Dozens of business owners, mostly in the auto repair business, are calling for more time to relocate as the city makes way for the first phase of a $3 billion redevelopment plan. Most of these places cannot afford to relocate and are being threatened with eviction.
According to the relocation policy, EDC would pay businesses that agreed to vacate by Nov. 30, 2013, the equivalent of 12 months of the current rent rate, while those that stayed through January would receive six months of rent. However, there was no financial support for relocation following the end of January.
“This really is a disgrace,” Avella said. “This is not the American way.”
The city partnered with a business relocation company called Cornerstone Group in 2012 to facilitate the relocation process, however Avella questioned their effectiveness.
“There are options out there, but the city has to be willing to sit down and talk,” Avella said. “Let’s be fair, that’s all they’re asking and that’s all I’m asking. Let’s stop the lies.”
Arturo Olaya, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee of Small Businesses and Workers, said his members are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table. He recently sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking for assistance, but has yet to hear back.
“This is a real shame,” he said.
An emotional Tena Duelotuna spoke on behalf of her mother, who owns Emmanuel Corporation. She said the city and Cornerstone said they found them a place to relocate to for $1,800 a month, but when they went there the place wasn’t for rent. Ultimately, Duelotuna said, the city has left her mother without a job.
“All that’s going on in Willets Point is awful,” she said.
Rosa Nunes, who has owned a business in Willets Point for many years, nearly came to tears talking about the situation. Nunes said she was promised relocation and one year’s worth of rent, but she later found out the city would only give her $12,000 because she had a deal with the prior owner.
Nunes had to pay $5,000 a month until September 2013, then received a letter in November that required her to go to court and eventually evicted her after 18 years at Willets Point.
The city has come twice for the keys to her business, but she refuses to give them up because she has nowhere to store her tools. The city said if she doesn’t forgo her keys, they will send a marshall and she will lose all of the money she was supposed to receive.
Nunes is currently waiting for the marshal to come.