Kosciuszko Bridge rendering courtesy NYS DOT
Last night, over on 39th Street in Sunnyside, the NYS DOT held a meeting to discuss the forthcoming Kosciuszko Bridge project. This is a BIG deal for anybody who lives in North Brooklyn, Western Queens, or who drives on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. It’s also a HUGE deal for us as taxpayers. The first phase of this project, which will build half of the replacement span and demolish the existing bridge is $555 million – the largest contract in NYS DOT history. The contractors as chosen and announced by Governor Cuomo are Skanska, a construction firm based in NYC, which will be managing partner; Ecco III of Yonkers; Kiewit of Nebraska; and HNTB of Kansas.
The “New Meeker Avenue Bridge” opened back on August 23rd of 1939, and was a pet project of Robert Moses. It was the first link in the chain which would eventually become the BQE. This post at my Newtown Pentacle blog displays a series of historic shots from that long ago time, and this one here at Q’stoner discusses what’s found in DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp.
Read more after the jump…
With about 130,000 residents, Queens is home to more war veterans than any other borough in New York City. This weekend various neighborhoods honor their war heroes with Memorial Day parades, including biggest one in the country (Little Neck/Douglaston).
The Maspeth Memorial Day Parade (Sunday, May 25th, at 1 pm) is always an emotional display of patriotism and gratitude. This year, it honors local veterans and women. Retired Capt. Laura Zimmermann is the speaker, and other honorees are Leo J. Wasil, who flew 35 combat missions as a radio operator, mechanic and gunner in World War II; Anthony Simone, who fought in the treacherous Mung Dung Valley during the Korean War; and Jane Crowley, who joined the United States Marine Corp Women’s Service in 1943. The parade begins at 1 pm at Walter A. Garlinge Memorial Park, 72nd Street and Grand Avenue, and proceeds down Grand to the Frank Kowalinski American Legion Post 4 and Knights of Columbus on 69th Lane, where there’s a memorial service at 2 pm.
Information on the other parades follows:
- Broad Channel, Sunday, May 25th, 1 pm, Cross Bay Boulevard.
- Forest Hills, Sunday, May 25th, noon, starts at Ascan and Metropolitan avenues, proceeds to Trotting Course Lane, ending at St. John Cemetery. Grand marshals are Monsignor John McGuirl, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church; Community Board 6 Chair Joseph Hennessey; and Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Terrance Holliday.
- College Point, Sunday, May 25th, 2 pm, starts at 28rd Avenue and College Point Boulevard and heads to 5th Avenue and 119th Street. State Senator Tony Avella is the grand marshal. Poppy Queen is Isabella Joan Hollaway.
- Howard Beach, Monday, May 26th, 9:30 am, begins with Memorial Day Mass at Our Lady of Grace Church at 101st Street and 159th Avenue. The parade kicks off at 11 am in Coleman Square and takes its time-honored route through Old Howard Beach, visiting the Vietnam War memorial at 99th Street and 157th Avenue, the World War II memorial at Assembly of God Church at 158-31 99th Street and then St. Barnabas Church at 159-19 98 Street.
- Laurelton, Monday, May 26th, 9 am, Francis Lewis and Merrick boulevards to the Veterans Memorial Triangle, 225th Street and North Conduit Avenue.
- Little Neck-Douglaston, Monday, May 26th, 2 pm, Northern Boulevard between Jayson Avenue and 245th Street, 2 pm. The closing ceremony is held in the parking lot of Saint Anastasia School, Northern Boulevard and Alameda Avenue, where awards are given, honorees are acknowledged, and refreshments are served. World War II heroes are the grand marshals, including Rocco Moretto and John McHugh Sr., who stormed the beaches of Normandy during D-Day; Thomas Dent; John W. Peterkin; and Lucy Salpeper, who joined the Navy Waves and cared for injured soldiers.
- Ridgewood-Glendale, Monday, May 26th, 11 am, starting at the Ridgewood Memorial Triangle at Myrtle and Cypress avenues and ending at the Glendale War Monument at Myrtle and Cooper avenues. Charles Dunn, a member of Glendale’s VFW Sergeant Edward R. Miller Post 7336, is the grand marshal.
- The Rockaways, May 26th, noon, steps off at Beach 121st Street.
- Whitestone, Monday, May 26th, noon, starts at Whitestone Memorial Park, 149th Street and 15th Drive and proceeds on 12th Avenue. Dr. David Copell, a Korean War vet, is the grand marshal.
Photo: The Whitestone Memorial Day Parade
On Monday, we focused in on the historic Big Six development in Woodside, found nearby 58th Street at Queens Boulevard. While I was in the neighborhood, I couldn’t help but get a few shots of the (so called) Geographic Center of the City of Greater New York.
It’s not everyday that I find myself in Midtown, at the purported Geographic Center of New York City.
From the nytimes:
Q. Where is the geographic center of New York? I did a Google search of the phrase and came up with claims to the title from Woodside, Long Island City, East Williamsburg and Shea Stadium. For that matter, where is the population center? The Mets’ Web site claims that’s Shea Stadium, too.
A. There are two kinds of centers that demographers and city planners use. Imagine a flat plate in the shape of the city’s boundaries, placed on a needle at the spot where the plate balances. That’s the geographic center. Now pretend the plate is weightless but still flat and rigid. Put about eight million tiny equal weights on the plate representing where each resident lives, and find the point of balance again. That’s the population center. Neither of them is Shea Stadium.
According to the Department of City Planning, the population center lies in Maspeth, Queens, near the intersection of Galasso Place and 48th Street, near Maspeth Creek. The geographic center is in Bushwick, Brooklyn, on Stockholm Street between Wyckoff Avenue and St. Nicholas Avenue.
Looking west, along Queens Boulevard, the scenery is somewhat less “whelming” than you’d expect for the geographic center of New York City. Part of Calvary Cemetery lies along the hill that leads up toward Maspeth. Continuing along this decidedly high speed section of the so called Boulevard of Death will bring you to Thomson Avenue.
Q’Stoners own Kevin Walsh, at his amazing Forgotten-NY site, offers that this is not the actual geographic center and opines:
“according to the Department of City Planning, the geographic center is in Bushwick, Brooklyn, on Stockholm Street between Wyckoff Avenue and St. Nicholas Avenue.”
In a prior post, the Grand Street Bridge spanning Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens (some 3.1 miles from the East River) was described in some detail – check it out. As it happens, I chanced across a historic shot of the 1903 swing bridge not too long ago which is not at all dissimilar to a relatively recent shot of mine, so I thought we’d revisit the thing.
The modern shot (above) is captured from the water, as recreating the 1910 era shot below (from the bulkheads of the south eastern or Brooklyn side) would require probable trespass and the attentions of the gendarme. Instead, I was in the company of Captain John Lipscomb from Riverkeeper, who regularly patrols the waterway while collecting water samples for scientific analysis. We were in a rowboat, by the way.
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 movable span anymore due to a lack of maritime customers. Imagine, an industrial canal starting at the East River that leads right to the borders of Maspeth, Ridgewood, and Bushwick that has no maritime customers. The stalwart engineers and mechanics of the DOT do open it for maintenance, periodically, and much to the chagrin of many a weekend driver.
Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.
It’s the “most wonderful time of the year” for people like me – who are aficionados of the macabre, bizarre, and mildly malefic. Halloween season makes me desirous of tales involving the supernatural, and as with all other aspects of life (and death), Western Queens does not disappoint.
Today’s tale plays out around the area of colonial Newtown and Maspeth’s border, which hosts Calvary Cemetery in our jaded modern time, and predated the Salem Witch Panic by a couple of decades. A farmer named Ralph Hall, and his wife Mary, were accused of the malicious and felonious usage of witchcraft and sorcery and of causing the death of their neighbor – one George Wood – by eldritch means.
The witch trials in the early modern period were a period of witch hunts between the 15th and 18th centuries, when across early modern Europe and to some extent in the European colonies in North America, there was a widespread hysteria that malevolent Satanic witches were operating as an organized threat to Christendom. Those accused of witchcraft were portrayed as being worshippers of the Devil, who engaged in such acts as malevolent sorcery at meetings known as Witches’ Sabbaths. Many people were subsequently accused of being witches, and were put on trial for the crime, with varying punishments being applicable in different regions and at different times.
Maspeth Creek is a tributary of the larger Newtown Creek; its street facing terminus can be accessed on 49th Street between Galasso Place and Maspeth Avenue. Once, the waterway stretched out toward Flushing for a considerable distance, but that was back when the Europeans first showed back in the 1640s. These Dutchmen from New Amsterdam established a colony nearby in 1642, one named for and then wiped out by a group of Native Americans whom they called the Mespaetche in 1643.
They’re where we get the place name “Maspeth,” by the way.
Apparently, the Dutch really pissed off the natives, and the colonists were sent packing. Unfortunately for the Mespaetche, the Dutch left behind pandemic and disease. In 1652, the Dutch were back, and were in a diplomatic mood this time. They made peace with the surviving natives, and established the colony of “Nieuwe Stad.”
When the English took over, “Nieuwe Stad” became Newtown.
As NYC.gov will tell you, the Grand Street Bridge spans the infamous Newtown Creek between Gardner Avenue in Brooklyn and 47th street in Queens. Opened in 1903, it’s a swing bridge which is just over 69 meters long (that’s 227.034 feet in Americanese) and that the approach roadways on both sides of the bridge are wider than the span itself. The first bridge on this spot went up in 1875.
It is 3.1 miles back from the East River and where the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens can be found, at midspan. Once, this was an incredibly busy maritime crossing- in 1918 alone, the bridge was opened more than 5,000 times for shipping.
The dead in Queens outnumber the living, thanks to the Rural Cemeteries Act of 1847-8.
After a series of epidemics cut a broad swath through all of New York City’s social classes in the 1830s and ’40s (typhus, cholera, etc.) it was decided that no new interments of the departed would be allowed in Manhattan. The various religious organizations and denominations were encouraged to seek out large “rural” properties in which to house the mortal remains of their adherents. This section of Western Queens (and North Brooklyn) where these cemeteries are located has often been referred to as the “cemetery belt” for its enormous size and overall acreage. It’s actually visible from space.
The Roman Catholics purchased a large parcel they would call Calvary in the 1840s and the Lutherans opened Lutheran All Faiths in 1850. For adherents of the Jewish faith, Mount Zion Cemetery was incorporated and opened in the 1890s.
The first funeral at Mount Zion was held on May 5 in 1893.
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.
A confession first: I’m likely the only person on earth who calls this spot DUKBO — short for “down under the Kosciuszko Bridge onramp.”
Laurel Hill Boulevard slouches roughly as it descends toward Review Avenue, where the Penny Bridge once stood and the Long Island Railroad once maintained a station and the Roman Catholic funeral ferries docked. The Kosciuszko Bridge occupies the shallow valley between two land forms which the colonial settlers of Newtown called “Laurel Hill” to the west and an easterly elevation once known as “Berlin Hill.” Berlin was a village which was absorbed into Maspeth during the First World War when living or doing business in a place called Berlin was a sticky situation.