June 25, 2024

The New York City Council has officially given the green light to a Willets Point redevelopment project, paving the way for the construction of the city’s inaugural professional soccer stadium, among other amenities. The approved plan encompasses nearly three acres of public space, a hotel, retail outlets, and more.

Having already received approval from the City Planning Commission, the redevelopment initiative includes a privately funded $780 million stadium capable of accommodating 25,000 spectators, all powered by electricity, and designated to host games for Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club. Situated adjacent to Citi Field in Queens, the soccer arena will share its vicinity with the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, renowned for hosting the U.S. Open.

Citi Field | Queens, NY 11368

Alongside the stadium, the comprehensive redevelopment project, which has been in development for several years, will introduce 2,500 units of affordable housing, an elementary school, 80,000 square feet of retail space, a hotel, a park, and more, as part of a revitalization effort spanning 23 acres to rejuvenate Willets Point, historically home to a collection of automotive repair shops. Council members have highlighted the plan’s potential to generate 15,000 employment opportunities.

Mayor Eric Adams, flanked by union representatives during a celebratory gathering at City Hall following the council’s vote, hailed the approval as a significant achievement for New York City, emphasizing the long-standing blight that Willets Point has represented. In a social media post, Adams expressed enthusiasm for the project, characterizing it as a landmark moment for the community, promising homes, employment, and enhanced prospects.

Earlier this year, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. voiced his recommendation to endorse Phase II of the Willets Point redevelopment plan, inclusive of the proposed stadium, albeit subject to certain conditions.

The upcoming FIFA World Cup in 2026, set to be hosted across various locations in the U.S. with the final match slated for MetLife Stadium, won’t feature the new soccer stadium in New York City.

Currently, the New York City Football Club, a prominent Major League Soccer team that clinched the championship in 2021, plays its home matches at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. The ownership consortium, which includes the Yankees and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the Manchester City Football Club, will finance the construction of the new stadium.

However, a report from the city’s Independent Budget Office indicates that taxpayers could potentially incur expenses totaling $516 million over the 49-year lease period for the stadium. This estimation is based on the foregone property tax revenue that the city would have collected if it had sold the land to the developers instead of leasing it.

The development venture involves Related Companies and Sterling Equities, with the latter being partially controlled by the Wilpon family, former owners of the Mets baseball team.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. has emphasized the significance of revitalizing this area of Queens, historically known as the “Valley of Ashes” due to its industrial nature, into a valuable community asset.

“Over the years, numerous plans have been proposed for Willets Point, but only one has been approved,” wrote Richards. “I am pleased to witness the transformation of the former industrial landscape into improved residential areas, educational opportunities, and public spaces. However, I remain committed to ensuring tangible and substantial benefits for the neighboring communities of Corona, Flushing, and East Elmhurst.”

Not mentioned during Thursday’s rally was the potential inclusion of a casino, which is part of a separate proposal submitted by Mets owner Steve Cohen. Cohen is competing for one of the three casino licenses to be granted in the downstate area.

Phase II of the Willets Point redevelopment plan encompasses 1,400 units of affordable housing, a 25,000-seat soccer stadium, a 250-room hotel, 80,000 square feet of commercial retail space, nearly 3 acres of public open space, and more.

Borough President Donovan Richards Jr.’s recommendations include several specific conditions. These conditions entail ensuring that housing affordability levels in Phase II are comparable to Phase I, with a commitment to having over half of the 1,400 units available at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). Additionally, a comprehensive list of community benefits pledged by the applicant team throughout the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) process is required.

It remains unclear as of Thursday whether any of Richards’ conditions have been met.

Among the recommendations are provisions for local hiring, with minority- and women-owned businesses and local residents making up at least 30 percent of contracts and hires. The applicant team is expected to provide quarterly reports to the borough president, local councilmembers, and community boards. Additionally, collaboration with borough officials is suggested to establish a suitable set-aside for local street vendors and concessionaires within and around the soccer stadium.

Community partnerships are also emphasized, including discounted NYCFC match tickets for local residents. Infrastructure improvements in the area, such as enhancements to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, are proposed, with the applicant team urged to collaborate with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation to identify areas requiring capital upgrades.

Richards further recommends avoiding scheduling NYCFC games on days when the New York Mets have home games at Citi Field or when the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is in use to mitigate traffic congestion.

NYC Council OKs NYCFC Queens soccer stadium, Willets Point neighborhood  transformation

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