|Council Member Julissa Ferreras at Queens Housing Coalition meeting. (Queens Chronicle)|
The city’s announcement that the burgeoning and long-contested development project at Willets Point would not be proceeding as originally outlined and the lack of sufficient affordable housing for the middle- and lower-income families living in the borough led about 100 distraught residents to pack a Queens Housing Coalition meeting on Nov. 20 in Jackson Heights.
The Willets Point Redevelopment Plan was approved by the City Council in 2008 and included the construction of 5,500 mixed-income residential units, 2,000 of which were to be affordable housing.
This past June, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the affordable housing plan would be delayed until 2025.
“We just want the mayor to remember the promise he made about affordable housing at Willets Point,” said QHC’s coordinator Ivan Contreras. “We feel betrayed.”
The group informed attendees of the revised plans for the area, including neighboring Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which include a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium, additions to the U.S. Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the construction of the largest shopping mall in the borough. The MLS and USTA projects are separate from the Willets Point plan, but the shopping center is part of it.
When Contreras turned to the crowd and asked, “Do we need another mall?” he was greeted with a resounding “No.”
“We need housing,” he said. “We need the mayor to construct low-cost housing. Affordable housing is not a luxury. It’s a priority. We need it and we need it now,” he said.
Now, WPU would like to remind housing advocates that they can't be sure there'll ever be housing at Willets Point - let alone affordable housing - because the City conveniently slipped an "opt-out" clause in the Willets Point plan. The only thing that can be counted on is the gigantic proposed mall. Housing advocacy groups were persuaded to support the development project on the false pretext that housing will happen in the future. They shouldn't have fallen for it!