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City, electeds, should care about Willets Point businesses

It should come as no surprise that tensions flare regarding the Willets Point proposal — as indeed they should, given the havoc it will create in the destruction of over 225 businesses and the dislocation of over 1,300 employees and thousands of their dependents ("Tensions flare ahead of vote on Willets Pt.," Flushing Times, Aug. 21).

While the city may relocate a few of the larger businesses, there is no way all or even a majority of businesses will be relocated, nor all the employees not only retrained but placed in other comparable jobs. Anything the city says to the contrary must be dismissed as political fantasy.

Apart from the proposal's flaws, which in and of themselves warrant the proposal's rejection, there are three distinct aspects that merit close scrutiny.

1. No one knows how much taxpayer money will be spent to acquire all the property and give it to the developer free of charge; the city will spend to repair the infrastructure; money will be spent for access and ingress to the area; either direct or indirect subsidies, including tax breaks, the cost of which the taxpayers will absorb, the developer will receive. Whatever the taxpayer bill, miscalculations, inflation and cost overruns will increase taxpayer cost.

2. The linchpin for the proposal is that Willets Point does not have streets or sewers and requires infrastructure repair. The Willets Point businesses for years have been paying taxes and requesting repairs be made. They have been ignored because the city refused to do so, deciding the area should be kept in disrepair so it could ague for real estate development.

This willfulness encompasses the tenures of former Borough Presidents Donald Maines and Claire Shulman and current Borough President Helen Marshall. It also encompasses the tenures of state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing).

The support by the latter four people is not only arrogant, but reprehensible. To do so now for the benefit of real estate is unacceptable, particularly since no reason exists why the repairs cannot be made at this time and the current businesses cannot remain.

3. The city intends to use eminent domain to take private property if the owners refuse to sell. The taking of property for public use is one thing, but taking it to turn over to a private real estate developer is different and will set a precedent in this city.

One can easily envision the real estate interests gloating over the fact that Willets Point will have effectively created the mechanism to destroy all small businesses and any and all private property.

The fate of Willets Point should not be in the hands of Shulman, Marshall, Stavisky and Mayersohn, but elected officials who are not beholden to real estate interests, who care about the little people.

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