Nate Dorr & Maya Edelman | 2018 | 16 min
A vibrant industrial neighborhood thriving despite city neglect. Immigrant workers, documented and undocumented. A city plan for massive redevelopment: malls, business centers, hotels, condos. Self-serving developers. Eminent domain. A destruction. A limbo. A renewal?
Willets Point is an industrial wedge of northeast Queens consisting for most of the last 70 years of almost entirely autobody shops and scrap yards. Despite city neglect, pitted streets, and a complete lack of storm drains that cause frequent flooding, as of 2006, the neighborhood provided the livelihoods for 1400 to 1800 people, mostly immigrants, many undocumented. In 2007, the City of New York set in motion a major redevelopment plan which would entail displacing nearly all existing businesses in favor of malls, conference centers, and hotels, and over the last decade much of the neighborhood has been bought out and razed. Blocked as an improper commercial use of public land by the New York court system, part of the area continues on, while much has been left as concrete desolation, its future uncertain.
This film, shot spanning the major "urban renewal" operations from 2014 to 2017, documents the conversion of a vibrant, singular small business district into a wasteland, and envisions a different kind of renewal unlikely to be allowed by developers and city officials.
Made possible in part by a residency with Chance Ecologies.