Forty-Five auto-repair businesses forced out of a Queens neighborhood by the city still have not been able to reopen in a new location in the Bronx. Erin Clarke reports on a $7.6 million city project that has little to show for its efforts:
The renovation of an 80,000-square-foot warehouse in the South Bronx isjust about complete. It was supposed to house a collection of 45 auto-repair businesses, but it stands empty. There is not a car in sight.
"You have a section that's just going to do autobody, another section that's going to do electrical, another section that's going to do muffler shop," said the local city councilman, Rafael Salamanca, as he toured the building with NY1.
For years, the 45 businesses operated in the shadow of Shea Stadium, and then Citi Field, in Willets Point, Queens.
But Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration wanted them out to make way for a $3 billion residential and retail development.
The city paid them $7.6 million to move to the South Bronx, but their money ran out before their new home - the warehouse - was completed.
"There were cost overruns, as there always are in construction. There was significant delays, which have required them to pay a great level of leasing costs than they would before they were actually able to generate revenue," said Sunrise Cooperative Attorney Thomas Califano.
The 45 businesses operate as the Sunrise Cooperative.
Their money gone, the businesses face eviction by the owner of the warehouse, but they have filed for bankruptcy hoping to prevent that. They want the city's Economic Development Corporation to provide $3 million more so they can pay their bills and finish construction.
The businesses say they are not asking for a handout. They are willing to pay the city back.
But the EDC told NY1 late Thursday the businesses should look elsewhere to borrow money.
Salamanca says it's the city's responsibility to help these mostly immigrant businesses.
"These businesses didn't ask to be put in this position," he said.
And he warns that letting the co-op fail might make other Bronx businesses, including stores along Jerome Avenue, which the city also wants to relocate, wary of dealing with city agencies.
"EDC can turn around and take the rug from underneath them and do exactly what they're doing with Sunrise Co-op," Salamanca said.
As for that $3 billion development planned in Willets Point....
Because of legal challenges, it still hasn't been built.