Willets Point auto group gets $5.8M from the city – QNS.com

Willets Point auto group gets $5.8M from the city

By Madina Toure

The Sunrise Cooperative, a group of 48 Willets Point auto shop owners, is receiving a nearly $5.8 million settlement from the city to relocate to and complete renovations at its South Bronx space.

The deal, reached March 20, provides the group with funds for fire safety, sewage facilities, office space and equipment at its new 84,000-square-foot space at 1080 Leggett Ave. in Hunts Point.

The city Economic Development Corporation will pay $4.8 million and the Queens Development Group, the site developers, will provide $960,000. The Sunrise Coop will contribute $143,000. The group must leave the hardscrabble site by June 1. The agreement also ends Sunrise’s suit against the city.

The group is signing a contract with the construction company and hopes to save some of the settlement funds to pay rent throughout the construction process, which will take about nine months, said Marco Neira, Sunrise Coop’s president.

“We’re going to give a service to the community, so it’s important for the mayor to help us to have some kind of business which is going to create jobs and we’re going to create community benefits,” Neira said.

The $3 billion Willets Point Development Plan, which expanded from 62 acres to 108.9 acres, includes a megamall to be built on parkland, mixed-income housing, a hotel, community facilities and a convention center.

The current plan refers to the first phase of Willets Point, which covers 23 acres of the entire 62-acre site. The remaining 39 acres will not be affected in the near future.

Sunrise Coop, which is in the first phase, filed a lawsuit Feb. 4 against the city and developers, calling the city’s relocation effort ineffective.

It also argued the mega-mall needed approval by the state Legislature to be built on land designated as parkland and questioned $42.6 million in tax incentives awarded to developers by the city.

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) said the Sunrise Coop was born in her office and that she worked with the group to broker the agreement.

Ferreras said she will work with groups in the phase two area who have approached her at a later time.

“This has set a great precedent,” Ferreras said. “It’s not commonplace to engage with tenants this way.”

The EDC created the $3.5 million NYCEDC Supplemental Benefit fund and the $3 million Willets Point Business Co-Relocation Fund, in addition to relocation benefits offered through the city.

Businesses had to be tenants on city-owned property in the phase one area planning to relocate with four other businesses to be eligible for the co-relocation fund. Businesses are eligible for $60,000. Funds are available through the end of the year.

The EDC approved 32 of 47 forms filled out by businesses for the co-relocation fund. About 100 of the original 130 businesses have relocated and about 70 have used the supplemental benefit fund, which distributed more than $1.4 million to Willets Point tenants..

The EDC has been paying Sunrise Coop’s $73,000 monthly rent since early 2014.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that will ultimately advance this project while helping this group of businesses stay and thrive in New York City,” an EDC spokeswoman said.

Queens Development Group said the settlement will ensure the success of the development plan.

“From reversing 100 years of pollution on 23 acres of contaminated land to bringing thousands of good-paying jobs to the borough, this plan will rejuvenate a community that has been neglected for far too long,” the group said in a statement.

Groups outside of the first phase said the settlement only benefits Sunrise Coop.

“Julissa and these people created Sunrise Co-op to manipulate this area and make the community think that they’re doing a good deal, but they’re not doing a good deal,” said Arturo Olaya, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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