Business Owners Send Strong Message on Willets Point
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A group of business owners opposing Mayor Bloomberg’s rezoning plan for Willets Point slowed traffic around Shea Stadium before yesterday’s Mets game by putting on the streets trucks carrying slogans such as “Hands Off Our Land, Bloomberg!”
The event came at a time when the mayor’s $3 billion proposal is facing a set of votes that could set it back significantly. The City Planning Commission will issue its recommendations for the plan next month, and it must pass a City Council vote in November.
The plan would convert Willets Point — a 75-acre triangle of land with no sewers or sidewalks in northeastern Queens near the Van Wyck Expressway and Shea Stadium — into a residential and business area with a hotel and a convention center.
Protesters and public officials at yesterday’s rally focused on one aspect of the debate: Even if the proposal is voted down, the mayor’s office has not ruled out using the power of eminent domain to take over the land.
“It might sound old-fashioned, but I believe that, in America, the right of property owners is sacred,” Council Member Hiram Monserrate, who represents Willets Point, said at the rally.
He has written a letter, signed by 31 other council members, promising a “doomed fate in the City Council” for the plan if significant changes are not made.
The vice president of a Willets Point water and sewage product distributor, Thomas Mina, called the mayor’s plan a “concept,” saying the administration had not made the details of its proposal clear.
“I’m not against development, but let the businesses here take part in it,” he said. “If the city would put in infrastructure like sewers and roads, the area would develop itself. Corporations would want to come, there would be none of this perceived unsightliness, and we wouldn’t be displaced.”
The city’s Economic Development Corp., which is in charge of negotiating the proposal with local businesses, could not be reached for comment. In the past, it has argued that the rezoning would create 5,300 new jobs and $25 billion in economic activity over 30 years.