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City Council Approves Sweeping Redevelopment Plan For Willets Point

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The City Council on Wednesday approved a redevelopment plan that will bring create a brand new neighborhood in Willets Point, Queens, anchored by a massive retail and entertainment complex.

The controversial plan calls for an ambitious urban renewal project in Willets Point, a blighted area across from Citi Field that is now dominated by scrapyards and auto body repair shops.

When fully realized, the new Willets Point neighborhood will include 6,000 new housing units – more than a third of which will be set aside for low- and middle-income residents, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office.

But the centerpiece will be a "commercial destination" that Bloomberg said will create 7,100 permanent jobs and 1,200 construction jobs, and which will generate billions of dollars once it is complete and operational.

Under the Willets Point plan, 126th Street across from Citi Field will be the site of a 200-room hotel, and 30,000 square feet of retail space and restaurants, by 2016, according to the Queens Chronicle. The mall and entertainment center will eliminate a Citi Field parking lot and is set to be completed by 2018, the newspaper reported.

But while Bloomberg characterized Willets Point in its current state as "a contaminated 'valley of ashes,'" the redevelopment plan has not been met with open arms by everyone in the neighborhood.

Business owners in the area have accused the city of harassment as they were evicted from their properties. The Department of Buildings this past spring ordered many body shops to vacate due to unsafe conditions.

The city later offered $3.5 million in rent subsidies to the businesses if they vacated by the end of November.

Currently, the city has agreements in place with 95 percent of the landowners in the affected areas, but the rest remain in limbo, the newspaper reported.

The proposal for the redevelopment of Willets Point dates back to 2008, but was delayed until just last year due to lawsuits and delays in picking a developer, the newspaper reported.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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