Willets Point is a place most Queens residents avoid unless their cars break down or need new brake pads.
But every Thursday night the Iron Triangle comes to life as bikers rumble in from all corners of the borough for the Queensboro Motorcycle Club’s weekly meeting.
A gathering of barrel-chested, chain-smoking men in leather jackets with yellow QBMC patches, the raucous rendezvous takes place in a small building behind a chain-link fence on 34th Avenue, in the heart of the pothole-riddled district in the shadow of Citi Field.
The riding enthusiasts talk shop, down beers, discuss upcoming rides and, contrary to what the general public might expect of such a group, plan a host of community service activities in which they plan to participate.
Still, first and foremost, the QBMC loves to ride and to party. On Nov. 7, nearly 400 bikers from a variety of cliques with names like the Gotham Skulls and Tortured Souls descended on the clubhouse and its gravel front lot for the group’s annual Halloween party.
As a biker stood in on vocals for an oldies group playing “House of the Rising Sun,” the assembled riders swilled cheap brew and munched on burgers and hot dogs cooked by new recruits to the QBMC, which was founded in Queens in 1910.
Just $15 got attendees past the husky, suited bouncer wearing gold chains who manned the gate at the end of a long line of shiny Harleys.
Young women in Cleopatra and Elvira costumes writhed on the dance floor between men with shaved heads and riders from the various clubs — which hailed from all five boroughs, Long Island and Westchester County — who slapped each other on the backs in celebration of their shared choice of entertainment.
Though the party was quite lively, especially by Willets Point standards, it was evident that the old image of dangerous bikers has faded as the modern bike club’s role has evolved.
“The connotation’s changed since the ’60s. Back then if you rode a motorcycle, you were a tough guy, you were a Hell’s Angel. It’s not like that anymore,” lifetime member Lou Bruno, 60, explained at the club’s regular meeting last week. “There’s a lot more people with motorcycles, so you have more options now. Back then you want to ride with someone, you’ve got to join a club.”
The party was a smashing success, and at last week’s QBMC meeting the conversation had moved on to upcoming parties, including the group’s fast-approaching 2010 centennial bash, future rides, the club’s Web site and Facebook group, and community service events, like this month’s Christmas toy drive.
Based during the 1930s in a clubhouse on a piece of land that became the grounds of the World’s Fairs in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the group left the site at the behest of the fair committee before the first World’s Fair in 1939. It eventually moved to the current site and is now facing relocation once again as the Bloomberg administration plans to redevelop the entire 62-acre Willets Point district for mixed uses.
Club leaders are in ongoing negotiations with city officials to sell or swap the property, which they have owned since moving there. QBMC President Bill Goldstein said the club would love to find a taker for the lot and well-appointed clubhouse.
“Seventeen years ago when I started in the club, it was a great spot. Now it’s a rat-infested, pothole-infested, gross area,” he said. “We’re probably one of the few businesses down there that would move if given the right opportunity. We have been speaking to the EDC, who’ve been very nice to us, but nothing seems to be going on at this time. We were looking for properties up until last year, in fact, and then the economy failed and everything kind of just stopped.”
So for now the Queens bikers will stick it out in their longtime home base in Willets Point, riding there in warm weather and cold to carry the Queensboro Motorcycle Club into its second century.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2009 Community News Group
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