By Joe Anuta
Seven small businesses along Queens Boulevard will not see their monthly leases renewed and will have to clear out of the block above the Continental Avenue subway station to make way for a large national tenant.
The businesses, some of which have been at the same location for nearly 30 years, will have to leave the premises as part of a long-term development plan by Cord Meyer, the owners of the property. But a Key Food on one end will remain open.ï»¿
“The whole building will be demolished,” said Anthony Colletti, a spokesman for the company. “The new building will be built one story high and house a national retailer.”
Rumors that CVS will be the next tenant were neither confirmed by Colletti nor the pharmacy.
Cord Meyer had planned to develop the property for years, according to Colletti, but that has not stopped some tenants from speaking out against the developer.
One employee of Nellie’s Jewelry said Cord Meyer had strung them along by offering a month-to-month lease instead of a five- or 10-year lease that most businesses enjoy.
When the time came to redevelop the property, Cord Meyer simply stopped renewing the leases and left the store, which had been at the same location for about 25 years, without a home, he said.
But Colletti said Cord Meyer made no secret of its plan to redevelop the property and erect a 15-story, mixed-use building back in 2006 . The company informed all the tenants that they would be put on month-to-month leases at reduced rent rates, giving them plenty of time to make contingency plans. That way, when the time to renovate came, they could legally empty the building of all the tenants and tear it down.
“I would say despite the contractual obligation, there were some people that expressed anger,” Colletti said. “But they were paying way below market rate for years.”
The conflict is a prime example of the cost of doing business in a city, according to Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce President Leslie Brown.
“The problem goes back to time beginning. There is no commercial rent control,” she said. “[Landlords] can raise your rent to whatever they want, and they can choose not to renew your lease. You could put your whole life into a business, but unless you own the building, you are vulnerable.”
But she said also she can see the landlord’s point of view.
“I think Cord Meyer has been fair,” she said. “I think they gave everyone adequate time to get something together.”
Brown said land owners have a right to develop property, especially when it is in a prime location like the block that is slated for redevelopment.
She also said Cord Meyer was giving the tenants a break on rent.
In one case, a store was paying less than $3,000 per month.
“It’s not a high rent for Queens Boulevard on top of a subway station,” she said. “Tiny stores on Austin Street who are not on top of a subway station pay more.”
Cord Meyer had hoped to build the 15-story residential and commercial building five years ago, but the market was not strong enough, according to Colletti.
But the company has not ruled out revisiting the plan in the future.
The current renovations are set to begin in late summer.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.