Borough president has abandoned Willets Pt. plan in favor of stadiums

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Prior to 2008 there were many small businesses in Willets Point Queens, primarily rendering automotive services for the public at a cost far less expensive than at automotive dealers. They were truly rendering an important service to the people of Queens.

More than 100 people were employed at the area, who in turn rendered support for thousands of their dependents.

The then mayor, Michael Bloomberg decided the Willets Point site as a blight and changes were in order. To the extent there was a blight, the fault lay not upon the small businesses in the area, but upon the Bloomberg and prior mayoral administrations, Queens borough presidents and many local elected officials, all of whom decided large real estate interests were their true constituents, and the little people be damned.

As an example, there were no sewers in the area despite the city collecting sewer taxes from the owners and no infrastructure maintenance even though the city collected real estate and other taxes.

A Willets Point plan was approved in 2008 that was clear and unambiguous. The city would acquire 62 acres in Willets Point through voluntary sale by the property owners or if need be through eminent domain.

A private developer would construct on the site upscale retail stores, office buildings, a convention center, a school, parkland, and luxury housing with a portion set aside for affordable housing. The affordable housing was an important linchpin of the plan.

A developer would be required to remove whatever contamination existed on a 23-acre portion. There was no mention of a 1.4 million square foot shopping mall at Citi Field or any connection to Citi Field.

Bloomberg promised the local community board it would have input in the developer selection process. He ignored that promise and selected the Mets ball club owners and their affiliates, Sterling Equities and Related Companies, multibillionaire real estate developers.

A convention center did not make any sense since there was already one in Manhattan. Many people believed what the developers really wanted was to construct a gambling center. That was never going to happen and the plan lay dormant for many years.

Ultimately, the developers claimed they could not afford to do the 2008 plan unless they were given permission to construct a 1.4-million-square-foot shopping mall at the parking lot adjacent to the City Field stadium. They claimed they needed the money a mall would generate to accomplish Willets Point.

This hogwash from billionaires was absurd, and since the Citi Field parking lot was in fact on Flushing Meadows Corona Park land, litigation was instituted to prevent the mall, which required under the law state legislative approval and a full ULURP process.

The state Appellate Division, First Department, unanimously ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and blocked the mall. An appeal from that holding in now pending in the state Court of Appeals.

Consistent with public officials giving large real estate interests, the key to the city treasury, they agreed to give the developers the Willets Point property acquired by the city at a cost of tens of millions of dollars for $1 and subsidies running to over $100 million, postponing the development until 2025 and the right to walk away from the obligation to construct affordable housing by forfeiting $35 million, a pittance to these billionaires.

And walk away they will. The deal with the billionaires would make the infamous Boss Tweed tip his hat in admiration for this raid on the city treasury.

It is clear when all is said and done, the developers have no interest in the 2008 Willets Point Plan, just the shopping mall, and what many believe are soccer and hockey stadiums in the Willets Point site. In short, the 2008 Willets Point Plan after all these years of waiting is to be assassinated at the hands of billionaire real estate interests.

What is now troubling is the current Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who in her State of the Borough address appears to have decided to gut the 2008 Willets Point Plan and propose building hockey and soccer stadiums in the site. (Times Ledger, Feb. 3).

It is difficult to believe such a proposal suddenly blossomed in Katz’s mind. What is more likely is a connection between her and the Mets Ball Club ownership and their affiliated companies.

She is challenged to state whether she is aware that such stadiums are what the Mets ball club ownership and their affiliates really want and whether there has been any contact between her and the aforesaid companies regarding the subject.

Queens residents do not need a Meadowlands sports complex adjacent to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and there will be much opposition to Katz’s plan. At this point to abandon the Willets Point project so the Wilpons and their affiliates can add to their Mets ball club, hockey and soccer stadiums, is yet another example of hack politics at its worst.

What we really need is a borough president with enough intelligence to understand it is the people of Queens who are her constituents, and not fat cat real estate interests.

Benjamin M. Haber


Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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Jose from Esperanza says:
Maybe if the poor mob controlled chop shops had sewers they wouldnt have had to pour all the toxic waste right into the ground, they could have just flushinged it down the toilet into the bay. These properties should have been condemned a long time ago and real jobs with safe working condition should have be created for the exploited workforce that lines the pocket of the owners with unreported income and kickbacks to the bosses... cry me a polluted river.... bulldoze this ——hole and move the city fwd. Correction Appended

A yearlong investigation into environmental crimes at Queens junkyards ended yesterday with the arrests of 28 workers charged with dumping thousands of gallons of toxic car fluids that poisoned the land and poured into Flushing Bay.

A team of city police officers and state investigators raided 21 junkyards in the large commercial strip on Willets Point near Shea Stadium, arresting owners and employees and seizing millions of dollars in assets, including bank accounts and machinery. The charges could lead to sentences of four years in prison, heavy fines and multimillion-dollar payments to clean up brownfields and Flushing Bay, the state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, said. Thirty-two junkyard workers were charged; four have not been arrested.

''This is a massive environmental debacle,'' he said. ''These businesses have been dumping fluids that leave our environment in horrendous shape, and leaving the public to pay for the cleanup. They've created brownfields that lie fallow, that nobody wants. That forestalls economic development and creates wastelands in the middle of the city.''

Shea Stadium Junkyards Indicted For Environmental Crimes

Attorney General Spitzer announced the indictment of 21 junkyards and 35 individuals, culminating a nearly year-long investigation into environmental crimes in the Willets Point area of Queens near Shea Stadium.

The businesses, most of their owners and a number of employees are charged with breaking state environmental laws by dumping motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid and other materials onto the ground, into storm drains, and into Flushing Bay as they cut radiator hoses, removed engines, transmissions, air conditioners and other parts while dismantling cars to be recycled. All told, the businesses collectively dumped thousands of gallons of waste fluids.

In addition to the criminal charges, as a result of civil lawsuits filed by Spitzer, a judge has ordered an immediate halt to the dumping of waste into the ground and water and frozen the businesses' assets. The suits also seek the proceeds and equipment used in the crimes. The Attorney General is also asking the court to order the firms to implement interim pollution controls and pay for the short-term and long-term clean-up of the sites.

Under the Environmental Conservation Law, antifreeze, motor oil and transmission fluid are hazardous substances that must be recycled and disposed of at an approved facility.

"The defendants in this case showed a blatant disregard, both for the law and the environment," said Spitzer. "They used their properties, the neighborhood, and Flushing Bay as a garbage disposal, simply because it was easier and cheaper for them, rather than doing what was right, following the law and protecting the environment.

"This concerted effort by the criminal and civil divisions of my office should ensure that this industry follows the law."

Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik stated, "Members of the auto salvage industry have been sent a strong message: the illegal disposal of dumping of toxic materials will not be tolerated. You will be held accountable for the damage you are inflicting on the environment and the health risks you are creating for the public." Based on the amount of fluids released, 40 of the defendants have been charged with the felony crime of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the 3rd degree, which carries a maximum sentence of one and one third to four years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.

At five of the locations, AA Auto Salvage, Inc., Best Buy Auto Repair, F&F Auto Salvage, Inc., M&H Used Auto Parts & Cars, Inc., and Sunrise Auto Parts, Inc., investigators discovered that contaminated fluids were being discharged into Flushing Bay, resulting in an additional felony charge with potential fines of up to $50,000 per day of violation.

In addition, 55 defendants were also charged with multiple counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the 4th degree, a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Spitzer pointed out that this type of conduct causes long-term economic problems. "Because of the chemicals dumped at these sites, any potential developer will have to incur huge clean-up costs to reclaim the land. Unfortunately, the actions of these defendants impact the area, not only today, but for years to come."

The Attorney General's Office, along with the NYPD and State Department of Environmental Conservation, executed search warrants at the sites last September.

The defendants were arrested this morning and will be arraigned in Queens Supreme Court at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Joseph McKaye, Part K-11.

Spitzer commended the NYPD for its investigation of the case, and praised Inspector James Dean, Capt. Dennis Dier, Lt. Michael Byrne, and Detective Joseph Wedge of the Auto Crimes Task Force of the N.Y.P.D. and Lt. John Mattera and Investigator John Fitzpatrick of the DEC.

Assistant Attorneys General Julieta Lozano, and Hugh McLean of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, under the direction of Bureau Chief Janet Cohn and Criminal Division Chief Peter Pope are handling the criminal cases. AAGs Lem Srolovic, Andrew Gershon, and Lisa Feiner of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the direction of Public Advocacy Chief Dieter Snell, and Lynn Goodman of the Organized Crime Task Force are handling the civil cases.

Mr. Spitzer said the workers poured antifreeze, brake fluid and other toxic fluids onto the ground, where they leached into the water system. They cut concrete trenches to channel the waste into Flushing Bay, he said, and pumped fluids through hoses that emptied into storm water drains or the bay.

''They deliberately punctured holes in tanks so that gas and oil and antifreeze ran all over the place,'' said Mary Ellen Kris, the New York City director of the State Department of Environmental Conservation. ''They were renegades when it came to environmental law. They've caused extensive damage to the soil and the bay.''

The investigation, carried out by city police, the attorney general's office and the Department of Environmental Conservation, began when undercover police officers opened a scrap metal shop to investigate the junkyards for unrelated crimes. A city police detective, Joseph Wedge, got in touch with the other agencies when he saw the greasy blackened soil and oil-slicked puddles around the shops. That evidence allowed state investigators to obtain search warrants.

Mr. Spitzer said charging the junkyard workers with felonies and civil violations of state environmental regulations was significant because polluters are usually charged with misdemeanors.

''The judges impose a $500 fine,'' Mr. Spitzer said. ''It's like a ticket. It isn't much of a deterrent.''
Feb. 10, 2017, 11:11 am
Felix Antonio De Souza from jackson heights says:
WP is the undisputed mecca of auto related crime


One of the areas of primary focus for the Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau has been auto theft-related crime. Queens residents own large numbers of quality cars; the County has a large network of highways and bridges that make it easy to transport stolen vehicles; and, it has a large concentration of junkyards near areas ideal for auto stripping. These factors contribute to the County’s acute auto theft problem. The attention paid to this problem since District Attorney Brown took office has reduced by more than 70% in the past eight years the number of cars stolen annually in Queens County.

The Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau has targeted organized crime’s control of vehicle theft and illegal auto dismantling in New York City. The Bureau, working closely with other law enforcement agencies, has conducted some very significant auto theft investigations involving the use of undercover operatives and court-ordered electronic surveillance, resulting in the arrest and prosecution of organized crime-controlled auto thieves and illegal vehicle dismantlers. In addition, the Bureau regularly obtains search warrants authorizing raids on chop shops which yield thousands of dollars worth of stolen property.

A recent example was Operation Tin Man, a 13 month undercover operation that successfully infiltrated the illegal workings of an auto theft, auto dismantling and insurance fraud ring. The investigation centered on an undercover garage which the NYPD leased out to the suspects. All told, 44 vehicles worth in excess of $750,000 were brought in to be stripped, including 35 vehicles that were falsely reported stolen by their owners. The remaining vehicles came from an auto theft ring. This investigation resulted in the arrest of 32 individuals, including those owners who falsely claimed that their vehicles had been stolen.

Another example was Operation Stadium Scrap, a 12 month investigation into auto-related crimes in the Willets Point section of Queens. This investigation resulted in the arrest of a member of the Gambino Organized Crime family and three of his associates. They were charged with operating a racketeering enterprise that dominated the lucrative scrap metal industry in Willets Point by extortion, arson, and threats directed at competitors - including a rival scrap yard, Stadium Scrap, operated by undercover officers assigned to the NYPD’s Auto Crime Division.

The office also has focused attention on the almost 2000 auto crime-related arrests each year to ensure that cases are handled aggressively and that maximum jail sentences are obtained. Because auto crimes do not usually involve violence, it often has been difficult to obtain stiff sentences. To address this problem, we review every auto crime arrest with an eye toward enhancing the cases and securing jail sentences for car thieves. We believe that this technique, combined with our investigative efforts, will continue to reduce auto theft in Queens.
Feb. 10, 2017, 11:32 am
Felix Antonio De Souza from Jackson Heights says:
Gotti kin busted in auto sting
By Brian Lockhart

Walking by the stacks of wrecked Chevys, Fords, Pontiacs and other cars in the Willets Point scrap metal yards near Shea Stadium, the last thing one would expect to stumble upon would be city Police Commissioner Howard Safir promoting four policemen.

That, however, was the scene Tuesday as reporters gathered at Stadium Scrap, a mock business at 126-49 35th Ave. whose four employees - all undercover city cops - were hailed for pulling off a months-long sting leading to the arrest of an alleged Gambino family member and the dismantling of his auto salvage ring.

"They worked in the hot and the cold and operated this business as if it was real," said Safir as he promoted Detectives Michael Dorto and James Halley to detective 2nd grade and police officers Joseph Wedge and Nicholas Ferraro to detective.

"It also required them to place their lives at great risk," Safir said.

It was the combined efforts of the four undercover cops that led to the arrests of Carmine Agnello of Old Westbury, L.I. - the son-in-law of mob boss John Gotti, Mark Lomonaco and Joseph Burger of Woodhaven and Steven Scala of Maspeth on a variety of charges. Their indictments were announced by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown at a news conference just prior to Tuesday's promotion ceremony.

Individually the four defendants face up to 25 years in prison.

Brown said Agnello in particular was "one of the most elusive figures in organized crime" who had a long record of arrests for auto crimes and police assaults but had served no time.

Brown said the sting began last April when his office and the NYPD, with funding from the state and All-State Insurance, established Stadium Scrap as a business for crushing salvaged cars and reselling them to a nearby legitimate scrap metal processor. The business was open Monday through Friday and also dealt with several legitimate clients, but video and audio surveillance equipment was set up throughout the site for the sting.

The two officers and two detectives working there had come from the NYPD's Auto Crimes Department, where they said they had acquired their knowledge about their new jobs in scrap metal.

A month after Stadium opened for business, Agnello, who owns a majority interest in the Bronx-based New York Shredding Corp and the Willets Point-based New York Scrap Inc., allegedly approached the undercover cops along with the other three defendants, Brown said.

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The DA alleged that New York Scrap Inc. handles 80 percent of the Willets Point crushing business and that the defendants told Stadium's staff they did not want competition.

Brown alleged the four defendants told the undercover cops to sell them their crushed vehicles for shredding or risk being "run out of business."

When the undercover cops refused, Brown said the defendants allegedly broke into Stadium's property and firebombed its office trailer and flatbed truck on more than one occasion in June.

Brown said Stadium finally agreed to do business with Agnello and the four cops continued gathering evidence on his operation until just a few weeks ago.

"The purpose of this thuggery and violence," said Brown, "was to control both the price paid to salvage yards for vehicles and the price paid by New York Shredding for the crushed scrap so that the defendants' profits would be inflated."

Brown said Agnello of 6 Birch Court in Old Westbury, Lomonaco of 78-02 95th Ave. in Woodhaven, Burger of 94-10 134th Ave. in Woodhaven, and Scala of 77-02 79th Place in Maspeth were charged with enterprise corruption under the state's Organized Crime Control Act.

The DA said the four are also charged with restraint of trade, first- degree coercion, fourth-degree conspiracy, second-degree grand larceny and third-degree arson and attempted arson.

Brown's Civil Enforcement Bureau has also begun civil forfeiture proceedings in State Supreme Court to seize almost $9 million of the defendants' assets, including the New York Shredding Corporation.

In addition to the four major arrests, Brown said the sting operation led to 47 separate arrests of individuals for auto-related crimes including insurance fraud, criminal possession of stolen property and illegal possession of vehicle identification numbers.

Each of those defendants faces up to four years in prison, he said.

Safir called the Stadium operation a "massive and devastating blow" to organized crime and Brown said its success was "yet another nail in the coffin of the auto parts theft and stolen parts industry in New York."

Asked how the sting might directly affect the Gambino family, Brown said: "I think this is certainly going to impact on a stream of revenue they've been capitalizing on."

During Tuesday's news conference, the four undercover officers said they would miss the scrap yard work and the excitement of the sting.

Asked if they ever had any doubts that they could pull it off, Detective Wedge said no.

"It was a good scam," he said. "We made it work."
Feb. 10, 2017, 11:46 am
annie from flushing says:
really 2008? willets point and all its businesses have been active since 2015, then the fall began. Now its all empty good to do graffiti and stuff, theres still alot of opened businesses around. Theres alot of gangs and shootings around the area, it just doesnt come out on the news. Its too unsafe to be around there you'll see alot of drugdealers and gangs. Its a crime center.
May 7, 2017, 1:50 am

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