The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

only briefly

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With one foot in Queens’s Flushing, and the other in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, this NYC street endlessly fascinates. It’s called Roosevelt Avenue east of 48th street and Queens Blvd., and to the west it’s called Greenpoint Avenue. The elevated IRT Flushing line has been lurking above the street since 1917, meaning that the Roosevelt Avenue section has been shielded from the emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself for a century now.

Funny thing is, as far as I’ve been able to discern, Roosevelt Avenue isn’t all that much older than the elevated tracks. Here’s a NY Times article from 1910 which discusses the great haste undertaken by the newly consolidated City of New York in creating the road. Back then – Roosevelt Avenue was considered a highway, apparently, and it was designed to parallel (and create a secondary path for Queensboro Bridge bound traffic) Jackson Avenue (Northern Blvd.) for its three mile route from Woodside to Flushing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The elevated subway along the street (to Corona, Flushing happened a bit later) opened in April of 1917, but it had only been proposed in 1911. This is one of the many reasons which should keep the managers of the MTA up at night, as a note, for the actual agreement to build the thing didn’t happen for another two years in 1913. Imagine the modern incarnation of the organization being able to get literally anything done, let alone monumental capital construction, in just four years.

Them’s was giants in those days, I tells ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been led to believe that there are a significant number of “quality of life” issues suffered by the folks who frequent Roosevelt Avenue due to the presence of the elevated tracks. Bird droppings, toxic lead paint flaking from the steel, omnipresent heavy vehicle traffic, a suffocating amount of noise. There’s meant to be a significant footprint of the underworld along Roosevelt Avenue as well, and Ive been told tales of all levels of prostitution (street to Madame run apartment Boudoirs), gangsters, and gambling dens.

Funny thing is, all of these things don’t slow things down along the street one little bit. The shops are all occupied, and commercial businesses thrive, even on the third floors of walk up buildings. Compared to other commercial strips in Western Queens – Steinway Street in Astoria comes to mind – every kind of business seems to be booming along Roosevelt Avenue.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

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