Rodrigo Sinchi was incentivized to move his auto shop out of Willets Point by city grants economic incentives in 2015. Then he was forced out of the new city-guaranteed location in the Bronx in 2017.
After conceding about $20,000 in lost income, giving up running his own shop, and returning to the Iron Triangle to find a gig just to get by, the city banned traffic from his new workplace in closing Willets Point Boulevard as the first phase of its adjacent megadevelopment.
After more than five years of struggle, Sinchi is trying to reconvene the Sunrise Cooperative, a group of 45 mechanics and body shops in Willets Point, who negotiated grants with the town in 2014 after taking over their properties to develop Willets Indicate.
“We are the survivors,” Sinchi said.
Sinchi’s new goal is to pressure the city to open several streets, which served as access points to much of the Iron Triangle’s cutlet shops. Sinchi brought together a group of five auto shop owners on Saturday September 1 to discuss their strategy for reopening a section of Willets Point Boulevard and several other adjacent streets which he says are stifling their flow of customers and reducing their net profit.
In early July, the New York City Department of Housing and Preservation blocked off Willets Point Boulevard, 36th, 37th, and 38th Avenues as part of its overall Willets Point development plan. On Saturday, the store owners met with Robert LoScalzo, a lawyer and documentary filmmaker who has documented the plight of store owners in the Iron Triangle for years.
“The parody here is so deep and long. It’s even hard to sum it up in a few sentences,” LoScalzo said.
Spencer Flores said she lost $45,000 moving to Willets Point from the failing Bronx warehouse.
“Well now, OK, I’m fine. And then they close the city gate,” Flores said. “Customers don’t come every day. They come once a week or maybe every other day. .
LoScalzo gave the group advice on which politicians to target and how to get the attention of local civic organizations. The group agreed that they would report to the next Community Board 7 committee meeting on Willets Point redevelopment on September 18 and contact Senator Jessica Ramos and Councilman Francisco Moya to advocate on their behalf.
This plan to muster political support is not without its doubters, however. Another Iron Triangle store owner, Irene Prestigiacomo, said she and other allied store owners had contacted the offices of Ramos and Moya since May to seek their support to pave the roads, but could not get them to agree to a meeting. .
Prestigiacomo was not at Saturday’s meeting, but she also began pushing for the reopening of 36th Avenue and Willets Point Boulevard streets to make body shops more accessible.
Moya’s spokesperson said the office has never heard of a named individual, but is aware and sympathetic to the plight of workers at the Sunshine Co-op.
“As everyone knows, the roads at Willets Point have been an annoyance and hazard for years,” the spokesperson wrote. “Last spring, the Council Member accompanied the Department of Transportation on a guided tour of Willets Point to identify areas in desperate need of resurfacing and spoke with local business owners about the state of the roads. Our office is continually looking to improve the area for local traders and is always open to suggestions.
A spokesman for Ramos’ office said he recently replaced his scheduler after discovering a number of instances where voter contact requests had been ignored. The spokesperson added that Ramos plans to schedule a meeting with city workers and stakeholders by November at the latest.