The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Empty Corridor

dark cloak

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It’s National Banana Split Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue, where it crosses the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek nearby 27th street in LIC, was originally built in the 1860’s as a raised plank (or corduroy) road for pack animals and wagons. It was constructed to create a pathway between Maspeth, where the Borden dairy people would have been found, and the East River docks at Hunters Point. Accounts of the journey describe clouds of mosquitos rising from the swampy wetlands surrounding it that were reminiscent of smoke rising from camp fires, and the swarms of blood suckers would feast on the oxen, mules, and horses pulling the wagons. When the drivers would arrive at the section of the hill leading towards Maspeth nearby Calvary Cemetery, their practice was to stop and wipe away the wriggling gray sweater their pack animals had accrued. First hand reports describe the animals as being covered in a sheen of blood.

There’s a reason our ancestors paved over everything, y’know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This street called Borden Avenue mirrors the pathway of the Lower Montauk Branch of the Long Island Railroad, found a couple of thousand feet to the south. As the mercantile era gave way to the second industrial revolution, and LIC became colloquially known as “America’s Workshop” the concurrence of waterborn shipping (via Dutch Kills), the easy availability of rail sidings, and a booming population of sharp elbowed immigrant labor pouring off of transatlantic boats into Manhattan daily saw massive investments by manufacturing and warehousing interests occur along the street.

Borden Avenue was raised and paved, the swamps filled in, and enormous concrete structures were erected.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the 1930’s, as the age of the automobile and it’s great proponent – Robert Moses – dawned, the highway truss pictured above was built. It soars 106 feet over Dutch Kills, and comes to ground at a vehicle tunnel which allows access into Manhattan. This “Long Island Expressway” and “Queens Midtown Tunnel” complex had a blighting effect, due to foot and vehicle traffic no longer using local streets, and effectively cut industrial LIC in half. Just to the north of Borden Avenue is 51st avenue, which is permanently shadowed by the high flying steel of the truss bridge. Further north are another set of rail tracks – the LIRR main line, and the cylcopean Sunnyside Yards – which further isolate it. The tunnel and highway officially opened in 1940.

I’ve long called 51st avenue the “empty corridor.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One could sing his usual song about the lost history of the empty corridor. Charles Pratt’s varnish works, Blanchard’s fireproof windows and doors, Battleaxe Gleason handing out the contract for fire hydrants to his brother who installed water pipes too narrow to carry a meaningful amount of liquid for firefighters to use… it goes on and on.

On an empty lot, which had once housed a factory that manufactured “lucifers” or as we would call them – books of matches – some unknown entity has planted a garden.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve mentioned before, sunflowers freak me out due to early childhood experiences with their bee addled faces. Brrr.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Untenanted occupancy, and it’s evidence, is still quite apparent in the empty corridor. I hear rumors about who, or what, may be living back here – but it’s best if the general population continues to believe that they’re just rumors.


Upcoming Tours and events

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

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

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm

recalled bondage

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The Empty Corridor, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DULIE, or Down Under the Long Island Expressway in Long Island City, is actually quite a busy place during the work week. On the weekends, however, the nickname I’ve assigned the area is “The Empty Corridor.” Last Saturday I found myself wandering about LIC, which was on my way to Greenpoint via the Pulaski Bridge. The light was pretty good on Saturday, and the weather tolerable to one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been stuck in the house for so long that I recently found myself chiding Our Lady of the Pentacle for her arrangement of cutlery in the drying rack found alongside the sink (forks down, spoons up), and realized that hell or high water – I had to get out and take a long walk to regain some perspective. Viking Hell be damned. I’m happy to report that the cat colony alongside the UPS facility on 51st avenue seems to be in fine fettle despite the vagaries of winter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In actuality, I’ve been making good use of any interval wherein polar temperatures and ice falling from the sky were not experienced. The shot above is actually from Sunnyside, sometime last week. As mentioned in prior posts, I’ve been studying up on both Sunnyside and the rail yards which figure massively in the current Mayor’s plans for so called “affordable housing.” More on that later in the week.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

dry ground

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Declination and Altitude. These are two concepts referenced and always mentioned when I’m conducting a walking tour around Newtown Creek, where nothing is “as god made it.”

For instance: The real Borden Avenue in Long Island City, what comics fans would refer to as the “Golden Age Borden Avenue” is buried 20-30 feet below the modern street- which would equate to “Bronze Age,” if one were to collect and assign value to important industrial corridors in the same manner as you would with comic books (scarcity, condition, desirability). Borden’s value would be downgraded, of course, as the modern day Borden isn’t exactly in “mint condition.” That’s what happens, I guess, when an Internet grocery chain runs thousands of heavily laden delivery trucks across it on a daily basis, as do thousands of other business and private vehicles.

In terms of scarcity and desirability, however… well, there ain’t that many industrial corridors left in New York today (golden, silver, or bronze age)– which makes it akin to finding an Amazing Fantasy 15 at a thrift store.

from wikipedia

Amazing Adult Fantasy and its retitled final issue, Amazing Fantasy, is an American comic book anthology series published by Marvel Comics from 1961 through 1962, with the latter title revived with superhero features in 1995 and in the 2000s. The final 1960s issue, Amazing Fantasy #15 (cover-dated August 1962), is the title that introduced the popular superhero character Spider-Man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The original street was a plank road built into and over a boggy swamp, held together by Cypress roots and salt grasses.

I’ve read accounts of the place as having been what modernity would describe as a “thriving wetlands environment,” similar in appearance to the bayous of the southern United States, but quite obviously populated by latitudinal appropriate flora and fauna. This plank road, which would have ridden around 2-3 feet above flood tide upon wooden struts planted into the mud, was a rough surface by modern standard, but which was appropriate for teams of draft horses and cargo laden wagons.

The protocol for building this sort of wooden or plank road is something that people from north of the Mason Dixon line got very, very good at during the 1860’s during the Civil War. By the early 20th century, advanced or modern forms of engineering had landfilled this part of Long Island City and raised the street level (or grade) to modern altitudes.

from wikipedia

The Bronze Age of Comic Books is an informal name for a period in the history of mainstream American comic books usually said to run from 1970 to 1985. It follows the Silver Age of Comic Books.

The Bronze Age retained many of the conventions of the Silver Age, with traditional superhero titles remaining the mainstay of the industry. However, a return of darker plot elements and more socially relevant storylines (akin to those found in the Golden Age of Comic Books) featuring real-world issues, such as drug use, alcoholism, and environmental pollution, began to flourish during the period, prefiguring the later Modern Age of Comic Books.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of the many “nerdgasms” which I experience around the Creek, and particularly on the LIC side when I’m around this area- which I’ve vaingloriously named “The Empty Corridor- ones involving the actual declination of the land itself are particularly intense. The truss structure above is the oft mentioned 51st avenue footbridge, which allows one to see the surrounding neighborhood rise above the rail tracks leading away from Hunters Point. The tracks sit on engineered ground themselves, which was highly compacted and rises an uncertain number of feet above the water table.

The height of said water table level is easily calculable by examining the particular altitude of the nearby Newtown Creek in relationship to the declination of the tracks, as the ground water here actually is the Newtown Creek.

from wikipedia

Condition is a significant factor in the valuation of a comic book. An example is Action Comics #1, the first published appearance of Superman. In 2010, 2 copies sold on the comic book auction website comicconnect.com for record prices. One copy was CGC graded 8.0 and sold for $1 million USD. The second book at a later auction, a copy CGC graded at 8.5 sold for a record setting $1.5 million dollars, the most ever paid for a comic book. So with CGC’s ability to provide a grading service as a neutral third party from a transaction, this created a degree of impartiality that did not exist before. This has shown that there is a demand for graded books as consistently these books have set sales records.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

A free event, “Watch Wildlife on Maspeth Creek with NCA and DEC!” – Friday, April 26
Meetup at Maspeth Creek at 1 p.m., for more information visit newtowncreekalliance.org.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

mold stained facades

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Only 14 days left until the 13th b’ak’tun ends, initiating the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st. Seeking to visit those places special to me- one last time- before the sun blinks, the heavens crash, and the earth splits- your humble narrator journeyed to the Empty Corridor in Long Island City. Empty Corridor, incidentally, is a term of my own invention- the rest of you know it as 50th avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The feature rich terrain which surrounds the Newtown Creek and its industrial districts is often difficult to categorize without some sort of assigned nomenclature. The Creek itself…long time readers of this, your Newtown Pentacle, have grown accustomed to the appellations DUKBO (Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp), DUPBO (Pulaski), DUGABO (Greenpoint Avenue), even DUMABO (Metropolitan Avenue) to describe various sections using bridge crossings for reference. I’ve called a certain route through Greenpoint “The Poison Cauldron” and another that leads from Bushwick to Maspeth “The Insalubrious Valley”. There is a reason for this, beyond my personal amusement.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Simply put, the historic place names for these spots have fallen out of common memory. If I said, meet me in Arnheim or at Whites Dock near the Plank Road, how many would be able to reach these spots? In my educated estimation, knowing the various players and personalities of the local historical enthusiasts and area wags, approximately eleven people would have any idea what I was taking about. For a time, the nickname of DULIE (Down Under the Long Island Expressway) was considered for this spot, but that fits the eastward section of Borden Avenue a bit better, so “Empty Corridor” was assigned to it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There used to be lots of interesting things here, before Robert Moses rammed the steel viaduct and the midtown tunnel which feeds it through in 1939. There were warehouses that were fed by the freight lines of the Long Island Railroad, as well as a thriving manufacturing community. Nowadays, there are nothing but truck based businesses- UPS is the biggest of them. And cats. Lots of cats.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing you will notice as universal in these industrial backwaters is that ferals are everywhere. Cats, that is. These days, you don’t see packs of dogs roaming about. When your humble narrator was a boy, living in the hinterlands of flatlands and canarsie, it was not uncommon to see 10-20 dogs of dissimilar breeds roaming around. Some were escaped or abandoned pets, but most were the product of miscegenation and rough in appearance and demeanor. These days, Cats seem to be the dominant feral animal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another thing you’ll notice is that laborers in the neighborhood look after these creatures, creating shelters out of plastic crates and depositing large quantities of food. This, of course, provides fuel to the fire, and an unsustainable birth rate. There are only so many birds and rats that can be caught under normal circumstances, and without their tenders, life can get pretty grim for these kitties here in the Empty Corridor.

rhetorical effect

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is a curious stretch of 50th avenue, a truncated street that starts at 27th street and terminates at 23rd street in the dusty streets of Long Island City, which is orphaned and decapitated. It is dominated by the high flying steel of the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the Long Island Expressway, and the tortured asphalt of the street it shadows often exhibits bursting ruptures revealing century old cobble stones.

Long have I exerted to refer to this area as the “Empty Corridor“.

Pictured above are the relict remains of Irving Subway Grate, which suffered a catastrophic fire a few years back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even during the work week, there are few places in New York City that allow one to feel so isolated and alone as this street. Once it connected with Hunters Point, but that was long before the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the astounding steel viaduct of the Long Island Expressway which sprouts from it were installed and opened to traffic on November 15, 1940.

It was before the Long Island Railroad established its operations that it met with East River, in fact.

Borden and Hunters Point Avenues are the main through way for traffic heading east and west, and this street is little more than relict of earlier times.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The overhead tracks of the Long Island Railroad are observed at the intersection of 25th street, which govern the passage of large trucks on 50th avenue. Never have these tracks been observed as active by a humble narrator, but those in the know about such matters assure me that they are in fact transited.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Alongside these tracks, on the loamy midden which surrounds them, one might observe the colonies of feral cats which hunt and frolic around these parts. The kind hearts of area workers insure that these cats are afforded shelter and food, which unfortunately allows them to breed and multiply.

It is not an easy life, to be a feral cat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in the past, when these nocturnes are observed as my perambulations carry the camera about the concrete devastations of western Queens, a sure notion that the right place and time have been arrived at sets into my mind.

Always, they signal that the path which stretches before me is an appropriate and often revelatory one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Beyond the tracks and their feline neighbors, the gargantuan structure with its attendant loading docks on the right are the former Bloomingdales warehouse, and is currently used by the New York City Housing Authority. They refer to it as the “Long Island City Complex” which sounds menacing somehow.

The left (or south) side of the street hosts several garage based businesses, and mainly acts as a parking lot for fleet trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the LIE slouches rudely toward the Queens Midtown Tunnel it descends from its 106 foot apex over Dutch Kills, just a few blocks away, and the street noticeably darkens. A guarded parking lot and entrance to the LIRR station lies to the right or north side, which is intended for employee access. To the south, one might follow 23rd street southward, toward Borden Avenue.

An audible hum, the sound of automotive tire spinning upon the elevated roadway above, colors the air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The street ends in the driveway of a steel equipment company, which a humble narrator did not feel obliged to explore. What atavist wonders might lurk down there are surely beyond legal access, and are quite visible from the fence which adjoins the LIRR station on Hunters Point Avenue, near the Paragon Oil building. Surely some revelation hides back there, denied to me.

Illegal trespass, however, is not the Newtown Pentacle way.

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