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Dutch Kills

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The neighborhood of Dutch Kills named for the narrow tributary of Newtown Creek that runs into its southern reaches. It was the site of a British garrison during the Revolutionary War. Dutch Kills, bordered by Hunters Point on its south, Blissville on its southeast and Queensbridge and Ravenswood on the north, is generally on the immediate north and south sides of Queens Plaza. Walk its streets, and several surprising remnants of an older Queens turn up — or used to, since we lose more of it with each passing week.

As with most NYC locales, history is preserved accidentally. An old “Cafeteria” sign peeked out on Bridge Plaza South after an awning was removed (easily photographed from the staircase going to the el train). The building has since been demolished.

At 27th Street (formerly Prospect Street) and 42nd Road (formerly Henry Street) an example of the old house numbering system can still be seen. All Queens house numbers have carried a hyphen since the 1920s.

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Welcome to DUBABO, Down Under the Borden Avenue Bridge Onramp, which spans the Dutch Kills tributary of the Newtown Creek. Dutch Kills is an ancestral waterway, one which once suffused into the swampy tidal flats which we call Long Island City, but which was given over to industrial usage. European colonists stumbled in to it, during the 1640s, and they described the area surrounding Dutch Kills as having been “malarial, and mosquito ridden.” The water once ran as far inland as modern day Queens Plaza, but the entire coastline of western Long Island was riddled with shallow waterways back then, which fed a thriving wetland.

The Sunswick and Newtown Creeks macerated the Long Island shoreline of Queens and allowed tidal nutrients to suffuse into the swampy soil via a vast upland network of tributary streams and coastal salt marshes. Around the time of the American Revolution, Dutch Kills and all of Newtown Creek was described as a hunters paradise, full of fish and fowl and deer.

By the late 19th century however, after industry arrived and the sewers began to dead end here- folks from Blissville, Maspeth, and Hunters Point all referred to this area as the waste meadows.

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There are a lot of dirty fingernails in Western Queens, and many of those hands are soiled while working in the automotive industry. Quite a few garages which specialize in the restoration of “classic cars” are found hereabouts and you can often find gems casually parked on the street.

Recently, I found myself at the corner of 31st Street and 38th Avenue at the border of hospitable Dutch Kills and almond eyed Astoria. This is one of those posts where I show off my detective skills, as to the particulars of this classic car. It is, and was, a Pontiac.

That’s all I had to go on when I started this post.

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Ah, the power of the Internet. While poking around in Dutch Kills last week we came across this freshly renovated specimen at the corner of 39th Avenue and 29th Street. It clearly looked like a new restaurant was in the works but there were no clues to be found. So we posted the photo on the Brownstoner Queens Facebook page (which we encourage you to “like”) and got an answer almost immediately. The swanky new spot is soon to be the new home of the Windmill Tap & Grill. Right now there’s just a simple website up with no info on timing. Also, make sure you check out the photo below of how the building looked before it was renovated. Quite a change! GMAP

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Storage Deluxe has been one of the main companies feeding New York City’s seemingly boundless appetite for self storage over the past decade, with eight locations around town. Four of those facilities are already in Queens, and three of those are in Long Island City. But that’s not stopping the company from building more. The storage giant is currently in the process of erecting a 7-story structure at 30-19 Northern Boulevard in Dutch Kills that, according to the DOB permit, will have more than 110,000 square feet of space. As we said, boundless. GMAP

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At 4 PM today residents will gather at 39th Avenue and 29th Street to rally in favor in increased traffic safety in Dutch Kills. There were seven fatal pedestrian accidents in the area between 1995 and 2009. The neighborhood has gone through significant changes as more residents move in–populations has grown 9 percent since 2000–and visitors fill rooms in all the new hotels. State Senator Michael Gianaris told the Daily News, “Too many accidents have occurred due to traffic planning that has not kept up with increased strains on our infrastructure.” Gianaris plans to attend the rally calling for more speed bumps, stop signs and better enforcement of traffic laws. For more information on the rally call (718) 728-0960.

Long Island City Residents Want Safer Streets [NY Daily News]

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All around Western Queens, you’ll notice houses which have long ago been outgrown by their surrounding neighborhoods. The structure pictured above is just a couple of blocks from the Citigroup building, not far from either Queens Plaza or Court Square, a hidden relic on 43rd and Crescent. It’s likely already been demolished, as this shot is from a few years back, but it does still appear in a popular mapping service’s “street view.”

The question I always ask about these abandoned, or shunned, houses is “why”? Sometimes they’re being held as stock by a developer in anticipation of some future project, sometimes there are torrid tales to tell. From the street, all you can see is ruination.

Whatever happened, these buildings are totems of a not necessarily simpler but certainly earlier time.