Stephen Ross’ Related Companies and Fred Wilpon’s Sterling Equities plans for the redevelopment of Willets Point, Queens, where the New York Mets’ Citi Field is located, have been met with opposition from local groups. The two firms want to spend $3 billion to build a new, 1.4 million square foot megamall on the site.
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At a New York State Supreme Court hearing last week, community activists and civic leaders led by State Senator Tony Avella made their case that construction of the new mall should not be allowed to proceed as it is to be built on an area of land reserved for parks. As such, by law, it can only be used for recreational purposes. The hearing came in response to a lawsuit that the project’s opponents filed back in February.
While part of the new mall would be constructed on what is currently a Citi Field parking lot, the opponents say that the lot is located on land zoned for parks.
Another argument against the development is that Queens already has plenty of malls which don’t need new competition. Avella told the local channel 11 television news, “You have five malls already in Queens and they are not doing well. Why do we need another one?”
The Queens Development Group, the company behind the development, issued the following statement in response, “Community groups from the League of Conservation Voters to the Queens Chamber of Commerce to the Carpenters and other trades along with an overwhelming majority of the City Council support this project because it will clean up a site that has been contaminated for decades and turn it into a new neighborhood. The $3 billion private investment being made here is the largest in the borough’s history and will generate thousands of jobs.”
The area to be developed includes a number of auto body shops located opposite Citi Field, which have been part of the area for decades and which will need to be torn down. Those businesses’ owners have also gone to court in an attempt to block the project.
Another argument against the megamall is the $536 million price tag to the New York taxpayers including $250 million for the 23 acres of land at the site, $35 million for sewer construction and more than $66 million for the construction of new highway ramps.