The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for January 20th, 2012

strange delicacies

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Fascination with the once upon a time community known as Blissville haunts my dreams.

Unaccountably, given the corrupted environment and largely abandoned to industry character of this corridor in western Queens, there are still proud and ancestral residents of this neighborhood which borders the sanguine Newtown Creek. First Calvary consumed most of the neighborhood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as it grew by acquisition and through the action of wills and estate transfers.

Greenpoint Avenue, as is slouches roughly toward the Newtown Creek, is the central artery of the place.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Traffic choked, this part of Greenpoint Avenue was once home to fine hotels and numerous inns, public houses, and bars. The teeming multitudes of largely Catholic Lower Manhattan, whether denizens of the fabled “Five Points” or from the savory upscale districts in New York, came here for funerary rites at First Calvary. Before embarking on the long journey back to Manhattan, a major endeavor involving ferries and horse drawn trolleys, they would often tilt a glass to their fallen comrade or family.

The last of these comfort stops is still in operation, the Botany Bay public house at Bradley Avenue.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There were two major “trolley” roads (not steam or electric at first, but rather horse drawn)¬†which serviced this area, providing access for the New Yorkers to arrive at Blissville. The Greenpoint based one would find its passengers at a ferry stop which connected Grand Street in Manhattan with the foot of Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn. This is the reason why Greenpoint avenue is so wide, it originally carried two lanes of traffic with the center given over to the “road”.

It’s also the reason why GPA near the East River hosts so many grand and significant structures, it was a sort of “Parisian Avenue”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The second “road” followed Borden Avenue from its foot at the Long Island Railroad ferry in Long Island City to its intersection at Greenpoint Avenue. A point of interest about this line was that it was owned and operated by the notorious Mayor of Long Island City, Patrick J. Gleason, known as Battle Ax. The LIRR ferry connected the line with Turtle Bay in Manhattan, but the Brooklyn based one was far more popular.

Obviously, the Catholic population around Manhattan’s Grand Street was quite a bit larger than that of the less populated area around 34th street.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There are quite a few run down relicts found along this stretch of road, an area that time seems to have forgotten. Worm eaten pilasters and hints of former glory adorn these structures, some of which date back to the years directly following the Civil War. Modern structures are strictly utilitarian, boxes of brick and rebar.

Sources in the construction industry, some who are even responsible for erecting these architectural abominations, have hinted to me in the past that jobs in this area always yield surprise and sometimes engender astonishment. Foundations of much earlier structures, unknown pipelines, and even underground voids of astonishing size and workmanship.

Credulous, I must accept the descriptions offered to me that the whole area is thoroughly tunneled out. Sometimes I wonder, and tremble at the suggestions made by anonymous sources that some of these tunnels are quite freshly dug, however.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 20, 2012 at 12:15 am

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