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Bloomberg Announces Development, Remediation Plan For Willets Point In Queens

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A run-down section of Queens is closer to getting a multi-billion dollar makeover. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has signed off on a deal to develop Willets Point.

Sixty two acres of rough and tumble small businesses, auto repair shops and iron works in the shadow of Citi Field will be wiped off the map and replaced by a 1 million square-foot mall, hotel, market rate and affordable apartments and office space, CBS 2's Tony Aiello reported Thursday.

"At Willets Point, where others have seen challenges, we have always seen enormous opportunities," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Today the 'valley of ashes' is well on its way to becoming the site of historic private investment, major job creation and unprecedented environmental remediation."

"All told, this will bring $3 billion of private investment to Queens, creating 12,000 union construction jobs and generate $4.2 billion of economic activity over the next 30 years," Bloomberg said.

1010 WINS' Stan Brooks reports


The Bloomberg administration has brokered a deal with two developers, including Sterling Partners, controlled by the Wilpon family that also controls the Mets.

And that doesn't sit well with some holdout property owners.

"Everything for the Mets, for the Mets, for the people who own the Mets," business owner George Georgiou said.

Many gas station owners in the area fear the city will take their land through eminent domain and say the city "Goliath" is out to crush a lot of small business "Davids."

"They're stealing property from people here, forcing people to sell it. Put a gun to his head to get the property over here," business owner Andy Charidmou said.

WCBS 880's Rich Lamb On The Story


However, deals are in place to acquire 95 percent of the land needed for the first phase. The city said it would rather cut deals than take land through eminent domain, and there's no doubt the project -- bringing jobs and tax revenue -- has strong support.

"Today's announcement marks the beginning of a clear and achievable plan for the new Willets Point," New York City Economic Development President Seth W. Pinsky said in a statement. "As a result of this historic project, an area that for decades was in desperate need of new infrastructure and remediation will be transformed into a dynamic community for future generations."

Still, lawyers for the landowners are predicting a court fight, and warn it could delay the start of the project for years.

The plans call for a shopping mall with 200 stores and a movie complex, just a short stroll from Citi Field.

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