Marshall eyes development with state in Willets Point

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"We need to control Willets Point development," Marshall said last week. Her announcement about the redevelopment authority came in her State of the Borough Address last month. "In the end it makes it easier to bypass the many loops that businesses go through."

Willets Point has been under the redevelopment microscope in Flushing's master plans. It has been the hope of city planners and area representatives to develop downtown Flushing out to Shea Stadium -- directly through the Willets Point area that is currently dominated by auto parts shops.

A redevelopment authority would have to be created by the governor and would have the ability to bring state funding into the region. It would also give businesses the ability to bypass the political process they are normally subject to. Queens West, a high-rise commercial and residential development in Long Island City, was built with a redevelopment authority.

"I'd just like to see the waterfront be a waterfront for the people rather than see a series of industry there," Marshall said after her address.

In a speech to Queens Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, Marshall said she is going to push for a convention center in Willets Point.

Earlier this month, the city Department of Transportation tabled plans to build an asphalt plant at an existing DOT service station on Harper Street in Willets Point.

When asked how she felt about the delay in building an asphalt plant there, Marshall said she was "delighted."

By establishing a redevelopment authority, she said the city could have considerable control over the way Willets Point is developed.

Such an authority would not prevent the city from using eminent domain to assume ownership of the auto body shops, Liu said.

He said the idea of a redevelopment authority is only beneficial if he and other area representatives are consulted in its formation.

"I'm very appreciative of the borough president's placing a high priority on this and this kind of authority may be the only way to go," Liu said. "As long as the borough president and the local elected officials have strong input into the formation of this authority, then I think it's a great idea."

He said an authority could funnel city money into the neighborhood, but it could come at a cost to the residents who live nearby.

"The authority has the potential to bring in funding," Liu said. "It also has the potential to become less accountable to the nearby communities."

The formation of an authority also takes the development out of the political process. Currently, an incoming property is subject to community and borough board approvals.

When asked whether taking the development of Willets Point out of his constituent's hands, Liu said "we need to make sure that the input of the borough president and the local elected officials are factored heavily into the formation of this kind of authority."

Marshall said she has not formally asked Gov. George Pataki to consider establishing a redevelopment authority yet.

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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