Monday, October 7, 2013

The Fight for Willets Point

If you really want to see how the Bloomberg administration operates, look at what they're doing to the people of Willets Point in Queens. Blighting through neglect, land grabbing, baiting and switching. Lies and more lies. In the end, dozens of working class people, mostly Latinos, are about to lose their thriving businesses--and not for the affordable housing once promised. What is the City putting in? The biggest shopping mall in town.

Watch the whole story in this new short film:

The final vote on the Willets Point plan will be this week, on October 9. Please don't let these people be ignored. Call or email Council Member Julissa Ferreras at (718) 651-1917 and tell her to vote no on Bloomberg's inhumane project that hundreds of locals are protesting against.

I first visited the Iron Triangle, as the section of auto body shops is called, years ago, when a friend introduced me to it. We were seeing the Mets at Shea and wanted to get something to eat before the game. We went to the one of the little places that serve the auto workers and their customers, and filled up on big plates of chicken, rice, and beans.

I went back in 2007 to interview the Bonos, makers of sawdust for three generations. Since then, every now and then, I try to get up to Willets Point and went recently. When you arrive at the edge of the Iron Triangle, just across the street from the slick new Citibank baseball stadium, you feel like you're passing through a portal, from one world to another, starkly different.

It looks like a post-apocalyptic landscape, its roads ruined and filled with dirty water, ever since the City stopped providing maintenance services in a blatant act of blighting. The wind blows differently here. You feel how faraway you are from the city proper, like you're on the edge of the known continent.

You walk past tremendous pillars made of rubber tires, dozens of car doors stacked like upright files, walls hung with hundreds of shiny hubcaps. From the open garages come the sounds of salsa music and barking dogs. People from all over town bring their cars for new tires, new brake lights, new mufflers.

The Iron Triangle supports thousands of people, and not just the mechanics and their families. It sustains a sub-economy within it. People set up grills on the street, cooking meat to sell with beans and rice. One woman goes around hawking bootleg DVDs. A man pulls a rickety shopping cart, filling it with scrap donated by the mechanics. A Mr. Softee truck circles endlessly.

You might not like the Iron Triangle. It's dirty and cluttered, and it feels Third World. But it's a real place, where people own their own businesses and do what they need to support themselves and their families. Don't let Bloomberg just steal it away. Don't let him put up yet another glassy "neighborhood." Call or email Council Member Julissa Ferreras at (718) 651-1917 and tell her to vote no.

The Iron Triangle
Bono Sawdust


VisuaLingual said...

I recommend the documentary Foreign Parts as a fascinating peek into this neighborhood. Not the best-made doc ever, but interesting and sad nonetheless.

Ivan said...

My retired father supplements his meager retirement check by selling scrap to the establishments at Willets Point.

I remember driving around a station wagon in the '80s that had 3 different colors. The left front bumper and driver side door were courtesy of some junkyard in Willets Point. Not every is Bloomberg and can afford a new car if your current one is busted.

Anonymous said...

The area does NOT need another shopping mall. The relatively new Sky View Mall is a short walk away, and two blocks farther east is the Main St. shopping center that includes under-used spaces that once housed entire department stores.

Additonally, what damage would such construction do to the newly restored waterways that have been "naturalized" at great expense, the newly clean creek attracting and supporting varieties of water birds that weren't seen until then?

JAZ said...

Anon 1:34 hit the nail on the head; there is a TON of underutilized space on Main Street's shopping corridor which is already set up to take businesses - this would not require mass displacement of an entire community.

Unfortunately, I think we all know the desire to remove this community from the NYC landscape comes from a pretty dark place, and is the complete antithesis to everything this city stood for until the very recent past.

Anonymous said...

I am so furious about this land grab. This is a thriving area- we really do come from all over to get our car parts and repairs- NYC deliberately let the place go- no maintenance whatsoever on the streets and no drainage- then they complain that the area is a "blight".
Flushing has tons of malls, box stores and actual shopping districts near homes and transit- it is not about "needing a mall" it is about the Bloombergification of everything he hates, everything that is real and authentic, things that are ethnic or low rent, things that are New York.

Rigel said...

I wrote about this neighborhood a number of years ago. There is one resident of Willets Point - total - and he would certainly agree with what is being said here about his home.