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Archive for the ‘Maspeth’ Category

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It’s National Peaches ‘N’ Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, the Open House NY organization created an event with the NYC Department of Sanitation at the latter’s enormous “General Repair Shop” on 58th street, right on the hazy border between Woodside and Maspeth. The shop handles vehicle maintenance for DSNY and for several other city agencies, as well as building maintenance for the various Sanitation facilities scattered throughout the 5 boroughs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the City’s snow removal equipment takes quite a beating during the winter, and part of the job for the working stiffs here is to recondition and repair it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The amount and kinds of equipment on display in the various shop sections was staggering, which included the chassis straightener pictured above. A couple of the folks on the tour were mechanics, and they looked like kids in a candy store.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are multiple floors in the General Repair Shop building, which was erected in 1964.

Everything I’ve shown you so far was from one of the upper floors, which is accessed by the vehicular ramps found on 58th street. Downstairs, we visited several smaller shops, including this one which was dedicated to woodworking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The section pictured above is a sheet metal, and general metal working, shop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An abundance of inventory was available, and I can’t imagine the logistic difficulties of keeping the army of labor employed in this giant facility armed with everything they’d need to do their jobs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This lathe caught my eye, if for no other reason than its scale. Apparently, they can fabricate axles for trucks with this gizmo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sort of esoteric industrial age equipment found hereabouts was incredible, and the sort of stuff you might be able to find on a WW2 era Navy ship. That’s a “turret lathe” if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An engine mechanic’s shop was visited, where truck engines were being broken down and rebuilt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It goes without mentioning that the Sanitation Department keeps a clean house.

Despite all of this material, and its occupation, the place was clean as a whistle. We were told that the “Commish” had been there earlier in the day, so maybe that’s why, but in my experience the folks who handle our collective mess are generally “obsessive compulsive” about staying clean. Never known an off duty Sanitation worker who wasn’t sweet smelling and perfectly groomed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t resist a close up on those gear heads.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Open House NY tour lasted a couple of hours, and our last stop was at a “clean room” with a vehicle emissions testing lab. An MTA Bus was secured in place by stout chains, and positioned over steel cylinders set into the flooring.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bus was actuated, and its engine roared into action. If the wheels had been able to gain purchase, it would have likely been moving at thirty to forty miles an hour.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All sorts of scientific “tackle” had been attached to its exhaust system, which gathered its emissions and ran it through filtration materials to test what the thing breathes out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The OHNY tour ended, and we tourists were released back into the darkness of industrial Maspeth. It was time for DSNY to get back to work. Me too, and I had to evacuate the area before the night gaunts and ghasts at the nearby Mt. Zion and Third Calvary Cemeteries realized that I was in the neighborhood after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had dipped behind the Shining City of Manhattan.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

strict silence

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It’s National Ice Cream Soda Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you found yourself in Queens, between two cemeteries and two highways and at the angle between Woodside and Maspeth (technically Woodside, according to the US Postal Service), at 52-35 58th street – one would be hard pressed not to notice the gargantuan building that’s operated by the NYC Department of Sanitation – which is labeled as being “Department of Sanitation Central Repair Shop.” I’m told that the interior of this industrial facility holds about a million square feet of space, and long have my eyes wished to view that which does transpire within.

The earliest mention I could find of the Central Repair Shop, incidentally, dates back to August of 1955 when the Sanitation Department Commissioner requested that the City Planning Commission include $15 million smackers in their 1956 budget to build the place. The building opened during the tenure of Commissioner Frank J. Lucia, but I’m not certain if he’s the fellow who oversaw its construction.

Wishes come true if you want them hard enough, lords and ladies, for both Commisioners and Humble Narrators.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may recall that there was a bit of a hullabaloo here at the Central Repair Shop back in 2011 which made the news.

The building was designed, btw, by the architecture and engineering firm of Fellheimer and Wagner. By me, it’s quite an attractive structure, but I do like my “modernism” and the exterior of this structure would look very much at home if it was found in Batman’s Gotham City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The purpose of this facility, which opened during the Mayoralty of Robert Wagner and the Borough Presidency of Mario Cariello in August of 1964, is to service the vast fleet of trucks and other heavy equipment used by the Department of Sanitation. Coincidentally DSNY also handles fleet maintenance for several other City agencies here – and you’ll notice examples of the DEP, Buildings, DOT and other municipal fleet vehicles scattered throughout today and tomorrow’s posts.

I was lucky enough to score a ticket to visit this spot on a tour created by the Open House NY outfit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Central Repair Shop is immense, with literally hundreds of heavy trucks occupying maintenance bays almost as far as the eye could see. Before you ask – no, it didn’t smell. All the garbage trucks receive a power wash before they enter the building, and there was an elaborate ventilation system in place which vented the shop floors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t catch his last name, but the fellow with the shaved head pictured above was named Bob, and he was one of the managers of the shop building. He conducted the tour for the OHNY group, which hosted a fairly substantial number of folks. As is usually the case with such tours, everybody was waving around expensive camera setups.

Given the amount of low light photography which a humble narrator has been engaging in during recent years, I surmised two things rather quickly – a) I was going to have to use a flash and b) wide open apertures weren’t going to cut it in here given the levels of foreground detail and long sight lines. I angled my flash at the white ceiling for “bounce light,” and set the camera to f5.6 at ISO 6400 for pretty much the whole endeavor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lighting situation was complex within the Central Repair Shop, with combinations of sodium and flourescent overhead light fixtures above and street facing windows carrying in bright sunlight. Coupling that with metallic and reflective surfaces that ran the entire spectrum from black to white, the flash provided a fill light that brought everything together under one overarching color temperature. The narrowed aperture allowed for a certain hyper focal distance to be achieved.

Normally, I’d just shoot using ambient light and a wide open lens (f2.8 or faster) but that wasn’t going to work this time around. When the shots came off of the camera, they required a bit of tweaking, contrast and color temperature wise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, I’ve personally never seen a garbage truck up on a lift before.

More tomorrow from inside the Department of Sanitation’s Central Repair Shop, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 20, 2017 at 11:00 am

odd purchases

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It’s National Martini Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things that we, as in the environmental and activist community along Newtown Creek, have been asking officialdom about for years is about why there is zero signage advising the citizenry about not fishing or crabbing in the Newtown Creek. I know this might strike you as odd, but folks actually do fish and crab hereabouts. Observationally, these are people who were born overseas, so the signage issue becomes a bit complicated given the legendary “diversity” of Western Queens and North Brooklyn. The Albany people have always questioned as to why you’d need signage, as it’s illegal to fish without a license, and every NYS licensee has been advised about the environmental conditions encountered on the inland waterways of NYC – which is one of the most “Albany people” things I’ve ever heard.

Luckily, the Feds at EPA realized what we’ve been asking for is necessary and have begun the process of creating advisory signage, and the PRP (Potentially Resonsible Parties) consortium which styles itself as the “Newtown Creek Group” volunteered to manufacture the placards, which EPA would in turn design and install. The signage is pretty close to its final design iteration, and the latest version looks like this. As to where the signs should be placed? Who has carefully documented every little pocket and corner of the streets surrounding the Creek? Who can tell you where people commonly fish? That’s a Newtown Creek Alliance job, anyone can tell you that.

Let’s face it, who ya gonna call?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Accordingly, one found himself in Greenpoint recently at nine in the morning as the EPA team assembled. Civilians cannot ride in Government vehicles (which is an odd rule, as we technically own them) so the third party contractor who will do the actual installation of the things did the driving. We hit every little corner of the Newtown Creek where people can find access to the water, even the hidden spots where the “utes” of Greenpernt like to experiment with cannibinoids.

It was actually quite a beautiful morning, and the light was fantastic, so while the Feds got busy with the tape measures and GPS’d the various locations we visited, I waved the camera around a bit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We did encounter an “enforcement situation” in Brooklyn alongside the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. There’s a protocol for “who’s responsible for what” along the Newtown Creek. Short version is this – EPA is in charge of Superfund, which is specifically related to the sediments under the water. New or ongoing pollution entering the water is the provence of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

The NYC DEP is responsible for absolutely nothing anywhere or anytime, it’s not their fault at all, and they have no idea why they were named as a PRP in the first place as it’s all Exxon or National Grid’s fault.

The fellow from EPA I was on the bridge with confirmed my belief that “I should call this in” and the NYS DEC Spill Response hotline was called. If you spot oil slicks, plumes of floatable contaminants, or as in the case of the shot above – hundreds of gallons of milky white mystery juice exiting one of DEP’s open sewers – the protocol is to first photograph it, as documentation, and then to call 1 (800) 457-7362 to let DEC know about the situation so they can investigate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We were, as mentioned above, visiting every conceivable spot that the citizenry could find their way to the water.

That included “off limits” locations like the Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge over the English Kills tributary. As you can see from all the interesting graffiti on the bridge, which carries lead tracks of the Bushwick Branch LIRR, trespassing is pretty common back here. This is the reason that EPA asked Newtown Creek Alliance to send somebody along with them, as there’s the “official story” and a “real story” found along the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This family of Canada Geese were encountered at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road, and were being predated by a feral cat who was anxious for breakfast. Momma and Poppa Goose were just out of frame to the left, so the cat made a brilliant decision and continued on into the brush to look for some easier prey. We encountered a couple of broods of Geese over the course of the morning. Geese can be ornery, as a note, and will smack you up if they’re annoyed.

One of these illegal alien avian bullies, at Maspeth Creek, actually hissed at us as we neared, and stuck its tongue out at me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reasoning behind the signage is based around science rather than good humored politics, incidentally. When you’re chatting with environmental officials, they don’t refer to oysters or mussels as shellfish, rather they call them “bioaccumulators.” Animals that are high up in the food chain have internal organs – livers in particular – and muscular tissues which have amassed dangerous levels of whatever pollutant is found in the sediments of the waterway, which they’ve attained by consuming all the prey critters who are below them in the food chain hierarchy. In the case of crabs, in particular, you can encounter a fantastic amount of chemical concentrates due to their particular niche and occupations.

Newtown Creek is – of course – a Federal Superfund site. The sediment beds hereabout are a goulash of petroleum and petroleum byproducts, organocopper compounds, volatile organic compounds, PCB’s, coal tar, sewage, and everything else that has ever been dumped or spilled into the water. The sediment is referred to as “black mayonnaise” and it’s where the crabs live. It’s also where most of the invertebrates that form the bottom of the food chain for the fish population live. Itty bitty critters eat the decaying organics of the black mayonnaise, and slightly less itty bitty critters eat handfuls of the little guys, and the larger critters eat hundreds of them – you get the idea.

You don’t want to eat fish or crabs that you catch in the Newtown Creek. Really.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

cylcopean mass

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It’s National Applesauce Cake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was out of the house early today, to attend a meeting sponsored by the Queens Chamber of Commerce which invited a team from the NYC EDC to present their feasibility study on the Sunnyside Yards at the Bulova Corporate Center found on the border of Astoria and East Elmhurst. I’m happy to say that this was a well attended meeting, and that the attendees included members of the Queens activist community as well as the usual and expected representatives from the Real Estate Industrial Complex. A breakfast meeting, bagels and coffee were offered, along with those very sweet little danishes which are typical of corporate catering.

The EDC presentation was offered by one of their many Vice Presidents, a charming fellow named Nate Bliss. I inquired after the meeting, and there was no relation to the Neziah Bliss family of Greenpoint, just as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The EDC presentation was a roadshow version of the executive summary report found at their website. The presentation glossed over several seminal objections to the project which have been offered by various community organizations such as the gargantuan size of the deck itself (at 43rd street and Barnett Avenue in Sunnyside Gardens, for instance – 109-110 feet above street grade, or at Northern Blvd. and 39th/Steinway – 65-70 feet), but did acknowledge the transit and environmental issues associated with creating a new development that would require between 10 and 19 new schools to be built, and which would install a new population in LIC that would number about half that of Boulder, Colorado – on the 180 acres found between Queens Plaza and 43rd street, Northern Blvd. and Skillman Avenue.

I asked them what they’re planning on plugging the deck and city of towers built on it into, electrical wise. I threw some shade at the fact that their report says that’s it’s not feasible to bring construction materials to the job site, which is a rail yard, by rail. Pointedly asked them, as well, about how they intended to route the thousands of daily trucks which would be carrying in steel and concrete since they won’t be using the railroad to do it.

Ultimately, there’s two efficient routes, and both feed in through Manhattan from the continent – George Washington Bridge down 125th street to Triborough and then through Astoria, or Lincoln Tunnel across 42nd street to Queensboro. Guess which one they’ll pick?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To be entirely clear, despite the fact that the Sunnyside Yards is literally “in my back yard,” my resistance to the plan has nothing to do with the dismissive term “NIMBY” thrown about by the Real Estate Industrial Complex and the bureaucrats of Lower Manhattan. Western Queens is suffocating for lack of infrastructure given the construction boom which has been underway for the last decade and a half. The MTA is overwhelmed, we’ve been closing power plants instead of building new ones, the sewer system is overburdened and outdated. Somebody in the meeting asked me “where are people going to live?” which is the sort of thing that a real estate developer always throws out as if they’re doing us some sort of favor or good deed with the condemnation of whole city blocks and the subsequent erection of mirror glass skinned towers.

Short answer is this – if we improve our transit system, people can live anywhere they want to. Before the ABC and 456 lines reached into northern Manhattan and the 123 lines went to the Bronx, those areas were typified by farmland. So was most of Queens and Eastern Brooklyn, prior to the arrival of the Subways a century ago. Transit expansion equals an opportunity for rapacious profiteering on the part of the real estate industrial complex, and since greed seems to be the only thing that motivates us these days… Imagine the possibilities of an elevated track that crossed from the 103rd Corona Avenue stop on the 7 south across the transit deserts of Queens and Brooklyn all the way to Broadway Junction.

The mind boggles. 


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It’s National Canadian Bacon Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Blowing it to bits” is a bit of an exaggeration, as offered by NYC’s tabloid headline writers (and the Governor of New York State), referring to a recently offered plan by the NYS DOT regarding the controlled demolition of the Kosciuszko bridge. Really… this isn’t going to be like the end of the movie Diehard, if anything it’s going to be a bit more like the end of Fight Club.

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 Kosciuszko 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 Kosciuszko 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 2016, and finally the December 2016 one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYS DOT held two meetings this week, one of which I attended, in which they described their plans. First – the central truss removal plan no longer involves the usage of maritime cranes. What their engineers described instead was the construction of four temporary towers which would support machinery which they described as “strand jacks,” which would lower the central truss down to couple of waiting flat top barges. Welding torches would be used to sever the truss’s links to the bridge superstructure, after the strand jacks are attached to support its weight. The truss will be lowered and secured to the barges, whereupon tugboats would guide it westward out of Newtown Creek, and across the harbor to New Jersey where its steel will be recycled.

They indicated this process would play out sometime around the end of April or the beginning of May. The DOT folks were quite vague about specific dates, saying that these were probable time frames but that they couldn’t commit to specifics at this point in time. This is problematic for me, personally, as I’m in the process of negotiating for boats to do Newtown Creek tours this summer, and the procedure described above includes the closure of the creek to all traffic for a couple of days. Worry, worry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are two steel towers on either side of the Newtown Creek, which the engineering people indicated would be removed using conventional means (torches and cranes). Beyond the two steel towers, there are 21 spans supported by concrete piers – 10 in Brooklyn and 11 in Queens – which support roadway sections that range between large 230 foot long and 800 ton units and smaller ones that are 120 feet long which weigh in at 2-300 tons. These sections are the ones that DOT and the contractor partnership working for them are proposing to use the explosives on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The explosives used, and it should be mentioned that the very conservative FDNY Explosives Unit was present and participating in the discussion, would be shaped charges. What that means is that these things are essentially copper bars with high explosive material attached. The charges are placed at critical structural points on the bridge sections, and when their detonation is triggered, the copper chops right through the steel like a knife through butter. The sections which the explosives will be attached to will be “wrapped in filter fabric and conveyor belting equipment,” as they told us. It’s all very complicated.

The detonation will introduce structural deficits into the bridge sections, which will cause them to collapse in a controlled manner, effectively dropping straight down with little or no flyaway debris. There will be dust on impact with the ground, of course, which is a bit of a concern but the engineers say they have techniques to control that too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vibration from the dropping sections – which again, weigh anywhere between 200 and 800 tons – is a concern, and the engineering folks described a series of dampening and avoidance technologies and techniques to handle that. These involved building engineered soil berms with internal steel structures, digging trenches, and so on. To be honest, I’m a bit concerned about what will amount to a seismic event, given the proximity of Calvary Cemetery and the somewhat ancient building industrial stock of West Maspeth and Eastern Greenpoint, but the FDNY guys seemed cool with it all.

As I said during the meeting – “If an FDNY Deputy Chief told me to go jump off the bridge, I’d probably listen to him or her,” but I have a more than normal level of respect for the FDNY’s opinions. One of the guys speaking at the meeting was a deputy chief, as a note.

As you may notice from the shot above, and the reason this whole demolition story is flying around, is that the DOT and their contractors are nearly done with constructing the eastern half of the new bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 200,000 units a day of vehicle traffic carried by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway will soon be rerouted onto the new bridge, at which point the old bridge is irrelevant and in the way. A twin of the new bridge will then be erected on its footprints. As often mentioned in the past – this western side of the new span will include a pedestrian and bicycle path.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In West Maspeth, once called Berlinville, you’ll find the sections of the roadway sitting on truck trailers and awaiting insertion into the span. Based on what I’m seeing, they should be installed shortly, and my guess would be that sometime in March the new span over Newtown Creek will be complete.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing which I’m looking forward to in 2017 is a promised walk with the DOT over the new bridge shortly before traffic is rerouted. They’ve been a little vague as to when this will happen, but they have said repeatedly that it will occur. As a note, those are the tracks of the Lower Montauk branch of the LIRR, and a section of them known historically as “Deadman’s Curve.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anywho, that’s your Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project update for the first quarter of 2017, see you on Monday at this – your Newtown Pentacle – with something completely different.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 3, 2017 at 11:00 am

awestruck party

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It’s Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, in the states of California and Virginia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Throw your hands in the air, like you just don’t care.

That’s what most of the residents of Queens do when the subject of Newtown Creek comes up. That’s Brooklyn’s problem, not ours. Then I tell them about how the decisions affecting Queens are being made by the “transplant hipsters of Brooklyn” whom they revile, and that whereas Brooklyn is going to be getting new parks and other municipal goodies out of this Superfund thing… Queens is largely being left out of the equation. That riles the north shore peeps up a bit, but they still don’t get involved. Since the people of Queens are disinterested, so is elected officialdom.

Fish, or cut bait. If neither, then get out of the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always chalked it up to topography. If you’re in East Williamsburg, or Greenpoint, Newtown Creek is part of your life whenever you open your window. The Brooklyn, or south side, of the Newtown Creek hosts residential properties which are literally across the street from the bulkheads. The Queens, or north side, communities generally have a buffer zone of industrial buildings and highways separating them from the water. Newtown Creek is a half mile from residential Sunnyside.

In Queens, they complain about truck traffic, hipsters, and gentrification.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We are at a critical juncture, Newtown Creek wise. The science from all parties involved in the cleanup is beginning to be compiled. The DEP, in particular, is about to lock itself into a quarter century long program of construction and strategic maneuvering. Around a year or so from now, the oil and gas people will be doing the same and committing to a strategic course.

Ultimately, EPA will be doing the same thing and deciding on their course of action, but given the current political crisis in the Federal Government there is no real day to day guarantee that there will be an Environmental Protection Agency which resembles the current one.

What do clean and accessible waterways mean to President Trump and Steve Bannon?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is going to be a meeting, the latest of many, of the Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group (CAG) on the first of February. If the shot above looks good to you, and you’d like to see more of the same – don’t come. If you care about not having a billion and a half gallons of raw sewage a year spilling onto mounds of poisonous and century old industrial waste, do come. Pipe up, we need voices and perspectives from outside the echo chamber.

Details on the meeting – time, place, etc. – can be accessed at this link. We could use some Queensican bodies in the room.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post were gathered on the eastern side of the Newtown Creek, in Ridgewood and Maspeth. The environmental conditions in these industrial buffer zones are off the charts bad. You don’t have to look far to find dead birds, rats, all sorts of unlucky critters who innocently wandered in here. It wasn’t the Creek that killed them, it was the hundreds of heavy trucks.

As a note to Maspeth and Ridgewood residents – this is where the trucking you complain about comes from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a vision of what the future can hold for generations unborn that we have all been working for and towards. An industrial canal which also welcomes recreational boaters. An industrial canal which was the most significant job creation engine NYC has ever seen and which can be so again. A mixed use waterway in which business and the ecology operate hand in hand.

Ever heard of the “Maspeth heat island effect”? It’s the reason why your energy bills are so high during the summer, and it’s caused by the complete lack of green space in these industrial neighborhoods, which causes temperatures hereabouts to be ten or more degrees warmer during the summer than in surrounding communities. Is that Brooklyn’s problem? What about the trucks, or the garbage trains?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This post is meant to scold, and compel. Get involved, whatever your point of view is. The political elites of our City will not care unless you care.


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doglike lopers

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The concrete devastations, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve mentioned several times recently, an effort is under way to revisit a number of spots which I’ve not set foot in for a while. When I first began wandering around Newtown Creek and the neighborhoods surrounding it, a point was made to visit every single block, but in recent months and years, temporal exigency has caused one to travel along “efficient” routes to get from Point A (A as in Astoria) to Points B, C, and so on.

Accordingly, since I seem to have all the time in the world at the moment, I’m taking the road less travelled and revisiting a few locales which have been off my radar for a bit. To wit, pictured above is the view from 53rd avenue at the angle between Sunnyside and West Maspeth, looking west towards the BQE/LIE interchange.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Prior to the installation of the two highways, roughly 75-80 years ago, this was a place where working people still lived. There was a neighborhood here, at the western border of Newtown’s Maspeth section and the eastern border of LIC’s Blissville subdivision. That’s when Robert Moses, with his New Meeker Avenue Bridge (Kosciuszko Bridge), and Brooklyn Queens Connecting highway, and Long Island Expressway came to town. Zoning decisions made in Manhattan during the post WW2 era rendered this area as “M1” – meaning it is designated for heavy manufacturing usage only.

Regardless of how the City people decided this land should be used, residential usage continued and there are still a small number of fairly ancient homes found peppered in amongst the warehouses, factories and construction oriented tower crane storage yards hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funny thing is that this neighborhood is – observationally – one of the last places in NYC where you can “leave your front door open.” Saying that, when I use the term “concretized devastations of Western Queens” this section of industrial Maspeth is what I’m usually thinking of.

Most of the surviving homes I see in this neighborhood are typified by what you see above, wood frame row houses which date back to around 1900 or so. There’s a few older houses nearby which are a bit “grander” and speak to an earlier incarnation of this area. A few have disappeared “under my watch,” and have been replaced with bland cinder block warehouse or industrial buildings. Can’t really speak to “who” lives here, amongst the cranes and highways.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All I can tell you is that they have an amazing view. This POV is on the rising bluff which once led to a prominent hill to the south called Berlin. The next highest prominence to the west would have been Laurel Hill, which Calvary Cemetery was carved into. This section of Maspeth was actually called “Berlin” until the First World War, when it was changed for obvious reasons to West Maspeth. To the east, the land’s declination rises until it meets a ridge which signals the beginning of the terminal moraine of Long Island nearby Mount Olivette and Lutheran Cemeteries. That ridge, which sports the same sort of rocky geology that lends its name to Ridgewood, is “real” land. Everything west of Laurel Hill is elluvial fill deposited by glacial process and sediment delivered by flooding from the Newtown Creek and East River.

Climate change and rising sea level wise, this likely will be the East River coastline someday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looping around to the south, as the BQE and LIE interchange cut off egress east/west, an ad hoc art gallery is encountered. Illegal dumping, as I’ve often opined, is the unofficial nativist art form of the Borough of Queens. Combined with long fence lines that are covered in crude graffiti, you’ll encounter several installations along this route which offer intriguing intellectual postulates from the local artistic community.

Everything here is artisanal, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reality of these installations are that this is simply a convenient place for a low level building contractor to dispose of construction debris without having to pay a dumping fee, but allow me to stay “high brow” in my assessments.

These dumpers really do seem to pay some attention to composition and color, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

53rd avenue terminates in a parabola which carries it into 43rd street, a colonial era pathway that once connected to Newtown Creek from Bowery Bay in Astoria. The road transected the properties of (amongst several other famous Dutch and English family names from the colonial era) the Riker’s, Skillman’s, and Alsops along its route, and according to the historic record – it was paved with crushed oyster shells. All that changed, of course, when first the Long Island Railroad and later Robert Moses came to town.

43rd street still exists in a fairly unbroken line from Astoria to Northern Blvd. and then crosses the Sunnyside Yards south into Sunnyside where it crosses Queens Blvd. and Greenpoint Avenue. When it crosses under the Long Island Expressway overpass, it resumes its pre municipal consolidation name – Laurel Hill Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “43rd street” you encounter in this section of industrial Maspeth, however, is disconnected from the northern section. The last homes on 43rd street went “bye-bye” just a few years ago, due to a smallish construction project going on in the area. With fewer people watching, and caring, the artisanal illegal dumping in this area has amplified.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the shot above, you can discern why I sometimes refer to this section as the “crane district.”

You can also plainly see the sharp rise in altitude hereabouts. This is, as mentioned, largely an industrial zone. There’s a lot of heavy industry going on. Warehouse operations, severely heavy truck traffic, waste transfer stations – Newtown Creek is just a few thousand feet to the south.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Newtown Creek, that smallish construction operation I mentioned earlier is the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project, which crosses the waterway. If memory serves, that means that something like a half million vehicles a day pass through this pass between Berlin and Laurel Hills. The Kosciuszko Bridge was opened in 1939, and the Queens side approach was built into a shallow valley found between the two landforms, and over a lost tributary of Newtown Creek which was called “Wolf Creek.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s that, then. See you next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 16, 2016 at 11:00 am

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