Illegal dumping is the native art form of Queens, I believe, as it seems to be practiced by a significant slice of the population.

One has presented ample evidence to back up this bold assertion, over the years. Saying that, what I witnessed along Northern Blvd. was simply a degenerate bastardization of the Queensylvanian mode of self expression.

C’mon, no broken cabinetry or busted 1999 vintage computer monitors? Where are the piles of tires? What kind of “Long Island City Art Installation” was this?

This pavement midden was encountered nearby the 36th street R/M station along Northern Blvd. one morning, and I would prefer to think of this crap as art.

The “work” was composed of a heterogenous collection of paper and plastic simulacra. It looked a great deal like litter, which might have been the intent of the artist. If so, the illusion was achieved and my disbelief was positively suspended. The composition left me flat, however, a banal and well rehearsed commentary on the post industrial urban milieu.

When I was a boy and filled with the vainglories of youthful ambition, an enormous act of social engineering was perpetrated upon my peer group by the government.

Woodsy the Owl always reminded us to “give a hoot and don’t pollute,” turn off the light when leaving a room, and seek out proper receptacles for disposal of trash.

The impression was made, by Woodsy, that disobeyance of said missive would end all life upon the Earth in short order. This sort of environmentally friendly PSA messaging has been absent from the mass media world for quite some time, and is a curricula which has not been offered to subsequent generations, as evinced by the bold compositions offered by the street artists in Queens.

Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.


One of my obsessions, practiced while wandering around Queens, centers around photographing Fireboxes. Rather than garnering suspicious glances from the local gendarmé, my intention is to record these ubiquitous pieces of street furniture before their inevitable removal.

The one pictured above was on Crescent Street, where I believed myself to be standing on the Astoria side of the street.

Review Avenue, nearby Calvary Cemetery, is where the one pictured above can be found.

This little project of mine got started a few years ago – when first Mayor Giuliani, and then Mayor Bloomberg – announced intentions to remove the alarm system from service, due to the high number of false alarms (one city lawyer claimed false alarms counted for as much as 85-95 percent of alarm box calls) reported through the street fixtures. The reasoning as stated was that since most people carried cell phones, with direct access to 911, the century old alarm box system was no longer needed and an unnecessary expense.


Just off the corner of Steinway is 38-13 Northern Boulevard. It stands opposite the Standard Motor Products building, and at the foot of a bridge which carries Steinway Street into 39th Street and over the Sunnyside Yards.

Currently, the structure houses part of the NYPD’s ESU units: the Emergency Medical Squad. The building was originally a firehouse — the Hook and Ladder 66.

The earliest volunteer fire company in Newtown, the Wadownock Fire, Hook & Ladder No. 1, was organized in 1843. By 1902, there were 66 distinct volunteer fire departments in Queens. Nineteenth century Long Island City was served by (amongst others) the Astoria Engine Co., the Hunter Engine Co., the Mohawk Hose Co., and the Tiger Hose Co. In 1890, the legislature of New York State abolished the volunteer departments, seeking to create a paid and professional force of firefighters. In Long Island City, as many as nine units were created, and then reorganized in 1894, as rampant political corruption had rendered the new units impotent against all but the smallest blazes. This corruption was centered around Long Island City’s mayor — Patrick “Battleax” Gleason — or was at least blamed on him by his enemies in the press.

The critical date for this structure is January 1, 1898, when Long Island City joined in the municipality of the City of Greater New York, and its firefighters joined the FDNY.