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P.O. Box 560191 • College Point, New York 11356
Web site: willetspoint.org • Email: email@example.com
November 10, 2014
Observations re: quarterly update meeting held between
Queens Community Board 7 (“CB7”), Queens Development Group LLC (“QDG”)
and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (“NYCEDC”)
On October 8, 2014, a meeting was held between CB7, QDG and NYCEDC, for the
purpose of updating CB7 on the progress of QDG’s proposed Willets Point Phase One /
Willets West parkland mega-mall development.
NO OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE MEETING
So important are these quarterly update meetings, that CB7 required the City
administration to guarantee them in 2008, and if QDG fails to attend any such meeting then
it must pay a penalty of $100,000 per incident. Despite the importance of each meeting,
held to discuss a controversial $3 billion development with numerous points of concern to
Queens residents (including traffic congestion, environmental remediation, business
displacement, and commercial use of parkland, among others), the CB7 committee, as run
by its Chair, Chuck Apelian, assigns no one to take official notes or to create any minutes
of the meeting.
One CB7 member questioned: “Is any record being taken of this meeting and the last
meeting? Minutes? The discussions that just went on, if there’s any recollection needed of
what occurred, I guess we have to go by memory.”
It strikes us as unprofessional and foolhardy, for CB7 not to create any official record of
what transpires during each meeting, and instead to rely on the “memory” of meeting
attendees. Committee Chair Chuck Apelian should either assign an official note-taker, or
explain why he believes it is in the community’s interest that there be no official notes or
minutes of these important meetings.
QDG’S VIOLATION OF ITS AGREEMENT WITH CB7
As a condition of CB7’s approval of the Willets Point special permit sought by QDG during
2013, “The Joint Venture [QDG] agreed to alert CB#7 when all applications are made to
NYS DEC.” (Decision and recommendation of CB7 dated May 13, 2013.)
Thereafter, QDG violated its agreement with CB7 by filing a brownfield application with the
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) on August 8,
2013, without informing CB7 that it had done so. Indeed, CB7 was unaware that QDG had
filed any brownfield application, until Willets Point United Inc. exposed it during the first
quarterly update meeting between CB7 and QDG held on October 17, 2013.
QDG has never publicly explained why it violated its agreement “to alert CB#7” when
submitting any brownfield application.
Again at the October 8, 2014 update meeting, QDG offered no explanation of why it
violated its agreement with CB7. Why hasn’t CB7 required QDG to do so?
REMEDIAL INVESTIGATION WORK PLAN APPROVED BY NYSDEC
WITH NO INPUT FROM CB7
As if QDG’s prior violation of its agreement with CB7 was not enough, QDG announced
during the meeting that its Remedial Investigation Work Plan (“RIWP”) for the Willets Point
Phase One site has been fully approved by NYSDEC – but without CB7 reviewing it prior
to approval or commenting on it.
So mismanaged is CB7’s oversight of QDG’s proposed development, that CB7 was
unaware of the open comment period for the draft RIWP, which ended long ago. And QDG
did CB7 no favor, by withholding the draft RIWP from CB7 instead of providing CB7 with
a copy of it so that CB7 could comment. QDG did the minimum required – by placing a
copy of the draft RIWP at the Flushing Library, where it was available for review by anyone
Upon skimming the approved RIWP book at the meeting, CB7 member Joe Sweeney was
“not too happy” with the RIWP specifying a minimum of just one preliminary sampling point
located on each tax lot – to which QDG responded, “The Plan has been fully approved by
Said Mr. Sweeney: “Don’t we have a right to comment? The state approved of it because
we never commented – but we never got this [RIWP book]. If we’d gotten the book like we
were supposed to under state law, I would have read this, and I would have commented
to the state. And the state would have changed this. Now the state can’t open it and revise
it,” as it is already approved. Mr. Sweeney implied that QDG violated state law, by not
providing the draft RIWP to CB7.
Now, CB7 must resort to asking NYSDEC to reconsider and change a document that has
already undergone public review and comment, and that has been approved. This could
have been avoided, if the CB7 committee under the leadership of Chuck Apelian had paid
any attention to the progress of QDG’s brownfield RIWP.
QDG’S CONTINUED FAILURE TO PRESENT ITS APPROVED SCHEMATIC PLANS
Despite QDG possessing detailed, 100 percent schematic design plans that were approved
by NYCEDC back in December 2013, and despite that such schematics “fall under the
information the QDG is required to share with the board,” as CB7 District Manager Marilyn
Bitterman told the Queens Chronicle, for the second consecutive quarterly meeting QDG
again failed to furnish the schematic design plans.
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Had they been available, the schematic design plans would have cleared up much
confusion on the part meeting attendees concerning what exactly QDG wants to construct,
and where. The schematic design plans clearly show the locations, sizes and other aspects
Willets West mega-mall (approximately 1.4 million gross square feet) on parkland,
including specific locations of 14 movie theaters, large anchor tenants A and B,
more than 200 retail stores, food and beverage vendors, loading areas, and parking;
Willets Point Phase 1A, including hotel (approximately 200 rooms), ancillary retail
buildings (approximately 30,000 square feet), and parking lots (approximately 2,750
6-story parking structure to be constructed south of Roosevelt Avenue.
When other proposed developments are discussed by CB7, the schematic design plans,
renderings or maps are routinely displayed and reviewed. So, why the lack of those useful
materials during the update meetings for QDG’s proposed development? If QDG is
required to share the schematic design plans with CB7, why hasn’t QDG presented the
schematics at any meeting? And why hasn’t CB7 required QDG to do so?
STATUS OF WILLETS POINT PROPERTY CLOSINGS,
CONSIDERING PENDING LITIGATION
Former Mayor Bloomberg completed the sale to QDG of less than 10 percent of the 23
acres of Willets Point Phase One, with the remainder yet to be sold by the City.
However, the project contract between QDG and NYCEDC prohibits the sale of any Willets
Point property to QDG during pending litigation whose outcome could prevent the QDG’s
The lawsuit filed by State Senator Tony Avella, City Club of New York, Queens Civic
Congress, New York City Park Advocates and others has progressed to the Appellate
Division. The lawsuit filed by Sunrise Cooperative remains pending at state Supreme Court.
QDG’s representative stated: “The complication of litigation is complicating things and
would make it complicated to close and proceed with the litigation outstanding.”
He also stated that QDG still expects to pay just $1 (one dollar) for the entire 23 acre
Willets Point Phase One site, as arranged by former Mayor Bloomberg. That property was
acquired at an estimated taxpayer cost of $400,752,000.00, which was supposed to be
recouped by the City through the sale of the property to the developer.
Whether Mayor Bill de Blasio will consent to the sale of public property worth $400+ million
to QDG for just $1 remains to be seen. Willets Point United Inc. believes that additional
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approval of the Queens Borough Board is necessary, pursuant to City Charter § 384(b)(4)
– and that CB7 should direct its representative on the Borough Board to dis-approve any
property sale for $1 when the matter comes up for a vote.
STATUS OF RELOCATION OF SUNRISE COOPERATIVE
TENANT BUSINESSES TO THE BRONX
NYCEDC confirmed that it is making payments to the landlord of property in the Bronx, on
behalf of members of the Sunrise Cooperative (tenant automotive businesses) who are
interested in relocating there. Sunrise Cooperative has a lease for the site, but relocating
scores of automotive service businesses into an enclosed structure is “rather complicated,”
requiring that the building and its systems be updated and a “fair bit of design work” be
done by consultants to Sunrise Cooperative with technical assistance from NYCEDC.
NYCEDC obviously wanted to create the impression that Sunrise Cooperative is
progressing towards relocating its members to the Bronx. But it so happens that Sunrise
Cooperative has also sued QDG and the City.
Moreover, NYCEDC never volunteered to inform CB7 that many of the same businesses
that would be expected to relocate to the Bronx, have already vacated Willets Point Phase
One and relocated elsewhere, after accepting City payments equal to 12 months’ rent if
they would vacate by December 31, 2013, or 6 months’ rent if they would vacate by early
2014; or after being forcibly evicted by the City. With these businesses already gone from
Willets Point and established elsewhere, it seems unlikely that they will be willing to
relocate – again – to another site in the Bronx that will not be prepared for some time. Yet,
NYCEDC pays rent for the empty, unrenovated site in the Bronx, in furtherance of just such
NYCEDC has failed to coordinate the timetable of the renovation of the Bronx site (which
is nowhere near ready), with the City’s premature financial inducement of businesses to
leave Willets Point and its premature evictions of businesses. Had NYCEDC genuinely
supported relocation of Sunrise Cooperative members to the Bronx, it should not have
removed the businesses from Willets Point long before the Bronx site has even been
FLUSHING MUNI LOT 3 AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECT
In what CB7 members called a “trade-off” and “appeasement policy” – to offset the delay
until the year 2025 of any affordable housing being built at Willets Point – Flushing’s
Municipal Lot 3 is to be developed as affordable housing. Council Member Julissa Ferreras
has taken credit for obtaining the Muni Lot 3 affordable housing project as a concession
from the City, prior to the City Council’s 2013 vote to approve the special permit that
enables the QDG project.
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The deadline for developers to respond to the Request for Proposals for the Muni Lot 3
project was October 10, 2014. CB7 wants to be included in decision-making concerning the
design of the project.
One CB7 member observed: “Why don’t we call a spade a spade? This was the City saying
‘Screw you, Flushing. We [the City] screwed up, so we’re going to take your municipal lot
away from you, and put the affordable housing we promised you.’ Isn’t that what you
COST TO TAXPAYERS OF QDG’S PROJECT = $686+ MILLION
CB7 member Pablo Hernandez asked what the estimated total cost to City taxpayers will
be, to defend against pending lawsuits challenging QDG’s proposed development. No one
answered his question with any dollar amount.
But with due respect to Mr. Hernandez, taxpayer dollars spent on lawyers are merely a
drop in the bucket, when compared with taxpayer funds and property being lavished upon
QDG as dictated by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Willets Point United Inc. has published what is believed to be the first listing of key taxpayer
costs incurred due to QDG’s proposed Willets West / Willets Point Phase One development
(accessible online in its original, unrevised form at: http://willetspoint.org/2013/12/willetsdevelopers-seek-42-million-ida.html). The updated list includes:
Value of City-Owned 23 Acres / Willets Point Phase One Property......... $400,752,000+
Sewer Construction Cost. ........................................................................... $35,572,000+
Van Wyck Expressway Access Ramps Construction Cost......................... $66,000,000+
Grant of Taxpayer Funds to QDG. ............................................................. $99,000,000
Loss of Real Estate Taxes Previously Paid by
Willets Point Phase One Property Owners................................................. $42,500,000+
IDA Tax Credit to QDG. .............................................................................. $42,645,802
Grand Total, Cost to City Taxpayers. ....................................................... $686,469,802+
The actual cost of $686,469,802+ vastly outweighs the $211,993,947 alleged projected
financial “benefit” to the City. In fact, the QDG Willets West / Willets Point project will result
in a net loss to City taxpayers of at least $474,475,855 – nearly half a billion dollars. The
only beneficiary here is QDG (i.e., Sterling Equities and The Related Companies).
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