Standing on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan, the leader of the Queens County Democratic Party said he envisions Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed $3 billion makeover of the 65-acre area as the "final portion of the revitalization of our county." "After decades of false starts and stops, I think it's finally full speed ahead," Crowley said. The project, if approved, is likely to include 5,000 housing units, a 400,000-square-foot convention center, a 700-room hotel, a school, retail and office space and a park. Crowley's considerable political clout could be a large boon to the project, which is expected to begin the public approval process Feb. 25. The plan has met fierce resistance from owners of many of the more than 250 businesses that operate in the area, who claim the city has neglected them by failing to construct a sanitary sewer system for the area. The city has said that years of illegal dumping and contamination combined with a low water table would make it impossible to clean up the site bit by bit, meaning the businesses will have to leave. Crowley said the environmental remediation that would be necessary at Willets Point, the estimated cost of which is in the tens of millions, would pave the way for the cleaning and dredging of Flushing Bay and the Flushing River, which buffer the site on the northern and eastern sides and also suffer from severe environmental contamination. Flanked by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, former Borough President Claire Shulman, City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) and members of Environmental Defense and the New York League of Conservation Voters Monday, Crowley said that federal funding exists for such a project but the U.S. Army Corps of engineers will not push forward until the source of the contamination is fixed. "We need to reclaim these bodies of water," Liu said. "We need to make them places of attraction and not repulsion." Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@
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