The Newtown Pentacle

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The Hoek is finally open, yo, a 21st century shoreline at a 21st century park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is fairly typical of the view which the southernmost section of Hunters Point in Long Island City, where the East River and Newtown Creek collide, has offered for the last few years. Construction fence, heavy equipment, etc. This particular area was once called Dominie’s Hoek, after the first European owner of the land, a Dutch priest named Dominie Everardus Bogardus. Dominie is a title, in English we’d use “Pastor” or “Father” for the priestly honorific. Bogardus died in a ship wreck and the land ended up in the hands of another Dutchman, specifically Captain Peter Praa. Praa, who founded one of the great land holding families of both Newtown and Greenpoint, left the land behind as an inheritance, and eventually it passed into the hands of his descendant Anna Hunter. Anna Hunter held the property right about the time of the American Revolution, and it’s been Hunters Point ever since. Mrs. Hunter’s will stipulated that her three sons sell off the land (she must’ve feared a King Lear situation) and by the early 19th century, the Hunters Point waterfront had been carved into individual plots and had begun to industrialize. The Long Island Railroad came through in 1870, and for about a century afterwards, Hunters Point was the very definition of a maritime industrial working waterfront. Everything began to fall apart, industrially and economically speaking, by the 1970’s and the industrial waterfront became a semi abandoned stretch of junkyard punctuated by warehouses. In the late 1980’s, the City began to make plans for converting the land to residential usage, and loosened zoning restrictions to encourage real estate interests to invest there. This was, as it turns out, quite a successful plan and Hunters Point is the fastest growing neighborhood in the entire country.

Part of the City’s plan, which has seen dozens of residential towers rising in Hunters Point and all of Long Island City in recent years, was the creation of parklands.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the northern side of Hunters Point, the first park to be created was a New York State institution called “Gantry Plaza State Park.” Then to the south, there’s a City park called “Hunters Point South Park,” which is anchored by the LIC Landing ferry dock and an accompanying concession stand currently operated by an outfit called “Coffeed.” For the last few years, the peninsular final section of the park – which I’m told is called “Queens Landing” – has been under construction. No more.

Wednesday last, the 21st of June in 2018, the gates were finally opened to the public and I was there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were meant to be ceremonial proceedings on the morning of the 21st, but the political establishment had its attentions drawn away by the ongoing immigration controversies, so the ceremony which will officially “cut the ribbon” was rescheduled for this week on Wednesday the 27th at 11 a.m. If you want to yell things at the Mayor, or pat Jimmy Van Bramer on the back, that’s probably when you’ll have a chance to do so.

I was blown away by the job which the NYC Parks department accomplished at the new Queens Landing. As mentioned above, it’s a 21st century park with a 21st century shoreline. It’s a pretty good bet that by 2118, the shoreline of most of the inner harbor of NYC is going to look a great deal like this new park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A resilient shoreline, as those of us involved with such ideations would call it, encircles the new park. Salt marshes, hidden resiliency berms, places for water to flow through and around during storms… the new park has it all. The architecture and design of the place are decidedly “modern,” as if that 20th century term had any meaning in the current era.

The recent Newtown Creek Alliance/Riverkeeper visioning plan that we released a few months ago is rife with recommendations for the post Superfund Newtown Creek shorelines which display illustrations and architect drawings that look just like this new park, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the days of Dominie Bogardus and Capt. Peter Praa, the southern tip of Hunters Point was described as being an island of grass in the East River which would get cut off from the rest of the land by high tide. The Parks Dept. designers and horticulturalists have actually designed salt marsh and other littoral environmental features into the shoreline which would likely be familiar to Capt. Praa. I’ve only done the one walk through so far, but “wow” is this place incredible.

Luckily, my walk through was with my pal Mark Christie of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, who has been one of the formative voices in the creation of this new community resource. He made it a point of detailing the various plantings and why they’re where they are. If you’re visiting the new park, definitely start your trip at LIC Landing and ask if anyone from the HPPC is around to inform and instruct.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself is looking forward to the photographic vantage point possibilities offered by the new park. This shot looks eastwards along the fabled Newtown Creek towards the Pulaski Bridge. A new boat house is going to be constructed nearby, operated and managed by my pals at HarborLab, in the very near future.

Newtown Creek is changing, materially, every single month now.

Upcoming Tours and Events

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

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 25, 2018 at 11:00 am

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