The possibility of a detox center or supportive housing at a 2-story office building has galvinized the Throggs Neck community.
Two meetings on Thursday, August 3 – one outside of the commercial building at 2800 Bruckner Boulevard and a meeting of the Throggs Neck Strong coalition – indicated the firm resolve of the community to fight what they see as undesirable use for the property.
The coalition meeting, hosted at the Crosstown Diner by Billy and Peter Tsibidis, chaired by Steve Kaufman, an attorney, and co-chaired by Bob Jaen, president of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association, drew a crowd of 150 people.
Throggs Neck Strong was founded specifically to address concerns about 2800 Bruckner Boulevard.
Kaufman said that he got involved after being approached by commercial tenants at the office building being told to vacate by September despite valid leases, and by three local residents who live nearby.
He said that the coalition would continue to hold meetings until the issue is resolved; he called for unity, and for a sense of discipline among those who would be fighting plans against any undesirable use.
“They made a big mistake – they underestimated us,” said Jaen.
Responding to playful calls of “pay your rent” from the crowd, several commercial tenants at the coalition meeting vowed to continue paying their rent if possible, as per their leases, and to stay in the building even under notice by the purported new owner, Michael Fernandes, to vacate by September.
According to Fernandes, he purchased the Limited Liability Corporation that controls the building from Michael D’Alessio, who has a number of companies, include D’Alessio Enterprises in Scarsdale and Michael Paul Enterprises LLC in White Plains.
Billy Tsibidis took issue with Michael D’Alessio’s apparent sale of the building, pointing out that D’Alessio grew up in the community, and asked if he would want a detox facility or something similar next to his home.
Jaen expressed a similar sentiment concerning D’Alessio apparent sale of the property.
The website for Fernandes’ company, Steward Redevelopment, indicates that he provides housing at other locations, promises landlords a 250% to 500% premium on a building’s rent roll if they partner with him, and solicits investments for as low as $10,000.
“I will tell you as far as elected officials on the state level, anything he proposes that requires any kind of state funding is something he is not going to get,” said Senator Jeff Klein at the rally outside of the building.
Councilman James Vacca said that mattresses and furniture moved into the parking area, which made the community suspicious, needed to be removed.
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said at the outdoors gathering that it was difficult to get at the facts, but that it was clear that the city and state knew nothing about proposed plans for social services at the location.
“We are all united in this, the entire elected official delegation,” said Benedetto, who said the elected officials would not let the community down, and urged against the spreading of rumors.
Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, who represents a neighboring assembly district, led the community in a chant of “no clinic, no shelters, no rehab,” outside of the building.
The current tenants of the building are concerned about their own futures.
Herbert Corzantes, who operates a printing company at the building, said that relocating the business would cause hardship.
“It is already causing a lot of harm for our business,” said Corzantes. “Our clients have to be put aside; we told them we have a situation that we have to deal with (and) some expect answers right away.”
The printer said that his company will continue paying its rent and stay in the building.
A nearby homeowner said that whatever use the owner has in mind (that is different from its current use), would not receive her support.
“This is a residential neighborhood,” said Maria Masella. “After 50 years, I want my piece of mind.”
A meeting between Gjonaj, Klein, Benedetto, and Vacca with Hamzah Alameen, a man with a Facebook post recruiting a workforce for “inpatient detox,” at 2800 Bruckner Boulevard, that had been scheduled for Friday, August 4, was cancelled.
Vacca informed constituents over the past weekend, in a Facebook video, that he would not meet any of the building’s new management team without the community being present
However, in an about-face, on Monday, August 8, Vacca met Fernandes secretly, along with two tenants from the building, but failed to inform the community of the meeting.
Vacca claims Fernandes allegedly assured him that there will be no housing and that he needed more details about his plans for a “wellness center.”
Fernandes also told Vacca that he was halting evictions, but may have to relocate tenants to create larger blocks of space.
But on Wednesday Fernandes started evicting tenants again, Vacca learned.
The new landlord told Vacca that D’Alessio has been using the property improperly since 2008, when it opened.
The building was built as a community facility and can only be leased for healthcare, educational and governmental, as well as other limited uses, he claims.
The evictions Fernandes is pursuing are to fulfill the building’s occupancy requirements, so it seems.