"The City will make an effort to relocate Willets Point tenant businesses."
Eviction by HPD.
Contrary to promises made by the New York City Economic Development Corporation ("EDC") and the stated intent of elected officials, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development ("HPD") has issued written notices requiring all persons to vacate certain City-owned Willets Point properties where tenant businesses are operating. HPD has done this, despite the tenant businesses receiving none of the promised relocation assistance from EDC.
One such notice, obtained by Willets Point Watchdog and reproduced below, states: "You and all other persons occupying said premises must remove yourselves from the premises on or before November 30, 2010 ... Failure to do so will result in the landlord [HPD] commencing summary proceedings under the statute to remove you from the premises" (emphasis added).
The notice is unambiguous: Get out by November 30, 2010, or HPD will take steps to "remove you". The notice absolutely forecloses any possibility that a tenant will be permitted to continue operating a business on the property after November 30, 2010.
Attorney Harold P. Weinberg and HPD Administrative Staff Analyst Aida Estepan both signed the notice.
Can Weinberg and Estepan possibly be unaware that:
The New York City Council approved the proposed Willets Point development during 2008, with the understanding that EDC would attempt to relocate as many of the approximately 240 tenant businesses as possible?
EDC has not yet even begun to do so?
According to a source who is familiar with the pending eviction proceedings, even after being told that it is inappropriate for HPD to evict any Willets Point tenant business because no relocation assistance has yet materialized from EDC – let alone that there is no immediate need for the property in question to be vacant – attorney Weinberg has refused to rescind the notice, instead telling the business owner that he will see him in court, as the notice threatens.
To defend itself against HPD's inappropriate action, apparently the business will have to retain professional legal counsel – placing a large financial burden on a small business at the same time that HPD has destabilized that business by threatening its future. Although burdening and threatening Willets Point tenant businesses is precisely the opposite of what EDC promised, no elected official has been willing to confront HPD concerning the inappropriateness of its notices, which require all persons to vacate certain premises.
To fully appreciate just how outrageous is HPD's decision to evict Willets Point tenant businesses prior to EDC making any significant effort to relocate them, and the hypocrisy of EDC and the elected officials who are allowing this to occur, we must recall how the importance of relocating the tenant businesses was emphasized by EDC, elected officials and other involved groups during the process of evaluating the proposed Willets Point development.
"There Should Be No Losers"
The video clip below shows excerpts of testimony during the 2007-2008 land use review process for the proposed Willets Point development project, pertaining to the relocation of tenant businesses that operate at the site. Eviction by HPD, and burdening tenant businesses with legal expenses to defend against HPD, could not be further from the spirit of these remarks.
[Notes: The term "ULURP" is an acronym which refers to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. At 5:44, the scroll that is displayed by the Willets Point Defense Committee consists of the business cards of 240+ Willets Point businesses.]
Given such universal concern and insistence during 2007-2008 that Willets Point tenant businesses must be treated fairly, how does HPD now justify skipping relocation and instead requiring everyone at certain addresses to "remove yourselves from the premises on or before November 30, 2010"? Why is HPD sending any letter that threatens "commencing summary proceedings under the statute to remove you from the premises"?
Why is there such an egregious disconnect between EDC, which is accountable for the commitments that it made during the development approval process, and HPD, which administrates Willets Point properties that the City has acquired but does so with such obvious disregard for the existing tenant businesses whose relocation was a priority of the New York City Council?
Does this seem to be the "no loser" scenario that was so universally advocated during 2008? Willets Point Watchdog thinks not.
Not only should no Willets Point tenant business be subject to eviction by HPD that is unjustified at this time, but the City should explicitly allow the businesses to remain operating at Willets Point until a future time, if ever, when the property is actually needed for development. This was proposed during the land use review process by Brad Lander, then-Director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, who has since been elected a member of the New York City Council. The video below shows an excerpt of Lander's testimony before the New York City Council subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions on October 17, 2008.
Fixing the Problem
EDC and HPD must not be permitted to quietly substitute eviction for the fair treatment and relocation of Willets Point tenant businesses, which was promised and so universally supported during 2007-2008.
All owners and workers of Willets Point tenant businesses must aggressively rally around those who are now threatened by HPD's eviction notices. The fate of your neighbor today, will be yours tomorrow.
EDC must not permit HPD to short-circuit the promised relocation effort, which has not yet occurred.
The City must indemnify recipients of HPD's inappropriate eviction notices from expenses that arise as a consequence of defending against those notices.
The New York City Council must immediately exercise its oversight authority to ensure that the fair treatment and relocation of Willets Point tenant businesses, which was so universally supported during 2007-2008, actually occurs – instead of being swept aside by EDC and HPD.
Interested persons may contact Harold Weinberg, the City attorney who signed the Notice to Terminate Month To Month Tenancy that is displayed on this page above, via telephone at 212-863-8400.