In a vote this afternoon that passed 42 to 3 (with 1 abstention), the City Council approved the Willets Point Development plan.
The approval paves the way for construction to begin on the $3 billion dollar redevelopment project near Citi Field. A few days ago, local officials added a wrinkle to the plan – demanding that the city provide $70 million dollars for ramps that would lead from the Van Wyck Expressway to Willets Point.
Ever since the plan was introduced in 2008, there had been dissent from both local residents and owners/operators of the auto body shops in the Iron Triangle that will be demolished to pave the way for the redevelopment.
Recently, local residents led a march to Citi Field in protest of the plan. Their main complaint, was that there isn’t a clear answer regarding when construction of the affordable housing will begin in the area (that construction is part of the redevelopment plan).
The redevelopment of Willets Point, which will be carried out by the city, Fred Wilpon’s Sterling Equities, and other private parties, has been one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s key agenda items for years. Now that the final hurdle has been cleared, construction can begin on what will be a hotel, school, convention center, restaurants, bars, shops, housing, and parking. The bulk of the construction will take place next to Citi Field on 126th street, where the auto body shops/Iron Triangle currently are.
Another part of the development, that was added in more recently, will be the construction of a mall where Shea Stadium once stood, at a location next to the ballpark that is currently being used for Citi Field parking.
According to the Queens Chronicle, Phase 1 of the plan will focus on demolition and cleaning up the area where the chop shops currently are on 126th street. After that is complete, the hotel, shops, restaurants, and bars will begin to rise (construction on that portion of the plan is scheduled to be completed by 2016).
After that phase is complete, the mall will be built next to Citi Field (where the parking lot currently is). That phase of the construction is scheduled to be completed in 2018.
I can understand the skepticism from the local residents who were against the plan, and empathize with the business owners who will be displaced. I also realize that no matter how the redevelopment turns out, there will always be a faction of people who despise it simply because Sterling Equities and Fred Wilpon are attached to it.
However, I think the big picture is what’s important here. While a large portion of the area referred to as “The Valley of Ashes” by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby has been redeveloped, the Iron Triangle has remained. It’s a veritable wasteland, with dozens of businesses strewn next to one another atop a pile of dirt.
The chop shops were visible from Shea Stadium, and are now visible from Citi Field. When fans attend Mets games and either enter the ballpark via the bullpen gate, or head to McFadden’s for a drink, the Iron Triangle is right next door.
Now that the redevelopment has been approved, what’s next door won’t be an eyesore for much longer. Instead, it’ll be turned into something that’s beneficial for the city, local residents, and those who attend Mets games.