The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

the Wrong side of the tracks, a walk in Maspeth

with 7 comments

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

7 Responses

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  1. 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.

    Christina Wilkinson

    July 16, 2009 at 9:46 am

  2. Thank you Christina, corrections are always welcome here at the Pentacle.

    Mitch Waxman

    July 16, 2009 at 9:51 am

  3. […] 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 […]

  4. […] Pictured above is the site in question, which is part of a brownfield parcel we’ve described in the past that bears the rather ominous name – “The Maspeth Project”. Check out this posting from 2009 that describes the area in some detail. […]

  5. Dear Mitch Waxman,
    Do you know where Furman’s Crossing was?
    -joe oesterle

    Joseph Oesterle

    October 13, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    • Specifically by that name, not off the top of my head. I would suspect its colloquial usage for the civil war era Maspeth avenue Plank Road, though, if I was guessing. Furman’s Island (which was landfilled onto Maspeth) is more or less the Creek side of 58th road/48th street.

      Mitch Waxman

      October 13, 2019 at 2:57 pm

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