The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for July 2009

Hook and Ladder 66, updated

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I posted about the Hook and Ladder 66 firehouse on Northern Blvd. a few weeks ago. In that post, I commented on how the history of the FDNY is a historical subject so vast that it is best left to the experts. Luckily, for me- and for you- one of those experts contacted the Newtown Pentacle with a wealth of information about the firehouse and the men who worked there. 

text and photos from James Rooney, used with permission. Link insertions are from the Newtown Pentacle for referential purposes:


“Here is the photo that I found on the internet. It was posted by the Captain Thomas F. McKeon’s grandson. He was a Captain in Long Island City/Astoria area for almost 30 Years. From November of 1897 till around 1925. That house was opened in August of 1905 I think, and Captain McKeon was Captian of Ladder 67 in Astoria from 1897 till around 1906.”

” The original Captain of Ladder 66 was John J. Slattery and the firehouse was located at 443 Buckley street which was 36th street and extended through the Sunnyside Rail yards. All those houses were torn down in around 1906 when they built the Sunnyside yards. 443 was located a little south of Jackson Ave which is now Northern Blvd.. 
There were horses driving the fire truck till about 1922 I think. The original fire trucks were Gleason & Bailey 50 foot Combination Chemical aerial Ladders. The first was an 1895 model and later they recieved a 1905 model. I’ve been trying to locate more information on the Fire Company there. I’ve been a firefighter in Ladder 116 since 1990, and our current firehouse has record books from the company going back to the Early 1900’s showing the early Fire Records from the area from around 1903 till 1916.”   

James Rooney    Ladder 116

and he also sent these:

“I was searching about on the internet and found this photo of an 1898 Gleason & Bailey Manufacturing Company 55′ Combination Chemical engine that Ladder 66 had in 1904. That firehouse on Northern Blvd was completed on October 11, 1904 and the address then was 701 Jackson Ave East of Kouwenhoven Street, which is now Northern Blvd east of 38th street.
When Hook & Ladder 66 settled in at the new firehouse the FDNY bought them a brand new 1905 American La France Engine Company 50′ Combination Chemical Engine Registration # 27B pulled by two Horses.”


“We have records from the company going back to almost 1900. That firehouse on Northern was built and opened in 1904. The original Company was Ladder 2 of the Long Island City FD. When it was incorporated into the New York City Metropolitan area in January of 1898 it became Ladder 16 or Truck 16. There is a great article you can access online in the Brooklyn Eagle from May of 1899 listing the firehouses of Long Island City and it labels Truck 16 as the worst firehouse in the City. That prompted the move to have a new firehouse built.
Later before the company moved into that Northern Blvd firehouse they became Hook & Ladder 66. The company later became Hook & Ladder 116 in around 1913. The horses were replaced in I think September of 1922, and I have records of the horses and rigs up untill that time. The photo I sent you is of the Firefighters with Captain McKeon circa 1920 I found it online posted by the Captain Thomas F.McKeon’s grandson. He had it mistakenly labelled as the Maspeth FD. 
Captain McKeon was Captain from around 1905 till around 1925, he was the original Captain of Ladder 117 from 1898 till 1906. Ladder 116’s original Captain was John J. Slattery from 1898 till 1906. After Captain Thomas F. McKeon we had Captain James J. Murphy #2 who became a firefighter in 1906 and was born in 1885. He served as Captain of Ladder
116 from 1926 till January 1, 1955…”

“That firehouse on Northern had Hook & Ladder 116 moved out of it in the Fall of 1947, maybe because Northern Blvd was just too busy to have the company travel in and out with all of the traffic there. They were moved into the 29th street firehouse along with Engine 261. Engine 261 was closed by the city in May of 2003. 

 A few of the other original buildings still left are Engine 260’s quarters on Vernon Blvd, Engine 258‘s quarters on Northern Blvd, and Ladder 115‘s quarters on 47th Rd, as well as Engine 262‘s quarters on Main st. in Astoria.

Here’s a shot of the original Engine 260 on Vernon Ave.”


Thank you James Rooney!

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 31, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Posted in newtown creek

Great Newtown Creek Tale

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Our pal Rob over at turns his attention to a Newtown Creek tale here. This one is about a guy who decided to drill for oil in Brooklyn, into the subterrene Greenpoint Oil Spill, in his yard.

Click here.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 31, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Walking widdershins to Calvary

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feel like taking  a walk? I’ll show you something cool… Bring your camera- and ID

Anything you may experience, in situ, by following these walking directions is at your OWN RISK, and is offered by the Newtown Pentacle for documentary and entertainment purposes only. Remember- the rule we follow at the Newtown Pentacle is to NEVER trespass. Like Vampires, Newtownicans should wait to be invited into a house before they can do their work.  Also, Please note — if something you read here is inaccurate, DO NOT BE SHY- contact me– additions and corrections are always welcome at the Newtown Pentacle.

Over Hill and Dale part 3- Widdershins around Calvary

g10_img_6737_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Click here to preview this photowalk in a google map

Hunters Point avenue intersects with the ancient course of Greenpoint Avenue at the degenerate extant of Long Island City. The Queens Midtown Expressway also comes back down to earth here, feeding Manhattan vehicular traffic to all points east. This is a very busy intersection, so be mindful of traffic, as fellow pedestrians are rare.  

As with anyplace else in Queens you’d want to see, Forgotten-NY has been through here before. Click here for their page on Blissville and Laurel Hill

g10_img_6738_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

St. Raphael’s R.C. Church is on Greenpoint Avenue in a neighborhood called (atavistically) Blissville. A wooden frame building was built for St. Raphael’s in 1867, and served as the mortuary chapel for the newly built Calvary Cemetery. The current gothic influenced structure was completed in 1885, and has served both Calvary and the surrounding community since. This is one of the highest points in these parts, and the church steeple often acts as a reference point when negotiating the byzantine tangle of streets around the Newtown Creek. The architect is rumored to have been Patrick Keeley.

g10_img_6742_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Walk past a gas station (last chance for water or gum) on your right, and you’ll be at the corner of Greenpoint and the Queens Midtown Expressway. To your right is Manhattan, and the elevated phase of the Queens Midtown Expressway which carries vehicular traffic over Long Island City and the Dutch Kill. That’s Borden Avenue down there, under the elevated highway. Don’t worry, I’m taking you there in a few weeks. Today, we walk widdershins around the dead.

from the other side of the Queens Midtown Expressway by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Dead is what you’ll be if you don’t pay attention when crossing this street. Luckily, where we’re heading- you’ll fit right in. This may be a good time to remind you of a Newtown Pentacle posting from a few weeks back- “The Cemetery Belt“. 

Quoting from  James Riker Jr.’s “Annals of Newtown”      from Brooklyn Genealogy

CALVARY CEMETERY. This cemetery, which is located at Laurel Hill, was set apart and consecrated in 1848. It is one of the most accessible rural cemeteries near New York, and it would be difficult to select a lovelier or fitter spot as a place of sepulture. The old ground comprised one hundred and ten acres, but in 1853 a charter was obtained from the State by the trustees of St. Patrick’s cathedral, New York city, for 250 acres; 165 acres of this are now enclosed. The artesian well in that part of the enclosure called New Calvary was sunk in 1879. It is 606 feet deep and 6 3/4 inches in diameter, and was bored in white granite for a large part of its depth. Last year 32,000 persons died in the city of New York, and of this number 15,500 were buried in Calvary. The cemetery keeps one hundred and fifty men regularly employed, and two hundred more are kept at work by the relatives and friends of the deceased. Here may be found some of the choicest of materials and the finest models in monumental structure; and here we may mention as worthy of note the vault and chapel built by John Johnston, at a cost of $75,000, and regarded as one of the finest to be found in any ground. This cemetery is to the Catholics of New York what Greenwood is to the Protestant population. Since 1872 Hugh Moore has been the general superintendent, and to his ability much of the beauty and attractiveness of the place is due; he has been assisted by Michael Rowen. The mortuary chapel, of fine architectural design and finish, was built in 1856. The present chaplain is Rev. M.J. Brennan.

g10_img_6752_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

The shadowed lanes of Calvary await your hungry eyes, but we are not entering the necropolis today, dear reader. Instead, we’re lurking around its nitre dripping fenceline, scuttling along the broken pavement and visible cobblestones of Greenpoint Avenue to the corner of Bradley Avenue, where we will turn widdershins (left).

g10_img_6754_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Click here for a Wikipedia page on Calvary Cemetery, to familiarize yourself with the story of this extraordinary place and the people who chose this as their final address.

To the modern mind, the Greenpoint Ave. gates of Calvary are the obvious main entrance to the place due to their proximity to the highway- but the actual street address of Cavalry is at 49-02 Laurel Hill Blvd.- which is on the Newtown Creek side (we’re going there, don’t worry). When this place was built, the Newtown Creek was the central artery of the surrounding communities, not the barrier that modernity has made of it.

Often, as I am out exploring these areas (in the early 21st century), I’m asked by neighborhood people- members of a long abused community which is wary of strangers – what I’m up to. I’ll explain my interest in the area and then be asked “What’s Newtown Creek?” by people who live in Greenpoint or Long Island City. Manhattan people think you’re just making it all up- they say “how can that be? You’re exaggerating” when you tell them about this place.

If members of “the community” aren’t even aware that the Creek exists, how can we ever hope to coerce our political class to address its many problems? Please, bring your cameras down here and peek under a few rocks yourself. Tell the story of this place.

g10_img_6757_phwlk.jpg by you. 

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Bradley Avenue is truncated by the iron fencelines of Calvary, and we’re going to follow the dead end here, onto 37th street. I often wonder, when the fences of Cavalry are closed, what sort of things transpire in this lonely place.

g10_img_6759_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

As we proceed down 37th street, the street elevation begins to drop down toward the Newtown Creek shorelines, but Calvary remains at the same grade level as Greenpoint avenue.

g10_img_6763_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

A lonely industrial block, 37th street also hosts several homes of taste and substance near its intersection with Review Avenue. We turn widdershins again, to the left on Review.

g10_img_6765_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

At the corner of Review, looking to your right, is the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Greenpoint people will find this a pleasant crossing over the Newtown Creek and a reference point for negotiating this lonely part of Long Island City.

g10_img_6773_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

On Review Avenue, the wall of Cavalry looms. That’s the Kosciuszko bridge in the background. The cyclopean scale of Cavalry is apparent here, and behind that masonry lie the dead.

g10_img_6779_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

As you continue down Review Avenue, you’ll be passing the old LIRR Penny Bridge station at the corner of Review and Laurel hill Blvd.

Laurel Hill Blvd. and Review Av. Streetsign by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Now dear readers, this is your first revelation of a master plan behind the Newtown Pentacle. I am willing to reveal that everything is connected. This corner is where the post “Dead Ends, A short walk from Maspeth to Calvary” ends. That post picked up where “the Wrong side of the tracks, a walk in Maspeth” ended. Turn Widdershins on Laurel Hill Blvd.

g10_img_6794_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

The big problem you’ll have, however, is that there isn’t really a functional sidewalk here on Laurel Hill Blvd. I’m quite used to this sort of thing at this point, so… 

from a Graveyard by you.

-photo by mitch Waxman

Commanding views of Calvary can be had here. The elevation rises, and St. Raphael’s comes into view.

Laurel Hill blvd. by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

As you proceed, on the other side of the BQE will be a heavy manufacturing zone with relict housing interspersed. The area has an aura of long time municipal neglect.

City of stone 1 by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

At the end of Laurel Hill Blvd, you will find a pedestrian bridge which is covered in a tightly woven chain link fence. Except for this spot, at tripod height, that was cut by some photographer in the past. The same person (same cut pattern and size) was also nice enough to cut a hole in the fence on the Pulaski Bridge.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 31, 2009 at 3:12 am

Newtown Creek cruise

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Our pals at the Newtown Creek Alliance and the Working Harbor Committee are offering a cruise up the Newtown Creek.

from the NCA website:

Newtown Creek Cruise

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Departs at 1:00 P.M. sharp from Skyport Marina, East River at 23rd Street, Manhattan.

Ticket Price $50.00             Length of Tour: Three Hours

Souvenir Tour Brochure with historical information and vintage maps. Narration by experienced historical and environmental guest speakers. Complementary soft drinks will be served.

Come aboard for an intense Newtown Creek exploration! Our comfortable charter boat will travel the length of Newtown Creek. We will also cover English Kills. The tour will pause at interesting locations for discussion. Guest narrators will cover historical, environmental, and conservation issues.The Greenpoint Avenue and Metropolitan Avenue bridges will open on our signal so we can view the furthest reaches of English Kills. Cruise runs rain or shine.

Cruise sponsor is The Working Harbor Committee. Cruise co-host is the Newtown Creek Alliance.

To order tickets click here  

For more information, contact Tour Chairman Bernard Ente:

I went on this last year, and am doing so again this time. Check out some photos from the trip here.


Written by Mitch Waxman

July 29, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Posted in newtown creek

Newtown Creek Alliance meeting tonight

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received from the NCA-

Newtown Creek Alliance
Public Meeting
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
7:00 P.M.
179 Green Street, Greenpoint

Agenda: BOA, Stormwater Grant, NCA website, and announcements.

Due to the threat of thunderstorms, The Newtown Creek Alliance will be meeting indoors on Wednesday, July 29th

Location is the Green Oaks Citizens Club, 179 Green St off of Manhattan Avenue.

By public transportation: B61, B43, B24 bus to Manhattan Avenue; Subway “G” train to Greenpoint Avenue Station, walk north on Manhattan Avenue, make right on Green.

Walk/bike from Queens over the Pulaski Bridge; west off bridge to Manhattan Avenue to Green Street.

for more info, visit the NCA site.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 29, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Posted in newtown creek

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