Mayor Bloomberg today broke ground on the initial phase of critical infrastructure work at Willets Point in Queens, including construction of a sanitary sewer main and reconstruction of a storm sewer and outfall. These improvements, which constitute a $50 million investment, support the historic redevelopment of Willets Point, which has always lacked this basic infrastructure, and will allow for the creation of a vibrant new mixed-use neighborhood in Queens. The work also represents a major first step in the environmental remediation of the long-contaminated site.
Mayor Bloomberg was joined by New York City Economic Development President Seth W. Pinsky, New York City Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, Council Member Julissa Ferreras, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Council Member Karen Koslowitz.
“This major investment in infrastructure will create jobs, catalyze private sector investment, and lay the groundwork for New York City’s next great neighborhood,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “These investments mark the first physical steps – after years of planning and working together with local leaders – in reimagining Willets Point as a vibrant commercial and residential community.”
“Willets Point is poised to be one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in all of New York City thanks to its proximity to rapidly-growing Flushing and its outstanding transportation access,” Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel said. “The City’s infrastructure investment will pave the way for significant private sector investment and job creation.”
“The offsite infrastructure work at Willets Point is a critical component of the Bloomberg Administration’s ambitious plan to turn this neighborhood from a contaminated area lacking in basic infrastructure into a model, mixed-use community,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. “With this step, we are yet another step closer to turning this plan into reality – a dream shared by City leaders and residents for decades. By cleaning the environment and creating jobs, services and housing for the people of Queens, this project represents a real win for everyone.”
“The redevelopment of Willets Point is a signature achievement of this administration,” said Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland. “With our commitment to upgrade the underground water and sewer infrastructure, DEP is yet again helping lay the foundation for New York City to develop and thrive for the next generation.”
The benefits of this important infrastructure will include increased sewer capacity of the Willets Point area, improved water quality by treatment of sanitary flows through conveyance to a treatment plant, and the furtherance of the City’s efforts to redevelop the area. The project supports PlaNYC’s goal of improving the quality of the City’s waterways and its guidance to pursue upgrades to sewer infrastructure by optimizing the existing sewer system and expanding the sewer network.
Infrastructure work is expected to cost approximately $50 million, provide over 350 construction or construction-related jobs, and both sewers will be completed in 2013. The construction will primarily occur between the months of October through March to prevent any impacts during the baseball season at the adjacent Citi Field. The City, in coordination with its construction manager for Willets Point chosen through a public procurement process, Hunter Roberts Construction Group, has selected Cruz Contractors, LLC to perform the necessary infrastructure upgrades.
“The development of Willets Point and the benefits that it will provide for the entire city cannot become realities without a multimillion dollar investment in infrastructure improvements that have been needed for many years. Expanding the city’s sewer network and increasing storm water drainage in the area will address longstanding issues and put new development on a firm foundation for the future,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.
“Today, we are one step closer to seeing the New Willets Point. This off-site infrastructure work is important in preparing the areas sewer and drainage system in order to meet the future demands as Willets Point is redeveloped. The Willets Point project is important to my district as it will create new and permanent jobs, affordable housing and retail space,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras.
“Today's groundbreaking is an important milestone on the path to transforming Willets Points into a vibrant community in Queens,” said Congressman Joe Crowley. “Not only will the Willets Point redevelopment project open the door to new jobs and additional tax revenues, it will also create a new destination point for Queens families, New Yorkers, and visitors. This project is an investment in the future of Queens.”
“For years, Willets Point has suffered from not so "benign neglect," with flooding a constant problem,” State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “This sewer redevelopment project will help clean up the environment, provide essential infrastructure and most importantly help create local jobs.”
“Today marks a critical milestone in the redevelopment of Willets Point: We are literally laying the foundation for a better future for the neighborhood,” said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “Willets Point is a great example of the kind of sustainable, transit-oriented development that New York City needs, and this new infrastructure will directly benefit the local environment by reducing sewage pollution that enters Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay. For too long, these waterways have been simply forgotten and written off as dangerous and unhealthy. That changes today, and I’d like to thank Mayor Bloomberg and our many local officials for making important progress.”
“At a time when new construction has been slowed by the economy, today’s announcement is great news for the hard-working men and women across the five boroughs,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council. “This infrastructure project will not only create more than 350 well-paying construction-related jobs, but it will lead directly to the redevelopment of the entire 62-acre Willets Point site and many more thousands of construction jobs. I would like to thank Mayor Bloomberg for his commitment to infrastructure and job creation – particularly good union jobs - and for his vision for the future of New York.”
“Willets Point shows what can be achieved when the real estate industry, labor and government work together in a responsible and equitable way on our city's development projects,” said Mike Fishman, President of 32BJ SEIU. “It is win-win model for our city that is good for business, our economy and for creating the good jobs New Yorkers need.”
In collaboration with the community and local elected officials and approved by the City Council 42-2, the City has created a mixed-use plan that was already reviewed for environmental impacts. The New York City Economic Development Corporation recently received a number of strong responses to the Request for Proposals for development of the first phase of the Willets Point district. This initial 12.7 acre area, the result of a major community-driven planning effort for the whole site, will become a mixed-use, sustainable community and regional destination. The plan for Phase 1 includes up to 680,000 square feet of retail, up to 400 units of housing 35 percent of which will be affordable, a hotel, two acres of open space, and parking. The build-out of this phase, adjacent to Citi Field, is expected to create 1,800 permanent jobs and 4,600 construction-related jobs. The developer proposals are currently being reviewed and a developer is expected to be selected in early 2012, with construction beginning in late 2013. The responses also included a concept plan for the entire 62-acre district which will create about 18,000 construction jobs and 5,000 permanent jobs.
The City has made considerable progress in acquiring property through negotiated settlements– the City has control or agreements to acquire nearly 90 percent of the land in the Phase 1 area, with only nine private property owners remaining. The City is committed to providing relocation assistance to businesses, with relocation of businesses in the Phase 1 area expected to take place in the second half of 2012. The City continues to negotiate property acquisitions with willing owners in Phase I. The City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development has also issued its Determination and Findings as required by the Eminent Domain Procedure Law, which will allow for condemnation of property if necessary. Workforce training to employees is a key component to the advancement of the area’s workers and the Worker Assistance Program, administered by LaGuardia Community College, has had over 500 patricipants enrolled since its inception.
The Willets Point Development Plan is a historic redevelopment effort that will transform an area previous generations have sought to change and improve. The Plan will clean up the environment and help improve the quality of nearby waterways. It will link this district in one of the most vibrant parts of Queens to basic infrastructure and establish a major new mixed-income neighborhood and commercial destination that will create jobs and recapture billions in spending now lost to the suburbs.