The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for June 18th, 2018

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The Bronx, Woodlawn Cemtery, and Mr. Schmuck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is often the case, while researching a completely unrelated topic, I will happen across some important personage or event which will cause me to drop everything I’m doing and instead go down a historical rabbit hole. This time, the hole led one to the Bronx, and Woodlawn Cemetery. That’s where New York State Supreme Court Justice Peter Schmuck is buried,

Yes, Schmuck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYS Governor Al Smith elevated Peter Schmuck from his role as Chief Justice of NYC Court to the NYS Supreme Court in April of 1928. A Manhattan born attorney, Schmuck replaced Charles D. Donohoue on the NYS Supreme Court and served that institution as a Justice until 1943. Afterwards he acted as “referree” and advisor to the next generation until his death in Ontario at age 80 in 1954.

1928-1943 are pretty much the years during which the “New Deal” reshaped the United States, with New York State having served as the laboratory for government programs that became Social Security, the Work Projects Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and so on. That means the entire New Deal was decided on as being legally Kosher by a guy named Schmuck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After his appointment to the bench in 1928, Justice Schmuck successfully ran for two fourteen years terms of office on the Supreme Court. In his second term, his law secretary was future NYC Mayor Vincent Impelliteri. I’ve checked with a friend who is German, and he assures me that the Judge’s name wouldn’t be pronounced in the Yiddish manner – Shmuk – but would instead be read by a German speaker as “Shmook.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Schmuck monument is a Mausoleum, one graced by an ornate sculptural bronze door. There’s some inexpert application of gold leaf paint on it here and there, but overall the thing was in excellent condition. One thing which struck me at Woodlawn Cemetery, in the Bronx, was how immaculate it was. The grounds and even the monuments were in fantastic condition. You didn’t see the accidental desecrations caused by inattentive groundskeepers that you do at the Calvary’s here in Queens, nor the sort of wholesale tomb raiding for white bronze and other semi precious metals by the recycling scavengers whom I call the crows at all of the “Cemetery Belt” institutions along the Brooklyn/Queens border.

Additionally, the staff and security personnel at Woodlawn were quite accomodating to my little triad of tapophiles when we arrived at their institution. I was asked to fill out a form, regarding permissions to photograph their grounds, which was straightforward and liberal. At no point did anyone randomly appear and forbid camera usage on spurious grounds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While there, the monuments and mortal remains of a few other NYC notables were visited. The minimalist Art Deco headstone indicating the final resting place of the restless Fiorello LaGuardia is pictured above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The final address of Robert Moses is found at Woodlawn Cemetery as well. His tomb is a simple one, which is fitting somehow, as the grandiose monument he actually left behind is 20th century New York City. I’d imagine that if you had asked Robert Moses how he’d like to be remembered by modernity thirty seven years after his death, I imagine he’d ask you to visit the Triborough Bridge or Jones Beach instead of Woodlawn.

Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 18, 2018 at 12:00 pm

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