Exclusive: Moya’s Moment for Queens

Sealing the Deal on Willets Point Stadium

 

By Matthew Fischetti 

[email protected]

In the 1920s, F. Scott Fitzgerald looked at the industrial section of Queens known as Willets Point and saw the Valley of Ashes. But when Councilman Francisco Moya looked at the cadre of auto body shops, he saw something else: an opportunity.

Moya, a 48-year-old native of Corona, was first elected to the state assembly in 2011. One of the first things he did in office — before even receiving official stationery — was compile a list of five things he wanted to accomplish with his chief of staff. Near the top of that list was bringing a soccer team to New York City.

A decade later, Moya can cross that goal off his list. On November 16, Mayor Eric Adams, Moya, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards announced that the New York City Football Club will privately finance a new 25,000 seat stadium with 2,500 affordable homes (with no market rate components), a 650-seat school, and a 250-room hotel to boot. The project is estimated by the mayor’s office to generate $6.1 billion in economic impact over the next 30 years, creating 14,200 construction jobs and 1,550 permanent ones. 

This hasn’t been the first time a politician has tried to redevelop the area. Bloomberg successfully passed a rezoning that would have brought a mall but the development failed after legal challenges. 

Moya is a certified football fanatic: his office is adorned with signed jerseys encased in frames, soccer balls sit on his couches and a big photo of him and his father at a Barcelona match hangs above his head. 

In an interview, Moya emphasized that having the right partners were instrumental in accomplishing such a deal. 

“We looked at just getting the right partners with NYCFC, who basically came in and shared the same idea in philosophy of, ‘we want to build a neighborhood.’ It’s just not a soccer stadium. It’s not going to be just an isolated arena somewhere where people just go in and come out of. For me, it was always about making sure that if we were going to partner up, these were the specific things that I needed to see up front from someone before we can even proceed,” he said.

Moya highlighted the impact that Manchester City, whose owners also own New York City Football Club, had on the dying coal town as a reason for the partnership.

“When City Football Club came in, they built an entire city around it. And they kind of did a similar model that I’m presenting here,” Moya said.  “I think that whenever you can find someone that says we share your vision of putting housing first, we share your vision of creating the same type of atmosphere that we have in Manchester. It made it so much easier to move this along.”

The new football stadium will have union apprentice programs and opportunities for CUNY students to use the facilities in their studies. 

Moya also emphasized that the cleaning up of contaminated soil that started last year was key to getting the deal done.

“In life, everything’s about the timing. And I think we kind of hit that moment where just everything started coming together. The new administration coming in. The advanced stages already applied what we’re doing in the development of the first part of Willets Point. The fact that they saw I had this vision, and bringing them here to the borough that lives and breathes this sport like none other,” Moya said. “You walk anywhere and if it has a patch of grass in Corona, Queens – somebody’s playing soccer.” 

The stadium is projected to open in 2027 following a ULURP process, while construction on the first housing units will begin in 2023. 

Brooklyn, Queens Pols sound off on redistricting

The New York City Districting Commission released its preliminary maps for the 51 city council districts across the five boroughs—and not everyone is happy about it.

Federal law requires that the city to redraw council boundaries every ten years to account for population changes in the U.S. Census. From 2010 to 2020, the population of New York City has grown from 8.2 million to 8.8 million. To reflect the increase, the new plan would raise the average number of residents per district from 160,710 to 172,882.

One major change to the maps focuses on the Asian population within Brooklyn – and throughout the city – which has increased heavily since 2010. Census data shows that Kings County has welcomed 100,000 more Asian residents in the last ten years, making it the fastest-growing racial group in the borough.

The Asian majority district would be a redrawn version of the 43rd council district, currently represented by Justin Brannan. Current boundaries stretch from Fort Hamilton and Bay Ridge to Dyker Heights and Bath Beach. The proposed district consists of different swaths of Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, and Dyker Heights taking chunks of the current districts from Councilwoman Alexa Avilés, Councilman Justin Brannan, and Councilman Ari Kagan.

As a result, Justin Brannan’s hometown of Bay Ridge would shift into the Sunset Park and Red Hook-based district currently represented by Alexa Avilés. Meanwhile, Red Hook would move into the district represented by Shahana Hanif, as part of the redistricting.

Neither pol is a fan of the plan.

“It is perplexing that the creation of an AAPI-majority seat in southern Brooklyn would lead to the dissolution and division of Red Hook, Sunset Park – in addition to Dyker Heights – and it is certainly not necessary,” a joint statement from Brannan and Avilés reads. “By combining our current districts 38 and 43, you are dividing our district and further diluting the power we have to advocate for our community-specific, shared needs and goals.”

Brannan and Aviles also questioned the decision to create an asian majority district by eliminating the 38th – which was created to bolster Hispanic representation.

“We look forward to seeing future proposals, because this ain’t it,” the statement continues.

The Districting Commission’s preliminary lines could potentially impact communities in Queens too, where elected officials are concerned that the new lines could potentially cut out portions of existing Black enclaves.

Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers said that based on the preliminary maps, the new lines would cut remove portions of Springfield Gardens and institutions like the Robert Couche Senior Center out of the district.

“Council District 31 residents are a unique mosaic of ethnic communities that share similar values, a major economic driver – the JFK International Airport – and are racially and ethnically cohesive, and should stay that way,” Brooks-Powers said in a statement. “History has shown that redrawing the lines in this way will dilute Council District 31’s voting power and misalign the community’s collective voice.”

Brooks-Powers added that she feels strongly that the Rockaway community remain as it exists and not be adjusted.

“The current Peninsula representation includes a vibrant Jewish community, several NYCHA developments, Arverne by the Sea, and everything in between,” she added. “There is no need to disrupt the Peninsula representation. I appreciate all of the work the Commissioners have invested to date and look forward to further engagement around the future of Council District 31.”

The commission will be holding an additional set of public hearing across the five boroughs for residents to voice their concerns. The hearings are currently scheduled for Aug. 15, 16, 17, 18 and 22.

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