The New York City FC soccer stadium in Queens clears another big hurdle as Borough President Donovan Richards officially recommended approving phase two of the Willets Point redevelopment.
The Borough President announced his conditional approval live on NY1 with Pat Kiernan on the morning his ULURP verdict on the NYCFC stadium and related development was due.
The approval from Richards is conditional, as he wants to ensure a number of things occur around the development project. Based on the BP’s official written recommendation, it appears NYCFC and its partners have given word they’ll meet his requirements. That recommendation includes Richards writing that “the Applicants have sent my office a signed letter of commitments to establish good-faith partnerships within the stadium and throughout the Proposed Development, as detailed in my conditions.”
That list of the Borough President’s conditions for approval is lengthy, and partly includes guarantees around local hiring practices, affordability levels for the planned 1,400 units of housing, capital improvements for parks and transit near Willets Point, local street vendors’s opportunities to operate in the soccer stadium, and access and benefits (like discounted NYCFC tickets) for local residents.
Queens BP Richards has consistently embraced the political leverage possibilities afforded by the stadium approval process.
He made waves in October by threatening to not allow the de-mapping of a city street, necessary for the advancement of the NYCFC stadium and the Willets Point development, unless local street vendors were allowed to return to Corona Plaza.
The borough president also delayed giving his formal ULURP approval, waiting for those firmer written commitments from NYCFC and the Willets Point developers around hiring Queens-based workers, ensuring local street vendors get concession opportunities in the NYCFC stadium, ensuring children from nearby neighborhoods get enough access to the new stadium and its field, and so on.
At both his December 13 public hearing and in an end-of-year media roundtable we attended and reported on, BP Richards said he wanted written commitments addressing those key concerns, and now his approval has arrived, though with a still-lengthy list of conditions.
With the Queens BP’s approval now in hand, the New York City land use approval process for Willets Point phase two moves closer to completion, with the City Planning Commission up next to review and weigh in on the development that includes the $780 million privately-financed NYCFC stadium.
That commission must, within 60 days of the expiration of the Borough President’s review period, hold its own public hearing and then render an approval, approval with modifications, or disapproval.
The City Planning Commission confirmed during its January 3 meeting that the NYCFC stadium and Willets Point phase two development will get its public hearing on the morning of January 24. All City Planning Commission meetings are streamed live and viewable on the department’s YouTube channel, so you can tune in at 10 am on January 24 and watch, if you’re so inclined.
What is the City Planning Commission, exactly?
It’s a group of political appointees, with New York City’s Mayor able to name the group’s chair plus six of its commissioners. Each of the five Borough Presidents get to add one member, with the Public Advocate also getting a commissioner pick, rounding out a possible 13-member group. In the group’s most recent public meeting agenda from January 3, 12 names appeared as members of the Commission.
The end of the ULURP process draws nearer with this Borough President approval, with the City Planning Commission review leading into subsequent and final City Council and Mayoral reviews. 2024 still looks on track to be the year the long-awaited NYCFC stadium gets its necessary approvals and historic groundbreaking ceremony.
The groundbreaking for “phase one” of Willets Point was held on December 20, and offers stadium-starved NYCFC fans a taste of what could be to come later this spring or summer, assuming the remainder of the ULURP process wraps up smoothly.
This post was updated at 10:00 AM on January 10 to include links and references to the Borough President’s official recommendation.