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Queens Borough President Helen Marshall announced her support of the city’s Willets Point redevelopment plan Wednesday afternoon, dealing another blow, albeit an anticipated one, to the business owners and workers who oppose the project.
Marshall, who has previously expressed her intent to approve the project, issued her official four-page recommendation calling for the project to move forward on the condition that the community remain involved and the current businesses are treated fairly and equitably in their ongoing land negotiations with the city.
“There is no doubt that the existing businesses and people who work there also provide valuable services and goods,” she said in the recommendation.
“However, these activities are no longer compatible or appropriate to the progress of the communities and institutions that have grown around Willets Points since its days as a Valley of Ashes,” said Marshall, referring to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of the area in his book, “The Great Gatsby.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg heralded Marshall’s approval.
“Queens Borough President Marshall’s approval of the Willets Point Redevelopment Plan yesterday evening is another major step forward for one of the most important environmental contamination clean-up efforts in New York City,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
Opponents of the plan, such as City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst), expressed disappointment with the approval, contending that the current proposal is a skeleton of what it should be.
“This process has successfully disenfranchised the Queens community from a project that will determine their future for decades to come,” Monserrate said. “Unfortunately, the Queens borough president chose to support this vague and noncommittal plan rather than question it. That’s why the project’s opposition continues to grow broader and deeper.”
The city hopes to overhaul Willets Point, currently home to more than 260 business and an estimated 1,700 workers, and transform it into a sprawling residential and commercial neighborhood featuring 5,500 units of housing and more than 2 million square feet of retail and office space.
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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