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Thread: Iron Triangle in Queens to Be Redeveloped

  1. #1

    Default Iron Triangle in Queens to Be Redeveloped

    March 4, 2004

    A Messy Business: Cleaning Up the Junk


    Hubcap purveyors are among the business owners on and around Willets Point Boulevard who complain of getting little in return for their tax dollars.

    The Iron Triangle, a 13-block area between Shea Stadium and the Flushing River in Queens, is the largest single stretch of junkyards in New York City, with more than 100 auto salvage yards, repair garages and automotive shops. Wedged amid bustling commercial areas in Corona and Flushing, the triangle is an auto salvage theme park.

    Here, business bustles against a backdrop of stacked, crumpled cars and a slum landscape. The streets are unpaved and lined with tire-change joints, hubcap purveyors, muffler shops, windshield installers and rim retailers. There are brake and transmission specialists, and auto body garages. The area goes back many decades, since parts purveyors first set up on these ash heaps that Fitzgerald mentioned in "The Great Gatsby."

    But the Iron Triangle's days may soon be over. Under a plan to revitalize parts of downtown Flushing, the city plans to condemn the Iron Triangle and shut its junkyards. The land, bounded by 126th Street, Willets Point Boulevard and Northern Boulevard, would be bought for a fixed price under eminent domain laws.

    One study projected it would cost an estimated $214 million to buy the land and clean up decades of leaked gas, oil and other contaminants. Yet the city has no specific plans for the cleaned site yet. Officials at the city's Economic Development Corporation say they have begun soliciting ideas from local groups. Informal suggestions for the area include parkland, a convention or cultural center, a retail-entertainment or office building complex, a new stadium for the Mets or the Jets, or an Olympic village if the city is selected as the host of the 2012 Games.

    Politicians are on board and the plan has the widespread support of many business and community groups.

    But like many business owners in the Iron Triangle, Danny Sambucci Jr., 46, of Sambucci Brothers Auto Salvage, complains that no politician, city official or civic leader has called or visited to brief them on what is going on.

    "You got thousands of people here making a living and landowners who have paid taxes for decades, and we have to hear second-hand that we're going to have our land seized?" said Mr. Sambucci, whose father, Danny Sambucci Sr., 73, opened the business in 1951.

    Mr. Sambucci strips cars for parts and sells what is left to scrap metal dealers for $2 for every 100 pounds, or about $70 per stripped car. The parts can be lucrative. A BMW transmission can bring $1,500, he said, and a Mercedes engine can sell for $2,700. A Nissan Maxima engine can go for $250. The engines are cleaned in a special washing machine that filters out the toxic runoff.

    "People think its 'Sanford and Son' down here, but it's serious business," said Mr. Sambucci's cousin Sammy Sambucci, 34.

    Danny Sambucci Jr. said that he pays $72,000 in property taxes each year on his 2.5 acres of land but gets little back in services. The city has let the area deteriorate, he said, by not paving the streets and failing to install or offer sewers, sidewalks, signage, street lights or proper garbage pickup.

    "They never wanted us here, so they ignored us, to make it make it look like a jungle, like a blight," he said. "I can't relocate this business. Where am I going to go? Is there another community in Queens that will welcome us?"

    The area is as thriving a business community as the garment or meatpacking districts in Manhattan or the Hunts Point market in the Bronx, he said. But city officials say the triangle has long been an eyesore and a waste of valuable property close to subway and bus lines, major highways and both La Guardia and Kennedy International Airports. The triangle is a lapse in proper civic planning, they say, and its demise is long overdue. They say the Flushing redevelopment plan will expand retail, office and residential space, improve transportation and recreation spaces and revitalize the Flushing Bay and Flushing River waterfront.

    In a letter last month to the Empire State Development Corporation, the Queens borough president, Helen M. Marshall, wrote that the plan could "transform a vastly underutilized tract of land into a thriving commercial center."

    Almost as long as the Iron Triangle has existed, business owners have heard rumblings about development. In the 1960's, business owners hired the young Queens lawyer Mario M. Cuomo, who successfully stopped Robert Moses from redeveloping the land. But there seems to be no such unity this time, and longtime politicians say the project has political and economic momentum.

    Hiram Monserrate, the city councilman representing the area, said he recognizes the need to clear out the Iron Triangle.

    "Clearly there is a better usage for that land, that would benefit the residents," he said. "No one would want to build anything that is going to overlook those junkyards."

    But he also cautioned, "The city needs to be conscientious that workers will be displaced and that relocation is necessary."

    City officials, including Mr. Monserrate and Councilman John C. Liu, say many Iron Triangle businesses have long been operating illegally and constantly violate city regulations. Business owners counter that this is an exaggeration and that many violations come from hard conditions the city imposes by neglecting the area.

    Officials at the Economic Development Corporation say they want to help Iron Triangle companies find ways to stay in business. "We will be working with businesses there to identify relocation options," said Janel Patterson, a spokeswoman for the corporation.

    In the Iron Triangle, everything is on display: chrome bumpers, rusted-out car chassis, tires, mirrors, windshields. Planes to La Guardia fly low overhead and collated car hoods cut jagged profiles against the sky. There is hot food at the small delis squeezed among the auto shops, and back behind the auto shops is a spice warehouse and a waste transfer station.

    In the streets, there are junkyard dogs, and workers jousting for customers by aggressively flagging down cars. Mechanics in greasy jumpsuits enjoy lunchtime soccer games around crumpled cars and crater-size potholes.

    The tremendous ethnic diversity in Queens is reflected in the names here: Zura's 1000's of Auto Parts, the Stubborn Tire Shop and 14 Stars Auto Glass. There is the Mexecu auto repair shop and El Salvador Auto Glass. New Pancho Auto Glass sits next door to New Pamir Auto Body. Nearby is Ebukune Transmissions and New Brother Auto Body.

    High-end Korean auto body shops fix sports cars for well-to-do businessmen from Flushing. Young, hip Japanese men flock to certain Japanese shops to soup up their low-riding sports cars. Hindi- and Arab-speaking livery cabdrivers bring their black Town Cars to garages with Afghan, Middle Eastern or South Indian owners. A Spanish-speaking customer looking for window tinting might go Colombia Auto Glass, owned by Hector Ospina, 45, a Colombian immigrant from Woodside.

    "For Spanish people from poor cities, this does not look so strange," he said recently, looking over Willets Point Boulevard. "The city does not care about this, but I'm worried because I have to support a lot of people."

    Nearby at Aryana Auto Body, Salman Ali, 30, an auto body repairman, leaned on a Mitsubishi Galant with a bashed-in quarter panel.

    "The only time the city comes down here is to ticket us; they take our taxes and don't fix anything," said Mr. Ali, an Afghan immigrant who supports his family in Flushing. "Now they say they're going to move us out? Where will they put us? We have no place to go. We're poor people. We're not rich."

    At Sambucci Brothers, there are hundreds of totaled cars that are stacked, waiting to be stripped.

    "I came down here as a barefoot kid collecting junk in a wagon," Danny Sambucci Sr. said.

    He hoped his son Danny Jr. would become a doctor, but now Danny Jr. owns the business and plans on passing it to his son, also named Danny, who is 16.

    "They took Manhattan from the Indians,'' Danny Sambucci Sr. said. "Now they want to take this from us."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #2
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI


    It is a mess, the streets and all, but that is pretty much the city's fault.

    I would love some great development there, but these businesses are actually pretty impressive in their own way. You can go down there and get almost anything for any car in that place.

    I park my car at Sambucci for Mets games... close and free.

    Maybe they could move all the shops en masse to some vacant industrial area to keep the "car bazaar" feel and functionality of it.

  3. #3


    I went there once when my friend wanted hubcaps for his car. It was maddening to have to chat with some Mexican who spoke no English! Eventually we got the hubcaps for $40, then he sold it a month later due to a stalling engine.

    That place is a junkyard, literally, and I'm glad they're planning to tear that area down.

  4. #4

  5. #5
    The Dude Abides
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    NYC - Financial District


    Ah, nothing like reviving an old thread:



    June 19, 2005 -- The Willets Point section of Queens, awaiting a makeover through Mayor Bloomberg's new Olympics plan and local renovation efforts, is a "hell hole" of environmental problems that will cost millions to clean, an expert says.

    According to government documents compiled for The Post by Toxic Targeting, an environmental-database firm that tracks more than 100,000 toxic sites in the city, the new home of Bloomberg's Olympic dreams has thousands of gallons of chemicals underground.

    "This is going to require a massive cleanup," said Walter Hang, president of Toxic Targeting. "It's a hell hole. You'd be looking at removing literally millions of tons of contaminated soil."

    According to the city Economic Development Corp., cleaning Willets Point will cost taxpayers $12.5 million. The city also expects to spend $39 million building roads and utility lines, $40 million building pilings and other "soil reinforcements," and $38 million on land acquisition and relocation of businesses.

    The chemical soup there includes 40,000 gallons of waste oil, gas and antifreeze spilled in 2001 and not yet fully cleaned.

    There are about 30 spills, some from leaky underground oil and gas tanks, that together account for thousands of gallons of gas and oil over the past dozen years and which do not meet state cleanup standards.

    There are another 20 whose cleanup status is unknown.

    While many spills and leaks released unknown quantities of pollutants, more than 80,000 gallons of chemicals have been dumped — accidentally and deliberately — into the ground in and around Willets Point over the past 20 years.

    "There are definitely environmental issues there," said City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, whose district includes Willets Point. "If appropriate development is a catalyst for a cleanup, then that is a good thing."

    With the collapse of his West Side stadium hopes, Bloomberg announced last week plans to help build a new Mets stadium, which would serve as the centerpiece of the Olympics should the city win the Games.

    The new stadium would be built adjacent to Shea Stadium, and a media center and other Olympics facilities would be built at Willets Point, the so-called "iron triangle" that can be seen across the outfield parking lot.

    Private developers have also drawn up 14 different development plans for the area, which include retail and housing.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Post

  6. #6
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Maybe we should start drilling there....

    Or is is a Citi-Life Preserve......

  7. #7
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Manhattan - UWS


    Developers flock to new Olympic site
    Big names eye Willets Point; city plan for stadium would spur overhaul

    By Anne Michaud
    Published on June 20, 2005

    Last week's 11th-hour plan to save the city's Olympics bid by building a new baseball stadium in Queens is transforming an obscure outer-borough neighborhood recovery project in Willets Point into a top development priority.

    The city has received 13 proposals to redevelop the area, along the Flushing Bay waterfront. The applicants include prominent Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner, the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Taiwan native Michael Lee--whose F&T International Group has offices in Flushing, Queens, and Shanghai--and Queens developer Jason Muss. Mall of America officials were scouting the Willets Point site but declined to make an offer, sources say.

    The decision to build a new Mets Stadium, which would serve as New York's Olympic Stadium, has energized the effort to clean up Willets Point, known largely for its 48-acre junk-car haven nicknamed the "Iron Triangle."

    The Economic Development Corp., which last fall requested expressions of interest, was scheduled this week to unveil at least 10 proposals that had made the first cut. But EDC pulled back from a public announcement in the glare of publicity focused on the project by City Hall's June 12 announcement that Shea Stadium was the new choice for the city's 2012 Summer Olympics bid. Willets Point would be the site of an international broadcast center if the Olympics come to New York in 2012.

    The EDC instead has asked all applicants for silence about their proposals and assurances that they could incorporate Olympic needs into their plans.

    For 40 years, community leaders have talked about cleaning up the area. Many envision creating a vibrant neighborhood like Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which was a slum of rotting piers and flophouses before it was redeveloped as a tourist hot-spot just a short walk from the Baltimore Orioles' baseball field.

    Perfect confluence

    "This unanticipated, but near-perfect confluence of events may make this happen after decades of wishful thinking," says Flushing City Councilman John Liu, who has seen the applications to EDC.

    EDC officials, now interviewing applicants privately, hope to choose one or two developers to help them create a master plan, says a spokeswoman. The original timeline was to name a development partner by early 2006, but the spokeswoman says, "If anything, our decision process has been accelerated."

    Desolate divider

    Willets Point is a desolate 13-block peninsula dividing resurgent downtown Flushing from the area where Shea Stadium is located. The gritty Iron Triangle lacks sewers and roads, and prevents people from venturing to the waterfront along Flushing Bay.

    "It's a psychological barrier," right in the heart of Queens, says William Egan, executive vice president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

    But hurdles loom. Neighbors are raising concerns about traffic, and Flushing businesses are worried that a retail complex at Willets Point would compete with them.

    Still, the Mets stadium plan appears to be winning political kudos across the city and even in Albany, where the two legislative leaders who killed the West Side football stadium have already given the Queens team their blessing. Plans for a new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx are being embraced as well. Part of it is loyalty, says Rep. Jose Serrano, who represents the Bronx.

    "No one really, for the most part, is against getting new stadiums for these institutions of New York," he says of the Mets and Yankees. "No one could relate to the extravaganza on the West Side."


  8. #8
    The Dude Abides
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    NYC - Financial District


    Excellent news. I would love to see someone like Ratner come in and literally build a neighborhood from the ground up. Hearing about Mall of America was a bit of a turnoff. Too much traffic on weekends, too many parking spaces taking up good real estate. A good mixed use community is the way to go. Let's all keep our fingers crossed for a visionary master plan.

  9. #9


    But there is always a need for junkyards and used car parts. Willets Point is a lot more convinient than Bushwick.

    Has Victoria Gotti commented on the planned reconstruction of the area? Her former husband-Agnello-was a major player in the area.

  10. #10


    Gotham Gazette -

    Willets Point: A Defense

    by Tom Angotti
    10 Apr 2006

    Here come the marshals again! After evicting 23 businesses in the Bronx Terminal Market to make way for a development deal with the Related Company, City Hall now wants to get rid of ten times that number in a Queens district. The city plans to use its power of eminent domain to foster what it calls economic development in the area around Willets Point. But it could instead mean economic disaster to the long-established business community that would be broken up and scattered. And while it proposes a multi-billion dollar project that would make Willets Point a “regional destination,” possibly with a hotel, convention center and retail space, the city’s planners appear to have little appreciation for businesses that already draw customers from all over the region.

    Willets Point is a small triangle of land (often called “The Iron Triangle”) that sits near Corona and Flushing in the shadows of Shea Stadium. Indeed, the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s intense interest in Willets Point coincides with the announcement of the city’s latest stadium deal with the Mets.
    225 Businesses (Not 80)

    While the Economic Development Corporation claims there are 80 businesses in this 48-acre area, a recent survey I conducted through the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development instead found 225 businesses that provide an estimated 1,300 jobs. The business survey was part of a land use study, including maps prepared by the CUNY Mapping Service, commissioned by Council Member Hiram Monseratte, who has questioned the city’s plans to relocate area businesses from his district.

    What accounts for the huge statistical oversight by the Economic Development Corporation? Were the small auto repair outfits run by recent Latino immigrants invisible to the agency’s planners? Perhaps we counted the ones they missed because our survey was conducted in both English and Spanish. Perhaps the fact that most businesses are renters and not owners, and many share precious high-rent building space, has made them invisible to city officials. At a time when elected officials are acknowledging the important role of immigrant labor in the city’s economy, it would appear that the city bureaucracy has failed to open its eyes to a thriving business district that serves as an entry point for immigrant workers and entrepreneurs.

    While the largest number of businesses are involved in auto repair, there are also several large parts and salvage operations. The largest employer in Willets Point, however, is The House of Spices (India), Inc. According to Girdhar Assar of The House of Spices, they employ 100 full-time people and are “the largest distributor of Indian foods in the United States.” A significant portion of land is used for waste transfer and building materials storage. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority also has a large strip of land used for rail yards and parking.
    The Image of Blight

    Over the years, public officials who have coveted the area’s excellent location at a nexus of highway and train lines have played along with a negative public image of Willets Point as a junkyard, dangerous, and foreboding. The city government has helped foster this image by failing to put in sewers, pave public streets, and fix sidewalks. In other words, city officials helped create a condition of “urban blight” that they then propose to fix by evicting the existing businesses.

    One Saturday last fall, along with a class of Hunter College students, I walked every block of Willets Point with Joe Ardezzone, a member of the Willets Point Business Association and life-long resident of the area (in fact, the only resident). We saw a thriving though sometimes chaotic and noisy business district. On Willets Point Avenue, a driver would stop and ask one of the workers where to get a new carburetor and a windshield. The curbside broker would direct him to one of the many specialized businesses. A wide variety of parts dealers and salvage yards were there to meet every need of people who came from as far as northern Bronx and eastern Long Island. Ardezzone complained that “people don’t realize there are hard-working people here just trying to make a living.”

    What we saw on the ground was the kind of bustling business district that economic development experts across the country keep trying to re-create in giant development schemes, often with little success. The many specialized auto repair shops in Willets Point both compete and cooperate with one another, and the links between them make for a cooperative business community offering a wide array of services.
    An Opportunity For Clean-Up

    By focusing on Willets Point, city officials have an opportunity to help strengthen this network instead of destroying it. At the same time they could confront head on some of the city’s biggest environmental headaches. When auto repair facilities are concentrated, as they are in Willets Point, then City Hall has an opportunity to apply its pollution prevention programs and deal with the critical issues of waste and emissions. If these activities are dispersed, mechanics are less likely to use cleaner and more efficient technologies. More mechanics would end up working on residential blocks and dumping crank case oil down the city’s storm drains, and it will be more difficult to regulate these businesses.

    As for the waste transfer stations that occupy a big chunk of land in Willets Point, there are precious few alternative locations for them in Queens. By paving the streets and enforcing environmental regulations in Willets Point, city officials could help make these waste facilities a model of sustainable management. The dust and debris that workers and business owners have to deal with would diminish. And since Willets Point is right in the flight path for LaGuardia Airport, something needs to be done about the deafening roar of planes no matter what happens to the area!
    Rich In Potential

    The economic potential of Willets Point businesses can be linked to the growing recycling industry as well as auto repair. The proponents of redevelopment who are quick to call the Iron Triangle a big junkyard might have missed the recent front page article in The Wall Street Journal (March 21, 2006) that hails auto scrap yards as a big source of “healthy profits.”

    Contrary to the impression that The Iron Triangle is worthless, the total assessed value of property comes to some $181 million. Property values and the number of jobs per square foot are roughly comparable to those in other areas zoned for heavy industry in the city, and so are tax revenues.

    Even after planning for an improved auto repair and recycling district, it would still be possible to allow for some limited redevelopment for new industrial, commercial and recreational facilities. But this should be determined through open and transparent public planning, not a developer-driven process.
    Developer-Driven Planning

    Over the last three decades, Willets Point has been a favorite target for grandiose development plans, all of which failed when businesses refused to be displaced. When the city’s development czar Robert Moses wanted to get rid of the local businesses, the Willets Point businessmen hired a young attorney named Mario Cuomo and beat Moses. A 1991 rezoning plan also went nowhere.

    In 2004, the city’s Economic Development Corporation issued a Request for Expressions of Interest to redevelop Willets Point, and recently selected several large companies to submit proposals. While development proposals may include only a portion of Willets Point rather than a blanket condemnation of the whole area, there are two problems with this piecemeal approach. First, it will pit property owners against each other, and can very well play into the hands of a small group of speculators that have started to move into the area. Secondly, it could pit the property owners against the large group of mostly Latino workers and business owners who rent (82 percent of the total) and who stand to lose everything. Even what might seem at first to be a generous relocation benefit could be worthless when it comes to finding comparable space in a city where low-cost industrially-zoned land is disappearing from sight.

    If there were an open and transparent planning process incorporating all business owners and workers, and property owners and renters, the division of the territory in a redeveloped area might look quite different from the one that will be cooked up by the consultant firms hired by the big developers. The Economic Development Corporation appears to be open so long as they keep tight control over the process, but not open enough.
    Spotlight On Shea Stadium

    The proposed new Shea Stadium, which would go up in the huge parking lot bordering Willets Point, is likely to overshadow the Iron Triangle in more ways than one. Local community groups are likely to focus on Shea, which long has been a sore point for many of them, because -- like so many other urban stadiums -- it turns away from its neighbors in the interest of getting fans in and out as fast as possible. Since the new Shea will have more luxury boxes and fewer affordable seats, more fans are likely to drive in and out by car, never stopping for arroz con pollo in Corona or Kimchee in Flushing. And if City Hall has its way, fans won’t even be able to get a tire fixed in the neighborhood.
    Tom Angotti is Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College, City University of NY, editor of Progressive Planning Magazine, and a member of the Task Force on Community-based Planning.

    Gotham Gazette -

  11. #11
    The Dude Abides
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    NYC - Financial District


    Home Is Where the Auto Parts Are

    Joseph Ardizzone on Willets Point Boulevard in Queens. Mr. Ardizzone, Willets Point’s sole resident,
    opposes a plan to raze the area to make way for an elaborate development.


    Published: September 17, 2006

    When Joseph Ardizzone makes the short drive to Flushing to cast his ballot at election time, he never has to wait his turn. “When I vote,” he says, “it’s the whole precinct voting.”

    Many immigrants work at the 225 auto parts and repair businesses in Willets Point.

    Mr. Ardizzone, a wiry man who is still spry at 74, is the sole resident of Willets Point, an unsightly 75-acre enclave near Shea Stadium in northern Queens with a cluster of 225 auto parts and repair businesses, many of them operating out of tin or cinder-block sheds.

    It is not hard to see why Mr. Ardizzone has no neighbors — unless you count Mario’s Auto Radio, Q. C. Iron Works and the homeless people who sleep in the junkyards.

    The streets are pockmarked with holes big enough to store tires. Scarred chassis are stacked on top of one another or perched on mounds of garbage laced with spare parts. There are no sidewalks or sewers, and rainwater collects in deep puddles. In the summer, the stench from the Flushing Creek on the neighborhood’s eastern edge is so powerful that “it makes your eyes tear,” Mr. Ardizzone says.

    For decades, political leaders have sought to rid the city of the place that Robert Moses, the master builder, described as an “eyesore and a disgrace to the borough of Queens.” According to the latest plan, the Bloomberg administration hopes to use eminent domain to transform Willets Point into a retailing-and-entertainment district with a hotel and convention center.

    But what city officials see as a contaminated wasteland is the only home that Mr. Ardizzone has ever known. If the Bloomberg plan becomes a reality — which would likely take years — then Mr. Ardizzone’s home would be razed. It also dismays him that businesses that provide jobs for 1,200 people — according to the city’s count — would be displaced.

    The Ardizzones were Willets Point pioneers, arriving a few years before the first junkyard. Joseph was born in 1932 in a squat brick house that his father built. Now the sign outside reads “1,000s Auto Parts.” Across a cluttered alley is a mustard-yellow and brown Tudor-style house with padlocked doors and windows and a sign saying “Express Deli and Grocery.” Mr. Ardizzone lives in five rooms on the top floor with a cat and her six kittens.

    Today, Mr. Ardizzone is the only registered voter from Willets Point, according to John Ravitz, the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections. During a door-to-door survey of the neighborhood last fall, Tom Angotti, a Hunter College professor of urban planning, and his students counted 225 businesses, but he said they found no residents other than Mr. Ardizzone.

    Not everyone in his family approves. “My sister — she lives in Florida — she says it’s disgusting,” he said. “She says, ‘How can you live with junkyards and junk cars?’ It don’t bother me. From when I was a kid, I’m used to them.”

    But it does bother him that the city refuses to give Willets Point the services that other neighborhoods take for granted. “If they gave us the infrastructure,” he said, “it would be an entirely different place.”

    A familiar figure in his old Mercury Marquis, Mr. Ardizzone has the run of most of the local businesses. When a fight breaks out among the mostly immigrant laborers, Mr. Ardizzone is happy to play mediator. When outsiders want to understand the neighborhood, which is flanked by the Grand Central Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway and is only a few minutes from La Guardia Airport, he is the tour guide.

    As he sees it, Willets Point provides a chance for people from other countries to apply the mechanical skills they learned at home. “Most of the people here are handicapped by not knowing the language, and not knowing how the system works,” he said. “But they have hands of gold.”

    Mr. Ardizzone wanders freely among the bags of flour and vats of corn syrup at House of Fodera, a national distributor of baking ingredients that opened at Willets Point 33 years ago.

    “He’s like the resident mayor,” said Anthony Fodera, an owner of the baking-goods distributor, one of several family-owned warehouse businesses in the neighborhood. “When we got here, he welcomed us and came in and met with us.”

    Mr. Ardizzone, who owned a restaurant and a bar for two decades, now works as a security guard at a nursing home in Bayside. In his off hours, he is involved with the Willets Point Business Association’s efforts to prevent the neighborhood from being condemned as an urban renewal site.

    The city Economic Development Corporation is now reviewing proposals submitted by developers in June, and a consultant is preparing an environmental impact statement, said Janel Patterson, a corporation spokeswoman.

    The Bloomberg administration’s plan is only the latest in a series of proposals to threaten Willets Point. In the 1960’s, Mr. Moses tried to use park funds to clean up the site, but was beaten back by the business owners with the help of a young lawyer named Mario M. Cuomo.

    In 1985, however, Mr. Cuomo, then the governor of New York, supported a plan to build a domed football stadium in Willets Point. The proposal died when no National Football League team would commit to playing there.

    Other schemes for Willets Point — put forward by the Mets, the Queens borough president and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — also went nowhere.

    After the West Side stadium proposal was defeated, Mayor Bloomberg talked about putting press and broadcast centers in Willets Point as part of the city’s last-minute plan to salvage its 2012 Olympic Games bid. But then London was chosen as the Olympics site.

    To Mr. Ardizzone, taking property through eminent domain is simply wrong. “If you don’t have the right to own your own property, what rights do you have?” he said.

    Willets Point seemed destined to thrive when Mr. Ardizzone’s father, who was in construction, decided to settle there in the 1930’s, along with family friends, who built the house next door. “They were supposed to become millionaires,” Mr. Ardizzone said.

    Mr. Ardizzone and his brother, Anthony, of Flushing, have near-bucolic memories of their childhood home. Pheasants, rabbits and frogs were a common sight, and the family grew tomatoes and raised chickens and goats in the swampy backyard.

    There were junkyards nearby, but “everybody kept everything clean and proper,” Anthony Ardizzone recalled.

    Even then, Willets Point was an odd place in which to grow up. The brothers, who went to school in Flushing, played in an enormous ash pile at 38th Avenue and 126th Street, not far from their house. But it was made up of coal residue from a Con Edison plant that was used in roadbeds, not incinerated garbage like the one in nearby Flushing Meadows that was described in “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    Mr. Ardizzone spent many years in the food business. He started with a coffee cart, then opened a coffee shop in the building where his family had lived. Later he added a bar, Joe’s Pit Stop, that catered to the area’s bricklayers, construction workers and other laborers.

    Jack Bono, an owner of Bono Sawdust Supply Company, a third-generation business in Willets Point, said the bar drew customers from outside Willets Point. “Everybody used to go there after work, hang out, try to relax after work,” he said. “It was a nice place to be.”

    But Mr. Ardizzone, who never married, eventually tired of the demanding schedule and leased out the restaurant space. The coffee shop became an auto parts store. The bar became a deli. Both spaces are vacant now.

    Mr. Ardizzone said the city seemed determined to remake Willets Point, despite the failure of so many redevelopment proposals. “It seems they want this property in the worst way,” he said, “and only through condemnation.”

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  12. #12
    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Jersey City


    GEEZZZ and people have the nerve to make fun of industrial parts of Jersey!! That looks worse than any place outside some factory in Jersey. I'm not a Mets fan so I've never been by there.

  13. #13


    Quote Originally Posted by JCMAN320 View Post

    GEEZZZ and people have the nerve to make fun of industrial parts of Jersey!! That looks worse than any place outside some factory in Jersey. I'm not a Mets fan so I've never been by there.
    It looks like some shanty town in africa

  14. #14


    Mayor details Willets Point plan

    By Karla Schuster
    May 1, 2007

    As the Mets' new stadium rises nearby, Mayor Michael Bloomberg Tuesday unveiled a proposed master plan for Willets Point that would transform the 60-acre swath of car repair shops and junkyards near Citi Field into a mixed-used development that officials envision becoming New York's version of the neighborhoods flanking Fenway Park in Boston or Camden Yards in Baltimore.

    The single largest feature of the plan, outlined Tuesday at a news conference at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, is 1.7 million square feet of retail and entertainment space that would be built across the street from the new CitiField ballpark.

    There would be few, if any, interior walkways and no big box stores -- a street-oriented design aimed at drawing fans before and after games
    , similar to Landsdowne Street outside Fenway Park or Baltimore's Inner Harbor neighborhood surrounding Camden Yards, according to officials from the city's Economic Development Corporation.

    The plan also includes 5,500 units of mixed-income housing, some townhouses and some mid-rise apartment buildings of no more than eight stories; a 700-room hotel, a convention center, 500,000-square-feet of office space, a two-acre park and a new bridge into Flushing over Flushing Creek. Designers have also included plans for so-called "green roofs" on many of the buildings to create additional recreational space.

    While the city has outlined its plans for redeveloping what is called the Iron Triangle before, Tuesday's announcement offers the most detailed vision for the site yet and kicks off the formal land-use review process necessary to rezone the area, acquire the property and re-locate the estimated 250 businesses there.

    The area has no sidewalks or sewers, and is pockmarked by potholes and deep puddles. City officials acknowledge that an expensive environmental clean-up is necessary before the site can be developed. The city expects to choose a developer by next summer.

    The plan, called bold and ambitious by some and criticized as needlessly uprooting viable businesses by others, must be approved by the city Planning Commission and the City Council. A public hearing on an upcoming environmental study of the site will be held Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Flushing library.

    Businesses and property owners from the area have decried the city's plans, which include seizing the property through eminent domain if owners are unwilling to sell.

    Approximately 1,300 workers would be displaced if the city's plans for redevelopment are approved. The city estimates the construction would generate 20,000 jobs, while the the project would create 6,100 permanent jobs at full build-out.

    __________________________________________________ ___________

    Willets Point's last man standing defiantly

    May 1, 2007

    On the west side of 126th Street, the Mets are building themselves a new home, while three blocks away, in the rutted exhibit of planned urban neglect known as the Iron Triangle, Joe Ardizzone is just trying to save his old one.

    The higher the concrete towers and steel framework of Citi Field rise, the lower the hopes of Ardizzone sink. But while Bruce Ratner has been successful in displacing - or, to use the preferred term of the real estate vulture, "relocating" - thousands of city residents to make way for the future home of the Brooklyn Nets, Ardizzone says there is no way the city or the Mets or any combination of the two will evict the one and only resident of Willets Point, N.Y.

    "They'll have to kill me and drag me out of here first," he said. "This is my home. This is not democracy. This is not American. Why should I have to leave the place where I've lived my whole life so some billionaires can get richer?"

    No one has yet told Ardizzone, who is 74 and more energetic than any man his age has any right to be, that he has to leave his two-story stucco and brick house, wedged between an ironworks and an auto parts dealer on Willets Point Boulevard, today, tomorrow or ever.

    But then, no one has told Ardizzone or any of the 100 or so business owners in The Triangle anything.

    "We don't know what they're going to do," Ardizzone said, although he has a pretty good idea. "Their goal is to take all this away from us, come hell or high water."

    The high water already has come. In fact, it never leaves an area in which the only storm drain is used by Shea Stadium and where, although the area businesses pay as much as $75,000 a year in taxes, the city has never seen fit to install sewers or provide basic services such as snow removal or road repair. (By the way, the Mets don't pay a nickel in real estate taxes now, nor will they on their new ballpark.)

    But now that Citi Field is rising, it suddenly has dawned on a lot of powerful people that Willets Point, for a half-century the most neglected sliver of land in the city, soon could be a slice of real estate as valuable as Sutter's Mill, circa 1849.

    And whatever "they" are doing, the fear is that they are doing it in secret, the way they always do when there is a land grab of this magnitude in the works.

    At first, the Willets Point community thought it needed to fear only the city, which would seek to condemn the land they live and work on as an environmental hazard, seize it under eminent domain and then sell it off to a real estate developer.

    Now they realize their enemy is not only the city but the Mets.

    "Since 1994, Fred Wilpon told us, 'We've co-existed with you for 40 years and we can continue to co-exist with you,' " said Richard Musick, the spokesman for the Willets Point Business Association. "But about two years ago, he stopped returning our phone calls."

    Yesterday, the other shoe dropped. At a meeting with politicians at Tully Construction on Northern Boulevard, city councilman Thomas White Jr. passed along the bad news: Wilpon had changed his mind. "He said, 'The junkyards gotta go,' " White told the group.

    The stereotype angered Ardizzone even more than the death sentence it carried.

    "People from the outside, they come here and all they see is junkyards," he said. "This is a community, with hard-working people trying to make a living. These are human beings here."

    It is a point that seems to be lost on the politicians, who see only dollar signs, and on sports fans, who don't care whom the bulldozers flatten in the rush to build their heroes a stadium, and by a lot of sportswriters, who become willing shills for the team just thinking about what a dump the Shea Stadium pressbox is.

    None of them seems to realize that the only ones who will truly benefit from Citi Field are the Wilpons and the privileged few who are well-heeled or well-connected enough to score one of its 42,000 high-priced seats. The Mets did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.

    Ardizzone, who never married and has lived in the house alone for the past 40 years, considers the people of Willets Point his family. One after another, they came up to him yesterday, most uttering a single word: "Tomorrow."

    "Tomorrow" is today, when every man and woman working in Willets Point, along with as many family members, friends and supporters as they can rustle up, will gather at the Flushing branch of the Queens Public Library on Main Street to demonstrate against what they see as an invasion of their turf by the people who are supposed to protect it.

    They seem to know it is a doomed battle - David hasn't beaten Goliath since the Old Testament - but one worth fighting nonetheless.

    "Just because the big guy always wins," Joe Ardizzone said, "doesn't mean you have to roll over for him. What am I supposed to do, lay down and die?"

  15. #15
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Yonkers/ Hell's Kitchen


    Willets Point to be Ratnerized?

    May 4th, 2007
    There’s always two (or more) sides to every story. Earlier this week I posted a bit called “Extreme Makeover, Queens Edition: Big Changes Coming to Willets Point”, regarding the city’s 3-year plan to makeover the “Iron Triangle” at Willets Point. All sorts of great things have been promised - affordable housing, schools, green space, not to mention cleaning up all the toxic crap there. From my “outsider” perspective, it sounds good.
    Joe Ardizzone, a local resident, has a different perspective, one that is influenced by the situation created by Bruce Ratner/Forest City Ratner at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards. He doesn’t want to see the locals “relocated” or “displaced”, especially if that comes through eminent domain (ED), which I understand the city will use if they feel it necessary. ED is certainly, in my opinion, an unsavory path.
    Part of the problem is that, even though Ardizzone hasn’t been told he has to move from his home of 40 years, he hasn’t been told anything. Neither have any of the other residents or business owners. Lack of communication with the people only brews fear and distrust, not to mention a big plate of contempt. The city should let the area locals what is going on with regard to their future in Willets Point. Soon.
    As an aside: I find it annoying that the new stadium is going to be called “Citi Stadium” after a stupid bank. Ugh.


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