Last Days at the Iron Triangle

Plein air paintings of a vanishing neighborhood, printed in a risograph book

Publication date: December 1, 2023

Willets Point’s days are numbered. Known as the Iron Triangle, it is an industrial neighborhood in Corona, Queens, consisting of auto shops, scrap yards, and small businesses, supported by and serving a working-class immigrant population. The area has unpaved roads, no sewers, and lacks city services, though it’s heavily taxed. In 2022 the City of New York reached an agreement with New York City FC to raze the neighborhood and build a stadium.

Last Days at the Iron Triangle” is a self-published risograph book of plein air watercolor paintings made in the streets and among the businesses of Willets Point. The project captures a fleeting moment in time as a unique New York microcosm vanishes.

The paintings are being printed by hand and assembled in a 40-page risograph book, produced at the SVA RisoLAB. The book will also contain photos, historical images, and oral histories gathered in Willets Point.

This project is made possible by a 2023 New Works Grant from the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts.

From on-site watercolor paintings to risograph prints

“Last Days at the Iron Triangle” will be a suite of plein air watercolor paintings alongside photos, historical images, and quotes from oral histories gathered in Willets Point, reproduced in a risograph book printed at the SVA RisoLAB. The book, paintings, and inkjet prints will be on sale at an opening in late 2023. These images show the process from on-site painting to risograph print.

The process

Step 1: A plein air watercolor painting is created on the street in Willets Point.

Step 2: The painting is scanned and separated into color plates.

Step 3: The plates are printed on a risograph printer.

Result – a 4-color risograph print.

Plein air painting and stories

The heart of the project is my experience painting within Willets Point. I enjoy painting in cities and among people. The jumbled, busy, chaotic environment of Willets Point is a particularly exciting subject. Plein air painting is always a way to meet people, who will often approach and see what is being made. The reactions I’ve received from the people working in Willets Point have been especially supportive. People are happy to see their shops in the paintings, and willing to share the stories about their businesses and their lives. Quotes from these stories will be reprinted in the book, adding context to the images, and hopefully capturing a snaposhot time as this unique New York microcosm vanishes.