Property Rights Foundation of America®
Founded 1994

WILLETS POINT
NEW YORK CITY

Another Community
Being Sucked Into
The Vortex of
URBAN REDEVELOPMENT

Citi Field – Bullpen Gate. The specter of Citi Field looms over this destructively neglected street where men are working daily doing business in the community of Willets Point.
Photos: Peter J. LaGrasse

A City Administration Bent on Wiping Out One of Its Own Vibrant Communities.

The new Citi Field stadium is the latest rationale for New York City’s plan to redevelop Willets Point, not to take some of the land for a highway improvement or a school, but to use eminent domain to eradicate the entire thriving industrial community of over 200 businesses employing over 1,500 people. The unique community is engaged in auto repair, recycling, and other interconnected pursuits. Willets Point in Queens County has been described as “an economic engine.”

These dominantly immigrant-owned small businesses, with mainly Hispanic employees, draw local clientele seeking affordable auto repair and as well as many reaching the variety of industrial businesses in the area from several states by using easily accessible major highways.

The City respects nothing: Just take it all for private developers after squeezing out the businesses by withholding the essential services that the property owners have paid taxes to maintain.

Willets Point businesses are fighting back in court. Their cause is that of all homeowners and small businesses!

Willets Point Blvd and 35th Avenue, at the heart of Willets Point, New York.

Master Express Deli on Willets Point Blvd. The house is the lifetime home of the communitys only resident, Joseph Ardizzone, 78, born and raised here. He is happy to live in Willets Point. An auto parts business in Willets Point protests New York Citys intention to wipe out family businesses for connected developers. Wearing boots as a necessity to travel the streets of Willets Point, this woman brings ice and refreshments to workers at the communitys small businesses. During better weather, venders push their sandwich wagons from one company to the next.

Carol LaGrasse reunited with her husband Peters and her old friend Ralph St. John after 37 years. His former trucking and recycling company on College Point Blvd., a half mile from the LaGrasses house, was taken by New York City for redevelopment and the land is still vacant. Now—for a second time—his business, built over a lifetime, is threatened by New York Citys eminent domain. Ralph St. Johns sign, “Save Willets Point—Stop Eminent Domain Abuse,” covers most of the east wall of his headquarters on Northern Blvd. Our introduction to Willets Point this year. Traveling at 2 to 5 mph. down this nearly impassable street, totally neglected for years by New York City. Yet, even on a rainy day, pickup trucks and passenger vehicles crawled along, eager to do business with the automotive and parts services concentrated there. Congenial workmen came out to talk to us and ask how they could help as we slowly made our way.

Down into the manhole. A cadre of private workers with privately owned equipment from a nearby Willets Point business tend to New York Citys neglected sewer, in an attempt to drain the flooded street. Outside Frank Hermidas auto wrecking company, he and Robert LoScalzo of Willets Point United talk about the Citys threat to the future of the community. Accented by a gnarled old sycamore tree, this would be a neat, interesting city street scene, if it were not for the flooding and “pavement” condition caused by New York Citys neglect.

Four men can be seen—driving, supervising, and ready to guide the rear axle from the specialized fork lift truck into the pickup truck for delivery. The expression of the bi-lingual owner of New Mustang Auto Parts speaks to his uneasiness in the face of New York Citys threatened destruction of all that these men and women have successfully accomplished in Willets Point. Dacar Auto Radiator. No matter how well-maintained or respected for the quality of its services, a business in Willets Point is still subject to New York Citys aggressive failure to provide basic municipal services, and must live with appalling street conditions.

Jack Bono, the third generation of Bono Sawdust Supply Company, threatened by New York Citys “redevelopment plan.” His office and operations are located in a building constructed brick by brick by his father and uncles. A workman at Bonos sawdust separation and recycling company loads re-used 100-pound potato sacks of graded sawdust into the waiting truck. Businesses ranging from a circus to a pet bedding producer to a particle board manufacturer rely on the Bono companys sawdust. Hauling equipment owned by Bono Sawdust Supply Company. The adjacent sawdust separation plant contains large, specialized equipment that is impossible to move without reconstructing.

With Joseph Ardizzone at her side, Irene Prestigiacomo spoke at the Fourteenth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights in October 2010 in Lake George, N.Y., about New York Citys refusal to negotiate with her late husband or her about the future of their Willets Point property.

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