Mixed-Use Planned for Willet’s Point; Co-ops Fight Assessment Error

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor New York City’s Economic Development Corp. (EDC) has invited developers to submit plans to convert a part of the 62-acre Willets Point industrial zone into a housing project that would also feature retail and hotel space. [...]

New York City’s Economic Development Corp. (EDC) has invited developers to submit plans to convert a part of the 62-acre Willets Point industrial zone into a housing project that would also feature retail and hotel space. The proposals are expected to be received by August 12.

Seth Pinsky, President of the Economic Development Corp., thinks that the success of turning the “Phase 1″ industrial zone into a mixed-use sustainable community depends on finding the right developer. The search for qualified developers started back in 2009 and the EDC has received 29 inquiries since then, including one coming from Silverstein Properties.

The Phase 1 project will include 400 mixed-income residential units, a hotel, a convention center, 680,000 sq. ft. of retail and entertainment space as well as two acres of parking and open space. The EDC estimates that the development will create more than 5,300 permanent jobs and 18,000 construction jobs that will ignite the economic growth of Willets Point, generating local employment and business opportunities.

Last week the city approved condemnation of existing properties but this led to protests from Willets Point United, a group of property and business owners fighting to stay in Willets Point. Allegedly the city does not own the land in Phase 1 where the mixed-use complex is to be constructed. Willets Point United has even hired a lawyer, Michael Rikon, to help them defend the land. According to Rikon, the city has authorized the condemnation approval before they had any clear use for the property. Consequently the group is ready to file a lawsuit unless the city withdraws its decision.

Queens is also facing a wave of protests after the Finance Department of New York City had wrongly assessed some properties in January, inflating market values on co-ops by 147 percent and bringing increased property taxes. The city’s initial reaction to these inflated figures was to defend the assessments saying that in past years the co-ops in Queens had been undervalued. The problem was finally acknowledged last month when the city attributed the wrong figures to a computer error and wrong data that was entered in the system. The Queens property rolls will be audited by John C. Liu, a City Comptroller, who will determine what were the exact facts that lead to this assessment error.