In an Open Letter published in the Daily News on Saturday, April 5th, the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA) invites Mayor Michael Bloomberg to a meeting in Willets Point, Queens to discuss their vision of the area's future. The Open Letter was the first in a series of ads in the Daily News and Queens Chronicle. A similar Open Letter appears in the April 3rd edition of the Queens Chronicle, addressed to Mayor Bloomberg and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. In that letter, the Queens Borough President is also invited to meet with the second and third generation land and business owners in Willets Point.
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. 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.
This second letter is in the Sunday, April 6th edition of the Daily News. It is a letter to all New Yorkers from the workers at Willets Point. The workers write: "New York City plans to use Eminent Domain to seize the land from all 250 businesses and property owners in Willets Point, to enrich a politically connected developer. The developer will earn hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. We will lose our jobs, our economic security, and we could lose our homes. What will happen to us? What will happen to our families? What will happen to our hopes and our American Dreams?
In the ad, the workers state their opposition to the City's intended use of Eminent Domain and join their employers in demanding services. New Yorkers are reminded that the situation in Willets Point could happen anywhere: "Neighborhoods all over New York City from the Atlantic Yards and Coney Island in Brooklyn to Harlem in Manhattan are facing Eminent Domain. And you could be next. Join us in calling or writing your elected officials. Remind them you are taxpaying voters and you oppose Eminent Domain because it is unjust and un-American."
The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association will hold a press conference on the steps of New York City Hall on Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 11am to demand infrastructure and services. A major announcement regarding this issue will be made at the press conference.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Mark Weprin wants Baltimore's Inner Harbor on Flushing Bay.