Last year, I visited Willets Point in Queens to talk with the owners of Bono Sawdust who are fighting against a city hellbent on stealing their third-generation family business. They're still fighting--and so are many of the business owners of the Iron Triangle. Last night they held a protest at the Community Board meeting. A couple hundred people showed up asking "What about us?" In the end, the vote went to Bloomberg.
Channel 7 News did a totally biased number on it last night, saying the place is basically a shit hole. It's a shit hole because the city WANTS it to be a shit hole, so they can claim it's blighted and needs to be bulldozed to make room for more luxury and more retail.
Blight, as we learned in the NYPL's recent Eminent Domain talk, is in the eye of the beholder. It is not definable. As this film by Robert LoScalzo shows, the Iron Triangle is not blighted. It is vital and alive:
One of the great adventures still left to be had in this docile city, is to take a walk through the Iron Triangle. It feels like the edge of the earth up there. Seagulls wheel overhead. You walk around vast puddles, stepping from island to island. Dogs roam the dirt roads. Men in blue coveralls shine hubcaps and direct the constant flow of traffic into their garages. The car parts hang together in sections--mufflers, rims, sideview mirrors, bumpers--creating beautiful geometries. There is order here amid the seeming chaos.
A tasty lunch can even be had among the iron. I enjoyed rice, beans, and empanadas at the Stadium Restaurant, a Spanish joint tucked in between the corrugated tin muffler shops. It's a great place to get a cheap bite before a Mets game.
When I finished my meal that day, the woman who ran the cafe stepped outside to sweep the front. Look at where she swept. In a mud puddle, on cracked and filthy concrete, she nonetheless swept up stray pieces of paper and other trash. Undeterred by the futility of her act, in the midst of ruin deliberately encouraged by the city, she swept.
This is not a blighted human being. This is not a blighted neighborhood. Pave the streets, install a drainage system, and let these people continue doing their work.