The Newtown Pentacle

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Just one more from the Creeklands, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, a humble narrator somehow found himself up in Ridgewood on Fairview Avenue off Linden and it was decided that I’d walk home to Astoria since it was a fairly nice afternoon. It’s literally “all downhill,” after all, and not that far. My path carried me down off of the proverbial “ridge” for which the community is named, and down through the valley of tears which the loquacious Newtown Creek flows through.

Once again, my path found me in West Maspeth (or Berlin). Topography is something I notice continually as I wander around Queens, and the area around Newtown Creek is shaped like a sort of soup bowl. Proper Maspeth, as in the Mount Olivette Cemetery area along Grand Avenue, is embedded into the terminal moraine of Long Island – true rock. All of LIC, Astoria – pretty much anything west of the high point in Maspeth, is sitting on a giant pile of glacial till which is supported on the back of a giant underground Boulder called a craton.

Ridgewood literally sits on a rocky ridge which leads north/east to the Maspeth Plateau. Seriously. The British mapped it all out during the Revolutionary war.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having a couple of hours of light left before the vampires began to awaken, I decided to wander around a bit after turning up on 48th street. “Up” is apt, as you are climbing away from one of the lowest points in all of New York City which is nearby Maspeth Creek on 49th street. 48th street continues to rise until it meets the Long Island Expressway near Third Calvary Cemetery and crests at Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside (which is built on another elevation, but an elluvial one).

The best way I can describe the up and down nature of the hills leading from Ridgewood to Astoria would be ripples in stone rather than water with Newtown Creek at the center. There’s a conflicting set of ripples leading away from the East River and Bowery Bay which apparent in Ravenswood/Dutch Kills and Astoria, respectively. Hunters Point is flat as a pancake.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Turning onto 55th avenue, carven into what was once known as “Berlin Hill,” this little house was encountered at 46th street. Before you ask, I have no idea what’s up with the office chair tied to the pole. There are just some things you don’t want to inquire into too deeply. It always amazed me – here in the middle of what can only be described as a “post industrial and apocalyptic” landscape defined by cemeteries and highways and a nearby superfund site – here – people actually live here. Funny thing is, it used to be worse, when the acid factory was still up and running a couple of blocks away.

The people who live here must… have to be some of the most resilient folks on the earth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. A couple of hundred thousand vehicle trips a day rumble through here on the highway alone. There’s heavy trucking businesses, like UPS, and other huge warehouse operations that are busily at work here twenty four hours a day, and there’s nearby freight rail tracks operating at street grade. Enormous fleets of concrete trucks are based here, and the number of light trucks and automobiles that roll through the local streets are uncountable.

And people live here. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

44th street near 54th road, and a line of 20th century row homes which are spectacularly well kept. Acros the street is a yard hosting tower cranes, and a block away is the LIE interchange ramp with the BQE. This is about midpoint on Berlin Hill, and 44th street used to called Locust Street hereabouts.

Locust continued north back then, heading for Sunnyside, before the “House of Moses” first landed on the neighborhood back in the 1930’s. Moses kept coming back to this neighborhood, smashing his roads and bridges into it, until the early 70’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The border between Newtown and Long Island City was just a block away – the Kosciuszko Bridge sits atop it. On the LIC side is Laurel Hill (Calvary Cemetery) in Blissville.

This section of West Maspeth was formally part of Newtown (prior to NY City consolidation) – the municipal entity which had evolved from Dutch colonial to British and later American governance. Newtown county was once enormous and contained a good chunk of what is now Nassau County, but in the context of which I’m speaking – it’s the municipality which was centered in Elmhurst near the intersection of Queens Blvd. and Broadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first time I wandered through this area, many years ago, I had a very odd conversation with a very skinny and somewhat disheveled fellow standing in front of the home on the corner of 44th and the Queens Midtown Expwy. service road that is pictured above.

He insisted that “he knew that I knew that he knew that I know, and that he knew things which I didn’t know nor could I understand what he knew, but he knew that I knew that he knew and he was ok with that.” I thanked him and moved on, after affirming that he didn’t want me to take his picture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The high point of this hill/ripple once called “Berlin” is up on 46th street. As a point of interest, there is no 45th street found between 44th and 46th hereabouts – no doubt to confuse invaders.

As opined endlessly in prior posts, the DOB records for western Queens are spotty, but as far as I’ve been able to determine – the house pictured above and below on 54th avenue dates back to 1915.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On other rambles through this section, kid’s bicycles and toys have been noticed on both porch and staircase. Not sure if it’s still occupied, but there’s a car parked in the driveway on the other side of this home. Notice how there are no side windows? It’s the last survivor of a series of old row houses – a type of working man’s quarters which folks from New Orleans might call a “shotgun.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing under the Kosciuszko Bridge, via “used to be 43rd street” I made my way towards 43rd street and headed back to Astoria.

Next week – something completely different!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

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