The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘DUKBO’ Category

nail biting

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A bit of Newtown Creek “now and then,” in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been at work on several subjects regarding that fabulously decadent cataract of Municpal neglect known to all as the Newtown Creek. It’s kind of big picture stuff, which requires a “long tail” of research on and about certain industries. You can’t understand something modern unless you understand its past, I always say.

For example – If I want to describe the Brooklyn Union Gas Manufactured Gas plant on Newtown Creek in Greenpoint (which is now the National Grid LNG plant on Varick), I need to possess an at least topical amount of knowledge regarding the history and technology of the 19th century Manufactured Gas Industry in New York City.

Actually, that’s not an example, it’s precisely the thing I’ve been working on – to develop an understanding of. Manufactured Gas Plants – or MGP’s as they’re known in the environmental community.

Harper_s_Weekly_hp001a_S_

– from Harper’s Weekly, August 6th, 1881 (courtesy google books)

This sort of research always turns up a few surprises, and for an area like Newtown Creek – which is of truly national importance in the story of the second industrial revolution, but for which scant historical visual documentation exists – it’s sometimes pretty interesting. Harper’s Weekly was on quite a tear about my beloved Creek back in the summer of 1881, and presented a few illustrations of “the horror” interspersed with texts describing the oil drenched mud and stinking waters of Newtown Creek.

Here’s my speculation as to what I think we are seeing in these drawings. Educated guesses, btw., that’s all.

Nowadays, the outline of Newtown Creek barely resembles what it looked like back in 1881 – there used to be a couple of islands in the Maspeth Creek/Turning Basin area for instance – but there are few historical constancies with which you can reckon location around the creek when old photos or even illustrations are presented. The LIRR tracks are one of them, and another is the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road.

In the shot above, that pile of piles on the shoreline in the center of the shot? The smokestacks on the far shore? The gas holder tanks on the horizon?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think that the illustrator was sitting right about where I was last winter, at the shoreline intersection of industrial Maspeth’s 58th road with Newtown Creek, looking south west towards Greenpoint’s National Grid LNG site with the ruins of the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road directly in front of me.

Harper_s_Weekly_hp001b_S_

– from Harper’s Weekly, August 6th, 1881 (courtesy google books)

The view above has railroad tracks in it, ones which follow a certain curve, one that has remained fundamentally the same since the LIRR laid them down in the late 1860’s. The tall smokestacks at the left of the shot are likely those of Phelps Dodge. The ones off in the distance are probably the Haberman rendering plant. Calvary cemetery would be to your left, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the illustrator set up his tripod at Penny Bridge – which is the modern day spot that Review Avenue transmogrifies into Laurel Hill Blvd.

That would put the illustrators point of view somewhere on the eastern side of Blissville, looking eastward towards Maspeth.

photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m of the belief that this is the same shoreline seen in the left side of the shot above, although my photo was captured from out in the middle of the channel while onboard a boat. The masonry on the lower right – or Brooklyn side – of the shot is what’s left of old Penny Bridge, and the 1939 model Penny Bridge (Kosciuszcko) is right where that divot on the shoreline is in the 1881 illustration from Harper’s Weekly. Phelps Dodge would have been found on the east side of the Kosciuszcko Bridge, and their property included the gray building with the blue stripe (the modern day Restaurant Depot).

Upcoming Events and Tours

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

sojourns beyond

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A man needs a decent hat. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After conferring with a friend who is known for his regular display of sartorial excellence, regarding queries as to his current preferences for a haberdashery, a humble narrator found himself heading to the South Side of Williamsburg to purchase a summer hat. Famously, “I wear a lot of hats” – which is how I often describe the complicated web of non profit organizations with whom I’m associated. Saying that, I’ve always favored “old fashioned” hats in my normal round, the sort of things commonly observed on male heads until the early 1970’s – fedoras and the like. I used to have a place near Port Authority where I’d shop for my chapeaus, but that operation is long gone, and burnt away by the fires of gentrification. 

Accordingly, I found myself in a cab heading to Williamsburg (where those fires burn hottest, oddly enough) from Astoria last week. Normally, I’d walk it, but I was still convalescing from a nasty cold which I was suffering from and didn’t want to overexert. Since the logical route involved the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and a trip across the Kosciuszko Bridge and over my beloved Newtown Creek, I had the camera ready to go and was firing the shutter the entire way. 

Pictured above – Calvary Cemetery in Blissville. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One hopes that before the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge is demolished that a chance to properly shoot Newtown Creek from up here comes along, rather than just using an insanely high shutter speed and the “spray and pray” technique. “Spray and Pray” is basically a series of blind shots, where you point the prefocused lens in the general direction of a subject and hold down the shutter button with one hand and with the other – you cross your fingers and hope your luck is good. 

The whole ride took around 15 minutes, which is kind of lucky. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from that rooftop in Greenpoint that I mentioned the other day, and it’s a lot more in tune with what one normally goes for – a composed shot with a thought out field of focus. Hopefully, I’ll get to do something similar from up on the “Kos” someday after the BQE is rerouted onto the new span, and before they demolish the old one. 

As far as the hat buying went, I went to “Bencraft” on Broadway and South 8th nearby the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza and bought a spectacular Panama for a reasonable price. Seriously, if it wasn’t for the Orthodox Jews of Brooklyn, there wouldn’t be a single haberdashery left in the entire City of Greater New York.  

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

tourist parties

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Bottoming out in Blissville, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Saturday found me speaking at an early morning waterfront event in Astoria recently, which was followed by conducting a walking tour of the Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek in the late afternoon. Left with a gulf of time to fill between the two, I decided to spend it by walking from Astoria to Greenpoint via Blissville and checking in on what’s going on with the Kosciuszko Bridge project on the border of West Maspeth and the aforementioned Blissville section of Long Island City.

A bit of history trivia is offered – the Kosciuszko Bridge is built along the “legal” south eastern border of Long Island City and what was once known as “Newtown.” For the curious, the North Eastern border was more or less defined by Woodside Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway ramps on the Queens side of the Kosciuszko Bridge project are now overflying Review/58th avenue and reaching towards Newtown Creek. The Kosciuszko Bridge project engineers have always said that the northern section of the project would lag behind the southern, or Brooklyn, side.

Longtime readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will report that I’ve been keeping track of things at the Kosciuszko Bridge, with this recent post being the latest report from the Brooklyn side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a running history of Newtown Pentacle coverage on the subject – 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.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Supposedly, I’m meant to be gaining some access to the actual worksite in Queens fairly soon, although the only thing keeping me from having walked the site is my own discretion. As far as “urban exploring” goes, this would be an easy conquest. Regardless, I’m looking forward to walking the site sometime in June.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To wit, a graffiti crew which decided to adorn the still under construction masonry of the new Brooklyn Queens Expressway ramps leading to the span. Another crew a little bit further north of here weren’t quite as colorful, and instead painted white swastikas on the brick masonry of the BQE on-ramps.

What you see above is not graffiti, incidentally, it’s time.

Time and opportunity. 

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

doom that

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Kosciuszko Bridge visit, a few random things I noticed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of days back, a fairly enormous posting detailed the latest visit to the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project in Greenpoint. The shots in today’s post were candidates for that post, but I had to draw a certain line in the name of being concise in terms of the overall narrative. It was a progress report, after all. Today, some of the cool stuff I saw which didn’t fit into the structure thereof.

I love taking shots of people welding or working with metal and torches. There’s two ways to approach this shot, btw. One is to use a high ISO and insanely fast shutter speed to freeze the individual sparks. The other is to lower the ISO sensitivity and use a slower shutter. The shot above uses the former approach, which freezes all the little sparks. The latter approach allows the sparks to stretch out and look like fiery spaghetti.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from up on the still under construction roadway and overlooks the National Grid site in Greenpoint. I don’t know ANYONE who has ever personally visited this site, and it remains one of the “black boxes” on the Newtown Creek. By “black box” I mean that it’s like fight club when you ask the National Grid Guys about it, and you don’t talk about fight club. This is looking easterly, towards Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Turning on my heels, as it were, and looking south along Meeker Avenue/Brooklyn Queens Expressway towards Manhattan. For some reason, the chattering lunatic voice which constantly wails between my ears and behind my eyes has started referring to Manhattan as “Manchuquo” in recent weeks. I don’t know why. It won’t be the first time that I remind you that I’m an idiot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszko Bridge, Brooklyn side, is absolutely surrounded by waste transfer stations. Something close to 40% of NYC’s trash (by ton) comes to within about a mile of the bulkheads of Newtown Creek and its tributaries for processing. Last time I checked, the City generates about 12 million tons of trash a day, and since I’m mathematically challenged – I’ll allow you to do the calculations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gear, gear, gear. These construction guys have the coolest toys to play with you’ve ever seen. The vehicle above had some sort of crane/winch thing on it which appeared to be able to telescope out of the hydraulic boom that was set into the rear of its chassis, scorpion style. This particular device seemed to be just a few generations away from the the exoskeleton rig that Ripley used in the movie “Aliens.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot came from a temporary staircase set against the new overpass’s abutment/retaining wall. This has to be around 50-60 feet up from the deck. One of my many, many phobias – albeit a minor affliction in my portfolio – involves heights. In my mind, it’s a good defense mechanism, as falling 50-60 feet will kill you dead. Saying that, just looking at this picture causes neurological symptoms to manifest in the muscles controlling my hands.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, May 8th at 11 a.m. – North Henry Street Project,
with Municipal Arts Society Janeswalk and Newtown Creek Alliance,
in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 5, 2016 at 11:00 am

some passages

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Kosciuszko Bridge project, Brooklyn side, Q2 2016, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The invitation went out to all the concerned parties – inclusively referred to as the Stakeholders Advisory Group – from the NYS DOT that an opportunity to observe the progress of the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project was once again at hand.

Accordingly, a humble narrator collected together the camera and lenses, and set off for Greenpoint’s DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp.

Several progress reports have been offered on the NYS DOT’s Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project. I seem to be the only person In New York paying any attention to the project, and there’s been a series of prior posts on the bridge presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle – chronicling the project.

To start – 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.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leading the tour was NYS DOT’s project leader, engineer Robert Adams, who is the fellow pictured above in the stylish (and highly visible) yellow jacket.

Mr. Adams allows me to call him Bob, for which I’m grateful. One such as myself dislikes the usage of extraneous syllables in the spoken form. For the purposes of today’s post, however, I’ll refer to him as Mr. Adams – as the job his team is overseeing has done such an impressive job of staying on or ahead of schedule, he deserves the honorific.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the job, as it were, includes the rerouting of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway section which travels north/south along Meeker Avenue. The new roadway is supported by masonry and steel, and its outer facing is covered in sculptural tiles (which I think are concrete). I asked Mr. Adams if the sculptural motif on the tiles had a particular purpose – diffusing sound, or guiding rain runoff, for instance – but he said that it was purely esthetic, and part of the architectural design.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The old overpass abutments on Meeker Avenue are in the process of being dismantled. It’s a fairly chaotic scene down around here – this is the intersection of Vandervoort and Meeker if you’re curious.

Mr. Adams told us that one of the ways in which his team alleviated the impact of construction on traffic flow to the highway above was to build the new abutments “behind” the old ones. When the project is done, this will allow the DOT to add wider pedestrian sidewalks, and to also create an increased amount of space for the required turning radius of trucks as they move under the overpass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the actual job site, in a spot which I refer to as “used to be Cherry Street,” is pictured above. Old school Cherry street is found beneath the masonry structure occupying the left side of the shot above, I would mention, and the unpaved access road at bottom right represents the right of way for “New Cherry Street.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Getting down to the action, and there’s a lot of it going on down here in DUKBO. This spot is one of the areas where some of that worksite safety training I’ve mentioned before comes into play. The contractors on the job – Skanska, Kiewit, and ECO3 – all subscribe to “safety culture” which is designed to keep laborers from suffering needless injuries. We – as in the civilian visitors Mr. Adams was escorting around the site – were all dressed up in orange vests, safety glasses, hard hats, and work gloves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway leading to the new bridge is on the right, with the 1939 vintage Kosciuszko Bridge on the left. We were told that the area down here will actually be available for use as a public space in the post construction era. At a luncheon meeting after the tour, Mr. Adams was petitioning the group for ideas as to what the community might want to happen down here. There will be space available on the Queens side as well.

Speaking of Queens, we were also told that in the early summer, a similar walk-through of the Queens side will be happening. Can’t wait for that one, mainly so I don’t have to walk all the way to Greenpoint from Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having crossed Gardiner Avenue, heading south towards the languid waters of Newtown Creek, it was pretty exciting to notice that steel has begun to be affixed to the concrete tower columns of the new bridge – a major milestone. The new Kosciuszko Bridge is going to be of the cable stay variety, and the first of its type in NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of steel, there were gigantic chunks of the stuff ready for deployment. These pieces are actually the outward facing sides of the highway. Mr. Adams made it a point of informing us that this was an entirely American produced bridge, with steel coming in from Pennsylvania and concrete sourced from a Queens company that’s called Tek Crete.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit closer to the columns, and rapidly emerging roadway, which will become the easterly half of the new bridge.

The plan from the beginning has been to produce the new span in three distinct stages. First – build the lanes of the eastern side. Second – demolish the 1939 bridge. Third – build the westerly side which will sit in the footprint of the 1939 model. Chatter on the tour indicated that the demolition part of the project will begin in 2017, and that the engineers are still debating as to how best remove the concrete piers which support the steel truss.

The truss itself is actually the easiest part of the job to figure, and the center section is going to be removed in one piece. It will be lowered, by cranes, onto barges which will be towed by tugboats out of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you can see in the shot above, the first set of cable stays has already been affixed to the new road section. For a sense of scale on how absolutely colossal this project is, take notice the itty bitty construction workers who are on the lift between the two towers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of a better angle showing the cable stays and their anchors on the roadway section. This will be be built out both south – towards Greenpoint and Meeker Avenue – and north, over the water and into Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Adams and his team indicated that we were going to be heading back towards Greenpoint, and climbing a temporary stairway up to the still under construction roadway which will be the north bound lanes of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Couldn’t resist one last shot from ground level showing the two structures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the temporary stairway, which was around 4-5 stories worth of climbing, and looking north towards Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway itself is still under construction. The views from up here were fairly epic, but I’ll share those in a future post. Suffice to say that were I to attempt the same shots post construction, I’d be thoroughly squished by traffic moving at highway speeds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure which Union these fellows were members of, but they were too busy for me to ask. The Union guys were tying off the structural rebar, in preperation of pouring the concrete which would become the underpinning of the BQE’s roadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rebar that these Union guys are installing is actually stainless steel rather than galvanized iron. The extra expense for the stainless is justified in the name of avoiding corrosion, due to the massive amount of salt which is typically applied to the BQE during the winter months.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last shot looking north along the 1939 version of the Kosciuszko Bridge. What’s truly interesting to me about this project which Robert Adams is supervising is the fact that at no point can traffic along this Robert Moses built highway be impeded or stopped. It’s analogized best as doing a full rebuild of your car’s transmission, while driving at 90 mph in heavy traffic.

Progress on the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement will continue to be documented, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, May 8th at 11 a.m. – North Henry Street Project,
with Municipal Arts Society Janeswalk and Newtown Creek Alliance,
in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

poised on

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Happy Earth Day, from the Poison Cauldron in DUKBO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, a humble narrator found himself in Greenpoint over in Brooklyn. One was scuttling along a proscribed route whose intention and path was built around a walking tour conducted for a private group. Given the enormous construction project underway in the area, the NYS DOT’s construction of a replacement for the 1939 vintage Kosciuszko Bridge which carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek, there is little certainty that just because you can move from “point A to point B” via one street or another on one day you can do it on another due to street closures and ongoing construction. From a vehicular POV, it’s actually a bit of a challenge to negotiate the streets hereabouts – there’s detours and so on – but from a pedestrian’s perspective, it’s a real bugbear as you find yourself dodging heavy trucks and moving through an enormous cloud of airborne dust and particulates in this area which are less than desirable to breathe in.

This is the area I describe as “The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek” after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I just got invited to attend a tour of the actual construction site with the DOT show runners next week, so for today I’ll abstain from making a full progress report as by next week I’ll have heard it directly “from the horse’s mouth” and I’ll have shots from within the fence lines to show you.

Saying that, observationally, the project continues to move along at a fast rate, and the roadways of the new bridge are stretching towards the turgid waters of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the curious, one would like to reiterate that whereas this area is a photographic wonderland, I cannot describe how dangerous it is and that it’s really best for you to avoid the area for a number of environmental and safety reasons. A humble narrator has received multiple hours of “safety training” from various industrial giants along the Creek (requirements for stepping on several sites around the waterway include a mandatory “union” safety course) and I’m versed in the mores and methods of how to move about safely when the sort of equipment you see above is passing by.

There’s a reason I call it “the Poison Cauldron.” This area in Brooklyn’s DUKBO hosts a startling number of waste transfer stations, and all of that airborne particulate mentioned above is literally just hanging in the air.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Walking Tour – Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

First Calvary Cemetery Walk.
Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman at First Calvary Cemetery, found in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood along Newtown Creek. Attendance limited to 15 people.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm

catenary connections

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Just one more from the Creeklands, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, a humble narrator somehow found himself up in Ridgewood on Fairview Avenue off Linden and it was decided that I’d walk home to Astoria since it was a fairly nice afternoon. It’s literally “all downhill,” after all, and not that far. My path carried me down off of the proverbial “ridge” for which the community is named, and down through the valley of tears which the loquacious Newtown Creek flows through.

Once again, my path found me in West Maspeth (or Berlin). Topography is something I notice continually as I wander around Queens, and the area around Newtown Creek is shaped like a sort of soup bowl. Proper Maspeth, as in the Mount Olivette Cemetery area along Grand Avenue, is embedded into the terminal moraine of Long Island – true rock. All of LIC, Astoria – pretty much anything west of the high point in Maspeth, is sitting on a giant pile of glacial till which is supported on the back of a giant underground Boulder called a craton.

Ridgewood literally sits on a rocky ridge which leads north/east to the Maspeth Plateau. Seriously. The British mapped it all out during the Revolutionary war.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having a couple of hours of light left before the vampires began to awaken, I decided to wander around a bit after turning up on 48th street. “Up” is apt, as you are climbing away from one of the lowest points in all of New York City which is nearby Maspeth Creek on 49th street. 48th street continues to rise until it meets the Long Island Expressway near Third Calvary Cemetery and crests at Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside (which is built on another elevation, but an elluvial one).

The best way I can describe the up and down nature of the hills leading from Ridgewood to Astoria would be ripples in stone rather than water with Newtown Creek at the center. There’s a conflicting set of ripples leading away from the East River and Bowery Bay which apparent in Ravenswood/Dutch Kills and Astoria, respectively. Hunters Point is flat as a pancake.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Turning onto 55th avenue, carven into what was once known as “Berlin Hill,” this little house was encountered at 46th street. Before you ask, I have no idea what’s up with the office chair tied to the pole. There are just some things you don’t want to inquire into too deeply. It always amazed me – here in the middle of what can only be described as a “post industrial and apocalyptic” landscape defined by cemeteries and highways and a nearby superfund site – here – people actually live here. Funny thing is, it used to be worse, when the acid factory was still up and running a couple of blocks away.

The people who live here must… have to be some of the most resilient folks on the earth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. A couple of hundred thousand vehicle trips a day rumble through here on the highway alone. There’s heavy trucking businesses, like UPS, and other huge warehouse operations that are busily at work here twenty four hours a day, and there’s nearby freight rail tracks operating at street grade. Enormous fleets of concrete trucks are based here, and the number of light trucks and automobiles that roll through the local streets are uncountable.

And people live here. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

44th street near 54th road, and a line of 20th century row homes which are spectacularly well kept. Acros the street is a yard hosting tower cranes, and a block away is the LIE interchange ramp with the BQE. This is about midpoint on Berlin Hill, and 44th street used to called Locust Street hereabouts.

Locust continued north back then, heading for Sunnyside, before the “House of Moses” first landed on the neighborhood back in the 1930’s. Moses kept coming back to this neighborhood, smashing his roads and bridges into it, until the early 70’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The border between Newtown and Long Island City was just a block away – the Kosciuszko Bridge sits atop it. On the LIC side is Laurel Hill (Calvary Cemetery) in Blissville.

This section of West Maspeth was formally part of Newtown (prior to NY City consolidation) – the municipal entity which had evolved from Dutch colonial to British and later American governance. Newtown county was once enormous and contained a good chunk of what is now Nassau County, but in the context of which I’m speaking – it’s the municipality which was centered in Elmhurst near the intersection of Queens Blvd. and Broadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first time I wandered through this area, many years ago, I had a very odd conversation with a very skinny and somewhat disheveled fellow standing in front of the home on the corner of 44th and the Queens Midtown Expwy. service road that is pictured above.

He insisted that “he knew that I knew that he knew that I know, and that he knew things which I didn’t know nor could I understand what he knew, but he knew that I knew that he knew and he was ok with that.” I thanked him and moved on, after affirming that he didn’t want me to take his picture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The high point of this hill/ripple once called “Berlin” is up on 46th street. As a point of interest, there is no 45th street found between 44th and 46th hereabouts – no doubt to confuse invaders.

As opined endlessly in prior posts, the DOB records for western Queens are spotty, but as far as I’ve been able to determine – the house pictured above and below on 54th avenue dates back to 1915.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On other rambles through this section, kid’s bicycles and toys have been noticed on both porch and staircase. Not sure if it’s still occupied, but there’s a car parked in the driveway on the other side of this home. Notice how there are no side windows? It’s the last survivor of a series of old row houses – a type of working man’s quarters which folks from New Orleans might call a “shotgun.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing under the Kosciuszko Bridge, via “used to be 43rd street” I made my way towards 43rd street and headed back to Astoria.

Next week – something completely different!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

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