This post was updated on October 7 to add a statement from a spokesman for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
Street vendors in Corona Plaza and a potential new police precinct have both become points of leverage in the NYCFC stadium project’s journey through New York City’s uniform land use review procedure (ULURP) and toward approval.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and local Queens Community Board 7 have both made specific public requests they want met in order to approve the Willets Point redevelopment plan.
The Borough President has told The City that he won’t approve changes to the city map needed to build the NYCFC stadium unless street vendors are allowed to return to Corona Plaza.
Mayor Eric Adams and his administration have controversially cracked down on the longstanding food vendor hotspot, conducting a summer sweep through the plaza that included punishing vendors who did not have the proper permit—which turned out to be nearly all of them, given the extremely limited availability of new street vendor permits in New York City.
Corona Plaza is walking distance up Roosevelt Avenue from Willets Point, where the $780 million NYCFC stadium is planned to rise along with 1,400 units of housing, a hotel, and acres of new public open space.
As mentioned in the statement to The City, BP Richards has a say in the approval of changes that would need to be made to the city map in order for the stadium project to proceed.
When asked by Hudson River Blue to clarify his stance on the Willets Point development and NYCFC stadium, a spokesperson for Borough President Richards shared the following statement: “The construction of a soccer stadium necessitates the de-mapping of city streets that currently exist within Willets Point, which requires Borough President Richards’ sign-off. As the Borough President has said this week, he will not sign off on the de-mapping of those streets until the City comes to an acceptable agreement with all parties involved regarding the return of the street vendors who were unjustly raided and removed from Corona Plaza this summer. The Borough President also strongly supports incorporating these same vendors and others like them into the stadium’s concession operations upon its eventual opening, which has made and will continue to make clear to his government colleagues.”
Borough Presidents and community boards only have advisory roles in the ULURP process, but the BP’s office has extra power when it comes to map changes, which he is now leveraging to try to sway Mayor Adams to intervene to help the vendors recently driven away from Corona Plaza.
The Borough President is not alone in seeking to extract something from approving the NYCFC-related Willets Point development.
Queens Community Board 7 and its vice chair Chuck Apelian have been outspoken in asking that a new police precinct be opened in what is now the NYPD’s 109th Precinct in exchange for the board’s approval of the new Willets Point development.
Queens Chronicle quoted Apelian as saying “They need our support — they want our suppor. I made it clear: We gave you one ask. One ask. It’s a big one, but just one ask,” so the police precinct seems very top-of-mind for the community board that will also get to voice its approval or disapproval of the NYCFC stadium project through the ULURP process.
That ULURP process has not officially begun, despite discussion at the last Community Board 7 meeting pointing heavily in the direction of the project being certified into ULURP by October 2.
That date has come and gone, though not without the New York City Department of Planning issuing a Notice of Receipt for the project’s ULURP application that’s dated September 29.
While the application and its supporting documents might have been submitted and received by City Planning and circulated to the next parties set to review the proposal, the Borough President and Community Board 7, the project still hasn’t certified into ULURP.
That’s in part because, in this project’s case, a draft Environmental Impact Statement needs to be published and shared before City Planning can certify the application as complete. That has not yet happened, and there’s no set deadline for it to happen, so it’s unclear how long exactly this pre-certification limbo will last.
The years-long saga towards a NYCFC stadium has not been a smooth ride, and even now as the stadium is closer than ever to actually getting built, new potential obstacles continue to pop up along the way. The Citi Field parking lot sharing issue appears to have waned as a real threat to the Willets Point phase two development’s progress, but now there are additional political hurdles to clear for NYCFC and its partners in stadium building.