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Queens Chronicle

Give Willets Pt. companies more time

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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 10:30 am

It was only last week that the Borough Board approved the city’s sale of 23 acres of Willets Point to a development group composed of the Mets’ real estate arm and the Related Companies for all of $1. So we see no reason the city can’t wait a little longer for the many small businesses it’s kicking out of the area to move.

In order to get the full year’s rent money they were promised for their new locations, businesses must move out by this weekend. But many are not ready to do that. If they move by Jan. 1, they can get six months’ worth of rent.

Given all the bureaucratic back and forth the redevelopment plan has gone through, all the changes and the broken promises, the city should give the businesses a break and also provide those that move out by Jan. 1 with a full years’ rent money. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) wants to go even further, giving the companies another six months to leave.

We have little doubt that the city has not been giving the businesses it’s ousting — mostly small, discount auto repair shops, some admittedly operating at the edge of the law — all the assistance with moving that it claims. It allocated $700,000 to one real estate company to help find new locations for the businesses, but Avella says that as far as he can tell, the firm has done little than provide information about available properties that can be found online. Even if that’s not quite the entire picture, everyone knows that the Willets Point redevelopment process has not been conducted with an eye toward protecting its victims from the start.

You’ll remember that the public and the City Council were first sold on the plan in large part due to all the affordable housing that would be built there. But then that part of the project was shoved off into the distant future, so that a shopping mall and hotel can go up first. We don’t have enough malls and hotels already? And even if we don’t, are you going to be able to get your muffler fixed there? We doubt it.

Then there’s the simple, stunning fact that the city sold 23 acres of real estate it deems valuable for $1, to companies that are doing just fine while the rest of us still can’t fully recover from the sharp economic downturn of 2008. The fact that the city didn’t even try to get anything like the land’s market value just illustrates how this project was designed to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor from the start.

We hope the small businesses at least get a little break on how soon they have to move. That would be nice gift to them in this holiday season. How about it, power brokers?

Welcome to the discussion.