The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for July 5th, 2017

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It’s National Spareribs Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not just having the titular cake, nor the eating of it too, ever seems to satiate the lustful aspirations of the Real Estate Industrial Complex here in Long Island City. Population loading – despite intensifying the looming infrastructure crisis surrounding transit, electrical, and water systems – just continues. The backdrop in the shot above represents a not insignificant number of the approximately 13,000 new apartments added to LIC in the last decade. NYC City Planning is about to unveil a new rezoning plan called the “LIC Core” which will change current regulations and make it legally possible for about another 20,000 apartments to be built. Hospital beds? Not so much.

LIC Core, btw, brings the eastward march of these glass shrouded monstrosities to just within throwing distance of Newtown Pentacle HQ. Couple that with the monstrous Sunnyside Yards development proposal, which would bring half the population of Boulder, Colorado into the mix? As a note, while capturing the shot above, my back was turned to the former Paragon Oil building on 49th avenue and 21st street – once known as the Subway Building and or Queens Borough Hall.

Bugs Bunny, who is another Brooklyn kid, said it best. Batman says it well too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whose fault is all of this runaway development – devoid of some overarching governance plan that demands some municipal payback from these Manhattan based developers that sow and reap hereabouts?

NYC’s real estate economy is not exactly set in the 1970’s anymore, as far as there being a excess of undeveloped land which the City had to beg developers to do something with, offering sweetheart deals with reduced taxes and lots changing hands for a dollar. Why does the Real Estate Industrial Complex still get to operate in the manner that they did during the Koch administration? Why can’t we get a Subway station or a few hospital beds out of them? Who is responsible?

The Mayor, City Planning, Councilmember, or the NYC Economic Development Corporation? The Governor, or the Assembly member, or the State Senator? What about the Congressional Representatives, or the Senators? What about the Borough Presidents? Is it all of them, or is the horrible truth actually that there’s nobody steering the wheel at all?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a related note, I’ve been reading up a bit on the Borough Presidents of Queens recently. Interesting group, and reminsescent of early Norman history.

1) First up was the City Consolidation era BP Frederick Bowley, from 1898-91.

2) “Curly Joe” Cassidy was BP from 1902-05, and the sewer situation on the Queens side of Newtown Creek is pretty much his fault. Cassidy was accused of 47 different counts of financial corruption during his terms, 24 of which were proven but he was never brought to trial. In 1912, however, he did a year in Sing Sing prison for trying to sell a seat on the NY Supreme Court.

3) Joseph Bermel ran as reformer against the corruption of Curly Joe’s administration, and was in office from 1906-1908. He effectively resigned as BP by skipping out of the country – on an ocean liner to Rome – during the lunch break on a day in 1908 that he was testifying in court – at his own corruption trial. BP Bermel’s final statement to tthe press was “I have nothing to say except to leave good luck for my friends and enemies alike.” He died in 1921 in Czechoslovakia.

4) Lawrence Gresser was Borough President of Queens from 1908-11, and was removed from office by the Governor of New York State for abusing the BP office’s power, and for being incompetent.

5) Maurice E. Connolly was BP from 1911-28, and is my 2nd favorite political character in Queens history, after BattleAx Gleason. Connolly resigned in 1928, then brought to trial for a sewer construction graft scandal. He was fined, convicted, and did a one year stretch in prison.

6) Bernard M. Patten stepped into the office for seven months in 1928, filling in for Connolly in the same way that David Patterson filled in for Elliot Spitzer as Governor a few years back. This sort of thing is common in the history of the Broough President’s office in Queens.

7) George U. Harvey was the first Republican Borough President, serving from 1929-41. Harvey was deeply involved with a series of Robert Moses’s projects, but the 1939 Worlds Fair is the one most closely associated with him.

8) James A. Burke put the Borough Presidency back in the hands of the Democrats, and he served from 1942-49 when he resigned the office.

9) Maurice A. FitzGerald was Borough President of Queens from 1950-51, and died of a heart attack while on vacation.

10) Joseph F. Mafera served out the remaining four months of FitzGerald’s term in 1951.

11) James A. Lundy was the last Republican Party Borough President, from 1952-57. He was an energy industry captain, and had a long public career ahead of him after leaving office.

12) James J. Crisona was BP in 1958, a members of the Democrat Party which has claimed the office since. Crisona was a real climber, having previously been elected to the NYS Assembly and Senate, he resigned as Borough President in 1958 and assumed a seat on the NY Supreme Court.

13)  John Thomas (Pat) Clancy stepped into the office from 1959-62, resigning to become a Queens County Surrogate Judge.

14) Mario J. Cariello was Borough President from 1963-8, was a former State Assemblyman, and also resigned to take a position on the NYS Supreme Court.

15) Sidney Leviss was BP from 1969-71, before resigning and following his forebears to the NYS Supreme Court.

16) Donald Manes was BP from 1971-86. In 1986 he was under investigation for various charges when he first attempted to commit suicide in his car. He succeeded in killing himself a few months later, after stabbing himself in the heart with a kitchen knife. As a note, during Manes’s term, a City Charter revision occurred which neutered the power and influence of the Borough Presidents in favor of a “strong Mayor.”

17) Claire Shulman took over the office, and served from 1986-2002. The first female BP title goes to her.

18) Helen M. Marshall came next, and was in office from 2002-13.

19) Melinda Katz was voted into office in 2014.


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