10/02/14 11:00am

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Last year, in the run up to Halloween, I told you about the “White Lady of Astoria,” a spectral presence which has been remarked upon by more than one resident in my corner of the neighborhood. Also described in 2013 was the historical story of the  ”Blissville Banshee” nearby Newtown Creek.

Queens is full of esoteric lore and magic. At my personal blog, Newtown Pentacle, a series of bizarre finds have been discussed — whether it be my long observance of ceremonial activity at St. Michael’s Cemetery, or the occasional sidewalk encounters one has with magic altars and offerings. I’ve even photographed “orbs” at Calvary’s Almirall chapel!

Queens can be quite spooky, it would seem.

More after the jump…

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09/25/14 11:25am

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“The” City.

A recent post offered the term in a casual manner, with the statement that I had “convinced my wife to meet me in Queens Plaza after she got out of work in the city.” This started a bit of a debate in the comments section about the term which I haven’t been able to stop considering. If you’re a native New Yorker, and by native I include the 5 Boroughs, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, White Plains, or eastern Jersey – you are likely to refer to Manhattan as “the City.” The outer reaches of commuter land might substitute “New York” for “the City.” Typical usage is “we had dinner in the city” or “went to a concert in the city” or “works in the city” and so on. I’ve been overly intrigued about this one, for some reason, and have engaged in conversation about it with several people from all walks on the usage of the term. Most everyone, from Elected Officials to my local bartender in Astoria, agree on “the City” as referring solely to Manhattan.

What’s kind of interesting is that the so called “new people,” those who have found their way here in the last twenty years or so from the vast wilds of North America, think that this is all crazy talk. They look at Brooklyn and Queens’s East River coast and ask “what is this, the country?” To the generation of New Yorkers who were around in the 1890s that left the crowded streets of Manhattan for greener pastures on Long Island, it actually was.

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…)

04/07/14 11:00am

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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.

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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.

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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…)

03/20/14 11:00am

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As mentioned, I spend an atrocious amount of time studying century-old publications and journals found on Google Books. These periodicals, both trade and municipal in nature, often discuss the origins of the Newtown Creek as it exists today.

At the beginning of the 20th century, when the Creek was at its arguable worst (environmentally speaking), there was a popular sentiment that engineering could fix all of its problems.

Hindsight suggests that they just made things worse, of course, but there’s the human condition for you. Pictured above is the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in modernity, while below is a shot of the 1910 version. In both shots, Brooklyn is on the left and Queens on the right.

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- photo from Engineering magazine, Volume 38, 1910 — courtesy Google Books

This is the bridge that burned away in the 1919 Locust Hill Oil Refinery disaster, a swing bridge which is not altogether dissimilar to the relict Grand Street Bridge found further up the Creek.

I’ve done a few Q’stoner posts on the environs around the modern structure – the Tidewater Building, the nearby SimsMetal Yard, a former Standard Oil gas station, even the old Van Iderstine properties.

Whenever such “Now and Then” shots come into my hands, especially images which are considered to be in the public domain, they will be eagerly shared.

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

01/09/14 11:00am

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I’m told that the custom is to ditch your Christmas Tree sometime around the 7th of January (Epiphany?), and on cue the Astoria Tumbleweeds made their annual appearance at the curb (after the snow melted). When the wind starts to blow, these things start to roll along, like the tumbling tumbleweeds.

Fascination with the way that New York City handles any sort of seasonal problem – a sudden surge of highly flammable and mobile trees entering the waste stream, for instance – absolutely demands that I at least take a look at how the machinery of Christmas Past works here in the center of the megalopolis.

According to the NYC Department of Sanitation, my sudden interest in the subject is propitious, for Mulchfest is upon us once again, and it’s this weekend!

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06/24/13 1:00pm

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A shipwreck, a conspiracy, magic, monsters and love at first sight. The Hip to Hip Theatre Company kicks off its summer season with The Tempest, Shakespeare’s romantic thriller about a deposed duke. After 12 years on a deserted island, the duke uses magic to raise a storm at sea while seeking revenge on the foes who purloined his dukedom. Hip to Hip will present The Tempest and Love’s Labor Lost at 10 Queens venues — Crocheron Park in Bayside, Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park’s Unisphere, Gantry Plaza State Park in LIC, Lost Battalion Recreation Center in Rego Park, O’Donohue Park in Far Rockaway, Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, Sunnyside Gardens Park, St. Albans Park and Voelker Orth Museum in Flushing — over the next two months. Founded in 2007 by Queens-based actors Jason and Joy Marr, Hip to Hip strives to provide fantastic theater at accessible locations. Its name comes from a phrase in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Details: Free Shakespeare in the Park, first show on July 24, O’Donohue Park, vicinity of Seagirt Boulevard at Beach 17th Street, Far Rockaway, 7 pm. (more…)
06/19/13 1:00pm

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New York City is going to rock around the clock…literally. And Queens is going to pop, blues, jazz, reggae, indie, folk, Latin, experimental, country, gospel and even cabaret. This Saturday, Make Music New York celebrates the first day of summer with a unique festival of free concerts in public spaces throughout the five boroughs, including in cemeteries, gardens, parks, plazas, sidewalks and stoops. Cruise to Corona and check out a children’s bucket orchestra, jaunt off to Jamaica for R&B sensation La’Rayne, or rave into the night at the MMNY After Dark party in Sunnyside. Now in its seventh year, this action will take place simultaneously with similar day-long festivities in more than 500 cities around the world. Details: Make Music New York, June 21,10 am – 10 pm, free; click on the following Queens neighborhoods for their schedules: AstoriaCorona/RidgewoodElmhurstFlushingJackson HeightsJamaicaLICRockaway and Sunnyside.
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06/10/13 11:00am

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It’s New York State Museum Week, and the living is easy, especially in Queens. Starting today through June 16, five local cultural venues will offer discounts and promotional offers to visitors. Mention “Museum Week” and receive a complimentary collectible at the Louis Armstrong House Museum (while supplies last) along with a 10 percent discount in the gift store. Bring a friend for free with two-for-one admission at the Noguchi (above), King Manor and Moving Image museums. At the Queens Botanical Gardens, there will be half-off admission. Meanwhile, the Queens County Farm Museum will offer free tours. Statewide, participants include about 250 venues, stretching from Manhattan’s 5th Avenue, where El Museo del Barrio will have free admission on June 11, to the Hyde Collection in upstate Glens Falls, where visitors will receive a free poster.