The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

swept chill

with 2 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Laurel Hill Blvd. slouches roughly as it descends toward Review Avenue, where the Penny Bridge once stood and the Long Island Railroad once maintained a station and the Roman Catholic funeral ferries docked. Thrice damned, the Kosciuszko Bridge occupies the shallow valley between the so called Laurel Hill and an easterly elevation known as Berlin Hill. The whole zone was called Maspeth, or “bad water place”, by an aboriginal Lenape tribe called the Maespetche who are said to have coined this term for the marshy wetlands that lay between Sunswick and Newtown Creeks.

Native Americans as a people, it should be remembered, are famed for an ironic and well developed sense of humor, and these Maespetche just might have been having some sardonic fun at the expense of the naive Europeans who had just paid them a fortune for an insect infested swamp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lonely and desolate, one such as myself can only feel succor in this kind of place. A hinterland not too far from the geographic center of a megalopolis whose tendrils stretch out hundreds of miles in every direction called New York City, this is one of the least walked stretches of pavement in the entire metropolitan zone. It’s where the Alsops, Brutnells, and Wandells chose to locate their farming operations and just up the hill from where a few hundred British soldiers were garrisoned during the revolutionary war.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the west lies Calvary, First Calvary, where Dagger John consecrated the soil of Protestant Newtown for the use of the Roman Catholic church. The elevation of Laurel Hill is quite apparent, here, as the 9 story General Electric Vehicle Company factory’s roofline is at eye level, and it is found at Borden Avenue and Starr- only a few blocks away. The hill was once a bit higher, but the construction of the cemetery in the 19th century removed a few hundred million tons of topsoil from it (the subject of a lawsuit in state court, wherein the farmers of Newtown sued the RC church, as the topsoil was shipped by to Jamaica Queens for use on the catholic plantations there).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Turning widdershin, the first aperture available for transit into the most literal interpretation of the term “DUKBO”, literally “Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp” is 54th avenue. Not unlike the sensation experienced on the spiral footbridge examined in the two postings preceding this one- “maddeningly untransmissable” and “danger-widespread“- the inveterate pedestrian feels as if a corridor of transition has been arrived at. One world exists at the entrance and something totally different will be found on the other side.

A titanic vibration is sensed rather than heard here, no doubt due to the pulsating waves of vehicular traffic crossing overhead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nondescript and strictly utilitarian, there is nevertheless something quite unnerving about this overpass unrelated to any measurable stimuli. An odd sensation of loathing and imminent danger, as if some  cackling, untoward, and quite unimaginable fiend was about to swing down from the overhead steelwork and claw at passerby. Despite this discernible and distasteful atmosphere of paranoid wondering, however, there is virtually nothing to see under here. The cement slab on the left of the shot is a sort of water catchment device.

Like all parts of DUKBO, there are businesses which operate in the underpinnings of the bridge, or in the shadow over the creek which has been cast from it since the 1930’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Behind these oddly sinister gates are a couple of trucks and what appears to be a few “storage cubes” or small shacks, but nothing out of the ordinary or in any way noteworthy. Oddly enough, this street is routinely crossed by a city bus, which has a stop on the next corner. Speculation would be served if one was to postulate that this might have been the pathway which workers from Sunnyside or Woodside would have taken enroute to shift work at Phelps Dodge or Alloco, down by the Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The continuation of 43rd street, which was last tread on the other side of the highway in Celtic Park, begins at this point, after the cloverleaf onramps which provide the singular intersection of the Long Island Expressway and Brooklyn Queens Expressway complete themselves. This stretch of 43rd street will someday be the new DUKBO, and easement purchases for the new bridge have already seen nearby homes and business buildings shuttered and demolished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reason and logic seldom count for much in the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek, but one assumes that there exists an ancient municipal regulation which designates or zones this area as “the Crane district”.

Every block or two, it would seem, there is a corporate yard which hosts the sort of enormous building industry derricks commonly seen at work around the city. There’s one or two in Long Island City, of course, but there are a lot of these companies located in this neighborhood once known as Berlin- but now called either Laurel Hill or West Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bizarre associations are often a curse for your humble narrator, and on the day I was walking through here- entering Berlin- I couldn’t help but notice that the cranes here bore the colors of the tricolor flag of the modern Deutche.

We’re going to leave DUKBO at this corner for the moment, but will continue along this route next week. Remember- the Kosciuszko Bridge project will be starting in 2013- this summer and fall will be your last chance to see this district of the Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek as it is and has been.

August 23rd, 2012 will be likely be the last birthday of the Kosciuszko Bridge.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 16, 2012 at 12:15 am

2 Responses

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  1. Ausgezeichnete Spaziergang – wie immer!. Eine hevorragende Geschichte!! Die Bilder sind fabelhaft!!! Immer etwas interresantes zu lesen. Nur ein Fehler: “Deutche” soll “Deutsche” sein. Bis nächstes Mal. Seien Sie gesund.


    May 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm

  2. […] the case of this great bridge over the Newtown Creek, it would appear that they were correct in their […]

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