The Lives Affected By Redevelopment In Willets Point, New York City

Registered Landmark
A tire shop that has closed since I photographed it.

 

Photographer Greg Brophy is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.  From his project ‘The Iron Triangle‘.  To see Greg’s projects click on any image.

 

No Teardrops A Rapper turned mechanic who used to get into trouble with the law but now has a large following of his music on YouTube.

No Teardrops
A Rapper turned mechanic who used to get into trouble with the law but now has a large following of his music on YouTube.

 

No Light at the End of the Tunnel Two workers that get paid for directing cars to shops they work for.

No Light at the End of the Tunnel
Two workers that get paid for directing cars to shops they work for.

 

In a small corner of Queens in the shadow of Citibank Field there is a place that looks like the set of a dystopian movie. Willets Point, Queens, known for its junkyards, auto repair shops and recycling plants, has been nicknamed “The Iron Triangle” and for good reason. The streets are unpaved, cars are stacked on top of each other and tires float in puddles the size of lakes.

 

The Persistence of Steel A customer waits while they fix his car

The Persistence of Steel
A customer waits while they fix his car.

 

People Used to Sleep Here Jose was giving me a tour of the area and was telling me that a day or two before, workers were sleeping in the storage containers until the police chased them out.

People Used to Sleep Here
Jose was giving me a tour of the area and was telling me that a day or two before, workers were sleeping in the storage containers until the police chased them out.

 

The businesses have been fighting a long battle with past and current NYC administrations over eminent domain, but they have lost. The area has now been slated for redevelopment. There has been talk about turning it into everything from an Olympic Stadium to a convention center.

 

Trapped The day I met Jose, he came home to find that his wife and child had left him. The only thing left in the apartment was a bucket of turtles he was carrying around to give to his daughter if he ever finds her.

Trapped
The day I met Jose, he came home to find that his wife and child had left him. The only thing left in the apartment was a bucket of turtles he was carrying around to give to his daughter if he ever finds her.

 

Rick A long time mechanic who worked in Willets Point with his sister who sells food and drinks to workers.

Rick
A long time mechanic who worked in Willets Point with his sister who sells food and drinks to workers.

 

My motive in creating The Iron Triangle was to create a visual record of the area before it is all sanitized by shopping malls and frozen yogurt stands. To examine the stories of the people I met there – the immigrant worker whose family just left him; the small business owner being pushed out against his will; the people who work on minimum wage and are trying to get their car fixed cheaply because they need to get to work tomorrow.

 

Still Smiling Through All This Hugo works at one of the many shops still running, but for how long?

Still Smiling Through All This
Hugo works at one of the many shops still running, but for how long?

 

Beyond This Point Ali opened this place with his brother Frank who passed away from cancer. Now he fears that the owners of the property will sell it and he will be forced to close.

Beyond This Point
Ali opened this place with his brother Frank who passed away from cancer. Now he fears that the owners of the property will sell it and he will be forced to close.

 

These photographs show an area that was forgotten in time and asks the question: Does every place need to be completely developed? Is there no place for the run down, the beat up and untamed or does every corner of New York City have to be cleaned up and sanitized of its past? Willets Point is like a one eyed junk yard dog – only scary if you don’t know how to approach it.

 

All Points Lead Away A Shop that has been closed and is now a parking lot.

All Points Lead Away
A Shop that has been closed and is now a parking lot.

 

See also:

Coney Island Lost

By Greg Brophy

 


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