BY JAMES FARRELL
Queens’ Community Board 7 voiced frustration with the city and the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) after no high-level representatives from either appeared at a recent meeting regarding the redevelopment of Willets Point.
The June 27 meeting was scheduled in response to the state Court of Appeals’ recent ruling against a proposed shopping mall known as Willets West on public parkland as part of the problematic Willets Point redevelopment plan. In a letter addressed to Borough President Melinda Katz and EDC President James Patchett, CB 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty and First Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian alleged that they contacted the Queens Development Group—a joint venture between Mets owners Sterling Enterprises and the Real Estate management firm Related, which is overseeing the project—requesting that they attend the meeting alongside high-level EDC representatives.
“No one from EDC or the administration attended our meeting, although lower-level representatives from both called last week to politely relay politically correct excuses,” the letter alleged.
According to the community board, its 2013 agreement approving the Willets West plan came with the understanding that there would be regular quarterly meetings to discuss the development. However, as the letter explained, those meetings have been waived in the past as the courts deliberated the future of Willets West. With the recent court decision, the future of the project needs to be reevaluated, and the board had hoped to obtain more information from the EDC, Queens Development Group and city.
“Shame on EDC and shame on the mayor’s office,” the letter reads. “We were charged with a very serious and grand responsibility when we partnered to have Willets Point approved. We certainly understood our role, [the Queens Development Group] certainly understood their role but, apparently, the city did not understand theirs.”
In the letter, the board acknowledges that it is “clearly too soon” to have definitive answers on the next steps of Willets West. But the board argued that there were many questions that could be answered, especially regarding the 23 acres of land involved in phase one of the development—such as which site work has been completed thus far, whether the Queens Development Group would submit a new plan or the city would send it out for bid again if the current plan is abandoned, and if there would be penalties should the development group walk and the plan be abandoned.
“The questions that I asked, which are in the letter, aren’t questions that take months to search out,” Apelian told the Queens Tribune. “I just asked for some very easy, but important, questions that we deserve to know—but we’ve been putting on the back burner pending this litigation.”
The EDC did not respond to a request for comment from the Queens Tribune.
“As we continue to review the very recent court order and our options, we very much look forward to engaging with local stakeholders and accelerating the affordable housing, schools, libraries, retail and open space this community has long been promised,” said mayoral spokeswoman Melissa Grace.
Grace added that the EDC was invited the day before the meeting and could not attend on such short notice.
“The timeline is immaterial; they had plenty of notice and they called me the week before the meeting, so it’s not like they didn’t know about it,” Apelian said.
Apelian added that, as of July 3, the board had not worked anything out with the EDC, but would follow up after the July 4 holiday.
At the meeting, a Queens Development Group lawyer said that the group is “huddling up” to discuss the future. The group has previously held that the mall was a prerequisite for further work at the site, and options for proceeding are being considered.