— Days Without Shea —

The area of Willets Point across the street from Shea is known as thr Iron Triangle. If you’ve never been there, here’s what you’re missing:


For a drive-through the neighborhood with “Drinking with Bob,” check out this earlier post.

It may not be pretty but the Iron Triangle is home to 250, mostly family-owned businesses. Trash removal, auto body shops – it’s all here. And most stores have been here for generations.

And for generations, New York City has tried to remove these businesses. Without success. NYC has denied the region services, so there are no paved streets, no sewage system, no proper trash removal. Yet it survives, mainly because these businesses do legitmate business.

But the Iron Triangle’s days may be numbered. In May, Mayor Bloomberg introduced a plan to revamp the area. This week’s City Limits has an excellent story on the status of the plan. The plight of the Iron Triangle is a great side story to the Citi Field saga.

The situation is a bit confusing. Here’s a breakdown, culled from the story

  • A new plan for redevelopment of the area unveiled in May 2007 calls for the 250 industrial businesses and manufacturers who now occupy the land to submit to a mixed-use makeover.
  • Last week, a number of local nonprofits and politicians – including the Pratt Center for Community Development, ACORN and Queens City Councilmembers Hiram Monserrate and Tony Avella – convened a meeting of area stakeholders in order to gather input for a community plan to influence the administration's.
  • “Once the mayor’s plan is certified" – the first stage of the city’s public review process – "City Council is limited in how much they can alter that plan,” explained Avella, who chairs the Council’s zoning committee. “So community involvement has to happen before certification
  • Community leaders learned this spring, however, that this coming fall the city is going to push for the area to be rezoned from heavy industrial to commercial/residential before it picks a developer.

  • That means the plan will go through the city’s public planning process (or ULURP – short for Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) before the mayor negotiates a contract with a developer to turn all those abstract blocks into concrete blueprints. “It’s unusual for the city to make plans on privately owned property,” said Brad Lander, director of the Pratt Center.

  • Since the mayor has put the Willets Point proposal on the fast track for approval, neighborhood groups in this case can only hope to “develop their own principles and priorities for development on the site.”

  • At last week’s meeting, there were neighborhood groups from the nearby areas of Flushing and Corona who expressed concern about the size of a proposed school in the city’s plan. Others said they wanted to see 50 percent affordable housing onsite. Still others wanted assurances that the new jobs the project is expected to bring go to area residents.

  • But to the 250 property and business owners who occupy the land now, and the 1,300 some workers employed by them, concerns like these rather miss the point. They don’t want the rezoning to happen at all, with or without community benefits.

So there it is: the city (with pressure from developers and big business) is gearing up to force many small businesses out of their homes. New York has a lame-duck mayor – now unaffiliated with any political party – so there is no political price to pay for displacing hundreds of family-owned enterprises.

The local employees and politicos are vowing a fight to the death.

Meanwhile, adjacent community groups are negotiating terms to secure the best jobs, best housing, best deals in return for their support.

And across the street in Shea, the players wear clown shirts.

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