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Redeveloping the Floodplain: Resilience Planning in the Special Willets Point District

By Helen Harman

PLAN 892 | Spring 2023

The background shows a coast-line in silhouette. Text reads,

The Special Willets Point District redevelopment in northern Queens is a case that is  emblematic of the limitations of traditional development practices in New York City in realizing  more resilient land use practices within the city’s floodplain. A legacy of disinvestment created a  riskscape in Willets Point, formerly known as the Iron Triangle, which resulted in the  displacement of over one hundred auto workers in favor of City-sponsored rezoning for mixed use development. Current plans for the site have been permitted through unreliable estimations  from the city’s land use review process, and may exacerbate environmental risks for  surrounding communities. Reforming the current planning and land use process as well as  implementing more community-based, contextual resilience interventions surrounding the  Willets Point area could address the gaps left by the planned redevelopment as well as build a  more environmentally just future for the communities most impacted by the redevelopment.