Thursday, April 24, 2014

Willets Vanishing

Photographer Tim Schreier sent in a collection of depressing photographs showing what's become of the Iron Triangle at Willets Point. What had been a bustling community of small business people and their customers is now a dead zone, waiting to be flattened by bulldozers set in motion by Bloomberg.

Tim writes: "I had not been to Willets in a few months and was curious to see how the community of businesses (primarily auto repair and supply businesses) was faring since receiving eviction notices from the city. What I saw was a few businesses hanging on but, for the most part, it was like a ghost town. Willets Point was a thriving, multicultural business community. One could detect not only various languages being spoken but dialects as well. It was a very busy community, businesses thriving individually and collectively.

To the small business owner, it was a place of active trade. A place where they could earn and work. To Citi Field, the city, and other gentrification-driven agendas, it was an eyesore, a neighborhood that could not stand next to Citi Field."

"What stood out most to me was that, on one side of the train tracks, the city was celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The World's Fair Pavilion, and on the other was a clear exercise in plutocracy today. Where Robert Moses stood on eminent domain, The Willets Point Development Project (including Sterling Equities, The Related Companies, and the Queens Development Group) was perfectly aligned.

The only striking difference is that Moses used The World's Fair to develop Corona Park, while at Willets Point businesses are displaced to make way for a 1.4 million square foot shopping mall, a hotel or two, and of course luxury condos overlooking Citi Field (to add insult to injury, over $500 million of public money will be subsidized for the private developers, infrastructure, and land acquisition). In a city where a promise of opportunity is steeped in its history, this is yet another in a growing list of examples of how opportunity is reserved for the wealthy and not for the working poor."

The Fight for Willets Point
The Iron Triangle
Bono Sawdust


Anonymous said...

This article and quotations of the photographer are way off base. The only area of Willets Point that is being vacated is the one-third that is "Phase One", consisting of just 23 acres of the entire 62 acre site.

The photographer (and the article) is extrapolating the conditions of Phase One to the entirety of Willets Point, and the results are not accurate. Did the photographer bother to go and see Phase Two and all of its functioning businesses, or did he lmit his activities to Phase One in order to support his preconceived notion of what is happening in the district?

In fact, numerous businesses that used to be located in Phase One have now moved into Phase Two. It is business as usual throughout Phase Two -- repairing automobiles, recycling parts, processing waste, and doing everything else that has made Willets Point famous for decades.

Mitch said...

It's depressing to think that this is something that DeBlasio can't do anything about even if he wanted to. (Though perhaps he can still force some additional "affordable" housing there.) Another thing that might not have happened if Bloomberg hadn't stolen his third term.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, another stupid shopping center, more Generica. Mom-and-pop businesses don't stand a chance in this oligarchy.

laura r. said...

mitch, dont think de blasio is in your corner, he's not. hes just another b.s. politician in bed w/all the developers. hes just a front man like the rest, he has no choice anyway. look what he did w/the horses.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous (comment #1)

I am the photographer. I would be more than happy to take a tour with you of Phase 2 and Phase 3. Please let me know how we can make this happen. I am eager to give equal attention to all three phases.

Secondly, the reason I focused on this particular business district was the fact that these small businesses are being displaced. Infrastructure was never provided for them. Now, with Sterling Equities and Related Co's involved, Infrastructure is subsidized at an enormous scale. I spoke with many business owners and workers back in the Fall and Early Winter. As well as back in 2011. I spoke with some of the remaining business owners and workers on Tuesday. Displacement is an issue for them, still. Infrastructure was never provided for them. Now, Related Co's and Sterling Equities get involved and Infrastructure subsidies suddenly appear.

So, I would jump at the opportunity to take a walk with you to shoot Phase Two and Three.

Thank you for posting your feelings. I respect your opinion on this matter and hope we can have the chance to do this. Jeremiah knows how to reach me.

Yours, most respectfully,
Tim Schreier
New York, NY

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous (Comment #1),

I am the photographer. Thank you for your comment, as all different viewpoints should be heard.

To be fair, I have been speaking with a number of business owners and workers in the district I photographed since roughly 2011 or 2010. The last time I walk through the district was in the Fall/Early Winter of 2013. I took the walk through and saw such a dramatic difference, spoke with some of the business owners and workers. Displacement was an issue in 2011 and remains one today. These are small micro businesses. They provide incomes for real people. My issue is that they never were afforded any of the Infrastructure or perks being given in the form of subsidies to The Related Co's, Sterling Equity and others. Infrastructure at a grand scale.

That being said. I welcome the opportunity to walk with you throughout Phases Two and Three. I would really like to hear your thoughts on opportunities. I am more than eager to photograph those Phases as well. Please let me know if you might want to do this. I can be reached through Jeremiah on this blog, he knows how to get me and perhaps we can work out a time where together we can explore the Phases that you point out.

Again, thank you for your comment.

Yours, most respectfully,
Tim Schreier

Anonymous said...

I'll take more retail any day over this dump. May we breath easier.

Unknown said...

Oh Laura, trying to throw the focus off the real evil that was Bloomberg. Nice try. I'm sorry but I would take de Blasio or Bloomberg any day and think we at least have more hope than having a billionaire making decisions. You will find no sympathy on this site for your views.

laura r. said...

johnlogston 6:56am, bloomberg was just a puppet like de blasio (& obama). so far the new mayor has done 3 depicible things. wait, theres more to come. you think a communist is any better? both mayors are "corporatists". dont judge a book by its phony b.s. cover, actions speak louder than words. @least w/bloomberg, you knew what you were getting. in this case most voters were suckers. replay of the white house, IMO. waiting for di blasio to put his $ where his mouth is? not holding my breath.

JAZ said...

Intentionally blighting an area and then tossing out the economy that has survived and provided a vital service for decades in spite of the neglect is one of the most disgusting things that has been done by this city in its history.

It is absolutely inexcusable that an administration could get away with this in a so-called 'democracy'...whatever that means anymore.