Willets Point, Hunter’s Point South Clear Planning Commission, Head to Council

Two of the city’s largest planned developments are headed to the City Council for consideration, as the Planning Commission voted this morning to approve the Willets Point and Hunter’s Point South developments in Queens. The two Bloomberg administration-led rezoning plans would permit the development of more than 10,000 apartments, though many on the Council have publicly resisted Willets Point.

The planning commission voted 11-1 and 12-0 in favor of, respectively, Willets Point and Hunter’s Point South, according to a Department of City Planning spokeswoman, an unsurprising vote given that the board is controlled by mayoral appointees. The one vote against came from the representative for Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.

The Council has about two months to act, and typically takes much of that time for negotiations with the administration. Willets Point is the most contested large-scale project to come before the Council in years, as a majority of members have signed onto a letter of opposition to the plan in its current form. A Council defeat would kill the project, and would be an unprecedented step for a project of this size in the land use approval process.

Likely to arise over the coming weeks as a major issue is the subject of below-market rate housing, as most of the Council and advocacy groups including ACORN have said the current level planned (20 percent) is not nearly enough.

Also on the table is the use of eminent domain—never very popular among Council members seeking reelection or higher office—which the city has said is needed to guarantee that the entire 61-acre site can be assembled and developed. The existing landowners have vehemently resisted the plan, particularly the eminent domain aspect of it, and have been fighting back with a constant stream of rallies, lobbying and campaign donations.

Hunter’s Point South, a site near Long Island City where the Bloomberg administration wants to put up to 5,000 apartments, most of them for middle- or moderate-income families, has been less controversial, though advocates are still pushing for more affordable units. The city has said 60 percent will be below-market rates.

Willets Point, Hunter’s Point South Clear Planning Commission, Head to Council