The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

roadside shrine

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Brooklyn Queens Expressway rudely occludes the sky at Laurel Hill Blvd. and 58th street in Queens, drowning the ancient lane in supernal shades. The Boulevard transits through the hallowed ground of Calvary Cemetery, between the second and third sections. Often I’ve wondered if the street itself is on hallowed ground.


hal·lowed [ hállōd ]

adjective. Definition:

  1. sanctified: holy or kept for religious use- buried in hallowed ground
  2. respected: regarded with great respect or reverence- the hallowed pages of our country’s history

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A cool and breezy place, as the eye of god itself never shines upon this asphalt, it is a route I favor when returning from sojourns in Maspeth or East Williamsburgh to the remote and troubled hillocks that my beloved Astoria is arrayed upon.


SERVING INDUSTRIAL AND DEFENSE NEEDS: In 1940, New York City arterial coordinator Robert Moses recommended that the road, which he saw as a gap in the metropolitan arterial system, “should be filled immediately as an aid to the national defense.” He went on the make the following case for the expressway:

In 1940, Robert Moses recommended that the road, which he saw as a gap in the metropolitan arterial system, “should be filled immediately as an aid to the national defense.” He further went on as follows:

With the completion of through arteries under construction in Brooklyn and Queens, more traffic will be funneled into the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges than the streets tapping these bridgeheads can carry. The present streets are narrow and congested, with crossings at every block. The crazy quilt pattern of the streets inherited from the villages that grew together to form the present borough adds to the difficulty of travel.

This proposed artery should be built for six lanes of express traffic, separated for most of its length from service roads by malls. It is estimated that construction will cost $5,100,000. This project would require the acquisition of land assessed at approximately $7,000,000, and utilize city-owned property assessed at $345,00

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Encountering a roadside shrine is always an interesting experience, and such tributes are normally found at or near the site of a vehicular accident that claimed lives. In this case, the evidence presented would seem to indicate that 3 men in their 20’s died here- named Tommy, Arturo, and Eric according to the graffiti- although police reports differ from the scrawls on the name of the third man and call him Pedro.

Apparently, the accident occurred nearly one year ago, and made the news at NY1 and at ABC.


Three men died last Thursday night when their car slammed into a concrete barrier on Laurel Hill Boulevard after skidding across the road. Police say the driver lost control of his 1992 Volvo while trying to pass another car at a high rate of speed.

A bottle of vodka and small amount of cocaine were later found inside the obliterated car, according to Deputy Inspector Thomas Kavanagh, commanding officer of the 108th Precinct. There was a witness to the crash, which happened at about 10:30 p.m. near 58th Street, where the boulevard runs beneath the expressway and through the cemetery.

The driver, 26-year-old Pedro Sanchez of Brooklyn, and his two passengers, Thomas Owens and Eric Sanguenette, both 27 of Woodside, were pronounced dead at Elmhurst Hospital.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Increasingly common in the last decade, such roadside shrines have been commented on before at this- your Newtown Pentacle. Another tragic accident that snuffed out young lives due to automotive excess was discussed in the post “A shrine in Greenpoint“.


Once an occasional sight along the nation’s highways, roadside memorials have sprouted in recent years like wildflowers after spring rains. There were 42,800 traffic fatalities in the USA last year. No statistics exist on memorials, though one national survey this year by the Maryland Department of Transportation estimates markers are erected after 10% to 20% of fatal crashes.

Family and friends increasingly want to mark the spot, and that can be a problem for everything from motorist safety to road maintenance to those who oppose religious symbols on public land.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Pentacle, on behalf of our readers, offers our sympathies to the family and friends of the occupants of the car.

from wikipedia

Roadside memorials have been placed for centuries.

The origin of roadside crosses in the United States has its roots with the early Hispanic settlers of the Southwestern United States, and are common in areas with large Hispanic populations. Formerly, in funerary processions where a group would process from a church to a graveyard carrying a coffin, the bearers would take a rest, or “descanso” in Spanish, and wherever they set the coffin down, a cross would be placed there in memory of the event. The modern practice of roadside shrines commemorate the last place a person was alive before being killed in a car crash, even if they should die in the hospital after the crash.

In the southwestern United States, they are also common at historic parajes on old long distance trails, going back to the roots of the tradition, and also marked the graves of people who died while traveling. A descanso may be decorated specially for the holidays, and for significant anniversaries in the person’s life. A descanso for a child may be decorated with special toys, even toy vignettes of family life, and votive candles may be placed there on special nights.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

One Response

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  1. Since this roadway is quite close to where I have lived for a very long time, I can tell you that in my youth, this route was used extensively for the purposes of automobile ”drag-racing”, despite the presence of a myriad of those stanchions which are a lot sturdier than any automobile that might slam into it!

    Stanchions or not (or whatever one might call them), my witnessing of these ”races” (always as a spectator, never as a participant or passenger – I’m not stupid!) never included seeing an accident which would have caused there to be a ”roadside monument” placed upon said stanchion, but that was probably miraculous, considering the chances for such a thing to happen.

    I wonder if those poor Hispanic fellows were ”drag racing” when this fatal accident happened?

    Jim Garrity

    November 5, 2012 at 3:59 am

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