While a concrete plan is yet to fall into place, property owners, Department of Transportation officials and members of Community Board 7 gathered in Willets Point on Monday to survey the state of the streets and begin planning for new roads in the industrial park.
But with government officials in front of them on July 8, property owners took the opportunity to air their grievances.
“I don’t want to hear a lot of PR stuff,” said Irene Prestigiacomo, a property owner in the Iron Triangle. “I want to hear actual facts.”
The city Department of Transportation (DOT) secured $17 million in funding for road improvements in the crumbling industrial neighborhood in the most recent capital budget.
“The roads need to be addressed,” said Nicole Garcia, the DOT’s Queens borough commissioner.
When property owners expressed concern that the money may get caught up in planning and never result in shovels in the ground, Garcia reassured them it would.
“That $17 million isn’t going anywhere,” Garcia said.
Garcia, who’s visited Willets Point several times before, walked along Willets Point Boulevard with several property owners as department officials took pictures of the roads to take back to their colleagues.
“There’s no place like this in the city,” said Sam Sambucci, the owner of A & D Used Auto Parts and Cars in Willets Point. “We just need to have accessible streets.”
Willets Point, located between Flushing Creek and Citi Field, is home to dozens of auto shops and little else. The area has been designated for development for the better part of a decade. In that time, the streets have crumbled and become covered in potholes, making them dangerous to drive on, owners and workers in the area say.
“Customers come in for a part and end up having to get a whole new underbody,” said Andrea Cohen, a 30-year property owner in Willets Point. “You would never know this is New York City. It’s total neglect.”
Garcia said that the state of the roads in Willets Point makes it so that a quick fix is not possible. Technical surveyors, contractors and time will be needed to make the roads right again.
In addition to improving the streets, business owners and workers asked Community Board 7 members present at the meeting to help them get street lights, road signs and a sewage system.
“Wait, nobody has a bathroom?” Community Board 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian asked the dozen property owners and workers at the meeting.
“No,” they said in unison.
Business owner Tomer Chazbani left the meeting with a sense of reluctant hope about the future of Willets Point.
“I feel good but I’ve been disappointed for 30 years,” Chazbani said. “We’ll see what happens.”