A contentious point about the proposed Willets Point development has been the alleged need for remediation of the property. Willets Point United Inc. believes that during 2008, the City greatly exaggerated the alleged need for remediation in order to horrify the City Council and provide some basis to approve the land grab involving our property. That the City is now awkwardly backing away from its 2008 claim proves our point.
During a 2008 City Council public hearing, the cost to remediate the entire 62 acres of Willets Point, according to the City, was said to be between $470 million and $570 million – "half a billion dollars", as then-Councilman Hiram Monserrate put it – a large sum that implied a large amount of remediation was required. That a developer would foot such a bill was touted as a benefit of proceeding with the entire proposed project.
Now, five years later, the City's contract with chosen developers Sterling/Related anticipates the cost of remediating one-third of Willets Point (the "Phase One" area) to be just $40 million, or less.
Extrapolated to the full 62 acres of Willets Point, the cost would be $120 million – which is dwarfed by the original $570 million quoted to the City Council during 2008. Moreover, Sterling/Related now won't even pay the $40 million cost – the taxpayers will, by virtue of a grant of taxpayer funds to the developers to cover the remediation. The previously-claimed benefit to the taxpayers – that a developer would pay for and do extensive remediation – has been stood on its head.
A lingering question for the City is: What happened to the $570 million remediation program that was said to be necessary during 2008? What explanation is there, for drastically reducing the cost of remediation from $570 million, to $120 million (or less, per the contract)?
Incredibly, when the issue came up during a committee meeting of Queens Community Board 7 on April 11, 2013, NYCEDC's Tom McKnight tried to create the impression that people are mis-remembering the $570 million figure, and that $570 million somehow was never said. Strange that McKnight would do this now, as he was seated just feet behind then-Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber and NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky at the City Council during 2008 when the discussion of the "half a billion dollars" occurred.
For anyone who doubts this, here is a video clip that shows a portion of the City Council Q&A. At no time does anyone dispute the $570 million remediation cost that is discussed – only how it might be paid.
We emphasize that today, this cost is down to just $40 million for one-third of the site, with the taxpayers – not the developers – paying the bill. The need for remediation is nowhere near what the City Council was told during 2008; and in any case, the cost of paying for it has been shifted from the developers to the taxpayers, and is now a taxpayer liability instead of the benefit we were promised.
See Willets Point United Inc.'s Gerald Antonacci's explanation of this, in our YouTube video ("Willets Point Factual Update") beginning at 9:39 (9 minutes, 39 seconds).