The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for November 2009

misty water colored memories… but with blood

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Long Island City, mouth of Newtown Creek, Greenpoint stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

Note- I’ve got a turmoil in me right now.

Your humble narrator is pissed off, and this ape is standing at the edge of his personal forest, hurling invective at an unfamiliar thing hanging in the sky called Moon. Rambling ahead, with a few reminisces of New York in “the good old days”.

The disturbing incongruity of modern skyscrapers in the Newtown Pentacle’s panoramic skies, whether commercial spire or residential tower, is horrifying to the residents of victorian relicts such as Long Island City and Greenpoint. All along the rotting infrastructure of the malodorous Newtown Creek, nearly the geographic center of the City of Greater New York, the arrival of a pregnant moment is apparent.

“A river of federal money will wash out the Newtown Creek, and all the poisons in the mud will be hatched out, or so say the G-Men” is my take on the EPA superfund listing of the Creek for now.

I still haven’t parsed everything, that was said in the November 5, 2009 Newtown Creek Alliance meeting at St. Cecilia’s. I made an audio recording of the presentation, and will be listening to it again. Its just that the EPA… the feds… gaining absolute control over a 4 long by half mile wide chunk of New York City for as long as 50 years… that’s 12.5 presidential administrations. 12.5 administrations ago was FDR’s first term.

Speaking of FDR, did you know that his second term Vice President- Henry A. Wallace (responsible for the very successful transformation of dustbowl era agri-businesses from rural homestead into their somewhat modern form) was a well known and public occultist?

Looking east from Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant catwalk stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

The New York that my father knew, the one built up in the late 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, is the one that began crumbling in the 70’s and came crashing down during the 1980’s. Contrary to what you may have read, the Reagan years were not a very nice time, and a soggy malaise hung over both the great city and the nation that exists because of it. Disillusioned by the failures of utopian city planners and those shambolic ideologies which were popularized by academic and journalist alike, the population of New York turned on each other in those days.

Here’s a few of my “new york stories”- I was there, I saw them.

Looking southwest from Queensboro Bridge stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

A tragedy of Russian scale and tone, “good old days” New York saw violent encounters between strangers became commonplace in a city always on the edge. Back then (late 80’s, early 90’s)- Williamsburg was a blasted out brick lot, blighted, and an island of extreme poverty.

West from Pulaski Bridge facing Manhattan, stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

Naked hookers plied their trade in Williamsburg on Bedford and Grand, while  just beyond- a Motorcycle Club’s shanty was lit by oil drums filled with castaway lumber and litter. The Lower East Side (then known as Alphabet city) was where you spent your time, then, or way uptown above 96th street on the west side- and both neighborhoods had borderlines and “DMZ” areas.

The City belonged to the rats, and you either fought them or ran away. Cowardice was considered an intelligent option back then, just run away- don’t try to fight “them”.

East on Newtown Creek, Kosciuszko Bridge stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, I saw a businessman 2 blocks north of Grand Central Station on Park Avenue, wearing an expensive vested suit which was the fashion at the time. He walked between two cars, dropped his suit pants, and defecated in the street. You used to pee wherever you wanted to, as well, “back in the day”.

You could smoke tobacco, in designated areas, within New York City hospital wards. There was a magical danish called the Bearclaw, which has since gone extinct in New York City, best quaffed with bitter black coffee. The last Bearclaw I had was in the “New York New York” casino in Las Vegas.

Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside Railyard fence line – photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, I saw a homeless guy junkie- during the early AIDS years- get hit by a cab. His head shot forward toward the asphalt in a parabolic arc with his knees acting as a fulcrum, shattering his face and killing him. This happened on 21st street and 3rd, down the block from the Police Academy. They left him there for 2-3 hours waiting for the morgue to show up because nobody wanted to get AIDS blood on themselves. The bulls set up traffic cones around him.

Sunnyside, Barnett Avenue looking west stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

That New York City- the one that was a national disaster long before it became the scene of a national disaster, a lamentable metropolis of blood, hate, and too much damn noise- is being built over and carted away. But this is the way of things, here.

Those farms and mills obliterated by rapacious rail barons and their quest to build Sunnyside Yards, do you know who the Payntars were, or their story?

Queensbridge Park, looking west toward Manhattan stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

The mansions of Ravenswood, gothic palaces built for the ultra rich who made their fortunes on Newtown Creek and in Long Island City, were casually eradicated to make way for mill and dock, and later bridge and housing project. Do you know the story of the Terracotta House?

From George Washington Bridge looking south on upper Manhattan and New Jersey stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, back in ’93, on 99th and Broadway- some guy was talking on a pay phone in the middle of the night, during an ice storm. You know the kind- the sort of weather that coats every surface in a half inch of clear, slick ice. Urban misery, but quite beautiful.

Astoria 31st Avenue stormy sky stitched panorama- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately for this fellow on the phone, someone shot him a few times and he must have slumped forward with the phone in his hand. I walked by on my way to the 2 train the next morning and the wind had pushed him backwards, his frozen hand around the receiver and his corpse was swaying stiffly in the february wind. There were bloodcicles.

Long Island City, Hunters Point, mouth of Newtown Creek, Greenpoint stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

For more on this lost and forgotten civilization, buy an early Ramones album and play it very loud.

Why I love NYC Marathon day

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

I make it a point of walking the borderlines between contestant and spectator when the NYC Marathon comes hurtling through Long Island City. The big show always delivers easy photos of runners and acolyte crowd, but for me, the NYC Marathon offers something else. An untrammeled and traffic free opportunity to explore Queens Plaza without the suspicious attentions of the NYPD focusing upon me as a potential anarchist or possible adherent to some fifth columnist group’s philosophies.

for 2008 marathon coverage- and discussion of the physical culture movement, click here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally impossible angles and vantage points- forbidden by either those security regulations so rigorously enforced by the NYPD or that unyielding flow of traffic entering Queens from Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge- are available during the Marathon due to the wholesale diversion of traffic away from the event.

for 2009 ING NYC marathon coverage, click here. If you’re looking for photos of the runners as they hurtled through LIC, click here for the entire set of photos at flickr.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Incongruously empty of their reason for existence, the utilitarian patience of Queens Plaza’s cement clad steel roadways is tried only by the sound of thousands of runners, a cheering crowd, and a complex of actively running elevated subway tracks. The comparative silence offered to your harried narrator during such moments is nepenthe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been lucky in the last few months. The occasion of the Queensboro Bridge Centennial, with its associated parade and historical community events, allowed unprecedented access to the structure- associated onramps– and approaches, and the rich historical vistas normally rendered unreachable by the dangers of oncoming and uncountable waves of vehicular traffic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Work has already begun on the renovation of Queens Plaza into a form more to the liking of the oligarch masters of New York, hidden in their Manhattan towers, but what fate will befall the past?

Look to ancient Millstones for prognostications about the future, and commentary on the regard shown the past by those self same urban masters. Forgotten-NY‘s Kevin Walsh, in the syndication feed of his Huffington Post column, has written a great history of the Queens Plaza Millstones- click here.

Queenscrap has been all over the controversy. So has the NY Daily News. Your humble narrator was allowed to video a community meeting on the subject, and it can be viewed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Accompanying the municipal re-rendering of the Plaza will be the construction of multiple tower buildings- condominium apartments and hotel complexes, as well as the opening of a Long Island Railroad and MTA Subway crossover station at Skillman Avenue. Progress has been girdled by the recent financial crisis, but this is hardly the first cycle of boom and hopeless bust that Queens Plaza has weathered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wonder what it might look like in another 100 years, when the archaic elevated subway tracks are rusted away and replaced, in a time when vehicular traffic as we know it will be considered quaint. Wonder if you’ll still be able to see the sky in Long Island City in just 10 years, and whether or not America’s great cities will be anything other than amusement parks and tourist attractions in 50.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 21, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Flushing Creek 3

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the inclement weather we encountered, and my inherent vulnerability to temperature extremes, the upper deck of the watercraft was the ideal spot for me as its experienced Captain negotiated a course along Flushing Creek. Weather- especially the drenching rain and gray sky variety- had dogged my ambitions throughout summer and fall, and seemed to pop up whenever I found myself on or near a boat. Frustrating occlusions of mist obscure and darken the landscape, challenging exposure and focus.

from nytimes.com

FLUSHING, L.I., Feb. 12 — While the Highly Commissioners of Newtown and Flushing were holding a joint meeting yesterday afternoon to investigate the condition of Strong’s Bridge, which spans Flushing Creek, and which connects the southerly portion of this village with the town of Newtown, the bridge suddenly collapsed, making further inquiry unnecessary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All along Flushing Creek, at what seemed to be every turn and twist, heavy industries were at work. This barge and crane, I believe, are part of an asphalt operation. Other large industrial mills observed along the shoreline were clearly concrete and cement factories, but like the auto shops at Willets Point, their days are numbered down here.

from nytimes.com

With work begun on thirty dwellings, to cost from $5,000 to $8,000 each, with the starting of a factory for the manufacture of concrete building material, with the sale of twenty-nine acres of high-class land for development, and with work started upon the reclaiming between 500 and 600 acres of meadow land — all in the vicinity of Flushing — one of the most important seasons in the history of that locality has opened.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every history blog alludes to Gatsby when mentioning Corona or Flushing- here’s the much discussed couplet:

from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby

About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight. But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic—their irises are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground.

The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul river, and, when the drawbridge is up to let barges through, the passengers on waiting trains can stare at the dismal scene for as long as half an hour. There is always a halt there of at least a minute, and it was because of this that I first met Tom Buchanan’s mistress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Odd stories about Flushing Creek are bandied about in the neighborhood, and in olden times, it was absolutely magnetic for suicides.

from ufoquery.com

More recently, a number of reports came in about white and green lights in a triangular formation seen moving back and forth over Flushing Meadows Park during July 2-5, 2008. Some of the witnesses said that the lights suddenly appeared, disappeared and reappeared again between 10pm and 3am on those dates. However, strange lights are not the only bizarre phenomena associated with UFOs that has occurred in the park.

In 1968, the Flushing Meadows Zoo opened in Flushing Meadows Park on the grounds of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair. Although small in scale, the zoo had a number of exhibits and plenty of animals including sea lions, black bears, sheep, bison, mountain lions, coyotes, bald eagles, birds and wolves. Since its opening, the Zoo has been associated with several disturbing UFO events. The first may have occurred in 1977.

After several nights of UFO sightings above the park, wolves managed to escape from the zoo on November 30, 1977. Official reports said that twelve wolves clawed their way through a chain link fence surrounding their pen and killed several other animals until they were recaptured by parks department personnel and police. However, a caretaker working there at the time said that while making his rounds he found several animals missing, not just the wolves, and others dead. The dead animals did not look like they had been killed by predators. He also said that none of the animal pens or enclosures had been unlocked, damaged or tampered with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

from forgotten-ny.com

In 1907, Michael Degnon, builder of the Williamsburgh Bridge, the Cape Cod Canal, part of the IRT subway and the Steinway Tunnels, and owner of the Degnon Terminal in Sunnyside, began buying up every tract of salt meadow along Flushing Creek. He thought that he would be able to build a port facing Flushing Bay, and that the federal government would pay for his plan to dig out the Creek from the Bay down to its headwaters at Kew Gardens to make it passable for large ships. He began buying ashes and refuse and dumping these onto the salt meadows to lay a foundation. Unfortunately all this did for Corona was to make the town stink like garbage. When residents looked east, all they saw were ugly gray mounds on the horizon.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 20, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Linkage, and its Gettysburg Address day

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It’s the Eastern Orthodox feast day of Obadiah, and the anniversary of Christopher Columbus stepping his european foot on Puerto Rico.

Lostcity has been drilling down through the years on the enigmatic origins of the Brooks Restaurant in Long Island City.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel?

I am ashamed. For years, I’ve told myself: “One day, I’m going to get to the bottom of the mystery of 1890 Brooks Restaurant in Long Island City, and uncover its shrouded history.” But sloth and inertia took over, and now intrepid reader Ian Schoenherr is having all the “Eureka!”s.

via Lost City: The Light at the End of the Tunnel?.

just a warning, the bulleted links below lead to BRUTAL nature photos and GRAPHIC footage, if you’d rather not think about such things or are squeamish, feel free to skip these links:

Today is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, as well.

Here’s the little 10 sentence speech that Lincoln was rumored to have scribbled down on the back of an envelope.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 19, 2009 at 5:42 pm

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Flushing Creek 2

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A new friend, whose family could trace ancestry back to the colonial settlers of Flushing, was searching for the spot where her forebears had settled on the Flushing Creek (or river, depending on who you ask). Armed with serious historian muscle, and having hired an experienced mariner to shepherd the journey, She mentioned to a mutual colleague that there was room for one more on the ship, and proffered that He join her party. Busy with professional obligation, this colleague of ours suggested your humble narrator ride along, which is how I ended up leaving the strict borders of the Newtown Pentacle and found myself on Flushing Creek.

from wikipedia

The current site of the airport was originally used by the Gala Amusement Park, owned by the Steinway family. It was razed and transformed in 1929 into a 105-acre private flying field. The airport was originally named Glenn H. Curtiss Airport after the pioneer Long Island aviator, and later called North Beach Airport.

The initiative to develop the airport for commercial flights began with a verbal outburst by New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia (in office from 1934 to 1945) upon the arrival of his TWA flight at Newark — the only commercial airport serving the New York City region at the time — as his ticket said “New York”. He demanded to be taken to New York, and ordered the plane to be flown to Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field, giving an impromptu press conference to reporters along the way. At that time, he urged New Yorkers to support a new airport within their city.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Factual inconsistencies and wild conjectural fantasies aside, one of the stated goals of this project is documentarian in nature (in the notion that someone in the future will be looking for photos of “Queens in the Past”), and the vantages of the northern Queens shoreline are largely blockaded and hidden from land. I leapt at the opportunity. The security apparatus and extensive fencing of (starting at the east river) an electrical power plant, a sewage treatment plant, prison complex, and airport enforce a cordon (and appropriately so) of the shoreline from the landward side- at least.

note:

Your humble narrator takes a lot of heat from the Urban Explorer types for the “Do Not Trespass” mantra here at Newtown Pentacle. Its my firm belief that – like a vampire- you have to be invited in before you can really do your work. The nervous thrills experienced in penetrating an abandoned factory or condemned hospital or active rail trackbed are outweighed by both the physical and legal dangers to yourself, and exhibit a real lack of empathy toward the poor bastards at NYFD who will have to figure out a safe way to rescue you. I’ve described the attention paid me by radio patrol car police officers as I squat down on the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge trying to get a picture of pollen settling into sticky waters at the Dutch Kills, and been chased for blocks by a hysterical Greek woman screaming “terrorist” at me around Ditmars. I roll under a flag of “if you can see it in a public place, you can take a picture of it, as long as you don’t imply some editorial meaning to it that wasn’t there” and “ask”. I do take a lot of pictures I don’t run, though, and often slightly obscure locations if the subject is so wildly and criminally vulnerable that I had time to set up a tripod and shoot dozens of photos.

And… I never show anyone the images, of all the dead things.

from nytimes.com, an article from 1895

A number of Long Islanders have been quietly considering for some time the feasibility of cutting a ship canal from Newtown Creek to Flushing Bay, and have now reached the conclusion that the work should be done.

Best – photo by Mitch Waxman

The aura of Flushing Creek, as viewed from the water, might best be described as “Dickensian”. The modern steel highways, sweeping in elegant curves over the storied waters, produce tenebrous shadows pregnant with sinister implication. What horrors may have transpired here, under sodium light, fills your humble narrator with wonder. Heavy industry, like this concrete company, seems to dominate this part of Flushing Creek. It all feels somewhat atavist, yet, these are the sort of “mills” that built New York City.

from osc.state.ny.us

Flushing, named for the Dutch village of Vlissingen, was the first permanent settlement in Queens, and was founded in 1645. In 1657, the town fathers issued the “Flushing Remonstrance,” which defied Governor Peter Stuyvesant’s demand that the town expel Quakers, Jews, and other religious groups. Flushing was the first town in the Western hemisphere to guarantee religious freedom for its residents.

The Flushing Railroad, which later became part of the Long Island Rail Road, opened in 1854, as urbanizing influences gradually penetrated the more rural portions of Queens. Urbanization accelerated in the early 20th century, when the Queensborough Bridge opened in 1909 and the subway system was extended to Flushing in 1928. In the 1930s, a former ash dump on the west side of the Flushing River became the site of the 1939 World’s Fair and, later, the third-largest park in New York City—Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The park hosted the 1964 World’s Fair.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Built by Robert Moses to house the 1939 Worlds Fair, Flushing Meadows Corona Park cuts the Flushing Creek from its original flow. From 1946 to 1951, the United Nations General Assembly was held at the New York City Pavilion, said Pavilion is now the Queens Museum of Art. Said Museum houses the Panorama of the City of New York, and the United Nations meet in a house that Rockefeller and Le Corbusier built over in Manhattan.

Here’s the scoop of Nelson Rockefeller and LeCorbusier from a Newtown Pentacle posting of June 23, Adventures upon the East River 3

LeCorbusier is responsible- ideologically and in some cases literally- for the ring of poverty surrounding Paris, the council housing of London, the housing complexes of Chicago, and of course- New York’s rather disastrous experience with “the projects”. He was the Ayn Rand of architecture.

here’s what he wanted to do in Paris, from wikipedia:

Theoretical urban schemes continued to occupy Le Corbusier. He exhibited his Plan Voisin, sponsored by another famous automobile manufacturer, in 1925. In it, he proposed to bulldoze most of central Paris, north of the Seine, and replace it with his sixty-story cruciform towers from the Contemporary City, placed in an orthogonal street grid and park-like green space. His scheme was met with only criticism and scorn from French politicians and industrialists, although they were favourable to the ideas of Taylorism and Fordism underlying Le Corbusier designs. Nonetheless, it did provoke discussion concerning how to deal with the cramped, dirty conditions that enveloped much of the city.

here’s what his politics were, also from wikipedia:

Le Corbusier moved increasingly to the far right of French politics in the 1930s. He associated with Georges Valois and Hubert Lagardelle and briefly edited the syndicalist journal Prélude. In 1934, he lectured on architecture in Rome by invitation of Benito Mussolini. He sought out a position in urban planning in the Vichy regime and received an appointment on a committee studying urbanism. He drew up plans for the redesign of Algiers in which he criticised the perceived differences in living standards between Europeans and Africans in the city, describing a situation in which “the ‘civilised’ live like rats in holes” yet “the ‘barbarians’ live in solitude, in well-being.”[10] These and plans for the redesign of other cities were ultimately ignored. After this defeat, Le Corbusier largely eschewed politics.

Until he designed the United Nations Secretariat, a 39 story building and complex located in Turtle bay, Manhattan. This part of Manhattan is not part of the sovereign territory of the United States, incidentally, its legally international territory and not subject to the laws of New York City or the USA unless the U.N. says so. Here’s the proviso:

United Nations, Pub. L. No. 80-357, 61 Stat. 756 (1947): “Except as otherwise provided in this agreement or in the General Convention, the federal, state and local courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction over acts done and transactions taking place in the headquarters district as provided in applicable federal, state and local laws.”

Interesting note:

The land that the complex sits on was purchased from William Zeckendorf (a mid 20th century real estate baron) in a deal brokered by the Chase Manhattan Bank. Chase, of course, was the instrument of future New York Governor and United States Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Grandson of John D. Rockefeller, and inheritor (with his brothers) of the Standard Oil fortune. The Rockefellers had already offered some of their own land-the house that Standard Oil built- and Rockefeller family castle,in Westchester, for use as the potential seat of a world government- but it was “too far away” for the diplomats. So, he had his father- John D. Rockefeller Jr. buy Turtle Bay and donate the land to the city for the UN.

The area called Turtle Bay was where the Draft Riots of 1863 started, and it was a neighborhood of tenements, butchers, slaughterhouses, and dangerous organized crime controlled docks which handled the traffic coming to and from Long Island City via rail and barge. The United Nations building was completed in 1950.

1950 is also when the decline of the economic infrastructure of North Brooklyn and Western Queens, especially the area around the Newtown Creek in Queens and Red Hook in Brooklyn, began in earnest. Connected? Maybe.

from time.com

“What do you want to go to Flushing Meadow for, honey?” a Manhattan taxi driver asked a TIME researcher last week. “I’m going to the United Nations,” she said. “Well,” he said with a wink, “that used to be quite a lovers’ lane in my day.”

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 18, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Flushing River 1

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just outside of the Newtown Pentacle’s north-eastern extant at LaGuardia Airport, beyond the feral Brother Islands and the caustic shores of Rikers Island, is found Flushing Bay.

Following the waters as they flow beneath the Whitestone Expressway, one will realize they are upon the Flushing River (or creek, depending on your source, but it’s actually a salt marsh). Like the nearby Newtown Creek, Flushing Creek is a heavily industrialized waterway with a long history of epic pollution and municipal abuse.

from wikipedia

The town of Flushing was first settled in 1645 under charter of the Dutch West India Company and was named after the port of Vlissingen, in the southwestern Netherlands. It is said that the name Vlissingen means “salt meadow,” given as a nod to the tidal waters of Flushing Meadows. As the English version of the name of the Dutch town is “Flushing”, the same English version was used by the town’s English-speaking inhabitants. During his presidency, George Washington arrived to Flushing by ferry across. The first road crossing, a drawbridge at Northern Boulevard, was built in the early 19th century.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A vast morass of clinging mud and knife edged grass, Salt Marshes are nevertheless exemplars of biological activity. The stinking mud, bubbling with sulfur and methane, digests organic filth surrendered to it by ocean wave, and provides purchase for tenacious carpets of grasses. This tough vegetable armoring of the shoreline allows more accretion of mud, and in this lilliput of the waves, hordes of multitudinous and loathsomely tentacled carnivores hunt those which are squirming and soft bodied, which form colonies or don shells in self defense. Above the fray, the lords of life and death in this environment truly are the vertebrates, especially those which fly.

from wikipedia

By the 1850s, a second crossing, Strong’s Causeway was built near the present-day Long Island Expressway, extending Corona Avenue towards Flushing. This crossing was located near the confluence of Horse Brook and Flushing Creek. In the mid-19th Century, the growing city of Brooklyn acquired the land around the creek and gave it for use to the Brooklyn Ash Removal Company, which turned the salt marshes into landfill. The pollution was chronicled by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, where Nick Carraway observed the “valley of ashes” on his train ride between Manhattan and Long Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quiet tides and low rates of erosion allow mile after mile of boggy wetland to feed off the nutrient rich salt water, which becomes increasingly brackish as it mixes with fresh water flowing off and through the upland. In the case of the modern Flushing Creek, that fresh water is a combination of industrial runoff and cso’s (combined sewer outfall), along with whatever rain water manages to drip off the highways bridging it.

from wikipedia

In 1936, Robert Moses proposed closing the ash landfill and transforming it into a park through its use as a World’s Fair site. With the exception of the Willets Point triangle, the landfill was leveled, the creek bed was straightened, and the southern part of the creek was deepened to form the Meadow and Willow lakes. At its northern section, a tidal gate bridge was built to keep the East River tide from flooding into the park. By then, Horse Brook was long gone, covered by the future Long Island Expressway. Ireland Creek was also filled in for use as parkland to prevent flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods. Dammed and reduced in size, the creek became navigable only up to Roosevelt Avenue. Barges still docked on the river, bringing sand and gravel. At its southern end, the Jamaica subway yard reduced some of the flow coming from the headwaters.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, such modern interpretations of what was- until “just yesterday”- considered wasteland, would have been rejected by our progress minded antecedents. An elegant cocktail of petroleum distillates, industrial waste, and municipal sewage were freely combined and dumped directly into the water here for centuries.

When the highway pilings were driven, the fate of Flushing Creek was sealed for half a century, and the community that had symptomatically formed around and because of the waterway lost access to it.

Forgotten-NY, which of course has been everywhere, did a great and in-depth piece on the Flushing Creek (or River, depending)check it out here.

from wikipedia

Citi Field is a stadium located in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in the New York City borough of Queens. Completed in 2009, it is the home baseball park of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets. Citi Field was built as a replacement for the adjacent Shea Stadium, which was constructed in 1964 next to the site of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair. Citi Field was designed by Populous (formerly HOK Sport), and is named after Citigroup, a financial services company based in New York that purchased the naming rights. The $850 million baseball park is being funded by the sale of New York City municipal bonds which are to be repaid by the Mets plus interest. The payments will offset property taxes for the lifetime of the park.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2009 at 1:45 pm

the Millstones meeting

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Dissemination of an open invitation from our friends at the Greater Astoria Historic Society to attend a public meeting about the fate of colonial era artifacts that are under threat from construction. Said congress will take place at their headquarters high above Broadway, here in Astoria.

Wednesday night, as in tomorrow, after work- as in 6:30. You should come.

Community Discussion

Event Image

Wed Nov 18, 6:30 pm

At 6:30 the evening starts with a brief review of a study the society did for the archaeologist in charge of the project. The millstone‘s colorful past comes to life.

We next discuss the current plight of the stones.

Then at 7 PM its your turn. Share some ideas you might have on what should be done with them.

Support the community’s heritage by:

•Making the millstones available to our community by moving them from a construction site to an exhibit space at the Greater Astoria Historical Society, where they will be safe and secure and on display; accessible to everyone with an exhibit outlining their history.

•Making the millstones available to historians and scholars to conduct research (during the period while they are out of the ground), and to support efforts to make them official New York City Designated Landmarks.

We also want the community to participate in the millstones’ permanent installation at Queens Plaza.

For more information on millstones, click here.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2009 at 3:11 am

Posted in newtown creek

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