The just concluded Columbia land use application doesn't bode well for the hundreds of businesses and thousands of workers over at Willets Point. The mayor and council speaker have given the clearest indication possible that private property is no longer sacrosanct in this city-assuming that it ever was.
As today's NY Daily News points out, the city's redevelopment effort at the Point has been long on promises but short on legitimate proposals for those who work and own businesses at what is known as the Iron Triangle: "They promised to take care of everybody, that they would relocate everybody," said Gerald Antonacci, whose family has owned Crown Container, a waste transfer station, since 1976. "It's all smoke and mirrors," he said. "They're going through the motions."
So now, as were about to see the certification of a land use application to rezone the area, we can see that as far as the council leadership is concerned, the problems of the small businesses at the Point are of little or no concern, You see, if the council is willing to rezone the 50 acres without the benefit of a development plan or the existence of a designated developer, it will have effectively ceded its entire land use authority to the mayor's office. It might as well just put up a "Going Out of Business" sign.
We're pretty familiar with the entire scenario; it's a repeat of the debacle at the Bronx Terminal Market, where relocation promises turned out to be empty, and the small distributors were summarily dismissed with small severance checks. This time, however, the businesses in question own the property and can't be so easily thrust aside.
The people of the city need to wake up. The Speaker's statements on eminent domain are chilling and should be a clarion call to all property owners. First Columbia, now Willets Point. When and where will it stop?