City resumes land talks with some, tells others to sit tight

City officials say they are refocusing their efforts on purchasing and developing the land directly across the street from Citi Field. Photo by Christina Santucci

City officials say they are refocusing their efforts on purchasing and developing the land directly across the street from Citi Field. Photo by Christina Santucci

The Economic Development Corporation has resumed property acquisition talks with businesses on the southwestern portion of Willets Point as it refocuses its efforts to redevelop the area, the agency said this week.

As part of its new approach to the redevelopment, the EDC said it has reached out to property owners across the Iron Triangle in recent weeks, reengaging in property acquisition talks with some while telling others they will not begin serious negotiations for another year.

Several property owners also told TimesLedger Newspapers this week that the city has been contacting them to gauge interest in selling their land — the first such contact since the Council approved a massive redevelopment of the area in November.

Responding to a hobbled economy, the EDC said earlier this month it now plans to develop the southwestern portion of the 62-acre site, directly across the street from the recently opened Citi Field, first before moving on to the northern and eastern portions.

The city’s reconfigured plan will have it developing an area stretching from Roosevelt Avenue on the south to 35th Avenue on the north along 126th Street. The officials said that behind the initial development extending out to what is now 127th Street, a landscapped buffer area will separate the retail and housing complex from the rest of Willets Point — which may or may not still include businesses that exist there today, such as Tully Construction and Fodera Foods.

Sources told TimesLedger that property owners outside of this area have been told the city will not approach them regarding the sale of their land until at least spring of 2010.

“They are putting out feelers to see what people are thinking,” said Jerry Antonacci, co-owner of Crown Container Co. and president of Willets Point United Against Eminent Domain Abuse. “They called some guys over by Citi Field and asked them what they thought about the deals they got offered last year. They called me and told me I didn’t really need to worry about it because I wasn’t in the first phase of the project.”

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