Space for Willets Pt. auto shops in the South Bronx halfway done

By Madina Toure

Construction of a new South Bronx space for the displaced businesses of the Sunrise Cooperative, a group of Willets Point auto shop owners, is halfway complete as the city looks to evict the remaining businesses that stand in the way of the first phase of the sprawling Queens project.

In July, an appellate court ruled that the Willets West mega-mall, part of the Queens Development Group’s $3 billion redevelopment of Willets Point, could not proceed without state legislative approval since it would be partially built on public parkland.

The project is designed to transform the area into a neighborhood with commercial, retail and residential space.

As part of a court-ordered agreement, the city Economic Development Corporation was to pay $4.8 million and the Queens Development Group $960,000 for the group’s relocation and renovation of Sunrise Coop’s new facility. Sunrise Coop was originally expected to contribute $143,000 and leave the site by June 1.

But construction on the group’s new space at 1080 Leggett Ave. in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, which will have 45 shops, was delayed because the group had not filed the necessary permit.

Marco Neira, Sunrise Coop’s president, said more than 20 shops have now been constructed in the Soutåh Bronx and the ramps are ready, with construction due to be complete by December or the end of February at the latest.

“We have a lot of things done,” he said.

Most of the Sunrise Coop auto shop owners are still working in the Willets Point area, with some taking customers in Corona, Neira said.

A spokesman for the city Department of Buildings said the South Bronx space has four active work permits involving plumbing, the installation of 14 new ceiling mount gas furnaces and three new gas meters, interior renovation of erected two concrete block walls, new fencing and gates.

Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, said the corporation met with Sunrise Coop more than a year ago and again last summer but has not heard from the group recently.

“I can’t say that we’ve had a lot of dealings with them. They’ve basically been dealing with this with their consultants and attorneys.”

She said Sunrise may not feel the need to be in contact with her organization.

“I don’t know if they consider themselves Bronx stakeholders at this point,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development said the court decision does not affect the Sunrise Cooperative, noting that the auto shops already had left the phase one site.

There are several businesses left that belong in phase one of the development that are not part of the Sunrise Cooperative. They are facing eviction by the city.

The city is trying to gain possession of the buildings, lots and garages occupied by Willets Property LLC, Wil-Cor Realty Co. Inc. and Royal Touch Auto Spa, three of the remaining businesses, at 127-04-08 Willets Point Blvd.

An Oct. 1 notice stated that the property owner had to appear at a hearing at Queens County Civil Court in Jamaica Oct. 29, but the HPD spokeswoman said the court case was adjourned to Dec. 11. HPD is the property manager on behalf of the city.

“The city will not be seeking to renew expiring leases within Phase 1 of the Willets Point redevelopment area in order to secure the few remaining sites,” the HDP spokeswoman said in a statement.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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