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Businesses give cash to Council members

By Stephen Stirling

THE WILLETS POINT OBSTACLE COURSE

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People associated with five of the 11 members of the Willets Point Business and Realty Association, which represents a group of business owners that own nearly 50 percent of the land at Willets Point, have given several contributions to City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) as well as Councilmen Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst), John Liu (D-Flushing) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside) since 2006, filings with the Campaign Finance Board show.The city is hoping to transform the 60-acre site where 250 businesses now stand into a massive residential and commercial complex. Members of the business group have fought the redevelopment plans fiercely since they were announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in April, arguing that the city's plans to uproot the businesses is unjust.Katz, Monserrate, Liu and Avella, as representatives of the surrounding area, will each have an important voice in whether or not the project moves forward since it will need to pass a vote in the City Council to do so.Altogether people associated with six Willets Point companies – Fodera Foods, Feinstein Iron Works, House of Spices, T. Mina Supply, Tully Construction Co. and Tully Environmental – combined to donate at least $38,250 to the four Council members. Several members of the Fodera family, who own Fodera Foods, led the pack, donating at least $19,360 over the last two years. Katz chairs the powerful City Council Land Use Committee, which will ultimately issue a recommendation on the proposal that could make or break the city's chances for redevelopment. Campaign finance records show that since 2006, Willets Point business owners and their families have given Katz at least $23,000.Liu, Avella and Monserrate, who are also members of the committee, have also received funding from the business owners. Monserrate, who represents Willets Point, has received at least $8,500 since 2006, while Liu has taken at least $3,550 and Avella $1,250.The three councilmen officially pulled their support for the city's proposal last week, issuing a letter to Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber stating that several aspects of the project, including the relocation of the existing businesses, had not been adequately addressed in the city's plan.Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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