Updated Friday, Oct. 17.
Queens’ official historian will be holding a walking tour through Willets Point next month to make the public more aware of the small industrial area near Citi Field lined with mechanic shops.
Jack Eichenbaum, who holds a Ph. D. in urban geography, offers walking tours throughout New York City and on Nov. 8 he will take a group of 30 people through Willets Point to raise awareness about the area and get people involved in its development. Those interested can register on Eichenbaum’s site.
He is also hoping to dispel the “misnomer” in referring to that area as WIllets Point.
“It’s not actually Willets Point,” he said. “It’s the mouth of Flushing Bay. And the real Willets Point is actually Fort Totten.”
He also pointed out that there is a Willets Point Boulevard but it’s not actually in the area known as Willets Point.
“I’m an educator first. I want to show people the history and geography,” Eichenbaum said. “This walk will not be a pleasant walk. It’s about the political, ecological and economic situation.”
The name Willets Point is used to refer to the area near Citi Field and Flushing. Current plans for the area call for a 1.4 million-square-foot complex which will consist of a mall and housing units with commercial and retail space, according to earlier reports.
But Eichenbaum and others don’t want a mall. Joe Ardizzone is the area’s last remaining resident and he is a member of Willets Point United, a group that advocates for a similar solution to Eichenbaum’s with housing as a top priority. So far, the group has had little success in preventing commercial development or eminent domain.
“There are four malls in Flushing. We need another mall? How about housing?” Eichenbaum said. “We ought to develop it.”
But Eichenbaum is in a position to influence Borough President Melinda Katz. In 2010, he was appointed as the Queens Borough Historian and part of his job is advising Katz. He’s hoping that politicians as well as ordinary people will participate in his lecture and tour.
“Most people don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “If a shopping mall is built there it will have a major impact on the surrounding areas and people need to be included in the discussion and figure out whether that’s a good or bad thing.”