Over 80 representatives of the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association held a rally prior to the June 18th meeting of the Willets Point Community Board 7 subcommittee meeting in Flushing. The meeting was attended by Council Member Monserrate and approximately 150 community activists, land and business owners and Willets Point's sole residential owner.
Several issues were raised by members of Community Board 7 including the following:
At the previous meeting on June 9, the subcommittee had asked the EDC to prepare a comprehensive report documenting all outreach to business owners. That request was made in response to allegations from business owners that the EDC is not negotiating in good faith. The EDC was chastised by one board member for not providing the information that had been requested. Several business owners stated they had not been contacted by the EDC. The request was made once again and the EDC stated that information would be available at the next meeting on the 23rd of June.
Several committee members expressed serious concerns about the possible use of eminent domain. The committee was provided with an overview of the condemnation and eviction process which the City legally can commence once ULURP is filed. Business owners pointed out that the 400 million dollars which the City has allocated for acquisition of property was not even close to the fair market value of the land; thereby illustrating the EDC's ultimate plan to invoke eminent domain and pay the lowest possible price for the land.
The EDC acknowledged that it had not studied the possible economic impact of relocation for the 260 businesses at Willets Point. One land owner quoted a national study which revealed that 98% of businesses relocated as a result of eminent domain are forced out of business within 5 years.
The committee agreed that the EDC's proposed $5 million 'Traffic Mitigation Fund' to offset any unforeseen costs in the future was an exceptionally low number and would need to be significantly increased.
The existing severe traffic congestion in Willets Point and Flushing was discussed. Traffic and transit mitigation is an important issue to the Community Board and the EDC's continued lack of substantive solutions is problematic to many committee members as they prepare to vote.
The EDC's proposed 20% affordable housing was deemed unacceptable by many committee members and housing activists. Additionally, a definition of affordable housing has yet to be provided by the EDC.
An additional subcommittee meeting was added to the schedule and will take place on Monday, June 23rd at 7pm. A public hearing and full Committee Board vote will take place on June 30 at 7pm.