Willets Point group feels excluded from BP’s street repair meetings

By Madina Toure

Willets Point United says it is upset that it was not invited to meetings set up by Borough President Melinda Katz about illegally parked trucks and the dilapidated streets in the area under the shadow of Citi Field.

The Jan. 29 and March 3 meetings were attended by the city Department of Transportation; City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst); Gene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7; the MTA; the city Economic Development Corporation; Fodera Foods at 129-02 Northern Blvd.; House of Spices at 127-40 Willets Point Blvd.; and Tully Construction at 127-50 Northern Blvd., among others.

State Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) had asked Katz to arrange the meetings.

Gerald Antonacci, head of WPU, a group established to fight eminent domain abuse, said an individual at the January meeting suggested he send a letter to Katz and Ferreras.

In a letter dated Feb. 24 to Katz, also CCing Ferreras, Antonacci requested that two representatives from WPU be invited to attend the March meeting.

He said he got no response to his letter, which said street repair was included in the budget priorities for fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017 due to their testimonies at CB 7 and Queens Borough Board budget hearings.

“We’ve contributed to stopping the Willets Point project from happening,” Antonacci said. “My personal feeling is they think we’re just pains in the asses.”

A spokesman for Katz said invitations were made based on who was affected by the issue.

“Invitations to both meetings were directed to businesses involved in the issue, including but not limited to Tully Construction and Fodera Foods,” he said.

Aubry said that last summer, he had received complaints about municipal waste transfer trucks with out-of-state license plates parked in Willets Point starting to show up on Northern Boulevard under the Van Wyck Expressway.

Many of the trucks had been parking around Fodera Foods, which complained about the stench affecting their business. The trucks have now moved into his district, on 114th Street between Northern and Astoria boulevards.

“I’m not the inviter. The borough president was the inviter and rightfully so. We went to ask her to intercede on a problem that was there,” Aubry said.

An EDC spokesman said the agency was invited by the DOT and an MTA spokesman referred to Katz’s office since it was her meeting. Kelty echoed similar sentiments.

Neil Soni, president of House of Spices, declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Ferreras said she could not discuss the meetings since she was a guest. A DOT spokesman said that at the meetings, the agency said it is requesting $9.1 million as part of its upcoming budget submission for potential street reconstruction work in Willets Point.

Laura Imperiale, director of government affairs at Tully Construction, said Tully and the other companies are known because the city wanted to use eminent domain to take their properties.

“At the end of the day it’s the same result we’re all looking for,” Imperiale said.

Anthony Fodera, Fodera Foods’ president, said he and his brother, John Fodera, the operations manager, both attended the meetings.

“As far as who was invited, all I can say is I know I was invited and I attended because obviously I’ve been in this area for 42 years,” Fodera said.

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