Willets Point is a peninsula on the Flushing River in Northern Queens, New York, slated for redevelopment, and now, the details of that redevelopment plan have been released by the New York Economic Corporation. ArchDaily reports that, as part of the urban renewal project associated with the New York Mets’ new stadium, Citi Field, the area will include mixed-income housing, retail and entertainment amenities, a hotel, a convention center, office space, parks and open space, and a new public school, all of which will be built to LEED building and neighborhood development standards.
The Willets Point Development Plan was conceived of as an historic redevelopment effort to transform an area that a number of previous generations have sought to improve. The concerns with this 60-acre peninsula stem, in part, from its history as an ash dump. (During its industrial heyday, Willets Point accumulated around 100 railroad-cars-worth of ash every day.) Since then, the area has seen contamination via a whole host of modern toxics: petroleum, paint, cleaning solvents and auto fluids. Throw in the district’s location smack dab in the 100-year flood plain of the Flushing River, and you’ve got a prime candidate for clean up under Mayor Bloomberg’s vision for a cleaner, greener NYC by 2030.
The redevelopment plan for Willets Point will tackle the environmental issues here, helping to improve the quality of neighboring waterways. It will also link this district — located in what has been characterized as one of the most vibrant parts of Queens — to basic storm water and sanitary infrastructure, which it’s currently lacking. The redevelopment plan seeks to establish a major new mixed-income neighborhood and commercial destination in the process. To accomplish this, the grade across the entire area will need to be elevated significantly before any building can occur; the plant represents a ten- to fifteen-year commitment to the regeneration of this district. But all that work will also create jobs in the process, and when all is said and done, city officials believe that the redevelopment of Willets Point will “recapture billions in spending now lost to the suburbs.”
There exists some precedent for the type of clean up needed here, as Willets Point’s neighbor, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, was once a poster child for the same kind of environmental damage. The park was restored in the early part of the last century, part of the citywide preparations for the 1938 World’s Fair. Now officials feel it’s time for Willets Point to clean up its act as well.
The area’s geographic location plays a part in the push to redevelop, as Willets Point stands to become a hub for entertainment and outdoor recreation, as well as residential, commercial and retail use. Well connected to the Manhattan-bound subway — as well as to the LIRR, toward Long Island, and local highways and airports — it could draw upon the popularity of neighboring destinations such as the afore-mentioned Corona Park, as well as Flushing, the National Tennis Center, Shea Stadium and Citi Field.
Combining environmental clean up efforts with a whole lot of strategic green redevelopment, The Willets Point Redevelopment Plan promises 25,000 “person-years of construction employment,” 5,000 permanent jobs, and 1,000 indirect jobs stemming from the convention center and mixed-income housing, with an estimated 30-year fiscal impact of $4.2 billion dollars.