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The owners of Bono Sawdust Supply and Crown Container said the city, which is hoping to get approval from the City Council in the near future for a more than $3 billion redevelopment of Willets Point, has done little more than pay lip service to the 250 existing businesses and landowners that currently reside in the area."They want to get everyone here to sign a piece of paper that says we negotiated with the city," said Jack Bono, whose family has owned Bono Sawdust Supply for more than 70 years. "Then they can take that paper to the City Council and say, 'Look, we talked to them, they were unreasonable, we have to use eminent domain.'" Reached for comment, EDC Vice President Jeff Roberts dismissed the allegations.[Eminent domain] is not something we've had in mind all along," Roberts said. "If we were going to go a different route, we would not be dedicating so much staff and so much time to these negotiations." "We know there are businesses in Willets Point that may be trying to encourage other businesses not to negotiate," EDC Executive Vice President Madelyn Wils added. "We know certain businesses are trying to put the kibosh on [negotiations]."Bono and Jerry Antonacci, owner of Crown Container, said the city has presented them with unrealistic options for relocation. Antonacci said the city has gone as far as threatening to break off negotiations with him.Antonacci owns a waste disposal company and said he needs to be guaranteed permits to operate at a new site."When I asked for them to guarantee my permits for my transfer station, they said I was dealing in bad faith and threatened to stop all further negotiations and pressured me to take their deal," he said. "Bad faith. There are no negotiations about my permits and they must be delivered for any deal to work. Without them I'm out of business."The EDC said Bono Sawdust Supply has refused repeated attempts to negotiate with the city. The EDC said Crown Container, meanwhile, refused to enter into an exclusive negotiation agreement for a site in Maspeth, even after the city was able to guarantee the transfer of the waste disposal permits - a notion Antonacci flatly refutes. "The bottom line is other businesses are interested in the site," Roberts said. "But the door is still open."The EDC has continuously said it will not hesitate to use eminent domain if business negotiations fail. They cannot do so, however, without the City Council approving the plan first.The plan has been in limbo since City Councilmen Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst), John Liu (D-Flushing) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside) issued a letter to Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and former EDC head Robert Lieber, announcing they will not support the city's plan in its current form, citing concerns about the specifics of the plan including the potential use of eminent domain.Just days later, the EDC announced it would delay the start of the public approval process.Bono said the issue goes beyond business negotiations."It's not about money. It's not about standing in the way of progress. If you own land and you don't want to sell it, you shouldn't have to," he said. "We're not trying to stand in the way of a better New York. But they don't want to help anyone, they just want to run us over. That's standing in the way of progress."Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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