— Days Without Shea —

I missed this e-mail yesterday. There was an organized protest by The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association today, April 9. Here are the details. it's an interesting story being lost in the Citi Field hoopla:

The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA), a group of the 10 largest business and land owners in Willets Point, Queens will hold a press conference and rally on the steps of New York City Hall on April 9, 2008 at 11 am, demanding that the City provide the area with basic vital infrastructure including streets, gutters, storm sewers, fire hydrants, snow removal, trash removal and sanitary sewers. WPIRA will be joined by members of the New York City Council.


WPIRA says the City of New York has for many years been waging a campaign of malicious and purposeful neglect to create and perpetuate an eyesore by depriving Willets Point of the services that it vitally needs for the eventual justification of the use of Eminent Domain. A MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT WILL BE MADE BY WPIRA REGARDING THE CITY'S LACK OF SERVICES AND INTENDED USE OF EMINENT DOMAIN.


WPIRA has been running a series of ads in the New York Daily News and Queens Chronicle to bring attention to this issue. An Open Letter to Mayor Bloomberg appeared in the April 5th edition of the papers and an appeal by the workers of Willets Point appeared in the Daily News on April 6 and 7. Other ads will follow.


I will provide additional details below. All 10 business and land owners will be at the press conference tomorrow and available for interviews.





The City of New York is proposing to rezone Willets Point, condemn it and evict the existing businesses through the use of eminent domain and replace them with 1.7 million feet of retail space, 500,000 square feet of office space, a hotel, 5,500 residential housing units and a convention center in the neighborhood that is currently zoned for heavy industry. To make this proposal a reality, the City must first acquire the 60 acres of privately owned land at Willets Point. WPIRA maintains that the City of New York has planned to rezone and redevelop for many years and has been waging a campaign of intentional neglect to create and perpetuate an eyesore for the eventual justification of the use of Eminent Domain.


The members of WPIRA believe that the area would be revitalized if the City spent a fraction of the capital required for redevelopment and invested in infrastructure for the area. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) conducted a study of the area in 1991 that suggested exactly that. "If the City provided the infrastructure and services that we are entitled to and in fact, are paying for, the area would be revitalized," said Dan Feinstein, President of Feinstein Iron Works, Inc., a member of WPIRA.  The estimated cost of redeveloping the area is upwards of three billion dollars. That estimate is expected to skyrocket given the credit crisis and increasing construction costs. "Our schools and emergency first responders are facing more budget cuts and the Mayor wants to hand a blank check of New York City's hard earned taxpayers dollars to a private developer?" said Feinstein. That is outrageous, unacceptable and we're not going to stand for it."

WPIRA members point out that the project's price tag is just one of the many obstacles the EDC faces as the City moves forward to prepare to certify the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) to rezone Willets Point. The City issued an RFP in November 2004 but has not released results of their environmental impact analysis of the area in question nor has it presented a detailed plan for the redevelopment of the area and/or identified a developer.  These usually precede the ULURP process so that the City Council can maintain control over the final outcome.  WPIRA charges EDC wants a free hand to negotiate with a developer, unencumbered by the City Council.


Additionally, the Unions want a hand in the eventual development and a guarantee of Union jobs for all the temporary and permanent jobs to be created by the project.  Housing Advocates want a commitment on the amount and affordability of housing for the low to middle income families.


"Despite the numerous and obvious obstacles, it appears that the EDC believes it doesn't have to follow any rules and it can muscle its way through the City Council and the ULURP; and the Union and Housing advocates can be appeased by promises that future administrations will have to fulfill," said Thomas Mina, Vice President of T. Mina Supply Inc. "We have received feedback from City Council members and seen the false statements in the news by the EDC that prove our fear that the EDC is attempting to portray us as uncooperative and "money hungry" so they can justify the use of eminent domain at the end of the ULURP process," said Mina.


"The EDC is not being truthful with the City Council, the businesses at Willets Point or the public. If the City wanted to deal openly and fairly, they would have released the results of property appraisals that were completed last year by Cushman and Wakefield," said Anthony Fodera, President of Fodera Foods Inc. Not one of the 10 business and land owners of WPIRA have been provided with viable options for relocation of their businesses, despite numerous public statements to the contrary by the EDC and Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall.


The WPIRA points out the EDC's abysmal track record of completing re-development projects and abusive threats of Eminent Domain. "The EDC has yet to prove that it can coordinate between the community and developers to bring a project to successful completion," said Anthony Fodera. "Just look at Municipal Lot 1 project in Flushing, Queens. That project has been stalled for years due to the developer's inability to fulfill the community benefits package it once promised. Why should we think the EDC can do any better in Willets Point?"



The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA)

The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA) is dedicated to the development, improvement and growth of the Willets Point area by the businesses that reside there, and not by development schemes in which eminent domain is used to forcibly evict and raze those businesses. A. Fodera & Son, Inc., Bono Sawdust Supply Co., Inc., Crown Container Co., Inc., Feinstein Iron Works, Inc., House of Spices (India), Inc., Parts Authority, Inc., QC Iron Works Inc., Sambucci Bros. Inc, T. Mina Supply, Inc., Tully Environmental, Inc., Tully Construction Co., Inc. www.WPIRA.com

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