2006-03-08 / Features

EDC Picks 8 Finalists For Willets Pt. Job


Eight real estate development heavyweights have been picked by the city Economic Development Corporation to submit proposals for the long-awaited redevelopment of the Willets Point junk yards in Flushing. One proposal hopes to include several tenants from mainland China in the mix of new tenants.

However, there have been signals that the project, one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's top priorities, may run into problems getting some of the present business owners out of the targeted area.

Several of the larger ones recently hired former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. to represent them in negotiations with the EDC. Also, Borough President Helen Marshall and Councilmember Hiram Monserrate are advocating for smaller businesses that fear they may get a raw deal in the rush to rebuild the area.

In this atmosphere, there's the possibility that many legal fights to forestall a takeover of these businesses could delay the mayor's plans considerably.

Meanwhile, the eight developers chosen to submit development proposals include Forest City Ratner, The Related Companies, Muss Development, Vornado Realty Trust, Macerich Co./Avalon Bay, the Westfield Corporation, TDC Development and Construction and a consortium of General Growth Properties, Sage Hotel Corporation, Rosenshein Associates and LCOR Inc.

In a recent issue of Crain's New York Business, it was reported that Michael Meyer of TDC Development had just returned from Shanghai, China, where he was trying to sign up Chinese firms to open outlets in the new Willets Point.

Meyer has proposed to build a multipurpose commercial space and include businesses that want to attract U.S. buyers.

According to the EDC, all the finalists have included projects in their preliminary proposals such as a hotel and exhibition center, entertainment outfits and community organizations and cultural institutions.

The EDC has been implementing an outreach program and has met with the Willets Point Business Association to discuss relocation possibilities and has reached out to workers that may be affected by the new development.

But besides the many junk yard businesses that have long occupied the area and which draw the most media attention, there are larger enterprises such as Fodera Foods, House of Spices, Feinstein Ironworks and Tully Construction which, in the words of one owner, are "tired of the city lumping us together with the illegal chop shops."

Vallone said, "[The business owners] want to make sure the city treats them fairly. We just can't throw these people out."

Monserrate (D-Corona) whose district includes the 48-acre enclave, has been in constant touch with the smaller businesses, many of which feel extremely disenfranchised by the city as it pursues its redevelopment plans.

The lawmaker said, "We should be hearing the workers' side of the story, too." He said that on a recent tour of the area, he had heard many concerns from them about their companies being displaced and their losing their jobs. "The city has to do something about that in all fairness," he said.

EDC guidelines for developers call for their proposals to create an interesting mix of uses and urban designs that will connect to adjacent communities. The guidelines also call upon the developers to be mindful of creating job opportunities and generating tax revenues.

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