The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Long Island City zen

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Know this spot?

View from behind the midtown tunnel by you.

Long Island City -photo by Mitch Waxman 

It’s a backroad, by LIC standards.

It’s 51st Avenue and what would be 21st street, and it smells heavily from the garbage bins of a commercial fish butcher just up the block on the corner of 23rd street. During the festering heat of the late summer in New York, crossing the street- if not avoiding the block all together- is advisable. Across the street are fallow lots of illegally dumped industrial garbage and the Crows picking it over. 

Crows are metal collectors, usually immigrants who have a tradition of “ship-breaking” or “shanty towns” in their country of origin. They see value in what others see as trash.

Metal buyers in Long Island City and especially Greenpoint and East Williamsburg pay, by the pound, for the collected materials. If copper wire is found, the collector is expected to burn off the insulation, despite the toxicity of doing so. Its not the buyers problem, he just wants the commodity. Want to see it in action- hang out on the corner of Greenpoint avenue and Moultrie St. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This is recycling. 

Circus Train by you.

Pretty darn close to 51st Avenue and what would be 21st street- It’s the Circus Train!!! -photo by Mitch Waxman 

In 1908, a fire at the nearby Blanchard Building- which housed the works of J.F. Blanchard, makers of fireproof doors and shutters- was started by an inferno at the Pratt & Lambert varnish works next door. The fire soon began to spread and a great crowd watched as groups of firemen tried to battle the out of control blaze. The great fear was that the nearby Columbia Paper Bag company would be set alight, which would provide ample fuel for an inferno that might spread beyond Borden Avenue and to the shores of the Newtown Creek. 

nytimes archive article here:

“LONG ISLAND CITY FIRE A SIGHT FOR THOUSANDS; A Varnish Plant and Door Factory Are Destroyed. MANY TRAINS ARE HELD UP Poor Water Supply Responsible for $300,000 Loss, Says Croker — Fireman Badly Hurt.

There is a Blanchard Building on the site today, and it does seem quite fireproof, although Blanchard is long gone. J.F. Blanchard eventually merged with the John W. Rapp company and became the United States Metal Products Company.

View the  Blanchard Building in a google map, clicking streetview- from the LIE- its the large structure with the two billboards. 

Blanchard manufactured hollow, sheet-metal, fireproof doors. Their Type A and Type B were endorsed by the National Board of Fire Underwriters in Chicago. Installation of thee doors would reduce fire insurance costs by a significant margin. A major influence on the bottom line here in the dense agglutination of industry here on the Newtown Creek.

 from beneath the Queens Midtown Expressway by you.

Down under the Long Island Expressway- DULIE -photo by Mitch Waxman 

51st avenue dead ends at the Long Island Railroad tracks, and what would be 21st street is a pedestrian rail bridge (which Forgotten-Ny once christened “the 21st street Bridge“) that goes over the train tracks and under the Highway, which channels the constant stream of vehicular traffic (some 83,900 cars and trucks a day) flowing east out of the toll plaza at the Midtown Tunnel to the highways threading out through Queens and ultimately to Long Island. 

note- this bridge has a lamppost which was one of the ones tagged with “occult” grafiti, as discussed in an earlier post.

Best one of this batch by you.

LIRR crosses Borden Avenue -photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby, the 800 pound gorilla crosses Borden Avenue at grade (street level). One of the few places in New York City that the Long Island Rail Road still does so.

These tracks lead between the Hunters Point Avenue station and the Long Island City station, and up until the 1950’s such grade crossings were a constant nuisance and mortal threat to the citizens of Long Island City- here in the Newtown Pentacle.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Posted in newtown creek

3 Responses

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  1. [...] no picnic during the urban season defined by “wind chills”, I assure you. This location will be familiar to longtime readers, this is 51st ave. and what would be 21st street, across the street for the Blanchard [...]

  2. [...] a Newtown Pentacle post of June 27th, 2009 about the history of this stretch of 51st [...]

  3. Reblogged this on The Newtown Pentacle and commented:

    Reblogged from June of 2009, an oldie but a goodie

    Mitch Waxman

    August 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm


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