December 18, 2008 -
Manhattanville is a gritty industrial valley on the western edge of Harlem. Situated underneath multiple overpasses, including the famed Riverside Drive Viaduct, the neighborhood is a colorful collection of auto body shops, stone & marble fabricators, boiler repairmen and meat wholesalers. In recent years, its cobblestone streets have experienced a growing popularity, with a new Fairway Market and restaurants like Dinosaur BBQ drawing in crowds.
Columbia University plans to demolish 17 acres of this busy neighborhood. They will replace them with a huge new $7 billion extension campus. As part of this plan, Manhattanville was declared blighted in 2008 by the Empire State Development Corporation, opening the door for government use of eminent domain to seize the property of any businesses that did not wish to relocate. Like the radical transformation being forced upon the industrial businesses of the Iron Triangle, this plan was met with much protest, but to date, only three businesses continue to hold out against Columbia - a gas station and two storage companies.
Work has already begun on on Phase 1 of Columbia's plan, which will remove a city block between 129th and 130th Street west of Broadway. Several businesses in this block, including a service station and parking lot, have already closed their doors. Popular restaurants like Dinosaur BBQ and Floridita will be displaced. The prematurely quieted streets of Phase 1 are now watched over by dozens of security cameras.
For more photo essays on neighborhoods endangered by eminent domain, please visit The Bloomberg Era, Part Two (2010), The Demolition of Manhattanville (2011), The Iron Triangle (2008), and The Atlantic Yards (2007).
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.