"This is a valley of ashes — a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air."

                           F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. Willets Point
                           is said to have been the basis for this passage.

 

Vultures are circling the men of Willets Point. A $3 billion development of condos, malls, and hotels is slated to rise where a tangle of body shops, salvage lots, tire warehouses, and windshield-repair workshops currently stands. While decades of redevelopment plans have been floated and failed for this graceless corner of Queens, the current plan seems likely to stick. Already, hundreds of businesses have been shuttered. The workers--not always dim and crumbling--express little hope for the future.

                              —P.B.