Willet’s Point holds a special place for us – it was one of the very first experiences offered on Loculars with documentary photographer Greg Brophy. It’s also a neighborhood on the verge of disappearance, and still unknown to many in and around New York. Over the past several months, four photographers have documented New York’s so called Iron Triangle with Greg, and this post summarizes their distinct takes and reactions.
Located in the shadow of City Field is a photographic adventure, which is a peek into the world of car parts, car repair and the men who make it happen. This unique tour is chock full of photographic opportunities. If it weren’t for Loculars, I would have never known this site existed. Greg’s knowledge of the area and rapport with the men who work here, made our experience enjoyable and worthwhile. Book your behind the scenes tour of the auto repair industry, located in the Iron Triangle soon, before they pave paradise and put up a parking lot!
The area just east of Citi Field in Queens has had a long and controversial history. This industrial section is currently under assault by modernization, gentrification, and capitalism, like so many other older neighborhoods in the NYC area. With the cost of real estate continuing to climb and the development of the new Citi Field, people saw the opportunity to give this area, also known as the Iron Triangle, a facelift. Redevelopment plans here go back to 2007, but a series of lawsuits thwarted those efforts for almost 10 years. I had the distinct pleasure of being introduced to Willets Point by Loculars photographer Greg Brophy. Greg has been coming here for years, building relationships with the local shop owners and witnessing the changes personally. He introduced us to the people and the stories that make photography so interesting. Without Loculars, I would have never ventured here on my own. Now I can’t wait to experience more!
This was one of the most interesting experiences I have had around NYC. For starters, I had no idea that a place like the Iron Triangle even existed in NYC. Right under the shadow of the New York Mets ballpark is this almost shantytown-esque assortment of dilapidated auto junkyards/repair shops that most folks going to the ball game pass by without even taking a glance at.The experience was an eye opener for me and Greg was a fabulous host. He has been photographing disappearing neighborhoods around NYC for years. He has cultivated relationships with the community, which gave me the opportunity to photograph the area in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do myself. Did I get good pictures ? – Yes! But I walked away with much more than that – learning about a community, their struggles, the government and eminent domain and how it impacts every day lives. This was a gem of an experience at a location that probably won’t last more than a few years at the very best!
For most people, there is little reason to wander around in Willet’s Point. It’s dirty, smelly, unkept and some would say, unsafe. But if witnessing migrant workers fixing any car problem imaginable, in the most dire circumstances operating two hundred odd auto repair shops incites your fancy, then this place is not to be missed. Visually speaking, Willet’s Point is a cacophony of colors, textures brought about by innumerable auto parts and crumbling infrastructure, diversity of hard working men, and an array of lines, shapes and patterns. Interesting photos are therefore a given. More important however, are the insights and perspectives of Greg Brophy, which bring to life the stories and struggles of the Hispanic, Arab and Jewish owners of these auto shops that have been collectively fighting the seemingly inevitable $4billion redevelopment of Willet’s Point. Most of the 1200 plus workers come from Mexico, El Salvador, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, bringing with them their rich Hispanic ethos as they start their journey in America. For me, having dabbled in travel and landscape photography for the most part, this was a highly educational introduction to documentary and human interest photography. My experience with Greg at Willet’s Point has not just given me good photos and a portfolio, but also broadened my exposure to a style of storytelling I wasn’t familiar with.