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Second deadline approaches for Willets Pt shops

Willets Point auto shops are relocating to make room for a $3 billion redevelopment of the blighted area.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Willets Point business owners scrambled to relocate as another deadline approached this week.

Jan. 31 marked the last day businesses situated in Phase 1 of the redevelopment could find another home and still receive a payment from the city worth six months’ rent. If business owners left before Nov. 30, they were offered a payment worth 12 months’ rent.

Dozens of auto shops that have populated the blighted area for decades are being moved out to make space for the first phase of a $3 billion redevelopment that will transform Willets Point into residential, retail and commercial space.

The Sunrise Co-op, a group of more than 40 business owners hoping to relocate together, have closed in on a 140,000-square-foot warehouse in the Bronx, but had not signed a lease as of Wednesday. The co-op hoped to sign the lease on the property Friday, said one of the group’s organizers, Marco Neira.

“We’ve got to do it then,” Neira said. “Then we can negotiate with the city to get more time until we fix up the place.”

The Sunrise Co-op hopes it will be able to negotiate funding from the city for the work that needs to be done on the new space, Neira said.

Business owners who relocate after the deadline will not get the supplemental payment, but will still be eligible for funding from the city to relocate individually as well as in groups.

The city Economic Development Corp. said more than 50 businesses have relocated from the Phase 1 area to a new location or are close to doing so.

“A significant portion of businesses in Willets Point have relocated or are preparing to do so, many with financial and other support from the city,” said Kate Blumm, a spokeswoman for the EDC. “This brings us closer to having a clear path to begin to remediate a century of toxic contamination as a first step towards creating a new neighborhood with commercial, community and housing opportunities for Queens.”

Some business owners in Phase 1 have not found new locations yet, but plan to move on anyway.

Bijy Kumar has owned his auto shop that sells wheels and rims for more than 11 years. He had not found anywhere to put his business, but planned to move on in February.

“I have no plans, but I have to keep looking. I have no place right now,” he said.

Martha Gualotuna, emigrated from Ecuador in 1995. She has owned Emmanuel Body Shop in Willets Point for more than 10 years. She has not found a new location either, but plans to move anyway, lured by the payment the city has offered.

“My brothers are going to pick up her stuff to put it in storage,” her daughter Tana said.

Arturo Olaya, a Willets Point tenant business leader, has vowed to keep fighting against the city, hoping to strike a better deal for business owners. He said the plan to relocate to a new location in the Bronx was not good enough.

“It’s unbelievable. The people don’t want to move over there. It’s so far away,” he said. “Customers are not going to go looking for anybody out there. They’ll have competition with junkers in Hunts Point. How are they going to survive out there?”

There is no set timetable for when the city will break ground on Phase 1, Blumm said, as the site’s developer first has to wait for all of the businesses in the area to move out.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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Joe A. from Corona says:
How is it possible that Times Ledger publishes an article about the circumstances in Willets Point and the January 31st date, without mentioning that the City is EVICTING the tenant businesses, under the plan set in motion by former Mayor Bloomberg? It is not simply a matter of "please leave by January 31st or you won't get the paltry payout equal to six months' rent" -- it is a matter of "get out by January 31st, or else the Marshall will come and padlock your business and lock your property inside". This is being done to long-standing, functioning businesses, many of which have nowhere to go. The only two owners of businesses who are quoted in this article stated that they have nowhere to go. Even the Sunrise Cooperative members have no facility prepared in the Bronx, and no one is taking into account the months it will take to retrofit such a space to the needs of relocating businesses before they can ever move in. Eradicating functioning businesses at this time serves no purpose, as the developers will not have a "clear path" to pursue their plan until the final outcome of legal wrangling that has not yet even begun. And if, as the Economic Deception Corporation's Kate Blumm states, Willets Point land is "toxic", then why has the City rented the premises to scores of tenant businesses since acquiring the property during the last several years? If the area was toxic, the City would not want the liability of having tenants who could be affected by the toxicity. Bottom line: Businesses are being forcibly evicted by EDC/HPD from 23 acres of Willets Point property, so that the property can be conveyed to Sterling Equities and Related Companies for the price of $1 (one dollar) -- with little or nothing provided to the businesses. That is the poster child for the "tale of two cities" that candidate di Blasio vowed to eliminate.
Jan. 30, 1:14 am
Red the garbage man from Whitestone says:
I made a lot if money in the iron triangle . The eighties were the best years. So much cash. I miss those days!
Jan. 30, 11:51 am
QB ALL DAY from Queens says:
I will seriously miss Willets Point. Where else can I get work done on my vehicle for a relatively cheap price? The competition between repair shops are fierce in order to obtain your business. This place has literally save me hundreds of dollars; if not thousands through out the years.

I'm a Queens resident and I will not travel to somewhere in the Bronx and pay toll; looking for auto repair. I could deal with a location in Brooklyn or Queens or anywhere, I wouldn't have to pay toll to get my car repaired for affordable price. I will definitely miss Willets Point Auto Repair Shops in the area.
Feb. 10, 1:01 am
QB ALL DAY from Queens says:
After some consideration, I guess the move to Hunts Point doesn't seem too bad. You can always get a Lube job there, if you know what I mean ;)
Feb. 10, 1:19 am

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