The City Council approved Wednesday an ambitious and controversial project to redevelop the Willets Point neighborhood in Queens. NY1's Arlene Borenstein filed the following report.
What seemed like a never-ending fight to redevelop Willets Point is now one step closer to reality.
"For years, this area has gone without many of the resources the rest of the city has regularly received," said City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras of Queens.
Without proper sewage and sanitation, the area next to Citi Field has long been described as an eyesore on toxic soil.
After decades of controversy over the area, which is also home to dozens of small businesses, the City Council approved an ambitious plan Wednesday to transform it into a vibrant neighborhood complete with retail space, a school and nearly 6,000 new housing units, including some for low- to middle-class New Yorkers, although there is no timetable for the plan.
"There is some anxiety of when the affordable housing will be be built, but the reality is that we are now beginning the design, which was $6 million that was not there, either," Ferreras said.
Willets Point falls under Ferreras' district. She was applauded throughout the hearing for her years of work and negotiations on the project.
However, not everyone is happy, including Willets Point business owners who, for decades, made their living in the neighborhood.
"Unfortunately for us, it's not time enough to go out there and look for a location the way we want it," said Wais Mohibi, the owner of Discount Muffler. "Everything's expensive."
The city of New York is offering more than $15 million to help impacted businesses with relocation costs, job training and marketing.
"Right now, we have an agreement, one year rent-free and one year cash money for everyone who moves before November 30," said Marco Neira, president of Sunrise Cooperative.
Park advocates are also against the plan, which includes putting a 1.4 million-square-foot mall on Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the project will generate $3 billion for the local economy.
The plan is expected to be challenged in court.