Have you been to Willets Point lately? No? Consider yourself lucky.
Part war-zone, part third world country, Willets Point has fallen into disrepair. A menagerie of wracked buildings and cratered roads, the city has turned it’s back on this section of Queens with intention.
Rising over the roofline of automobile shops – many of which may or may not be chop shops – is the beauty of Citi Field. The new Mets stadium stands in stark contrast to the mess surrounding it.
On my way to Citi Field on Tuesday, I missed my turn into the parking lot. Thinking quickly, I made a quick right down Willets Point Boulevard, hoping it would take me back to where I needed to be.
At that point in my journey, I failed to realize where I had turned or what I would witness over the next three minutes.
If I had been told I was suddenly transported to a decrepit town in a third-world country, I would have believed you. From shanty-looking buildings, stray dogs wandering the hills and valleys that used to be a road, and the overall atmosphere of broken-down lives and businesses I no longer would have thought I was in New York.
I understand that the city has let Willets Point fall from bustling neighborhood (which may or may not have been so decrepit) to a haggard mess so they can claim eminent domain over the area. Though the families and stores that survive there have been wronged by this doing, it is truly remarkable how far they have let the place fall around them.
On one hand, the city taking the land would clean up the area around Citi Field and nearby Arthur Ashe Stadium. As it stands now, I was barely comfortable driving down Willets Point Blvd. in broad daylight. I could only imagine what it would be like at night.
(Is it fear of the unknown or the base of simple mess and dirty neighborhood that strikes fear into me, I’m not sure. Whatever it was, I’m sure many people would share the same sentiment.)
On the other hand, these people have a right to their land and property ownership. If they legally own the buildings they inhabit and are just the victims of a mismanaged effort to claim eminent domain, then they should rightfully be angry at what has happened.
There is no right way to solve this problem. Either way, people will be upset and people will be wronged.
If you had to ask me for my stance on this, I would begrudgingly tell you I support the city taking eminent domain, but not what they have done. The neighborhood has fallen into such dilapidation it seems beyond saving. Even though the city has slapped this neighborhood in the face by failing to provide the simplest needs and wants, it has worked.
The folks of Willets Point have let the city beat them, have let the city win. Instead of standing strong in the face of adversity, they have played directly into the city’s hand as the neighborhood decayed.
They did not take things into their own hands and help keep the locale clean. No, they let it fall apart around them.
There is no saving Willets Point. It has fallen too far out of commission to be rescued. The city of New York, however unjustly, should do a service to this area by taking it and tearing it down.
The city, at it’s furthest reaches, would struggle to find a comparable scar on it's overall beauty.
Tear down Willets Point. Start anew. It’s the only way now.