A group of small business owners in Willets Point, the rugged shanty town of auto body shops across the street from Citi Field slated to to be leveled and redeveloped into a luxury mall and condos, settled their lawsuit against the developers and the city on March 19, removing one of the last impediments delaying construction, Crain’s reports.

The holdouts in the Sunrise Collective settled for $5.8 million to be paid into an escrow fund, with $4.8 million coming from the city, $960,000 from the developers, Related and Sterling Equities. The collective will also contribute $143,000 to the fund. The collective will primarily use the money to build a large new auto repair center in Hunts Point, Bronx. The remaining businesses in Willets Point will vacate by June 1.

In return, the developers now have a clear path to begin construction of 2,500 apartments and a $3 billion, 1.4-million square foot mall. They contributed the equivalent of pocket change to the settlement.

It’s not like the Iron Triangle of Willets Point is a huge loss to the city in itself, but its destruction and replacement by luxury retail is symbolic of the gentrification and loss of identity New York City is going through. New York is no longer a place where gleaming luxury developments and gritty industrial neighborhoods with no streetlights or sewers can both exist. Instead, New York gets a mall with the same stores as anywhere else, and some more apartments that will be too expensive for most people in Queens to afford. So appreciate Willets Point while it lasts.

(Photo: Chung Chu)