The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

nocturnal prowler

with 2 comments

Rippity dippity doo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always been a fan of Skillman Avenue for one reason or another, and one of the “dad jokes” which I inflict on people walking with me along it, when we reach 39th street, is that “it’s all downhill from here.” Skillman follows a ridge which overlooks the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards. Between 39th street and it’s terminus at Hunters Point Avenue in Long Island City, Skillman Avenue runs through what’s largely an industrial zone but there’s a couple of exceptions along the way – notably LaGuardia Community College down at the bottom of the hill.

The views are pretty epic for a scuttling photographer, and especially so during this interminable quarantine. One tends to walk down and record it often.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sandwiched between Northern Blvd. and Skillman Avenue are the Sunnyside Yards. Pictured are a bunch of Amtrak trains just seething in the middle of the massive coach yard, whose main function is actually what you’re looking at. Providing storage for trains between periods of peak demand in Manhattan and beyond is what the Pennsylvania Railroad built the facility to do a century ago. On the Skillman or southern side of the Sunnyside Yard, you’ll find tracks used by the Long Island Railroad for commuter service, which travel through the busiest rail junction in North America – the Harold Interlocking. 39th street used to be called Harold Avenue, incidentally, which is where the name for the junction comes from. This shot isn’t from Harold, rather it’s from Honeywell Street – or at least the truss bridge over the tracks that’s so called.

Seriously, I know where almost every hole in the fencing of Sunnyside Yards is at this point. I’ve had Government people ask me how I managed to get inside the rail yard for some of the shots you’ve seen here over the years. They don’t believe me about the fence holes, and I won’t tell them where they are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Northern Blvd. side of the yards, and again at Harold or 39th street, is pictured above. Northern Blvd., or as I call it during normal times, the “Carridor.”

To make things even more complicated as far as street names here in Queens, 39th street transmogrifies into Steinway Street once you cross Northern. Why is this?

Because modern day Northern Blvd. was once a municipal border between the Village of Astoria and Middleburg/Sunnyside once. Robert Moses always did his best work in the areas that were neither “here nor there” found along legal borders between municipal entities. When he widened Jackson Avenue and turned it into Northern Blvd. during the early 20th century, these were “the sticks.” Population centers, as they stood back then, were far away on both sides of the 183 square acre Sunnyside Yards – which itself was opened in 1910.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, April 6th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 16, 2020 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the “Harold” explanation, but what’s the explanation for “Interlocking”? Interlocking what?

    georgetheatheist . . . making sense

    April 16, 2020 at 8:05 pm

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