A Richmond Hill property owner said he wants to keep his fencing business in Richmond Hill despite a move by Community Board 9 to try to block him from purchasing land outright that he has leased for more than 20 years.
Aldo Sibeni, owner of Boundary Fence & Railing Systems Inc., said during a tour at his main facility at 131-02 Jamaica Ave. that he wants to stay in Richmond Hill despite a community board resolution two weeks ago asking the city to consider other businesses' bids for the triangle-shaped property. Sibeni, who still has 10 years left on his lease, according to his attorneys, said he did not understand the timing of the board's resolution because of the length of time left on his lease.
"We would like to stay where we are," said Sibeni, a native of Trieste, Italy. "We would like to work with the community."
Sibeni, now a resident of New Hyde Park, said he wants to buy the property in Richmond Hill to ensure his company's future growth. Sibeni's attorneys said the owner's plans presented to the board several months ago to move forward with the beautification of the Jamaica Avenue site were initiated to help build a better relationship with the community board but instead have polarized the two interested parties.
"We thought we were moving ahead with a dialogue," said Jeff Citron, an attorney with the Manhattan-based law firm Davidoff and Malito. His fellow attorney Arthur Goldstein said no one at Boundary was told about the community board's resolution or its intention to pursue a deal for ownership of the Jamaica Avenue site with other local entities such as Jamaica Hospital.
Sibeni's beautification plans include building a showroom along a portion of Jamaica Avenue and planting trees and grass to increase the amount of green space on the property, he said. Goldstein said the plans were presented to the community board and its land use committee four months ago and he had not heard back from them until a day before the May 13 meeting, where the board urged the city to pursue other bids as well as Sibeni's.
Sibeni said he employs 110 Richmond Hill residents who could lose their jobs if he decides to move away from Queens to a site he could purchase. He said he already owns another property at 132nd Street and 89th Avenue and does not understand why the community board is trying to prevent him from buying the 50,000 square-foot storage and production facility on 131st Street.
But Community Board 9 Chairman Paul Sapienza said the board passed its resolution because Sibeni has not maintained his property during the past 20 years. Sapienza said the resolution, which recommends that the city initiate a competitive bidding process to decide who can purchase the land, was passed because the board wants to ensure the city gets the most amount of money from interested parties.
Sibeni currently leases his property from the city's Economic Development Corporation.
"Some might look at it and say it's a sweetheart deal," he said. "The proof is in the pudding. They have to put up or shut up. They have to prove that they are a good neighbor."
Sapienza said despite Sibeni's presence as an employer in Richmond Hill, his characterized Boundary's beautification plans as inadequate and unacceptable.
Boundary Fence and Railing sells and manufactures fencing and other iron products for wholesale distribution to clients throughout the tristate area. During the time of the tour, workers were filling an order for a telecommunications company in Trenton.
Sibeni, who runs his business on 125,000 square feet of property in Richmond Hill, said he is willing to make the improvements and is puzzled why the community board would take actions that could force him to vacate his property. The business owner who runs and bikes to work from his New Hyde Park home said through his attorneys that he is willing to work with the community board but has not yet had an opportunity to because the board has not been open to his proposals.
"This business is committed to hopefully staying in the area," Citron said. "But for a business to survive, it has to grow."
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156
©2003 Community News Group
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