Today’s news:

Relocation of 200 Willets Pt. businesses still on hold

Cornerstone Realty Group, a firm hired by the city to help with tenant business relocation at Willets Point, has yet to receive the green light from the city Economic Development Corp. to begin relocation assistance to renting businesses in the area, according to Willets Point Defense Committee President Marcos Neira.

At a recent meeting between Neira’s group and the staff of City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), Cornerstone officials said it cannot start formal relocation negotiations with the more than 200 tenant businesses at Willets Point until the EDC grants them permission to do so.

“They told us they cannot do anything,” Neira said. “So right now we’re trying to get the rents lowered for the businesses that are paying the city now.”

Neira, who owns a small restaurant at Willets Point, and the rest of the tenant businesses are facing eviction as the city moves ahead with its plan to raze the area and transform it into a $3 billion residential and commercial complex.

Because the tenant businesses simply rent their space at Willets, they ultimately have very little leverage. Ferreras said it is important not to sweep the tenant businesses under the rug, however.

Ferreras said the meeting was the first of what will be monthly update sessions she plans to host between Cornerstone, the city and the tenant businesses.

“It’s a good first step,” Ferreras said. “Right now, there’s a lot of confusion as the businesses are transferred from the old landlords to the city as the new landlords. So I think it’s important for these communication lines to be open.”

Ferreras added that Cornerstone said it is targeting the beginning of 2010 for the start of relocation services for tenant businesses.

Neira said he hopes the city will agree to lower rents for the businesses in the interim because he expects many of the smaller businesses may not be able to financially sustain themselves during the relocation process.

“A lot of these guys, they’ll lose too much money,” he said. “So they want to start saving now if we’re going to have to leave soon.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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