OPPOSITION TO MAYOR'S LAND GRAB AT WILLETS POINT INCREASES
COALITION GROWS STRONGER, LARGER DESPITE BLOOMBERG ADMINISTRATION'S EFFORTS
With Five New Members, Coalition Represents Majority of Land Ownership
The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA), the group of land and business owners fighting the Bloomberg Administration's attempt to steal their property through abuse of eminent domain, today announced that five new businesses have joined the coalition. As a result of these additions, the coalition now represents more than 53 percent of the private land owned in Willets Point despite the Bloomberg Administration's attempts to divide the community.
"Our resolve is stronger than ever, and our numbers are growing larger despite the city's weak attempts to divide us," said Thomas Mina, a member of WPIRA. "With these new members, our coalition now represents more than 53 percent of the private property in Willets Point. That should send a clear message to this administration that we will never allow them to take our property just so they can give it to a politically-connected developer. This should also send a clear message to all those in Queens who think they can roll over us. This fight will never end until they stop trying to destroy our businesses, steal our land and kill the American dreams of our parents and grandparents."
Council Member Diana Reyna said, "The city must acknowledge the increasing number of business and landowners opposing their redevelopment plan. The City's lack of consideration for the hundreds of small businesses and their thousands of employees at Willets Point is a direct contradiction to their vowed commitment to protect and retain industrial and manufacturing businesses in NYC. The city is betraying and turning their backs on these hard-working men and women and their families."
The five new coalition members are St. John Enterprises, United Steel Products, Shea Auto Repair, Trading Used Auto Parts and Empire Group and represent more than 120,000 square feet of land. With the additions, coalition members now cover 24 acres of the approximately 45 acres of privately owned land in Willets Point -- or more than 53 percent of the land. Each of the businesses have long-standing ties to Willets Point, including St. John's Enterprises with 36 years in the same location.
Georgiou Charalambos, co-owner of Shea Auto Repair for 28 years said, "I am in jail with the city. I don't know what to do. I can't move, I can't sell my property. I'm 66 years old and I want to retire, but I am stuck. No one from the EDC has talked to me. They just the want the property."
Alfredo Franza, vice president of United Steel, a family business with 50 employees, said, "With Community Board 7 and the Queens Borough President supporting this takeover plan, we know that we have a fight ahead and we felt it was important to show a united front with our neighbors."
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall is expected to announce her formal support of the administration's development scheme in the coming weeks, despite the strong turnout by WPIRA members and employees at a recent hearing at Borough Hall. Several WPIRA members testified at the hearing, to combat the city's campaign of misinformation to get approval on the redevelopment project without a formal plan or identification of a developer.
"Helen Marshall should do the right thing and stand with the property owners and the working families of Willets Point and reject this plan," said Jerry Antonacci, WPIRA member. "At the very least, she should show some independence and make clear that her support is contingent on the city agreeing to not use eminent domain to take private property. Unfortunately, Marshall has continued the city's long neglect of Willets Point and refused to provide us with basic city services such as sanitary sewers despite the property tax bills we pay year after year. Hope springs eternal, so we call again on Marshall to side with working families over powerful developers."