Sunday, September 27, 2009

Queens history treated like trash

From the Daily News:

Originally the spinning centerpieces of a gristmill built in Dutch Kills around 1657, the stones are today among the oldest European artifacts in Queens.

In their heyday, they helped drive the economic fortunes of western Queens, but in recent decades the relics have been entombed in a shabby traffic island, with only their tops visible.

When the city Economic Development Corp. began the $52 million Queens Plaza revamp last fall, the traffic island was converted into a construction staging area.

[Richard] Melnick and other local preservationists are furious the stones were kept in close quarters with construction machinery and materials, hidden behind a temporary fence.

"Considering their historical importance, they should have been removed and put in a secure location," Melnick said.

"What if a heavy truck or a Bobcat rolled over one of them? It would snap it in half," he said.

Last week, one of the stones - still cemented in the sidewalk - was directly underneath part of the fence. The stone, which already had a crack in it before work commenced, was haphazardly covered with construction material.

Even worse, the other stone was nowhere to be seen recently, Melnick and other local preservationists said.

Its original sidewalk placement fell in the center of the staging area - a spot that appeared to have been covered with an asphalt patch when Melnick photographed the area a few weeks ago.

The blacktop patch was gone last week but the stone's whereabouts were still unknown.

This is Queens history, so expect it to be manhandled and disregarded.


Dutch Kills Resident said...

Open letter to:

Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall

Assemblymember Michael Gianaris

Long Island City BID Executive Director Gayle Baron

Community Board 2 Chair Joe Conley

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President Seth W. Pinsky

City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden

Department of Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe

Thank you for ruining our community with inept rezoning in 1961 and in 2009. Now its a mess.

Thank you for spending millions of taxes and stimulus money for the benefit of developers.

Of course it could be used for a number of ways to improve the local community - post offices, community groups, local shopping areas, but no, they are all little people.

You think all we care about is the starting line for today's Jet game, or Jennifer Anniston's toughts on motherhood.

Stuff like this? - no way, we are too ignorant and stupid to care.

Is this the way they handle things like this in the communities you live (Mysterous Mike, you can sit this one out)?

I doubt it.

For Shame! For Shame! For Shame!

Dozens of Hotels! said...

Gerald Walsh, president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, says the addition of new residential units in the neighborhood is long overdue. ... So in 2003, Walsh asked Mayor Mike Bloomberg to allow new housing in Dutch Kills. That set the ball rolling, and now, residential buildings of various sizes are permitted in the area ... he says he is confident about the future of the community .. ushering in a new era for the neighborhood.

Dutch Kills, if you want to point at others, get a mirror.

You had a hand on the shovel too.

Anonymous said...

If Federal money is involved, mistreatment of historic artifacts is illegal.

These people could be sued.

Missing Foundation said...

Now its public, lets see of the preservation community will assist the locals.

Or, as it typical, simply ignore them. After all, expanding your own district takes so much time and attention.

Sergey Kadinsky said...

If our borough president can't restore the crumbling nude hero outside Borough Hall, and the NYS Pavilion in Flushing Meadows, what makes you think she will do anything about the mill stone in Queens Plaza?

Anonymous said...

We need to dig those millstones out of the concrete and crush a few politicos with them. "The mills of God grind slow, but they grind exceeding fine..."

Erik Baard said...

My dream for Queens Plaza was to have a cultural institution in a tower rising where the Kennedy parking lot is now, and have a ring of parks and green spaces maybe a block or two off the plaza. This is because with the constant noise and vibrations of trucks and trains, there's no real chance to create habitat or a usable sitting park. But people would travel to Queens Plaza (a great transit hub) if we had some equivalent of BAM here. And we could have rotating displays showing off the assets of various cultural groups and museums in Queens, to entice further exploration.

That said, I think "Dozens of Hotels" is way off base. Gerald Walsh has worked hard with little leverage to improve this community. As things were when I moved into Dutch Kills in 1996, many streets with residences couldn't even get trees on them because the 1961 rezoning rendered them ineligible. You'd think it was a rich area for all of the limousines rolling down our streets, but they were all fresh of rental lots. Even today, an aerial view of the area would reveal large swaths of yellow and those wouldn't be fields of sunflowers. Cab lots, garages, etc.

Streets are safer here than in 1996 by far, with more people walking them and walk-in businesses and illumination.

The hotels did blindside many of us. I'm losing my sunrises and have already lost my sunsets. But owners of mom and pop shops and diners tell me that the development brought new residents and guests who rescued them financially. Art galleries are popping up here too, and artists are making some sales.

Personally, I'm financially struggling in this economy and from volunteering too much and yes, rents in the area soared over the past 13 years. Rent woes can put a scare into you, there's no denying. But quality of life has improved.

As I see it, the Dutch Kills Civic Association has consistently advocated for more residential buildings, community amenities, and safer streets. The City and its business partners saw such improvements as a great opportunity to build hotel right next to midtown. The changes are disruptive and disorienting, but I don't think they're a fair invitation to take pot shots. I sincerely think Gerald Walsh and his colleagues worked to get the best deal they could and did a good job of it. Besides, there's no sign that they've dusted off their hands and walked away -- they're still working for neighborhood betterment.

Anonymous said...

Losing sunsets and dozens of hotels and changes that, in your words are 'disruptive and disorienting' does not make for a successful community or a successful civic. The city exists for our needs, not the other way around.

I do not understand - adding more people to a borough with collapsing services flys in the face of reason.

This would seem counterproductive to the efforts of the rest of the civics in Queens to make this a better place.

DKC has gone on record as being the only civic in the city seeking more development.

They got it.

They advocate it for surrounding areas. Who will pay for this?

Anonymous said...

How can you say these things?

The area is still crime ridden, with Rikers discharging its prisoners, apartment buildings sitting half empty and eating up their owner's equity, social service agencies, strip clubs with a general forbidding feel.

Putting lipstick on a pig doesn't change the species.

Anonymous said...

Trashing the historic fabric of the area was a sin. The treatment of these millstones, because federal and state money are involved, is likely illegal.

How do you feel about that, Eric? Where were you when the tore down Long Island Savings Bank. That would have been a fantastic spot for an art center.

Why can be go forward only when a developer puts into a 40 story building?

Snake Plissskin said...

Good God, I remember the time when youth and greens despised developers as destroyers of a community's soul.

Perhaps Crappy should look into the interlink between the arts community, politicans, and developers.