The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

beaten man

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It’s National Coffee Ice Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering around Long Island City with the camera is kind of “my thing.” Ordinarily, I’ve got one of my H.P. Lovecraft audiobooks blaring away in my headphones. More often than not, there’s some destination at Newtown Creek I’m heading for, as I was when these shots were gathered. On this particular day, I front loaded some “wander” time into the equation which allowed me to take a rather circuitous route to my eventual destination over in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section.

I also wanted to “check in” on an area which I’ve not visited in the last few months to see if anything novel was happening. This area would be best described as the “angle” between Sunnyside and Blissville along Van Dam Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s three moments in the history of LIC’s Van Dam Street to take note of. One occurred in 1909 when the Queensboro Bridge began to feed vehicular traffic into “Queens Plaza,” another was in 1914 when the newly consolidated City of Greater New York funded a project to raise the grade of Van Dam street several feet in elevation, and the other was in 1940 when the Long Island Expressway opened. The 1917 appearance of the IRT Flushing Line subway service on what was Thomson Venue but was soon renamed “Queens Blvd.,” is also kind of important (this was about 1921, I’m told).

Van Dam is angled against the street grid of the Blissville section of LIC, but its generally north/south path leads to Greenpoint and North Brooklyn from its start at Queens Blvd. Apparently, there used to be trolley service on Van Dam, which was a part of the Steinway Line. The street is named for the Van Dam family, which was quite prominent in both City and the future State back in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of them, Rip Van Dam, was the governor of the British owned New York colony from 1731-2.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Moses didn’t start the Queens Midtown Tunnel or Long Island Expressway projects, but by the time they both opened for business in August of 1940 they were firmly a part of his empire. It took four years to build the tunnel itself, and the high speed road that snakes into it runs eastwards for some seventy one miles. As you can see from the shots above and below, not much thought was paid into what would happen to the runoff from the highway.

It just splatters down onto LIC and into the sewer grate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is nothing unusual, and I’ve been informed by the powers that be that not one of NYC’s many bridges, tunnels, or highways is directly connected to a sewer plant – even the brand new Koscisuzcko. Rather, they all just feed into storm sewers, which then release into area waterways. The world is a joyful place, for one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This section of the Long Island Expressway, officially known as the Queens Midtown Expressway, carries an average of 80,000 vehicle trips a day to and from the Queens Midtown Tunnel. That’s 29.2 million vehicle trips annually.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 9th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Hi, Mitch. Not about today’s post, but about Saturday’s Calvary Cemetery tour, which you’re listing as 7-9pm, which sounds interesting, but which the link gives as 11am-1pm, which is what the Atlas Obscura people seem to think I’e registered for. (So it’s not just of theoretical interest to me.)

    ???

    Cheers, Ken

    Kenneth Furie

    September 6, 2017 at 11:10 am


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