Archive for August 26th, 2009
Just in case you want to refer to a google map
Skillman Avenue Firebox- photo by Mitch Waxman
(forgotten NY has lamp posts- I got Fireboxes- click here)
In the first installment of this photowalk- we began scuttling through western Queens – descending from Astoria into the milieu of 19th century teutonic progressivism- and found a long forgotten relict of the 1920’s gilded age.
In the second, we lurked, fearfully, down vestigial 37th avenue – past anomalous municipal building and fortress church.
In the third, we marched defiantly into the Sunnyside, and were thunderstruck by the colossus Sunnyside Rail Yard.
Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside Yards- “stitch panorama” photo by Mitch Waxman
Not too far from here (around a half mile east) on Skillman Avenue, during a smallpox epidemic in 1899, the city fathers built a large frame wooden building commonly referred to as “the Pest House”. This is a place of unexpected detail and obscured history, with layers upon layers of significance. I’ve read about the Sunnyside Yard, and observed it from its rotting fenceline, but I’m sorry to say that I cannot grasp the place. Its just so immense, such a huge subject. As in accordance with Newtown Pentacle Policy on such subjects- the history of the FDNY for instance, experts must be referenced and deferred to.
In 1899 we had a smallpox epidemic in both Queens and Manhattan boroughs, of which Long Island City had its share of victims. In order to take care of those so afflicted a large frame building was erected in the center of what is now known as Skillman Avenue, a few hundred feet west of Old Bowery Bay Road. In Woodside and on the opposite side of Old Bowery Bay Road, Louis Sussdorf occupied a large mansion. He didn’t like the idea of a wagon (not an ambulance) carrying smallpox patients making the turn opposite his gate on its way to the so-called pest house. Mr. Sussdorf went to court and tried to obtain removal of the pest house but was unsuccessful. Shortly after the epidemic ceased, Mr. Sussdorf died and as the funeral cortege passed through the gateway on his premises the pest house burst out into flames and was burned to the ground.
36th street and Skillman Avenue – photo by Mitch Waxman
99 years ago, Skillman Avenue was still farmland.
here’s a NYtimes article from 1910 discussing the nascent development of the area surrounding the Sunnyside Yards
36th street Taxi Depot – photo by Mitch Waxman
36th street, as one moves in a roughly southern perihelion, displays an industrial neighborhood. On your right will be a fascinating multi-story taxi garage festooned with arcing ramps- reminiscent of a plastic toy service station I played with as an innocent. Its curvilinear shapes and utilitarian use of reinforced concrete suggests mid 20th century design and construction.
Curious characters- mohammedans, hindoos, and other representatives of the distant orient mill about- either waiting for a work shift to begin- or just finishing up the hypnagogic 12-16 hours behind the wheel maintained by New York’s fleet of Taxi drivers. Strong coffee and the acrid smell of tobacco hang redolant upon the air, and if one passes at an opportune time- groups of these men can be found kneeling on scraps of carpet as they perform their religious devotions while facing far off Mecca in answer to the call for prayer- heard playing from car stereos. Such adherence to tradition would be remarkable in a an American born Newtownican, and it speaks of a continuity to old world wonders.
36th street Factory – photo by Mitch Waxman
Religion in Long Island City was and is the business of business. 19th and 20th century industrialists with their twin creeds of efficiency and profit built this place. The curious and satisfying esthetics of the area are accidental, a byproduct of utility. A growing but still small number of brave souls decide to live down here in tony condominiums, amongst the effusive whir of city-bound traffic and the hectic and noisome trainyard. For much of the last century, the reverse was true, with vast populations fleeing these neighborhoods for the safety and comforts of Long Island, Westchester, and New Jersey.
36th street looking northwest at 43rd Avenue- photo by Mitch Waxman
I’ve coined a phase for the feeling one gets, walking these streets in the off hours when the workers who normally populate the area are enjoying their restful rustications, “a feeling of desolate isolation”. I crave such esoteric intuitions, and the loneliness of wandering a landscape whose very existence is predicated on concentrating large populations into industrial mills and factories. As I’ve mentioned in the past, my headphones are almost always in operation on these long pedestrian ambles, and audiobooks are usually my preferred company. Richard Matheson, Joseph Campbell, and particularly H.P. Lovecraft are often my companions as I walk upon the earth and view the splendors of Newtown. I also bring along a couple of early Black Sabbath albums, and just for kicks- the soundtrack to the Omen movies.
43rd avenue looking southwest – photo by Mitch Waxman
Continuing toward the fungus torn ground of Calvary, due south, the grinding noise of the Boulevard of Death penetrates through my headphones. I won’t remind you to safeguard as you cross the massive arterial thoroughfare, for signage attesting to traffic fatalities (and their number) adorns many of its crosswalks- as do tiny roadside shrines memorializing those not loquacious enough to respect the flow of automobiles moving toward the nearby Queensboro bridge.
36th street and Queens Blvd. – photo by Mitch Waxman
Queens Boulevard is one of those places that New Yorkers just take as a given. A massive structure which carries elevated subway service from Manhattan, and allows vehicular traffic egress to and from the great city to all points east, Queens Blvd. is properly viewed as an engineering marvel and modern day Appian Way.
Queens Boulevard was built in the early 20th century to connect the new Queensboro Bridge to central Queens, thereby offering an easy outlet from Manhattan. It was created by linking and expanding already-existing streets, such as Thomson Avenue and Hoffman Boulevard, stubs of which still exist. It was widened along with the digging of the IND Queens Boulevard Line subway tunnels in the 1920s and 1930s, and some speculated the plan was to transform it into a freeway, as was done with the Van Wyck Expressway. The city actually did propose converting it in 1941, but with the onset of World War II, the plan was never completed.
The combination of Queens Boulevard’s immense width, heavy automobile traffic, and thriving commercial scene made it the most dangerous thoroughfare in New York City and earned it citywide notoriety and morbid nicknames such as “The Boulevard of Death” and “The Boulevard of Broken Bones.” From 1993 to 2000, 72 pedestrians were killed trying to cross the street, an average of 10.2 per year, with countless more injuries. Since 2001, at least partially in response to major news coverage of the danger, the city government has taken measures to cut down on such incidents, including posting large signs proclaiming that “A Pedestrian Was Killed Crossing Here” at intersections where fatal accidents have occurred and installing more road-rule enforcement cameras.
from Queens Blvd. – photo by Mitch Waxman
I’ve always felt the Roman comparison is apt for this interconnected series of bridges and structures called Queens Blvd., due to the visual impact of the design of the elevated subway tracks- an aqueduct thrusting down the center of the great road, and the manner in which it connects so many disparate communities together as one.
HISTORY OF QUEENS BOULEVARD: Originally called Hoffman Boulevard, Queens Boulevard dates back to the early years of the twentieth century, when the road was constructed as a connecting route between the new Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge and central Queens. In 1913, a trolley line was constructed from 59th Street in Manhattan east along the new boulevard.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s, New York City began a program to widen Queens Boulevard. The project, which was conducted in conjunction with the building of the IND Queens Boulevard subway line, widened the boulevard to 12 lanes in some locations, and required a right-of-way of up to 200 feet. Once completed, local and express traffic flows were provided separate carriageways.
EXPRESSWAY PLANS: In 1941, the New York City Planning Department recommended that an expressway be constructed along eight miles of Queens Boulevard (NY 25) from the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City east to Hillside Avenue in Jamaica. The City’s plan for the highway was as follows:
This highway is the major approach from Queens, Nassau and Suffolk to Manhattan. Its conversion to an express highway could readily be accomplished by the construction of grade separation structures at the more important intersections, and by improved mall treatment to close off access to the express roadways from minor streets.
As part of the project, the express lanes of Queens Boulevard were depressed in the area of Woodhaven Boulevard and Horace Harding Boulevard (later developed as the Long Island Expressway), while the local lanes were kept at grade level.
However, the plan to upgrade Queens Boulevard to an expressway was delayed by the onset of World War II, and ultimately, was never implemented. In the postwar era, Robert Moses, the arterial coordinator for New York City, shifted attention to creating an express route between the Queens-Midtown Tunnel (now under the jurisdiction of his Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority), Queens and Long Island. First proposed as improvements to the Queens-Midtown Highway and Horace Harding Boulevard, the route evolved as the Long Island Expressway (I-495).
According to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), Queens Boulevard now carries approximately 50,000 vehicles per day (AADT). In recent years, speeding motorists who exceed the 30 MPH speed limit and jaywalkers have created a lethal mix along densely populated stretches, prompting officials to enact tough measures against both offending groups.
from Queens Blvd. – photo by Mitch Waxman
A major commercial strip as well as a transportation artery, one observes all sorts of colorful chicanery and the craft of advertising at its basest operating along the strip. Many restaurants, gas stations, and bodegas operate along Queens Blvd. I would suggest a stop for supplies, as we’re about to head into another barren industrial moonscape.
Aviation High School – photo by Mitch Waxman
On Queens Blvd.’s southern shore you will observe Aviation High School (this is the 36th street side). I highly suggest that you detour onto 35th street at this point.
Before the second world war, New York City had two classes of secondary education available. School administrators would determine, based on performance in primary school and all too often ethnicity, if one would continue on a scholastic or vocational tract. These often arbitrary and prejudiced reckonings would determine future social class and professional options, damning otherwise sound minds to a lifetime of labor based on an assumption of stereotypical ethnic predestination (the irish cop, black laborer, jewish lawyer, the white doctor, and the female nurse).
The “identity politics charismatic leaders” of the 1950’s and 60’s pointed out the unfairness of this policy and the racial and class stratification it enforced, and the vocational schools joined in the current curricula during the mayorality of John Lindsay. Aviation is a holdout from that era, although it is now listed as “specialized“.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Our state-endorsed Career and Technical Education program provides students with a world-class education. This unique curriculum prepares students for a New York State Regents Diploma and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification as Aircraft Maintenance Technicians, leading to exciting and lucrative careers in the aerospace industry. Inherent in this, we create an educational culture that instills respect, self-discipline and strong intellectual values in meeting the demands of today’s colleges and universities. Our world-renowned reputation for academic and technical excellence reflects Aviation High School’s tradition, mission and commitment to its students, their future and the future of the aerospace industry.
Aviation High School – photo by Mitch Waxman
The United States military has been very generous to the students at Aviation High School, and the shop yard found on 35th street houses a few things that you don’t expect to find along Queens Blvd. That’s a plane I can’t positively identify- but I think it may be some iteration of the WW2 Japanese Zero. The Revell scale model airplane kits I was obsessed with building and painting in my adolescent years have taught me nothing. Knowledge anyone?
UPDATE 8/29 – A netownican to the rescue, I don’t have permission to identify this person as yet, but it is from a trusted source
…the sharktoothed plane you can’t positively identify is not a Mitsubishi Zero. It’s a North American T-6 Texan, an advanced training aircraft used by the U.S. military during World War II.
You’re not completely off base with your Zero comparisons, though. Know the old movie about Pearl Harbor, “Tora Tora Tora”? All the Zeros in that film are actually modified T-6 Texans, which could be bought as surplus for ludicrously cheap prices when the war ended. Real Zeros are as rare as hens’ teeth, since most of them were either shot down, left to rot on abandoned airstrips or scrapped in Japan.
Aviation High School – photo by Mitch Waxman
This plane, a United States Marines Corps Harrier- donated by the Corps itself- is dedicated in the name of Capt. Manuel Rivera, Jr. – the first American casualty during 1992’s Operation Desert Storm. Capt. Rivera was an alumni of Aviation High School.
AND WRONG AGAIN!!! The same source from above says
The jet aircraft is a Douglas TA-4 Skyhawk, the trainer version of a Vietnam-era attack plane.
Hallen Steel Factory – photo by Mitch Waxman
Hallen Steel is directly across the street from Aviation. This is their website, they seem to be some sort of metal working facility. I just really like the way their front yard looks. They are very prepared for what we here at Newtown Pentacle refer to as a “night of the living dead type situation”. Given my druthers, there’s a scrap yard I know in Greenpoint that would make a better shelter against the massive infestation of flesheaters that New York would surely produce, but Hallen is closer. I also like the guard towers on the George Washington Bridge for similar duty.
We are crossed by “the cemetery belt”, after all.
What, you never thought that one through- zombies in New York? I once did a 64 page BW comic about it, called Deadworld:Necropolis.
47th avenue – photo by Mitch Waxman
Sorry for the sporadic updates last couple of days, late summer delights and professional obligation have kept me offline. Next up, we finish the walk to Calvary…