Tag Archives: Willets Point

Banksy piece appears briefly in Willets Point before taken away to Ozone Park home

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Instagram/dr_lou

British graffiti artist Banksy made his way back into Queens, but then was taken out.

According to reports, the ghost-like and notorious artist, who has been going around New York and leaving various types of art works as part of his one-of-a-kind show titled “Better Out Than In,” created a small replica of the great Sphinx of Giza out of smashed cinderblocks near a mechanic auto shop on 35th Avenue and 127th Street in Willets Point.

The sculpture was reported to be seen early Tuesday but in only a few hours was dismantled onto a truck and taken away.

A driver for the moving company that picked up the Banksy piece on Tuesday said the mechanics of the nearby auto shop asked to have it moved to a home in Ozone Park, where it was placed inside of a garage.

The driver said he was worried about the statue, but was told by the mechanics they would be made responsible for it as they carefully placed the figure inside the truck.

“I didn’t really know what was going on,” said the driver who wished to remain anonymous.

Along with tagging up Manhattan and Brooklyn, Banksy made his first Queens appearance on October 14 in Woodside.

On a blank wall located on 69th Street and 38th Avenue, the artist wrote the quote, “What we do in life echoes in Eternity” from the movie “Gladiator” and stenciled a man trying to wipe off the words. Another graffiti artist painted over the piece that same night.

The artist began his “exhibit” on October 1 with his first piece appearing in Manhattan with reports saying it was on a building in Chinatown. Each day the official website for Banksy, www.banksyny.com, gets updated with images of the new stencils.

On Wednesday, instead of a new piece being published, a post appeared on the artist’s official website that said “Today’s art has been cancelled due to police activity.”


Willets Point mega mall gets final City Council green light

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo rendering courtesy of NYCEDC

The City Council approved a major $3 billion Willets Point project Wednesday, clearing the way for a mega mall near Citi Field.

Developers Sterling Equities and Related Companies needed the council’s permission to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to build a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of the baseball stadium.

It was the last hurdle the joint venture needed to jump over after Community Board 7, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and the City Planning Commission gave the project the green light this summer.

The ambitious project includes the cleanup of 23 acres of contaminated land east of Citi Field and eventual construction of housing units with commercial and retail space.

It was long stalled as Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area, waited for better relocation plans for soon-to-be-displaced Willets Point business owners.

Auto shop owners who make up the Iron Triangle said they can only survive if they are moved as a whole and can continue as a one-stop shop for motorists.

The pooled $12.5 million offered in total relocation aid payouts were not enough for the approximate 100 auto shops in the first phase of the redevelopment site, advocates said.

The city agreed to spend $15.5 million on moving expenses and relocation of Willets Point business owners as part of a deal struck with the City Council, Ferreras said.

About $17 million more will be given to the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance for upkeep and maintenance of the park and construction of a green rooftop farm on top of the entertainment center.

“This deal would be a win for our constituents, a win for Willets Point and a win for New York City,” Ferreras said. “This vote has always been about improving the lives of our constituents.”

Construction of 2,500 housing units — 35 percent of which will be affordable — will also be moved up from its original set 2025 date, officials said.

“It is important to note that never before has a council district seen this much affordable housing,” Ferreras said.

“For years, this area has gone without many of the resources the rest of the city has regularly received,” she continued. “Our district deserves to have the same treatment as any other area in New York City.”

About $66 million in the city budget will be set aside to put up new ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway, Ferreras said. Developers also agreed to shell out $7 million for traffic improvement and mitigations.

Written commitments by the joint venture also include funding traffic mitigation measures, building a 1,000-seat K-8 public school, giving $1.87 million to the Willets Point Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund and hiring locally.

Critics of the plan still say the area needs affordable housing before a colossal shopping center.

Hundreds marched to oppose the project late last month, and at least eight auto shop owners held a hunger strike in August.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin, chair of the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee. “We’ve heard from everyone who wanted to testify right until the end. Not everyone got everything they wanted … [but] the process works. It is great when the community voices can be heard and the members can sit and advocate on behalf of their constituents.”

Officials said the project would provide 7,100 permanent jobs and generate more than $310 million in tax revenue.

“Today’s approvals mean that the historic vision for a redeveloped Willets Point is finally going to become a reality,” the joint venture said in a statement. “Thanks to today’s actions, we are going to transform a contaminated site into a new community with thousands of new jobs, affordable housing, retail and open space.”



Willets Point business owners hold hunger strike as vote is delayed

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The hunger strike being held by a group of auto shop owners at Willets Point is a “look into the future” for soon-to-be displaced families who could be left fending for food and a sustainable job, advocates said.

At least eight business owners are fasting and staying put inside an auto shop at 37-03 126th Street until they can be relocated out of the Iron Triangle as a group. They began the strike on Friday, August 30.

“I have to do it,” said Julia Sandoval, a 56-year-old business owner who is diabetic and striking against her doctor’s orders. “I have to do something. It’s my place, my business.”

The city has been urging shops to leave in order to make way for a $3 billion project to redevelop Willets Point, which includes cleaning up 23 acres of contaminated land and eventually constructing housing units and a mega mall near Citi Field.

Developers need the City Council’s final approval to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to construct a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of the baseball stadium.

However, the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises did not vote on the project during a September 3 hearing and is not expected to do so this month, sources said.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area, instead grilled city officials and developers for more answers and better relocation plans.

“I want to ensure the proposed development is fair and balanced,” Ferreras said. “Before making any decision, we must know all the facts and the community must feel reassured that this is the best decision.”

Soon-to-be displaced businesses say they can only survive if they are moved as a whole and can continue as a one-stop shop for motorists.

“The motor, body work, glass — all these things get damaged [in a car accident],” said Marco Neira, an advocate for the businesses. “They come in with a car over here and they find everything in one place. They pay half of the price they could pay somewhere else.”

Ferreras, at the hearing, said she was told in 2009 the businesses could be moved in a group.

“We are now here in 2013 and I’m being told it’s impossible – the economy, all the reasons why it can’t happen,” she said. “That is not a plan that we can just scrape off the table now.”

Neira said business owners have been eyeing a $9 million spot in Maspeth which would house 60 to 80 shops, but they have heard no guarantee from the city.

City officials said they were open to group relocations and proposed moving smaller clusters of five to seven businesses.

Economic Development Corporation executive Thomas McKnight said the city has found 140 potential relocation sites in the last year.

So far, there are only relocation plans in works for 10 businesses of the 120 eligible, officials said.

The project has been given the green light by the City Planning Commission, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Community Board 7, but both the board and borough president had conditions for its endorsements.

They said surrounding communities and its leaders must be kept informed of the project’s progress and traffic problems that arise.

The city and the facility’s developer must also fulfill written commitments they made, which include funding traffic mitigation measures, building a 1,000-seat K-8 public school, giving $1.87 million to the Willets Point Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund, and hiring locally.




$3.5M in payouts on table for Willets Point business owners

| mchan@queenscourier.com

A pooled $3.5 million in payouts is on tap for some Willets Point business owners who agree to leave the Iron Triangle by the end of January.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) sent letters earlier this month to 90 auto shop owners in the Phase 1 area of the Willets Point development site, alerting them of the extra millions now on the table.

Shop owners who relocate by November 30 will be given a payout equal to one year’s rent, city officials said. Those who leave between December and the end of January will receive a payment equal to six month’s rent.

Under the payment plan, if a business owner who currently pays the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development $2,000 a month in rent leaves by the end of November, he or she would get $24,000.

The new pooled funds are on a first-come, first-serve basis, city officials said, and are added onto the $9 million in relocation aid already offered.

The EDC, which has said the entire Phase 1 area must be vacated before environmental remediation can begin, has been urging shop owners to relocate since this February.

Only one has left the Phase 1 site so far, an EDC spokesperson said, but two others have struck relocation deals and others are in “serious negotiation.”

Plans for the larger $3 billion project to redevelop Willets Point include cleaning up 23 acres of contaminated land and eventually constructing housing units and a mega mall near Citi Field.

“I think we’re getting pushed out,” said Tommy Cohen, who owns ACDC Scrap Metal. “We don’t have a choice.”

Willets Point United said on its website the deal is “fool’s gold and is little more than a bus ticket out of town for these immigrant Hispanic business owners.”

About 120 people attended a city-hosted informational meeting in Corona last week to discuss the new payouts and additional free services.

Representatives were available at booths to talk about relocations, business loans, job and education training.

There are still ongoing talks between the city, developers and Willets Point shops, said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area. These include possibly relocating the affected businesses as a group.



Road closure hurting Willets Point businesses, say owners

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Business has come to a screeching halt for about 20 auto shops stunted by construction near Citi Field, The Courier has learned.

“It’s crushing us,” said store owner Sal Yaloz. “We’re really, really suffering. I just want to work, and you don’t hear that too often.”

The city shut out business for nearly two dozen storefronts down 34th Avenue when it closed off the roadway at 126th Street entirely about three weeks ago, store owners said.

Construction from the first phase of a major $3 billion project to transform Willets Point has been gradually cutting down income for area businesses since last October, they said.

But the strip of stores in the project’s second phase was brought to a complete standstill when the major street was barricaded.

“This is a main road. If you close it, it’s like closing a main artery to your heart,” said David Antonacci, co-owner of Crown Container.

Asad Zamayar, who runs Lightning Auto Service, said the stores heavily depend on street traffic.

“If there are no cars, there is no money,” he said. “When the road is closed, there is no business.”

Determined motorists could instead loop around and enter from 127th Street, but shop owners say few take the detour.

“If you can’t get into this area, you’re going to go somewhere else,” Antonacci said.
Yaloz, who almost single-handedly runs Fast Tire Shop, estimates losing 80 percent of his business since the street closed.

“My tax bill is still coming. I still have to pay rent, but I don’t have regular income coming in,” he said.

Business owner Charles Akah, who has a corner alignment shop, totaled his losses to at least $80,000. He said he used to see between 10 and 15 customers daily.

“If I get one or two now, I’m very lucky,” he said. “I feel bad for a business that’s been there for 20 years. I’m hardly paying my rent, let alone my taxes to the city.”

The street temporarily reopened on August 22 for the US Open but closes again September 10 when the international tennis tournament is over.

The day after the concrete street barriers were lifted, Yaloz said he saw more customers that morning than he had all week.

“There was a huge difference,” he said.

But the two week break is not enough, store owners said.

“I’m hoping they’ll have some sympathy and open up the streets for good so we have access for our customers to come in,” Akah said.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation said officials are “currently reviewing possible steps towards mitigation,” which includes possibly adding more signage for “increased visibility.”

“We have been in contact with these businesses for several weeks,” said spokesperson Patrick Muncie, “including speaking with the owners directly at last week’s public informational meeting.”

Traffic and business resumed for the strip of auto shops on 34th Avenue one day after the street temporarily reopened.



One injured in school bus crash in Willets Point

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

A school bus with as many as 20 children crashed this afternoon in Willets Point, fire officials said.

One person, who has yet to be identified, was injured in the crash at around 4:30 p.m. at the Van Wyck Expressway and Whitestone Expressway.

The injured person is being taken to North Shore LIJ, officials said.




Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Wednesday: Partly cloudy. High of 84. Winds from the NW at 5 to 15 mph shifting to the SSW in the afternoon. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Fog overnight. Low of 72. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: The Edge of Heaven

Socrates Sculpture Park and AT&T host an eight-week outdoor film festival that includes dance, food, musical performance and film. Food offerings include regional cuisine and films in their original language with English subtitles. The festival concludes this Wednesday with the film The Edge of Heaven, which explores the lives of six characters, including a female Kurdish political activist wanted by the authorities and Lotte, a naïve student who becomes sexually entangled with her. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Willets Point tenants offered rent subsidies to make way for mall next to Citi Field

Small businesses in the blighted area near Citi Field, where the Mets play, are being offered payment equal to a year’s rent if they vacate by the end of November to make way for a retail-and-entertainment mall. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Suspect in 2011 Queens barbecue shooting arrested in NC

A New York City man has been arrested in North Carolina in connection with a 2011 shooting at a Queens house party in which 11 people were wounded, including a 14-year-old girl who was struck in the back and paralyzed. Read more: NBC New York

Queens officials want cut of tourism revenue to help attract visitors 

Queens lawmaker has proposed giving the outer boroughs more money from the state hotel occupancy tax. Read more: CBS New York

Taxicab hits British tourist, severs her leg, in Midtown Manhattan: witnesses

A taxicab that swerved to avoid hitting a bike messenger struck a British tourist, severing her leg, before jumping a curb in busy midtown Manhattan, witnesses said. Read more: NBC New York

Proposal: 10 cent charge on plastic and paper bags

New legislation that is aimed to dramatically reduce bag use in New York City would put a $.10 surcharge on plastic or paper carry out bags at grocery and retail stores. Read more: Fox New York

WikiLeaks soldier Manning to learn his fate today

Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier convicted of the biggest breach of classified data in the nation’s history, will be told on Wednesday how much of his life will be spent in a military prison. Read more: Reuters


Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Wednesday: Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 95. Winds from the NNE at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the SSE in the afternoon. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy in the evening, then clear. Low of 81 with a heat index of 88F. Winds from the South at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the WSW after midnight.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Golden Dragon Acrobats

After an exciting extended run last summer, the Golden Dragon Acrobats return to Queens Theatre more thrilling and daring than ever before! Witness daring feats of balance, spine tingling contortionists and towers of jugglers as the talented acrobats straight from China leave you wanting more! If you missed them last year now is you chance to catch the show that everyone was talking about. Runs July 17-28. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Local business owners, city clash over plans for Willets Point

Just before the start of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game on Tuesday night business owners near Citi Field  protested the city’s plan to shut them down. Read more: CBS New York

Ex-NY Sen. Huntley’s friend gets busted for alleged $85K charity fraud

The president of a Queens, N.Y., nonprofit with ties to former state Sen. Shirley Huntley was charged Tuesday with stealing more than $85,000 in taxpayer money. Read more: New York Daily News 

Obama: Ray Kelly ‘well-qualified’ for DHS post

President Barack Obama says New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would be “well-qualified” to run the Department of Homeland Security. Read more: Fox New York 

Rivera perfect, AL beats NL 3-0 in All-Star game

Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect eighth inning in his final All-Star appearance, Jose Bautista, J.J. Hardy and Jason Kipnis drove in runs to back a night of pulsating pitching, and the American League beat the National League 3-0 Tuesday night to stop a three-year losing streak. Read more: AP

GOP strategist files objection to Eliot Spitzer’s comptroller petition signatures

Eliot Spitzer is facing a challenge to his bid to get on the ballot in the city comptroller’s race, after a Republican strategist contested the ex-governor’s petition signatures. Read more: CBS New York/AP


Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Thursday: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. High of 84. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible. Thursday Night: Overcast with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain. Low of 72. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the North after midnight. Chance of rain 50%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Park

The New York Philharmonic and Music Director Alan Gilbert leads a free concert featuring Principal Cello Carter Brey in Cunningham Park at 8 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

NYC officials, foes testify on Willets Point plans

A $1 billion shopping mall planned for the parking lot of the New York Mets’ stadium would spearhead a major transformation of a blighted neighborhood, developers testified Wednesday. Read more: NBC New York

Prices for co-ops, condos and houses in Queens soared 11% over last year, Douglas Elliman says

Queens real estate is on the up and up. Sales are up, and prices are, too. Read more. New York Daily News 

FAA new rules: Co-pilots must have more flight time to be certified

The FAA has announced new rules will soon require co-pilots to have more flight time before they can be commercial pilots. Read more: NBC New York

Average New York City rent tops $3,000 per month

The fact that renting an apartment in New York City is expensive is as obvious to most people as the fact that the sky is blue. Read more: CBS New York 

$100K Reward for info in Swiss-NY airline money theft

The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of $1.2 million that disappeared at JFK Airport and to the arrest of those responsible. Read more: Fox New York

Boston bombing suspect pleads not guilty

His arm in a cast and his face swollen, a blase-looking Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the Boston Marathon bombing in a seven-minute proceeding that marked his first public appearance since his capture in mid-April. Read more: AP

Bill to preserve city parkland

| mchan@queenscourier.com

A bill introduced in the State Senate would make it more difficult for private companies to get a hold of city parkland.

“Parkland is sacred and should be preserved for generations to come, not given away to private developers, especially without just and equal parkland compensation,” said State Senator Tony Avella, who penned the legislation.

The law would allow for a review process of proposals to change parkland use. It would also require replacement green space to be three times the size of the parcel being alienated and within one mile of that parcel.

Three separate proposals around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park are at the root of bill’s target. Developers want to expand the US Tennis Association (USTA) stadium, transform Willets Point and build a Major League Soccer stadium there.

“[These projects] threaten to take crucial parkland from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and together constitute perhaps the biggest land grab for parkland not only in Queens, but also in the entire city,” Avella said.

The USTA wants to lease 0.68 acres of city property to expand the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. That would allow them to shift the grandstand stadium and the southern tennis courts.

In exchange, the association agreed to give the city back 1.56 acres it currently leases, though project opponents say a parcel of that land is already publicly accessible.

The state legislature gave its end-of-session approval last month, passing a bill required when municipal parkland is sold or leased to a private entity.

But Avella said the mandated bill is just a legal precedent based on previous court decisions. He added that it only recommends — and does not require — that parkland be replaced.

Park advocates who support the bill say open space is a nonrenewable resource meant for the public and loopholes need to be closed.

“We would like to see park alienation made even more difficult,” said Frederick Kress, founder of Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces. “It needs to be really toughened up.”

Alfredo Centola, founder of Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a group opposed to private development in the park, said the law is “a good idea because it’s going to actually make it extremely difficult for the land to be stolen.”

The Senate’s Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee will have to decide whether to move the legislation forward to the full Senate after the summer recess is over.

“Unfortunately, once lost, municipal parkland is difficult, if not impossible, to recover,” Avella said.



Borough President Marshall OKs Willets West

| mchan@queenscourier.com

File rendering

Borough President Helen Marshall approved a special permit that would pave the way for a mega mall near Citi Field.

Marshall gave developers Sterling Equities and Related Companies the thumbs up on July 2 to move parking for Citi Field to Willets Point. The joint venture ultimately needed the permit to construct a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of the baseball stadium.

Community Board 7 gave its green light in May, but both the board and borough president had conditions for their endorsements.

They said the joint venture must keep surrounding communities and leaders informed of the project’s progress and traffic problems that arise.

The city and the facility’s developer must also fulfill written commitments they made, which include funding traffic mitigation measures, building a 1,000-seat K-8 public school, giving $1.87 million to the Willets Point

Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund and hiring locally.

Marshall said the $3 billion project would provide 7,100 permanent jobs and generate more than $310 million in tax revenue.

Among the speakers at Marshall’s June 6 public hearing, 20 people opposed the project and two others were in favor of it.

Community Board 3 voted 31-1 against the application on May 13.

The project awaits the Department of City Planning, which held a public hearing July 10 but did not make a recommendation as of press time.

The City Council is expected to meet August 21 to give the final vote.



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Wednesday: Overcast with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain, then thunderstorms and rain showers in the afternoon. High of 88. Winds from the SSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%. Wednesday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers, then a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain after midnight. Low of 75. Winds from the SW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Beatlemania: Maspeth Federal Summer Concerts 2013

The tribute band Beatlemania Now captures the excitement, mood and music of the Fab Four. Free, rain or shine. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Three Queens Borough President candidates slam $3 billion Willets Point proposal

Two City Councilmen — who happen to both be running for Queens borough president — are trying to block the plate against a proposed mega-mall next to CitiField. Read more: New York Daily News

Queens leaders shoot down home raising plan that could cost residents tens of thousands of dollars

Queens leaders shot down a city plan that could cost homeowners — still reeling from Superstorm Sandy — tens of thousands of additional dollars. Read more: New York Daily News

Documents on former Mayor Koch released by FBI

Documents released for the first time Tuesday from the FBI file on former New York City Mayor Edward Koch detail one of the more obscure chapters of his storied political career: an unsolved plot to paint the then-congressman as a racist by circulating a forged letter, warning the city would become a “ghost town” if voters elected a black mayor. Read more: AP

Quinn: Spitzer, Weiner haven’t earned second chance

Democratic mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn took some shots at the comeback efforts of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer. Read more: CBS New York

Surviving suspect in Boston bombing due in court

Survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing will watch as the young man who could face the death penalty for the attack appears in court for the first time since he was found bleeding and hiding in a boat in a suburb days after the April 15 explosion. Read more: AP

Willets Point business owners expect to reopen

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Nearly one dozen Willets Point business owners who had their auto shops abruptly shut down by the city two weeks ago said they expect to reopen in a few days.

“We all have families,” said Wais Mohibi, owner of Discount Muffler in the Iron Triangle. “Don’t just come in without warning, without anything, and just shut us down.”

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) issued partial vacate orders two weeks ago to five businesses at 38-01 126th Street for “illegal, unsafe construction,” according to a department spokesperson.

About five other shops at 37-11 126th Street were also shut down. Vacate orders had been in effect at those locations since 2009, the DOB said.

The businesses were hit with violations for working without permits and for having improper lightweight steel, called C-joist, installed at their sites, according to the department.

The DOB said C-joist construction without proper shoring affects the structural stability of buildings and can cause collapse. Such conditions led to the death of one Brooklyn construction workers last year, the department said.

Most of the business owners dealing with vacate orders are working out deals with the city to sell their property. However, they said they did not expect to be forced out of their jobs so quickly. They added that the vacates left them with nothing.

“All our equipment is inside. We can’t do anything,” Mohibi said. “That’s not fair at all. We’re basically going to be in the street.”

Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee, said business owners expect their stores will temporarily reopen by Monday, June 3.

He said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras’s office has been in touch with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which will handle repairs to the stores.

According to an HPD spokesperson, the repairs will be funded by the city and will begin in the next few days. The spokesperson added that there is no timeline yet for the project’s completion.

Ferreras said those owners should be able to return next week at the very latest.

“The city has to treat us as human beings,” Neira said. “I know they want this land. They can have this land, but not in this way.”

According to the DOB, business owners have to submit new design drawings, obtain permits and install proper shoring before their shops can reopen.

The establishments are located at the heart a $3 billion city project to transform the area into a major commercial hub.

“This is obviously harassment by the city of New York because this area is slated for redevelopment,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “It’s death by a thousand cuts.”



Queens’s Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Tuesday: Mostly cloudy. Fog early. High of 82. Winds from the SW at 5 to 15 mph. Tuesday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. Low of 70. Winds from the SW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Swingin’ with the All Stars: Louis Armstrong & Baseball 

Swingin’ with the All Stars: Louis Armstrong & Baseball, a new exhibit at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, explores his favorite sport, which he followed passionately. A longtime Brooklyn Dodgers fan, Louis switched to the New York Mets in the late 60s. The exhibit includes photos and artifacts exploring his relationship with the game. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Police pursue persons of interest in shooting death of girl, 14, on bus

Police have several leads and are pursuing a few persons of interest in the shooting death of a 14-year-old girl on a Queens bus Saturday, law enforcement sources tell NBC 4 New York. Read more: NBC New York 

Rockaway beaches readying to open Saturday after $140 million effort to repair Sandy’s destruction

The Rockaway Beach shoreline is turning shades of blue and chartreuse in preparation for Saturday’s unofficial kick-off of the summer season. Read more: New York Daily News

Willets Point business owners: We are being evicted by NYC for no reason

A lot of workers are about to lose their jobs. They got kicked out of their auto body shops by the landlord. Read more: CBS New York

City slams lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in stop-and-frisk during closing arguments

Witnesses who alleged racial bias in the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk didn’t prove their case, lawyers for the city said Monday in closing arguments in a nine-week trial over the controversial tactic. Read more: New York Daily News 

Crews dig through night after deadly Okla. twister

Spotlights bore down on massive piles of shredded cinder block, insulation and metal as crews worked through the night lifting bricks and parts of collapsed walls where a monstrous tornado barreled through the Oklahoma City suburbs, demolishing an elementary school and reducing homes to piles of splintered wood.  Read more: AP

NY crackdown on repeat drunken drivers keeps thousands off state roads: officials

New York officials say their crackdown on repeat drunken drivers through new rules imposed last September has resulted in 3,164 potentially dangerous motorists being kept off the state’s roadways. Read more: NBC New York

Board permits Willets Point mall in key vote

| mchan@queenscourier.com


Plans for a behemoth mall at Willets Point received a key nod from Community Board (CB) 7 after the city and the facility’s developer laid out a list of new commitments.

CB 7 granted a special permit to Sterling Equities and Related with a 22-18 advisory vote. The joint venture wants to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to construct a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center at Willets West.

The board’s land use committee, including CB 7 Chair Gene Kelty, voted down the permit in a meeting last week.

But a pair of letters detailing a list of new promises by the developer and city swayed them at the last minute.

“I changed my vote tonight because I had papers in front of me that I felt comfortable with,” Kelty said.

“The other time, there was nothing. I was looking at a blank slate in front of me.”

In April, the committee told developers they needed more information about parking, traffic flow and transplanting the plethora of small business owners within the Iron Triangle.

The Queens Development Group and Deputy Mayor Robert Steel returned with pages of new promises, including a pledge to provide ongoing environmental remediation of all 23 acres of Willets Point land the city is acquiring from the current occupants.

The pair of letters also detailed commitments to conduct and fund traffic mitigation measures, build a 1,000-seat K-8 public school and give $1.87 million to the Willets Point Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund.

Developers also agreed to put $100,000 into the fund for every quarterly meeting with CB 7 that they miss.

“There was just a lot more that was brought into language in both these letters,” said Chuck Apelian, CB 7’s first vice chair and head of the land use committee. “That’s why I’m supporting this, and I think we’ve come a long way.”

The recommendation now goes to Borough President Helen Marshall, the Department of City Planning and then the City Council.

Ethan Goodman, a lawyer representing the developer, said there would not be another chance to clean up the long-neglected property.

“A vote against this plan is a vote against cleaning Willets Point,” he said. “We’re talking about 100 years of contamination. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The Queens Development Group said in a statement the approval brings them “one step closer” to transforming the area into “a vibrant new neighborhood.”

However, dozens of local residents, including current Willets Point landowners, pleaded with the board to vote against the permit.

“We have jobs over there,” said Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee. “I don’t know why you’d want to approve the project and kill all those businesses. We are workers over there.”

Joseph Ardizzone, the only person who lives in Willets Point, said democracy died with the board’s green light.

“Anyone that votes yes to taking my property denies me the right to be an American citizen,” Ardizzone said. “God bless America? I don’t think so anymore.”

Residents protested the delay of affordable housing during Community Board 7’s vote on Monday. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)