The Bernie Madoff fallout may have plunged the Mets into financial chaos, but the real fireworks in Queens are about to kick off across the street from the team's stadium. The city is getting ready to start the controversial process of separating property owners from their property at Willets Point, the self-contained village of junkyards and auto-repair shops known as the Iron Triangle. That's right, the Wall Street Journal reports it's eminent domain time! The redevelopment of the area?over 5,000 apartments and all sorts of commercial and retail space are planned?has survived snags, and the city has been slowly acquiring property in the project's footprint through buyouts. But some iTri landowners are still holding out, and with the Economic Development Corporation set to court developers in the spring, it's time to bring in the closer.
The EDC now controls 88% of the property within the 20-acre first phase of Willets Point, a 980,000-square-foot chunk that will include 2,000 apartments and possibly a hotel. The Journal reports that next week Team Bloomberg will initiate eminent domain proceedings against nine holdouts, with more to come in the future. It's expected that the property owners will fight the government in court, but if you've been paying attention to how these things have gone as of late (Atlantic Yards, Columbia expansion, etc.), let's just say that the Mets stand a better chance of winning the World Series than some guy does of keeping his scrap heap behind the outfield.
But why now? Don't market conditions make a huge megaproject out in Queens a bit of a challenge? Well, when the EDC first dropped the Willets Point bait in the water, 29 developers started to circle, including some big fish like Larry Silverstein and the Related Companies. But there are many challenges to sort out, including the years of industrial waste that must be cleaned, and the raising of the entire site by 7 feet to meet flood-plain requirements. Also there will be dead bodies dug up that need identifying.
· City to Seize Land in Queens [WSJ]
· Willets Point Redevelopment [NYC EDC]
· Willets Point coverage [Curbed]