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Business Owners FearWillets Point Redevelopment Plans – QNS.com

Business Owners FearWillets Point Redevelopment Plans

Due to the Supreme Court’s eminent domain ruling, business owners in the Willets Point area of Queens stand to lose their property and ability to conduct business. There is a growing interest by the city to redevelop an area known to many as the “Iron Triangle.”
The New York City Economic Development Corporation put out a RFEI, (requests for expressions of interest) in November 2004. The EDC has received 12 to 14 proposals.
Janel Patterson, spokesperson for the EDC commented that, “The intent of the RFEI’s is to get market-driven ideas that will lead us toward choosing developers to create a strategic plan for the area.” When asked whether these plans will include the input of business owners and tax-payers in the area, Patterson replied, “The Bloomberg administration seeks to reach out to all stake holders in projects like this. We want to work with community leaders as well.”
For years government officials and public advocates have unsuccessfully sought to “clean-up” Willets Point, a neighborhood with junkyards, auto repair shops and major companies. The city’s decision to build a new Shea Stadium and the potential of getting the 2012 Olympic Games seem to be driving the project.
“Getting the Olympics to Queens and landing the stadium deal will both serve as catalysts for the Iron Triangle,” said City Councilman John Liu, member of the Willets Point Advisory Committee.
Companies like Feinstein Iron Works, metal fabricators that do steel work throughout the five boroughs, have been in business for 75 years and fear they will be displaced from their current location due to redevelopment.
Dan Feinstein, president of Feinstein Iron Works describes the area as suffering from “total and complete neglect.” Feinstein says the community has suffered from a lack of an adequate sewage system, lights, fire hydrants and paved roads for many years.
“We feel threatened by the new proposals because the city has neglected us,” said Feinstein. “It’s environmentally horrendous. We’ll reach a day of reckoning soon.”
When questioned about the slum-like conditions in the area, Dan Andrews, spokesperson for the Borough President Helen Marshall admitted that “The revenue from the area never justified spending the millions it would cost to put in sewer lines.”
Many business owners gathered this past Wednesday with councilmembers from the area. Richard Lipsky of the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, a community coalition familiar with issues involving the government’s power of eminent domain, spoke at the councilmembers’ request. “The city just can’t forget about the economic activity that takes place in the area now,” said Matt Lipsky, director of communication for the firm. “There are mostly skilled minority workers with legitimate businesses who will be affected.”
“The city is not considering the enterprise value of our businesses,” said Yaron Rosenthal, owner of the Parts Authority, a business off 126th Street and Northern Boulevard. “Several thousand jobs will be lost to make way for a sports center or conference area.
With many proposals on the table, Borough President Marshall has supported the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s plan. It is for the creation of a hotel and a medium-sized conference center.
“The location has tremendous potential and is the largest of its kind,” said William Egan, executive vice president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber hired private consultants to conduct a $70,000 study on the area to aid in the creation of their plan.
The Willets Point area is a transportation hub. It is located in the heart of Queens with access to three highways, the #7 train, the Long Island Rail Road, ferries and both airports.
The EDC will be reviewing proposals and plan to make their final decision within the next four to eight weeks. The final plan will be reviewed at public hearings and relocation specifics will be discussed.
“Not every business will be relocated,” said Andrews. “We want to protect the business owners and their employees.”
melissa@queenscourier.com

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