Eminent Domain Coming to Willets Point

rain-cloud.jpgThe New York City Council passed the redevelopment plan for Willets Point last year, essentially making it possible for the city to use the state’s power of eminent domain to seize the small businesses in the neighborhood adjacent to Citi Field–even though the redevelopment plan doesn’t actually have any specific plans for what the city intends to replace the businesses with.

Now, five months later, the city announced this week that they’ve acquired 65% of the property covered by the redevelopment plan. (No doubt, as the Village Voice reminds, the specter of condemnation factored into property owners’ decisions to sell.)

With that accomplished, the city seems to have run out of patience has now turned to getting rid of the rest of the businesses. The Economic Development Corporation will hold a hearing on June 22 to begin the eminent domain process to seize the properties on the remaining 22 acres of privately-owned land (that is, the privately-owned land whose owners were unable to strike a deal with city officials to keep their businesses.)

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports on the city’s program to provide job training for the workers who will be displaced by the project. The program has a participation rate of less than 10% of the neighborhood’s estimated 2,000+ workforce.

One worker’s experience shows how the city left him no choice but to take what it offered:

“Of course, we would rather know that our jobs will be there, that the businesses in Willets Point aren’t going anywhere….We couldn’t win the fight against the city, so we should take advantage of what the city is giving us.”

And that is exactly the train of thought upon which the city, like municipalities across the country, is relying on and hoping for in order to get the rest of the properties they want for its redevelopment.