Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Redevelopment of Willets Point

In today’s Sun, Dave Lombino reports on the mayor’s quest to redevelop Willets Point. The area, also known as the Iron Triangle, currently houses a thriving small business community mostly dedicated to automobile repair and service. One of the biggest worries is that the city is so enthusiastic about "renewing" the area that it is forgetting about the viable mop and pop shops that current occupy the site.

Willets Point’s Councilman Hiram Monserrate is also quite concerned about the redevelopment plans:
"The administration has a worldview that is pro-big business," he said. "Are they talking about building schools, affordable housing, maintaining some of the businesses there, relocation plans?"
The issue of relocation plans is important, especially in light of the outrageous failure to, so far, offer the Bronx Terminal Market merchants a site where they can maintain their market. Like the BTM, the Iron Triangle businesses are symbiotic and if they are carelessly scattered there’s a good chance their shops will close. Though the city promises to create a "Business Assistance and Workforce Development Program" for the affected parties let’s just say that we are supremely skeptical.

In addition to our experience with the Terminal Market, our skepticism is a product of the fact that these Iron Triangle repair shops – which the wrongly city characterizes as junkyards – have not been contacted. Tom Agnotti, a professor of urban planning at Hunter College who has been writing a report on existing Willets Points businesses concurs:

"Once again, the city's process seems to be evading discussion with the local businesspeople and hanging the threat of eminent domain over them without involving them in the process," Mr. Angotti said.
He also says that the economic activity and employment opportunities at these shops are quite valuable:

These are jobs that are available to people that don't have many other entry options into the job market," he said. "The impression is created that there is nobody there. That it's a junkyard. It's just not true."
As this process moves forward we will definitely keep you all updated.