BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
The Mattone Group, a real estate development company based in College Point, is busy working on a number of sites in the Borough.
One development in the works is the Belmont project, predominantly in Nassau County, but a small portion of which is in Queens. The $400 million development will include a new soccer stadium, which will be home to the New York Cosmos.
The Belmont project will also include nine restaurants, a 175-room hotel and 200,000 feet of retail space.
The developer selection process is currently in progress. Mike Mattone, CFO of the Mattone Group, says that if the company is selected as the developer on that site, they envision completing the project in about two years.
For his part, Mattone is excited about development prospects in Queens today.
“I think real estate in Queens is hot and getting hotter,” he said. “From a real estate developer’s point of view, we’re seeing more guys venturing into developing in Queens that were traditionally either Brooklyn- or Manhattan-based.”
“People are discovering the opportunities in Queens,” he added.
Mattone cited “phenomenal mass transit” as one of Queens’ assets, which may allow it to grow in the same way that Williamsburg has boomed.
“People are waking up to the fact that you can be in downtown Flushing one minute and be in Manhattan in 15 minutes by subway or the Long Island Railroad,” Mattone said. “Businesses are thriving here in Queens, so it’s not like everybody’s commuting into Manhattan. There are people who live in Queens and work in Queens.”
The Mattone Group is particularly interested in Jamaica, Southeast Queens, Flushing and Bayside, but Mattone added, “really anywhere in the borough” is exciting to the company.
“Queens is kind of our home turf,” Mattone said. “Queens is cool. Is Queens the new Brooklyn? I think that’s an insult to Queens.”
Construction is currently wrapping up at a site in Elmhurst near the Queens Center Mall. Here, three restaurants – an Olive Garden, a Joe’s Crab Shack and a Texas Longhorn Steakhouse – are slated to open in late summer. The cost of the development was around $12 million.
“What’s exciting about the [Elmhurst] project is they will be full service sit down restaurants with great parking and it ties in nicely with the mall,” Mattone said. “It really compliments the mall and the existing neighborhood there.”
This site has been a source of conflict in the neighborhood. The area on which the three restaurants are being built, which was formerly a parking lot, was sold to the Mattone Group in late 2001. That contract included a number of restrictions about the use of the land, including a stipulation that the development must include a movie theater.
In 2013, a modified contract was drawn up between the company and the Economic Development Corp. (EDC), after the EDC brought the Mattone Group to court and ultimately declared a $3 million settlement. The modified contract did not include the original contract’s restrictions, and was not required to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure again.
At the time, then-Community Board 4 member and officer in the Newtown Civic Association Robert Valdes-Clausell told the Tribune, “[Mattone] didn’t pay for [the land] fully because they were going to do other things to compensate for the loss of City land,” but “that never happened.”
Today, Valdes-Clausell is Treasurer for the Newtown Civic Assocation, which stated in its most recent issue of the Newtown Crier that it will be investigating this transaction between the Mattone Group and the City.
“There was a disagreement over whether we had met the obligations in our deed,” Mattone says. “That disagreement had to be resolved between us and the City.”
Christian Cassagnol, District Manager of Community Board 4, said that for the most part, the only time the Board gets involved is when someone is breaking the rules. As far as the Board knows, the Mattone Group “is following the rules” and “their permits are in check.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or