City Prepares to Seize Willets Point Properties

Tara MacIsaac|The Epoch Times

FUTILE? Some Willets Point, Queens, business owners and workers resist the push from the city to relocate and enable the redevelopment effort to get underway; their resistance may be futile. (Tara MacIsaac/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—Small business owners and workers gathered in front of a gas station in Willets Point, Queens, scared to lose their property and feeling pushed to the periphery. They are facing an uncertain future.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) will move ahead with the first phase of the Willets Point redevelopment plan in the coming weeks, forcing the remaining tenants to leave. Locals expressed their concern and fear in a frosty press conference on Thursday afternoon.

The gathered crowd comprised scrap yard owners and workers, humble shop keepers, and many who have worked in the same place for decades. Unsure about where they would go if the city begins taking over their property against their will—under the eminent domain law—some of them have scraped together meager funds to hire a lawyer and a lobbyist.

The eminent domain law gives the city the power to force owners into selling private land to the city for public use. Property owners will not be left completely in the lurch, however, as they will be compensated with a fair market value determined by a judge. The EDC has also provided career training and relocation to some owners who have willingly sold their properties.

The crux of the matter remains whether the redevelopment of Willets Point is in the interest of the public, as mandated by the eminent domain law.

The city plans to replace the mishmash of auto recycling and repair shops with housing developments, retail space, a hotel, and parkland.

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Texans Facing Own Eminent Domain Fight| Farmlands Threatened Under Bill

Critics say bill dupes property owners|Fast-track legislation’s backers say it curbs eminent-domain abuses

Joe Holley|Chron

AUSTIN — Critics hope to slow down a fast-tracked bill that supporters say will strengthen the rights of property owners facing eminent domain proceedings that sailed through the Senate this week by a 31-0 vote.

Opponents insist the bill, designated as emergency legislation by Gov. Rick Perry, benefits utility companies, the oil and gas industry and other special interests, including private toll road investors still eager to build a Trans-Texas Corridor.

“After four previous attempts to protect Texas landowners from eminent domain for private gain, lawmakers either can’t get it right or won’t get it right,” said Terri Hall, founder of a grass-roots group called Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, or TURF. “Texans deserve to be told the truth and to be given true protection from eminent domain for private gain, not have their lawmakers tell them they have it when they don’t.”

Hall and other critics hope to slow down the fast-track legislation in the House, where it also will receive scrutiny from a Houston state representative who hopes to resolve a long-running eminent-domain dispute between the Texas Medical Center and surrounding neighborhoods.

Property rights at issue

It was Perry’s support of a Trans-Texas Corridor project, with its reliance on eminent domain to acquire right-of-way, that riled rural property owners and the Texas Farm Bureau, and provided ammunition to the governor’s erstwhile political opponents, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White. Both accused Perry of ignoring private property rights by pushing what would have been a multibillion-dollar network of toll roads and highways affecting some half-million acres of farmland. The 450,000-member Texas Farm Bureau endorsed Hutchison over Perry in the GOP primary last year, but now supports the governor for his commitment to the Senate bill, sponsored by state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and its companion piece in the House by state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth.

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