who earn less than $38,400 a year.
During a press conference with local reporters on Tuesday, Katz said the 1,100 units of affordable housing were just the first phase of development and directed questions about additional housing to the NYCEDC.
“One of the compromises was the fact that the first phase, which was six acres, is going to be 100 percent affordable housing,” Katz said. “The 5,500 units of housing originally was market value and affordable so building the 1,100 units of affordable first takes most of that affordable into account.”
Katz served as City Council Land Use Committee chair when the Council agreed to the affordable housing component of the plan in 2008.
Ten years later, a coalition of community groups organized to demand the city develop at least 5,500 units of affordable housing on the 23-acre parcel of land. The coalition, known as Nos Quedamos, announced in December 2018 that it opposes building a soccer stadium or other high-profile development project.
A previous proposal to build a casino at the site was quickly nixed. In addition, a plan to build a shopping mall on NYC Parks Department land was struck down by the state Court of Appeals, a plan to sign a stadium deal with New York City Football Club (NYCFC) dissolved and a proposed LaGuardia Airport parking lot encountered intense criticism.
The two task force proposals were sent to developers Sterling Equities — operated by the Wilpon family, who owns the Mets — and The Related Cos., which developed Hudson Yards in Manhattan, for consideration. The developers will next “create and submit proposals to the city,” according to the task force’s September meeting minutes.
Katz said both proposals require more community input.
“The second phase is 17 acres, we had four meetings of the Willets Point Task Force, a lot of back-and-forth between EDC and us about what we want to see there. We ended up with two scenarios that are the start of the community process,” she said.