Business owners and community advocates on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday voiced strong opposition to the current Willets Point re-development plan. Business owners and community activists held signs denouncing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Fred Wilpon and other Willets Point developers for alleged back-room deals on the development project.
“Park land should be sacred,” said state senator Tony Avella at the press conference, calling the whole affair a disgrace. In the current plan, former parkland (on which the Mets Citi Field and parking was built) will be the site of a new mall. The mall would house 200 stores, a movie theater, restaurants, entertainment venues and a 2,500-space parking garage. Avella said he opposed the redevelopment plan back in 2008, when he served on City Council.
Last week the city served nearly 60 auto repair shops adjacent to the Mets Citi Field arena with eviction notices, ordering them to vacate by August 31.
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Evictions come as the city moves to acquire the land so that environmental testing and cleanup can start ahead of redevelopment of the 23-acre area into a new parking lot for the arena. On the site of the current parking lot, a 1.4 million square foot mall will be built.
Willets Point United Inc, a group of business and property owners opposed to the current redevelopment proposal, held the press conference to express their anger at the city pushing forward with plans to steamroll into a parking lot more than 200 local businesses—including auto repair shops, auto body shops, and junkyards.
“We don’t know where we are going to go,” said Jamie Sabetti, a Willets Point business owner who just received an eviction notice. He says promised assistance with relocating has consisted of receiving a printout of a vacant space and being told to call up the owner.
Dozens of small businesses in Willets Point—from scrap yards to auto repair shops—already have closed in the past months.
The City Planning Commission held a hearing on July 10 on part of the project and is expected to vote on the proposal on the redevelopment before the end August. The proposal will then head to City Council. The larger proposed $3 billion redevelopment of the Willets Point neighborhood would occur over a decade and includes plans for office space, a hotel, and a school.
Ivan Pentchoukov and the Associated Press contributed to this report.