Exclusive: Moya’s Moment for Queens

Sealing the Deal on Willets Point Stadium


By Matthew Fischetti 


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. 

Ingrid Gomez challenging incumbent for council seat

Although she may be soft spoken, it doesn’t take long to realize that Ingrid Gomez has a bold vision and concrete plan to improve the neighborhoods of Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Lefrak City.
With the Democratic Primary just around the corner, the first-time candidate is looking to unseat incumbent Francisco Moya and bring her own fresh perspective to City Hall.
Ingrid Gomez was born in Colombia and moved to the U.S. with her family when she was seven. After growing up and going to school in the Bronx, Gomez moved to Corona where she has lived ever since.
She is also a social worker at a pre-K center in the district she hopes to one day represent.
“We have a very needy population,” Gomez explained of District 21. “There are a lot of social and emotional needs that children have. As a social worker, I am helping people with their everyday problems.”
The district is one of the most diverse in the city, with a 60 percent foreign-born population that includes large Latino, Asian, and Black communities. Gomez believes that her experience as a social worker gives her insight into the area’s equally diverse issues and needs.
“I saw the conditions of our neighborhood as a social worker that lives in our community,” she said, “be it high rents, access to healthcare, or transportation issues like when the Q23 takes forever. I am living those issues too.”
In addition to social work, Gomez serves as the chair of the Youth Services Committee for Community Board 4, as a board member of the Elmhurst Hospital Community Advisory Board, and as a founding member and organizer for the Corona Mutual Aid Network, an organization that bought groceries and essential items for the sick and homebound during the pandemic.
Despite her long-standing commitment to community service, Gomez did not consider running for office until she was inspired by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 win against incumbent Joe Crowley.
“It really helped me to see that I could also run against an incumbent,” Gomez explained, “that I could throw my hat in the ring and do this.”
Gomez volunteered for Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and later for Tiffany Cabán’s bid for district attorney. She launched her own City Council campaign in 2019, with the help of some veterans fromthos two previous campaigns.
Gomez has been reaching out to voters for over a year.
“People don’t really understand how absent Moya has been in the district,” Gomez said of her challenger.
She specifically criticized Moya for lackluster garbage pickup and for keeping his office closed since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I was on the ground and Moya was nowhere to be seen,” Gomez continued. “I saw the neglect in the neighborhood.”
Gomez labels herself a progressive, but is quick to highlight concrete plans for achieving her goals.
“When someone asks what progressive means to me, I saythree things, housing is a human right, everyone deserves healthcare, and everyone deserves a dignified living wage,” she said. “I think progressives need to be more specific on how we get there.”
In terms of housing, Gomez advocates for the use of hyper-local area median income numbers rather than numbers that include upstate counties to price affordable housing units.
Additionally, she hopes to abolish the Major Capital Improvement program, which is often abused by landlords and disproportionately impacts low-income New Yorkers.
Additionally, Gomez has her sights set on bringing new youth centers and hospitals to her district. She is particularly eyeing a large plot of land in Willets Point that would be ideal for a new medical facility.
Ironically, it is the same plot where Moya hopes to build a soccer stadium.
“After seeing the pandemic at Elmhurst, I would love to bring another hospital to Corona,” said Gomez. “Willets Points is a prime piece of real estate for that.”
Gomez also believes that her social work experience will add meaningful insight into the citywide discussion about police reform.
“There are certain situations where someone with mental health experience and de-escalation skills are needed,” Gomez explained. “I don’t think the police have that sort of training.”

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