The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

drifting sand

with 6 comments

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.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

6 Responses

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  1. Nice article. “Poletti” is the correct spelling, btw.

    Gary Wright

    September 1, 2015 at 12:35 pm

  2. Nice coverage Mitch.

    2 things. the Mansion has indeed been landmarked – way back in the Lindsay mayoralty 1967). The 11 warehouses development you see now is on the last Mansion owner’s property (Mike Halberian) which was not landmarked. Should be interesting to see what transpires with the edifice of the Mansion in the future.

    Winthrop Avenue is present-day 20th Avenue. Steinway built workers residences along Winthrop/20th which are still actively lived in. Check out the corner of 20th Avenue and 41st Street (the street that runs along the main entrance of the Mansion) and you can see the name Winthrop in the masonry on the corner house.

    The 1858 Steinway Mansion is IMHO the MOST beautiful building in Queens – if not NYC.

    georgetheatheist . . . alas, alack.

    September 1, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    • Actually the Mansion will not be “hemmed in” by the warehouses. Nor shadowed” by them. Look at your and my photos, Mitch: the Glorious Mansion rises above the puny warehouses. It artistically will shit on their heads/roofs. It will symbolize even in its possible ruination the grandeur of historical legacy over the ineptitude of crass Queens commercialism. You can see it now: it’s artistically spitting in the faces of the moronic Queens politicians, developers, and catatonic citizenry. It will eternally cry out: “This is NOT how to do things!”

      georgetheatheist . . . alas, alack.

      September 1, 2015 at 9:08 pm

  3. To my mind the future does not bode well for the Steinway Mansion.

    The house was already a tough sell because most people would not want to live betwixt and between warehouses in an industrial zone. In fact I believe the previous owner was trying to sell it prior to his death and was finding no takers – not even an historical society (it also needs an awful lot of work).

    Build more warehouses even closer to the mansion and you can pretty well forget anybody at all being interested in living in it.

    And if it is, indeed, landmarked then it can’t be altered to meet the codes for commercial/institutional use – negating interest from those potential occupants.

    So I predict the current owner will make his money from the warehouses he’s building and leave the mansion to rot; what is known as ‘demolition-by-neglect’.

    Too bad….

    Lawrence Lambert

    September 1, 2015 at 5:02 pm

  4. […] The battle of the Borrachos continued here in Astoria, in “another city.” “Drifting Sand” visited Astoria’s Steinway Mansion and offered a shout out to Newtown Pentacle’s […]

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