By Connor Sheets
The road is finally a little smoother for a scrappy Willets Point motorcycle crew.
The Queensboro Motorcycle Club, which was formed in 1910, survived after a World’s Fair committee forced it to vacate its Flushing Meadows Corona Park digs in 1939 to make way for the fair, and it has survived decades of neglect in the 62-acre Iron Triangle.
But as time passed, members began to see what happens when the city fails to keep up its roads as potholes and craters turned the area into “Beirut,” as club member James Frost put it, over the past three years.
So the club’s leaders began a concerted push to have the roads fixed in their neglected corner of Queens, which consists of a well-tended wooden clubhouse between chop shops and bus depots at 126-42 34th Ave., in the shadow of Citi Field. The group contacted local and city officials and agencies, filed complaints with 311 and called borough media, including the TimesLedger Newspapers, which in December 2009 was the first to report on their struggle.
The roads were so bad in May that a member of the club sustained minor injuries while slowly riding his chopper to the clubhouse when his wheel hit a pothole. His bike was knocked over and damaged.
Billy Goldstein, the club’s president, did not know where to turn after all his entreaties and efforts went unanswered.
“It turned into an absolute [mess] ï»¿down there and I just got fed up,” he said Monday.
So the club, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last month, began calling local broadcast media, and last week WPIX-TV followed up on the story, sending a reporter out to the clubhouse to show viewers the dire conditions the motorcycle club had been living under for years, a litany which includes bad roads, a lack of sewers, running water and sidewalks the city never installed in the area.
After coverage ran on the channel Oct. 11 and Oct. 12, the club’s members discovered Oct. 13 that their stretch of 37th Avenue between 126th and 127th streets had been paved overnight.
“They came down and took all the water out of the puddles late [Oct. 12] and at about 4:30 in the morning [Oct. 13] they paved it,” Goldstein said. “It’s a shame that we had to go that length because we’ve tried to be comfortable and work with the city, but of course they haven’t worked with us.”
A DOT representative said drainage problems and the heavy industrial use of roads in the area make maintenance difficult, but the department had been to the area six times already this year to address potholes.
But their fight does not end here, Goldstein said. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has cleared the way for a multibillion-dollar, mixed-use development to replace the area’s industrial and auto shops with condominiums, a school, a convention center, shopping and more, possibly through the use of eminent domain.
The club’s leaders said they know they cannot stop the city’s momentum, so they would be happy to have a place with basic amenities they can call home for the next 100 years.
“We’d still like to be relocated out of that area because we know they’re going to take that area sooner or later,” Goldstein said. “The bigger part of this is what are you doing with us?”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.