The site for the proposed development of “Willets West” is public mapped parkland that forms a portion of Flushing Meadows Corona Park (FMCP). “Willets West” is one of three development proposals for the park that the Bloomberg administration has announced in its last eighteen months. The name “Willets West” is misleading; the proposal seeks to develop a 1.4 million square foot mall on public land that is located completely outside the actual Willets Point, on the other side of CitiField. Proposed to be developed by the Queens Development Group (QDG), a partnership between the Wilpon family’s Sterling Equities and the Related Companies, many have dubbed the proposal the “Mets MegaMall” as a more accurate descriptor.
This report summarizes the results of a community opinion survey of more than 1,200 residents, compares and contrasts the “Mets MegaMall” proposal to the original plan for Willets Point and makes recommendations about what would make development that consumes public resources and public land appropriately accountable to neighborhood needs. These recommendations are informed both by the original process for considering the future of Willets Point as well as recent experiences with the proposal for the U.S. Tennis Association to expand its footprint within FMCP and the proposal for Major League Soccer to site a new, private stadium within FMCP. Prepared by the Fairness Coalition of Queens, it represents the input of member organizations and individuals from the Corona, Flushing, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst communities.
Any development project in the area that receives the level of investment of public investment that is being offered as part of the “Willets West” proposal should ensure:
- Equitable economic development that combines protections for existing workers and local small businesses with assurances that new jobs will pay a living wage.
- Park investment and open space access that includes an up-front and ongoing contribution to the maintenance of FMCP, at a formula of 2% of annual revenues of the development and the Mets organization, as well as and the creation of new, permanent and free active recreational opportunities.
- Permanent affordable housing on a guaranteed, acclerated timeline that meaningfully addresses the housing crisis in surrounding communities. At a minimum this would adhere to the income levels agreed upon as part of the 2008 Willets Point project, which were all affordable to families earning 60% of AMI or less and comprised no less than 35% of the total units created.
- Mitigation of transportation impacts by requiring significant and ongoing City and developer contributions to mass transit that will address 7 train, LIRR, local bus, station crowding and pedestrian dangers.