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City Council approves Willets Point redevelopment plan

The City Council voted by a nearly unanimous margin Thursday to approve the redevelopment of Willets Point, paving the way for a massive mixed−use neighborhood featuring more than 1,900 units of affordable housing.

The Council voted shortly before 4 p.m. 45−2 in favor of the project with the only dissenters being City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) and Charles Barron (D−Brooklyn), who cited the potential use of eminent domain as their primary reasons for voting against the plan.

In the end, much of the anticipated drama surrounding the vote was swept away when Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) reached an accord with the city Wednesday and rallied the support of most of his colleagues behind him.

Though there was a heavy police presence in the balcony of City Hall, the mood was more reminiscent of a funeral than a riot, as dozens of business owners and workers watched as the future of their land was decided.

On the City Council floor, the atmosphere was decidedly different. Monserrate and members of the New York City Economic Development Corp. were showered with praise by fellow city officials, affordable housing advocates and labor leaders congratulating them on pushing through one of the largest and most complex projects in recent memory.

During the vote, several members of the Council took the time to explain their displeasure with the potential use of eminent domain and urged the city to reach negotiated agreements with the dozens of landowners who have not yet struck a deal. With the exception of Avella and Barron, however, each of them ultimately declared that the positive benefits for the city and Queens outweighed the specter of invoking the controversial practice and voted to approve the plan.

“While I would agree it isn’t perfect, this is the best possible plan as we move forward,” Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D−Forest Hills) said. “This is a great day for Queens.”

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