The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Now and then

bland face

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of this Newtown Creek thing involves going to meetings in Greenpoint- this monitoring committee or that alliance or just some gathering at which an unelected official or designated regulator will speak at. This consumes quite a bit of time, which is amplified in my case, as I walk to the place from Astoria. Not a long walk by any stretch, roughly 3 miles, but sometimes it feels as if I spend all my time walking to and from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long have I been intrigued by this little fix a flat building which sits at the cross roads of Greenpoint Avenue, Van Dam St., and Review avenue on the Queens side in Blissville. Run down, it seems to be held together with tape and tacks, but there has always been something about the structure which has caught my eye. “Something” seems significant about it, given its location. Despite efforts at finding that something, it has always remained an enigma. Until now, thanks to the NYC Municipal Archives LUNA website.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot, of the Sobol Brothers SOCONY station at the intersection of Greenpoint and Van Dam, is from August 20, 1930- roughly 82 years ago. SOCONY, of course, stands for Standard Oil Company of New York. Standard used to franchise out filling stations, in the same manner as its modern day incarnation ExxonMobil does. The name SOCONY indicates that the signage went up after 1911 when the Standard Trust was broken up, incidentally.

click here for the giant sharp version of the NYCMA image.

Also, at the ever reliable fultonhistory.com, I found this ad for the company, which seems to have had several locations in Queens.

obscure world

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in prior postings, 58th road and Maspeth Avenue were once connected by a plank road which last crossed the Newtown Creek in 1875 and which was established as early as the 1830’s. What’s important about this is that the street grid in this spot hasn’t appreciably changed since the late 19th century, and it’s one of the few places around the creek where maps require little or no “interpretation”. That’s the Maspeth Avenue side pictured above.

– photo from 1896’s Report By Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Dept. of Health, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Health Board, courtesy google books

One of those little nuggets which has fascinated me since beginning to learn about the Creek has been references to “Conrad Wissel’s Dead Animal Wharf” or alternately “night soil dock”. Imagine my surprise when I found a photo of the place from 1896 the other night. In the far left corner of the frame, you can just make out the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road. Wo!

– photo from 1896’s Report By Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Dept. of Health, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Health Board, courtesy google books

A little photoshopping has been applied here, improving contrast and attempting to remove some of the moire in google books’s scan of the original.

– map from 1896’s Report By Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Dept. of Health, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Health Board, courtesy digitalgallery.nypl.org

The NY Public Library hosts the image above, which is the map that was included in the volume that the photo originates in. Click the image to access a zoom able version, whose key lists the Wissel’s dock as number 16.

– map from 1896’s Report By Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Dept. of Health, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Health Board, courtesy digitalgallery.nypl.org

In this detail from the map, number 16 is clearly just west of the Maspeth Avenue Street end. That’s one mystery solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s another view in modern times, the Wissel property would be just starting on the right side of the frame. The shot is from the Queens side, of course, as is the original- and captured at approximately where the “18” is on the detail of the map. The 1896 photographer would have standing around 500 feet to the right of this vantage point.

obscure and cryptical

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another “Now and then” posting for you today, Lords and Ladies of Newtown, and today it’s arguably my favorite of all the bridges of Newtown Creek- the atavist Grand Street Bridge spanning the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens. The shot above is from the water, as recreating the 1910 era shot below (from the bulkheads of the eastern brooklyn side) would require probable trespass- which in our modern day age of the Terror War might subject one to legal penalties such as exsanguination or some time spent in “the boot“.

– photo from Engineering magazine, Volume 38, 1910- courtesy google books

While it does seem true that the Grand Street Bridge has changed little in the intervening century, the primary difference between then and now is that it doesn’t function as a swing bridge very often these days. The stalwart engineers and mechanics of the DOT do open it for maintenance periodically, but the City has petitioned the Coast Guard to abandon such actions due to lack of industrial need and expense of operation.

For a prior posting which will tell you literally EVERYTHING about the Grand Street Bridge and environs- an area I call DUGSBO- Down Under the Grand Street Bridge Onramp- click here

Also:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An NCA event, which I for one am pretty stoked about:

April NCA meeting hosts Dr. Eric Sanderson

Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 6pm


Ridgewood Democratic Club, 
6070 Putnam Avenue, 
Ridgewood, NY 11385

In addition to important updates from our members – in particular the Bioremedition Workgroup has been very busy! – we will be hosting a special presentation on the “Historical Ecology of Newtown Creek”.

Dr. Eric Sanderson, senior conservation ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and author of “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City” (Abrams, 2009), will describe recent studies of the historical ecology of Newtown Creek, describing the original wetlands, creek channels, topography and vegetation of the area. He will show a series of 18th and 19th century maps of the watershed of the creek and discuss the process of synthesizing them into an integrated ecological picture that can be used to inform and inspire natural restoration and cultural appreciation of the Newtown Creek watershed. This work is part of the Welikia Project (welikia.org), an investigation into the historical ecology of the five boroughs of New York City and surrounding waters. The Welikia Project on Newtown Creek is funded by The NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund of the Hudson River Foundation.

And this Saturday,

Obscura Day 2012, Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills

Saturday 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. There are a few tickets left, so grab them 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 :

obscuraday.com/events/thirteen-steps-dutch-kills-newtown-creek-exploration

time convulsed

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s posting, I spend an atrocious amount of time studying century old publications and journals found on google books. These periodicals, both trade and municipal in nature, often discuss the origins of the Newtown Creek as it exists today. At the beginning of the 20th century, when the Creek was at its arguable worst (environmentally speaking), there was a popular sentiment that engineering could fix all of its problems.

Hindsight suggests that they just made things worse, of course, but there’s the human condition for you. Pictured above is the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in modernity, while below is the 1910 version.

– photo from Engineering magazine, Volume 38, 1910- courtesy google books

This is the bridge that burned away in the 1919 Locust Hill Oil Refinery disaster, a swing bridge not unlike the relict Grand Street Bridge found further up the Creek. Whenever such “Now and then” shots come into my hands, especially images considered to be in the public domain- they will be eagerly shared at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

For more on the history of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge and its environs, which I call DUGABO- Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp- click here

Also:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An NCA event, which I for one am pretty stoked about:

April NCA meeting hosts Dr. Eric Sanderson

Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 6pm


Ridgewood Democratic Club, 
6070 Putnam Avenue, 
Ridgewood, NY 11385

In addition to important updates from our members – in particular the Bioremedition Workgroup has been very busy! – we will be hosting a special presentation on the “Historical Ecology of Newtown Creek”.

Dr. Eric Sanderson, senior conservation ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and author of “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City” (Abrams, 2009), will describe recent studies of the historical ecology of Newtown Creek, describing the original wetlands, creek channels, topography and vegetation of the area. He will show a series of 18th and 19th century maps of the watershed of the creek and discuss the process of synthesizing them into an integrated ecological picture that can be used to inform and inspire natural restoration and cultural appreciation of the Newtown Creek watershed. This work is part of the Welikia Project (welikia.org), an investigation into the historical ecology of the five boroughs of New York City and surrounding waters.

And this Saturday,

Obscura Day 2012, Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills

Saturday 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. There are a few tickets left, so grab them 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 :

obscuraday.com/events/thirteen-steps-dutch-kills-newtown-creek-exploration

gangrenous glare

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a short one today, as your humble narrator has recently been laid low by some unknown virus for the last week, and frankly- all I can manage in this state of epidemic weakness and fatigue is another of the “now and then” posts.

Doubt exists in my mind as to the exact location of the shot below, but there were several improvements made to the elevated line on Queens Blvd. over the years, some of which were due to the lengthening of the platforms to accommodate IND as well as IRT to facilitate system wide access to the World’s Fair at what is now Flushing Meadow Corona Park.

– photo courtesy google books, from: Queens Borough, New York City, 1910-1920: The Borough of Homes and Industry

This very well might be the 46th street station in Sunnyside… but I’ll also point out that the Chrysler Building is missing as well.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 9, 2012 at 12:15 am

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