Back in August, the City Planning Commission green-lighted a condo development for 5Pointz, a mega mall for Willets Point, and 2,600 housing units for Hallets Point. All these plans move to the City Council and will receive a vote today. Crain’s reports that the City Council will likely approve plans for Hallets Point, a ten tower, $1 billion mixed-use proposal for a sleepy section of the Astoria waterfront. City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. still hasn’t given the proposal his blessing; he is working with the City Council subcommittee to include increased bus and ferry service. If the Council approves the plans, the developer hopes to break ground next year and complete the first building in mid-2016. UPDATE: Crain’s reports that the city made a last-minute agreement with Vallone, promising that the city will study the feasibility of adding ferry service to the site.

As the story goes with Willets Point, there is lots of controversy surrounding the vote. Local officials asked the city to include an extra $70,000,000 to build highway ramps leading into the development to help spur residential construction. Still, the plan’s detractors say the last-minute request misses the point that the proposal does not guarantee affordable housing, and only promises a mega mall on public parkland.

Over at 5Pointz, more controversy ensues. According to the 5Pointz Twitter, many thought that City Council would hold a public hearing this morning — instead, the Council is taking a vote on the proposal for two condo towers. The Times published an overview of the 5Pointz plans just yesterday. Most recently 5Pointz owner David Wolkoff promised to include 209 affordable apartment units in the development, up from 75 units. But as a graffiti artist and 5Pointz curator told the Times, the plan will “just destroy more of what made New York what it is. Now it is just boring, full of bland boring towers of boxes of glass.”

It’s likely that all three plans, despite the amount of controversy, will ultimately receive approval from the City Council. Stay tuned for news of the votes…


Two City Council subcommittees will make a preliminary verdict on the $3 billion Willets Point project tomorrow, but local officials continue to push for assurances that the city will invest adequately in infrastructure around the project. More specifically, as Crain’s reports, “they have asked for the city to guarantee it will pay $70 million for traffic ramps leading into the development, which will ultimately include hotel and residential space, from the Van Wyck Expressway.” The city hasn’t allocated any funds for the ramps, despite previously promising to include them in the project. For a proposal that’s shifted its focus from housing to retail development, the ramps will increase accessibility to the site for future residents, as well as accelerate housing development in the area.

Willets Point United issued an open letter to council members regarding the traffic ramp. The letter states, “Obtaining $70 million for highway ramps does not address the overriding problem with this project: the construction of a huge mall on parkland; AND, it alone does not and cannot guarantee that any housing will ever be constructed, because the project contract still contains escape clauses.” They urge City Council to deny the plan altogether, stating that the community does not want the proposed project at all and there needs to be a guarantee for affordable housing. An opinion piece in the New York Daily News echoes that sentiment, saying: “The proposal to build a massive, 1.4 million-square-foot shopping mall inside Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is a poster child for everything that is wrong with development in our city.” Meanwhile, Queens Crap asks, “Why the hell should taxpayers foot the bill for the Wilpons’ highway ramps?” After the subcommittee’s vote on the matter tomorrow, the full City Council will vote on the proposal as early as next week.

$70M Deal Needed for Council OK on Willets Point [Crain’s]
Willets Pount spells More Inequality for NYC [NY Daily News]
Willets West Mall on Parkland [Willets Point United]


The City Council just passed a resolution asking Congress to make co-op and condos eligible for federal storm recovery grants, reports Queens Courier. Citywide, co-op and condo owners have been denied FEMA grants for property damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The word “co-op” isn’t included in the law, despite no statute banning co-op owners from being eligible for grants. According to the Courier, “Co-op and condos are also categorized as ‘business associations,’ which makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants. It also means they cannot get funds to fix shared spaces like lobbies and roofs.” The measure to amend the law went through Congress in two weeks, and now it’s at a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

City Council Passes Condo, Co-op Resolution [Queens Courier]
Photo by zzombiekitty


Could affordable housing return to the Willets Point redevelopment plan? Willets Point United penned an op-ed in the New York Daily News asking our likely next Mayor de Blasio to reconsider the development of Willets Point. As the article notes, “Of all the essential public benefits that were originally negotiated — affordable housing, a living wage and traffic relieving ramps — we have been given the city’s largest retail mall built on parkland. The property taken under the threat of eminent domain is now earmarked for a parking lot.” Willets Point United points out its long list of grievances with the city and the Economic Development Corporation, and notes that the plan approved by de Blasio and the City Council in 2008 looks very little like the plan proposed today. The council is expected to cast a final vote on the Willets Point project next month. The op-ed ultimately asks de Blasio, “You should publicly argue that a new council leadership and a new mayor should be given the opportunity to craft a better deal for the city – one that better respects parkland and the rights of property owners and tenant businesses.”

Hopefully a de Blasio Administration Can Craft a Fair Deal to Redevelop Willets Point [NY Daily News]


Well, it looks like Bill De Blasio is the frontrunner for the mayor’s race (although it’s still unclear if he avoided the runoff), Eliot Spitzer was defeated in the Comptroller’s race by Scott Stringer, and Tish James and Daniel Squadron, both from Brooklyn, will enter a runoff for Public Advocate. But let’s get down to the local stuff — both Queens Crap and the Queens Courier have great recaps from all the races concerning Queens. Pictured above, the Queens Borough President primary winner Melinda Katz, who easily defeated Peter Vallone, Jr. Although many expected this race to be down to the wire, early reports tell that Katz garnered more than 12,000 votes than Vallone. She’ll face Aurelio Arcabascio, who works in the healthcare field, in the general election. In District 19, where five Democrats were running to replace Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran, Queens Crap reports: “The latest numbers are Paul Vallone 2,723 votes to Austin Shafran’s 2,579 votes with 98% of precincts reporting. Neither Huffington Post nor NY1 has called it for Vallone, although he claimed victory last night.” Queens Courier called the win for Vallone. It looks like the general election will be a three-way race between Vallone, Austin Shafran (for the Working Families party) and the Republican canidate Dennis Saffran.

Costa Constantinides beat John Ciafone in District 22nd, and Rory Lancman won by a landslide in District 24. Daneek Miller won District 27. In the 28th District, Ruben Wills beat Hettie Powell. Incumbent Councilmember Donovan Richards will keep his seat in District 31. Lew Simon won District 32 and will face incumbent Councilmember Eric Ulrich in the general election. In District 34, covering both Bushwick and Ridgwood, Vito Lopez was finally given the boot. He was beat by Antonio Reynoso. Incumbents ran unopposed in Districts 20, 21, 23, 25, 26, 29, and 30.

2013 Primary Election Results [Queens Crap]
Queens Election Coverage [Queens Courier]
Photo via melindakatz.com


Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 10th, is primary Election Day in New York City. Queens residents will vote for the Mayor, City Comptroller, Public Advocate, Queens Borough President, and City Council Members for Districts 19 through 32. (District 19 looks like it’ll be a showdown, with five Democrats running for the seat of Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran, who was arrested this year.) This NY Daily News feature offers a very helpful rundown of all the City Council races in the borough. The New York Times published an interactive feature on the voting blocs of the city, and the Daily News outlines the Borough President race between Peter Vallone, Jr. and Melinda Katz. To find your district or polling place, just go here.

Photo via Gotham Gazette


Yesterday the city held a public hearing on the $3 billion Willets Point development plan, which is up soon for a City Council vote. The City Council is expected to approve the plans for an entertainment and retail complex, but that didn’t keep critics, including a local councilwoman, from making their views known. According to the Daily News, “Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras grilled city officials about the massive development on Tuesday as a make-or-break Council vote looms.” In particular, Ferreras grilled EDC head Kyle Kimball over the unimpressive results that a private firm has had in relocating long-time auto repair shops — so far only ten businesses have been relocated despite the contractor, Cornerstone, being paid $700,000 over five years. (Recently business owners went on a hunger strike in protest of the payout deal offered by the city.) There was plenty of support for the project at the hearing too: Construction union leaders spoke in support of the development, which, according to The News, “is estimated to create 12,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs.”

Heated Debate Between City Officials and Councilwoman on Willets Point [NY Daily News]
Rendering via the Queens Development Group


Around 15 Iron Triangle shop owners have begun a hunger strike today in protest of the Willets Point relocation and redevelopment. The auto body shop owners are lobbying the city to assist with relocation as a large group. They’re not happy with the recent buyout offered by the city. Organizer Marco Neira tells the Daily News, “We have to do something. We’re doing this in order to show to the city that they’re killing us and we have families.” The City Council will hold a public hearing on Tuesday concerning the mega-mall proposal for the site. The Council approved plans for 2,500 residential units as well as commercial and retail space back in 2008.

Willets Point Business Owners Plan Hunger Strike [NY Daily News]

Photo by maxintosh


The City Planning Commission granted approval to build a mega-mall in Willets Point, reports the Daily News. Yesterday the CPC made its way through a packed agenda, approving plans to build luxury towers on the 5Pointz site as well as zoning changes for the Hallets Point project. Now all of these matters are moving forward to a City Council vote. Only one CPC board member voted against the Willets Point development, unwanted by the auto-body shop owners who have long operated out of the area. Board member Michelle de la Uz said that the efforts to relocate the shop owners have been “questionable and weak.” Another board member stated that “Willets Point is on its way to becoming remediated and ultimately becoming an active and inviting destination.” Ultimately, the plans for the massive retail and entertainment complex received the green light. The City Council approved the developer’s proposal to build residential units and commercial space here in 2008, but those plans were put on hold.

City Planning Commission Approves Willets Point Mega-Mall Plan [NY Daily News]

Rendering via the Queens Development Group


The New York Daily News attended today’s City Planning Commission meeting and, man, it was a doozy. As we blogged earlier, Daily News tweets reported that the CPC unanimously voted for plans to build condos on the 5Pointz site in LIC. The most recent development plans include two residential towers with retail space, outdoor art installations, maybe a climbing wall and swimming pool, and some affordable housing. The developer, David Wolkoff, has expressed a desire to demolish the graffiti-covered artist warehouse by the end of this year. It looks like 5Pointz artists don’t plan to go down without a fight — they are planning for a rally.

Also at today’s meeting, the commission approved zoning changes for the $1 billion Hallets Point project planned for the Astoria waterfront. The project (pictured above) will bring 2,600 units to a now-sleepy corner of Astoria. Plans for this mega-development have been floating around for years so it’s big new that it’s finally ready to roll. The commission-level approval today follows the Community Board 1 vote of support back in May.

Lastly, the CPC approved landmarking of Jamaica High School and Forest Park Carousel. No surprises there, since the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to landmark these two structures earlier this summer.

Photo via NYC.gov