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Flushing advocate confident Willets Point can attract college

The founder of a month-old nonprofit aimed at luring an applied sciences university to Willets Point under a proposal by Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is not concerned that the eminent domain proceedings against business owners at the 62-acre site will pose a major threat to his dream of a tech sector in Queens.

In December, Bloomberg announced his plan to entice a leading research university to build a satellite campus in New York City.

Jukay Hsu, the 26-year-old Flushing founder of Coalition for Queens: Silicon Valley 2.0, continues his mission to build community and political support for his effort to bring a high-profile academic institution to the Iron Triangle despite a body blow last week by the city Economic Development Corp.

Hsu, a Harvard graduate and U.S. Army captain who returned from Iraq two months ago, said in an extensive interview with TimesLedger Newspapers last week that the obstacles facing the project will not deter him from pursuing what he says would be a boon to the Queens community: a technology corridor similar to Silicon Valley in California.

“We’re trying to increase awareness to show the mayor’s office and the EDC that our community in Queens would really embrace this initiative,” Hsu said. “A university would be the ultimate anchor tenant for Willets Point.”

But the city is sticking with the current controversial $3 billion plan to transform the Iron Triangle from a dusty district of auto shops and factories into “a lively, mixed-use, sustainable community and regional destination” replete with 5,000 apartments, 1.7 million square feet of retail, a convention center, hotel and more.

The EDC said it will not fold the university plan into the gargantuan redevelopment scheme.

“We are not going to include Willets Point in the Applied Sciences RFP because it would represent a significant diversion from a great plan for affordable housing, retail and open space,” EDC spokesman David Lombino said last week.

And despite the fact that the city has yet to acquire all of the land in Willets Point, has begun eminent domain proceedings against nine business owners and faces possibly years of legal challenges in order to do so, Hsu is still hopeful the site will one day house a top-flight university.

“I think eminent domain is justified if it’s being used to make way for a university,” Hsu said. “They’re going to use economic domain at Willets Point anyway, a university could help them do that.”

Two dozen schools, including Stanford and Cornell universities, are considering Bloomberg’s initiative, the location of which can be anywhere within New York City, but his proposal identified Governor’s and Roosevelt islands, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Farm Colony in Staten Island as ideal sites.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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