A Willets Point tenant business leader said he does not anticipate the city will move out any of the businesses in the industrial business community until at least 2011.
Marcos Neira, who represents about 60 businesses at Willets Point, said he has been negotiating relocation terms for businesses that rent in the area and city officials have indicated the removal of the businesses is not imminent.
“I don’t think anything will happen here for a while. We’ve got some time,” Neira said. “It gives us the time to find the right place, to find a place to be moved together.”
The city Economic Development Corp., which is heading up the redevelopment plans, maintained that its timeline was unchanged and hoped to have the site razed in 2010.
Neira said he would ideally like to find a location to move a substantial portion of the more than 200 tenant businesses at Willets Point, many of which have forged business partnerships in the area.
“We want to move together like the family that we are here,” Neira said. “There’s not a lot of land, though, not a lot of places that will take us.”
In the days following the first two snowstorms of the season last month, Willets Point looked like a war zone.
Workers crowded around barrels of burning wood, jumping up and down to avoid the near-zero wind chills. Cars and trucks struggled to navigate through gaping potholes lined with ice. Willets Point Boulevard resembled the Arctic more than a busy throughway, with massive puddles dotting the unplowed roadway still covered with sheets of snow and ice.
At Master’s Express Deli, a small eatery Neira has owned for more than 21 years, he said conditions like that are precisely why the more than 250 businesses at Willets Point need to move.
“Nobody wants to do business like this,” Neira said.
With the City Council recently approving a massive redevelopment plan for the area, that is exactly what the city hopes will happen — although where to put 200 businesses is a stiff challenge. The city has hired Cornerstone Development to aid the tenant businesses in relocation, but the realty group’s involvement hinges on the businesses’ landlords striking deals with the city.
Though the city controls roughly half the land at Willets Point, dozens of property owners still have not reached deals with the city and no agreements have been struck since the City Council approved the project on Nov. 13.
Neira claims to be the head of the Willets Point Defense Committee, a group that represents a little more than 60 of the tenant businesses in the 60-acre business enclave.
This does not sit well with Arturo Olaya, who also claims to be the president of the same group, which he said represents more than 200 businesses in the area.
Both have been in negotiations with the city Economic Development Corp.
“Arturo quit the group in December,” Neira said “So they made me the president. We have about 60 businesses, but we really represent everyone here.”
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2009 Community News Group
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