2019年12月20日 星期五

N.Y. Today: Queens Neighborhood's Last Days

What you need to know for Friday and the weekend.

Why the End Is Near for an Automotive Shantytown

It’s Friday.

Weather: Sunny today, with a high in the mid-30s. Mostly sunny for the rest of the weekend, in the mid-30s on Saturday and mid-40s on Sunday.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Wednesday (Christmas).


Todd Heisler/The New York Times, with Geoffrey Berliner and Jolene Lupo/Penumbra Foundation

It is the largest collection of auto and salvage shops in New York City, with roots dating to at least the 1930s.

It was once an ash heap immortalized as the “valley of ashes” in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

It is Willets Point, an automotive shantytown in the heart of Queens — and its days are numbered.

With the city kicking off a long-delayed redevelopment of the area, the curtain seems set to fall on this wedge-shaped area nicknamed the Iron Triangle — one of New York City’s most curious and untamed neighborhoods.

“It’s the heart of New York car repair,” said Rahat Khan, who owns one of the many bare-bones repair shops along the squalid streets that make up this enclave.


When the area is redeveloped, it will join other storied industrial hubs that have disappeared, including Printers Row and the meatpacking district in Manhattan.

In 2007, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $3 billion project to transform Willets Point into the “next great neighborhood,” one that included 5,500 apartments, a convention center and office space.

The area was cleared of some 200 businesses and about 1,700 workers, but the project was delayed. Now work is beginning on an updated plan that includes affordable housing and possibly a soccer stadium.

“We know they’ll want this property,” said Rodrigo Sinchi, who owns a transmission repair shop.

The surviving auto shops sit on privately held land. Their owners say city officials have not begun negotiations to acquire their parcels to make way for later phases of the project. So the roughly 75 remaining shops and several hundred workers remain on month-to-month leases.


Mr. Sinchi and others say they are unsure where they would relocate, because they enjoy cheaper-than-average rents, as well as a synergy with neighboring businesses that is difficult to replicate.

The photographs that were part of The Times’s recent article on Willets Point are known as tintypes, and were taken by The Times’s Todd Heisler, with Geoffrey Berliner and Jolene Lupo of the Penumbra Foundation, using a process called wet plate collodion.

Chemicals are poured onto an enameled sheet of metal, rendering the colors differently than in a traditional black-and-white image. While a positive image is developed almost instantly, the scene is also reversed like a negative.

The images capture the feeling of Willets Point, which, according to Sam Sambucci, an auto salvage shop owner, “has always offered hard-working immigrants a shot at the American dream.”


Explore news from New York and around the region

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

What we’re reading

Jail video from Jeffrey Epstein’s first suicide attempt is missing, a lawyer says. [CNBC]

New York City officials are searching for emails sent by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. [The City]

The third-largest rental landlord in the city is paying $42 million in damages to residents of a Battery Park City building. [The Real Deal]

Coming up this weekend


Enjoy a yoga class and food at Queer Anga’s Be Radical series at Modo Yoga in Brooklyn. 7:30 p.m. [$25]

The Muslim Writers Collective N.Y.C. hosts its “City of the Beloved” open mic at the New Women Space in Brooklyn. 7 p.m. [$10]


Join the Brooklyn Music School for holiday caroling, snacks and warm drinks at the Fowler Square Pedestrian Plaza in Brooklyn. Noon. [Free]

Meet local entrepreneurs at the Taste of the Bronx pop-up market at BronxNet Studios: The Hub in the Bronx. 1-6 p.m. [Free]


The Holiday Festival of Tradition: Festival of Trees and Lights is at the H.H. Biddle House on Staten Island. 1 p.m. [Free]

— Melissa Guerrero

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times’s culture pages.

And finally: Letters to Santa, delivered to Chelsea

Chelsea could hardly be confused with the North Pole.

Yet every Christmas season, scores of letters addressed to Santa Claus arrive at a certain Apartment 7 on West 22nd Street, and no one seems to know why.

Historians of Christmas in New York might guess that it had to do with the fact that Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” lived on West 22nd Street and may have attracted letter writers.

But he lived in a slightly different location, said Jim Glaub, who moved into Apartment 7 a dozen years ago with his then-husband, Dylan Parker. They were warned by the previous tenant to expect letters to Santa in the mailbox every December.

From the context of the letters, the writers seemed to come from lower-income families in New York City, which makes Mr. Glaub think the address was once published somewhere as belonging to a holiday charity.

“It’s still a bit of a puzzle,” said Mr. Glaub, who helped start an organization called Miracle on 22nd Street that finds donors called “angels” who answer the letters by sending gifts.

Mr. Glaub moved out five years ago, and subsequent tenants have turned over the letters to him. He asked that the building address remain unspecified and that needy children now send their requests to Santa through his group’s website.

It’s Friday — do your holiday shopping.

Metropolitan Diary: L train

Dear Diary:

I was out at 3 p.m. on a Friday. I found a bench in Union Square Park. I had a bagel in one hand, an iced coffee in the other and just sat there.

After a while, I went to catch the L. When the train came, it was crowded. I removed my bag and made my way to an open pole.

As the doors were about to close, a woman with red hair jostled onto the train. She was sweating and had a backpack slung over her shoulder. She seemed fatigued, or maybe just overwhelmed, like she was taking her first real breath of the day.

I noticed that her wallet seemed to be falling out of an open pocket in her backpack. I tapped her lightly on the shoulder.

“Your bag is open,” I said.

She smiled, zipped her pack and got off at the next stop.

One morning some time after that, I sprinted to the G train, barely making it onto the last one that might get me to work on time. My alarm had not gone off. I had not had time to pack a lunch. It was raining. Hard.

After getting off at Lorimer and starting to make my way to the L, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Your backpack is open,” a quiet voice behind me said.

— Sierra Lewandowski

New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

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