Gotbaum expresses concern over city’s redevelopment plan

Betsy Gotbaum

Betsy Gotbaum

A day before the City Planning Commission was expected to approve the project, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said on her blog that she has some serious reservations about the city’s current plans for redeveloping Willets Point.

Much like several members of the City Council have over the last several months, Gotbaum said more details of the city’s plan must be provided and the needs of the existing business owners and workers must be met before the Council should consider approving the project.

Gotbaum also mentioned an issue that will undoubtedly get more attention in the coming months: The economic turmoil on Wall Street. She writes:

Third, given our current economic crisis, we need to know what kinds of public subsidies will be provided for this plan, and where the money will come from.

Unfortunately, the clock is already ticking for the City vote on the Willets Point plan. The administration shouldn’t force the Council to speculate on the details of this plan. It may be difficult in the short time left, but they need to come up with the specifics about the future of this development.

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber told me yesterday that he believes there is enough need in the housing, retail and hotel space market in central Queens to support a project of this magnitude.

“I think it’s important to remember that this project isn’t going to be built in six months, it’s going to be built over a period of 10 to 15 years,” Lieber said. “We know those needs are there and we’re optimistic as the city continues to grow that they will continue to be.”

The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association, meanwhile, agreed with Gotbaum. Its statement:

Mayor Bloomberg should recognize the fatal flaws of this plan and instead work with the property owners on sensible and affordable infrastructure investment that Willets Point has needed for decades. If not, we trust the City Council will show the same independence that Ms. Gotbaum demonstrated today with her courageous stance and reject this misguided proposal.

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