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Archive for the ‘Roosevelt Island’ Category

peered diligently

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Visiting with an old friend, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Back in the day,” as it were, a humble narrator used to spend an awful lot of time on the Queensboro Bridge. When the 2009 Centennial Celebrations occurred, I was actually a deputy parade marshall, which the City rewarded me for with a medal. We got to close the bridge’s lower level for a few hours, and there were marching bands and a bevy of elected officials were present – including Michael Bloomberg himself. The very first posts at this – your Newtown Pentacle – discussed the event in some detail.

In recent years, as I’ve become more and more focused on Newtown Creek and its upland properties, my walks across mighty Queensboro have decreased in frequency and a recent realization that I hadn’t actually walked the span in more than a year prompted me to start kicking my feet forward and lurch roughly forward towards Manhattan. Unfortunately, this meant I was heading onto that loathsome island and leaving the intricate geometries of Queens behind for a spell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who haven’t taken one of NYC’s best walks, the pedestrian and bicycle lane of the Queensboro is accessed at Queens Plaza near Crescent Street. It’s not a hard walk in the least, but it does offer some fairly decent “cardio” for half of it. The long sloping ascent from Queens Plaza to the tower set into Roosevelt Island carries you hundreds of feet from the ground, and despite the gradual nature of it – you will find your heart rate increasing steadily.

Bicycles will be whizzing by at fairly high rates of speed, so be mindful of your surroundings if you decide to undertake the stroll. If you bring your camera, you will be glad you did, as the views from up on high are spectacular.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apparently, the incline is severely felt by bicyclists, as I’ve observed them standing on the pedals and struggling against it several times. Many will dismount and walk their bikes. The “whizzing by” mentioned above occurs once they surmount the paramount of the bridge and the descending incline allows them to gain velocity quickly.

My favorite time of day for Queensboro, visually speaking, is the middle to late afternoon. The light is spectacular during that time of day, and the intricate cantilever gears of the great bridge are evenly illuminated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north along the East River, you’ll notice a series of steel structures which carry the Roosevelt Island Tram from Manhattan’s 2nd Avenue to the island. The tram is another one of my favorite destinations, incidentally, as it allows for a birds eye perspective on the Queensboro Bridge and the waterway it spans. One of “my walks” involves crossing the bridge, catching the tram, and then perambulating back to Astoria via the Roosevelt Island Bridge which carries pedestrian and vehicular traffic to Queens.

I’ll often stop off and hang out with my pal Judy Berdy at Roosevelt Island Historical Society when exiting the tram – which is located in a historic kiosk nearby the Tram’s landing point. You can’t miss it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Midpoint on the bridge, one always turns back and considers avoiding going to Manhattan altogether and returning to the poisoned loam of western Queens. In the instance of this particular journey, however, a humble narrator was set to meet up with friends in the City so I kept moving in a westerly direction.

I catch a lot of shade for the contempt with which Manhattan is discussed here. I actually used to live in the City for more than a decade, on Broadway at 100th street. Best move I’ve ever made was listening to Our Lady of the Pentacle when she announced that her desire was to move our HQ to Astoria. Back when I was a Manhattanite, my M.O. was “cocooning” – leaving the apartment only to go back and forth to work. There was no “community” to draw one out, and a vast depersonalization was experienced in the daily round. Whatever there once was that made the City an attractive place to live – night life, for instance – is long gone.

The City is a ruin, exploited and picked over and destroyed by the Real Estate Industrial Complex, and there is little fun to be had there anymore. Brooklyn and Queens are “where it’s at” these days – at least for one such as myself.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm

mellow gleams

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FDR Four Freedoms Park, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The recent travelogue offered here, describing a recent visit to Roosevelt Island, concludes today with a visit to the southern terminus of that East River island where the brand new FDR Four Freedoms Park is found. Originally conceived and designed by Pratt University’s Louis Kahn in 1972 and completed by Mitchell | Giurgola Architects three decades later, the park is some four acres in size and honors the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and commemorates the “Four Freedoms” speech he offered the nation in 1941.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Roosevelt was, of course, the 32nd President of these United States, after having served as the 44th Governor of New York State (amongst other jobs including appointments like Assistant Secretary of the Navy and lower elected offices). The convoluted history of how this park got built, a process which stretched out over three decades, is not what this post will attempt to describe – I would suggest a trip over to wikipedia for the whole story of that one. Suffice to say that a whole lot of money and ego found their way into the masonry of this place. Pictured above is a list of the various donors who financially supported the place, which reads like a “who’s who” of NYC’s modern day Real Estate and Non Profit Industrial Complexes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The park itself is quite an interesting spot, and quite reminiscent of other modern monuments. A series of massing shapes set at an angle against the horizon, with leading lines and sparse plantings. The grand entrance offers a set of shallow steps at its entrance. Unfortunately, or not, my arrival at the Park was in the mid afternoon during the month of December, a time of year when the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself hangs languid and wan in the winter sky offering little warmth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Instinct often carries me off to the less traveled side, but whenever one visits a “grand design” for the first time an attempt is made to follow the path intended. Knees groaning, one climbed the relatively short flight of steps, stepping over the inscribed names of the donors. This carried me to the apex of the stairway, and the main plaza of the place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The leading sight lines are directed at a monumental bust found at the extreme south end of the park, but I couldn’t help but notice that what it was pointing directly at was east 23rd street’s East River “Gas Light district” frontage near Stuyvesant Town, and those brutalist residential towers found between 24th and 30th streets. An odd coincidence, given the less than friendly relationship of the Roosevelt family with the Rockefellers (Stuyvesant Town was a Rockefeller project).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The true monument to FDR happens to be across the river in Manhattan, a building which also happens to be a Rockefeller project, the United Nations Building. Famously, Eleanor Roosevelt was a primal factor in the creation of the global congress. I’m sort of a fanboy for Eleanor Roosevelt, incidentally, and am always reminded of one of her many, many quotable lines – “we all do better when we’re all doing better” during the recitation of modern political discourse by present day ideologues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An odd choice in statuary, the floating bust of Roosevelt seems sad. In his lifetime, the man went out of his way to always appear chipper and smiling in public. Reticence seems to be the mood projected by this object, tinged with regret, and it’s based on portraits of the President from late in his life. This is the face of a man who had just commissioned the construction of two atomic bombs, rather than the countenance of the man who delivered one of the primal speeches of the 20th century that defined “the American way.”

Tomorrow, which is Festivus by the way, some of the things recently witnessed over in the Shining City of Manhattan.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2014 at 11:42 am

southern satellites

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Roosevelt Island and the Megalith, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, one found himself scuttling across the pavement of Roosevelt Island recently. Purpose had carried me to this spit of land which exists as a sort of existential buffer between Manhattan and Queens, and the desire to see what had become of the Queensboro Lamp Post base under the stewardship of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. After visiting the group’s HQ, one elected to move across the island in a southerly direction, whereupon the Vane Brothers “Red Hook” tug was observed towing a fuel barge in a northernly direction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, the previous administration of the Big Little Mayor signed a deal with Cornell University to create a new campus here on the island. As far as I know the current administration of the Little Big Mayor hasn’t found a way to bollock that up yet by inserting “affordable housing” into the mix yet, and there is an awfully large demolition project underway at the former Goldwater Hospital campus. As always, the thing which cannot possibly exist that dwells in the cupola of LIC’s sapphire megalith has its unblinking eye fixed upon the world of men and is omniscient.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The impossible ideation found at the apex of the megalith, and its global army of acolytes in the Real Estate Industrial Complex, will see all around it transformed. In the end there will be naught be mirrored towers for miles in any direction, daggers aimed at the heavens, shadowing the earth from the radiant gaze of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself. How many vantage points have I presented to you, over the years, which depict a scene such as the one above? How many more will we see before the world is remade in its image?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One cannot relate too much about the hospital itself. The Goldwater Hospital was established in 1939, and was named for a former NYC Hospitals official. Goldwater had been merged with another hospital on Roosevelt Island, Coler, and served the community as a more than 2,000 bed chronic care facility. Dilapidated and decrepit, the hospital complex was condemned in order to make way for the coming university campus. The acknowledged expert on this subject is Judith Berdy from the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, so why not come out to the island and allow her to share her wisdom?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Neither Goldwater Coler nor the Tug Red Hook was the focal I had in mind when beginning the short walk from the Roosevelt Island Historic Society’s HQ to the southern tip of the island, however. One’s desire was to visit the brand new “FDR Four Freedoms Park” which was opened somewhat recently. Observations of the space from Long Island City and multiple boat trips over the last summer have intrigued me, and a closer inspection seemed warranted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Monday, a short photographic presentation of my observations will be made manifest at this, your Newtown Pentacle – but here’s a teaser image of the sights encountered when I first entered the monument. It seemed quite appropriate, somehow – that as I walked into a park celebrating the first of the imperial Presidents of the United States – a military helicopter was flying overhead, and that the United Nations building was framed by the park’s masonry.

There was a sign, one which admonished visitors “do not climb on the walls.” Don’t believe me? See for yourself, if you dare.

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unseeing eyes

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Roosevelt Island, in today’s Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The path of penitence and perdition once led inexorably to Welfare Island, where Nellie Bly spent ten days in a mad house. Here in the Ravenswood section of Queens, the mad cries of a thousand lunatics once carried across the East River from a nearby East River island, which was once known as Blackwells and later as Roosevelt. A prisoner created cacophony of hammers striking rocks provided a rhythm for the screamers, as did the sound of the work mills operated by mission orphanages and municipal poor houses.

Today, one can merely walk, drive, or bike over the Roosevelt Island Bridge, eschewing any of the water borne transportation options once offered exclusively by Policemen and NYS mental health officials.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My purpose in visiting the island is discussed over at my Brownstoner column today, although the subject of that post is not the only reason that a humble narrator journeyed here. Paranoid wonderings about the true nature of those little metal and or plastic cuffs on the ends of shoe laces notwithstanding (they are called Aglets, by the way, and their purpose is sinister), one had elected to visit the fairly new FDR Four Freedoms Park. As my walking tour schedule and obligations for 2014 have been fulfilled – my weekends are mine to do with as I wish once more so off a humble narrator shambled.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perambulation to and onto Roosevelt Island, due to the multiple inborn flaws and infirmities (as caused by degenerate behavior, an atavist outlook, and or certain weaknesses of character and constitution that can be described as constituting a disease process) which afflict one’s constitution, was quickly achieved but soon degenerated into a weak gait which might only be called a “scuttle.” The long periods of physical inactivity, brought on by a recent spate of storms and unstopping rain, seem to have sapped ones endurance and stamina. Perhaps, local honey would help.

Accordingly, a thoughtfully placed wall was leaned upon, and the shot above was captured. That’s Big Allis across the river, over in Ravenswood.

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noxiously abroad

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Look at me, I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Saturday, one found himself in the company of Craig Nunn and his Shorewalkers tour group running around LIC in a deep fog. The so called Polar Vortex had dissipated, and the abnormally cold water and frozen ground suddenly found themselves interacting with air that had suddenly grown 30-40 degrees warmer than that which had been circulating formerly.

The result: a whole pile of fog.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered down at the East River shoreline, although you’d hardly recognize it. Manhattan was virtually obscured, and much of it seemed to have disappeared entirely, which is in many ways a dream come true for one such as myself.

 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queensboro, which is hard to miss normally, was relegated down to a mere shadow in the mist. Passerby, here in Tower Town, were heard to mention that they perceived something was moving about in the fog – something huge. Some thought it might be the Circle Line or some other large vessel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Roosevelt Island’s southern extent was positively gothic in appearance. The fog was behaving in the manner of clouds, as observed from a high altitude plane, rising and falling with the tepid breeze and threading between tree and building.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, newly constructed, was nicely framed by the clouds of moisture. My camera was getting soaked while shooting, incidentally, and I had to retire it to the saftey of my camera bag shortly after capturing these shots.

Oy, it was so humid.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2014 at 7:30 am

regular pulsations

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In today’s post, more cast off clothing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst enacting my seemingly penitential and quite obligatory weekly walk to Greenpoint, this time for a Newtown Creek CAG meeting last week, a humble narrator was on the lookout for more examples of the “single shoe phenomena.” Oddly, one hasn’t witnessed a distaff member of a mated pair adorning the roadside middens in a few weeks. Back during the summer, it was difficult not to trip over one of them every time one left the illusion of safety offered by ones own rooms.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Opposite Calvary, this item was spotted instead, which appears to be a ladies undergarment, cast off to the mercies of Greenpoint Avenue. This is strange to me, as Our Lady of the Pentacle has explained to me on numerous occasions that such garments are quite costly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The manner in which my brain functions demands that I attempt to explain things away, automatically generating a logical progression of probable events to explain the things I see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Adolescent revelry comes to mind, with images of some freewheeling band of loose women and liquor fed boasting. Alternatively, darker scenarios form, but this is a family blog and salacious speculation is not the Newtown Pentacle way.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 28, 2013 at 10:24 am

general tension

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Note: I received a few corrections from Judy Berdy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society on this post after it was published, special thanks for her generosity in sharing with us her vast knowledge. Please visit the link above for more on R.I.H.S.

My original statements, when “slashed” will be followed by corrections in red.

As always, when I get something wrong, corrections and additions are welcomed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somehow, the Roosevelt Island Bridge has never been examined by this, your Newtown Pentacle.

An omission, but to be fair the tiny span is a bit overshadowed by it’s spectacular neighbors (Queensboro, Triborough, and Hellgate) and half hidden behind a power plant. Not content to leaving her standing at the edge of the ballroom any longer, lets invite her to the dance.

from nyc.gov

The Roosevelt Island Bridge is a tower drive, vertical lift, movable bridge across the East Channel of the East River between the borough of Queens and Roosevelt Island, New York City. The span length is 418 feet. It was known as the Welfare Island Bridge when it was first opened to traffic in 1955. The bridge is the only means of vehicular access to Roosevelt Island. Prior to construction, the bridge carried two 17-foot lanes of vehicular traffic and a 6-foot sidewalk. The bridge is used by both pedestrians and vehicles with increased volume during rush hours. The Queens approach begins at the intersection of Vernon Boulevard and 36th Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blackwell’s Island, later known as Welfare Island, was where you went when they “sent you up the river”.

both a regular commenter and R.I.H.S. disagree with me on “up the river” saying that it indicated Sing Sing prison and the river in question is the Hudson. Alternatively, I’ve got multiple references in the post revolutionary to civil war era that refers to Blackwell’s in this context.  

The New York City government had a well established series of poor houses, prisons, and mental institutions here. Access to the island was strictly by boat until 21 years after the Queensboro bridge was erected in 1909, and an elevator system was built to carry trucks and other motor vehicles from its heights down to the Island in 1930  about 1916.

R.I.H.S. says: The Ferry Operated Until 1957 From 78 St And The FDR Drive.

This proved inadequate.

from nycroads.com

Initially, access to Welfare Island had been through a series of ferries from Manhattan and Queens. In 1930, a four-cab elevator service began between the lower deck of the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge and the island. The service, which had served 230,000 cars per year by the early 1950’s, provided the only public connection to Welfare Island.

The increasing traffic needs to and from Welfare Island, as well as growing congestion on the Queensboro Bridge, prompted the New York City Department of Public Works to propose a new vertical-lift crossing between Queens and Welfare Island. After initial resistance from the New York City Council, which doubted that the $6.5 million span would carry enough traffic to justify its cost, construction of the Roosevelt Island Bridge (then named the Welfare Island Bridge) began on March 17, 1952.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hopelessly overcrowded and causing delays on Mighty Queensboro, the Depression era elevator system needed to be augmented.

Accordingly the City constructed the Welfare Island Bridge in 1955 to provide additional access. The elevator system on Queensboro stuck around for a few more years, but was eventually done away with around 1970.

Construction on the Welfare Island Bridge began in 1951.

from wikipedia

Roosevelt Island, known as Welfare Island from 1921 to 1973, and before that Blackwell’s Island, is a narrow island in the East River of New York City. It lies between the island of Manhattan to its west and the borough of Queens to its east. Running from Manhattan’s East 46th to East 85th streets, it is about two miles (3 km) long, with a maximum width of 800 feet (240 m), and a total area of 147 acres (0.59 km2). The island is part of the Borough of Manhattan (New York County). Together with Mill Rock, Roosevelt Island constitutes Manhattan’s Census Tract 238, which has a land area of 0.279 sq mi (0.72 km2). and had a population of 9,520 in 2000 according to the US Census. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation estimated its population was about 12,000 in 2007.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well known for excess and abuse, the institutional system on Welfare Island came crashing down in the years following the second world war, and was largely abandoned by the 1960’s, when the Manhattan establishment sought better uses for Welfare Island. There was a “branding” issue to be solved, of course, as “Welfare Island” was synonymous with “Mad House” and or “Prison” for several generations of New Yorkers.

R.I.H.S. says: Blackwell’s Island name was changed to Welfare Island in 1921. Welfare to roosevelt in 1973. The bad reputation came in the late 1800’s to 1920’s thereby changing name to Welfare Island.

In 1973, they decided to call it Roosevelt Island instead.

from freeclassicaudiobooks.com

In 1887 Nellie Bly, one of the first female newspaper writers, and a young reporter who would soon go on to make a career for herself as an investigative journalist and stunt reporter, had herself committed to the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum in New York. Her purpose was to discover what life was like for those who had been deemed insane. She was surprised to discover the depth of mistreatment of the patients. Partially as a result of her reporting, more money was allocated to the asylum and reforms were put into place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the nearby Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, which was erected in the same era, Frederick H. Zurmuhlen of the Dept. of Public Works oversaw the design and construction of the Welfare Island Bridge. One of the unsung men who built the modern city, Zurmuhlen served under three mayors.

The Welfare Island Bridge opened, officially, on May 18, 1955.

from wikipedia

Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation was created by New York State in 1984 to manage development and operations of Roosevelt Island. Before RIOC there existed other state agencies which ran the island’s day-to-day operations such as the Welfare Island Development Corporation and later the Roosevelt Island Development Corporation. The first RIOC Board and President were appointed by the Governor in 1986.

The New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) operated New York City’s Welfare Island, as Roosevelt Island was previously known, prior to RIOC. Development of the island was based on the principles of urban “new communities” under President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs of the 1960s and early 1970s, and development of the “new” community there was authorized by the 99-year ground lease and accompanying General Development Plan (GDP) agreed upon by New York City and New York State in 1969. The NY State GDP, which has been amended from time to time, provides for the development of housing, shops and community facilities for a mixed-income, handicap-accessible residential neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, over on the Queens coast, the bridge has another overwhelming neighbor, the Ravenswood Power Plant- known to longtime New Yorkers simply as “Big Allis”.

for more on Big Allis check out this Newtown Pentacle posting from June of 2009-

Big Allis is not in the Land of the Lost… or how I learned to stop worrying and love Ravenswood #3

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Welfare Island Bridge, known to modernity as the Roosevelt Island Bridge, has recently undergone a refurbishment and makeover. Much was made of the cosmetic improvements to the span, but the reality of the investment was a determination that in case of a seismic event- which the City of New York is long overdue for- the Bridge would suffer catastrophic damage.

A massive earthquake is one of the unspoken horrors which the City government has been quietly planning for, something which the Mayor’s office would be applauded for were it more widely known. A tip of the hat goes out to the municipal engineers and planners for both their discretion and the secretive work which they have been performing.

A highly technical description of NYC’s earthquake risk factors, prepared in 1998 by the NY State DOT, can be accessed here.

from wikipedia

Big Allis, formally known as Ravenswood No. 3, is a giant electric power generator originally commissioned by Consolidated Edison Company (ConEd) and built by the Allis-Chalmers Corporation in 1965. Currently owned by Transcanada Corp., it is located on 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard in western Queens, New York.

During 1963, Allis-Chalmers announced that ConEd had ordered the “world’s first MILLION-KILOWATT unit…big enough to serve 3,000,000 people.” This sheer scale helped the plant become popularly known as “Big Allis”.

At the time of its installation, it was the world’s largest steam energy generating facility. It is located on the Ravenswood site, consisting of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as several small Gas Turbines (GTs), and an oil depot. The site overall produces about 2,500 MW, or approximately 20% of New York City’s current energy needs. The current installed capacity of Big Allis is around 980 MW.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Roosevelt Island Bridge makes landfall on the Long Island at Vernon Avenue and 36th street, incidentally.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 24, 2012 at 12:15 am

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