— Days Without Shea —

by Kingman on August 28 at 1:09PM
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Part of the allure of constructing Citi Field was the assumed revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood, Willets Point.

This summer, after years of back door dealings and voracious opposition, development plans are moving forward. And not surprisingly, there are some surprises baked into the proposals.

Perhaps the biggest surprise relates to housing. Part of the deal was that a mixed-use neighborhI'm nood would be developed on the site of the Iron Triangle businesses. Mixed use means affordable housing, schools and the other stuff that sustains a community for people to live. Housing is still part of the plan. But it is the last part, coming by 2028. I'll be approaching 60 by then, so this may work out great for my retirement plans. But I'm pretty sure this isn't what most people had in mind.

The Times Ledger of Queens did a good job breaking down the five stage proposal that the city accepted in June from Manhattan real estate firm Related Cos. and the Wilpon's own Sterling Equities. It basically comes down to this:

STAGE 1 - Detox. The 23 acres of Willets Point needs to be razed and all the soil replaced. Expect completion date = 2015

STAGE 2 - First round of retail construction.  Low-scale retail and restaurant locations along 126th Street across from Citi Field, along with a 200-room hotel. This will certainly benefit the Mets bottom line.
Expected completion date = 2016

STAGE 3 - WILLETS WEST. This is another new wrinkle that is generating lots of opposition. Developers want to essentially build a mall between Citi Field and the Grand Central Parkway, which will host about 200 stores. A few problems here.
- The site is currently a parking lot. Where will fans park?
- More important, developers want to build this mall ON TOP OF THE SITE OF SHEA STADIUM!!! Of course, they claim they will take pains to commemorate the Mets' old home but c'mon. Show some respect.
- Even more important. This proposal is probably illegal. According to the Times Ledger:

"Because it is on park land, the development becomes a legal issue.

A law stipulates that anything built on the property is legal as long as it benefits the Mets, meaning no other development firm could have proposed to build on the land aside from Sterling. The partnership contends the law allows the movie theaters, restaurants and other entertainment venues they would like to build.

But opponents say the development is not only an egregious misuse of parkland but also illegal. The law would only permit something like a souvenir shop, for example."

Of course, the developers say Willets Point West and the other two stages have to happen before they can contemplate building housing and letting regular folk live near the mall.

STAGE 4 - New exit ramps off the Van Wyck.
Expected completion date = 2021

So as Loge13 understands it, the area around Citi Field will get 400 new stores and a hotel AND there will be less parking and no additional access ramps into the area from major highways.

STAGE 5 - construction of market-rate and affordable housing
Expected completion date - Between 2024 and 2028.

There are still many more hurdles to leap before these plans are ratified. We'll keep following the progress. It is also not clear what will come first - housing to Willets Point or a pennant to Citi Field.

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