The swirling debate over the 1,723-apartment, 2.2-million-square foot Astoria Cove proposal overlooking Pot Cove represents just one more stage in the transition of an area where Hallet’s Cove namesake William Hallet operated a brick factory and the father of Astoria, Stephen Alling Halsey, bought property before he incorporated Astoria Village.
The site where American Indians once congregated in intermittent villages, ferry service to Manhattan ran from the 18th century to the mid-1930s and the federal government blasted out reefs and rocks to open up the treacherous Hell Gate demands archaeological study before any construction begins on the property, according to both a required city Landmarks Preservation Commission study attached to the development team’s Astoria Cove proposal’s environmental study documents and research by the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
“That part of Queens is one of the most archaeologically significant and historically significant areas in all of Queens,” said Robert Singleton, executive director of the society. He added, “Those streets in Old Astoria predate Wall Street in Manhattan by a generation. It’s the largest, most historic area without any preservation in New York City.”
While excavation teams won’t likely find any more artifacts dating before the 1830s in the area once frequented by the Maspeth Indians of the Algonquin tribe, the possibility of such discoveries in the area that got the name “Pot Cove” from Native American pottery remains in the cove–as well as potential excavations of cisterns and privies that could shed light on 19th-century mansions which once dotted Astoria Village–merit digs on the Astoria Cove site, according to the development team’s commissioned survey by archaeologist Celia Bergoffen.