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Archive for July 16th, 2009

Hook and Ladder 66

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g10_img_6230_jul4_hl66_1.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Just off the corner of Steinway is 38-13 Northern Blvd. It stands opposite the cyclopean Standard Motor Products building, and at the foot of the bridge which carries Steinway into 39th street and south to Skillman Avenue over the Sunnyside Yards. Currently, the structure houses part of the NYPD’s ESU units- the Emergency Medical Squad. The building was originally a firehouse- the Hook and Ladder 66.

The earliest volunteer fire company in Newtown was organized in 1843- the Wadownock Fire, Hook & Ladder No. 1. By 1902, there were 66 distinct volunteer fire departments in Queens. 19th century Long Island City was served by (amongst others) the Astoria Engine Co., the Hunter Engine Co., the Mohawk Hose Co., and the Tiger Hose Co. In 1890, the legislature of New York State abolished the volunteer departments, seeking to create a paid and professional force of firefighters. In Long Island City, as many as nine units were created, and then reorganized in 1894, as rampant political corruption had rendered the new units impotent against all but the smallest blazes. This corruption was centered around Long Island City’s mayor- Patrick “Battleax” Gleason- or was at least blamed on him by his enemies in the press. 

The critical date for this story is 1898, when Long Island City joined in the municipality of the City of Greater New York, and its firefighters joined the FDNY. 

g10_img_5121_nyc by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1900, FDNY Commissioner JJ Scannell proposed a sweeping expansion of fire service citywide, but especially in underserved Long Island City. The “Board of Estimate and Apportionment” was asked to make funds available for infrastructure- specifically fire houses. Built concurrently with the landmarked Engine 158 fire house at 10-40 47th Avenue, the building was budgeted to cost $18,000 to build and complete in 1901, but ended up costing $23,000 when it was dedicated in 1905. The architecture firm which built it was Paris & Schroeder, who designed the Bowery YMCA and many other Tammany projects. Along with the Engine 158 structure, this building was designed and overseen by Ernest Flagg and Bradford Lee GIlbert. Check this link out, for some local FDNY color from 1899.

Ernest  Flagg at wikipedia

Courtesy of MIT:

Beaux-Arts Architect and Urban Reformer
Mardges Bacon

Architect of the United States Naval Academy, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Scribner Building, and model tenement houses, Ernest Flagg (1857-1947) advanced the cause of classicism while demonstrating a deep concern for architecture’s social responsibility. This study of one of the most innovative practitioners of the Beaux-Arts movement in America covers Flagg’s early training and Beaux-Arts works, his town and country houses, his commercial and utilitarian buildings, the Singer Tower (which established a new height record while setting a precedent for New York City skyscraper restrictions in scale and density), urban housing reform, and his small houses of modular design.

Flagg, the author notes, combined French nineteenth century aesthetics and the principles of academic classicism with American structural technology to create significant buildings during the Progressive Era from 1890 to 1917. His contributions to zoning and height regulations were essential to New York’s first laws governing this aspect of the city’s architecture. A confirmed individualist, Flagg produced highly original writings and ingenious inventions for construction techniques in low-cost housing and railroad cars.

Flagg’s adaptation of classicism and his concern for urban contextualism make this study of his work particularly timely. His designs have immediate relevance for contemporary architects and preservationists, as well as those interested in the social and architectural history of New York City.

Pictures & Flagg’s plan to extend Manhattan’s grid

Engine Co. 33

Courtesy of Bradford Lee

Bradford Lee Gilbert
(March 24, 1853 – September 1, 1911)

Bradford Lee Gilbert was born in Watertown, New York to parents Marie Antoinette (Bacon) and Horatio Gates Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert was well educated having attended Sedgwick Institute, Gt. Barrington, Siglar’s School, Newburg, Irvington and Yale College.

He was a member of the New York Chapter of American Institute of Architects, The National Sculpture Society, The Architectural League, The National Arts Club, The Transportation Club, The Quill Club, The Riding Club, and The Chicago Club.

Mr. Gilbert enjoyed many distinctions, but was a driving force in the growing railroad industry. He was the consulting architect to eighteen of the principal railroads in America, and was appointed as official architect to the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railroad under Octave Chanute (who assisted in the Wright Brother’s creation of airplanes).

Mr. Gilbert played a major role in other railroad companies like, the enlargement to the first Grand Central Station in New York; the Illinois Central Station in Chicago, Illinois; the Boston & Maine Union Station in Lowell, Maine and many others.

Bradford passed away in Accord, Ulster County, New York of Dropsy.

One of the few buildings attributed to him that wasn’t part of a railroad

g10_img_6236_jul4_hl66_2.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

In January of 1913, all Brooklyn and Queens fire companies had their unit numbers moved forward by 100- thus Engine 158 became 258. Hook and ladder 166’s history gets a little hazy in the intervening years, and a unit with the 166 designation seems to still be extant in Brooklyn- but the history of the FDNY is best discussed by experts. At some intervening point in the last hundred years that I have not been able to pin down (most likely the early 80’s), the building passed into the hands of the Police department which assigned its ESU NYPD Emergency Medical Squad to the premise. They are the current stakeholders, in this part of the Newtown Pentacle.

ESU are the Green Berets of the NYPD, assigned the most challenging and dangerous jobs. Most are former United States Special Forces or U.S. Marines who bring ingenious skills and hard won experience to work every day. If you are in real trouble in New York City, the ESU is your personal Batman. Two fully loaded paramedic ambulances and a variety of specialized response vehicles are based here. ESU medical is commanded by a 35 year NYPD veteran and former Marine, Chief of Special Operations Charles D. Kammerdener.

7/19/09 Note and addendum: Queenscrap ran a blog post about this article, and “anonymous” posted this in their comments:

Ladder 66 is now Ladder 116 (all companies renumbered in 1913 after NYC expanded, the E158 house is really Engine 258)
The Ladder Company that occupied this Northern Blvd house is now located on 29th St near 37th Ave and was quartered with Engine 261 for over 80 years until “King Bloomberg” closed E261 in May 2003

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2009 at 9:28 pm

CHHNP (Health and Harms) on BCAT

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The Newtown Creek Community Health and Harms Narrative Project is the lead story on BCAT this month, to view the episode click here.  If you or someone you know would like to have their voice included in the Community Health and Harms Narrative Project please contact us at or (718) 577-1359.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

Posted in newtown creek

the Wrong side of the tracks, a walk in Maspeth

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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. To wit. Also, Please note — the opinions expressed in italics in this story are the author’s opinions and observations and not necessarily factual.

Over Hill and Dale, part 1- Maspeth Creek

check out the walk in a Google Map here.

g10_img_5359_lic_masptrk1.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

This is another Saturday or Sunday kind of photowalk thing. You really don’t want to be here during the week on foot. VERY dangerous place.

At 56th road, between 48th and 50th streets in Queens, is a non-existent crosswalk found at the confluence of 49th street and an active (street-grade level) railroad track. This is an insanely dangerous patch of road running through a literal industrial backwater.

Be ever so careful crossing here- remember that guy who got dragged a few months ago? That happened not too far from here. There are giant machines flying around at top speed all around you. Be wary. We’re going to walk part of the Maspeth Plank Road today, more or less.

g10_img_5308_lic_masp.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Incidentally, these rail tracks and buildings are the proposed site for the Maspeth Rail Tunnel.

WRONG-  Christina from Forgotten-NY was kind enough to correct us here.

“I appreciate the walk through Maspeth however there is no planned tunnel construction Queens for the Cross Harbor Project. Phelps Dodge would be the site of an intermodal rail-to-truck facility. The tunnel is from NJ to Bklyn. Here is a map.”

g10_img_5314_lic_maspro2.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

On your left is an enigmatic site that the DEP has labeled “the Maspeth Project”. This, of course, sets me off into endless speculations. As does the term “Maspeth Railroad Place site” that’s used to describe it.

from the DEC      

Administrative Information 

Site Name: Maspeth Project

Site Code: B00152

Program: Environmental Restoration Program

Classification: A

EPA ID Number:


DEC Region: 2

Address: 57-15 49th Street

City: New York City Zip: 11378-


Latitude: 40.724616420

Longitude: -73.919630760

Site Type:

Estimated Size: 2.800 Acres

Site Description

The Maspeth Railroad Place site is located in an industrialized area of Queens County, New York. The site is approximately 3-acres in size, and can be found at 57-15 49th Street. The main site features include a fenced lot which constitutes the majority of the site. There are no perminent structures on the lot. The headwaters of Maspeth Creek are located approximately 100 hundred feet from the site. The site is currently vacant, though there is evidence of some trespassing. The site is surrounded by industrial/commercial properties on all sides. The site has had several industrial/commercial uses over the years, but is reported to have been most recently the site of a bus maintenance facility. A former chemicals blending operation was located immediately adjacent to the site, and there was some concern that wastes from that operation could have contaminated the site. The Remedial Investigation is complete, and the alternatives analysis has been submitted in draft form. The City of New York has amended the State Assistance Contract to include funds for removing an underground storage tank which was found during the site investigation. That work was conducted in the spring and summer of 2008. Work continues on finalizing the alternatives analysis.

Contaminants of Concern (Including Materials Disposed)

Type of Waste Quantity of Waste




Site Environmental Assessment

The primary contaminants of concern at the site are petroleum related compounds. Preliminary data indicated the possible presence of a common plasticizer (bis-2-ethylhexyl pthalate) at elevated levels in groundwater and soils, however, more recent data indicated much lower levels than previously reported. The study is on-going, but some localized soils and groundwater contamination has been identified. Groundwater is above standards for petroleum compounds. The site has not been determined to be a significant threat to the environment.

Site Health Assessment

Soil and groundwater are contaminated with petroleum-related volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. Exposure to contaminated groundwater is not expected because the area is served by public water. The area is heavily industrialized and the site is partially fenced, but tresspassers may be exposed to contaminated surface soil.

g10_img_5316_lic_maspro3.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

from Serphin Maltese’s website


Wednesday, 04 October 2000 00:00 

News Archives – 2000

Senator Serphin R. Maltese (Queens) announced a $412,500 grant from the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act will be used to investigate potential environmental contamination at the site of the Maspeth Project.

“On behalf of the residents and their families of the Maspeth and Queens communities, I wish to express our sincere appreciation to Governor Pataki for this vital brownfields funding. It will enable us to investigate and clean up property in many of our vibrant Queens neighborhoods,” said Senator Maltese.

“New York’s Brownfields Program is helping cities across the State revitalize our urban landscape by turning abandoned and underused properties into community assets,” said Governor Pataki. “This grant is a perfect example of how funding from the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act is fostering environmental renewal, creating economic opportunity and improving the quality of life of all New Yorkers.”

Senator Maltese explained that the brownfields grant will be used to investigate suspected contamination at a 2.8 acre site located at 57-15 49th Street in Maspeth. The property, which the City acquired after it was condemned, is located in a heavy manufacturing zone and has been vacant for many years. The site was previously used for bus maintenance and storage, a silkscreen printing facility and a graphic dye cutter operation. The City plans to use the site for a consolidated water and sewer maintenance facility for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.

“New York’s Brownfields Program is one of the best-funded of its kind in the nation and it is helping bring jobs, parks and new housing to communities throughout the state at sites that previously were unusable,” said Senator Maltese.

The Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, proposed by Governor Pataki and approved by voters in 1996, authorizes $1.75 billion for several environmental programs. It includes $200 million for grants to municipalities for costs associated with the investigation and cleanup of brownfields, which are abandoned or underused properties where real or perceived environmental contamination hinders the potential for redevelopment.

For more on Serphin Maltese, click here.

g10_img_5320_lic_mascrk1.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

On your right- the Kosciuszko bridge in the background, with the Davis & Warshow warehouse in the foreground, and the Newtown Creek spreads greasily around you. Get your shots in this summer, Newtownicans, the bridge is scheduled to be replaced and then torn down

g10_img_5352_lic_mascrk5.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Maspeth Creek is a tributary of the Newtown Creek that makes its first noxious appearance here. It is the most polluted part of the Newtown Creek watershed. One wonders how long this waterway, which drew the Dutch here, will survive modernity. This, of course, is not the first indignity suffered by nature at the hands of municipal planners.

g10_img_5323_lic_mascrk2.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Water quality is always terrible here, but I’ve seen it worse than this. There’s an outfall sewer directly below the camera’s POV. The smell is…

from the EPA

Address Maspeth Creek, Queens, NY

Categories Water, Sewage/Garbage, Health and Toxics Neighborhood Maspeth

Keywords CSO, Newtown Creek Owner/Occupant NYC Department of Environmental Protection – if you see discharge during dry weather call 311 with the outfall number ready

Location Details CSO Outfall NC-077 -discharges 288.7M gallons per year into English Kills -Tier 2 outfall -Ranked 25 out of over 400 in terms of volume -located at Maspeth Creek 

g10_img_5324_lic_mascrk3.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Did you know that one leg of the new City Water Tunnel number 3 runs from Maspeth to Red Hook? Eventually, it will be a subterranean conduit for drinking water running throughout the entire city, when completed in 2020.

g10_img_5332_lic_maspave.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman


Maspeth avenue is populated by many, many people who wouldn’t like you taking their picture, lords and ladies of Newtown. If you catch my drift, this is a good place to be covert with your camera. Not to imply that corruption and racketeering ever had anything to do with any of the neighborhoods surrounding the Newtown Creek- or that the New York City garbage hauling and trucking industries have ever been anything other than above board, but watch out for yourself here.

These days- in our modern New York- where there has been no police corruption since 1992, and crime has fallen an aggregate 79% in that period, people have gotten used to walking around like they’re safe or something. 

g10_img_5335_lic_masp4902.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Proceeding around the bend from 49th street to 48 st, on your right will be a succession of recycling and garbage processing companies, and a huge sanitation garage dominates the end of the block at the turn to 58th road.

Be conservative with your camera here. Cop hassles are the last thing you’re worrying about around these parts- its private security and union guys. This is not the safe little world you know from television, this is the real world with its own set of rules- and you are a guest on these streets. Don’t fool around with these fencelines, urban explorer types. And look out for trucks.

g10_img_5345_lic_masp4906.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

On your left are a series of faceless factories squatting squamously in the Newtown sun.

g10_img_5336_lic_masp4903.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

At the end of 58th road are the remains of the Maspeth Avenue Bridge- a toll bridge whose owners were incorporated as early as 1836. Its the last visible remnant of the Maspeth Plank Road, which last crossed the Newtown Creek in 1875.

forgotten-ny went down the Newtown Creek a few years ago on the John J. Harvey fireboat- check it out.

from one of my earlier postings that connects up with this one-

The Night Soil and Offal Docks, and Jell-O

…over on the Greenpoint side when I read about “Conrad Wessel’s noxious and pestilential night soil and offal dock on Furman’s Island, along the Newtown Creek”. This reference was connected to Gov. Flower’s “smelling committee” which traveled up Newtown Creek in a steamboat during the summer of 1894 to confirm that the waterway did, in fact, smell. The Smelling Committee placed much blame for the miasma which permeated Long Island City, Dutch Kills, and Greenpoint at the doorstep of the bone boilers on Furman’s Island. 

A muddy patch midway at the branch of Maspeth Creek with the main waterway, Furman’s (originally Smith’s) island was connected to the shore by a plank road. This plank road would later become Maspeth Avenue. At the corner of Gardner, where the Maspeth Tanks towered until just recently- was Peter Cooper’s Glue Factory. This picture is from the Brooklyn public library:

g10_img_5337_lic_masp4904.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

To your right will be a gigantic Sanitation Garage, to your left is 47th street, in front of you is a patch of mud and the Newtown Creek and what remains of another world.

If you’re heading back to Greenpoint or Williamsburg- take 47th to Grand Avenue and make a right to go over the Grand Avenue Bridge.

Before Grand St. in Brooklyn was extended into Queens (where it becomes Grand Avenue), the Maspeth Avenue Bridge (along with Penny Bridge) served the 19th century multitudes traveling to and from the Cemetery Belt- specifically Calvary and Mt. Zion.

from another one of my earlier postings that connects up with this one-

The Cemetery Belt

Death was and is big business, and Long Island City was and is all about business. Ferry service ran from Manhattan and Brooklyn bringing the bereaved up Newtown Creek to the New Calvary Pier in Blissville.

The Long Island Railroad maintained a station at Penny Bridge carrying mourners from all points east. Funeral processions involved marching bands and extensive paegentry. A trip to the graveyard was like visiting a sculpture park for the whole family, with exquisite landscaping and an arboretum of exotic trees and flowering plants sprouting from a grassy hill. Clothes were crisply laundered in boiling water (using lye as a detergent), children ordered to behave or else . What a change, if only for a few hours, from the gaslit darkness of Manhattan’s tenement alleys. A beautiful day with the family, spent at the Newtown Creek.

g10_img_5340_lic_masp4905.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Take one last look, HEY- that’s the Empire State Building, isn’t that cool? Told you I’d show you something cool.



Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2009 at 1:55 am

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