City orders Willets Point businesses out

Businesses at 37−11 126th St. in Willets Point sit shuttered after the city issued a vacate order for the property last week. Photo by Jeremy Walsh

Businesses at 37−11 126th St. in Willets Point sit shuttered after the city issued a vacate order for the property last week. Photo by Jeremy Walsh

Thanks to TL reporter Jeremy Walsh for filing this report while I’ve been relaxing on vacation.

By Stephen Stirling and Jeremy Walsh

In what some Willets Point business owners claim was the latest volley between the city and some 22 holdout property owners, the city Department of Buildings issued a full vacate order on a building owned by a Willets Point United Against Eminent Domain member for not conforming to the certificate of occupancy issued for the property.



According to DOB records, businesses occupying 126−02 37th Ave., 126−04 37th Ave., 126−16 37th Ave., 126−01 38th Ave., and 37−11 126th St. were closed, citing a “questionable structure erected and no DOB records to indicate its legality.” The vacate order, filed on Jan. 27, also noted that structures at the addresses had “defecting roof joists” and “no structural stability filed.”

Though five addresses were listed, they all correspond to a single, two−story brick structure housing at least three businesses. Workers at nearby auto parts stores said they had not seen any unusual activity at the property recently.

The property’s listed owner, Best Future Land LLC, had no listed phone number.

Jake Bono, owner of Bono Sawdust Supply Co., and one of the organizers of Willets Point United Against Eminent Domain, said the DOB enforcement was an underhanded tactic to oust businesses. Bono’s company, located nearby in Willets Point, is not involved with the properties in question.

“They’re going to try to frustrate all the workers and landowners and business owners here to the point where they … want to run out of here,” Bono said. “No streets, no sewers, no services, and now they come down with every city agency and look at you up and down with a microscope.”

The DOB did not respond to a request for comment by press time Tuesday.

In November, the City Council approved a controversial redevelopment plan that would create a massive new development featuring 5,500 housing units, more than 2 million square feet of retail and office space and a 400,000 square foot convention center at Willets Point. Several property owners have negotiated with the city Economic Development Corp. to relocate or sell their businesses.

Christina Walsh, a case manager for the nonprofit Institute for Justice, providing legal support to the coalition, warned the vacate order was “a precursor of what’s to come.”

“The city knows what it’s doing,” she said. “The city’s purposefully refused to do its job for decades and now they’ve decided to start enforcing whatever codes they’re enforcing.”

In the meantime, Bono also speculated the pressure to close the building may have come from the professional baseball team that occupies the opposite side of 126th Street from the property.

“There’s a time clock counting … until the new, no−name field opens up,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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