The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘LIC Millstones

repeated lapses

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A new park is open in Queens Plaza, so your humble narrator decided to take a look. I’m probably going to be pilloried for this posting by members of the antiquarian community here in Queens, and excoriated by members of the Manhattan elites, as controversy has surrounded this construction- some of which I’ve been directly involved with. Saying that, read into this post whatever political prejudice or predilection you might, none is intended.

The “editorial policy” of this blog, a term which is often mocked by those offended by this or that posting, has always been “it’s not good, nor bad, it just is”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To begin with, the Mayor himself recently held a press event here, unveiling the name of the new park as “Dutch Kills Green”. Unfortunately, I was engaged with other things and was unable to cover the event, but luckily personnel from “Gothamist“, amongst others, were able to make it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The park itself is built along modernist principles, and offers certain laudable features. Stormwater remediation is built into the design, as are the use of native species. Queens Plaza has historically not been a friendly place for pedestrians, and the new park offers a chance to sit down, which is a rare thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Environmental noise from elevated subway and never ending vehicular traffic is endemic, of course, and the clouds of automotive exhaust can be overwhelming. Saying that, such conditions are endemic in Western Queens and one of the great complaints offered by area wags is the lack of open space available to the public.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The detailing in the park is curious, and designed to appear quite “urban”.

One is reminded of set pieces from the science fiction movie “Planet of the Apes” by the consciously rough hewn patina of the place. There are several little touches to the place that confirm careful thought went into its design and implementation. Observation of the spot over recent weeks has revealed that it has already found devotees in groups of teenage students and local office workers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is an absolutely brilliant spot for photographing trains and the operations of the MTA at Queens Plaza, which has long fascinated a humble narrator, and offers a nearly 240 degree visual sweep of the enterprise for inspection and contemplation.

Additionally, as the place is a bit above grade, new angles of view are possible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Were it not for the damned noise, this could be a really interesting place to hang out, and I’ve already decided to use this as a meeting point for some future walking tour. It makes for a ready landmark in a neighborhood unfamiliar to most except as a transit hub.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island City Millstones are back as well, although due to a lack of signage indicating their historical meaning or context, they appear to be just another accoutrement. One would hope that if the municipality is not forthcoming with such signage, local civic groups or historical societies might be able to fill in the gaps. Such signage might be forthcoming, but I haven’t heard anything about it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mill stones are artifacts of colonial Queens, and were centrally figured in the controversy mentioned at the beginning of this post. Their presence distinguishes Dutch Kills Green, a welcome addition to the concrete devastations of Western Queens.


Obscura Day 2012, Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills

April 28th, 10 a.m.

Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly at this year’s Obscura Day event on April 28th, leading a walking tour of Dutch Kills. The tour is already half booked up, and as I’m just announcing it, grab your tickets while you can.

“Found less than one mile from the East River, Dutch Kills is home to four movable (and one fixed span) bridges, including one of only two retractible bridges remaining in New York City. Dutch Kills is considered to be the central artery of industrial Long Island City and is ringed with enormous factory buildings, titan rail yards — it’s where the industrial revolution actually happened. Bring your camera, as the tour will be revealing an incredible landscape along this section of the troubled Newtown Creek Watershed.”

For tickets and full details, click here :

LIC Millstones updates

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To begin with, the so-called “LIC Millstones” are a pair of colonial era industrial artifacts, which have incontrovertibly survived into modernity- in Queens. Quite a controversy is afoot about them, which I’ve been actively involved in. Recent developments bear some attention, and the whole story needs a roundup:

First, an explanation of the importance of these items- from a Newtown Pentacle posting of 3/23/10

I’ve been helping out on the fledgling LIC Millstones blog, and have just uploaded a little history lesson from Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society that explains just what the heck a millstone is and why it matters that a significant and totemic piece of Queens from the colonial days is sitting in a construction zone in Queens Plaza. Here’s the vid:

Second, from an LIC Millstones Blog posting of 3/18/10, by your humble narrator:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, after all the noise and argumentative tumult of a public meeting- here’s where the LIC Millstones are being stored. Rephrase that as where they’re being left.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Are due diligence and respect being paid to these historic artifacts? What else, all around our community, is being treated so roughly?

Third, from an LIC Millstones Blog posting of 3/23/10. also by your humble narrator:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yes, the Millstones (actually one of them, the other is still embedded in the sidewalk) are in this crate, the one at the center of the shot.

No, there has been not a single move made by any of our elected officials to protect these colonial era artifacts.

Observation tonight (it was raining too hard to risk the camera) showed that a delivery of construction materials has been piled around the crate.

This is kind of a hard issue to evangelize our busy neighbors about, as we are all struggling to make our rent and find time for friends and family, let alone give two ****’s about a pair of 400 year old industrial artifacts. There is something wrong though, in our community, isn’t there?

You can smell it in the air, whether the breeze is coming off the Newtown Creek or Big Allis. A disconcerting sense of change, with long time residents being swept away by progress. What is being lost, and who is profiting from it?

Fourth, from an LIC Millstones Blog posting of 4/2/10, also by your humble narrator:

Ring-a-ring-a-roses – photo by Mitch Waxman

Windmills must be tilted at, I always say, or in this case millstones. Witness with me, if you would, the state of the LIC millstones on the 26th of march, 2010. It is my habit, when time permits, to walk across the Queensboro Bridge. Often, I find myself walking back to Astoria’s rolling hills through Queens Plaza.

A pocket full of posies – photo by Mitch Waxman

The LIC Millstones remain in the little triangle in Queens Plaza, and continue to be shielded from the non stop truck and automobile traffic by a flimsy chain link fence. The netting affixed to the fence had been torn away by a recent squall of stormy weather.

Hush! hush! hush! hush! – photo by Mitch Waxman

Survivors of the 17th century, the artifacts housed here are an artifact of the agrarian industries that populated Queens before, during, and after the Revolutionary War. It is very likely that some number of the 163 African American slaves known to have been held in Newtown in 1755 were employed in operating these millstones. We won’t know for certain, because scholarly access to them is being denied for unguessable reasons by those municipal authorities who hold tenancy over them.

Fifth, from a Queens Chronicle article of 4/15/10, for which I was interviewed

Hidden under a crate and surrounded by heavy construction material, the current condition of the already worn Colonial-era millstones in Queens Plaza has preservationists outraged. They say the lack of concern for these historic artifacts that have been part of the streetscape since the 1600s is shameful.

“The manner in which these historical artifacts are being handled and stored is ludicrous,” said Mitch Waxman, an Astoria resident and contributor to the Long Island City Millstones blog, which was formed by Dutch Kills community members.

In the past, millstones drove the economic wheel of Western Queens. In pairs, they were designed to be used in wind or watermills, to grind staple foods like corn or wheat into flour. According to the LIC blog, in the mid 1600s the millstones were part of the Jorrisen’s Mill. Some disagree and claim the stones arrived from Holland, acting as weight on a West Indies trading ship.

Now, the 400-year-old artifacts remain in the triangular intersection of Queens Plaza, behind fencing, trapped in the midst of the construction that is currently underway.

“Given the way they’re being stored and handled, they’ll either be crushed by a truck or just disappear,” Waxman said.“Ultimately, who will care? This seems to be the governing principle over their handling right now.”

According to Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown Historical Society, the millstones are believed to be the oldest man-made objects in the borough created by European settlers.

Wilkinson is one of the preservationists who have been actively seeking to have the millstones removed from the location at Queens Plaza and be placed in a museum gallery where they can be protected.

Sixth, from this STUNNING POST at Queenscrap, dated 4/19/10- in which the response from the Landmarks Preservation Commission is revealed:

Here was the response to an application for review from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Note these are not colonial artifacts, but a “distinctive sidewalk” (even though they will not be in the sidewalk for much longer)- and the actual letter courtesy

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 20, 2010 at 1:50 am

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