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New York City to invest in the development around Citi Field

Jun 15, 2012, 11:39 AM EDT

Image (1) Citifield.jpg for post 2221

I’ve not been to Citi Field, but I’ve flown in to LaGuardia a bunch and have seen the blight surrounding it. It’s a lot of junkyards and derelict warehouses and, presumably, is a wonderful place to stash dead bodies and stuff. But soon it will be shimmering with commerce, hotels and housing:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has announced an agreement with a group of developers that includes the owners of the New York Mets to clean up and develop a blighted neighborhood next to the team’s stadium.

The agreement was announced Thursday. It covers a 20-acre portion of Willets Point in Queens, where Citi Field is located.

The developers include the Mets owners themselves, via their company Sterling Equities. And it is estimated to be a $3 billion deal of some kind, presumably with a healthy municipal investment.

Just something else to remember the next time someone claims that a publicly-financed ballpark will spur local development. Sure it will. A decade later and only with a zillion dollars of more tax funds.

  1. sdelmonte - Jun 15, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    Calling it a neighborhood is an exaggeration. It’s a mess of auto chop shops and junkyards in an area so outdated it lacks sewers. I feel bad for the businesses that will have to be closed to make way for the improvements, but that location is an eyesore.

    Whether we need another shopping mall in Flushing, or more luxury apartments, is a question for the New York City Urban Development Talk blog. But surely a hotel right next to Citi Field will have its appeal.

    • kopy - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:14 PM

      I was gonna say, if one is bored, do a Google street view of Willets Point just east of Citi Field. The sheer number of chop shops right next to the stadium really is mind-blowing.

      • thefalcon123 - Jun 15, 2012 at 1:08 PM

        Though Willet’s Point looks like shit, I wouldn’t call them “Chop Shops”, which implies a bunch of shop that strips stolen cars. I prefer to use the term “auto shops” and “scrapyards” which tend to be completely legal.

        People have a bad tendency to confuse “industrial” with “dangerous”.

  2. phuckphilly99 - Jun 15, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    didn’t the wilpons pay for the vast majority of citifield by themselves? maybe the city tossed in a few million to expand a horribly insufficient subway entrance/exit deathtrap, but that was about it.

    craig, your anti-mets, wilpon, ny bias is disgusting and an insult to journalism. for someone that’s admittedly never even been to the area you sure talk big.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      Citi Field was funded by the sale of New York City municipal bonds. Specifically, the Mets got $697 million in tax-free bonds. They paid little if anything for the ballpark themselves.

      Now, please explain to me what about this article demonstrates an anti-Mets bias or what difference my having not been to Citi Field makes.

      While you’re at it, please explain how you being a Mets fan makes you not want to offer kneejerk defenses of anything touching on this team. Defenses that, as you have already demonstrated, are sorely lacking on the facts.

      • phuckphilly99 - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:32 PM

        …and the wilpons are making debt payments on those municipal bonds. it’s not as if they were just granted money to build a stadium with no repayment obligations that has happened so many times in so many other cities. if you knew anything of the history of this park, you’d also know guiliani was ready to hand them (and Steinbrenner) such a deal during this last days in office but that didn’t stick and they were on the hook to find a way to pay for it themselves. stop pretending that tax-free bonds are the same thing as a taxpayer, publicly-financed stadium. it’s a gross mischaracterization.

        your simply suggesting that the mets will consume a “a zillion dollars of more tax funds” and your “presumption of a healthy municipal investment” just shows that you are biased against the idea, without any real knowledge of it besides a lacking-on-details story you read from your mother’s basement this morning. that conveniently linked homegrown article also fails to mention that sterling equities will be on a hook for a $30 million breakup fee if they do not develop the land. besides the land itself, if there anything really to suggest that healthy municipal investment?

        nearly every story you write about this team is biased in some way or another and this was just another example of that. it’s nauseating, but those clowns down the turnpike in Filthadelphia are always keen to agree which i guess only motivates you even more.

        by the way, while I’m at it, why not just add that i am 100% for improvement in and around the stadium. who wouldn’t be? who wouldn’t I want to an area similar to Wrigleyville to spend time before and after games rather than the current fix-a-flat or chop shop?

        i’m no wilpon apologist and hate them more than you can imagine, but this idea seems like a winner. i’ll shed no tears if you never make it there to see for yourself, however.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:42 PM

        So the city offering tax free loans to the Wilpons is not a benefit to them that prevents the city from using such resources for other purposes? Really? The city can just print these up for anyone with no costs at all? Wow. That’s awesome!

        My ire is not directed at the Wilpons. My ire is directed at the city — and any government — for handing out freebies and breaks and benefits to millionaires and billionaires. If you’ve read what I’ve written about any other ballpark or ballpark-related development you’d know that.

      • chrisny3 - Jun 15, 2012 at 2:36 PM

        They paid little if anything for the ballpark themselves.

        This is absolutely 1000% wrong. The Mets owners are responsible for roughly $50 million in annual debt payments on the bonds that were used to build the stadium. This is totally opposite from situations like Miami where most of the cost of the stadium, was covered by the local/state governments.

        It is precisely these annual bond payments, as well as other costs associated with the new stadium, which have helped to make the Mets owners’ financial situation so dicey in recent years. It was more debt than they should have taken on given the economic climate. It should be noted however that the stadium’s financing had been in place prior to 2008 when the Madoff scandal broke.

        Whatever motive Craig has or doesn’t have concerning the Mets owners, he is misinformed about their financial situation once again.

    • mirmz - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:03 PM

      Dude. He’s upset at the need to invest taxpayer dollars that billionaire developers should be able to handle themselves. Calm yourself.

      • mirmz - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:04 PM

        Whoops. I now see you can defend yourself. I’m late to the party.

    • zakharovsa - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:03 PM

      Pretty sure most Mets fans are more anti-Wilpon than Craig.

      • ikedavisnose - Jun 15, 2012 at 1:09 PM

        You just took the words right out of my mouth.

  3. protectthishouse54 - Jun 15, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    I still want to call it Shea.

    • sdelmonte - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      I did for a year, but eventually resistance fades.

      I still refuse to call the Triboro Bridge the RFK or the Queensboro Bridge the Ed Koch Bridge. And it’s still the Interboro Parkway, not Jackie Robinson. (Nothing against any of these men. Especially Jackie. But I can be stubbornly old school sometimes.)

      • The Dangerous Mabry - Jun 15, 2012 at 1:45 PM

        THANK YOU. It’s even more difficult for someone like me, who moved out of Queens 15 years ago (has it really been that long?) and doesn’t know what anything is. When someone tells me to “take the Jackie”, I have to think for a long time to figure out what in the world they’re talking about. And this is the first time I’ve heard the 59th street bridge called the Ed Koch Bridge. Is that a real thing? I’ve run into the RFK thing…do the tokens still say Triboro? Are there still tokens?

        These are all difficult questions.

      • sdelmonte - Jun 15, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        I don’t drive – the sign of a true New Yorker? – but I think the tokens are gone, replaced by EZ Pass.

        And yes, it’s now the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. I have no idea why they decided to name a bridge to Queens after a lifelong Manhattanite. It has not caught on even with traffic reporters, though RFK has started to.

        I prefer the 59th Street Bridge, though, because of the Simon and Garfunkel song.

      • The Dangerous Mabry - Jun 15, 2012 at 2:12 PM

        Feelin’ Groovy…..

    • cleverbob - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:33 PM

      It’s easier to make the transition by using an intermediate name – Shiti.

    • pjmitch - Jun 15, 2012 at 5:19 PM

      I STILL DO CALL IT SHEA!

  4. sportsland33 - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    A decade later? True or false Craig, Citi Field opened in spring of 2009:_______

    A “zillion dollars of more tax funds”, I know a zillion is a highy accurate number most likely, but in reality you have no idea how much NYC is contributing. God forbid the city pays for things like roads and sewers that the area is lacking.

    And of course, this all does seem to ignore the fact that the majority of Citi Field was in fact privately financed. Very informative.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      When was the funding put in place and when were the plans announced for the ballpark? Between 2001 (Giuliani announcement) and 2006 (plans released). When will this development plan result in actual development? How about 2015 maybe?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:11 PM

      Also: that area has been lacking roads and sewers for years. Why do they want to do something about it now? Not for the benefit of the people and businesses who have been there forever. it’s to further aid a ballpark and a development that in turn further aides developers like Wilpon.

      • ltzep75 - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:18 PM

        Craig:

        The unwashed masses get upset when you attack the forum in which they take in their bread and circus.

      • sdelmonte - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:21 PM

        There have been many efforts over the years to develop Willets Point, even back when Shea was built. And this plan took four years to get here, and met with a lot of opposition. See this article from the Times for more: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/nyregion/03willets.html

        There are legitimate questions about the benefits and drawbacks to building ballparks for billionaires. And I agree that it’s a bad idea most of the time, if not always. But this case is as much about Bloomberg’s vision for the city and struggle between different factions and interest groups. It just happens that one of those factions is the Wilpons.

      • sportsland33 - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:24 PM

        They want to do something about it now because they have a deal in place, so they don’t have to risk spending millions in upgrading the area and then it sits and rots because its still basically an industrial park. This deal hinges on the ballpark obviously, so isnt it point proven that this ballpark IS in fact spurring development? Because the Mets ownership group is involved in the surrounding development, its easy for the situation to get muddled, but this development very easily could be undertaken by a completely separate development group.

        As far as the timeline goes, again, I think its a leap of faith to expect any development to start springing up in an area like this at any point before the park is actually open. So its hardly fair to be referencing 2001/2006. As far as from 2008 (or so) until now, I dont think there have been a whole lot of billion dollar private developements happening in many places around the US.

      • cleverbob - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:37 PM

        “this development very easily could be undertaken by a completely separate development group”

        Up until now have any other developers been knocking down the door?

    • alang3131982 - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:23 PM

      Can you actually provide the breakdown that suggests the majority of Citi Field was privately financed?

      • sportsland33 - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:52 PM

        Can you use Google?

        Citi Field was financed with public tax exempt bonds, which basically means the the city borrowed a bunch of money, and the Mets have to pay it back over time like a low interest loan. Part of the deal is that they don’t have to pay property tax on the stadium, which is obviously quite a savings to the team and usually gets people a little worked up.

        As far as a major public subsidy goes, thats not a bad deal, as essentially the city is just giving up money that never would have existed without the new stadium.

  5. thefalcon123 - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    “The Wilpon-Ross partnership, Queens Development Group, will be handed this land completely free of charge, so it can build its own new retail, entertainment and hotel complex adjacent to the Mets’ Citi Field.

    Yes, free land, even though the city is on track to spend nearly $500 million buying that very land from scores of industries and auto repair firms that operated there for decades, putting in new sewer lines, and erecting new Long Island Expressway ramps.

    Free land, even though Queens Development has committed to developing only one-third of the entire 60-acre Willet Points project City Council approved back in 2008.

    Queens Development won’t even have to begin construction on a single unit of residential housing — part of the original lure of the project — until 2025.”

    From http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/willets-point-land-a-shameful-steal-a-deal-mets-article-1.1096174?localLinksEnabled=false

  6. randall351 - Jun 15, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Are they using some sort of eminent domain power?

    • pjmitch - Jun 15, 2012 at 5:21 PM

      Wonder if Robert Moses is involved in this?

      (if you don’t know the history of the city, this will make no sense)

  7. DJ MC - Jun 15, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    I will assume they will be able to have all of this done by Wednesday, when I go see the Orioles play the Mets.

  8. umrguy42 - Jun 15, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    As someone who’s noticed a distinct lack of the promised “Ballpark Village” around Busch (III) in St. Louis, all I have are cynical things to say, so I’ll stick with a snort and a “good luck on THAT” :p

  9. shanabartels - Jun 15, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    Craig, there’s a great film about Willets Point called “Chop Shop” that you should see if you haven’t seen it already. It’s a semi-fictional story about a young boy and his sister trying to get by on their own in the “neighborhood” (as someone pointed out above, it’s kind of generous to call it a neighborhood) of Willets Point. It’s not a documentary, but the kids in the movie aren’t professional actors (by the director’s choice), and it’s a well-done piece. It shows a lot about just how gritty life can be when you’re a kid working in a chop shop just to make a living.

    As far as not calling the area a neighborhood, I’ve read that the residential population of Willets Point is precisely one person. It’s not merely industrial, but it’s like a third world country. While I was working on my degree in Metropolitan Studies at NYU a few years ago, I explored a plethora of neighborhoods all over the city because, well, neighborhoods and the differences between them are essentially what fascinates me and made me want to go into Metropolitan Studies in the first place. And it truly amazes me that in this day and age, and in a city that’s so modern (or so well-preserved in the historical areas), there’s still a pocket of Queens that has unpaved roads and no sewers. It’s mind-boggling.

    As a Yankees fan, I really appreciate that the few blocks in the Bronx surrounding Yankee Stadium have a lot of bars and restaurants so my friends and I can conveniently meet up nearby before and after games to hang out for a while. It’s not only convenient for us, but our business stimulates the local economy and brings in some revenue for the establishments of the South Bronx. (Stadium Pizza will never want for business as long as we’re around, believe me.) I think it’s very unfortunate that Mets fans don’t have similar options available to them near Citi Field. Nobody can say to a friend, “Hey, let’s get a drink after the Mets game. I’ll meet you at the chop shop across the street. The one with no plumbing. Yeah, let’s just hang out in the area tonight.” So if you and your friend have to head in opposite directions to get home after the game, at least one of you will necessarily be inconvenienced by leaving the neighborhood to hang out.

    Of course, I know that urban renewal projects are a complicated issue, because gentrification is essentially a polite term for displacement. I absolutely hope that the people who currently own businesses in Willets Point will be well-compensated for their relocation elsewhere and I hope they find other places to thrive. But ultimately, if the redevelopment project is successful and the neighborhood will eventually have similar dining and drinking options to what is available near Yankee Stadium, I think that will effectively bring in a significant amount of money to the local economy and that part of northern Queens will thrive like never before.

    • shanabartels - Jun 15, 2012 at 3:22 PM

      Just to clarify, when I said gritty, I didn’t mean like “gritty scrappy gamer Dustin Pedroia” kind of gritty. I meant like actual, literal dirt and misery.

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