BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
After much back and forth, 47 auto shops will relocate from the Willets Point Iron Triangle to a 34,000-square-foot warehouse at Hunts Point in the Bronx.
Marco Neira, president of the Sunrise Cooperative, a group of auto shops relocating together, said they signed the lease last week with NAI Friedland, a commercial real estate firm, and have had the keys to the warehouse since Saturday.
After repairing thousands of cars for decades, dozens of auto shops are being pushed out of the area to make room for the first phase of a $3 billion redevelopment plan. Set forth by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Queens Development Group, a joint venture between Sterling Equities and Related Companies Inc., the project will build a 1.4 million-square-foot mall on parkland, across the street from Citi Field.
Even though many of the owners surrendered their shops to meet the City’s Jan. 31 deadline in order to receive six months of rent at their newly leased location, Neira said no one is happy to leave the Iron Triangle, not even the businesses relocating together as a group to Hunts Point.
“I don’t feel very well because it’s so sad to see everyone leaving from Willets Point,” he said.
While Sunrise Co-op works with a team of engineers and a construction company to make the new warehouse suitable for the auto shops, Neira said many of the auto shop owners are struggling to meet their monthly bills.
As of now, Neira said he cannot estimate when they will relocate, but he said they are leaving with a peace of mind, knowing that the City will use $2 million of its relocation benefits to pay for the warehouse’s security deposit and rent for the next two years.
The Economic Development Corporation’s spokesperson Kate Blumm said Sunrise Co-op can apply to receive more money from the City to help them during their relocation process.
“The Sunrise Cooperative’s move to the Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx ensures that hundreds of jobs will be retained,” she said.
Blumm also said that even though the supplement payment plan expired on Jan. 31, individual businesses can still apply to have their relocation costs paid for by the City.
Arturo Olaya, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee, which represents 47 tenant businesses, said half of the businesses from Sunrise Co-op do not want to go to the Bronx.
“We want to be relocated here in Queens because we figured out to go to the Bronx, its going to cost $5,000 a year in tolls and gas,” he said.
Olaya said he is concerned for the auto shop owners moving to the Bronx. Since renovating the warehouse to meet the needs of the auto shop owners could take up to six months, Olaya said he is worried about their survival, and once they do relocate, he said established customers will not want to travel to the Bronx.
As for EDC assisting the businesses to relocate, Olaya said they have not received enough help.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, email@example.com, or @Tsakhuja13.