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The brutal cold has made life harsher this weekend for the people who work at Willets Point and now they want the city to step up and provide help to thaw them out of their frost.
On Saturday, the Willets Point Defense Committee protested what it called unjust negligence by the mayor and the city Sanitation Department for not sending crews to salt and plow its streets. The below−freezing temperatures covered the unpaved ground of the Iron Triangle with thick ice, which was problematic for the dozens of auto shop workers who have to drive into their garages for work.
“People work here as human beings,” said committee member Julia Sandoval. “How are we going to do work if the people don’t come back here and fix the streets?”
In November, the City Council approved a controversial redevelopment plan that would create a massive new development featuring 5,500 housing units, more than 2 million square feet of retail and office space and a 400,000 square foot convention center on the land. Several property owners have negotiated with the city Economic Development Corp. to relocate or sell their businesses, but they are expected to relocate out of the area in 2010 at the earliest, according to Sandoval.
But the more than 250 tenant businesses in the area — about 60 of whom are represented by the Willets Point Defense Committee — cannot begin negotiating relocation deals with the city until their landlords strike deals. More than 50 property owners in the area still have not reached deals with the city.
The Willets Point worker said she and her peers have had to deal with the dangerous winter terrain for years and to take care of the ice themselves.
“The condition of the weather and the city not doing anything [makes] the streets empty,” she said. “We’re supposed to support our families, but how are we supposed to do it?”
A Department of Sanitation spokesman said the agency does salt the area during and after snowstorms. He said concerned owners should call 311 if they have problems.
Joseph Ardizzone, the neighborhood’s sole residential tenant, called the city’s response to the Willets Point icy roads an attack on the hardworking small businesses that it wants gone so that the redevelopment project can proceed. Ardizzone said the lack of help from the city was undemocratic.
“They’re not helping us now ... and they will not in the future. “They ought to stop their deceit, deception and lies and lead the people of this country,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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