2020 Roundtable

The Fulcrum: The Crossroads at the Heart of Queens

In January 2005 the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of the City of New York issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the development of a 14-acre area known as the Iron Triangle on Willets Point, Queens-- a collection of automobile junkyards and auto parts dealers, with unpaved roads, no storm or sanitary sewers, flooding prone elevations, and suspect soil conditions.

However, Willets Point is at the center of the most densely populated census tracts in Queens and is surrounded and served by subways, commuter rails, and a remarkable set of highways. Across Flushing Creek is the fourth largest business district in the city, Flushing. New York’s two airports are only minutes away, and with the existing Shea Stadium and the Arthur Ashe tennis Center, Willets Point is already a sports hub, and the new proposed site for an Olympic stadium in Queens.

Thus Willets Point is potentially a major urban opportunity. The Queens Chamber of Commerce had been studying Willets Point for several years. They came to the Newman Institute to help determine what development concepts they should use to benchmark the RFEI.

Drawing on the Chamber’s prior work and expertise, the Institute developed a series of conceptual designs and made the following recommendations to the Chamber:

Willets Point will best function as a bridge between Corona and Flushing, as opposed to a self-contained focus on development of the Iron Triangle. A similar linkage strategy should be adopted for Flushing Meadows Park and surrounding sports and cultural facilities.

Willets Point has potentially extraordinary transportation assets that can be used to support development in Flushing and Corona as well.

These assets make Willets Point an excellent location for a small, intimate exposition center with a 400-room hotel.

The elevation problems of the Point can be turned into an asset by creating facilities with several levels that can also provide connections to Flushing, Corona and adjacent parks.

The difficulties of redeveloping Willets Point mean that only a large scale proposal with significant value added is likely to generate enough potential benefit to justify the necessary environmental and infrastructure investments.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce is now drawing on these recommendations as it monitors the RFEI process and considers what proposals to encourage and support.

Click on a link below to download a report:

Introduction

The Contexts of Willets Point and Planning Principles

Development Program