The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for March 13th, 2018

thunderous declamations

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Instead of Iowa or Texas, the Mayor ought to come out to Queens once in while, just in the name of “Equity.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Expressway rises out of the Queens Midtown Tunnel in the Hunters Point section of Long Island City, and follows the route of Borden Avenue on a high flying steel truss which is at its height 106 feet over the waters of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. According to the NYC DOT’s 2015 numbers, this section of “495” is called the Queens Midtown Expressway and it carries nearly 85,000 vehicle trips a day. It comes back to ground at the border of the Sunnyside and Blissville sections of Long Island City, at Greenpoint Avenue.

That’s about 31 million vehicle trips a year rolling through LIC, and in particular – Blissville. The shot above represents exactly thirty seconds worth of traffic on a corner one block away from the entrance/exit to the LIE. Thirty seconds… keep that number in mind when looking at the shots in today’s post. They’re all thirty second exposures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the LIE itself, shot from the access road which feeds down onto Borden Avenue in an area I call the “Empty Corridor.” I was down there just a couple of weeks back, and the zone was discussed in this post. For the sake of trivia – the LIE opened on the 15th of November in 1940.

The northern border of Blissville is formed by the Long Island Expressway and the Empty Corridor. Saying that, if you’re on the north side of the LIE, you’re still in Sunnsyide.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Blissville side, rivers of steel flow past you on the local street/access road modernity calls Borden Avenue. Named for where it was going, namely the Borden Dairy farm in Maspeth, Borden Avenue was created as a wooden plank road in 1868 that connected the western end of the road with the East River shoreline, and with the upland agricultural properties to the east. Originally, this raised roadway – designed for mules and oxen pulling milk wagons – crossed through the malarial swamps surrounding Dutch Kills.

By the early 20th century, the swamps had been drained or filled in, and Borden Avenue was paved with belgian block and later macadam and asphalt. It became an industrial corridor whose path more or less mimicked that of the Long Island Railroad’s Lower Montauk Branch tracks found just to south, along the bulkheads of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east of Borden Avenue is Greenpoint Avenue, which was built into its current path in 1852 from a dirt road. On one side of the street, since 1848 at least, First Calvary Cemetery will be found. When it opened, Calvary wasn’t even half the size it is now. Acquiring property through inheritances and purchases, the cemetery didn’t attain its current borders until the early 20th century, just before the First World War. There are literally millions held in the loam.

Blissville itself is named for one of its founders, Greenpoint’s Neziah Bliss. It was developed with Eliaphet Nott of Union College, and the goal was creating one of those utopian worker’s hamlets which were all the rage amongst wealthy Protestant industrialists in the years leading up to the American Civil War. There were meant to be no bars or saloons in Blissville, but in the 1850’s when the railroad began to be driven through, the Irish laborers working on the iron road put an end to all that. Additionally, the masses of people coming to Calvary from the Five Points and Lower East Side to visit the graves of loved ones created a demand for inns and bars.

Blissville was one of the five communities which seceded from the Newtown Municipality to form Long Island City in 1870.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to a 2015 report from the NYC DOT, the Greenpoint Avenue (aka John J. Byrne memorial bridge) Bridge carries 28,361 vehicle trips across Newtown Creek on a daily basis. That’s 10,351,765 vehicles a year heading to and from Brooklyn’s Greenpoint to Queens’ Blissville. The traffic feeding through Blissville is (observationally) going in three main directions once it enters Queens; a) north on Greenpoint Avenue towards the LIE and Sunnyside, b) north west on Van Dam towards Queens Plaza, and c) east on Review Avenue towards Maspeth and Middle Village.

The second largest oil spill in the United States is the Greenpoint Oil Spill, the epicenter of which is less than half a mile east on the Brooklyn side of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Similarly, an oil spill of still unknown size lurks in the soil of Blissville less than half a mile east of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. The bridge itself crosses the Newtown Creek, a Federal Superfund site notorious for the 1.8 billion gallons of raw sewage which the NYC DEP dumps into it annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the Blissvillians whom I’ve met, the population of this neighborhood is around 220 people although I’ve also heard 500 (seems a bit high, 500). It’s the usual demographic mix of Queens hereabouts, but with the proviso that almost everybody would describe themselves as “working class.” There’s a generational community here which has held out in the post industrial landscape of Long Island City – despite the traffic and the pollution and the industrial character of the neighborhood. All told, about 4-6 blocks square blocks are the totality of Blissville, Queens. The nearest subway is on Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside, and the two bus lines running the area are in service on neither a twenty four hour nor seven days a week schedule. There are no schools, hospitals, or supermarkets. There are a lot of City owned properties, warehouses, and waste transfer stations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Homeless Services, therefore, has decided that this is the ideal and “appropriate site” for a third homeless shelter (within a half mile of the LIE) to be opened in the neighborhood. This time around, it will be the 2008 vintage and 154 room Fairfeld Inn, found at 52-34 Van Dam Street, that becomes a shelter. Blissville anticipates some 400 people will be installed in this building. Another Hotel on the Sunnyside side of the LIE has been converted to a shelter, as has a former Public School on Greenpoint Avenue.

Blissville could use your help with all this trouble the Mayor is sending their way, Queensicans. A Department of Homeless Services public hearing will take place on Thursday the 15th of March at 6:30 p.m., at St. Raphael’s Church located at 35-20 Greenpoint Ave.

Let’s tell the Manhattan people what the Ides of March are like in Queens, and let the Dope from Park Slope know that enough is enough.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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