The Newtown Pentacle

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A structure which may be discerned in the distance, within the shot above, at Sunnyside Yards is the 35th street or Honeywell Bridge. The location of the camera which captured it was astride the 39th street or Harold Avenue bridge at Steinway Street, where ongoing construction has rendered a hidden breach in the fencing which normally frustrates its purpose by obfuscating the view.

For a discussion of another of the bridges which cross these titan rail yards, click here for the posting “incaculable profusion”, examining the Thomson Avenue Viaduct to the west.


When the Yards were built, Long Island City, to the north of the Yards, was effectively cut off from Sunnyside and Maspeth, to the south. Viaducts were built at Queens Boulevard (which was itself under construction in 1910), Honeywell Street, Harold Avenue, and Thomson Avenue. Laurel Hill Avenue (43rd Street) Gosman Avenue (48th Street) and Woodside Avenue were carried under the railroad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A paucity of such apertures in the fence lines around the yards exists, which is appropriate in this age of heightened vigilance, and the discovery of something large enough to accept the lens of a dslr is tantamount to observing a unicorn to one such as myself. Of course in the midst of all this faux security and theater, I can show you a dozen different places where you could work mischief if you chose to. Such is always the case with large installations like this one, however, and illegal trespass is not the Newtown Pentacle way.

The real estate happy characters in Manhattan are desirous to rob me of this vista, as evidenced in the document linked to below, describing the feasibility and benefits of decking over these yards and expanding the population of western Queens by tens of thousands. It seems to be a plan of some vintage, however, crafted before the financial crisis and concurrent economic crisis experienced by the region and country at large since 2008 (when do we get to start calling this a depression?).


Sunnyside Yards, one and three-quarters of a mile long and 1,600 feet across at its widest point, is the largest site in this inventory. The total deckable airspace of its 14 parcels – over 167 acres – is more than double the size of the next largest airspace site, the 74-acre NYCT Coney Island Maintenance Shop and Yards (K5000). This one corridor contains around one-sixth of the entire deckable airspace in this inventory.

The potential for large scale land uses above these yards is extraordinary. With the possible exception of Staten Island’s west shore, no other large tracts of “vacant” land remain in the City. Moreover, Sunnyside Yards is defined by a surrounding context of relatively dense development and plentiful transit access.

At the behest of former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding Daniel Doctoroff, DCP’s Housing, Economic and Infrastructure Planning (HEIP) unit conducted a preliminary analysis concerning the viability of decking over and developing Sunnyside Yards. The HEIP unit determined that the most desirable sites within the yards were two roughly rectangular areas running from the southwest to the northeast; the northern third of both sites is located northeast of Queens Boulevard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These trusses which fly over the Sunnyside Yards are actually rather new. The Honeywell and Harold Bridges (39th and 35th streets), for instance, were totally rebuilt recently. The Honeywell Bridge reopened in 2003 after having laid fallow and closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic for better than 20 years. The night shot above, by the way, is betrayed by its format and shape as being from my trusty old Canon G10, which is still in service at this- your Newtown Pentacle.


In 1979, inspectors from the city’s Department of Transportation judged the 1,600-foot four-lane bridge, which was built in 1909, to be on the verge of falling down. The inspection occurred near the end of an era in which the city, nearly broke and as exhausted as a disco dancer at dawn, partly balanced its budget by deferring maintenance on bridges. Tom Cocola, a department spokesman, said once costs had been cut by removing the bridge from the city’s regular inspection schedule, ”we probably just forgot about it.”

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 12, 2012 at 12:15 am

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