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YONKERS-Small businesses displaced by the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center on September 11 are being offered six months of free rent for office space at the Ridge Hill complex here while they try to find permanent space in Manhattan or elsewhere.

The city, in cooperation with New York State, created the Small Business Recovery Center in roughly 130,000 sf at the 240,000-sf Ridge Hill office complex near the New York State Thruway.

Yonkers Deputy Mayor Philip Amicone announced the formation of the facility at a press conference Monday morning at the Ridge Hill building. Amicone was filling in for Yonkers Mayor John Spencer who was traveling to Washington D.C., to meet with HUD officials about a $35 million grant to revitalize a section of the city.

The Small Business Recovery Center will be housed at the former Lockheed Martin site, which is located on 84 acres located nearby the Austin Avenue retail development. The program is a partnership of the Empire State Development Corp., the Governor’s Office for Small Cities, the New State Office of General Services, the city of Yonkers and the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency.

At the press briefing, the Deputy Mayor bristled at a press report that quoted an unnamed senior advisor to Mayor Giuliani who stated that the administration was unhappy about the proposal. “This is like kicking someone … when they are on the way down,” the senior advisor charged in the report.

Amicone says the report gave the false impression that the city of Yonkers was trying to “steal” business from New York City. He responds to the charge by saying, “Twenty one million sf of office space was lost in New York City three weeks ago, 125,000 sf is being offered for six months as a temporary relocation deal. We are not stealing anyone. I am sure the mayor of New York City does not share the comments of someone who might have been overzealous in his administration when he made those comments.”

The Deputy Mayor notes that the Small Business Recovery Center idea was based on meetings between the city of Yonkers and the state of New York’s Empire State Development Corp. No officials with the city of New York were present during those discussions, but Amicone says he believes that the city was most likely given information on the project.

Amicone stresses, “We are offering this space, with New York State, free of charge for six months to those small businesses so they can do business while they look for a permanent relocation place, be it in New York City, which is what we fully expect, or outside the city and that could be anywhere in Westchester County.”

City officials did not release a specific statement from the Giuliani administration on the establishment of the Small Business Recovery Center at press time.

In a statement released to the press, Governor George Pataki stated, “New York State is committed to helping the many small businesses that suffered devastation and destruction as a result of the World Trade Center attack. By providing these companies with a place to work along with the basic tools to conduct business, the Small Business Recovery Center will enable them to get back on their feet and resume operations in New York State.”

Yonkers Mayor John Spencer was also quoted in a prepared statement explaining the reasons behind the formation of the center. “While extending our sympathies to the victims and their families, as a city, Yonkers has been fully supportive of the rescue efforts by sending our firefighters and police to assist and now is honored to work hand-in-hand with Governor Pataki to make facilities available for displaced businesses at the Yonkers WTC Relocation Center,” he stated.

The IKEA retail chain has donated 150 work stations and chairs and IBM has contributed 150 computers to be used by small businesses that decide to locate to the center on a short-term basis while they look for permanent space. In addition, Lightpath has already wired the building for fiber optic so that businesses can become operational as soon as they can Amicone notes.

Those businesses interested in obtaining more information about the Small Business Recovery Center in Yonkers should call 1-518-292-5200, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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