The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for February 9th, 2012

contradictory desire

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The organization which owns this hoary structure, found at 41-05 Newtown Road amidst the trackless sands of Astoria, is a local Democratic club which boasts an influential and famous list of members and associates.

My understanding is that Peter Vallone is associated with the group, which makes it a frequent target for vandals and graffiti artists (Mr. Vallone of the New York City Council is an outspoken critic of graffiti and has legislated heavily to increase fines and legal penalties for “writers”. In doing so, he has become a target and foil for proponents of “street art”. Locales that he is associated with, such as the area around his offices or this building, are frequently “bombed” with graffiti tags).

That’s local politics, of course, and your humble narrator is aloof about such things, as I’m mainly interested in this two story structure which seems “stuck in time”.

from wikipedia

Chief Powhatan (died 1618), whose proper name was Wahunsenacawh (sometimes spelled Wahunsonacock), was the paramount chief of Tsenacommacah, an alliance of Algonquian-speaking Virginia Indians in the Tidewater region of Virginia at the time English settlers landed at Jamestown in 1607. Powhatan, who represented the main political and military power facing the early colonists, was the father of Pocahontas and probably the older brother of Opechancanough, who led attacks against the English in 1622 and 1644.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 2nd story windows look modern- energy efficient vinyl sashes, but everything else about this place harkens back to the early 20th century. I’ve been told by old timers that a lot of the building stock in Astoria and Long Island City on the whole used to look like this except, obviously, for the sign. Information is fairly scarce on the group or structure in the public record, other than the usual “food drives“, “charities”, “voter registration”- political mainstays that all such organizations put on their resume’s.

In the case of this group, however, I’ve found references to them that date back to the days of Mayor Seth Low.


Since its founding in 1900, the Powhatan-Pocahontas Regular Democratic Club has served and represented Democrats in Western Queens, promoting the political development and awareness of local residents while fighting for the needs of the voters it serves…

It is one of the oldest political organizations in the nation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Notice the neat herringbone brickwork on the cornices, and those crazy lights meant to illuminate the sign. Wish I could tell you more, or reveal some deeply hidden political secret about the place, but as mentioned earlier- that’s not my bag. Go ask a politician or wannabe aspirant, they can probably hand you a list of sins and accomplishments a mile long.

According to the Department of Buildings (whose records on anything outside of Manhattan are absolute crap, btw.) this structure was either erected in 1909 or 1921. 1921 would make more sense given the age of surrounding building stock (which includes an amazing block of double sided Matthews Model Flats) and the arrival of the subways on nearby Broadway ca. 1922.


Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly on Friday, February 24th at 7:30 P.M. for the “Ridgewood Democratic Club, 60-70 Putnam Avenue, Ridgewood, NY 11385” as the “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” is presented to their esteemed group. The club hosts a public meeting, with guests and neighbors welcome, and say that refreshments will be served.

The “Magic Lantern Show” is actually a slideshow, packed with informative text and graphics, wherein we approach and explore the entire Newtown Creek. Every tributary, bridge, and significant spot are examined and illustrated with photography. This virtual tour will be augmented by personal observation and recollection by yours truly, with a question and answer period following.

For those of you who might have seen it last year, the presentation has been streamlined, augmented with new views, and updated with some of the emerging stories about Newtown Creek which have been exclusively reported on at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

For more information, please contact me here.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 9, 2012 at 12:15 am

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