Area near Citi Field to get upgrade

NEW YORK -- A new deal between the Bloomberg administration and a group of developers including the owners of the Mets calls for the remediation and redevelopment of a 20-acre area of the blighted Willets Point neighborhood next to Citi Field, adding retail and ultimately new housing in a time frame that extends past an initial proposed 10-year plan, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press.

The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of an announcement.

Under the agreement, the developers, Related Companies and Sterling Equities, would clean up the area and construct retail stores, including a mall in the Queens neighborhood. Then, no later than 2025, they would start construction on a mixed-use component that would include housing and measure anywhere from 1.3 million square feet up to 4.5 million square feet. The founders of Sterling Equities are Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, the owners of the Mets.

The redevelopment of the area, currently populated by auto-repair shops and junkyards and lacking infrastructure as basic as sewers, has long been a goal of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's. In 2007, he announced a 10-year initiative that would bring homes and commercial space to the area.

The new agreement extends past that period, but the person speaking to the AP said that by the original end point of 2017, much would have been done including the vital first step of cleaning the area up and construction of some of the retail spaces.

The person said that in conversations with potential developers, it was made clear to the city that the way to make the area somewhere that people wanted to live was by building the retail and other commercial space initially, that "first you have to make it into a destination that people get used to visiting. Then over time you can convince people to come and live there."

The person speaking the AP said remediation could start in the area in early 2014.