The Newtown Pentacle

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From Queens Borough, New York City, 1910-1920; the borough of homes and industry, a descriptive and illustrated book setting forth its wonderful growth and development in commerce, industry and homes during the past ten years … a prediction of even greater growth during the next ten years … and a statement of its many advantages, attractions and possibilities as a section wherein to live, to work and to succeed (1920)

Published in 1920, by the New York, L. I. Star Pub. Co.

Found at, download the 33 megabyte pdf scan of the book here


Newtown Creek, which is known as the “busiest waterway of its size in the world,” is a tidal arm of the East River, dividing the Boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn for a distance of four miles. It empties into the East River directly opposite 34th Street, Manhattan. The importance of this stream is strikingly shown by comparing its activities with those of the Mississippi River, which from New Orleans to St. Paul is 1,000 miles in length and flows through the heart of a great industrial section. According to recent figures, 5,500,000 tons of freight are carried annually on the upper and lower reaches of this longest river in the world. While for the three years 1915-16-17, the tonnage on the four miles of Newtown Creek averaged 5,620,000 tons. The value of the tonnage on the Mississippi River is approximately $100,000,000 per annum, while on Newtown Creek, it has averaged more than $200,000,000 per annum for the past ten years. The chief commodities transported on this surprising waterway are copper ore and its products, petroleum, lumber, coal, chemicals and building materials.

In 1917, 517,601 tons of copper ore and copper manufactures were transported on Newtown Creek a tonnage valued at $230,000,000, which is an amount greater than the total value of all the manufactured products of either Kansas City, Minneapolis or San Francisco, and greater than the value of exports from Boston or Philadelphia. Huge oil refineries on both sides of the stream ship annually 250,000,0000 gallons of petroleum. There is still room for growth both in the commerce on the stream and the manufacturing plants which now line its borders. There are large undeveloped tracts in Queens adjoining this stream such as the Degnon Terminal with huge industrial plants that have been erected during the past seven years, and where many more will be erected during the coming ten years. One of the largest undeveloped tracts of land at the head of the stream is the 150 acre tract of the Palmer Waterfront Land and Improvement Company, in the Maspeth section, which is served by rail as well as water, and on which several large manufacturing plants have been located within the past few years. The character of tonnage on this waterway can best be shown by the following table for one recent year,

1917 : Article Estimated Value Net Tons

  1. General Merchandise
    $8,734,301     or     132,602 VNT
  2. Coal and other fuel and cord wood
    $4,337,378     or     1,373,035 VNT
  3. Lumber, railroad ties and piles
    $6,940,388     or     443,027 VNT
  4. Steel and products
    $1,254,557     or     32,369 VNT
  5. Copper ore and products
    $180,275,507     or     413,837 VNT
  6. Petroleum $15,744,584     or     868,464 VNT
  7. Brick, (building and fire) $722,197     or     242,734 VNT
  8. Crushed stone
    $130,041     or     155,309 VNT
  9. Gravel and sand
    $450,198     or     656,908 VNT
  10. Cement, lime, etc
    $1,855,511     or     306,519 VNT
  11. Paving blocks
    $32,275     or     31,164 VNT
  12. Plaster, whiting, sulphur, chalk, etc
    $506,505     or     58,262 VNT
  13. Fertilizer and steam bone
    $632,702     or     88,109 VNT
  14. Ice
    $141,279     or     47,093 VNT
  15. Ashes, cinders and slag
    $85,670     or     100,890 VNT
  16. Molasses
    $528,000     or     48,768 VNT
  17. All other materials
    $490,916     or     155,404 VNT
  18. TOTAL . . . $226,862,015 or
    5,154,500 VNT

The Federal Government is now starting dredging operations which will provide for a channel varying from 250 to 125 feet in width, and 20 to 18 feet in depth, at mean low water, from the East River to the head of navigation in the creek. The mean range of tide is 4^ feet. More than 1,475,000 cubic yards will be dredged from the channel. The appropriation of $510,000 for this work, included in the Rivers and Harbors Bill of 1919, was secured through the joint efforts of the Queensboro Chamber of Commerce and Congressman Charles Pope Caldwell. The tonnage and value for the 10 years 1908 to 1918 inclusive is given in the following table :

Year Tonnage Value

  • 1908- 4,181,528     or     $229,994,000 
  • 1909- 5,113,628     or     $253,003,000 
  • 1910- 3,861,852     or     $139,378,000 
  • 1911- 5,435,016     or     $191,747,000 
  • 1912- 4,921,843     or     $225,416,000 
  • 1913- 5,141,516     or     $226,962,000 
  • 1914- 4,445,556     or     $147,739,000 
  • 1915- 5,756,102     or     $147,086,000 
  • 1916- 5,915,150     or     $201,581,000 
  • 1917- 5,215,820     or     $294,701,000 
  • 1918- 4,369,136     or     $322,960,000 
  • TOTAL . . . .
    ‘ 54,337,197     or     $2,380,567,000 
    5,433,719     or     $238,056,700

Some further idea of the immense commerce of this waterway can be obtained from the figures compiled by the Department of Plant and Structures of New York City, which show that during the year 1918, 59,389 boats passed through the Vernon Avenue Bridge, 56,735 passed through the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, 27,000 through the Meeker Street Bridge and 5,007 through the Grand Street Bridge. Steamers schooners and unrigged vessels are the principal freight carriers. Their drafts range from 5^ to 20 feet; 2 to 19 feet; 2 to 18 feet respectively. Some steamers of still larger draft lighter in their cargoes.

Among the larger plants on the Queens shore of Newtown Creek are the National Sugar Refining Company, Nichols Copper Company, National Enameling and Stamping Company, General Chemical Company, Standard Oil Refineries. American Agricultural Chemical Company, and the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company.

DUTCH KILLS CREEK During 1914 bulkhead lines were established by the United States Govern- ment for Dutch Kills Creek, a tributary of Newtown Creek, thus putting this stream under the jurisdiction of the War Department. The bulkhead lines as approved on October 29, 1914, give a width varying from 200 feet at its junction with Newtown Creek to 150 feet at the head of the stream, and include a large basin in the Degnon Terminal where car floats can be docked. The widths of the channel to be dredged under the appropriation of $510,000 mentioned previously, range from 160 feet at Newtown Creek to 75 feet at the turning basin. The Long Island Railroad plans to establish at this point a large wholesale public market, estimated to cost nearly $5,000,000.

Among the larger industrial plants in the Degnon Terminal served by this stream are : Loose Wiles Biscuit Company, American Ever Ready Works, White Motor Company, Sawyer Biscuit Company, Defender Manufacturing Company, Pittsburg Plate Glass Company, Marcus Ward, Brett Lithograph Company, Waldes, Inc., Norma Company of America, Manhattan-Rome Company, American Chicle Co. and The Palmolive Co.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 29, 2009 at 12:40 am

Posted in newtown creek

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