The Iron Triangle

December 11, 2008 -

Winter in the Iron Triangle. The rooster stays indoors. Loose dogs wander into empty lots, picking at carcasses. Melted snow floods the dirt-paved streets. Barrel fires are lit at every intersection to help ward off frostbite. Despite the cold, a constant stream of customers drives through this medieval landscape, keeping the potholes from freezing over.

Over a thousand people work in this bustling Queens industrial zone. Hundreds of businesses - mainly auto repair shops and junkyards - are crowded into a 13-block area, also known as Willets Point. And soon, it may all be bulldozed. The NYC EDC, which is behind the development of many of New York City's industrial areas, has a $3 billion development plan for the Iron Triangle. Despite years of protest by business owners and the valiant efforts of the area's single resident, the city decided this November to move forward with their plan, a massive new complex of luxury hotels, housing and retail space. Businesses that do not agree to relocate or sell out can now be seized using eminent domain, much like Columbia University's $7 billion plan for Manhattanville.

In the meantime the endless parade of cars continues 7 days a week, supporting a thriving and unique industrial neighborhood.

For another view of winter in the Iron Triangle, see Jake Dobkin's excellent photos at Bluejake.


  1. i love that last shot with the water coming right up to the cars.

    great coverage as always nathan.

  2. Thanks John!

    The water in that last shot is one of the flooded intersections. It was the largest "puddle" in the neighborhood - over 60 feet long and deeper then a hubcap in some parts. Cars had to drive through it at full speed in order to make it to their repair shop. We named it Lake Willets.

  3. This is insane. Such neglect by the City.

  4. Great series of images and write up. I particularly like the capture of the front end of the car on the lift. The stacks of doors in the background are great and help make this image so attractive. Nice work!

  5. i like the first photo. the clouds looks so dramatic and the colors of the photo is amazing...