The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Roosevelt Island

fungus eyelets

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Always a first time for everything.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, if one wished to visit Roosevelt Island (which is an occasional fancy), it’s a fairly short walk from the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria to the East River and then over the estimable Roosevelt Island Bridge. Given the novel form of broken toe infirmity one is currently enjoying, alternative means were required to get to the NYPL Roosevelt Island Library branch to deliver my Newtown Creek lecture there last week. I took the train!

I’ve never taken a train to Roosevelt Island! Ferry? Tram? Walked? Yes to all three, but as far as the train – first time.

A short hop over to Jackson Heights on the R line found me awaiting the F line at the Roosevelt Avenue station, and soon I was positively hurtling towards the former Welfare Island. It went well, and the people on the train seemed nice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s some debate about which subway station is most deeply buried. It’s not exactly a raging debate, but there’s a stop in upper Manhattan which is a contender due to the altitude of the land it sits under, and there’s the Roosevelt Island stop which is also a contender due to its relationship to sea level. At any rate, I was just glad that the escalators were functioning so that I didn’t have to limp my way up and out of the 63rd street tunnel.

One found his way to the library, got my gear set up, and told the story of Newtown Creek and my recent nocturnal explorations thereof. Afterwards, I was unwilling to chance entering the system due to the endemic repairs and service alterations familiar to the current era, and decided on using a cab to return to Astoria. Of course, I was on Roosevelt Island… so I opted to take a short walk over the Roosevelt Island Bridge and find a car on the Queens side of the river.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Truth be told, I saw an opportunity to brandish the camera for a few minutes on my way, a desire which trumped the toe drama for a few minutes. That’s the Roosevelt Island Bridge pictured above, looking towards the Ravenswood section of Long Island City in Queens.

Back tomorrow with something different, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 19, 2019 at 1:00 pm

mingled fear

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Roosevelt Island and Bigfoot, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day I came across a web page offering advice under the headline “So you want to become a Bigfoot hunter?” which discussed the sort of equipment needed for the job and laid out the wilderness survival skills which you’d be obliged to cultivate. I have a lot of the gear, but I’d probably die of fear and exposure within 48 hours out in the woods. The region of Brooklyn I grew up in was part of “Flatlands” which is next door to “Flatbush.” Not a lot of conifer forests, nor mountains, and the wildest animal was a guy named Larry who lived over on Clarendon Road. Nature wants to kill and eat me, I believe, so I stay in the place where humanity has had nature held tightly by the throat for centuries and where we routinely kick it in the balls just to remind it who’s boss – the City of Greater New York.

Saying that, I got to join a group of urban planners recently on a walk that started at Hallets Cove in Astoria and terminated at the new Cornell University Campus on Roosevelt Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the new Bloomberg Center pictured above, on the Cornell Campus. They’re still building over there, but what’s gone up so far looks a great deal like either the HQ of Star Trek’s Federation or the 31st century base used by the Legion of Super Heroes in DC Comics. It’s actually quite pleasing, visually, and I’m just being snarky about it. Go check it out, it’s worth the lookie loo.

As far as the Bigfoot Hunter gear, the recommendations included all sorts of camera and audio recording equipment which I’ve got. There were flashlights (got them too) and fancy hiking shoes (a-yup) on the list, and all kinds of camping gear which I suppose you’d need if you were foolish enough to say “Hey, I’ve got a perfectly good house with locking doors which I’m going to leave behind and go sleep alone in the woods where there are hungry animals and biting insects” while in pursuit of North American megafauna.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing about NYC that sucks is a complete lack of Sasquatch. Well, I don’t know “for sure” if there aren’t any, but last time I checked the ethnic breakdown offered by the United States Census Bureau for Astoria, there were zero Sasquatch mentioned. It’s possible that they registered as “Native American” or something, but I think that a family of Bigfoot living off Ditmars in a third floor Astoria walk up would elicit some special mention.

What I’m saying is that I’d love to be a professional Bigfoot Hunter, but the commute would really suck. I mean, seriously, what train would you take to get to Washington State, the “A” or something?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 30, 2018 at 11:00 am

mellow gleams

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FDR Four Freedoms Park, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The recent travelogue offered here, describing a recent visit to Roosevelt Island, concludes today with a visit to the southern terminus of that East River island where the brand new FDR Four Freedoms Park is found. Originally conceived and designed by Pratt University’s Louis Kahn in 1972 and completed by Mitchell | Giurgola Architects three decades later, the park is some four acres in size and honors the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and commemorates the “Four Freedoms” speech he offered the nation in 1941.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Roosevelt was, of course, the 32nd President of these United States, after having served as the 44th Governor of New York State (amongst other jobs including appointments like Assistant Secretary of the Navy and lower elected offices). The convoluted history of how this park got built, a process which stretched out over three decades, is not what this post will attempt to describe – I would suggest a trip over to wikipedia for the whole story of that one. Suffice to say that a whole lot of money and ego found their way into the masonry of this place. Pictured above is a list of the various donors who financially supported the place, which reads like a “who’s who” of NYC’s modern day Real Estate and Non Profit Industrial Complexes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The park itself is quite an interesting spot, and quite reminiscent of other modern monuments. A series of massing shapes set at an angle against the horizon, with leading lines and sparse plantings. The grand entrance offers a set of shallow steps at its entrance. Unfortunately, or not, my arrival at the Park was in the mid afternoon during the month of December, a time of year when the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself hangs languid and wan in the winter sky offering little warmth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Instinct often carries me off to the less traveled side, but whenever one visits a “grand design” for the first time an attempt is made to follow the path intended. Knees groaning, one climbed the relatively short flight of steps, stepping over the inscribed names of the donors. This carried me to the apex of the stairway, and the main plaza of the place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The leading sight lines are directed at a monumental bust found at the extreme south end of the park, but I couldn’t help but notice that what it was pointing directly at was east 23rd street’s East River “Gas Light district” frontage near Stuyvesant Town, and those brutalist residential towers found between 24th and 30th streets. An odd coincidence, given the less than friendly relationship of the Roosevelt family with the Rockefellers (Stuyvesant Town was a Rockefeller project).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The true monument to FDR happens to be across the river in Manhattan, a building which also happens to be a Rockefeller project, the United Nations Building. Famously, Eleanor Roosevelt was a primal factor in the creation of the global congress. I’m sort of a fanboy for Eleanor Roosevelt, incidentally, and am always reminded of one of her many, many quotable lines – “we all do better when we’re all doing better” during the recitation of modern political discourse by present day ideologues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An odd choice in statuary, the floating bust of Roosevelt seems sad. In his lifetime, the man went out of his way to always appear chipper and smiling in public. Reticence seems to be the mood projected by this object, tinged with regret, and it’s based on portraits of the President from late in his life. This is the face of a man who had just commissioned the construction of two atomic bombs, rather than the countenance of the man who delivered one of the primal speeches of the 20th century that defined “the American way.”

Tomorrow, which is Festivus by the way, some of the things recently witnessed over in the Shining City of Manhattan.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2014 at 11:42 am

southern satellites

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Roosevelt Island and the Megalith, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, one found himself scuttling across the pavement of Roosevelt Island recently. Purpose had carried me to this spit of land which exists as a sort of existential buffer between Manhattan and Queens, and the desire to see what had become of the Queensboro Lamp Post base under the stewardship of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. After visiting the group’s HQ, one elected to move across the island in a southerly direction, whereupon the Vane Brothers “Red Hook” tug was observed towing a fuel barge in a northernly direction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, the previous administration of the Big Little Mayor signed a deal with Cornell University to create a new campus here on the island. As far as I know the current administration of the Little Big Mayor hasn’t found a way to bollock that up yet by inserting “affordable housing” into the mix yet, and there is an awfully large demolition project underway at the former Goldwater Hospital campus. As always, the thing which cannot possibly exist that dwells in the cupola of LIC’s sapphire megalith has its unblinking eye fixed upon the world of men and is omniscient.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The impossible ideation found at the apex of the megalith, and its global army of acolytes in the Real Estate Industrial Complex, will see all around it transformed. In the end there will be naught be mirrored towers for miles in any direction, daggers aimed at the heavens, shadowing the earth from the radiant gaze of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself. How many vantage points have I presented to you, over the years, which depict a scene such as the one above? How many more will we see before the world is remade in its image?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One cannot relate too much about the hospital itself. The Goldwater Hospital was established in 1939, and was named for a former NYC Hospitals official. Goldwater had been merged with another hospital on Roosevelt Island, Coler, and served the community as a more than 2,000 bed chronic care facility. Dilapidated and decrepit, the hospital complex was condemned in order to make way for the coming university campus. The acknowledged expert on this subject is Judith Berdy from the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, so why not come out to the island and allow her to share her wisdom?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Neither Goldwater Coler nor the Tug Red Hook was the focal I had in mind when beginning the short walk from the Roosevelt Island Historic Society’s HQ to the southern tip of the island, however. One’s desire was to visit the brand new “FDR Four Freedoms Park” which was opened somewhat recently. Observations of the space from Long Island City and multiple boat trips over the last summer have intrigued me, and a closer inspection seemed warranted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Monday, a short photographic presentation of my observations will be made manifest at this, your Newtown Pentacle – but here’s a teaser image of the sights encountered when I first entered the monument. It seemed quite appropriate, somehow – that as I walked into a park celebrating the first of the imperial Presidents of the United States – a military helicopter was flying overhead, and that the United Nations building was framed by the park’s masonry.

There was a sign, one which admonished visitors “do not climb on the walls.” Don’t believe me? See for yourself, if you dare.

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unseeing eyes

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Roosevelt Island, in today’s Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The path of penitence and perdition once led inexorably to Welfare Island, where Nellie Bly spent ten days in a mad house. Here in the Ravenswood section of Queens, the mad cries of a thousand lunatics once carried across the East River from a nearby East River island, which was once known as Blackwells and later as Roosevelt. A prisoner created cacophony of hammers striking rocks provided a rhythm for the screamers, as did the sound of the work mills operated by mission orphanages and municipal poor houses.

Today, one can merely walk, drive, or bike over the Roosevelt Island Bridge, eschewing any of the water borne transportation options once offered exclusively by Policemen and NYS mental health officials.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My purpose in visiting the island is discussed over at my Brownstoner column today, although the subject of that post is not the only reason that a humble narrator journeyed here. Paranoid wonderings about the true nature of those little metal and or plastic cuffs on the ends of shoe laces notwithstanding (they are called Aglets, by the way, and their purpose is sinister), one had elected to visit the fairly new FDR Four Freedoms Park. As my walking tour schedule and obligations for 2014 have been fulfilled – my weekends are mine to do with as I wish once more so off a humble narrator shambled.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perambulation to and onto Roosevelt Island, due to the multiple inborn flaws and infirmities (as caused by degenerate behavior, an atavist outlook, and or certain weaknesses of character and constitution that can be described as constituting a disease process) which afflict one’s constitution, was quickly achieved but soon degenerated into a weak gait which might only be called a “scuttle.” The long periods of physical inactivity, brought on by a recent spate of storms and unstopping rain, seem to have sapped ones endurance and stamina. Perhaps, local honey would help.

Accordingly, a thoughtfully placed wall was leaned upon, and the shot above was captured. That’s Big Allis across the river, over in Ravenswood.

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general tension

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Note: I received a few corrections from Judy Berdy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society on this post after it was published, special thanks for her generosity in sharing with us her vast knowledge. Please visit the link above for more on R.I.H.S.

My original statements, when “slashed” will be followed by corrections in red.

As always, when I get something wrong, corrections and additions are welcomed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somehow, the Roosevelt Island Bridge has never been examined by this, your Newtown Pentacle.

An omission, but to be fair the tiny span is a bit overshadowed by it’s spectacular neighbors (Queensboro, Triborough, and Hellgate) and half hidden behind a power plant. Not content to leaving her standing at the edge of the ballroom any longer, lets invite her to the dance.

from nyc.gov

The Roosevelt Island Bridge is a tower drive, vertical lift, movable bridge across the East Channel of the East River between the borough of Queens and Roosevelt Island, New York City. The span length is 418 feet. It was known as the Welfare Island Bridge when it was first opened to traffic in 1955. The bridge is the only means of vehicular access to Roosevelt Island. Prior to construction, the bridge carried two 17-foot lanes of vehicular traffic and a 6-foot sidewalk. The bridge is used by both pedestrians and vehicles with increased volume during rush hours. The Queens approach begins at the intersection of Vernon Boulevard and 36th Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blackwell’s Island, later known as Welfare Island, was where you went when they “sent you up the river”.

both a regular commenter and R.I.H.S. disagree with me on “up the river” saying that it indicated Sing Sing prison and the river in question is the Hudson. Alternatively, I’ve got multiple references in the post revolutionary to civil war era that refers to Blackwell’s in this context.  

The New York City government had a well established series of poor houses, prisons, and mental institutions here. Access to the island was strictly by boat until 21 years after the Queensboro bridge was erected in 1909, and an elevator system was built to carry trucks and other motor vehicles from its heights down to the Island in 1930  about 1916.

R.I.H.S. says: The Ferry Operated Until 1957 From 78 St And The FDR Drive.

This proved inadequate.

from nycroads.com

Initially, access to Welfare Island had been through a series of ferries from Manhattan and Queens. In 1930, a four-cab elevator service began between the lower deck of the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge and the island. The service, which had served 230,000 cars per year by the early 1950’s, provided the only public connection to Welfare Island.

The increasing traffic needs to and from Welfare Island, as well as growing congestion on the Queensboro Bridge, prompted the New York City Department of Public Works to propose a new vertical-lift crossing between Queens and Welfare Island. After initial resistance from the New York City Council, which doubted that the $6.5 million span would carry enough traffic to justify its cost, construction of the Roosevelt Island Bridge (then named the Welfare Island Bridge) began on March 17, 1952.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hopelessly overcrowded and causing delays on Mighty Queensboro, the Depression era elevator system needed to be augmented.

Accordingly the City constructed the Welfare Island Bridge in 1955 to provide additional access. The elevator system on Queensboro stuck around for a few more years, but was eventually done away with around 1970.

Construction on the Welfare Island Bridge began in 1951.

from wikipedia

Roosevelt Island, known as Welfare Island from 1921 to 1973, and before that Blackwell’s Island, is a narrow island in the East River of New York City. It lies between the island of Manhattan to its west and the borough of Queens to its east. Running from Manhattan’s East 46th to East 85th streets, it is about two miles (3 km) long, with a maximum width of 800 feet (240 m), and a total area of 147 acres (0.59 km2). The island is part of the Borough of Manhattan (New York County). Together with Mill Rock, Roosevelt Island constitutes Manhattan’s Census Tract 238, which has a land area of 0.279 sq mi (0.72 km2). and had a population of 9,520 in 2000 according to the US Census. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation estimated its population was about 12,000 in 2007.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well known for excess and abuse, the institutional system on Welfare Island came crashing down in the years following the second world war, and was largely abandoned by the 1960’s, when the Manhattan establishment sought better uses for Welfare Island. There was a “branding” issue to be solved, of course, as “Welfare Island” was synonymous with “Mad House” and or “Prison” for several generations of New Yorkers.

R.I.H.S. says: Blackwell’s Island name was changed to Welfare Island in 1921. Welfare to roosevelt in 1973. The bad reputation came in the late 1800’s to 1920’s thereby changing name to Welfare Island.

In 1973, they decided to call it Roosevelt Island instead.

from freeclassicaudiobooks.com

In 1887 Nellie Bly, one of the first female newspaper writers, and a young reporter who would soon go on to make a career for herself as an investigative journalist and stunt reporter, had herself committed to the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum in New York. Her purpose was to discover what life was like for those who had been deemed insane. She was surprised to discover the depth of mistreatment of the patients. Partially as a result of her reporting, more money was allocated to the asylum and reforms were put into place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the nearby Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, which was erected in the same era, Frederick H. Zurmuhlen of the Dept. of Public Works oversaw the design and construction of the Welfare Island Bridge. One of the unsung men who built the modern city, Zurmuhlen served under three mayors.

The Welfare Island Bridge opened, officially, on May 18, 1955.

from wikipedia

Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation was created by New York State in 1984 to manage development and operations of Roosevelt Island. Before RIOC there existed other state agencies which ran the island’s day-to-day operations such as the Welfare Island Development Corporation and later the Roosevelt Island Development Corporation. The first RIOC Board and President were appointed by the Governor in 1986.

The New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) operated New York City’s Welfare Island, as Roosevelt Island was previously known, prior to RIOC. Development of the island was based on the principles of urban “new communities” under President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs of the 1960s and early 1970s, and development of the “new” community there was authorized by the 99-year ground lease and accompanying General Development Plan (GDP) agreed upon by New York City and New York State in 1969. The NY State GDP, which has been amended from time to time, provides for the development of housing, shops and community facilities for a mixed-income, handicap-accessible residential neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, over on the Queens coast, the bridge has another overwhelming neighbor, the Ravenswood Power Plant- known to longtime New Yorkers simply as “Big Allis”.

for more on Big Allis check out this Newtown Pentacle posting from June of 2009-

Big Allis is not in the Land of the Lost… or how I learned to stop worrying and love Ravenswood #3

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Welfare Island Bridge, known to modernity as the Roosevelt Island Bridge, has recently undergone a refurbishment and makeover. Much was made of the cosmetic improvements to the span, but the reality of the investment was a determination that in case of a seismic event- which the City of New York is long overdue for- the Bridge would suffer catastrophic damage.

A massive earthquake is one of the unspoken horrors which the City government has been quietly planning for, something which the Mayor’s office would be applauded for were it more widely known. A tip of the hat goes out to the municipal engineers and planners for both their discretion and the secretive work which they have been performing.

A highly technical description of NYC’s earthquake risk factors, prepared in 1998 by the NY State DOT, can be accessed here.

from wikipedia

Big Allis, formally known as Ravenswood No. 3, is a giant electric power generator originally commissioned by Consolidated Edison Company (ConEd) and built by the Allis-Chalmers Corporation in 1965. Currently owned by Transcanada Corp., it is located on 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard in western Queens, New York.

During 1963, Allis-Chalmers announced that ConEd had ordered the “world’s first MILLION-KILOWATT unit…big enough to serve 3,000,000 people.” This sheer scale helped the plant become popularly known as “Big Allis”.

At the time of its installation, it was the world’s largest steam energy generating facility. It is located on the Ravenswood site, consisting of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as several small Gas Turbines (GTs), and an oil depot. The site overall produces about 2,500 MW, or approximately 20% of New York City’s current energy needs. The current installed capacity of Big Allis is around 980 MW.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Roosevelt Island Bridge makes landfall on the Long Island at Vernon Avenue and 36th street, incidentally.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 24, 2012 at 12:15 am

Crazy Bastards

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obligations and appointments in Manhattan during the early part of the day afforded me an opportunity to take advantage of yesterday’s relatively warm weather, and walk home along the Queensboro bridge.

Pleasant walk, except for a bicyclist who aggressively charged past me on the pedestrian side of the walk (the side with the little people icons painted on the pavement is for pedestrians, not the side with the little bicycle icons which is for bicycles). I politely… really… informed him that he was meant to be in his appointed lane, and the yuppie coward rode a short distance away and then gave me the finger. I shouted expletives, hurled defamatory accusations, and bellowed threats involving breaking his finger off and repositioning it elsewhere on his body. He then gave me two fingers and rode off.

Vehicles on the streets of New York, ALL VEHICLES, should require an operators license, insurance, and an identifying license plate- all things being equal… imho.

Anyway, while muttering profane and unutterable invocations to certain unknowable entities designed to bring a flaming case of psoriasis raining down upon this optic yellow lycra lad, I noticed an amazing scene. This has to be one of the world’s craziest jobs, standing on one foot at what has to be something like 200-225 feet over the East River on a windy day.

from nydailynews.com

The $25-million modernization project will keep the Roosevelt Island tram closed until Sept. 2., leaving riders without their quickest mode of transportation between the island and the East Side of Manhattan.

Commuters can still take the F train, the Q102 bus, or take $1 shuttle buses to the Queens Plaza subway station and the E, G, R and V trains.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NY1’s morning news had run a story yesterday, which had penetrated through my morning fog, about the Roosevelt Island Tram being shut down for repairs, and then I happened across these Crazy Bastards making it happen.

from ny1.com

While the F train does stop on the island for its 14,000 residents, they say they expect more crowded trains and longer commute times. The four-minute tram ride carries two-million people a year.

“It’s going to be terrible. It’s going to be awful,” said a Roosevelt Island resident. “It’s going to add at least a half hour to my commute, which is already long.”

“We hope it’s only six months and not, you know, nine months or a year before it comes back,” said another. “I have doubts.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Creek Week continues later on tonight- sorry for the delay, but I’m still straightening out a few details in the next post, and I just wanted to share these photos while “the pixels were still drying”.

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