The city has approved $43 million in tax breaks for developers who plan to transform Willets Point into a retail and entertainment destination.
The New York City Industrial Development Agency (NYCIDA) voted Tuesday to give the incentives to the Queens Development Group, a joint venture between Sterling Equities and Related Companies.
“That’s one of the most terrible things the city is doing,” said Arturo Olaya, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee of Small Businesses and Workers.
“The city is giving the money to the billionaires. And you know what they’re doing to the people here in Willets Point? They’re evicting the people and closing the businesses to give them this land for free,” Olaya said.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has offered more than $12.5 million in relocation aid to business owners in the first phase of the development site.
As of the end of last month, 30 have already relocated, signed new leases or are close to doing so, according to a Megan Montalvo, a spokesperson for Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area.
The city also plans to give the land to developers for $1 after the Queens delegation of the City Council approved the sale in November.
State Senator Tony Avella said aiding developers with the additional millions was “an absolute disgrace.”
“The city is taking advantage of those property owners, who are really getting the shaft,” he said. “The city is giving that land to them for a dollar, and now they want $43 million in tax breaks.”
The major $3 billion project to redevelop Willets Point, now made up of hundreds of auto shops, includes cleaning up 23 acres of contaminated land.
Plans also eventually call for constructing housing units and a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of Citi Field.
“While I remain confident that this development, as a whole, will greatly enhance the quality of life for my constituents, I will respect whatever decision the IDA deems appropriate for this application,” Ferreras said.