Ramps approved, repairs wait at Willets Point

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Willets Point businesses say that the ramps are not what is needed -- pothole repairs are necessary.
Willets Point businesses say that the ramps are not what is needed -- pothole repairs are necessary.

As the redevelopment of Willets Point moves ahead, city officials are “ramped” up, thanks to approval by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) of the proposed ramps that would connect the Van Wyck Expressway to Willets Point.

However, area businesses fighting the city’s use of Eminent Domain to revamp Willets Point say that the ramps are not what is needed — pothole repairs are necessary.

Proprietors are dissatisfied over the recent decision, expected to greatly increase area traffic instead of decreasing the number of potholes lining the neighborhood’s major roadways.

According to several published reports, the area, referred to as the Iron Triangle, has been without repairs because it is slated for redevelopment. As part of a multi-phase process, the New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) hopes to install retail and entertainment amenities, a hotel and convention center, mixed-income housing and public open space in the upcoming years.

According to the EDC, the purpose of these new ramps, approved by the FHA on March 22, would be to “provide direct access to the Willets Point Development District and to facilitate traffic circulation in the area once it is redeveloped.”

Willets Point United, a group of local property and business owners, has remained staunchly against this neighborhood makeover.

Larry Santana, manager of a plant that creates asphalt, has run his business in Willets Point for over 30 years. Santana’s company, Willets Point Asphalt, belongs to a collective of local businesses called Willets Point Industry and Realty Association.

He feels that the city needs to do something to repair the potholes.

“There are some pothole areas right in front of my yard that look like speed bumps but they’re not,” said Santana. “Whenever there are potholes and vehicles going over it, it’s not a good thing.”

According to a representative from the DOT, the agency repaired more than 500 potholes since 2008 in the Willets Point area, including nearly 100 in the past year. The DOT also completed a targeted strip-paving project in October 2010 to resurface a two-block stretch from 34th Avenue going from 126th Street to nearby 128th Street.

The DOT representative alleged that they are currently unable to schedule resurfacing in this area because of ongoing sewer work. They will not make paving adjustments until after all other roadway changes have been made.

– Additional reporting by Steve Mosco