The New York City FC soccer stadium just took another massive step forward, as Community Board 7 voted to approve the redevelopment plan that would bring the stadium plus thousands of units of new affordable housing to Willets Point, Queens.
The community board voted 37-2 in favor of the motion to approve the stadium project, a huge step for the stadium plan as it moves closer to its 2027 opening.
The vote of approval from Community Board 7 comes five days after the board’s land use committee voted 10-1 in favor of approving the Willets Point development plan, contingent on the eventual finalization of an agreement with the New York Mets for NYCFC stadium attendees to use the parking lots that surround Citi Field.
This final public meeting and full board vote concludes the community board review portion of New York City’s uniform land use review procedure, ULURP for those familiar with that particularly clunky acronym.
The Willets Point “Phase Two” development officially entered ULURP back on October 16, opening up a 60-day window for Community Board 7 to hold hearings and discuss the merits of the proposal that includes the $780 million privately-financed NYCFC stadium, plus 1,400 units of affordable housing, a new hotel, and lots of new green space.
The community board raised concerns and questions throughout, but appears to have had its main points of concern addressed adequately, as they delivered a resounding vote of approval that helps the the massive Willets Point project as it progresses to the next ULURP phase.
Lingering questions (mostly) get answered
As we first reported ahead of last week’s final land use committee meeting on November 29, the board wanted to receive clarifications on three specific aspects of the Willets Point redevelopment in the final meetings it held to discuss the project before casting its votes.
One topic of concern was that parking agreement between the Mets and NYCFC, with board also seeking clarification about their requested new police precinct, as well as answers as to what type of hotel would be opening as part of the development.
Use of the parking lots around Citi Field by soccer match attendees has been a point of contention since the stadium deal was consummated in November 2022, with Mets owner Steve Cohen reportedly using the lots as leverage in his own quest to get the necessary approvals to build a casino right outside his baseball stadium.
No final agreement has been reached, but NYCFC’s COO and chief legal officer, Jennifer O’Sullivan, said at the final land use committee meeting on November 29 that the two sides were very close to an agreement that would open up 4,000 parking spaces near Citi Field for use by attendees of the new NYCFC arena.
Community Board 7 seemed satisfied by this clarification by O’Sullivan, and also appeared to get the answers they were looking for about the nature of the 250-room hotel set to open across from the soccer stadium.
The opening of a new police precinct has been the No. 1 priority for the community board in its discussions about Willets Point’s new neighborhood anchored by the soccer stadium and lots of new housing.
The final November 29 land use committee meeting appeared to produce sufficient precinct progress for the members of Community Board 7.
Chuck Apelian, vice-chair of the community board, told meeting attendees he received a letter from Deputy New York City Mayor Phil Banks pledging that the New York Police Department would begin the process of exploring the creation of a new precinct in the area currently served by the NYPD’s 109th precinct.
It’s not a given that this new precinct will ever get built—New York City has only opened two new precincts in the last 30 years, and all the NYPD is pledging to do is begin the process of exploring its addition.
Regardless of how it ultimately plays out, the letter of intent from the NYPD was hailed by Apelian and by local City Council member Vickie Paladino as a win in the community board’s search for more local police resources.
Up next for the Willets Point ULURP
The vote to approve, and the whole of the community board’s role in the ULURP process, was purely advisory.
The Willets Point project now moves to Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr., who has his own 30-day review window as part of the many-step ULURP process.
Richards has already been something of a central figure in the NYCFC Willets Point stadium approval experience, vowing to block the soccer stadium unless vendors were allowed to return to Corona Plaza after a summer crackdown.
A deal with the office of Mayor Eric Adams to return the evicted vendors to Corona Plaza was struck not long after Richards publicized his willingness to hold up the soccer stadium, though only a small number of the displaced vendors have returned.
Now the Borough President gets a chance to publicly scrutinize the development plans, with his office scheduling a public hearing about the Willets Point proposal for the morning of Wednesday, December 13.
We covered all the Community Board 7 meetings about the Willets Point stadium as they happened and will be bringing you the same coverage as other public hearings occur during the remainder of the ULURP process.