WILLETS POINT — Demolition work began last week on a section of Willets Point, the first sign of progress on a multi-billion dollar overhaul from the city and private developers.
The strip of closed auto body shops along 126th Street between 38th and Roosevelt avenues was completely demolished by Tuesday morning by Tully Construction, the project's general contractor.
Workers at shops nearby that are still open said the work began about a week ago, but the main demolition started within the last two days.
The demolished shops have been empty for months, and construction fences for the project went up in April.
Demolition is expected to be completed by Aug. 31, according to the city.
A spokesman for the Economic Development Corporation — who are overseeing the project — said demolition began on July 12 and "anticipate substantial completion by early next year."
Construction crews were finishing demolition work Tuesday morning in Willets Point. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)
The plan for Willets Point — which was created 100 years ago by developers pumping sediment and soil from nearby Flushing Bay to fill in marshland — is to create a new residential and commercial community, with affordable housing.
The area still needs major environmental remediation work before any construction can begin. It's being developed by the Queens Development Group, a joint venture between Sterling Equities and the Related Companies.
Last August, the city withdrew its support for a portion of the project by not joining the Queens Development Group to fight an appeal from a judge that blocked construction of a mall at Citi Field's parking lot.
The city took issue with the project's timeline for building affordable housing.
Marco Neira, the president of the Sunrise Co-Op, a workers group for Willets Point businesses, said 45 shops that used to be at the Iron Triangle are settling into a warehouse in Hunts Point in the Bronx.
"We have a nice place over there, we fixed it up with the money the city gave. We are working with everything in place," he said.
He was back at Willets Point last week, and said it "was sort of sad to see everything gone."
"Right now, we can't do nothing with Willets Point, they can do whatever they want with the property," he said.
"We hope that we do well in The Bronx."