The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

hewn rudely

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, your humble narrator was onboard a speeding vessel as it hurtled down the River of Sound (or East River as it’s known to modern residents). Turning from the jewel like facade of the Shining City called Manhattan, my thoughts turned to Long Island City and it’s burgeoning Tower Town neighborhood, known to ancient residents as Ravenswood and Hunters Point.

High above and distant from the water I was traveling across, an impression nevertheless grew in my mind that the monocular thing which cannot possibly exist in the spire of that Sapphire Megalith turned and fixed its gaze upon our tiny craft- an intuition of which of I am certain.

from “Laws of the State of New York, Volume 2“, 1870, courtesy google books

AN ACT to incorporate Long Island City.

Passed May 6, 1870; three-fifths being present

The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:

TITLE I.

Section 1. All that part of the town of Newtown in city the County of Queens, included within the following boundaries, to wit: Beginning at the mouth of Newtown creek, on the east side of the East river, running thence easterly along the center line of said Newtown Creek to the westerly side of the Penny bridge (so called); thence northerly along the westerly side of the Bushwick and Newtown turnpike to the road on the southerly side of Calvary cemetery, known as the road to Dutch Kills; thence along the center of said last-named road on the southerly and westerly sides of Calvary cemetery as far as the boundaries of said cemetery extend; thence northerly along sajd cemetery to the center of the road leading to Green Point, on the northerly side of said cemetery; thence along said last-mentioned road to the intersection of the same with the road leading from Calvary cemetery to Astoria; thence easterly to the center of Woodside avenue ; thence northerly along the center line of said avenue to Jackson avenue; thence northeasterly along the center of the Bowery Bay road to low water mark in Bowery bay; thence westerly along low water mark to the East river; thence southerly along low water mark in the East river, to the place of beginning, shall be a city known as Long Island City; and the citizens of this State, from time to time inhabitants within the said boundaries, shall be a corporation by the name of “Long Island City,” and as such may sue and be sued, complain and defend, in any court, make and use a common seal and alter it at pleasure; and may receive by gift, devise, grant, bequest or purchase, and hold and convey, such real and personal property as the purposes of said corporation may requite.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reputation endured by Long Island City in the 19th and most of the 20th centuries can hardly be described as desirable, as the historical record displays. The ancient home of graft, as it has been called, the hybrid assemblage of distant villages and towns into a single municipality which occurred in 1870 spawned a seemingly lawless community.

Tales of gambling dens, vice ridden hotels and inns, foreign born highwaymen, and an endless series of corrupt political organizations abound in contemporaneous accounts of the place.

from “Wallace’s monthly, Volume 8 By John Hankins Wallace“, 1882, courtesy google books

Ever since the enactment of the law against pool selling the police and judicial authorities of this city have been more or less persistent and successful in their attempts to suppress this form of gambling. Whatever charges of negligence and connivance may be brought against them, their services have been valuable and in a measure successful. This is evident from the fact that this particular form of gambling has been driven across the river into Queens County, Long Island, where the dirty scoundrels and their victims congregate to transact their nefarious business. Their protection there, by the local authorities, has been so thoroughly and even fiercely exposed by the daily press that an honest man don’t like to be seen crossing the ferry to Hunter’s Point, or Long Island City, as it is called. In the public estimation the place has become a moral lazaretto and in a choice of residence a man would not have much to choose between that and a smallpox hospital. But why should all this odium lie cast upon poor little tax ridden and rogue ridden Long Island City?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is said that when Manhattan outlawed bare knuckle boxing, barges with rings and bleachers upon them appeared at Hunters Point and ferries would carry crowds from the larger city to so called “pugilist exhibitions”. Additionally, according to Comstock and other guardians of the public good, when horse parlors and pool betting (the modern day numbers racket) were similarly banned in the Shining City- a flurry of such activity began across the river at what we moderns would call Long Island City. All of this increasingly organized crime was nourished and populated by the transient customers of the Long Island Railroad and a concurrent Ferry station- again, I’m owing this to period reports from reliable (and multitudinous) sources.

Of course, in LIC, it was the mayor, coroner, police chief, and fire department who both (personally) owned and operated the back room casinos, whorehouses, and dens of iniquity. The LIRR bosses cared little, as long as local government did not get in their way, and the payoff demands were reasonable. It was only during the era of Patrick Gleason that things got out of hand and the LIRR finally had enough of it.

from Wikipedia

Gantry Plaza State Park is a state park on the East River in the Hunter’s Point section of Long Island City, in the New York City borough of Queens.

The 10-acre (4.0 ha) park first opened in May 1998 and was expanded in July 2009. The southern portion of the park is a former dock facility and includes restored gantry cranes built in the 1920s to load and unload rail car floats that served industries on Long Island via the Long Island Rail Road tracks that used to run along 48th Avenue (now part of Hunter’s Point Park). The northern portion of Gantry Plaza State Park was a former Pepsi bottling plant.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The days of the Rail bosses secretly pulling the strings here are long gone, their proudest achievements reduced to show pieces for the slavering pet of that thing which cannot possibly persist in the Megalith. Cherished and nurtured beneath the unblinking and fire sheathed eye of that which does not breath, nor sleep, yet hungers- this coagulation of industry and greed which it nurtures here is a tangled knot of labor unions, land speculators, and ambitious politicians. This pet- a drooling hound of limitless appetite and vainglorious aspiration has no name- but its malice and cold desire is clearly manifest in Tower Town and will soon spread along the waterfront south across Hunters Point and then into Brooklyn and beyond…

Allegorical references to “Fenrir the Wolf” would seem appropriate, but would be inaccurate- an ancient nomen for a modern threat…

For now, can we just refer to the force trapped behind the black gates of Western Queens as the “Real Estate Industrial Complex“?

from “A history of Long Island: from its earliest settlement to the present time, Volume 1” 1902, courtesy google books

It is noticeable that some of the deeds in the early part of the last century conveying lots at Hunter’s Point call it Long Island City. It continued to be a straggly, dreary, povertystricken place, with few settlers and these of the poorest class, until the Long Island Road, because it could not make the necessary arrangements in Brooklyn, selected it as the main terminus of the road. Since then it has steadily increased in population, and as the First Ward of Long Island City it rapidly assumed the lead in the destinies of that now happilv departed shade. Railway and manufacturing interests have steadily built up its population and added to its material resources, most of which, however, were mercilessly squandered by political intriguers.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 5, 2011 at 12:59 am

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