The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for September 1st, 2015

drifting sand

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Sigh… the Steinway Mansion, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of controversies I generally stay away from, the Steinway Mansion is one.

My plate is full, frankly. I’ve got Sunnyside Yards, Newtown Creek, and a good stretch of the East River to worry about – which virtually no one else pays any attention to. The Steinway Mansion is found on the forbidden north coast of Queens, in an off putting industrial zone which isn’t exactly a visually stunning spot.

Frequent Newtown Pentacle commenter George the Atheist has been paying close attention to the controversial sale and development of the Steinway Mansion property, as has the Greater Astoria Historic Society. As I said, my plate is full, but last week I decided to scuttle over and take a gander at what’s going on.

If this mansion was in Brooklyn, or Manhattan, it would have long ago been landmarked and protected – but as you know the borough motto is “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighborhood surrounding the former home of William Steinway, who is the actual father of Astoria (William Hallett and or Stephen Halsey usually get the credit, but Steinway created the modern shape of things in the same way that Neziah Bliss did in Greenpoint), is less than inspirational but it is highly useful. The good news is that this section hosts a blue collar “M1” zone that employs thousands, but its mills and warehouses are mostly products of the 20th century – which means not terribly interesting to look at, and ugly as sin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mansion itself survives simply because it was used as a private home, but the fellow who owned it died of a heart attack during a snow storm while waiting for EMT’s to cross unplowed streets – which is where I refer you back to the borough motto offered in the first paragraph of this post.

His family offered the property for sale, which was snapped up by some developer. Said developer carved up the expansive properties surrounding the mansion, and is erecting a series of sure to be hideous warehouse buildings upon it. My understanding is that the mansion itself will survive, but it’s going to be hemmed in and shadowed by said warehouses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Steinway Mansion is, as mentioned, found on the forbidden north coast of Queens.

The NYC DEP maintains the 1939 vintage Bowery Bay sewage treatment plant there, and there’s a host of industrial businesses and energy infrastructure in the area. About a half mile east, the Rikers Island bridge is found, which offers access to the massive jail complex maintained by the City of New York.

Berrian’s Island used to be out in the bay – a bit to the north and east – but the water between it and Astoria was landfilled in and connected. That’s why the street intersection which serves as Steinway Street’s terminus is shared with a road called Berrian Boulevard, a street which I think used to be called “Winthrop.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The north side of Steinway and Berrian is home to a power plant, called Astoria Energy. It’s still under construction, and will use a combination of oil and natural gas turbines to generate electricity. The elected officials of Astoria take great pride in the fact that they were able to close the fabulously filthy Pollitti (thx Gary) Poletti Power Plant over on the East River side of the neighborhood, but seldom mention that they bent over backwards to allow Astoria Energy to come into being.

Welcome to Queens. Now, go fuck yourself.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

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