Ownership: The One-Developer Model has not proven effective
The Willets Point Development and Urban Renewal plans have been ill conceived.
o The City should invest in infrastructure and site preparation
o The City should incorporate a multiple-developer model with clear public oversight
In reserving the City’s action to rezone the area, acquire and assemble the land — currently under private ownership — and subsequently transfer the responsibility and financial burden for brownfield remediation, major site preparation, and infrastructure work to the potential developer, major community benefits, such as significant affordable housing, for example, may be cost-prohibitive and unrealizable.
The Willets Point development plan, which relies on a single developer for site preparation as well as build-out, is a redevelopment model that has not proven to be successful, as demonstrated by the Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards projects. By eschewing the public sector’s responsibility to prepare the site and provide the public infrastructure necessary for redevelopment, the City is running the risk that the development at Willets Point, as at Atlantic Yards, will stall indefinitely. At the same time, if the City acquires control over the entire site – if necessary through the use of eminent domain – local property owners will have relinquished their stake in the area. This creates the possibility that the site will remain vacant and/or underutilized for years to come.
Battery Park City and Queens West, on the other hand, illustrate that a phased development process where multiple developers are granted development rights and where the project is overseen by a specially designated public authority may be a more effective model.
Note that this was written before the suspension of infrastructure work at the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard further stalled the AY project.
(Update: White has some further criticisms of the Municipal Art Society's posture on AY, and I've written before about how the organization has placed pragmatism over principle.)