Mayor: Valley of Ashes in 'Great Gatsby' Was Inspired by Willets Point

Email a Friend

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, unveiling a redevelopment plan for Willets Point, said the desolate area near Citi Field was the inspiration for the dump depicted in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby.”

Bloomberg unveiled a redevelopment plan for the area in Queens strewn with auto body shops and junk yards that would include housing units, retail space, entertainment and recreation facilities and a hotel.

“For generations, Willets Point was neglected,” Bloomberg said Thursday. “The site was the inspiration for F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s valley of the ashes, and it remains one of the city’s most polluted sites.”

Fitzgerald makes reference to the “valley of ashes” in his 1925 novel to show the erosion of morality in America, shown by burning trash along the road between Great Neck and Manhattan:

"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. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight."

The redevelopment deal is with Sterling Equities, led by the owners of the Mets baseball team, and the Related Companies, which built the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

“This is a project and an area that has bedeviled the city for decades and with this plan we have a path to not only the remediation of the site but also the creation of jobs and new economic activity,” said Seth Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

The developers will have to first go through a years-long process of changing the zoning because the plan differs from the Bloomberg administration's original vision for the area approved by the City Council in 2008.

Annmarie Fertoli contributed reporting