Members of Sunrise Cooperative, a group representing employees and owners of small automotive businesses, announced a hunger strike to protest displacement under the first phase of the massive redevelopment of Willets Point.
Inside shops and standing in the pouring rain Monday morning, determined workers urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to allow the businesses to stay at Willets Point for at least a few extra months to allow them more time to secure a Certificate of Operation for a new location in the Bronx.
According to a press release by Sunrise Cooperative, a deal would relocate 17 Willets Point businesses to Leggett Avenue in the Bronx. It was expected that the new shops would be ready, but as June 1 came and went, they were still waiting.
Single mother Julia Sandoval has been working in the Willets Point automotive industry for 17 years to support her children.
According to Sandoval, her doctor advised against participating in the hunger strike due to her diabetic condition, but she decided to participate to show how serious she is about saving her job.
“If they are going to close my place, what am I going to do?” Sandoval asked. “We don’t know what to do.”
Marco Neira, president of Sunrise Cooperative, said all the owners want is more time. Neira is confident the hunger strike will continue until the mayor’s office responds to their requests.
Pedro Estevez, president and founder of the United Auto Merchants Association, spoke on behalf of many workers, most of whom only speak Spanish.
Over a year ago, Estevez found an 85,000-square-foot site in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx with the intention of relocating the businesses displaced by the first phase of the redevelopment. Reluctantly, most business owners agreed to make the costly move, seeing no other options.
But without the Certificate of Operation, the shops were unable to move by the June 1st deadline.
Estevez said the location was deemed suitable for manufacturing by the Department of Buildings, but the certificate did not specify auto repair uses.
“Honestly, they are trying to do the right thing,” Estevez said of the displaced business owners. “They are trying to be independent and to independently fulfill the obligation of supporting their families. They don’t want to be dependent on government hand-me-downs.”
by Francesca Campione
Business owners who work in the shadow of Citi Field used this week’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game festivities as an opportunity to shed light on the harsh realities they contend go under the radar just across the street.
Inside the ballpark, swarms of sports fans enjoyed the baseball spotlight with the Home Run Derby Monday and the annual All-Star Game the following evening. But just before Tuesday’s first pitch, auto shop owners held up signs accusing the city of working with their neighbor’s home team to kick them out in accordance with city’s ambitious redevelopment plans.
“A lot of people have the impression that the Mets are doing well,” said Discount Mufflers owner Jamie Satti, of the team across 126th Avenue. “They have no idea what they are doing to the business owners in Willets Point.”
Satti and a crowd of fellow business owners and supporters rallied Tuesday evening against the city for serving them with eviction notices in front of his 37-03 126th St. business just as the crowd grew for the big game. He said he hoped the timing would help draw attention to the auto shop haven’s rocky and dirty streets littered with puddles of standing water and neglect.
“Nobody cares what is going to happen to us,” he said. “We have no voice and no support.”
The eviction notices came this week from the city Economic Development Corp. as the result of more than 10 years of redevelopment negotiations involving Willets Point’s future, which will include retail, hotel, commercial and residential upgrades. A spokesman for the EDC said the first phase of the project included the renovation of the 23-acre piece of land in 2014 at the heart of Tuesday’s protest.
Auto shop owners like Satti have been told they were offered the city’s support in relocating their shops elsewhere to communities like Maspeth, but many said the help has been lackluster and half-hearted.
“The city is lying to us about this relocation plan,” said Marco Neira, a tenant in Willets Point and president of the Willets Point Defense Committee. “We pay taxes every year and these are the conditions we have to show for it. If they want this land, they have to give us a place to go.”
The Queens Business Outreach Center of Corona released a report this week outlining the importance of the Willets Point auto repair district, referring to it as a unique, regional destination with about 150 predominately Latino and immigrant-owned businesses and about 1,711 workers.
For months, the city has been shutting down businesses throughout the $3 billion project’s footprint on the grounds of newfound safety issues and construction concerns, the owners said. Borough President Helen Marshall also gave the green light last week to a mall that would be built in an area currently used for Citi Field parking, sparking more outrage from members of the community.
“We are all small businesses, and we are all minorities,” said Pedro Estevez, president and founder of the nonprofit United Auto Merchants Association. “We are behind these business owners because we feel an injustice is being done. If they hurt one small business, they hurt all of us.”
Nueva York, USA.- Mas de una veintena de Dominicanos recibieron este pasado Sabado, su certificado que lo acredita como nuevos tecnicos en la industria automotriz, en un acto donde asistieron los asambleistas por los distritos, 82 y 77, el Dominicano, Nelson Castro y la afroamericana, Vanessa Gibson, respectivamente.
La actividad fue organizada por la, United Auto Merchants Association, (UAMA por sus siglas en ingles) y las clases se impartieron en Elite Auto Tech training Center, bajo la supervision del reconocido profesor, Jorge Suazo.
El referido acto se inicio con la bendicion ecumenica del reverendo, Raymon Rivera, seguido de las palabras de bienvenida y agradecimiento del director ejecutivo de UAMA, señor Pedro J. Estevez, asi como la presentacion de los invitados especiales, entre los que se encontraban, la asistente del congresista, Jose Serrano, y el activista comunitario, señor Pedro Alvarez, entre otros.
” Me siento muy contento en esta noche, al ver realizado uno de mis anhelados sueños, el ver graduados a tantos conciudadanos,como tecnicos en la industria automotriz, con la colaboracion profesional del profesor Suazo,” dijo Pedro Estevez a los medios de prensa presentes.
Los graduandos que recibieron su certificado fueron, Luis F Mercedes, Arturo Eurosa, William D Jimenez, Junior Veloz, Eligio Vargas, Alejandro Mercedes, Oscar Peña, Salustiano A Ramos, Hairo de Olmo, Jhonabel Blanco, Rafael E Veras y victor B Garcia.
Tambien se graduaron, Sergio Ayora, Jose Taveras, Francisco martinez, Roger V Adriano, Julius Santiago, Luis Cedano, Juan Cruceta, Luis Diaz, Ramon Queliz, Yasell Cardenas, Gregorio Polonia, Julio Alcantara y Amos Jnathan Martinez.
Por Víctor Gomez
Pedro Estevez is the President/ Founder of United Auto Merchants Association. UAMA is an non profit 501c3organization created to assist Auto Merchants in obtaining licenses, permits, and operate their business in full compliance with the guidelines of the NYS and NYC. This association with make a gigantic impact on the community.