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Queens community coalition calls on mayor to recoup land at Willets Point

A rendering of the Willets Point development.
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A newly formed coalition of over a dozen local organizations were joined by community leaders and local elected officials Monday urging Mayor de Blasio to honor the original Willets Point redevelopment Plan that guaranteed affordable housing.

The group, Nos Quedamos (We Stay Queens), called on de Blasio Dec. 13 to reclaim two acres of land purchased by the city, which was transferred to the Queens Development Group for $1 by exercising an option in contract with the developer that expires Dec. 20, 2018.

Former City Councilman and current District Leader Hiram Monserrate, who negotiated the original 2008 plan, said the 17 acres of city-owned property that is vacant should be used to create desperately needed affordable housing.

“The city spent $200 million dollars in acquiring 23 acres and pushed out 60 small mom and pop shops owned and operated by mostly immigrant Latinos,” said Monserrate. They were displaced because the city promised 2,000 affordable housing units and more.”

Monserrate added, “The people have been subjected to broken promise after broken promise. This must change, we need real public investment for affordable housing and an end to deals that unfairly benefit the super rich.”

Rolandi Bini, of Parents in Action, called the two-acre dollar deal a “greedy corrupt land grab.”

“This along with the Amazon deal in Long Island City shows how misdirected this administration is and how they have failed miserably in building affordable housing,” said Bini.

The Willets Point Development Plan sought to transform the iron triangle into a major engine for economic growth for New York City, generate local employment and business opportunities, and improve the overall quality of life for local residents, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

In February, the de Blasio Administration announced Phase 1A of its plan to construct 1,100 affordable housing units and a school on six acres of land at Willets Point Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue. A task force was formed to make recommendations for the other 17 acres of Phase 1 land that will be built upon next.

The full buildout of the entire 62-acre Willets Point Development Plan included more than 3,000 additional housing units, of which over 1,100 would be affordable, additional community facilities and public school, office space, a convention center, parking, and a minimum of eight more acres of public open space, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Inwood) said the mayor needs to reclaim the land the city gave away, and start a discussion on using it to build the affordable housing that was already promised to the community.

“This community of hardworking families is speaking loud and clear and their saying they’re tired of being pushed out of their own community by developers who continue to make millions by taking what isn’t theirs,” said Rodriguez. “These families deserve affordable housing not for their community to be sold for one dollar!”

Bertha Lewis, founder and president of The Black Institute, said the development at Willets Point has been in complete disarray since it was first proposed.

“We have seen small businesses forced to close and community members wage battle in court to prevent the loss of public parkland, something that still hasn’t been returned,” said Lewis. “It’s time for the city to return to its original plan that includes affordable housing, schools and a community center, and we will fight until that happens.”

Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmohamed@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4526.

Posted 12:00 am, December 13, 2018
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