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Willets Pt. businesses must stay, Council should reject proposal

Benjamin M. Haber, Flushing

Community Board 7's 21-15 vote in favor of the Willets Point development proposal, together with the claimed unfairness upon those of the public attempting to speak against the proposal, does not demonstrate a mandate to destroy over 225 viable businesses and the livelihood of over 1,300 employees and thousands of their dependents (“CB 7 vote on Willets not a green light: Pols,” July 10).

The next step in the process is Borough President Helen Marshall. It should be noted that Marshall supported cutting down over 100 trees in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to construct a grand prix race track in the park. She also thought it was a grand idea to build a New York Jets football stadium in the middle of the park, effectively destroying a much-needed and -used urban park. Marshall, in deference to her fat cat real estate constituents, will support the proposal and the little people be damned.

In the end, the decision will rest with the City Council and possibly the courts. The Council's members should keep in mind that CB 7's vote was no mandate to destroy over 225 businesses for a 700-room hotel in an area besotted with hotels and a convention center in a city that already has one and at a time when convention centers are a glut in this country. The vast bulk of money spent in small businesses remains in the community and distinguished from big box companies. Upscale shops serve no greater public service than the businesses currently in Willets Point.

Most importantly, there were conditions attached to the CB 7 vote. Should the Council be inclined, notwithstanding the above, to approve the proposal, it must not be done unless there exists in legally enforceable documents and clear language compliance with every condition imposed by CB 7.

That includes finding suitable locations for each business that does not want to leave the city. Proposed retraining of a paltry few hundred, well-trained employees currently in Willets Point, with complete speculation as to what jobs in our current poor economy are available, will not suffice. The city must demonstrate exactly what jobs are available and where they are.

The city Economic Development Corporation has little or no interest in the plight of small business. Its constituents are the rich and under no circumstances must their assurances be accepted at face value. It has no credibility and in the absence of legally binding agreements and designated placement of the current businesses and their employees, the proposal must be rejected.

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