Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Iron Triangle

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.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of biased news reporting, have you noticed the recent Post articles about how dangerous the rides are in Coney Island, and how they should be torn down? Look for a middle of the night bulldozing ala Giuliani's thunderbolt demo.

Anonymous said...

another aggrivating one. mike bloomberg, you are a disgusting fucking rat.

Anonymous said...

From small-business owners and people doing actual productive work that they have years of experience and training doing to what? Minimum wage, expendible workers doing bullshit jobs they hate in bullshit chain stores owned by some of bullshit Bloomberg's buddies. Another brick in the growing wall dividing us slaves from wealthy massa. God bless the free-market (grabbing my nuts) and the worthless, do nothing, add nothing, take everything greedy speculators it enables.

WHO BENEFITS? The most dangerous question a not-rich person can ask.

Anonymous said...

the media, owned by the elite, will always provide distraction or direction for people based on the needs and desires of those elite.

soldiers dying like crazy in iraq, billions being made, but mike vick fights dogs! celeb ditzes flashing punani!

class war intensifies as the nation collapses and everyone grabs for what they can.

better wear your coat...

Anonymous said...

This is Bloombergs fault. First he started his smoking ban and I knew we were in for trouble after that.. Who the f@$&k is he to tell us what do do. I thought this was a free country.

Anonymous said...

This blog is becoming more redundant, tedious, and pointless. What, not enough "Vanishings" in NYC that you had to go all the way out to Willets point to write a vanishing place or something?

Grieve's blog, however, is becoming more interesting and informative. Without a hint of consciousness (you however feels like you have to write or please you readers, to the point that some of your topics are "forced").
And mind you EV Grieve started blogging only about the report of the closing of his favorite watering holes, Sophie's bar and Mona's. And his blog had expanded from that.

Perhaps you need a break. No one's telling you to write something everyday; you owe no one a blog each day. Try to get out of the city for a change. Try DC, Charlotte, or Philly. You'd see that NYC is not the only one that's experiencing gentrification(gentrifiers,i.e. white people with job and money displacing the natives, i.e mostly people of color with little or no money), the drunken douchebags and douchebagueetes that gentrifies a neighborhood. Perhaps that would give you a different or clearer perspective on things.

Anonymous said...

straight out of the slumlord's playbook. neglect and neglect, stall needed maintenance, then come in and condemn the entire building.

Anonymous said...

in response to the comment posted at 12:17, Willet's Point is in NYC. Maybe they're the one that needs to get out more. Thanks for the blog as always J. There are plenty of us that appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Ditto. Love your blog. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I’ve been meaning to remark on Anon#3's comment too. If he or she’s reading this, Willet’s Point is a part of New York City. Having been a Queens resident myself until recently, I always appreciate when VNY makes excursions into the outer boroughs to document the inroads made into them by gentrification (I’ve noticed it tends to follow the train lines). We don’t like being pushed out by children of privilege anymore than the Manhattanites.
There is clearly a lot of anger behind Anon#3’s comments, but, reading them, I find it difficult to figure out just what exactly his problem is with this blog. Heck, all of us know that Jeremiah doesn’t HAVE to publish a blog on these issues, but (call me crazy) I think the fact the he does should be cause for thanks rather than criticism. These are VERY important issues for urban life as we know it, and I, for one, don’t see VNY’s premise becoming redundant or pointless anytime soon. Perhaps a good slogan to remember on this point is, “don’t kill the messenger” (it doesn’t change the message).

And on that note, let me also say thank you, Jeremiah, for everything you do at VNY. Living in this luxury playground we used to call NYC is a little less difficult to bear because of it!

Anonymous said...

THE single most important point in all of the bruhaha surrounding Willets Point is the removal of the hard working Hispanic and other minorities from the jobs theyve been doing for 30 years. CB7 cares little for the 'people' they are supposed to represent, Schulman cares only of her Robert Moses type legacy..THEY manuever 'back door deals' with the lives of those thousands of hard working 'heros' as their pawns. The politicians have virtually become the arbiters of many peoples lives with little or no regard for them, but HUGE regard for the likes of MEGA DEVELOPERS and their politico friends. Maybe Barack is right..Change may be coming...

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks guys--glad to hear people are getting something from this blog. i didn't understand the comment either. of course willets point is part of nyc. and of course i don't have to write 5 days a week. anon did make a couple of good points, though: grieve's blog is a good one, and a i could use a vacation.

Anonymous said...

12:17 belittles Jeremiah for going all the way out to the hinterland of Willets Point (apparently too remote to be consdiered NYC) and then promptly suggests he chronicle entirely different cities hundreds of miles from here. Contradictory much?

As a resident of next-door Flushing this whole Willets Point nonsense is near and dear to me. The way Bloomberg is strong-arming these good people out of their livelihoods is absolutely disgusting and pathetic. Our exalted overlord of a mayor really has sunk to a new low. What a despicable, vile little man.

I can assure all of you that the Yunnies aren't going to live in any half-cocked luxury developments in Willets Point. Those racist suburbanite fascists wouldn't dare live in a tiny neighborhood wedged between Asian Flushing and Latino Corona, nor would they pay top-dollar to be living in a neighborhood directly beneath the approach route of blaringly loud jets from LaGuardia or across the street from a noisy baseball stadium while their streets are jammed with traffic all summer. Toss in the lovely stench of Flushing Bay wafting into your luxury condo every morning at low tide and you have the absolutely least appealing place to live in the city. Nobody with two dimes to rub together is going to live there. Bloomberg and Co. are out of their minds if they think Willets Point is going to become anything rsembling a chic neighborhood, and for them to evict profit-making business owners from the area so they can embark on their quixotic voyage of fools is absurd as well as criminal.

Anonymous said...

Bob...YOU hit the nail on the proverbial head (and extremely well written, to boot). Who would want to live there?..It stinks and Claire should be tarred and feathered for this travesty!

Jill said...

First of all, compared to the 70's Flushing Bay is a paradise. There was a time when you really really could not go near it, it smelled so foul and for several miles along the highway that is adjacent (is that the Van Wyck?? not sure.)

Second, I have a very strong memory of having the first sushi I ever had sometime in the early 1970's in Willets Point, with my parents, in the shadow of Shea Stadium. Eating seaweed and raw fish was certainly state of the art and I bragged about it to all my friends who didn't believe me. I didn't eat it again for at least 15 years when it became chic in the 80's.

So Willets Point was cutting edge in the ethnic food arena, which is where Queens still rocks - Jackson Heights having taken over that bright spot for the last many years.

It is certainly worth the time and space to report on local businesses who are being pushed out (thank you Jeremiah), and this case is really disgusting. We NEED local businesses, they are the heart of our community and drive our economy. Small businesses have invested their lives in these places.

What will we get in its place, a glass hulk made cheaply, sold at ridiculous prices and constructed in shoddy conditions that will kill several construction workers. And the prize to the neighborhood? Target? Kmart? Whole Foods?

Anonymous said...

Let me add my thanks for your blog, Jeremiah.

The corporate mainstream media morons would have us believe that the Willets Point businesses and residents have given up and split, leaving a few stubborn holdouts in a futile fight against the inevitable (I saw a "story" along this line of crap in a recent Daily News) -- it MUST be shown that this is bullshit.

Purposeful neglect and intentional "blighting" is what the city used to to destroy Times Square and now Coney Island. This same method is being used on Willets Point.

Far from being a blight, the Willets Point businesses perform a vital function -- the very fact that they are still in business and have customers proves that they are wanted and needed.

The Willets Pointers ought to sue the city for taking their property taxes but not delivering public services or maintaining the infrastructure.

AND do what they can to remove Claire Schulman, who is nothing more than a protege of Donald Mannes, who, with Stanley Friedman, and others, raped the city under the regime of Mayor Koch, who set the gentrification ball rolling by allowing developers to have their way.

This is not a done deal and there is time to stop the bastards!!

Dan said...

I just accidentally drove through the "Iron Triangle" while getting lost after a Mets game. I was appalled at the condition of the area. No wonder there are so many car repair shops...my car was destroyed after driving over potholes that looked like the aftermath of an astroid. They should open a chain of chiropractor offices as well. What a tragic neglect of what could be a thriving neighborhood.