An update on the Iron Triangle fights, courtesy of the Queens Tribune:
Everyone always forgets about the little guy.
Or at least that is how Willets Point business owners feel as the city continues down a path of redeveloping the exact plots of land their businesses currently sit on.
In retaliation, 10 businesses have taken a stand and formed the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association, intent on fighting tooth and nail for their rights.
The City plans to relocate all the businesses from the area adjacent to Shea Stadium and start fresh with 5,500 residential units, 1.7 million square feet of retail and entertainment space, nearly 1 million square feet of office and convention center space, a 650-pupil school, a hotel, a park and eight acres of green space.
This is the last thing Dan Feinstein, of Feinstein Steel Works, wants to see happen.
"We'll use every means under the law to protect ourselves," he said. "We'll do whatever we have to, to make sure the city doesn't screw us."
This City has said on record that it is looking out for the Willets Point businesses and is in negotiations to relocate them. However, Daniel Sambucci Jr., of Sambucci Bros. Salvage Yards, said this is misleading.
"We've had meetings and they've shown me properties for $40 million," he said. "But the city doesn't own the property and they don't know how they're going to get it."
Sambucci said he is worried there is not enough property in the city zoned for heavy industrial to accommodate all the businesses.
"They don't have a final development plan, a developer - they don't know how much it's going to cost and they don't know where they can move us," he said.
The 10 businesses in WPIRA own 50 percent of the 60 acres that make up Willets Point. Most of them have been in business for two or three generations.
This is the third time a group like this has been formed in Willets Point by most of the same businesses. In the 1980s, the group battled against Donald Trump and his plans to build a stadium for the New Jersey Generals as part of the now defunct United States Football League. The group also banded together in the 1960s to fight Robert Moses' plan to use the area for the 1964 World's Fair.
Willets Point is notorious throughout the city as one of the few places not hooked up to a sewer system. The roads are deplorable and the auto shops pollute the air, but the business owners believe the degraded conditions are the city's fault.
"What is neglected is the city's portion," Feinstein said. "The streets, sewers and municipal services every tax paying business has a right to expect from the City."
Feinstein argued many of the jobs in Willets are good middle income jobs - union jobs with good benefits - and what would replace them are minimum wage retail and service jobs.
Feinstein said WPIRA is not trying to "stick it" to the City but is only fighting for what any business would ask for in the same situation.
"We're not looking for money and we're not looking for any guarantees," he said. "We just want them to pave our roads and hook us up to the sewers."
In 1991, a study conducted by the City's Economic Development Corporation found Willets Point would flourish once sewers and basic services were provided, however, this has yet to happen.
"This place would look completely different by now if they had done what the study suggested," Dan Scully, of Tully Environmental, said. "But [former Borough President] Claire Shulman ignored it."
Anthony J. Fodera, president Fodera Foods, said the problems of Willets Point is a story of purposeful neglect.
"We call the police or 311 and once we tell them were we are they say 'oh you're in that area,' and never come," he said.
Feinstein said the business owners are not so stubborn that they would impede the public good but the redevelopment plans do not serve the public good more than his company does.
"If they were planning on building an airport or needed a state highway here, we're not happy but we understand," he said. "But don't say you don't like my house and your friend's going to build another one."