The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Hells Gate’ Category

risible talisman

leave a comment »

It’s National Blueberry Muffin Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

July 11th, 1936. That’s the day that the Triborough Bridge was dedicated and opened for business. The favorite child of Robert Moses, this was the epicenter of the master builder’s early empire of highways, bridges, and parks. It’s the main room in the “House of Moses,” and the center of a web of concrete and steel that extends for hundreds of miles in all directions. All of Moses’ many roads ultimately lead to the toll booths at Triborough.

The bridge serves as a backdrop in tens of thousands of family photos found in the Astoria section of Queens, but there’s only a handful of living Astorians still left above the ground who can recall a time before there was a Triborough Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Caro, who wrote the definitive biography of Robert Moses, described the bridge as a “traffic machine.” Caro was being critical (as in the bridge generates and amplifies traffic congestion rather than solving it), of course, but I think Moses (who often opined that without high speed roads, the traffic would still be there but moving along local streets instead) would have had an affinity for the term.

There’s an exceptionally brief and easily digestible history of the Triborough Bridge (more accurately the Triborough Bridges and Highways complex) in this 2006 NY Times piece, for the curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Moses is famously and rightly associated with the Triborough, but it was Mayor Jimmy Walker who turned the first ceremonial shovel of dirt in Astoria Park on October 25 in 1929.

The bridge was conceived of, designed by, and it’s construction overseen (during most of construction) by the Chief Engineer of the NYC Department of Plant and Structures, Edward A. Byrne (who is coincidentally the fellow who did the Hunters Point Avenue and Borden Avenue Bridges over the Dutch Kill tributary of, and the vanished Vernon Avenue bridge at, Newtown Creek). Byrne became the first Chief Engineer of Moses’ Triborough Bridge Authority in 1933, but a silly political conflict forced him to resign and retire in 1934.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reliable government source numbers I’ve reviewed, referring back to calendar 2015, inform that the Triborough Bridge hosts about 92,000 vehicle trips a day. That would shake out to something close to 33.6 million vehicle trips per annum.

Maybe “traffic machine” is the right description? 

At any rate, Happy Birthday to Mighty Triborough, from here in Astoria, Queens.


Upcoming Tours and events

13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – July 15th, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m..

The “then and now” of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary in LIC, once known as the “workshop of the United States.” with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

great bridge

with 4 comments

It’s both National Crabmeat Day, and National Meatball day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy official anniversary of the first train crossing of the Hell Gate Bridge! Personally, I’m going to attend the celebratory soirée at Greater Astoria Historic Society tonight, where Dave “the Bridgeman” Frieder is going to be talking. Dave Freider is a photographer and historian who probably knows more about this subject than anyone else alive, and he was featured in a recent NY Times article on the subject as well.

I’ve been talking about the Hell Gate bridge since Newtown Pentacle started. This recent post, commemorating the day on which the steel of the bridge was finished, for instance. As an aside, here’s a post on it’s neighbor to the south, the Triborough Bridge, and one of the many where a humble narrator described ships and other vessels passing beneath it. There’s that time I spotted an experimental combat vessel at Hells Gate, described here. The esoteric history of Hells Gate was discussed in this 2010 post, and the largest explosion in human history prior to the atomic era as well as why its called “Hells Gate” was offered way back in this 2009 post, and in this one as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually because of all the rattling on I’ve done over the years about Hell Gate that the decision to largely shut up and let you look at the pictures is offered today. Of course, since I’m a “Chatty Cathy,” that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fill the dead air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mose the fireboy is said to have strangled a sea serpent to death at Hell Gate in the early 19th century, a creature whose skin was draped over the bar at McGurk’s Suicide Palace during the legendary era of the Bowery B’hoys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hell Gate Bridge is federal property, specifically Amtrak, who acquired it out of the (then) largest bankruptcy in American history. It was the Pennsylvania railroad that built the thing, which eventually merged with their arch rivals at New York Central Railroad. The combined company, Penn Central Transportation Company (and its assets like Hell Gate), also collapsed into bankruptcy (in 1970) and were federalized by Richard Nixon into Amtrak and Conrail.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This bridge is pretty much the only way off of a Long Island and onto the continent for freight rail. There’s a second and quite smaller structure called Little Hell Gate which isn’t not too far away, and that span carries rail traffic into the Bronx and from there all points north and west. On the other side of this connected track system, which is called the New York Connecting Railroad, is the Sunnyside Yard. That’s where the passenger links are, which lead to the east river tunnels, Penn Station, and the Hudson River tunnels.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hell Gate Bridge hurtles over Astoria Park, and fills the background of much of it. It’s a rite of passage for the “utes” of Astoria to find their way up to the tracks, I’m told, and there’s a legend they propagate that there’s a phantom train which emerges along the unused fourth trackway to chase and claim the unwary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The arches of the NY Connecting Railroad continue eastwards, and as they do, begin to intersect with residential properties. There are dozens of homes in which the back yard plots include geometries formed by these cylcopean structures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria legend also describes a homeless serial killer of children who once lurked within the bridge’s Queens side tower. As the story goes, there’s a room in there where photos of the killer’s young victims are displayed. The 114th pct will deny that such a person ever existed, but will mention the occasional “ultra violence” that happens around the bridge – like the homeless man who had his skull crushed here a couple years back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The New York Connecting Railroad tracks continue on through Astoria, heading eastwards toward the edge of Woodside and then crossing Northern Blvd. Local community organizations sponsor the creation of murals on the street facing sections.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After 31st street, there is naked steel again, with the massive concrete structures giving way to columns and posts. There is still quite a bit of collossal concrete arch and balustrade along the route, of course.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s such a part of the Astoria landscape that seldom is it commented upon, the passing of the railroad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy birthday, Hell Gate Bridge. I’ll be thinking of you at Greater Astoria Historic Society’s “do” tonight.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

flaming thing

with one comment

It’s Tag des Deutschen Apfels (German Apples) day in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bright passage, it’s a not unlikely spot to find a group of cultists dropping a bizarre golden diadem into the water hoping to contact those who might lie below the seething waters. Hells Gate, with its bizarre and blasted subterrene topography, cannot possibly host a race of non human intelligences, can it? That would be crazy.

I mean, is this Queens or Innsmouth?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of alien intelligences with unintelligible plans for the future, the DEP’s MV Red Hook sludge boat slid through the bright passage while one was contemplating what sort of life might inhabit the craggy bottom. Between the strong cross currents of the tide, all the endemic pollution… it boggles.

It’s almost as if the area is being terra formed for a different and quite alien species.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was pleased that a concurrence of maritime and locomotive subject matter occurred as Amtrak’s Acella came rolling by on the Hell Gate bridge at the same time as Buchanan 1 tug slid through the Hells Gate narrows of the East River. When I left the house this day, I rued not having the time to visit Staten Island and the Kill Van Kull – my original intention for the afternoon. What with the sun setting in the late afternoon, it’s kind of difficult to complete that journey from Point A in Astoria while the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is still hanging in the sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to worrying about the ones who cannot possibly exist in the deepest waters of Hells Gate, and their land dwelling acolytes who surreptitiously accompanied the wholesome Hellenes during their 1970’s migration to Astoria, did a humble narrator’s thoughts turn.

There are too many individual and quite minor clues to mention which lend credence to the theory of their presence – odd smells and sounds, brief flashes of unrecognizable shapes seen when walking past closing doors, the popularity of Bosnian cuisine, bizarre chanting. This is an entirely different “thing” than the occluded witch cult operating out of St. Michael’s cemetery, incidentally, but perhaps I’ve already said too much.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sound of chitinous scratching on my second floor garret window will no doubt resume after this posting, and the whispered calls to leave this life behind and to either go into the water or dance with the night ghouls of Nephren Ka across the rooftops and tombstones of western Queens will no doubt follow.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there, beneath the waters of the Bright Passage?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

civic spirit

with 16 comments

Happy Centennial, Hell Gate Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One hundred years ago today, the construction of the Hell Gate Bridge was finished. It had been ongoing since 1912, and it was a bit of a contemporaneous construction miracle – as far as the details of how the Pennsylvania Railroad engineers (specifically Gustav Lindenthal) managed to build the span out from both shorelines simultaneously – and to have the completed sections precisely join (with a 5/16th of an inch tolerance) over the Hells Gate section of the East River between Astoria and Randall’s Ward’s Island. It was “officially” dedicated and opened to rail traffic on the March 1st March 9th of 1917. The first commercial usage of the bridge began on April 1st of 1917, when a Washington to Boston passenger train crossed it. These days it’s owned by Amtrak. (strike throughs indicate corrections offered by my pal Dave Frieder, the “Bridge Man,” who is going to be presenting his vast knowledge on the subject at a lecture at the Greater Astoria Historic Society next Monday night).

For a piece on the bridge that I wrote for my old Brownstoner Queens column back in 2013 – click here. For another Brownstoner Queens column that discusses the Hells Gate section the East River – click here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hell Gate is as iconic to Astoria, Queens as is a plate of spanokopita.

Lots of local businesses, even the Greater Astoria Historic Society, use images of the bridge on branded clothing items like t-shirts and hats and there’s an assortment of local businesses that incorporate “Hell Gate” into their name.

Virtually no one talks about Mighty Triborough as being our icon, incidentally. There’s ancestral memory in Astoria that remembers Robert Moses carving the Grand Central through the neighborhood, which left a bitter taste.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a rail bridge, Hell Gate. Most of the traffic you see using it is passenger service run by Amtrak, but occasionally CSX or another freight carrier transits from Queens to the Bronx via Hell Gate. The bridge plugs into the Long Island rail network via the New York Connecting Railway, which extends to the Sunnyside Yards (where you can switch into the LIRR system) and uses the East River tunnels to travel into Manhattan – and by extension travel under the Hudson and into New Jersey and the rail network of the entire country. This bridge, and those tunnels, are Long Island’s only rail link to the continent.

That’s it, other than floating rail cars around on barges, but that’s a whole other banana.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Astoria locals, as in the folks who are in the “born and raised” crowd hereabouts, have all sorts of spooky adolescent legends about the Hell Gate Bridge. There was supposed to have been a child killer living in the tower on the Astoria Park side… there’s a demon train which will appear if you dare to climb the bridge to its deck… there’s a lot of Astoria stories out there.

I’m told that climbing Hell Gate is a rite of passage for teenage boys hereabout, and observable graffiti up on the deck seems to back that up. There’s meant to be four tracks up there, but I’m told that one of them is all but abandoned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a local committee that’s sprung up to celebrate the Bridge centennial, but so far there’s only been a couple of meetings and not too much has emerged from attending them. Nice people though. Anywhere else is the United States, or even in NYC, the centennial of a major bridge like this would be met with parades, and fanfare, and school kids would be taught about the days when Americans were still capable of doing great things… but… this is Queens…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’m regretting the inclement weather today as I wanted to to go visit the old girl on her de facto birthday.

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.
 TOUR CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER. 


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 30, 2016 at 11:30 am

proferred food

with 2 comments

Boredom, self hatred, and megalomaniacal fantasy – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Possessed of a somewhat solitary and depressive personality type, a humble narrator is often forced to lurch forth onto the streets in search of diversion. These excursions are necessary, lest a psychological tumult be allowed to form behind the eyes and between the ears. Proprioception for one such as myself views the world thusly, with everything below the vault of the skull considered as somehow external – arms, legs, gut, and all the rest are merely there. “I” am found a few inches back from and equidistant to the ocular, nasal, mandibular, and auditory apparatus.

I’m all ‘effed up. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my regular walks involves heading over to the Hells Gate section of the East River in Astoria from Newtown Pentacle HQ, which is found on the south eastern side of the neighborhood nearby its borders with LIC, Sunnyside, and Woodside. It’s a short walk, by my standards, which – there and back again – usually consumes about two hours of my time and provides some much needed physical exercise.

Saying that, I don’t always process this particular perambulatory route as being a particularly productive one from a photographic point of view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My colleague Kevin Walsh from Forgotten-NY often wanders through residential neighborhoods and has a fine time of it, but one such as myself shuns populated places. A humble narrator enjoys the howling winds and concrete devastations, and is drawn to lonely, damned, or deserted places. Give me the abandoned, the derelict, the despoiled, the barren, the broken, the horrible. Oh to dance merrily along the poison shoreline and shattered bulkheads of some flowing gelatinous horror, with the night gaunts…

Of course, one cannot spend all of his time at Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Truth be told, one of the things that draws me time and again to Hells Gate is that it’s the antechamber of the “House of Moses,” where mighty Triborough reigns. One of the true signs of a growing madness is working on a “theory of everything,” and I’m afraid to report that one is indeed going down that road. White laboratory coats, long black vinyl gloves, and a series of goggles are on order at a certain Internet retailer named for a South American river system, and genetic samples of the long deceased Mr. Moses are in the freezer.

My plan is to clone the master builder, and release an army of “Mosei” upon the world. They shall pave over everything and create a thousand lane highway circling the globe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My Moses army will pay no mind to complaints from the citizenry, instead they will crush all opposition. “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” will be their mantra as they pour concrete for a highway whose path goes right through St. Peter’s in Rome on its way to and through Mecca on its way towards China. The Great Wall? Highway arches will be carved through it, but they will fall short of allowing buses to pass beneath them.

Part the Red Sea? The Mosei will turn the Red Sea into a parking lot dwarfing those of Riis Park or Jones Beach.. Enough of this hippie dippie environmentalist fad, let the automobile reign! The Mosei won’t lead a chosen people, instead they’ll choose which people to lead and where they’ll be led to.

Saying that, Amazon claims they’re out of stock on the mad scientist goggles, so my evil plans will just have to sit on the back burner. Someday, I tell you, someday… a real rain will come…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Megalomaniacal fantasy notwithstanding, one still had a rather formidable workload waiting for him back at HQ, so my sojourn to the forbidden northern coast of Queens was abbreviated and my scuttle turned back towards overly familiar vicinities. For some reason, every time I cross 31st street on my way home from Hells Gate, it feels like I’m passing through the gates of Mordor.

It’s probably the perennial shadows, or the smell of sulfur.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Astoria Blvd., just before Steinway Street, this amusing signage was encountered on the door of a laundromat. One of the fun parts of living in a neighborhood renowned for its enormous immigrant population and legendary “diversity” is signage written by people who have less than a passing familiarity with English language grammar. Most of the neighbors just spell things the way that they sound to them, as is evinced above.

I like to believe that only “cos players” can piss therein.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 10, 2016 at 11:00 am

half smile

with 3 comments

Happy Birthday, Triborough Bridge, you’re now an Octogenarian.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Triborough Bridge, aka Robert F Kennedy Bridge, in Astoria, Queens opened on this day in 1936. It was 80 years ago today that Bob Moses taught the band to play, as it were. The bridge complex (there’s actually three spans that compose Triborough, pictured in today’s post is the suspension bridge section which connects to Astoria) was designed by the team of Othmar Amman and Aymar Embury ll. Construction on the thing began on the so called “Black Friday” of 1929 which signaled the beginning of the Great Depression.

from wikipedia

Construction began on Black Friday in 1929, but soon the Triborough project’s outlook began to look bleak. Othmar Ammann, who had collapsed the original design’s two-deck roadway into one, requiring lighter towers, and thus, lighter piers, saving $10 million on the towers alone, was enlisted again to help guide the project. Using New Deal money, it was resurrected in the early 1930s by Robert Moses, who created the Triborough Bridge Authority to fund, build and operate it. The completed structure was opened to traffic on July 11, 1936.

The total cost of the bridge was more than $60 million, one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression, more expensive even than the Hoover Dam. The structure used concrete from factories from Maine to Mississippi. To make the formwork for pouring the concrete, a whole forest on the Pacific Coast was cut down.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The national economic downturn caused progress on the project to grind to a halt, until Robert Moses took interest in the project and inserted himself. For the vast majority of living New Yorkers, all that we’ve ever known of this City is what Moses made of it. He gave our grandparents, parks, highways, and bridges – for awhile in the mid 20th century he was the de facto spokesman for “progress.” He destroyed entire neighborhoods and ruled his empire like a tyrant, as well. We all live in the “House of Moses.” 

Moses wanted to build parkways and expressways, ultimately, and proposed to NY State that his high speed roads could serve as the approaches for the Triborough. His “Grand Central Parkway,” “Astoria Blvd.,” “East River Drive (now called FDR drive),” “Whitlock Avenue,” and “Eastern Blvd.” projects were all built simply to serve the needs of the automobile and feed traffic to Triboroughs Toll Booths. Due to the roads in Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx, Triborough soon became the greatest machine for magnifying traffic that NYC that the world had ever seen. Traffic magnified year after year, and every single one of those vehicles had to pay tolls.

Moses, who helped author the modern constitution of NY State when he worked for Governor Al Smith, conducted business in the shadowy world of an “authority,” or public benefit corporation, which he had christened as the “Triborough Bridge Authority.” Moses literally wrote the laws governing such “authorities” and was able to game the system at every step. Today his authority is called the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, which was incorporated into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1968.  

Today, Triborough is officially part of the MTA Bridges and Tunnels unit, but it still carries an obscene number of vehicles and collects shed loads of cash at those toll booths. 

from wikipedia

Robert Moses (December 18, 1888 – July 29, 1981) was the “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, Rockland County, and Westchester County, New York. As the shaper of a modern city, he is sometimes compared to Baron Haussmann of Second Empire Paris, and is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of urban planning in the United States. He changed shorelines, built bridges, tunnels and roadways, and transformed neighborhoods forever. His decisions favoring highways over public transit helped create the modern suburbs of Long Island and influenced a generation of engineers, architects, and urban planners who spread his philosophies across the nation.

Never elected to public office, Moses was responsible for the creation and leadership of numerous public authorities which he could control without having to answer to the general public or to elected officials. It is due to Moses that there are a disproportionate number of public benefit corporations in New York state, which are the prime mode of infrastructure building and maintenance in New York, and are currently responsible for 90% of the state’s debt. As head of various authorities, he controlled millions in income from his projects’ revenue generation, such as tolls, and he had the power to issue bonds to borrow vast sums, allowing him to initiate new ventures with little or no approval from legislative bodies, bypassing the usual power of the purse as it normally functioned in the United States, and the cumbersome process of citizen comment on major public works.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The jewel in Robert Moses’s crown was always mighty Triborough, and it was the center of his construction empire. Using the proceeds from the tolls on the bridge, and the unique freedom from the election cycle which Mayors and Governors were and are beholden to, the “authority” became a shadow government. Moses was able to wield incredible amounts of credit through the issuance of attractively priced municipal bonds guaranteed by Triborough’s millions in toll proceeds. This made him very popular with banking interests, and the huge amounts of cash and credit he had allowed Moses to build anything he wanted. Wherever he wanted.  

Moses’s offices were on Randall’s Island, adjoining the counting rooms for the bridges tolls.

from wikipedia

Originally named the Triborough Bridge Authority, the authority was created in 1933 as a public-benefit corporation by the New York State Legislature. It was tasked with completing construction of the Robert F. Kennedy (Triborough) Bridge, which had been started by New York City in 1929 but had stalled due to the Great Depression.

Under the chairmanship of Robert Moses, the agency grew in a series of mergers with four other agencies:

  • Henry Hudson Parkway Authority, in 1940
  • Marine Parkway Authority, in 1940
  • New York City Parkway Authority, in 1940
  • New York City City Tunnel Authority, in 1946

With the last merger in 1946, the authority was renamed the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.

Generating millions of dollars in toll revenue annually, the TBTA easily became a powerful city agency as it was capable of funding large capital projects. From the 1940s-60s, the TBTA built the Battery Parking Garage, Jacob Riis Beach Parking Field, Coliseum Office Building and Exposition Center and East Side Airlines Terminal, as well as many parks in the city.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are few structures in NYC which are as staggering in scale as Triborough. According to Moses biographer Robert Caro’s definitive book “the Powerbroker” – “more than five thousand men would be working at the site, and these men would only be putting into place the materials furnished by the labor of many times five thousand men; before the Triborough Bridge was completed, its construction would have generated more than 31,000,000-man hours of work in 134 cities in twenty states.”

from mta.info

The bridge’s 3.5 miles of roadway include a suspension span to Queens, a vertical lift bridge to Harlem in Manhattan and a fixed truss bridge to the Bronx-all converging at a huge traffic junction on Randall’s Island. The Queens span is 1,380–feet long and has four lanes in either direction. It has a clearance of 135 feet above the river, high enough for ships to pass under. The Harlem River lift span (as it is commonly called) in Manhattan has three lanes in either direction and moves its center section up and down like an elevator to allow tall marine traffic to pass. The Bronx crossing has three lanes in either direction over its framework of steel beams that form interconnected triangles, making the structure light and strong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is a school of thought out there which suggests that the heroic performance of American industry during the Second World War was due to the industrial orders which Moses placed during the 1930’s for materials needed to construct the bridge and its approaches. The steel factories of Pittsburgh, concrete factories up and down the East Coast of the United States, the railroads and cargo ships which carried the material into NYC – all served to put American industry back to work. Think about the corollary supply lines for everything that was needed to make it – coal, iron, coke etc. If Pearl Harbor would have occurred in a world in which there had been no Triborough project, it would have taken as long as two years to stoke the furnaces and rehire a work force to build the weapons of WW2.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Triborough, as the name implies, touches down in three of the boroughs of NYC. It connects Manhattan, Bronx, and Queens. The East River suspension bridge spans a part of the river called Hells Gate. It also sits on one of the lesser islands of the archipelago of New York Harbor, Wards Island. Wards has been connected to its neighbor, Randall’s Island during the 20th century by landfill, but they used to be distinct land masses separated by a tidal strait.

Wards Island is kind of a weird place. 

from wikipedia

After the war ended, Jaspar Ward and Bartholomew Ward took ownership of the island that later carried their surname. Although a small population had lived on the island since as early as the 17th century, the Ward brothers developed the island more heavily by building a cotton mill and building the first bridge to cross the East River in 1807, connecting the island with Manhattan at 114th Street.

The bridge, paid for by Bartholomew Ward and Philip Milledolar, was a wooden drawbridge. The bridge lasted until 1821, when it was destroyed in a storm.After the bridge was destroyed, the island was largely abandoned until 1840, when the island was transformed into a dumping ground for everything unwanted in New York City. Between 1840 and 1930 the island was used for:

  • Burial of hundreds of thousands of bodies relocated from the Madison Square and Bryant Park graveyards.
  • The State Emigrant Refuge, a hospital for sick and destitute immigrants, opened in 1847, the biggest hospital complex in the world during the 1850s.
  • The New York City Asylum for the Insane, opened around 1863.
  • An immigration station from 1860 until the 1892 opening of Ellis Island.
  • Manhattan State Hospital, operated by the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene when it took over the immigration and asylum buildings in 1899. With 4,400 patients, it was the largest psychiatric institution in the world. The 1920 census notes that the hospital had a total of 6045 patients. It later became the Manhattan Psychiatric Center.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shades of “Arkham Asylum” on Wards Island (from the Batman mythology) notwithstanding, Triborough – along with the Hell Gate Bridge – is the backdrop to life here in Astoria. Due to the rapacious real estate development currently underway in western Queens, this won’t last for long as residential towers continue to rise all along the waterfront. The view above is from the Queensboro Bridge, incidentally, looking north.

from omh.state.ny.us

Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, a maximum security hospital of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH), opened in 1985 and provides secure treatment and evaluation for the forensic patients and courts of New York City and Long Island. Most patients are received through the courts under Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) or through the OMH Commissioner’s office via the New York State Code of Rules and Regulations (NYSCRR) regarding hospitalization of the mentally ill.

Treatment is provided in accordance with the current standards of professional care outlined by the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Health Organizations (JCAHO) and is carried out with respect for each patient’s privacy and rights, in agreement with his/her level of functioning and need for security. KFPC has an active staff education program as well as academic affiliations with several metropolitan area colleges and universities, to help assure quality treatment and state of the art care.

and from wikipedia

The Manhattan Psychiatric Center is a New York-state run psychiatric hospital on 125th Street on Ward’s Island in New York City. As of 2009 it had 509 beds. The current building is 14-stories tall.

The hospital’s roots date to 1848 when Ward’s Island was designated the reception area for immigrants. Some additional structures were originally part of Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum, which opened around 1863.

The building was significantly enlarged in 1871, and a Kirkbride Plan style building was built. After the immigration entry shifted to Ellis Island in 1892 the state took it over from Manhattan in 1899 and expanded it even further. At the time, it had 4,400 beds and was the largest psychiatric hospital in the world.

At the time it was one of two psychiatric hospitals for residents of Manhattan that had been take over by the state. The other psychiatric hospital would become the Central Islip Psychiatric Center in Central Islip, New York. Both hospitals were referred to as Manhattan State Hospital.

It later became the Manhattan Psychiatric Center. The facility is currently run by the New York State Office of Mental Health.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a rule, I don’t use the modern appellations for Queensboro (Ed Koch) and Triborough (Robert F. Kennedy). I will, once the Brooklyn Bridge is renamed for Michael Bloomberg or Chuck Schumer.

Happy 80th, mighty Triborough.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Tuesday, July 12, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. –
LICHenge, with Atlas Obscura and the
Hunters Point Park Conservancy. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

vacant box

with one comment

Back to Hells Gate, where I belong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in Moday’s post, a humble narrator found himself lurking in fear along the Western Queens waterfront recently, specifically the legend choked narrows of the East River which nearly four centuries of European mariners have called the “Hellegaat” or “Hells Gate.” It was late in the day, and the flood tide was heading out towards Bowery Bay and Long Island Sound.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A succession of tug and barge combinations were taking advantage of the titanic flow, heading north and then perhaps east. I had a meeting to attend, so I only stuck around for two of the vessel transits.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first was Sea Lion, towing a seemingly empty barge meant for the transport of recyclable materials. Notice the mesh fencing on the lip of the thing, a device contrived to avoid having materials within the barge swept up on the wind and into the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sea Lion, famously, found itself in a bit of trouble off a different coast of Long Island back in January of 2014, when it sunk off of Atlantic Beach. There were injuries, but as far as I know, no fatalities – thank goodness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bouchard transport is a historical star in the NY Harbor family, with the company having been founded nearly a century ago by Capt. Fred Bouchard in 1918. That’s a fuel barge being towed in the shot above, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug is the Ellen S. Bouchard, a 3,900 HP boat. You can read about her history at this page found at the ever reliable tugboatinformation.com.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s it for a somewhat maritime focused week at this, your Newtown Pentacle, see you Monday with something completely different. There’s still a few spots left for the Insalubrious Valley tour with Brooklyn Brainery, btw, come with? The Calvary walk is sold out, but it looks like we’ll be doing it again sometime soon.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

%d bloggers like this: