BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
The City’s Economic Development Corp. has recently identified $3.5 million in additional funding to help relocate
all of the auto shop owners within Phase 1 of the area’s construction site.
According to the EDC, the additional $3.5 million fund should not be confused with the previous $3 million tenant relocation fund that former Councilman Hiram Monserrate and Mayor Michael Bloomberg allocated in 2008.
The previous $3 million fund is now part of a relocation fund that has grown to $9 million, which will be used to cover costs for relocation, a City official said.
According to a letter sent from the EDC to a shop owner on Aug. 9, the businesses are already eligible for relocation benefits, but now they can also take advantage of additional benefits.
The new pool of funds, allocated through Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ (D-East Elmhurst) efforts, will offer qualifying businesses that relocate from the Willets Point Phase 1 development area by Nov. 30, 2013 a payment equal to 12 months’ current rent for their leasehold.
For those qualifying businesses that relocate from the Phase 1 development area between Dec. 1, 2013 and Jan. 31, 2014, the EDC will provide a payment equal to six month’s current rent for their leasehold.
City officials say they have been committed to working with all Willets Point businesses by hiring Cornerstone Group to provide relocation assistance free of charge.
Representatives from Cornerstone have contacted all of the businesses on the City-owned property more than five times, a City official said. More than 120 available sites for relocation have been identified.
However, only three auto-shop owners have agreed to move. “I cannot say why they have not chosen to relocate,” a City official said.
Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee, said auto shop workers are finding it difficult to
leave the area because “the rent outside of Willets Point is too expensive.”
Even though the City was unable to fulfill the promise made in 2008 to find a new site for the workers, City officials say they are still “open to the idea of relocating them as a group.”
A source close to the Willets Point development project shared excerpts from an interview conducted with Ferreras in Sept. 2009, where she said, “I think it is the City’s responsibility to find this space. And I am someone who is going to advocate for that and fight for it to the very end.”
Ferreras also said the EDC will start to look for a relocation site for the auto-shop owners by January 2010, but
she suggested they would have to form a “co-op, or some type of corporation where they can all become partners.”
Even though the auto-shop owners created the Sunrise Corp. and a business plan, the City has been unable to
finalize a relocation site for them as a group.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357- 7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.