The city’s Economic Development Corporation will sell 23 acres of land to Queens Development LLC–a joint venture between Sterling Equities and Related Companies–for $1 following the Queens Borough Board’s approval of the transfer.
The Board’s authorization on Monday officially cleared the way for phase one of the developers’ $3 billion Willets Point project, which the City Council initially approved in 2008. The redevelopment aims to make Willets Point–currently a hodgepodge of chop shops and junkyards bordering Citi Field–home to New York’s “next great neighborhood.”
Queens Development can now proceed with the cleanup phase of a project that intends to bring a convention center, hotel and shopping complex to the area. Related and Sterling Equities, which is controlled by New York Mets chief and former Bernard Madoff investor Fred Wilpon, partnered on a RFP pitch for the site in 2011.
Controversy has swirled around the project over its use of eminent domain to move over 200 inauspicious existing businesses from what is sometimes referred to as the Iron Triangle. Concessions involving affordable housing development eased some local fears, although the number of such units was reduced to 875 from 1,900.
Nevertheless, the Times Ledger reported that district Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras was ” very humbled and honored as a resident of Corona and someone who grew up in the neighborhood to give my vote today. We need to move forward and have change,” she said. “This is a positive thing for our community.”
Eugene Kelty, the chairman of Queens Community Board 7, was the only Borough Board member to vote against the $1 sale. “This board has a problem with the agreement with the city of New York,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “We do not believe it. We do not trust it.”