Willets biz relocation bothers pols

By Stephen Stirling

The city has worked out a potential snag in its plan to relocate one of the largest businesses in Willets Point to College Point, but where exactly the auto salvage yard will move is a growing concern for elected officials in the community.

The city Economic Development Corporation, which is spearheading city plans to redevelop Willets Point as a sprawling residential and commercial neighborhood, will meet with state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and community leaders Aug. 22 to discuss their plans to relocate Sambucci Bros., the salvage business, to the northern Queens neighborhood.

“What we don't want is a problem from one place being brought to another in any detrimental way,” Padavan said. “We don't know in what capacity this salvage operation will run or where specifically it will be moved. That is unknown. It will not be after we meet.”

The city met last Thursday morning with Sambucci Bros., which owns more than 52,000 square feet of Willets Point property, and worked out a minor complication in its relocation agreement, according to the city.

While Daniel Sambucci Jr. told TimesLedger that some potentially major issues had come up with the relocation deal, the city maintained that the deal was never in any jeopardy.

“We signed the contract and we've been in compliance with that contract ever since,” an EDC representative said. “We don't anticipate issues that will prevent us from honoring our word to relocate such an important 60-year-old business and help it continue to contribute to the city's economy.”

The city said details of the relocation were confidential and declined further comment, but City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) said the issues had to do with the city's plan to move Sambucci to the College Point Corporate Park, which has an Urban Renewal Plan that would prevent an auto salvage yard from being moved there.

Community Board 7 College Point Corporate Park Task Force Chairman Chuck Apelian said the Urban Renewal Plan expires next April, but the city had all but promised to create a special zoning district that would mirror the restrictions already in place.

City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he would not be shocked if the city now proposes a special zoning district that would prevent industrial businesses like Sambucci Bros. from operating at the site.

“It will be very interesting to see what they come forward with,” he said.

He added that if the city should try to move businesses from Willets Point to the Corporate Park, it will not happen quietly.

“This is a huge fight that they're going to get over this,” Avella said. “We are not going to accept it.”

The College Point Corporate Park is currently home to some of the largest businesses in Queens, including The New York Times printing and distribution plant, Crystal Windows & Door Systems and a group of big box stores such as Target and BJ's Wholesale Club.

A Special Zoning District would be especially important to future plans involving the abandoned Flushing Airport site, which has been a bone of contention between community members and the EDC. The EDC, which controls the land, would like to see the 24-acre site developed.

“The Flushing Airport site is a major issue,” Padavan said. “But I don't know where they're even talking about doing yet. We will learn more when they present their plan.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, ext. 138.

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