Tenant businesses are mystified as to why Council member Ferreras would say such a thing – because in reality, the City is now evicting the businesses without relocating them. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development ("HPD") has issued eviction notices and commenced court proceedings against businesses that are tenants of the City. Any business that voluntarily vacates the premises by November 30, 2013 (this upcoming Saturday) is being offered a paltry payout equal to 12 months' of its present rent. Not only is such a payment too small to ensure the relocation and survival of each business, but the City has failed to implement any group relocation plan for the businesses – they are being kicked out with nowhere to go.
This, despite the City's relocation consultant, Cornerstone Group, having been paid $700,000.00 by the City to provide relocation assistance to Willets Point businesses.
Moreover, at the City Council on October 9, 2013, Ferreras had announced an additional $3 million for relocation assistance. But a business is only eligible for a share of those funds if it relocates together with at least four other businesses – and with no group relocation properties offered by the City, or group plan implemented, no one is actually eligible to receive any of the additional $3 million touted by Ferreras. From the businesses' perspective, the "relocation" – and Ferreras' statements – are all smoke-and-mirrors.
And so, last Wednesday, two days after Ferreras stated incredibly that the tenants "will be relocated", the tenants rallied at City Hall with State Senator Tony Avella to set the record straight and call attention to what is actually happening now at Willets Point. Carrying signs that said "Earth to Julissa: We're NOT Being Relocated" and "All Talk; No Results" above a photo of Ferreras, tenant business owners and workers denounced their evictions without relocation, and called on the involved agencies and Mayor-elect de Blasio to hit the pause button.
Avella also revealed his request that the United States Department of Justice investigate the role of Cornerstone Group in the Willets Point relocation debacle. The following video shows excerpts of the tenants' and Avella's statements.
Video courtesy of LoScalzo Media Design LLC
Senator Avella has also written to HPD, NYCEDC and the Mayor, requesting that the time available to the businesses be extended.
P.S. Where the hell is the public advocate? You're still expected to work in that role until December 31st, Mr. de Blasio.