The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘astoria blvd.

imperfect salts

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Getting my groove on in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured today are the POV’s from 31st street and Astoria Blvd., which is one of the worst street crossings for pedestrians and bicycles in all of Queens. The construction materials are related to the “enhanced station initiative” that Governor Cuomo introduced a few years back, which has been playing out in incremental stages all up and down the 31st street corridor between Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue and the terminal stop of the N and W Astoria lines at Ditmars Blvd. One was admittedly skeptical about this when it was described, but – in my opinion, at least – the newly redesigned stations are pretty good. They supply an abundance of light to what has historically been a dark and somewhat menacing streetscape, and the “upstairs” component is pretty clean visually.

Saying that, the corner pictured above which… y’know… has a train station over it and thusly a lot of pedestrians, is terrifying to navigate on foot and particularly so at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, the high volume traffic problem is due to the Triborough Bridge, which spits thousands of cars a day out onto a two block long stretch of local streets which lead to the entrance ramps for the Grand Central Parkway. Why there aren’t express lanes leading directly to the parkway from the bridge is yet another one of those Queens mysteries nobody can answer. The Grand Central Parkway runs through a trench sunk into Astoria Blvd. which stretches from roughly 33rd street to 47th street, where it eventually joins the same altitude as the surrounding local streets. The trench is due to topography, of course, and both sides of Astoria Blvd. for the more or less 3/4 of a mile between 33rd and 47th are heavily trafficked one lane service roads with a parking lane along a fairly narrow sidewalk.

Why not deck the highway and create a green space/park over it? It would save the State a bunch of money in terms of snow removal, create a planted area in place of highway, contain the particulates of auto exhaust wafting off the Grand Central and into the residential streets surrounding the thing, and would likely eliminate the de facto “us and them” factor between the bifurcated neighborhoods of Astoria (one centering around the commercial strip of Ditmars to north and the southern 30th ave./Broadway zones). We’d drink up a lot of storm water with a green space, and break up the heat island effect – and as I’m often wont to point out – there is no greater magnifier for real estate valuations than the presence of a nearby park. Everybody wins – contractors, labor, drivers, pedestrians, politicians, real estate people, even the actual community itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn’s South Williamsburg, where the BQE runs through a similar trench, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has been talking about something similar for quite a while. They’ve done a bunch of the math for this sort of thing, and it’s not outlandishly expensive as long as conversation about the subject stays away from creating a deck structure that needs to support buildings, only parkland. You’d be able to prefabricate the sections, install them one by one during (relatively) low traffic intervals, and give a section of NYC remarkable for its lack of parklands a new reason for the citizenry to move in and join the party. Also, this would likely end up being a fully union laborer operation, so all the Politicians could wet their beaks at the trough of a happy Building Trade Council. Again – win, win, win.

Why not here in Western Queens? Tell me why this wouldn’t improve things for the people of Astoria?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 19, 2019 at 11:00 am

muffled oaths

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More Astoria night time action, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An expressway “cloverleaf exchange” between the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, the Grand Central Parkway, and the local street grid is found on Astoria Blvd. in the high 40’s and 50’s blocks A small industrial zone exists thereabouts, which is quite a busy place during working hours. At night, it’s a ghost town inhabited by rats, cats, and me.

Also, the one guy on a delivery bike who rode through the shot while the shutter was open.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I find these kinds of structures fascinating, there’s something about the curving steel and concrete which are lit by harsh sodium fixtures which I just can’t get enough of. The cool coloration of the City’s new LED street lamps provide for a very interesting color contrast, to my eye.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A point of pride for me is knowing where to find hidden byways like the stairs pictured above, which carry you over and through the tangle of high speed roads from one sidewalk plateau to another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Said plateau is pictured in full above, roughly a full story of elevation from one level to the next.

As a kid growing up in south east Brooklyn, it was critical to know about places like this when fleeing random dangers or avoiding the attentions of law enforcement. My little group of idiots favored the usage of back yards and the jumping of divider fences, or just running across the roofs of connected homes and garages.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As an addendum to a recent conversation I had on social media with a bicycle enthusiast, who was aghast at my assertion that bike lanes in Astoria are superfluous as bike riders use every paved surface available to them, the red light trail over the sidewalk comes from the tail light of an electric bike which zipped past me at speed on the sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks down on the street where the first shot was captured. That’s the Brooklyn Queens Expressway running in the trench.

Robert Moses was entirely specific when assigning nomenclature to his roads, and it all depended on where he was getting to the money from to build them. Parkways have planted dividers and shoulders – built with “parks” money. Expressways have more exits feeding into local streets than Highways – or High Speed Ways – do. Thruways have even fewer exits, which can be 5-10 miles away from each other. The latter three were generally built with slum clearance or urban renewal funds. There was a method to that man’s madness, I tell you.

Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 6, 2018 at 11:00 am

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