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City Strikes Deal On Willets Point Redevelopment Effort

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The Bloomberg adminstration announced Thursday that it has reached a deal to redevelop the Willets Point section of Queens near Citi Field which will include 20 acres of retail, hotel and commercial space along with affordable housing units. NY1's CeFaan Kim filed the following report.

Willets Point has been a battleground for years between business owners who want to stay put and mayors who want to redevelop it.

On Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg announced the latest plan to convert a jumble of auto repair shops and scrap yards into acres of glass and steel that would take years to complete .

"Does it include everything on everyone's wish list, on the timeline we were hoping for? No," the mayor said. "But it is a strong proposal that will allow us to completely transform Willets Point."

The deal with Related Companies and Sterling Equities calls for a one-million-square-foot mall called Willets West in a parking lot next to Citi Field.

Sterling Equities is operated by the owners of the Mets.

Willets West would have 200 retail stores, movie theaters, restaurants and 2,500 parking spaces.

On the other side of Citi Field would be a 200-room hotel and more retail space. The 200-room hotel would be in addition to a 280-room hotel that was already proposed.

"This is the start of something that could be really great for Queens," said Jeff Wilpon, the executive vice president of Sterling Equities.

The plan is drawing fire in some quarters because it puts off the construction of thousands of new apartments for years. Hundreds of those apartments are meant for lower-income residents.

"My concerns are the affordable housing was taken out of the plan and moved to 2025," said City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz of Queens. "That will be four mayors from now."

Current land owners at Willets Point vow to continue fighting in court to keep their businesses. The city withdrew its bid to take the property by eminent domain when it ditched a previous plan.

The new plan also needs a new environmental impact study, a zoning amendment and city council approval. Those components push the timetable for the project back significantly.

"It's a very complicated site and it's one that has bedeviled administrations for decades and decades," said Seth Pinsky, the president of the New York State Economic Development Corporation.

The city is promising $100 million in infrastructure improvements as part of the $3 billion proposal. But no one is putting money on when the project will come together.

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