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The mayor ended weeks of speculation about the city’s plans for Willets Point Thursday by unveiling a tweaked vision of the development in which Citi Field would be flanked on both sides by retail and housing.
“It includes everything we were looking for in the first phase, exactly as envisioned and approved by the community and City Council back in 2008,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the Queens Chamber of Commerce breakfast.
After sending out a request for proposals, the city decided on the plan submitted by Related Cos., a Manhattan development firm, and Sterling Equities, which happens to be owned by Saul Katz and Fred Wilson, who also own the New York Mets.
The plan for phase one includes a familiar proposal of transforming the auto body shops along 126th Street to the east of the stadium into a 30,000-square-foot shopping center and 200-room hotel.
But the proposal also now calls for Willets West, a 1-million-square-foot retail and entertainment center that will take the place of a parking lot the city currently leases to the New York Mets.
“Does it include everything on everyone’s wishlist and on the time line they were hoping for? No,” Bloomberg said, alluding to criticism from the City Council that the affordable housing component of the project has been pushed back behind retail and hotel components.
The city Economic Development Corp. countered that making the area enticing through retail and entertainment developments will pave the way for housing, and could eventually catch the eye of a developer looking to put a convention center or casino in the Iron Triangle.
The fate of the project was up in the air for weeks after the city abruptly announced in May it would drop its bid to condemn property through eminent domain. Reports leaked out to the media, but the city remained mum until Bloomberg’s early morning announcement.
The EDC has not ruled out using eminent domain for the project and said it has acquired 95 percent of the property through negotiations.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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