NEW YORK—Nearly 60 auto repair shops adjacent to the Mets Citi Field arena have been served eviction notices ordering them to vacate by August 31. The city is clearing the area to start remediation work on the land, which is to become a parking lot for the stadium.
A $1 billion retail and entertainment mall is planned for the site of the current parking lot of the stadium. Developers say that it would spearhead a major transformation of a blighted neighborhood. Opponents argue that the 1.4 million square-foot mall and other plans for their Queens neighborhood would simply benefit developers while pushing out local businesses.
The final approval for the stadium will come after a vote by the City Planning Commission and then the City Council.
The auto repair shops involved in the first round of evictions say that the city has not provided adequate assistance in relocating them. Shop owners have been handed printouts from web postings with available spaces and instructed to call the landlords. At an Aug. 2 rally held outside Discount Muffler on 48th Ave. and 126 Street, shop owners said that they will not move until the city provides with adequate relocation plans.
“They city should have conducted a survey to determine where to relocate the businesses,” said Martha Otunja, owner of Emanuel Auto Body. “We are not going to leave until there is a relocation process for these businesses.”
Dozens of small businesses in Willets Point — from scrapyards to auto repair shops — already have closed in the past months.
The mall also has the support of Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who has said it will create a “vibrant full-time retail, entertainment and residential community” that will generate local jobs and tax revenue.
Before any real work can begin, the polluted, neglected neighborhood would undergo environmental testing and cleanup, beginning next year through 2015. Following the demolition of existing structures, construction would begin on the 23-acre swath of land.
A parking lot adjacent to the stadium would be converted into a vertical shopping complex with 200 stores, a movie theater, restaurants, entertainment venues and a 2,500-space parking garage. Development over at least a decade also could include office space, a hotel and a school.
Another 40 acres of mostly parkland would be used to expand the National Tennis Center and build a 35,000-seat professional soccer stadium.
Associated Press contributed to this report.