Pushing a New Vision for Willets Point
As the Bloomberg administration presses ahead with its redevelopment plans for Willets Point, the Pratt Center, Queens for Affordable Housing, ACORN, and workers in Willets Point have been collaborating to press for a more responsive redevelopment plan for the area -- one in which affordable housing, living wage jobs, and support for displaced workers are all central components of the project.
On April 8, about 300 Queens community members held a march and rally from a local park in Corona to just outside of Shea Stadium, near the redevelopment site, as fans arrived for the opening day game of the New York Mets game. They were joined by Council Members Hiram Monserrate and Tony Avella.
The demonstrators called on the City to improve its plan for Willets Point by offering guarantees for fair treatment of the workers and businesses on the site, including relocation of businesses in clusters and more training and placement options for workers. The groups also called on the City to make extensive commitments for affordable housing, with a third of all units reserved for those making less than $25,000 a year, and another third affordable for low, moderate, and middle income households.
The Department of City Planning certified their plan for Willets Point rezoning on April 21st, kicking off a land-use review process that requires approval by Queens Community Board 7, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and the City Council. The City's plan calls for taking 61 acres containing 250 business by eminent domain, rezoning the area to allow for much greater development, and then issuing an RFP to select one large-scale develop to build a small convention center, housing (with no specified affordability), retail and commercial space. In response, 29 City Council members wrote a letter to Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber indicating their opposition to the plan as currently proposed, and their intention not to approve it without much stronger guarantees for affordable housing and support for Willets Point's workers.