Business Owners vs. the M.B.A. Mayor

sitdown 7 Business Owners vs. the M.B.A. MayorLocation: How long has your family been out here?

Mr. Fodera: We’re just about an 80-year-old company; we’ve always operated in the city of New York, but we’ve been in Willets Point in this facility for almost 35 years.

 

Why’d you move out to Willets?

It’s tremendous as far as highway access, as well as the labor force, and it put us very close to our customers.

 

You do food distribution?

Bakery ingredient distribution. My clients start from the mom-and-pop stores right up to the biggest bakeries in the city.

 

How many employees do you have?

On this site, there’s over 200 employees. Fifty-five work for me, the rest work for other companies that rent space from me.

 

How many acres do you have?

A little more than three and one-quarter.

 

Does that make you one of the bigger landowners?

Yes. … Tully’s probably the largest. House of Spices probably second. I’m probably third.

 

With the infrastructure—I assume the city hadn’t been maintaining it well in the ’70s, either?

When we moved here, it wasn’t this way. … They plowed the snow; they picked up the garbage. But shortly thereafter, they stopped providing all the services here. There’s no sanitary sewers; the storm sewers are damaged and broken—they haven’t repaired them. They haven’t repaired streets; they haven’t repaired the sidewalks. They don’t collect trash.

 

Since you’ve been out here, multiple administrations have brought forward plans. Has it been a constant push from mayor after mayor to do something?

The first borough president I met with was Donald Manes, who came in here and sat in this conference room and told us to pack our bags and, ‘We gotta get the hell out of here.’ … He said, ‘We’re going to put a football stadium here.’ I think at the time it was the Jersey Generals. Then we went through one exercise with the New York Mets; then we went through another stink with the Jets; then more recently, it was the 2012 Olympics; and now it’s this concept that [the Bloomberg administration] came up with.

Is this one by the Bloomberg administration the most concerted effort?

This one probably has the most traction, yeah. But [Mayor Bloomberg] is also, in my estimation, one that loves to embrace eminent domain. He—and this is just my opinion—he’s for the politically connected developers. If he says he wants to embrace small businesses and family-owned businesses, well what’s down here? We’ve got over 260 businesses. They’re all family-owned businesses. They’re all second-, third-, I think there’s one that’s even a fourth-generation business. And now he wants to displace us because we don’t fit his vision or profile of what he wants? That’s undemocratic and un-American.

 

Why do you say he’s for the developers as opposed to for redevelopment?

Because if he was, he’d be actively over here fixing this place and providing the services that we want.

 

The city’s argument with that is that they need to do the whole site at once to make it developable.

In 1969, this country put two men on the moon and brought them back alive. Now you’re telling me that we can’t put a couple of sewer pipes in?

 

With eminent domain, are you completely against the concept, or its use here?

I think there are certain, very, very rare circumstances when that should be used. For instance: highways, power stations, things of that nature—what it was intended for. For them to tell me that my building is underutilized is an insult.