Willets Pt. housing lottery may trigger spat in CB 3, 7

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If the city gains approval for its controversial Willets Point redevelopment plan, it could leave two Queens community boards in a fight over who gets the greatest bounty of the 1,100 units of affordable housing the project promises.

The city has said 20 percent of the likely 5,500 housing units expected to be included in the city's massive redevelopment plan for the Iron Triangle would be for low-to-moderate income families. However, where those families come from will take the city's department of Housing Preservation and Development into uncharted territory.

"We may have to forge new policies for this," said Michael Polo, HPD's Queens and Staten Island Director of Planning.

Currently when affordable units are offered as part of a large project, 50 percent are set aside to be auctioned off in a lottery to families who live within the Community Board district where the development is being built.

Willets Point is within the boundaries of Community Board 7 but runs up against the border of Community Board 3 to the west. At committee meetings ahead of their vote on the plan, CB 7 board members have suggested including CB 3 in the affordable housing because of the scope and location of the project.

Polo told CB 7 earlier this month that because of the city's policy of using a random lottery to determine who gets the housing, the board — which serves more than 250,000 residents — may end up getting the short end of the stick.

"There is the possibility that CB 3 would end up with more of the units," he said.

The idea was enough to make CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty wince.

"I've been nice so far about including CB 3 on this, but I don't want to give up this housing," he said.

Polo, meanwhile, said no policy is set in stone and he is confident a compromise could be worked out.

"This is really an opportunity for us to hear what you have to think about this," Polo said.

Affordable housing advocate Jon Furlong of Habitat for Humanity, who has been attending the board's committee meetings on Willets Point, said he believes the city should step up and offer more affordable units but cautioned that such a small detail should not keep the plan at bay.

"Both boards are going to have to sit down together," Furlong said. "This could be a potential conflict, but it doesn't have to be. We can't get hung up on the details of who is going to get what."

CB 7 will hold its next committee meeting on Willets Point on June 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Union Plaza Care Center in Flushing.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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