Today’s news:

Business relocation team begins canvassing Willets Point

Cornerstone Realty Group began surveying landlords who rent to the more than 200 tenant businesses at Willets Point this week, a sign that relocation plans could be moving forward.

Business owners and workers in the area said officials from Cornerstone went door−to−door during the week, questioning landlords and business owners about their businesses and what they would require to be relocated.

Cornerstone, a realty firm that has a history of relocating renting businesses to and from large projects, was hired by the city last fall to conduct no−fee outreach and relocation assistance to tenant businesses at Willets Point once the project was approved. But tenant business leaders in the area are wary of the assistance, contending if Cornerstone does not promise to relocate them in clusters, they have no interest in its services.

Last November, the City Council approved plans to construct a massive residential and commercial development in the area for which the city is expected to begin soliciting developers this spring.

Tenant business leader Marcos Neira said many of the renting or leasing businesses at Willets Point rely on neighboring businesses to thrive. He said they have developed partnerships with one another over time without which the majority of the businesses would fail.

“One of my guys spoke with them about what they’re going to do about us moving in clusters. They say they don’t know,” Neira said. “But if you’re not going to get relocation for us as a group, then we don’t need you.”

Dave Lombino, a spokesman for the city Economic Development Corp., said Cornerstone beginning work at Willets Point is an example of tangible progress the city has made with the project since it was approved late last year.

“Representatives from Cornerstone are moving door−to−door, sharing information with businesses about the kind of relocation assistance that will be available to them,” Lombino said. “Their presence demonstrates the city’s commitment to working with every business and owner at Willets Point that is interested in working with us.”

In an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers last year, Cornerstone President Gary Curry said the group would make every effort to move businesses together.

“We’ll see what they have there and what they want to do, where they want to go. If they want to relocate together, we’ll try to put them together,” Curry said.

He said Cornerstone has conducted similar negotiations with other city projects, including Hudson Yards in Manhattan, the redevelopment of Times Square, Metrotech in the Bronx and various projects for the city School Construction Authority.

Curry said that on other projects, the firm has been able to move businesses that rely on one another in clusters, which has been a major concern of tenant business leaders at Willets Point. He said he does not see why Willets Point would be any different.

“No doubt about it. We’ll try and see if we can put a number of these tenants together,” he said.

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

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