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A Question of Fairness in Willets Point

The redevelopment of Willets Point will be a good thing for Queens. It will create middle-income housing and hundreds of jobs. It will generate tax revenues for a city still reeling from the recession and turn a junkyard into a thriving commercial area.

But a price has been paid to make the $3 billion redevelopment possible. An independent study should be done to see if the envisioned end result justifies trampling on the rights of area property owners. In particular, questions have been raised about the use of eminent domain for a private development.

Eminent domain was intended to assist governments in building a courthouse or school when a private property was in the way. The U.S. Supreme Court later allowed governments to extend eminent domain to private development that will serve a public purpose.

In that scenario, care must be taken to protect property owners’ rights. Carlos Canal, a small business owner in Willets Point, says he is being trampled on by the city Economic Development Corp. He does not want to give up his land until the city provides enough money to relocate his business to a similar parcel.

An EDC representative told TimesLedger Newspapers, “We are working with Mr. Canal and are hopeful that we can reach a deal that makes sense for the city and its taxpayers.”

In July 2008, he was certain the city had found a new home for his business outside the Iron Triangle. Flushing Towing was to be relocated to the nearby College Point Industrial Park.

But Community Board 7 did not want his business in the corporate park. Canal says finding a suitable property in the Flushing area will cost at least $1.1 million, but the EDC is offering only $1 million.

Canal told TimesLedger, “I don’t want money; I want a place to continue doing my business. I don’t want to take advantage of this situation. We’re this close and they’ve been closing deals and deals and deals. What happened to me?”

For decades the city neglected Willets Point. The city and EDC must do everything possible to see that the relocated business owners are treated fairly.

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