In reading the New York Observer article, one wonders where Willets Point will go. On the one hand, owners are protected because their constitutional right to private property is maintained. On the other hand, the area clearly needs redevelopment. Yet, part of the reason the area needs redevelopment is because it maintains so many uses that cannot be maintained in other parts of the community.
The result of this is a much smaller project, with a number of owners who fought the condemnation allowed to continue in operation at their present locations. This may or may not be beneficial to the owners in the long run. Only time will tell.
The project had been broken up into three phases, a result both of the recession, which left developers leery to take on the project, but also the fact that there were still dozens of properties within the 62-acre site that the city did not yet own. Splitting the project into phases meant at least part of the redevelopment could proceed, arguably the most important part, the 20 acres closest to neighboring Citi Field. For the first phase, 680,000 square feet of retail and 400 units of housing were planned.
Another reason the initial plan was abandoned was that all the developers interested in the project—other contenders were Silverstein Properties, TDC, and Avalon Bay—were unsure of the ability to execute even such a modest proposal for one of the most complex sites in the city.
Part of the reason Willets Point became the Iron Triangle is the land is essentially a bog, lying a good six feet below the rest of the area. It would require significant excavation and landfill to bring it up to grade. Further complicating matters, centuries of industrial activity—remember the valley of ashes?—has left the ground heavily polluted. Any development would require significant remediation of the site before it could move forward.
These vexing issues caused all four of Willets Point finalists to propose plans outside the parameters of the phase 1 request for proposals. It appears the city took the proposal it found to be most acceptable and is proceeding with that.