• October 19, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

Willets businesses: Repave the roads

Petition to DOT urges resurfacing of Iron Triangle’s dilapidated streets

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Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2019 10:30 am

Fifty businesses in Willets Point signed a petition sent out last week to Department of Transportation Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia, requesting to meet with her about the industrial area’s dilapidated, cratered streets.

Decades have passed since most of the streets in the Iron Triangle were repaved. They have been compared to those of Kabul, Afghanistan.

The DOT did do some repaving work in the area several weeks ago. It fixed up the western border of Willets Point, 126th Street between Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue, right by Citi Field. It also had workers resurface two blocks at the northern boundary of the area, 126th Place and 127th Street between Northern and 34th Avenue.

But Willets Point business owners didn’t respond with much, if any, praise. The vast majority of the area’s shops are located more centrally within it. The west side of the 126th Place block that the city repaved doesn’t have any businesses on it.

Critics charged the DOT just wanted to make 126th Street look nice for an anticipated ceremony celebrating the block by Citi Field being co-named for Mets legend Tom Seaver. They said the agency did the one-block repavings on 126th Place and 127th Street to placate business owners who might be upset.

The DOT says it does not have the in-house resources available to repave Willets Point at large.

The agency also hasn’t responded to the petitioners, according to Irene Prestigiacamo, an Iron Triangle property owner who wrote the letter to Garcia on behalf of Willets Point United.

“Being very frank with you, I don’t expect to [hear back] right away,” she told the Chronicle.

Prestigiacamo lamented how, despite the lack of public investment in the area, the property taxes on the Iron Triangle land increased again this year.

In a statement to the Chronicle, a DOT spokesperson said, “We will review the feedback provided by Ms. Prestigiacomo and will be in touch with her and other area stakeholders regarding potential future work.”

The spokesperson noted that Mayor de Blasio’s proposed executive budget “includes approximately $17+ million of funding dedicated to future Capital work to address Willets Point street conditions.”

It’s not exactly clear what that means, though.

The Chronicle asked the DOT if the funds are for City Hall’s plan to redevelop part of Willets Point, but the agency did not give an answer.

The de Blasio administration is planning to build 1,100 units of affordable housing and a 450-seat elementary school on six acres of empty land that it owns in southern Willets Point. Work has not yet started on the project, which is known as Phase 1-A. The businesses in Willets Point are on privately owned property north of the Phase 1 area.

No official plan has been made yet for Phase 1-B, the construction that would take place on the other 17 acres of land in the city’s control, which is mostly or completely empty. Borough President Melinda Katz is pushing for a soccer stadium to be built there, though activists in the Corona area have called for affordable housing to be built instead.

Sam Sambucci, who owns A&D Used Auto Parts & Cars on Willets Point Boulevard, signed the letter to the DOT requesting the resurfacing work. But he isn’t optimistic that he and the other petitioners will get what they want.

“It’s no secret that it’s a disaster here,” he said. “Nobody needs to see the pictures anymore.”

Sambucci has often pleaded with city officials at public meetings at Willets Point, calling for street resurfacing both to help out the auto businesses and to prevent public safety disasters that could arise. Were a fire to break out or someone hurt in an accident, he pointed out, emergency responder vehicles would have a hard time negotiating passage through the blocks of double- and triple-parked cars and blown-out roads.

“They’re not paying any attention to us,” he said of city officials. “They want us to implode.”

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