Willets Point

Willets Point
10/10/2008 04:06 PM
Willets Point

Willets Point is a triangular-shaped neighborhood in northern Queens bordered by Roosevelt Avenue on the South, 126th Street and Citi Field on the West, Northern Boulevard / Whitestone Expressway on the North and the Van Wyck Expressway / Flushing Creek on the east.

The area was named after Willets Point Boulevard, which once ran along the western edge of Flushing Creek and over a (long demolished) bridge to a cape named Willets Point at the confluence of the East River and Long Island Sound. That older Willets Point was named after early 18th-century landowners Charles and Martha Willet and was purchased from heirs of the Willets in 1857 for what would become Fort Totten

Through the 1930s, this area on Flushing Creek, like much of eastern Queens, remained relatively rural, despite the presence of a massive ash dump just to the south on 1,200 acres that had opened in the early 20th century and was run by the Brooklyn Ash Company and Tammany politician John McCarthy. Joseph Ardizzone, who was born in Willets Point in 1933, recalled his family keeping chickens and goats on their property. Mayor LaGuardia and development czar Robert Moses got the dump closed in 1934 and it was subsequently covered with topsoil to create the fairgrounds for the 1939 World's Fair. Based on a random sampling of DOB Certificates of Occupancy for the area, Willets Point apparently started becoming the home to auto repair and scrap businesses in the early 1950s.

In the early 1960s, Robert Moses wanted to finish the job he started in 1939 and turn Willets Point into parking and parkland for the 1964 World's Fair Complex, which was being built on the old site of the 1939 Fair. However, local business owners hired a young Mario Cuomo to successfully fight the state's plan. The Ed Koch unsuccessfully tried to get a football stadium built there in the 1980s and Rudy Giuliani failed to have the area cleared for a new Mets Stadium, which ultimately got built on the parking lot between Willets Point and the existing Shea Stadium.

In the heritage of Moses and his contempt for working people, the Bloomberg Administration unveiled a plan in 2007 to evict the current inhabitants by eminent doman and transform the area into a mixed-use playground for the rich. The plan would incorporate retail and hotel space as well as a new convention center while providing recreational access to what could be a lovely waterfront.

Aside from the moral question of whether it would be right to use eminent domain to close a thriving collection of businesses and throw their (largely immigrant) empoyees out of work, the location is actually a fairly crappy place to put human beings. It sits at the confluence of major expressways and under the approach path to LaGuardia Airport. In a city with epidemic rates of asthma due to air pollution, putting any families with children in the area would not be a great idea.

In the Fall of 2008 I decided to take a walk around this much-maligned community and see what all the shouting was about. What I found was a vibrant collection of businesses operating in third-world conditions. The area is less blighted than neglected by the city, with the most obvious issue being the absence of storm sewers and maintained roads. But in spite of all that, there seemed to be no shortage of clientele for the dozens of auto repair shops. And other activites here, like recycling and school bus storage, have to be done someplace - do we think that school buses just magically come from the sky and recycling just magically gets converted into new reams of copy paper?!

It would seem to me that the approach should be, "Mend it, not end it." Put in sewers and pave the roads and NYC's psychotic real estate market will take care of the rest. But in the face of greedy, ruthless developers and a billionare mayor who almost always manages to get his way, it remains to be seen whether this rag-tag band of hardscrabble business owners can hold back yet another big-government onslaught on their way of life.

Willets Point Boulevard

Willets Point Boulevard is the community's Main Street, running diagonally SW to NE through the heart of the community with numbered avenues extending off to the west. Willets Point Boulevard terminates at Northern Boulevard and the Whitestone Expressway.

IRT train tracks headed to Flushing at Willets Point Boulevard
10/10/2008 05:18 PM
IRT train tracks headed to Flushing at Willets Point Boulevard
126th Street and Willets Point Ave at Roosevelt Avenue
10/10/2008 03:40 PM
126th Street and Willets Point Ave at Roosevelt Avenue
Willets Point Boulevard
10/10/2008 03:40 PM
Willets Point Boulevard
Craftsman Muffler, 126-01 Roosevelt Avenue
10/10/2008 03:41 PM
Craftsman Muffler, 126-01 Roosevelt Avenue
Willets Point Boulevard
10/10/2008 03:41 PM
Willets Point Boulevard
126-45 Willets Point Boulevard
10/10/2008 03:42 PM
126-45 Willets Point Boulevard
Puddles on Willets Point Boulevard
10/10/2008 03:42 PM
Puddles on Willets Point Boulevard
Mister Softee; 126-58 Willets Point Boulevard
10/10/2008 03:43 PM
Mister Softee; 126-58 Willets Point Boulevard
Mister Softee; Willets Point Boulevard
10/10/2008 03:43 PM
Mister Softee; Willets Point Boulevard
Massive puddle - Willets Point Boulevard at 38th Ave.
10/10/2008 03:44 PM
Massive puddle - Willets Point Boulevard at 38th Ave.
38th Ave in the shadow of Citi Field
10/10/2008 03:44 PM
38th Ave in the shadow of Citi Field
Mario Auto Radio, 126-82 Willets Point Blvd.
10/10/2008 03:45 PM
Mario Auto Radio, 126-82 Willets Point Blvd.
Willets Point Boulevard
10/10/2008 03:45 PM
Willets Point Boulevard
Master Express Deli, 126-96 Willets Point Blvd.
10/10/2008 03:46 PM
Master Express Deli, 126-96 Willets Point Blvd.
Puddles on Willets Point Blvd.
10/10/2008 03:47 PM
Puddles on Willets Point Blvd.
Puddles on Willets Point Blvd.
10/10/2008 03:47 PM
Puddles on Willets Point Blvd.
Dacar Auto Radiator, Willets Point Blvd. at 37th Ave.
10/10/2008 03:47 PM
Dacar Auto Radiator, Willets Point Blvd. at 37th Ave.
Willets Point Blvd
10/10/2008 03:47 PM
Willets Point Blvd
America
10/10/2008 03:48 PM
America
House of Spices, 127-40 Willets Point Blvd.
10/10/2008 03:49 PM
House of Spices, 127-40 Willets Point Blvd.
Willets Point, Play Ground for the Politically Connected Developers
10/10/2008 03:49 PM
Willets Point, Play Ground for the Politically Connected Developers
New Mustang Auto Parts - 127-54 Willets Point Blvd.
10/10/2008 03:50 PM
New Mustang Auto Parts - 127-54 Willets Point Blvd.
Evergreen Recycling / House of Spices
10/10/2008 03:50 PM
Evergreen Recycling / House of Spices
Municipal solid waste truck
10/10/2008 03:51 PM
Municipal solid waste truck
Evergreen Recycling
10/10/2008 03:51 PM
Evergreen Recycling
Evergreen Recycling
10/10/2008 03:51 PM
Evergreen Recycling
Evergreen Recycling
10/10/2008 03:51 PM
Evergreen Recycling
128-30 Willets Point Boulevard (2006)
10/10/2008 03:51 PM
128-30 Willets Point Boulevard (2006)
128-30 Willets Point Boulevard (2006)
10/10/2008 03:53 PM
128-30 Willets Point Boulevard (2006)
Atlantic Express school bus depot - 127-45 34th Ave.
10/10/2008 03:53 PM
Atlantic Express school bus depot - 127-45 34th Ave.
Airplane on landing approach to LaGuardia
10/10/2008 03:53 PM
Airplane on landing approach to LaGuardia
Municipal waste truck
10/10/2008 03:54 PM
Municipal waste truck
Live tree - Willets Point Blvd. terminating at Northern Boulevard
10/10/2008 03:54 PM
Live tree - Willets Point Blvd. terminating at Northern Boulevard
Fedora Foods - 129-02 Northern Boulevard
10/10/2008 03:54 PM
Fedora Foods - 129-02 Northern Boulevard
Fedora Foods - 129-02 Northern Boulevard
10/10/2008 03:55 PM
Fedora Foods - 129-02 Northern Boulevard
Fedora Foods (since 1930?)
10/10/2008 03:56 PM
Fedora Foods (since 1930?)
34th Avenue
10/10/2008 03:59 PM
34th Avenue
127th Place
10/10/2008 04:00 PM
127th Place

127th Street

127th Street runs down the center of Willets Point between Northern Boulevard and Willets Point Avenue.

Muffler art - 127-16 34th Ave
10/10/2008 04:01 PM
Muffler art - 127-16 34th Ave
127th Street north of 34th Ave
10/10/2008 04:01 PM
127th Street north of 34th Ave
34th Ave east of 127th St
10/10/2008 04:01 PM
34th Ave east of 127th St
127th St headed south to Willets Point Avenue
10/10/2008 04:02 PM
127th St headed south to Willets Point Avenue
127th St - Dumpsters
10/10/2008 04:02 PM
127th St - Dumpsters
127th St - Pipe
10/10/2008 04:03 PM
127th St - Pipe
127-18 36th Ave
10/10/2008 04:04 PM
127-18 36th Ave
127-32 36th Ave
10/10/2008 04:04 PM
127-32 36th Ave
127th St at Willets Point Avenue
10/10/2008 04:05 PM
127th St at Willets Point Avenue

126th Street

126th St forms the western boundary of Willets Point with Citi Field on the western side of the street.

Citi Field parking lot, 126th St in the background
10/10/2008 03:38 PM
Citi Field parking lot, 126th St in the background
Express Deli, 38-11 126th St
10/10/2008 04:28 PM
Express Deli, 38-11 126th St
Spotless M&G Shop, 38-05 126th ST
10/10/2008 04:25 PM
Spotless M&G Shop, 38-05 126th ST
38th Ave east of 126th St
10/10/2008 04:25 PM
38th Ave east of 126th St
126th St at 38th Ave
10/10/2008 04:25 PM
126th St at 38th Ave
Muffler art, 126th St at 38th Ave
10/10/2008 04:24 PM
Muffler art, 126th St at 38th Ave
126-30 37th Ave
10/10/2008 04:21 PM
126-30 37th Ave
37th Avenue looking west to Citi Field
10/10/2008 04:06 PM
37th Avenue looking west to Citi Field
37th Ave - wrecking yard
10/10/2008 04:06 PM
37th Ave - wrecking yard
Citi Field at the end of 37th Avenue
10/10/2008 04:09 PM
Citi Field at the end of 37th Avenue
Justice for Willets Point truck
10/10/2008 04:10 PM
Justice for Willets Point truck
Abandoned car, 37th Ave
10/10/2008 04:21 PM
Abandoned car, 37th Ave
Feinstein Iron Works, Founded 1931, 37th Ave
10/10/2008 04:21 PM
Feinstein Iron Works, Founded 1931, 37th Ave
Kid biking through the puddles, 37th Ave
10/10/2008 04:22 PM
Kid biking through the puddles, 37th Ave
Kid biking through the puddles, 37th Ave
10/10/2008 04:22 PM
Kid biking through the puddles, 37th Ave
Sultan Auto Body - 126th St at 37th Ave
10/10/2008 04:11 PM
Sultan Auto Body - 126th St at 37th Ave
126th St at 36th Ave
10/10/2008 04:12 PM
126th St at 36th Ave
126th St at bwt 36th/35th Ave
10/10/2008 04:12 PM
126th St at bwt 36th/35th Ave
126th St at bwt 36th/35th Ave
10/10/2008 04:13 PM
126th St at bwt 36th/35th Ave
126-02 35th Ave
10/10/2008 04:16 PM
126-02 35th Ave
126th St at 35th Ave
10/10/2008 04:13 PM
126th St at 35th Ave
Looking east down 35th Ave from 126th St
10/10/2008 04:14 PM
Looking east down 35th Ave from 126th St
34-08 126th St
10/10/2008 04:14 PM
34-08 126th St
34-08 126th St
10/10/2008 04:16 PM
34-08 126th St
126th St at 34th Ave (126-02 34th Ave: 1950?)
10/10/2008 04:15 PM
126th St at 34th Ave (126-02 34th Ave: 1950?)
Flushing Meadows Corona Park - sign to the Marina, 126th St at Northern Boulevard
10/10/2008 04:37 PM
Flushing Meadows Corona Park - sign to the Marina, 126th St at Northern Boulevard
Looking south down 126th St
10/10/2008 04:15 PM
Looking south down 126th St
126th St terminating at Northern Boulevard / Whitestone Expressway
10/10/2008 04:15 PM
126th St terminating at Northern Boulevard / Whitestone Expressway
Businesses on Northern Boulevard
10/10/2008 04:40 PM
Businesses on Northern Boulevard
Under the Whitestone Expressway
10/10/2008 04:39 PM
Under the Whitestone Expressway

East of Willets Point

Sand and wrecking yards between Willets Point and Flushing Creek
10/10/2008 05:20 PM
Sand and wrecking yards between Willets Point and Flushing Creek
Sand and wrecking yards between Willets Point and Flushing Creek
10/10/2008 05:21 PM
Sand and wrecking yards between Willets Point and Flushing Creek
Sand and wrecking yards between Willets Point and Flushing Creek
4/2/2009 05:53 PM
Sand and wrecking yards between Willets Point and Flushing Creek
Sand and wrecking yards between Willets Point and Flushing Creek
4/2/2009 05:53 PM
Sand and wrecking yards between Willets Point and Flushing Creek
East of Willets Point
12/22/2009 03:01 PM
East of Willets Point
East of Willets Point
12/22/2009 03:01 PM
East of Willets Point
East of Willets Point
12/22/2009 03:01 PM
East of Willets Point
East of Willets Point
12/22/2009 03:01 PM
East of Willets Point
East of Willets Point
12/22/2009 03:01 PM
East of Willets Point
East of Willets Point
12/22/2009 03:01 PM
East of Willets Point
Sand and wrecking yards between Willets Point and Flushing Creek
10/10/2008 05:21 PM
Sand and wrecking yards between Willets Point and Flushing Creek
Van Wyk Expressway along Flushing Creek
10/10/2008 05:25 PM
Van Wyk Expressway along Flushing Creek
Flushing Creek
10/10/2008 05:26 PM
Flushing Creek
Korean food - Flushing
10/10/2008 06:15 PM
Korean food - Flushing

Citi Field / Shea Stadium

Citi Field viewed from the northeast
10/10/2008 04:37 PM
Citi Field viewed from the northeast
Under the Whitestone Expressway
10/10/2008 04:52 PM
Under the Whitestone Expressway
Citi Field / Shea Stadium viewed from the northwest
10/10/2008 04:54 PM
Citi Field / Shea Stadium viewed from the northwest
Citi Field / Shea Stadium viewed from the west
10/10/2008 04:56 PM
Citi Field / Shea Stadium viewed from the west
Shea Stadium viewed from the west
10/10/2008 04:59 PM
Shea Stadium viewed from the west
Shea Stadium viewed from the west
10/10/2008 05:01 PM
Shea Stadium viewed from the west
Citi Field viewed from the south
10/10/2008 03:34 PM
Citi Field viewed from the south
Citi Field parking lot, 126th Street in the background
10/10/2008 03:35 PM
Citi Field parking lot, 126th Street in the background
Citi Field
10/10/2008 03:38 PM
Citi Field
Citi Field east entrance
10/10/2008 04:09 PM
Citi Field east entrance
Citi Field along 126th St
10/10/2008 04:18 PM
Citi Field along 126th St
Airplane on approach to LaGuardia
10/10/2008 03:38 PM
Airplane on approach to LaGuardia
Shea Stadium
10/10/2008 03:34 PM
Shea Stadium
Shea, sans seats
10/10/2008 03:36 PM
Shea, sans seats