Posts tagged with "WIllets Point":

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helps launch green affordable housing complex in Queens

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on hand at the opening of a new 67-unit senior housing complex in Corona, Queens—the first affordable housing to be built in the neighborhood in 30 years. In close alignment with the representative's leadership on climate change initiatives like the Green New Deal, the $36 million affordable development is also one of the largest low-income senior housing projects in the country to meet Passive House standards for energy consumption, according to a statement by New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The 8-story senior housing project at 54-17 101st Street was designed by New York–based THINK! Architecture and Design and developed in a partnership between HANAC—the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee—a community organization, and affordable housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. All 67 units, a mix of 1-bedrooms and studios, are set aside for low-income seniors, with 21 units expressly dedicated to formerly homeless seniors. In addition, the project is a mixed-use development, with a preschool in the building that will serve 60 children and will be administered by the New York City School Construction Authority. Constructing the building 8 stories tall was needed to make the project financially feasible, and required rezoning. But because it is located in a largely low-rise neighborhood of two- to three-story buildings, the architects used a number of strategies to make the project seem less imposing. THINK! broke up the facade into "townhouse-like scales," using different planes and layering materials, window patterns, and colors to vary the surface, according to Jack Esterson, principal at THINK! and the lead architect of the project. The building was also designed so that an upper layer of floors is set back above the first four stories, with a transparent band of windows separating the two layers and making the upper level appear to float above the lower level. This level of windows also fronts an outdoor terrace for residents that connects to the lounge and laundry room. The Corona Senior Residence, as the complex is called, is one of the concrete outcomes of the Willets Point Community Benefits Agreement, a part of the negotiations over the controversial Willets Point Development Plan led by developers Related Companies and Sterling Equities. Funding for the project came from the city, including HPD, the City Council, city subsidies, the Queens borough president's office, Chase, and the low-income housing tax credit, among other sources. "Affordable housing is critical for our most vulnerable New Yorkers, especially our seniors. I am proud to support an organization that strives to provide community-centered, innovative, energy efficient housing," Representative Ocasio-Cortez said at the opening. "With a pre-K on the ground floor and additional programs and services, this is precisely the kind of development our borough needs. I am thrilled to join HANAC on this important occasion as we fight to keep Queens affordable for all." As the representative added on Twitter, "Today was a great example of what can be accomplished w/ a !"
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Willets Point redevelopment is back on track, and 100% affordable for phase I

The on-again-off-again redevelopment of Willets Point in Queens is finally moving ahead, after an injunction early last year seemed to have doomed the project. As first reported in the New York Times, Mayor Bill de Blasio has struck a deal with the project’s original developers, and 1,100 units of affordable housing are now set to rise on the parcel. First announced in 2011 under former mayor Michael Bloomberg, the original Willets Point project would have repurposed 23 acres on the site of the former Shea Stadium in Flushing-Corona. Queens Development Group, a city collaboration with developers Sterling Equities and The Related Companies, would have built out 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development with 2,500 units of housing, 500,000 square feet of office space, 900,000 square feet of retail. The most contentious portion of the original redevelopment was Willets West, a one-million-square-foot-plus mega-mall that would have pulled land from the nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park. After a state court ruled in 2015 that the city couldn’t legally parcel up the park, Willets Point seemed dead in the water. With the announcement of a new plan for the Iron Triangle (as the neighborhood is known for the high number of auto repair shops), de Blasio has skirted around the state’s concerns by dropping the mall entirely. Instead, the Queens Development Group will now build 1,100 affordable housing units on the six acres that the city already owns, in addition to a 450-seat elementary school and front-facing neighborhood retail. 100 apartments will be set-aside for formerly homeless families, and another 220 will go to seniors. Other than the increased number of affordable units, 1,100 units versus the original 875, the city will retain control of the land instead of selling it to the developers as originally promised. Related and Sterling will also be responsible for remediating beneath the project site before construction on the residential buildings can begin; Willets Point has been used for manufacturing for a century. Most of the immigrant-owned auto shops and scrap yards are now gone, after the city seized the land under eminent domain in preparation for the redevelopment. The site clean up is expected to finish in 2020, with 500 of the 1,100 units to be completed in 2022. The plan for the remaining 17 acres is up in the air at this point, and Mayor de Blasio has convened a task force with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Member Francisco Moya to come up with further development plans. “Willets Point has been 12 years of bad politics and broken promises. With this deal, we can look to providing some great housing relief for a lot of people who need it. By securing school seats, deep affordability, and senior housing we have accomplished something none of the previous iterations have been able to,” said Moya.
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NY Islanders may build new arena on Willets Point

The New York Islanders may have a new home at Willets Point, right next to the Mets' Citi Field in Queens. The hockey team now plays at the SHoP-designed Barclays Center, but the 15,700-capacity space is reviled by fans and players alike. Fans have complained of seats with obstructed views (there are 1,500), while players bemoan the low quality of the ice. Home games averaged 13,626 fans, the third lowest turnout in the league. Frank Gehry's proposal had a greater capacity and better sightlines for hockey games, but the scheme was scrapped amid cost-cutting. The team moved to the Barclay's Center after its former owner wasn't able to secure public funding to build a new arena on the site of the Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders' home. The team has been discussing a move for months; it would put them closer to their Long Island fan base, Bloomberg reports. The northern Queens neighborhood the Islanders could call home is a potholed warren of chopshops wedged between Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Flushing Creek. The shops that flourish there provide skilled jobs, and its unpaved streets lined with cars in various states of assembly offer an intriguing detour (and great auto parts discounts) for intrepid visitors. But, like all New York spaces that could be developed to produce a higher return on capital, Willets Point will soon be transformed, one way or another. In 2012, Sterling and Related, Hudson Yards' developer, struck an agreement with the city to convert the neighborhood into a giant soulless shopping mall (uh, retail and entertainment district) to which the Islanders may say YES! YES! YES!
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Willets Point Brings Retail Revelry, Puts Housing on Back Burner

Mayor Bloomberg evoked Fitzgerald today when he announced the deal between Sterling Equities and Related Companies to revamp Willets Point. "Today the 'valley of ashes' is well on its way to becoming the site of historic private investment," the mayor said in a statement, referring to the gritty midpoint between Gatsby's West Egg manse and Manhattan. The plan pegs its success to a  mega entertainment/retail hub just west of the stadium, that sounds very much a part of a trend in projects that used to be called malls, but are now called retail/entertainment attractions (see also the aptly named American Dream in NJ). Willets West, as the new complex will be called, promises to convert a former parking lot into more than one million square feet of retail, movie theaters, restaurants, venues, and, of course, parking. But before that the city will spend $100 million east side of the site in demolition and cleanup of the former auto repair shops and junk yards, and then install much needed basic infrastructure. The city is already installing $50 million worth of sewers. Also east of the stadium, the Sterling/Related partnership, called the Queens Development Corporation, will begin developing the 126th Street corridor, where a 200 room hotel will abut 30,000 square feet of retail and a twenty acre interim parking lot. After all that is done, then comes the housing. The Willets Point Community, as it is to be called, will have 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development. This phase of the project will include construction of the Van Wyck Expressway's access ramps that city got approval for in April. Another 900,000 square feet of street level retail will meet 500,000 square feet of office space, another hotel, and 2,500 units of housing, of which 35 percent will be affordable. That the housing comes so late in the game has got more than few politians up up in arms. The Daily News reported early this week that City Coucilmember Karen Koslowitz was not pleased. It's a pretty sensitive topic that was initially raises in The Wall Street Journal last month, which cited Willets Point and Atlantic Yards as examples of where housing was used to win favor with the locals but ends up being the last component of the project scheduled for completion.  
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Willets Point to Rise from Ashes

In Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby the billboard eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg kept watch over the ash heaps near Willets Point. For the past four years Mayor Bloomberg has had his eyes steadfastly fixed on the site and it looks as though he may realize his vision of the area as a mixed use development. Today Crain's reports that a key part of the redevelopment plan, ramps connecting to the Van Wyck Expressway, was approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

In Gatsby, the area served as a brutal reality check between Gatsby's West Egg fantasy and the glitz of the Plaza Hotel.  For urbanism buffs a trip to Willets Point is a must. The many auto repair shops, junk yards, and recycling plants provide an unfettered look inside the belly of the urban beast. But like so many other dirty bits of business (see Fresh Kills), the city seems intent on exporting the unattractive aesthetics that come with it. "It may not look pretty, but its work that needs doing," said Roberta Brandes Gratz, author of The Battle for Gotham and Jane Jacobs protege. "If it's not clean work, does that make it blight?"

Gratz compared the city's plan to Robert Moses' neighborhood clearance projects.  She questioned the elimination of businesses that pull in more than $1 million in real estate taxes, despite being unconnected to basic services such as sewer and waste water systems. "It costs the city nothing, yet its collecting tax revenue," said Grantz. "Where are those businesses going to? Jersey, Connecticut, Nassau?" There's no questioning that the city has begun to appreciate its decayed industrial aesthetic, so lovingly and nostalgically preserved on the High Line. The city has even found ways to reclaim former trash heaps (see Fresh Kills again).  A statement from New York City Economic Development Corporation frames  the Willets Point project in similarly ambitious terms:  "Building upon the off site infrastructure work on which we broke ground last fall, today, we are literally laying the foundation for the site and unlocking its long-term potential for future generations of New Yorkers." But the gritty industries that created the sites may not be as welcome in future plans. Instead, $3 billion worth of hotels, residences, and retail along with nearly  80,000 vehicle trips a day will take their place.  "Adding new highways is no longer considered reasonable and an off ramp will increase traffic," said Gratz. "What ever gets built there would car oriented. I thought the city was trying to be green!"
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New (Yorker) Urbanism

Rarely are New Yorker cartoons anything more than esoteric—which is why we love them, right?—but this one, from last week's issue, struck a particular chord. We still can't decide if its more Duany or Grimshaw. We do hope Mayor Bloomberg saw it, though, as it could provide an example for the happy future development of Willets Point or the Gowanus Canal, both of which are fighting for their futures as industrial areas. And then, while looking this cartoon up, we stumbled across another good one, which you can find after the jump. If we had a penny for every time we heard about a contractor doing this...
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Willets Wonderings

It appears the city's plan to trifurcate development out at Willets Point has been a smashing success, as the Economic Development Corporation announced on Friday that 29 developers from across the country have expressed interest in the first phase of the project, an 18-acre swath of land on the western section of the 62-acre Iron Triangle that contains the densest mix of uses. “The quantity and quality of these responses are strong indicators that the development community has confidence in the successful redevelopment of Willets Point despite current economic conditions,” Seth Pinsky, president of EDC, said in a release. An RFP is expected sometime in 2010 for a selection of those 29 respondents. After that, the next hurdle is finishing land acquisition, which stands at 75 percent of the phase one area controlled by the city. If need be, the city has not ruled out acquiring what's left through eminent domain, a specter that has cast a long shadow over the area's redevelopment, though one that could be sunsetting. Following a court ruling that the state could not seize land in the Manhattanville section of Harlem so that Columbia could build a new campus there, Atlantic Yards opponents are hustling to have their ultimately unsuccessful case reheard, a last-ditch effort to impede the sale of Forest City Ratner's bonds. Whether or not they succeed, all this eminent domain tumult—combined with the recent collapse of plans for the Mother of Them All in New London, Connecticut—could nudge New York over the edge, taking it off the list of a handful of states that have yet to enact eminent domain reform since the Kelo decision four years ago. State Senator Bill Perkins certainly thinks so, calling for the governor to live up to his previous promises of a moratorium on eminent domain in the state. How could this all pay out in Flushing, Queens? David Lombino, a spokesperson for EDC, emphasized the agency's strong track record on reaching deals with business owners in the area, despite the continued intransigence of some. "The response from the private sector is encouraging," he said. Should it come down to eminent domain, but eminent domain is no longer there? EDC, while proffering hypothetical projects, does not respond to hypothetical questions.
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Eminent Decision at Coney?

When the City Planning Commission barely altered the city's plans--plans that remain diametrically opposed to those of chief landholder Joe Sitt--we couldn't help but wonder whether the Bloomberg administration would some how grossly undermine its plan, or let it fall on the sword at the City Council, at least part of which is firmly under the sway of Sitt. Thus far, the Bloomberg administration has yet to allow a single one of its nearly 100 rezoning fail at the council, often crafting 11th hour deals. Would, could things be different this time? Well, following a hearing at City Hall yesterday, the Daily News reports that the city's rezoning proposal has indeed run up against council opposition, but not for the reasons we would have thought--or hoped. No, it has nothing to do with the lack of vision for either Sitt or the city's plans. The council's opposition stems from an aversion to eminent domain, which the city's economic development czar suggested could be on the table should Sitt not sell, something he has currently refused to negotiate on, despite repeated attempts by the city. But that's not what struck us as wrong. No, the problem is--shocking, we know--that many of these council members now in opposition to eminent domain once supported it, in a way. Look no further than Manhattanville or Willets Point, where Columbia and the city, respectively, have used the threat of eminent domain to push around small businesses and landholders. Clearly, it's not the principal that matters to the council but the size of one's pocketbook.