Some Businesses Settle Willets Point Suit

A business at Willets POint (Photo by d.aniela, Creative commons license)

A business at Willets Point (Photo by d.aniela, Creative commons license)

Sunrise Cooperative, a group of 48 auto shop businesses that faced eviction from the Willets Point site in Queens slated for redevelopment, will receive $5.8 million to ease their relocation to the Hunts Point area of the South Bronx, media outlets in Queens report. The payment settles a lawsuit brought by the cooperative against the developers.

Madina Toure writes in Times Ledger about the agreement and what it covers:

The deal, reached March 20, provides the group with funds for fire safety, sewage facilities, office space and equipment at its new 84,000-square-foot space at 1080 Leggett Ave. in Hunts Point.

The city Economic Development Corporation will pay $4.8 million and the Queens Development Group, the site developers, will provide $960,000. The Sunrise Coop will contribute $143,000. The group must leave the hardscrabble site by June 1. The agreement also ends Sunrise’s suit against the city.

The businesses in this group are those designated as part of the first phase of the $3 billion Willets Point Development Plan, which will affect 23 acres of the 62-acre site.

One Queens City Council member was instrumental in the negotiations between different parties, Times Ledger notes.

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) said the Sunrise Coop was born in her office and that she worked with the group to broker the agreement.

Ferreras said she will work with groups in the phase two area who have approached her at a later time.

“This has set a great precedent,” Ferreras said. “It’s not commonplace to engage with tenants this way.”

While numerous businesses are part of the settlement, a number of others continue to fight the development. One group, known as Willets Point United, joined with state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and other stakeholders in a suit against the Queens Development Group.  Tess McRae of Queens Chronicle writes:

A judge ruled in favor of QDG in the fall, but plaintiffs are working on an appeal.

The suit alleges QDG violated the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure when it did not go through the state Legislature to purchase park land upon which Shea Stadium once stood. The city, which sold QDG the land for $1, instead approved the ULURP.

WPU, which posted on its blog about the settlement on March 25, suspects Sunrise had ulterior motives when it filed its suit in 2014.

“Conventional wisdom has been that Sunrise Cooperative and Urban Justice Center filed the lawsuit not out of any actual desire to defend parkland, hault QDG’s development project or rescind NYCIDA’s $42.6 million tax credits to QDG, but instead to provide leverage in negotiations with NYCEDC and QDG so that Sunrise could obtain additional millions of dollars necessary to pay the estimated $7,427,987.28 cost to renovate the Bronx space and facilitate the relocation of Sunrise members there,” the group wrote.

And Times Ledger quotes a critic of the Sunrise settlement:

“Julissa and these people created Sunrise Co-op to manipulate this area and make the community think that they’re doing a good deal, but they’re not doing a good deal,” said Arturo Olaya, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee.

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