By Eric Córdova
An all-women’s rally was held on the steps of CitiField on March 16, 2017. Members of the newly formed East Elmhurst Corona Alliance gathered together for a call to action on the proposed Willets Point Redevelopment Plan. Led by Ms. Talea Wulfa of East Elmhurst, the demonstration is an objection to Councilmember Julissa Ferreras-Copeland’s decision to allow construction on Willets Point without any guarantees of creating housing for the residents of Queens County.
The plan to redevelop Willets Point has been a prickly subject over the past few years. Community Leaders in East Elmhurst and Corona have been left in the dark, in what they consider a much-needed solution to the community’s housing issue. Recently, the community has grown weary of the council member’s decision to amend the original proposal of the Willets Point Redevelopment plan (set back in 2008 by then Council Member Hiram Monserrate, and voted by the New York City-Council, and then Mayor Bloomberg). Residents of East Elmhurst have spoken out in the past about the need to construct additional housing in their community (particularly affordable housing), but their calls have often been unanswered.
The rally, which was organized by the Women Members of the East Elmhurst Corona Alliance, was themed as a message to Councilmember Ferreras-Copeland’s lack of transparency, and possible conflicts of interest in hosting an unknown reception in the Citifield Foxwood Club: a venue which has been linked to the same developer who is the beneficiary of the Willets Point 62 acre property. Melanie Gijon a member of the East Elmhurst Corona Alliance had stated ”We need affordable housing in this community and not cocktail parties by self-promoting politicians who have curried favor with developers.”
The protestors are not only asking for a “call to action”, but to honor the 2008 Willets Point Redevelopment Plan. They are calling for an investigation into the land transaction that has operated without any transparency. The protestors have also called for a review of the reception venue, used by the city Councilmember, to inquire whether any conflicts of interest violations may have occurred.
What we know, is in 2008 a plan to redevelop Willets Point was negotiated. The plan included the creation of 5,500 housing units, of which 35% would be designated as affordable housing (1,925 Affordable Housing Units). The plan also included the construction of a new School (possibly a High School), a Hotel, and a Commercial District for small businesses.
The 2013 Ferrarras-Copeland plan does not include the construction of any school or housing developments of any kind (particularly no mention of any affordable housing units). The new plan has left the development of Willets Point open to the building of a parking lot, shopping mall, or a possible Casino. In addition, the residents of East Elmhurst and Corona are in danger of losing approximately 40 acres of park land, from Flushing Meadows Corona Park, for the building of the proposed parking lot and shopping mall.
East Elmhurst, and the adjacent communities of Elmhurst and Corona have been heavily effected over the past two years, with the rising cost of housing, the gentrification of their communities (and commercial districts), and the Mayors decision to convert nine hotels to shelters. They deserve to be heard on Willets Point. They deserve a voice.