Friday, December 4, 2009

Joe Ardizzone: "last man standing"

From the Queens Chronicle:

Call him the last man standing. Joe Ardizzone has lived in Willets Point all his 77 years and says he’s not about to leave now.

Ardizzone remembers growing up in a virtual wildlife sanctuary, with the thrill of watching migrating birds every year and frogs, quail and pheasants as regular sights. “I haven’t seen a frog here in 40 years,” he said.

His father built a couple of houses but the neighborhood never took off as a residential area. The factories and auto shops came after the 1939 World’s Fair. “I stay here by choice,” Ardizzone said. “I like the people around me. They are hard-working.”

He is angry over the way the city has forced the project on those who work in Willets Point. “It’s strictly a dictatorship, not the American way. They are taking property from us and the people are paying for it.”

Ardizzone vows to continue the fight. “The city should not be in the real estate business,” he said. “I’m not moving. I’m fighting for democracy and for all those who lost their lives fighting for it.”

Supporting him are members of Willets Point United, business owners who are fighting to keep their properties. Jerry Antonacci, owner of Crown Container, a waste transfer station there for 33 years, is one of the group’s spokespersons.

“It’s discouraging to live in a city where they don’t care about people’s property,” Antonacci said.

Jake Bono, whose family has owned a sawdust business for more than 75 years, most of the time in Willets Point, said the outcome in New London, “goes to show it’s just wrong to take people’s property. The city failed and they destroyed lives,” Bono said.

He considers what happened in Connecticut “a victory, not a loss” for Willets Point businesses that want to stay. “It shows clearly that eminent domain doesn’t work. It fails,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which upheld the city’s use of eminent domain for private redevelopment. “What happened in New London made 43 states change their eminent domain laws to only allow it for a true public purpose.”

Antonacci and Bono believe time is on their side and the city will stall on the project because it doesn’t have the funding. “The city has no money and no plan,” Antonacci said. “It will be delayed for years and years.”

“We’ll fight, but nothing is going on now. We’re just waiting and still intend to continue,” Antonacci said.