Willets biz relocation upsets College Point leaders

Willets Point workers and business owners hold a truck rally last week. About a dozen trucks circled Willets Point in order to tie up traffic at the start of a New York Mets game. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Stephen Stirling

Fresh off a victory in its bid to redevelop Willets Point, the city may have run into a brick wall in neighboring College Point.

Community leaders collectively balked at the city's plan to relocate a Willets Point auto-salvage yard to College Point Friday, just days after one of the most vocal critics of the proposed Iron Triangle redevelopment struck a deal to move to Maspeth.

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) said the city Economic Development Corporation plans to move Sambucci Bros. Inc. — one of Willets Point's largest businesses — to a lot west of College Point Boulevard between 28th and 30th avenues.

“We already have too much of that kind of problem there. You can't just take a problem from one place and put it in another,” Padavan said. “I don't know where the right place is, but this is certainly not it.”

The lot sits on the edge of the College Point Industrial Park in an area Padavan said is far too close to nearby residential communities.

Sambucci Bros. was the first business at Willets Point to broker a relocation agreement with the city, which hopes to reach similar deals with the dozens of property owners that currently occupy the area. Padavan, members of Community Board 7 and the College Point Civic Association met with EDC President Seth Pinsky Friday after reports surfaced that the city intended to move Sambucci Bros. to the northern Queens neighborhood.

Padavan said such a move would aggravate traffic problems, have an adverse impact on neighboring residents and potentially contaminate local marshlands.

“We made it crystal clear that the community is totally opposed to this,” he said.The EDC said the terms of agreements reached with business owners are confidential.

Days earlier Jerry Antonacci, owner of Crown Container Co., told the TimesLedger that he signed off on a deal that would move his waste transfer business to Maspeth if the city's redevelopment plans are approved by the City Council.

Antonacci, a member of the Willets Point Industry and Real Estate Association, had been one of the most vocal critics of the Economic Development Corporation's ongoing negotiations with business owners in the area.

“We worked through a lot of stuff. I feel confident moving forward,” he said. “They offered me a really good deal.”

Founded in 1959 by Antonacci's father, Thomas, Crown Container Co. serves all five boroughs of New York City and Nassau County, specializing in the transfer of construction waste. The agreement marks the fifth business or land owner to sign such an agreement in Willets Point since negotiations began earlier this year.

“I just hope the deal they presented me with, they present to all the business owners,” he said. “If they do, I feel like this plan could move forward.”

The city is hoping to transform Willets Point, an industrial enclave consisting of more than 250 businesses, into a sprawling residential and commercial neighborhood. Negotiations between business owners and the city have at times been bristly, raising concerns that the city might utilize eminent domain to acquire the property if the project is approved by the City Council, which are expected to vote on it Nov. 23.

Antonacci said despite the agreement, he is still adamantly against the use of eminent domain to acquire property at Willets Point.

“Even though I made the deal, I still feel passionately about that,” he said. “I do not want to see eminent domain used on any of the businesses here.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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