Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan Tuesday to turn 60 acres (24 hectares) of junkyards and auto-parts shops next to the construction site of the New York Mets' new stadium into a new neighborhood of homes, shops, offices and entertainment.
"We believe that out of these ashes can rise New York City's next great neighborhood, a dynamic center of life, energy and economic activity and a model for sustainability and environmental stewardship," Bloomberg said. "After a century of blight and neglect, the future of this area is very bright indeed."
The master plan for the area known as Willets Point, or the Iron Triangle, would create a new neighborhood also including a school, a 700-room hotel and a 400,000-square-foot convention center.
Over the next decade the plan would replace 225 auto shops and 25 industrial and manufacturing businesses with 5,500 housing units, 1.7 million square feet (0.16 million sq. meters) of retail and entertainment and 500,000 square feet (46,450 sq. meters) of office space.
Bloomberg's announcement at the nearby Queens Museum of Art is one step in a long process of redeveloping the site, due east of where the Mets' new Citifield is scheduled to open in 2009.
The area is now an eyesore that Bloomberg called "one of the bleakest parts of this borough." The entire site is polluted from years of petroleum spills and will have to be cleaned up before it can be redeveloped. Garbage and broken-down chassis are piled high, and there are no sewers. Many of the auto shops are low-rent chop shops in cinderblock sheds.
The city has promised to help the existing businesses relocate and will offer job training and other assistance to the estimated 1,300 workers who make their living there.
But a handful of Willets Point workers and business owners who attended Bloomberg's announcement said they were worried about their livelihoods.
Daniel Sambucci, who owns an auto salvage business at the site, was skeptical that the city could find him a new home.
"There's not much land available any more," he said. "What are you going to do for us? We've been there 50 years."
The city reached out to developers in 2004 with requests for expressions of interest in Willets Point, then sought formal proposals for building on it last year.
Following environmental reviews and a public approval process, the city will ask developers to submit a revised plan in the spring of 2008. A developer or team of developers will be chosen in the summer of 2008, and construction on the multiyear project could start in 2009.
The land would have to be purchased from some 65 individual owners.