Today’s news:

Willets Pt. biz move hits snag

The city struck an important deal with one Willets Point property owner last week but may be in jeopardy of losing another, the TimesLedger learned.

A source with knowledge of the negotiations said Monday that complications had surfaced in the agreement Crown Container Co. Inc. had reached in principle with the city and the deal would likely fall through.

"The deal is definitely dead," the source said Monday.

The accord with the 23,000-square-foot waste transfer facility was never formally announced by the city, but owner Jerry Antonacci told the TimesLedger Aug. 20 that he had agreed to sell his property to the city Economic Development Corporation and relocate to Maspeth.

Reached for comment Friday, Antonacci said not all hope was lost for the relocation deal, but the situation was "bleak."

"As of right now, we haven't signed anything. We're still trying to work through it, but as of today it doesn't look good," he said. "But we're still open to continuing negotiations with the city."

Antonacci declined further comment Monday.

The EDC, which is hoping to buy out or relocate the 260 businesses at Willets Point to create a sprawling, environmentally sustainable neighborhood, said all negotiations are confidential, but productive discussions continue with several land owners in the area.

"I would say that we're headed in the right direction," Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber said Tuesday. "But we've still got some wood to chop there."

Last week the EDC announced it had acquired 44,500 square feet of land owned by MA Realty, a firm which rents space to tenants in the area, marking the sixth deal struck with a property owner since negotiations began in the spring.

"MA Realty is pleased to accept what we believe to be a fair offer by the city of New York for our property at Willets Point," an MA Realty representative said in a statement. "The city bargained in good faith at every step of the process and we particularly commend the city's Economic Development Corp."

Terms of the deal were unavailable.

The city also announced the formation of the Willets Point Hotel Training Program Tuesday. The program will be a collaborative effort between LaGuardia Community College and the New York Hotel Trades Council to offer free training in the hotel industry to workers in Willets Point who could be displaced by the development.

The collapse of the Crown Container deal would be a setback for the city, which has signed agreements to acquire less than four acres of land in the 48-acre business enclave.

The City Council is expected to vote on the project in November and more than 30 of its members have publicly signaled their apprehension about voting for a plan that could include the use of eminent domain.

The city has said it will only use eminent domain if all other options are exhausted, but the slow and often bristly negotiations with property owners have continued to push the use of the controversial practice to the forefront of the debate.

If approved, the city hopes to raze the entire area and complete a multimillion- dollar environmental remediation to pave the way for a massive residential and commercial community.

The proposed plan would include up to 5,500 housing units, more than 2 million square feet of retail and office space and a 400,000-square-foot convention center designed to present an alternative to the Javits Center in Manhattan.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, ext. 138.

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