The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Blissville’ Category

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Deadman’s curve and the Pratt Oil Works, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, one would not be seen marching along the LIRR tracks in Blissville, but I had my reasons. It was a Sunday afternoon, anyway, meaning that the chances of there being any rail traffic at all on the Lower Montauk would be slim to none so I decided that it would be a good time to throw the dice and hope that I wouldn’t get squished by a passing locomotive. There’s plenty of places to dive out of the way, if I were able to discern an approaching train, but that’s kind of the issue – trains move pretty quickly and the physics of how sound moves around the air dam created by the engine as it’s moving seriously reduce the “early warning” time. Saying all that, I didn’t get squished, but do not recommend you chance it yourself. It is illegal trespass, after all.

Me, I was scoping out the latest wrinkle in the environmental story around the fabled Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I went to a meeting a couple of weeks ago at the NYS DEC offices in Long Island City, which discussed the “Pratt Oil Works Site” or as I’ve been referring to it for several years – “The Queens County Oil Works of Charles Pratt” or alternatively “The Blissville Seep.” ExxonMobil has taken responsibility for the site, which ultimately used to belong to its corporate parent Standard Oil, and has (under DEC guidance) begun the process of siphoning “product” out of the ground. Said product, the ExxonMobil folks said, is distinct from the liquid product which has been oozing from the Creek side bulkheads into the water. The modern day owner of the site is largely the Waste Management company, which operates a waste transfer station along Railroad Avenue that handles DSNY collections and loads up the Garbage Train. Said garbage train provides framing in the shot above. The Queens County Oil Works was in operation from 1842-1949, whereupon the property was subdivided and sold off. ExxonMobil representatives described the materials their contractor Roux will siphoning out of the ground as “Lube Oil and wax” and the petroleum product oozing into the Creek as “LNAPL” or Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid. LNAPL is lighter than water and floats on top of ground water.

ExxonMobil’s contractors, Roux Associates, who handle the Greenpoint Oil Spill for them directly across the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, has been activated to handle the Blissville situation. Roux has installed 62 wells on the property, 42 of which are recovery wells and the other 20 are monitoring wells. Waste Management, separately, has several issues they’re dealing with on the site, including a high level of acidity in the soil and the presence of toxic chemicals – specifically Toluene and Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds. Waste Management will be aerosolizing these chemicals, meaning that they will be using a process called “SPARGing” which will release them into the open air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

ExxonMobil representatives were cagey about the quantity of “product” in the ground, even after I confronted them about specifics. Saying that, I’m certain they know exactly what’s down there, as engineers who have installed 62 wells don’t just do so randomly and hope for the best. Waste Management claimed that their timeline for remediation of both the soil ph conditions and the presence of “chemicals of concern” would be four to eight years, whereas the ExxonMobil folks said it’s an open process and wouldn’t commit to a timeline.

Oddly enough, a review of the combined project’s boundaries corresponds neatly to the property lines of the former Queens County Oil works. Luckily for Blissville, here in Queens, subterranean oil deposits respect above ground political and property lines. If you are technically minded, or just curious enough to “get it straight from the horse’s mouth,” follow this link for the NYS DEC fact sheet.


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Kosciuszcko Bridge project in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weekends ago, I decided to take the camera out for a walk and we headed on over to the Queens side of DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Most of what’s going on at the work site right now, which will result in the second half of the new bridge, seems to involve foundation and structural work. Laurel Hill Blvd. is largely closed to traffic due to the construction, as you’d imagine.

The shot above looks south along Laurel Hill Blvd. towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The steel piles above are the firmament which will carry the approach ramp for the bridge, which in turn carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. These will be the southbound lanes, which are also meant to host the bicycle and pedestrian lane that I – for one – am pretty excited about. I’ve seen renderings of the planned bike and pedestrian section and it promises to be a photographer’s dream come true.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszcko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Here’s a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’s some night shots from early July of 2017. A series of posts focused in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

Most recently, in late September of 2017, a final series of shots of the old bridge were captured in this post. Acquisition of a souvenir chunk of steel from the 1939 bridge was described in this post, and a video of the “energetic felling” of the approaches on October 1st was offered in this one. Still shots and views of the aftermath from the waters of Newtown Creek from later in the day on Oct. 1 are found in this posting, and the aftermath of the demolition as seen from Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section in this post from October 5th. This post from December of 2017 closed out an event filled year in DUKBO, and a visit to the site at night is described in this March of 2018 post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the first section of the new bridge, which opened last year, and as seen from 43rd street in industrial Maspeth.

The NYS DOT has committed to making the currently dirt and equipment filled lots along 43rd street available to the NYC Parks Dept. for conversion to public “green space.” There’s other spots around the project which will turned into publicly accessible areas, but most will be shadowed by the onramps.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One scuttled across the Lower Montauk tracks of the Long Island Railroad to get a better view of the progress at the construction site. The land in this spot used to be the home of a company called Phelps Dodge, which acquired it from the original tenant – General Chemical. General Chemical manufactured sulphuric acid hereabouts, and Phelps Dodge incorporated the GC campus into their operations, which was mainly copper refining.

This section of the LIRR tracks used to be known as “Deadman’s curve” for all the factory workers who were struck by speeding locomotives hereabouts. It’s also the site of the Berlinville Railroad disaster, where two LIRR trains collided in 1893. Check out this contemporaneous NY Times piece for more on that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After having crossed the tracks and a byway formerly known as “Creek Street the still forming concrete towers which will support the “cable stay” roadway of the second bridge came into view. Having followed the project so closely as the first half of the new K-Bridge went up, it’s actually pretty interesting to watch them working on it this time around, given that I know how the story plays out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, depicting the teeny tiny construction workers moving around on ladders, is included for scale. Down on the ground, these guys are HUGE, six + footers who weigh a couple of hundred pounds each and who tower over a humble narrator. On the K-Bridge site, they look like action figures.

I continued along my southern path and headed down to the bulkheads of that lugubrious cataract of urban neglect known as the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszcko Bridge is found 2.1 miles from the East River, and overflies the Newtown Creek. It carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway from the border of Sunnyside/Blissville/Maspth in Queens to Greenpoint/Bushwick/Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

Newtown Creek itself is an inland tributary of the East River, and extends 3.8 miles eastward of the larger waterway. There are multiple tributaries of Newtown Creek itself which extend into Long Island City, Bushwick, and Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having satisfied myself with a “check in” on the bridge project, one began his trek towards home and HQ in Astoria.

Sometime during this week, I plan on heading over to Greenpoint to see what’s doing with the K-Bridge project over there. I’ll let y’all know what I find.


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stinking ossuaries

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Scuttling, always scuttling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever I mention the 1980’s to those who grew up in Long Island City and Astoria, a shudder seems to go through them. I’ve always wondered if that shudder has anything to do with why all the trees are in cages.

I’ve asked a few of the lifers, but boiling down the answers offered by them reveals one singular truth, which is simply expressed by describing the Croatian people as being remarkably tight lipped. There’s some gesturing involved in their answers, and sometimes a few words in a language which I can never understand (I’ve tried). Regardless, something motivated several of them to build iron cages for the street trees around here. I’ve learned to just accept things over the years which I’ve dwelt here in Astoria, Queens. 

Such is my lot. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is in a weird place, in terms of his mood. Feeling increasingly obsequious, and often wondering who the old fellow staring back at me from the bathroom mirror is, a humble narrator nevertheless sallies forth. Like the trees here in Astoria, there are iron bars and fences all around me. Often it feels as if one is juggling chain saws, and that one slip up will result in disaster. The whole “angry young man” thing is no longer a valid posture, as I’ve instead found myself cast as a broken old man. Such is the wheel of life, however, and there’s no point in moaning about it.

There are still battles to fight, and wars to win.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of, that’s the Sunnyside Yards (est. 1909) pictured above. The shots in today’s post, from this point onward, were all captured along 43rd street while walking south. 43rd street, once you cross Northern Blvd. from the blessed rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria, used to be called Laurel Hill Blvd. It connected the eastern side of LIC’s Blissville over by Newtown Creek and Calvary Cemetery with Middleburgh, which modernity calls Sunnyside. That was before the Long Island Expressway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and even before Queens Blvd. and the IRT Flushing Line were created in the 20th century.

Referring to old maps of Western Queens requires the usage of three distinct sets of documents, as they’ve (a shadowy cabal, probably) renamed and reoriented the streets so many times in Queens that it’s confusing as all get out figuring out what something used to be called. There’s a few “landmark” lanes which you can use to figure out relative positioning, like Jackson Avenue or Steinway Street, but even then…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

43rd street, as a pathway to Newtown Creek, has been off my radar for the last few years due to the Koscisuzcko Bridge construction project. Just this last winter, the newly rebuilt pedestrian bridge spanning the onramp to the BQE from the LIE was opened. It replaced an older iteration as part of the bridge project, and I’m in the process of reinstalling this pathway as part of my mental map for “where do I want to go today” usage.

The scaffolding in the shot above obscures the Celtic Park apartment complex, so named for a former beer garden and complex of athletic fields which the development is named for. The Celtic Park, as it was known, was designed and situated to take advantage of the huge numbers of Irish Catholic New Yorkers who came to Queens to visit loved ones in the various properties maintained by Calvary Cemetery found nearby in Blissville and Woodside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One improvement which hasn’t occurred, and I plan on getting after the K-Bridge team about it next time I see them, is the approach to the pedestrian and bicycle bridge that joins 43rd street with the stubby three block stretch of Laurel Hill Blvd. found on the south side of the LIE. The trestle seen above carries the Long Island Expressway, and acts as a seldom mentioned approach to the BQE and Koscisuzcko Bridge itself.

It’s fairly terrifying walking along this stretch of sidewalk, with traffic ramping up to highway speeds alongside of you. A series of jersey barriers would cheaply and effectively address the issue. I’m on it, don’t worry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Aforementioned, that’s the extant section of Laurel Hill Blvd. mentioned above. To the west (or right) is Blissville’s Calvary Cemetery, to the east (or left) is the BQE and industrial Maspeth. This is also more or less the legal border which once existed between the independent municipalities of Long Island City and Newtown, prior to the consolidation of the City of Greater New York.

Tomorrow – so, what’s going on with the Kosciuszcko Bridge project?


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hereditary predilection

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Queens is mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

No more. The Mayor’s plan to warehouse New York City’s most vulnerable citizens in a neighborhood of warehouses, two blocks from the Newtown Creek Federal Superfund Site and one block from the Long Island Expressway – thereby creating a two to one ratio of actual residents to homeless shelter residents in the Blissville section of Long Island City – seems to have become the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. No more. The needs of the elites of Manhattan do not outweigh the needs of Queens. No more.

On Tuesday last, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer grilled DHS Commisioner Stephen Banks about this plan at City Hall, and community members gathered on the steps of City Hall in protest over the Mayor’s plan. Assemblymember Cathy Nolan sent her representative David Agioloro to show her support for the cause. No more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Monday last, at Gracie Mansion, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney joined with the Blissville Civic Association to protest the Mayor’s plan at the gates of the Manhattan mansion he lives in. Western Queens’s elected officials stand in solidarity with Blissville, as does Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association, Senator Michael Gianaris, and your humble narrator. No more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next week, as a note, the NYS DEC will be presenting their findings regarding the Blissville Seep – where oil has been migrating into the waters of Newtown Creek from the Queens side bulkheads less than a mile from the Mayor’s three homeless shelter. Their informal presentation on the former Queens County Oil Works of Charles Pratt will take place on Thursday, May 24th at the NYS DEC offices on 21st street in LIC.

No more.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 17, 2018 at 11:30 am

overshadowed by

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Why does everybody keep on asking me how to dispose of a human body?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s one of those questions that seems to come up in connection with Newtown Creek, for some reason, and random folks will jokingly ask a humble narrator about it at least once a week. On Tuesday, which was spent first at the Waterfront Alliance Conference on a boat in Manhattan (I was asked twice) and then speaking about the BQX project at Hunters Point Civic Association (asked once) one had to offer the same answer three times. A) The Waste Transfer people (garbage or recycling) would definitely notice it and call the cops as modern day environmental laws demand strict governance of what’s in the garbage they handle, B) if you stuck a corpse in the waters of Newtown Creek it would just stay there and be discovered – which would also result in the cops getting involved at which point “the jig is up.” In fact, not just its tributary waterways but the entire East River is a terrible choice for this sort of thing. If you threw a volleyball into the East River at Hunters Point, you’d be able to see it get pulled back and forth by the tide for days, transiting between the Williamsburg Bridge and Roosevelt Island. Eventually, it would get pulled towards Hell Gate, where it end up snagging onto the shoreline somewhere in either northern Queens or the Southern Bronx.

Hudson River or Jamaica Bay, that’s the ticket for human remains.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the old neighborhood in Brooklyn, there were several members of a well known and self organizing fraternity of Italian gentlemen present who occasionally had the need to dispose of former associates. Infamous, there was a “crew” run by a guy named Roy which operated out of a bar called the Gemini Lounge on Flatbush Avenue (just off Kings Highway) and handled such matters for a certain high ranking fellow named John that lived in Howard Beach and conducted his business at the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan. This crew’s specific line of work involved automobile theft, but they were also – allegedly – tasked with enforcing organizational discipline for the citywide organization.

Their methodology, as described in court documents, involved the usage of power tools in pursuance of dismemberment. The “pieces” were then packaged into discrete paper bags and tossed out automobile windows on the east bound Belt Parkway, or hidden in the flow of residential garbage headed to the Fountain Avenue landfill, with the idea that either the crabs would take care of the evidence for them or that the parts would be hidden in the tonnages of trash poured into pits. I can tell you that back in the 1980’s, it was not an entirely uncommon thing for “parts” to be found abandoned in the shoreline sand lots found between Fountain and Emmon Avenues in this stretch of Brooklyn. I used to ride my Apollo 3 speed bike around in this area, after school, and can report that Jamaica Bay seems to have been a choice spot for all sorts of disposal activities.

Of course, this is the era when medical waste such as used hypodermic needles still regularly washed up in the tide, so “organics” were the least of your worries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hudson River is the aqueous equivalent of an express train, with a fearsome current that roars towards the narrows and open ocean. Nefarious types I’ve known over the years have always indicated that their choice of “spots” for intact waterborne disposals involved a nocturnal trip to the south eastern shore of Staten Island. This is all hearsay, of course, as a humble narrator has always been too much of a “wuss” to ever involve himself with such affairs. Additionally, coming from a neighborhood which was renowned for both the benefits and negatives of the presence of these self organizing fraternities of Italian Gentlemen, the best advice I can offer to anyone is to walk out of the room when they start discussing such matters. You can’t “unknow” something, and once you’ve heard it you’re a potential witness against the speaker and could very well end up being eaten by the crabs in Jamaica Bay.

The Newtown Creek is where amateurs like serial killer Joel Rifkin would attempt to dispose of a body, making the job of the NYPD an easy one.

Three times on Tuesday, I had to repeat the screed above. Three times.


Upcoming Tours and Events

May 12th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

sleeping quarters

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Hitting the shutter button in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After having attended a community meeting at Point B (Blissville) the other night, regarding the homeless shelter situation, one decided to scuttle back to Point A (Astoria) and take advantage of the warming climatological conditions photographically. Pictured above is a line in the sand known as the Fairfield Inn, whose owners decided to answer an RFP – Request for Proposal – from the City’s Department of Homeless Services and convert their hotel to a 154 room homeless shelter. The shot is from Van Dam Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the inviting street scene here along Van Dam, with its ever present traffic.

Were the City actually serious about its responsibility towards helping the unhoused, officialdom might be looking into finding ways to create, sustain, and expand blue collar employment but that’s not how our Mayor thinks. His current plan is to expand and extend the usage of Homeless Hotels in pursuance of ending their use, which is the same logic that addicts offer when going on a binge the night before entering rehab.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just two blocks away is where Van Dam feeds into the Long Island Expressway. Three blocks in the other direction is the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blissville is largely an M1, or heavy manufacturing area, according to City Planning. The shot above was captured directly across the street from the Fairfield Inn.

Inviting, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the enigmatic “Blissville Flatiron” pictured above, an apartment house on Van Dam Street.

One has looked into the history of the flatiron in the past, but never too deeply. I like not knowing something about the Creeklands, and would prefer to preserve the mystery. The only clue to its past is on a concrete panel which reads “S.M. 1916.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path home to Point A carried me, as always, to Newtown Creek. The shot above looks northwards along the Dutch Kills tributary towards the Hunetrs Point Avenue Bridge.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 24, 2018 at 1:00 pm

elusive quality

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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.


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