The Newtown Pentacle

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One last post in Blissville, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Homeless Services seems hell bent on sending NYC’s mot vulnerable citizens up the creek. The Newtown Creek, that is. They’ve sworn up and down that their program will be phasing out the usage of private hotels for housing people. Instead, they’re renewing contracts with hotels like the Pan Am over in Elmhurst and creating new concentrations of population all over Brooklyn and Queens, except for Park Slope and the Upper East Side for some reason or another. Those of us who live in neighborhoods like Maspeth, LIC, Astoria, or Blissville who stand up and complain about this policy will be branded racists or “NIMBY’s.” That last one stands for “Not in My Back Yard” and I’m just going to ask how the Mayor would feel if I was to start camping out in a certain somebody’s back yard on 11th street in Park Slope. I’d talk about equity and sharing the burden to him, but I’m pretty sure he’d tell me I couldn’t take up residence in his back yard. I’m positive that if I listed his back yard on Air BNB he’d be a NIMBY.

The shot above depicts the newly constructed Kosciuszcko Bridge, a mega project going on in Blissville’s back yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Sunday night in early March, on Review Avenue looking up 37th street, with First Calvary Cemetery’s walls forming the eastern border of that street here in Blissville. That’s when and where the shot above was captured. I could barely find a thirty second interval that didn’t have traffic running through it to capture this shot, so I decided to just roll with it.

No wonder, as the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge which carries just over ten million vehicle trips a year is only a block away, and the Long Island Expressway with its 85,000 daily vehicle crossings is less than a half mile distant. A not insignificant proportion of these vehicles are semi and garbage trucks, heading to the waste transfer locations found along a Federal Superfund site called the Newtown Creek. At these waste transfer stations, barges and trains are required to vacate Blissville of the load carried by these trucks.

37th street is mixed use, there’s residential buildings sitting right next to factories and warehouses. The world’s largest Fortune Cookie factory is at the end of the street nearby Bradley Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The people of Blissville deal with lots of trouble and stress due to the astonishing levels of traffic, severe environmental issues which include two nearby oil spills, and the presence of a sewer plant just across the water in Greenpoint. To the west and north, in Hunters Point and Sunnsyide, the fires of gentrification burn fiercely, driving rents up all over Western Queens, and even here in Blissville. Blissville has no supermarkets, no hospitals or urgent care centers, and access to mass transit is problematic at best. The 108th pct. is in Hunters Point, about a mile and half to the west. They do have a firehouse, so at least the City does something for Blissville other than open homeless shelters in it.

The shot above looks towards the intersection of Greenpoint Avenue, Van Dam Street, and Review Avenue at the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. That self storage joint used to be the home of the B&G Pickle factory, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, equity, and a fair shake for all New Yorkers is the sort of contrived rhetoric offered by the political establishment of City Hall under the current Mayor. Their policy, however, always seems to indicate that the needs of Manhattan outweigh the needs of Queens. Most importantly, to me at least, remains the eventual disposition and fate of the people whom the Mayor intends to house in this already overburdened community named for Greenpoint’s Neziah Bliss.

Is Blissville an appropriate place to house the homeless? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are already two homeless shelters within a half mile of the proposed facility which would double if not triple the current population of Blissville. That’s one of the converted hotels pictured above, the other one is on the Sunnyside section’s side of the Long Island Expressway, behind St. Raphael’s church. Do these two shelters mean Blissville is already carrying enough “equity” or has their “fair share of burden” for the rest of the City not yet been met?

That’s a former public school, in the shot above. It was built for the independent municipality of Long Island City by its last Mayor, Patrick “Battle-Ax” Gleason. Battle-Ax Gleason said that if you built palaces for working men to send their children to, you’d never get voted out of office and you’d be loved by the voters. When he died, 5,000 school kids lined the streets of Long Island City along the route of his funeral cortège. He’s buried in First Calvary cemetery, incidentally, here in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m expecting my phone to start ringing from 212 numbers in lower Manhattan this week, by the way, telling me to “back off.” Sorry, but no.

I’ve said this before and fear I’ll say it again – there is no “homeless problem,” rather there’s a million individual problems. By branding a vulnerable population of people whose only commonality is poverty as “the Homeless,” a demonized and stereotyped population is created. The shelter system is a jail without bars.

We are a rich and ostensibly “christian” society, and so we are both morally and legally obligated to help these folks lift themselves up. One bad day stands between all New Yorkers and homelessness. What these folks need is no different than what everybody needs – jobs, a roof, food. Jobs let them pay rent, which allows them to create a credit history, which allows them to pass out of the “system” and suffer like the rest of us.

Saying all that, and I’ll repeat myself again here – sending these people into industrial zone hotels nearby a superfund site with nearly zero access to transit, healthcare, just about everything they’ll need… that’s a human rights violation.

Mr. Mayor, this isn’t a homeless shelter you’d be creating here in Blissville, it’s a penal colony. It’s also the sort of heavy handed and deaf eared policy choices that you spent the twelve years of the Bloomberg administration complaining about.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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3 Responses

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  1. I grew up in Greenpoint , on Green and Huron Sts. between Manhattan Ave. and “Oakland St.”Born 1947, left 1970, after 3 yrs. in the army.
    This was during the era when the oil refineries, Phelps Dodge Copper, Van Iderstine, the “glue factory” and many industries all made the air pretty nasty at times. I couldn’t wait to get out from the time I was about 7.

    Walter Kuciej

    March 16, 2018 at 11:36 am

  2. Paddy was a later-day Tweed, not to be romanticized. But in way, it was the Tweeds and Moses of their day What Got Things Done. For Better or Worse.

    “When The New York Times printed an article detailing how Gleason had used to office of mayor to enrich himself, Gleason bought almost every newspaper printed to reduce the impact.”

    Better not to gild the reminiscing for such characters too much methinks.

    As to the rest of your post, thoughtful. BDB will come and go, as all Mayors do. The people remain. Even, I’m sure and certain, the redoubtable residents of Blissville.

    TommyR

    March 16, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    • Y’know, as I’ve researched it, most of the bad things we know about Gleason came from a) Richard Croker, b) Comstock, c) the Protestant establishment of the “400”. By the standards of his time, Battle Ax wasn’t terrible. Jimmy Walker was just a few years down the road. Look at the early BP’s of Queens, incidentally – all reformers who ran against Gleason and his machine who all went to jail for the exact sort of corruption they accused Gleason of.

      Mitch Waxman

      March 16, 2018 at 1:02 pm


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