Willets Point, an area near the New York Mets’ ballpark filled with auto shops and junkyards, would be redeveloped under an agreement announced today between New York City and developers Related Cos. and Sterling Equities Inc.
Under the plan, the companies would build stores and entertainment attractions on both sides of Citi Field in Queens, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. The project also calls for the cleanup of 23 contaminated acres (9 hectares) in Willets Point, with the city providing almost $100 million for demolition, remediation and infrastructure.
“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,” Bloomberg said in the statement, referring to the ash dump described by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby.”
The mayor is counting on New York-based Related and Sterling, controlled by Mets owner Fred Wilpon, to upgrade a longtime eyesore. Bloomberg’s administration has been battling business owners in the 61-acre Willets Point area who have resisted attempts to buy them out. The city has made progress in negotiations with those operators and now has agreements to acquire about 95 percent of the land needed for the project, according to the statement.
The city needs to update its environmental impact statement and amend its zoning plan for the area before the development could go ahead. The first step of the project would be the cleanup of the 23 acres, said Jen Freidberg, spokeswoman for the city’s Economic Development Corp.
In the first building phase, part of the parking lot west of the stadium would be converted to a 1 million-square-foot (93,000-square-meter) retail and entertainment center with more than 200 stores, plus movie theaters and restaurants. A 200-room hotel and 30,000 square feet of retail would be constructed across 126th Street east of the ballpark, an area now lined with auto shops and small businesses.
The plan also calls for a “public recreation zone” that may include such facilities as soccer fields, basketball courts and an ice-skating rink, according to the mayor’s statement.
Later development east of the ballpark would include 2,500 housing units, 900,000 additional square feet of retail, 500,000 square feet of offices and 280 more hotel rooms.
The total project would involve $3 billion of private investment, according to the statement.
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.