07/21/14 11:00am

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On Friday, the 11th of July, I found myself at the very edge of Queens in a very special place. At the end of Vernon Boulevard in LIC, where the old Vernon Avenue Bridge and the Newtown Creek Towing Company were found, is a facility which is engaged in the hands-on work of the Superfund process. The Anchor QEA company operates out of here, carrying out the collection of samples and scientific tests which will determine the exact nature of what’s wrong with Newtown Creek. These samples and tests are overseen and directed by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, and is an effort conducted by the so-called ”Potentially Responsible Parties” (PRPs).

These “Potentially Responsible Parties” have organized themselves together as the Newtown Creek Group, and they invited a small group of community members and representatives to their LIC facility to describe what they actually do at the Vernon street end and discuss the future of Newtown Creek.

More after the jump… (more…)

07/03/14 11:03am

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One thing that the good people of Queens cannot be accused of is a dearth of patriotic flag displays.

Old Glory is found waving everywhere hereabouts, and is particularly conspicuous in the lead up to the Fourth of July holiday. Independence Day in my neighborhood, Astoria, means that in between the flags, there will be a pall of BBQ smoke hanging about in the air and every neighborhood dog will be hiding in the bathtub when the sun goes down and the neighbors begin to detonate their fireworks.

More after the jump. (more…)

06/30/14 11:00am

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I’ve been missing 5Pointz something fierce lately, so after meeting some friends from the City for lunch nearby Astoria Park recently, we paid a visit to the Welling Court Mural Project. There is a LOT of street art going on here, and there has been since 2009, when the Ad Hoc Art group began the project.

Welling Court can be found here, btw.

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There’s a lot of terrific stuff here. The comic guy in me loved Fumeroism’s Yellow Hulk.

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As mentioned, this is a curated project which is in its fifth year of installation.

From Ad Hoc Art’s Facebook page:

The Welling Court Mural Project began in 2009 when Ad Hoc Art was invited by the community of Welling Court to slay some aesthetic blights in their neighborhood. The first project debuted in May 2010 with over 44 murals, fitting for the diverse and lively inhabitants. Each year since, spectacular crews of legendary and groundbreaking artists have come together to transform the neighborhood into a creative celebration and public art experience.

Many, many more images and lots of commentary after the jump. (more…)

06/26/14 11:00am

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As discussed in prior postings, Kevin Walsh and I decided to take Q’stoner with us to the very edge of New York City when we visited the Rockaways. Here’s Part One and here’s Part Two. This is the third installment, and Kevin will finish up the quartet tomorrow. Now, back to the beach.

This shot is looking back at Riis Park, at the border of what must have surely been an enormous and quite recent industrial endeavor.

From Wikipedia:

The park was largely built on the site of the former Rockaway Naval Air Station, one of the first US naval air stations. Riis Park was designed by the politically powerful New York City Park Commissioner Robert Moses, who had also created Jones Beach as a state park further east on Long Island in 1929. Moses saw Riis Park as a Jones Beach for poor immigrants, and ensured that the location was accessible by public transportation and closer to Manhattan.

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A vast wall of sand was found, dissimilar in color to the beach sand which the bathers and sun worshippers at Riis were gamboling about upon. This beach is now the built environment, it seems.

From ny1.com:

In the Rockaways, long stretches of sand are less weekend paradise and more construction zone. Forget your sun visor. This is hard-hat territory.

“It looks like hell,” said Kevin Boyle, a Rockaway community activist. “It’s not exactly ready for the top 10 list anywhere, but it’s coming along. I’m pretty sure by 2020, the boardwalk will be there and the beach will look good.”

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It should be mentioned, by the way, that everybody seemed to be having a much better time than Kevin and myself. We were the two weird looking old guys walking around on the beach with cameras… the ones who looked uncomfortable and relatively pale. The suntans people sport out here are actually outrageous for this early in the summer.

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05/22/14 11:00am

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High speed internet service, as offered by one of America’s most hated companies, goes down in Astoria on a fairly regular basis. Stop by any taverna or saloon and mention the name of a certain corporate giant which has enjoyed a de facto monopoly over cable internet and TV in NYC, and you will be greeted by a litany of curses and witness people spitting.

Given the international “flava” of Astoria, some of these utterings are actual curses invoking for and asking for the intervention of supernatural entities. It’s not just one company at fault here, although they are really, really bad at what they do – a lot of it can be chalked up to observably bad wiring.

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You’ll notice this sort of horrid utility pole clutter all over western Queens. A hodge podge of wires leading to and from building to pole. In many ways, its reminiscent of the sort of historical photos you see of lower Manhattan at the beginning of the 20th century, when telegraph wires were strung across intersections. If you’re on the phone with a provider of high speed internet access, this mess is probably the reason why.

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Everywhere you look, sagging utility poles carry a staggering amount of wiring. This is cable TV, electrical, and telephone wire which has accumulated over the years and a lot of it isn’t connected to anything anymore. It creates a visual nightmare, clutters up the street scape, and reveals the dream of turning Western Queens into a “tech corridor” as something of a joke. Think Google or Facebook want to plug into this?

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Last week, we asked you to comment on what the icon of Queens is, and almost unanimously the Q’Stoner audience said “Unisphere.” Accordingly, just yesterday, I went out to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to get some shots of this icon of Queens for you. Unfortunately, the fountains aren’t on yet, but it was sunset. I’m going to keep my mouth shut for a change, and let the photos speak for themselves.

From Wikipedia:

The Unisphere is a 12-story high, spherical stainless steel representation of the Earth. Located in Flushing Meadows – Corona Park in the borough of Queens, New York City, the Unisphere is one of the borough’s most iconic and enduring symbols.

Commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the space age, the Unisphere was conceived and constructed as the theme symbol of the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair. The theme of the World’s Fair was “Peace Through Understanding” and the Unisphere represented the theme of global interdependence. It was dedicated to “Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.”

Check out tons of Unisphere shots after the jump! (more…)

03/24/14 11:00am

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The Saint Demetrios Cathedral on 31st Street here in Astoria holds an annual street fair in the late spring, and last year I had an opportunity to enter the church and wave my camera around a bit. Greek, or Eastern Orthodox as the faithful would prefer, churches are a particular favorite of mine to visit and photograph due to the literally byzantine artwork and wealth of lavish ornamentation.

From saintdemetriosastoria.com:

Saint Demetrios was born in Thesaloniki, Greece in 270 AD. He came from a wealthy family and because he was athletic in appearance and heroic in spirit, he became a high-ranking officer in the Roman Army at a very young age. (This is why he is depicted in Byzantine icons in military dress, either standing or riding a horse.) He considered himself a soldier of Christ first, and a military soldier second. He spent most of his time as a devout missionary, preaching the Gospel at secret meetings and converting pagans to the Christian faith.

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02/06/14 11:00am

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Locked inside and insulated from the hideous weather, I’ve been reminiscing about the time when you could just leave the house and walk around Queens without wearing 25 pounds of coat.

An annual “cabin fever” process, which invariably ends with a stir crazy photographer historian saying “enough of  this” (the actual expression is a bit more colorful, but Brownstoner is a family publication) and then marching out into the frozen wastes of Queens. A few years ago, after a remarkable snowstorm, my “enough of this” walk carried me to one of my favorite places – First Calvary Cemetery in Blissville.

You won’t believe what I found there.

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01/06/14 11:00am

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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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10/17/13 11:00am

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Wandering around Calvary Cemetery is often a revelatory experience, and while perambulating through the hallows of Section 9 not so long ago, the shock of sudden recognition nearly laid me low. While scanning the monolith studded landscape, the name of one of history’s most famous New Yorkers suddenly appeared before me, chiseled in granite.

Steve Brodie… The man who jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge and lived to talk about it. (more…)