Willets Point, A Development Waterloo?

Now, the Bloomberg administration is hoping a still-strong real estate market and attractive incentives to landowners—yet to be negotiated—will provide the financial stability to give the plan enough momentum to carry it through.

“We think this is a great way to create 20,000 construction jobs, 5,000 permanent jobs and a new community, and they have a significant economic value to the city long term,” said Mr. Lieber, the deputy mayor overseeing the project. “Is everyone going to be 100 percent happy? I doubt it. But I think the plan overall, for the majority, makes a hell of a lot of sense, and we’ve got strong support for it.”

By going through a rezoning before selecting a developer, the city is seeking to avoid some legal issues related to eminent domain, Mr. Lieber said, as the outcome of a different route would be more uncertain.

But it is the choice of this sequence—to rezone and then provide specifics with a developer—that has raised the ire of Councilman Monserrate and others, including nearby Councilmen John Liu and Tony Avella. The review process for a rezoning is the only aspect of a redevelopment in which the city legislators have a direct say, as the Council must approve any zoning change.

Mr. Vallone, the former Council speaker who is lobbying on behalf of the business owners, said such an action would never have gone through the Council on his watch.

“You could bet your bottom dollar that when I was speaker, we would never give away that land-use power without knowing that it’s something that’s good for the city and without knowing exactly what was going to be built in exchange,” Mr. Vallone said.

The decision to proceed with the zoning change will likely need the nod of Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Mr. Monserrate said he plans to meet with Ms. Quinn on Wednesday; and both he and Mr. Lieber expressed optimism that she shares their views.

Ms. Quinn has yet to take a firm public stance on the issue, and in a statement, a spokesman said the speaker looks forward to monitoring the process.

Should the city name more specifics in its plan before the rezoning, it faces a tug of numerous interests all pushing for a piece of the pie. Landlords, business owners, unions and housing advocates all want something to suit their needs—be it attractive relocation options, wage guarantees or affordable housing.

With the real estate market facing some instability, construction costs rising constantly and a substantial amount of environmental remediation needed, one wonders how much the city has to give. Mr. Lieber would not put a number on the potential city subsidy, only to say that it was too early to tell.