Long have I been intrigued by this little “fix a flat” building which sits at the cross roads of Greenpoint Avenue, Van Dam Street and Review Avenue on the Queens side of the infamous Newtown Creek in Blissville, Queens.
A lot of this Newtown Creek historian thing I do involves going to community meetings in Greenpoint, a “monitoring committee” or “alliance” or just some “friends of” gathering at which an elected official or designated regulator will speak. This consumes quite a bit of time, which is amplified in my case as I walk to the meeting from Astoria (I walk everywhere). Not a long stroll by any stretch — it’s roughly three miles — but sometimes it feels as if I spend most of my life walking to and from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Accordingly, I spend a lot of my time moving through Blissville.
Run down, the little fix a flat building seems to be held together with tape and tacks, but there has always been something about the structure which caught my eye. “Something” seems significant about it, given its prominent location. Despite efforts at finding that something, it has always remained an enigma.
Until now, that is, thanks to the magnificent NYC Municipal Archives LUNA website.
This shot, of the Sobol Brothers SOCONY station at the intersection of Greenpoint and Van Dam, is from August 20th, 1930, roughly 83 years ago. SOCONY, of course, stands for Standard Oil Company of New York. Standard Oil 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. Notice how little has changed on this corner in the last century, with the same building stock and a nearly identical street profile.
Click here for the giant sharp version of the NYCMA image.
Also, found in the Brooklyn Daily Star archives at the ever reliable fultonhistory.com, this ad for the company is found. Sobol Bros. seems to have had several depression era “fill ‘er up” locations in Western Queens.
Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.