DOT resurfaces two minor Willets Point street segments as wait for similar repairs in the neighborhood continues

Photo courtesy of Sam Sambucci

Two street segments in Willets Point are getting a makeover after years of requests for repavement.

Community Board 7 confirmed on April 22 that the city Department of Transportation will be resurfacing the roads at 126th Place from Northern Boulevard to 34th Avenue and 127th Street from Northern Boulevard to 34th Avenue.

The road resurfacing in Willets Point comes after the DOT attended the recent Land Use and Zoning (Willets Point Quarterly Update Meeting) Committee meeting held in March.

“The Community Board’s feedback was very helpful, and after further analysis we are pleased to announce that at this time DOT will be able to accommodate resurfacing in Willets Point for two street segments with our existing in-house resources,” the DOT said in a statement to CB 7. “We aim to complete this work within Calendar Year 2019. We will continue to keep the board apprised of our plans as we go forward.”

The CB 7 Willets Point Advisory Committee has been pushing for the resurfacing, which has been brought up constantly at many meetings, according to Eugene Kelty, chairman of CB 7.

“The board is appreciative of DOT’s revaluation of the request and hopes DOT continues with the resurfacing of additional streets in the area,” Kelty said in a statement.

Chuck Apelian, vice chairman and Land Use chairman of CB 7, said they will continue to support any further needs as warranted.

“All taxpaying citizens of Queens, whether businesses of residents deserve basic services such as safe, drivable roads and CB 7 has been a strong advocate for these resurfacing needs in Willets Point for over a decade,” said Apelian. “We are pleased that existing businesses in the northern part of Willets Point Special District are not forgotten as new development begins in the southern part of Willets Point.”

Known locally as the “Iron Triangle,” Willets Point is an industrial neighborhood within Corona. Located east of the CitiField Mets Stadium near the Flushing River, it is known for its auto shops, scrap yards, waste processing sites and similar businesses.

For over 30-plus years, property and business owners in the area have been advocating for the repair and maintenance of the neighborhood’s streets, said Willets Point United in a statement to QNS.

“Resurfacing those minor street ‘segments’ does absolutely nothing to address the long-standing complaints of property and business owners in the heart of Willets Point, south of 34th Avenue,” the organization said.

Sam Sambucci, a property owner/business owner of A&D Used Auto Parts in Willets Point, believes the city is wasting their time and money fixing roads in Willets Point that have been repaved in the past with little or no disrepair, while neglecting the main road that is in dire need of resurfacing, he said.

“They have done 126th Street from Northern Boulevard to Roosevelt Avenue — which there was nothing wrong with it,” said Sambucci. “The major road that has not been touched in almost 30 years is 127th Place from Northern Boulevard to 37th Avenue and Willets Point Boulevard from 37th Avenue to Northern Boulevard. Those are the roads you cannot drive down without dropping everything off your dashboard while spilling coffee.”

Photo courtesy of Sambucci

Sambucci added, “The roads they’re doing from a scale of 1 to 10 are probably like a 7 or 8. 126th Street that they just milled for almost 4,000 feet on a scale of 1 to 10 was a 10. Willets Point and 127th Place — those two roads are negative 100. That’s how bad they are. I don’t even know if you can call it a road.”

On the strip of Willets Point Boulevard between 37th Avenue and Northern Boulevard there are over 50 businesses that see customers daily, said Sambucci.

“On a low end service each business takes care of at least three cars a day. There’s 200-plus cars a day serviced to that neighborhood. That means there are over 1,000 cars a week that people come down here to get repaired. I think that’s a pretty good business district,” said Sambucci. “This is a needed area and I don’t know why the city refuses or anybody else refuses to step up for us.”

According to Sambucci, the condition of the roads has led to people “double parking, triple parking and quadruple parking” their cars along the street while “street hustlers” work on vehicles, which has an effect on licensed businesses in the area. Closed streets and unpaved roads have kept Sambucci’s customers away from his shop refusing to drive down the treacherous path. 

“When the city closed off 37th Avenue everyone has their cars parked and jacked up working on the street like they’re a legitimate business,” said Sambucci. “All we need is a little enforcement and chase these street hustlers away standing at the corner of the stadium. There’s a whole bustling business of guys in the street repairing cars.”

Looking forward to the future of the redevelopment of Willets Point, Sambucci believes the neighborhood will be nonexistent in 20 years. 

“As much as I would like for the neighborhood to stay I don’t believe it’ll be here, and as a property owner I’m not going to stand in the way of development, but while I am here the city needs to take care of us,” said Sambucci.

As of late, Willets Point United has started a collection of petition signatures that began circulating two days ago and will be completed soon. The coalition is requesting that the DOT repair and maintain all Willets Point streets that front or provide vehicular access to Willets Point businesses.
“The goal is to make DOT and public officials realize that the present resurfacing work does not come anywhere close to resolving our long-standing complaints, and that the City must allocate resources to resurface Willets Point streets south of 34th Avenue, and implement that work as soon as possible. If the street conditions here existed in any other neighborhood of the City, they would be treated as an obvious emergency and repaired immediately,” the organization said.