Willets Point workers stage soccer match: Weekend tournament, art show give visitors a look at another side of the gritty Iron Triangle
By Howard Koplowitz

The Iron Triangle became the asphalt rectangle Sunday as it hosted daylong soccer matches along with walking tours and sculptures made of muffler parts.

A makeshift soccer field was constructed near 127th Street and Willets Point Boulevard, with the goal posts created by placing three tires on top of each other and the crossbar consisted of a pipe running along the tires.

At times, the ball landed in puddles of muddy water or it banged against metal siding or shipping containers on the outskirts of the field.

The event was scheduled to begin Saturday but was postponed due to snow. The finals of the soccer tournament is scheduled for Sunday.

“We just wanted to see the activities,” said Tana Quiloutangy, 14, whose father runs an auto body business in Willets Point.

The day also featured robot sculptures made out of muffler parts.

Walking tours of the Iron Triangle that provoked discussion of efforts to redevelop the area were led by Queens Borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum; Alex White Mazzarella, an artist and community organizer with the group Artefacting, an organization that benefits marginalized people around the world and hosted Sunday’s event; and Jose Serrano-McClain, a community organizer with the Queens Museum of Art.

Mazzarella said he was against the city’s ambitious blueprint for the blighted area, which have included relocating the auto-related businesses that line the bumpy roads of Willets Point.

“This works very much like a shopping mall,” he said, noting drivers from as far away as New England patronize Willets Point shops for bargain-basement repair prices. “All these workshops are tied together pretty closely.

“People have said, ‘If I get relocated, I won’t get the clientele,’” Mazzarella said. “How efficient is it to destroy something just because there’s an opportunity?”

Eichenbaum said he has led tours of the area because people are familiar with Willets Point through the media but gain a better perspective of its economy once they walk its streets.

“Historically, this place twice beat back attempts at redevelopment,” he said. “The remarkable thing about this area is this is land that is ripe for redevelopment. It’s got a use that’s really antiquated. but moving [businesses] around is a political problem.”

Eichenbaum said he is in favor of a plan that would put a tech university in Willets Point, although Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said preferred sites for the campus are on Roosevelt Island and in Brooklyn.

A Westchester County resident who was on the tour said she was amazed by the Iron Triangle.

“It’s just an experience walking after the No. 7 [train] because as soon as you get off Roosevelt Avenue, it’s like another planet,” said the resident, who asked that she be identified only by her first name, Shirley. “I just decided to come out and check it out before it’s gone.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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