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Deadline Arrives For Willets Point Shop Owners To Move

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s been years in the making, but now it is time to move for some business owners in Willets Point, Queens.

Martha Gualotuna has now closed the door on her Willets Point auto shop. For 10 years she painted cars herself in the tiny space. “I just feel frustrated,” said the mother of three.

As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported Friday, Gualotuna is one of about 120 – mostly immigrant – auto shop owners and scrap metal dealers who have been pushed off of the 23 acres of land across from Citi Field to make room for a $3 billion neighborhood filled with shopping, condos, and hotels.

“We’ve been spending 12 years in here for nothing,” said Zack Arzo, who will close his shop at the end of this month.

Of the owners who had to leave, only half have done so, Champion reported.

Some owners also missed a final deadline last week to get rent compensation from the city in exchange for vacating, and now have eviction proceedings underway against them.

“It’s very hard to find a property with the rent that we’re paying here. And it’s going to be harder for us to move everything – all the equipment that we have,” Arzo said.

One shop owner who already moved on left a sign behind, but other owners who have to be out in a matter of days say they’re still struggling to figure out where to go, Champion reported.

Arturo Olaya formed a group to help owners leave and says their livelihoods are threatened. He and others in the area are demanding more help setting up shop elsewhere.

“We need relocation. Let’s say the city give these people $10,000, $20,000, $7,000, what they gonna do with the money?!” Olaya said.

Gualotuna says she has yet to receive her rent compensation from the city, which has further complicated her closing.

The city says it doesn’t have a firm eviction date for remaining owners, who were due out on Thursday, Champion reported.

Those owners who missed out on the deadline to receive rent compensation from the city can still get all of their relocation costs paid for.

The development project also impacts hundreds of other neighboring shop owners, who have a different deadline to vacate.

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