Greenpoint, October, 2015

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


You rock, Rick
And last night I dreamt that Rick Santorum stood before a raucous crowd, held up a piece of shale, and chanted "Light Sweet Crude" over and over. He squeezed the rock and oil started to drip down over his cuffs. "Let's see Obama try that," Santorum beamed. "Build the pipeline, you snob!" Then he grabbed Karen and ravished her with a long, unctuous kiss. "It's God's will," she said, looking flushed. The crowd went wild.

It's on to Ohio.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just You and Me, Seamus

In the Mitt'l of the Night
I dreamt I saw Ann Romney on the BQE. She was driving one of her Cadillacs. Very fast. She'd had enough of Mitt, the campaign, all of it. Maybe it was the Donald Trump endorsement that did it. Maybe it was Kid Rock. Who knows? Anyway, she was making a break for it now. A quick stop at the house in New Hampshire to pick up the dogs (would you trust Mitt with them?), then a dash across the border somewhere around Pettibone, Canada. Well, I wouldn't give much for her chances in Mexico, not with the Romney posse from Colonia Juarez on her tail. If she makes it, she'll trade the Caddy for a horse and ride west, winding up somewhere in north Saskatchewan. Hell, if Mitt wins in November, I might just follow her.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Welcome to Queens?

I guess we've all seen the Welcome to Brooklyn signs sponsored by (and sponsoring BP Mary Markowitz): "Welcome to Brooklyn - How Sweet It Is!" or "Believe the Hype!" There's even an annoying sign just before the Verrazano Narrows Bridge: "Leaving Brooklyn - Fughedaboudit!"

No such self promotion here in Queens, just a modest "Welcome to Queens." If we were to step up our game a bit, I wonder what we might put on our signs: "Welcome to Queens...
1) "Where the Trees Are the Right Height." No, damn it, that's Michigan.
2) "More Diverse Than You." Too in-your-face?
3) "When You're Sick of Hearing About Brooklyn." Says it all.
4) "Where the Mets Once Played Baseball." Ouch.

Or, we could take a page out of Coventry, Rhode Island's book. Check out these signs on the old New Haven and Hartford Railroad overpass (now a bike path). Can you make it out? It reads "Coventry - It Grows with You" (no exclamation mark, this isn't Brooklyn after all). I suggest a slight tweak: "Queens - It Grows ON You" (or, if you are residing in one of our great cemeteries, It Grows OVER You).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Happy Saint Sebastian's Day!

Vision of San Sebastian
(Mariano de Salvador de Maella)
Reader, how often have you wondered who is the patron saint of the BQE? Well, today I have your answer, it's San Sebastian de Aparicio (1502-1600). Born in Spain to peasant parents, he sailed to Mexico where he became a farmer and rancher. He saw the need for better roads to support commerce and agriculture and is credited with building over 600 miles of Mexican roads, including the 466-mile road from Mexico City to Zacatecas. At the age of 60 he entered into a "virginal marriage" with a peasant girl. Apparently, this was the thing to do if you want to "provide a respectable life for a girl without even a modest diary." He was so charitable, he did it again when his first wife died. (One more and he'd have tied Newt Gingrich.)

You can check out all kinds of patron saints on the Catholic Online patron saint site. You can really learn a lot. Did you know that Venantius is the patron saint of falling or that Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of bakers and pawnbrokers? No luck yet locating the patron saint of shortstops, but I'm pretty sure it's Luis de Aparacio.

Friday, February 24, 2012

For Love or Money

EZ Street?
This poster for the New York Lottery on the 7 train platform at 82nd St. caught my eye when it went up a couple weeks back. I enjoyed the idea of a private tube in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. No matter how rich you are, I mused, you're going to need to get to the BQE.

When I looked at it again yesterday morning I started. I'd made a terrible mistake. Close readers of this blog will recall that on January 27 (BTB #203) I called attention to a poster for the newest Kate Beckinsale vehicle Underworld Awakening. In the lower lefthand corner someone had sharpied "Chulita te amo."

Take a closer look at our lottery ad: Same spot on the platform, same corner, different poster, but same message. It wasn't a case of Kate after all. Just a platform for his affection.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Triangle Takes the Square

Carl L. Sohncke Square
Talking of traffic islands as we were (Were we?), I have a few observations to make (I don't doubt it). Let's start with Carl L. Sohncke Square in Woodside (If you must). A few benches, a signboard, a bit of green bordered by Roosevelt Avenue, Woodside Avenue, 58th Street--and what's the other one? Oops, as Rick Perry would say (Rick Who?). That's right, there is no fourth bordering street. Because Sohncke Square is a triangle.
Bucolic Staten Island
"Square" must be the Parks Department's generic term for these little pocket parks. I mean, who really gives a sohncke (A what?) whether it's called a triangle, square, plaza. Take a look at Egbert Triangle in Staten Island (Must we?). It actually is a triangle, flanked by Willowbrook Road, Port Richmond Avenue, and Forest Road.  So, good job Parks Department. Right? (Cheers.)

Well, one might wonder how the Plain People of Richmond feel about that, particularly those who dedicated the park as Egbert Square in memory of Arthur Stanley Egbert, Seamen Second Class, who perished with 26 others when the troopship USS Abraham Lincoln was torpedoed by a German U-boat off France in 1918. Parks Department Czar Henry Stern (1983-90, 1994-2000) renamed the square Egbert Triangle "to better reflect its shape." (Figures.)

What's a memorial worth?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

No Place for Art

Howard Beale rode the 7 train
Good to have the 7 back after three (or is it four) weekends with no service to Manhattan, I thought as I came down the stairs to the platform at Time Squares last night. Hmm, two trains in the station both marked local. I should have known something was wrong. Sure enough, a couple minutes later the announcement: "No 7 train service between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza. As an alternate...." It's back up the stairs, find a path through the confusion, and squeeze onto an N train just before it pulls out. Not bad. Doors open at Queensboro Plaza: "Because of a smoke condition, there are no 7 trains between Queensboro Plaza and 74th St.-Roosevelt Ave. at this time." Why didn't I wait for an R?

(Courtesy The Dirt)
Alright, I've done this dance before. Instead of heading for the south side of QP and lining up with all the cattle for a 32 bus, I use the overpass to the north side and strike out for Northern Boulevard and that lonely R-M station. Getting across those lanes feeding onto the Queensboro (Ed Kock) Bridge is another story. I make it to the traffic island, which appears to have transformed itself into a ghostly Eastern European Jewish cemetery of tightly packed headstones jutting up at irregular angles. I find a path through to the middle, but it dead ends. I can see a cab with his on-duty light lit on Northern. I clamber over the stones and into the street. Breathless: "85th Street and Roosevelt?" "Sure." Instead of going straight towards Queens Boulevard he bears right, thinking I meant 85th St. in Manhattan. "Queens!" Too late. "I can't get off this now. Sorry, brother." He's right, there's no exit from the access road to the bridge. I get out.

I'm right back where I started. As loud as I can, I shout "Fuck the MTA." It echoes through the plaza. Then it's back through the cemetery. This time I catch a cab as it comes off Queens Boulevard in time to make the right onto Northern. And I'm home ten minutes later.

The cemetery turns out to be a piece of public art that's part of the Queens Plaza Bicycle and Pedestrian Landscape Improvement Project. The broken concrete slabs cover 14,000 feet of "unusable space" between traffic lanes. It's meant to deter pedestrians like me from crossing, for our own safety. Just one question: If it's meant to keep pedestrians away, why is there a little pathway to the center as if this were one of those meditation mazes?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Take Your Eye Off the Ball

Tim Wakefield and Eri Yoshida (2010)
As reported in this space yesterday, the Red Sox management declined to resign Tim Wakefield to a major league contract. Wakefield went 7-8 last season, so good call, right? Wrong. I had the boys in the BTB Research Bureau take another look, and here's what they came up with.

In the games Wakefield won, the Sox averaged 6.14 runs. That's above the season average of 5.4 per game. But if you take out the 18-6 trouncing of the Blue Jays in September, that drops the average to 4.16 runs for the other 6 games Wakefield pitched, and he still won. In the 8 games Wakefield lost, the Sox averaged just 2.75 runs--roughly half their season average. Where's the love there?

The problem was not with the pitching, it was with the hitting. Here's my theory: The players in the field are trained to keep their eye on the ball, from the pitcher's hand to the bat to their glove. When a knuckleballer like Wakefield pitches, their own timing as a hitter is subtly being affected: When they do step into the batter's box, they're not swinging at the ball that's actually been thrown, but a combination of that and the knuckleballs they've been watching from the field. Result: more Ks, fewer hits.

Bonus baby?
The solution is not to get rid of Wakefield, especially when the Sox are weak on both starters and relievers, with Lackey out for the season and Papelbon gone. Instead, it's to get Sox hitters to shake off the mental images they're bringing to the plate of Wakefield's knuckleballs. Maybe, there's some kind of sunglasses they could wear in the field that filter out the ball's fluctuations....

Or maybe this calls for the homeopathic approach, get the Sox batters taking tons of BP with knuckleballers. If that's the solution, I think the Sox should sign Eri Yoshida, now pitching out of the bullpen for the Hyogo Blue Sandars. You remember, Eri Yoshida, the young Japanese woman who grew up idolizing Tim Wakefield, taught herself the knuckleball, and briefly pitched professionally for the Chico (CA) Outlaws before returning to play in Japan. Well, why not, she might end up winning more games for the Sox than Dice K.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tough Knuckles

The red socks, not the red hat
I had planned a post for today on the elevation of Archbishop Dolan to Cardinal with an analysis of the likely impact on the BQE (greater respect for the passing lane, use of turn signals, and so forth). But when I heard that Tim Wakefield retired, after the Red Sox refused to offer him a decent contract, I knew that would have to wait.

Tim Wakefield is the 45-year old knuckleballer who pitched for the Red Sox for 17 of his 19 seasons in the bigs. As the Boston Globe points out, only Carl Yastrzemski (23), Ted Williams (19), and Dwight Evans (19) played more years with the team. All of those great players retired without a World Series championship, Wakefield has two (2004 and 2007).

Wakefield has given us many, many great moments as a starter and as a reliever. None more dramatic and more crucial than the 5th game of the 2004 league championship series against the Yankees. The Sox were down 3 games to 1 at that point--fighting off elimination. He came on in the 11th inning with the score tied 4-4. The Sox had already used six pitchers in the game and needed to save something in the tank for the next two games--if there were to be more games. (Wakefield had volunteered to pitch mop up in the ugly 18-9 drubbing the Yankees gave the Red Sox in Game 3, in order to save the rest of the pitching staff.)

Heart of a knuckleballer
Francona asked Wakefield to give the team one more inning. Instead, he gave them three of the most harrowing innings I have ever endured. Not because Wakefield didn't have good stuff. He did, giving up just one hit and one base on balls. But because Jason Varitek, who didn't usually catch for Wakefield, was behind the plate. Varitek had about as much of an idea of where the ball was going as the Yankee batters did. Every pitch was an adventure. He gave up three passed balls over three innings, with both runners scampering into scoring position. Wake hung tough, and the Sox went on to win it on David Ortiz's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 14th. The rest is history.

Tomorrow: The Sox are making a big mistake in letting Wakefield go. And I'll prove it!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Faraway, So Close!

That's Nicholas Ray, tough guy filmmaker who made They Live By Night, Rebel Without a Cause and many others, photographed in the old Yankee Stadium by his friend and protégé Wim Wenders. It comes from Wenders' book of photographs Once, in which each photo or series of photos is accompanied by a brief journal entry, mini essay, or poem--each titled "Once." Here's the one for this photo:


I went to a baseball match
with Nicholas Ray.
The New York Yankees played the Boston Red Socks.
A classic.
He told me about his friendship with Joe DiMaggio,
one of the greatest players ever,
and of the time
when they were both courting the same woman"
Marilyn Monroe.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pitchers and Catchers Report

(Brendan Smialowsky/Getty Images)
Spring training begins tomorrow in Fort Myers for Red Sox pitchers and catchers. It's already begun for some clubs. Here's Callista Gingrich to toss out the first pitch. By the time this upcoming season finishes, we'll be in last inning of the presidential campaign. Something tells me, Callista's old battery mate, Newt "Ballistic" Gingrich, will have been sent back down to minors.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Donor Fatigue

If you are driving on the BQE east to west, just before you reach the bridge over the Gowanus you encounter two billboards one after another: Donate your car! Donate your organs!
"Raphael is here thanks to an organ donor."
Both worthy causes. Just be sure you know what you're signing up for. You don't want to be sitting around some Saturday morning waiting to hand over your car keys, when the guy shows up, takes a look at your midsection, and asks, "Right or left?"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jiffy Life

The are No 15% Off coupons on eternity
A visit to Jiffy Lube tends to make one reflective on his or her own life. When was the last time I changed those wiper blades? Rotate the tires this time or wait until next? Should I finally switch to the synthetic oil or stay with SW-30 that's been keeping me going so far? Can it really be time already for a 50,000-mile complete fuel oil system cleaning?

Maybe that "already" is what needled me into a drive through Calvary Cemetery on the way home. That and the spectacular views of the Kosciuszko Bridge. Getting there was easy: 39th St. to Greenpoint Avenue, then left on Review Street. Figures.

When the Jiffy Lube guy calls you up to recommend what should be done, in addition to the regular oil change, my strategy is to say, "Maybe next time" to all but one of the choices. "Yeah, let's do that." The one I do choose is always arbitrary. But I choose.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I'm not sure what the Chinese characters say, or even if they are Chinese, but I've got a hunch it's: Why day trade when you can go directly to day rich?

Monday, February 13, 2012


Last of the Checkers
You don't see many yellow cabs in my neighborhood. When you do, the drivers are usually on their way home from or on their way to a shift in Manhattan. But there's always a taxi waiting for you between 82nd and 83rd Streets on Roosevelt Boulevard. It even talks! One of the charming things about Jackson Heights is the persistence of old-fashioned coin-op children's rides. Look closer, you'll see this one is in front of one of our bars!

Room for one more?
This little cab gets lots of fares. It reminds me of the taksi (or is it a bus?) on the cover of Istanbul 70: Psych, Disco, Folk Classics, a great compilation from Nublu--a record company so cool it doesn't even include this new release on its own web site, which is why I'm linking to Amazon.

Among many other terrific songs--all without any translation--is "Ayrilik Olsa Bile" from 1974 by Esmeray. I have no idea what the words mean. You can check it out on YouTube below. It might just make your Valentines Day.

Brought to You By the Letter T

Okay, animation geeks, what do Sesame Street and Piels Beer have in common? Ernie and Bert's legendary benders at Mr. Hooper's Ringside Tavern? Not exactly, but there is a clue in there. Tee Collins, that's what. Tee Collins was the animator who created Wanda the Witch, Nancy the Nannygoat, and other letter-sponsored shorts on Sesame Street. He got his start doing animated TV commercials for Piels Beer, introducing Harry and Bert, the Piels Brothers, who served as debonair if a bit clueless pitchmen for the brand in the early 1960s. Their voices were done by none other than Ray Goulding and Bob Elliott. Tee Collins was also a painter and the first African American to establish his own animation studio.

Harry and Bert became so well known that when Jimmy Breslin did his own commercial for Piels ("a good drinkin' beer"), he paid homage to them. Here's one of Tee Collins' Piels spots. Wonder if Jim Henson was thinking of them when he decided to give names to his own famous duo.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

For Whom the Bells Have Tolled

Reckoning for Merchants (1489)
If the BQE were to become a toll road, it is highly unlikely that we would get those fairytale toll houses of Merritt Parkway memory. In fact, the trend is to toll-taking structures that communicate with your EZ-Pass transponder without you ever needing to even slow down. And, just like that, you're $9.80 poorer.

This means we not only have lost the toll houses, but we are losing the honorable profession of toll taker. The woman in the photo below is Juliet Jones, pictured on her first day as a toll booth attendant at the Queens Plaza entrance to the Midtown Tunnel. It was April 1944, and the policemen who had previously performed the job had been "taken into armed forces or specialized war industries."
Schlesinger Library on the
History of Women in America

It's been a long time since I handed over my toll to an actual human being. When I did, I was kicking myself for not having had my EZ-Pass. But there was time when this exchange was so frequent that it gave rise to the great Thank You Debate. In brief, some held that it was appropriate for the toll taker to thank the driver, since the driver is giving him or her the money. Others that the driver should courteously thank the toll taker for performing a necessary service. Who says, "Thank you" and who "You're welcome"? I maintained that the reciprocal "Thank you" <--> "Thank you" exchange was the only way out of this conundrum.

Wherever you came down on this question, let's take a moment to thank Juliet Jones and all the men and women who ever put on the uniform and stepped into the booth. Keep the change!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Toll House Talk

Welcome to Joe's Country
There have been many proposals for dealing with the cataclysmic traffic volume and road conditions on the BQE. The one that is actually easiest to implement and most likely to have an immediate impact, at least on the volume, is charging tolls. The argument for tolls is made in this post on, to wit, tolls on the BQE and Gowanus expressways would reduce traffic, as drivers opt for another route or not to drive at all, and thus diminish the need for maintenance. "A free road for drivers is also an expensive road for taxpayers." Plus tolls bring revenue that could be used for repair or new projects.

Your correspondent has long been an advocate for tolls--on aesthetic rather than fiscal grounds. I led the unsuccessful Restore All Tolls movement in Connecticut after those beautiful shingle-roofed Merritt Parkway toll houses were eliminated in 1988. Where were the highway architeture preservationists?! You can still visit one such toll house, though not drive through it, in (yes!) Boothe Park in Stamford. A fine model for the new BQE toll houses, I'd say. So start saving the nickels and dimes. If we raise enough from the new BQE tolls, maybe we can build the Brodsky Bridge after all!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I Saw Something, I Said Something...

I see a failed franchise
Two weeks ago, as I was coming down one of the three staircases--oh yes, this is going to be one of those posts--at 82nd St.-Jackson Heights, I noticed something sticking out into my path. It was the loop of a cable-style bicycle lock. The bike was gone but the lock was still there. I pushed it so the loop was on the outside of the stairway and went home. The next morning, it was still there so I called 311.

I described how someone could easily catch their foot or a cane in the loop and take a nasty spill.... The operator interrupted me to confirm that the lock was attached to a subway stairway. "Yes, on the northeast corner of 82 and Roosevelt Avenue." "That's the MTA," he said. "I can transfer you or you can call 511." He transferred my call but I must have hit the wrong button (I was on the subway) and couldn't get to an operator. I called back later, got an operator (not that easy to do), and gave my report. "We'll take care of it."

Loop de loop
Two weeks later, the lock is still there. I keep an eye on it, make sure it hasn't been knocked back into the pathway, tidy it up a bit. I suppose I could go to a hardware store and buy some kind of bolt cutters, but it's become for me a kind of mascot of life at 82nd St.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Filmore East East

Where the magic began
In 1973, a club opened in New York City that would become synonymous with the emerging proto-punk and glam-rock movement--a reaction to the takeover and sedation of rock and roll by A&R guys from the big labels and AOR radio. CBGB's on the Bowery. Yes, that too. But I'm talking here about the Coventry Club (formerly the Popcorn Club) on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside. For a few halcyon years, the Coventry would be ground zero for bands like Forest Hill's own Ramones, the New York Dolls, and the Dictators.

The coub is best known as site for the first-ever Kiss gig. (The owners passed on a young Boston band, Aerosmith--too expensive at $300 per gig). The Coventry Club, as a music venue, only lasted until 1975. So, what that means is that Queens has been without a first-rate rock and roll venue for 37 years. That's one less club than Pawtucket, Rhode Island (the Met).

For those about to rock (
What if I told you that a vintage Art Deco moviehouse was sitting idle at the intersection of the BQE, Roosevelt Avenue, Broadway and about 10 subway lines (including express trains from Manhattan)? With great naan and kababs next door. Yes, the Earle Theater (more recently the Eagle) has been shuttered and slated for destruction--another Indian shopping mall is rumored for the site. The Earle was opened around 1939, and was long regarded the premier "art cinema" house in Queens before its blue period-- showing pornos in the 1970s. More recently it has screened Bollywood hits and occasional cricket matches via satellite. It's been closed since 2009. You can see some heartbreaking pictures from inside the Earl on the Jeffrey Tastes blog.

Call it the Eagle, the Earle, the Coventry Club III (there was briefly a second in Manhattan), the Bollywood Beat, or CBGB-BQE... let's not let this opportunity go the way of Cardvark!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ice Queen in Queens

The Great Hall
The quiz is behind us. I think we all learned something about Queens--and, maybe, about ourselves. Time to party. With Bjork? Yes, Bjork is in the Hall. The Great Hall of the New York Hall of Science, that is. We don't get Icelandic superstars everyday in Queens (and it's been a long time since the Beatles played Shea Stadium), so this is big news. Bjork chose the Great Hall for her science-themed Biophilia spectacle, complete with commentary by Richard Attenborough.

Well, that wacky, undulating, valle de verre space (built for the 1964 Worlds Fair) sounds just about right for Bjork or maybe Devo (oh please, Hall of Science, please bring Devo), but it is not a likely candidate for the music venue Queens has needed for a long, long time. Tomorrow, I'll revisit Queens' punk and glam-rock legacy. And unveil a possible successor! In the meantime, here's Bjork from the Hall. Looks like science to me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Reckoning

Congratulations Giants, tough luck Pats. Now it's time for the score that really matters: Yours. Here are the answers to the Queens IQ Quiz, Part II:

(6) Monty McFadden, played by Tom Waits, is one of a group of friends from Astoria gathering for pal Ray (Ken Olin) and Patty's (Chloe Webb) wedding in Queens Logic. Patty's friend Carla (Linda Fiorentino) on Monty: "Cute? The guy buys a new Monte Carlo every year because his name is Monty." Here's Monty in action:
(7) Traveling west to east, Metropolitan Avenue takes you past the Linden Hill & Ahawith Chesed cemeteries (at Grandview Ave.); the Mt. Olivet Cemetery; the Lutheran Cemetery; and St. John's Cemetery. It takes you within a block of Maple Grove Cemetery before terminating in Jamaica. That's a lot of dead metropolitans.

69 and fine
(8) It was a "troubled" '69 El Camino that future governor Andrew Cuomo worked on for weeks and then, on a test drive, and against his brother's advice, dropped the hammer with disastrous results. He goes for Stingrays these days. The story is told well in this Times piece.

(9) Michael Griffith was struck by a car and killed on the Belt Parkway. He and two friends were fleeing a gang of white youths in Howard Beach. His friends survived, though one was badly beaten with baseball bats.  Four of the white youths were convicted of second degree manslaughter and assault and sentenced to 15-20 years. Sadly, it was not to be the last hate crime in Howard Beach.

(10) Vince's indy film was Queens Boulevard. The final line: "I am Queens Boulevard." As far as I know no one has yet made a film using QB's nickname "Boulevard of Death." But don't pinch it, it's copywrit.

(*Bonus*). How did Karol Kozlowski get from his lodgings in Greenpoint across the Newtown Creek where he could get a subway to Astoria? He took the a trolley across the Vernon Avenue Bridge. This map shows the extensive streetcar network operated by the BMT in Brooklyn and in Queens in 1924. The Vernon Bridge was replaced with the current Pulaski Bridge in 1954. By then, expansion of the subways had made the trolleys redundant. Kozlowski commuted on the G train for the last few years. Poor bastard.
Well, how'd you do? If you scored a 10 (or 11 with the bonus), give a holler. You've got a Cardvark T-Shirt coming your way.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Quiz Time, Part II

Okay, Queens Cognoscenti, how'd you do on Part One? The answers follow the photo below, so if you haven't taken it, there's still time.
In the Triangle (Courtesy
(1) Joseph Cornell lived and worked nearly his whole life in a house on Utopia Parkway in Flushing.

(2) Donald Manes was pulled over by the police on Northern Boulevard near 126th St. He was dazed and bloody, telling the cops he had escaped two men who had abducted him at knifepoint and forced him to drive to Flushing Meadows Park. The story came under intense scrutiny and details of the PVB (Parking Violations Bureau) payoff scandal came to light. Manes killed himself in his own home with a knife on March 14, 1986.

(3) Manes was succeeded as Queens B.P. by Claire Shulman who put the kibosh on her predecessor's dream of an Indy-style track in Flushing Meadows. Claire to developers: "Over my dead body."

(4) The Iron Triangle (see photo above), that bastion of hub-cap capitalism, is bounded by Northern Boulevard (north), Willets Point Boulevard (east), and 126 St (west).

(5) "The city seen from Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its wild promise of all the mystery and beauty of the world." That's Nick Carraway from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. The city he's referring to, of course, is Manhattan. Queens is basically the ash-heap between Manhattan and East Egg (aka, Great Neck, Long Island).

Grade your own quizzes. Remember, honor system! Now, get ready for Part II:

Queens logician
(6) Tom Waits' character in Queens Logic (1981), Monty McFadden, is known for doing one thing every year. What is it?

(7) Queens has great cemeteries. Excluding the BQE, which single road would allow you to see the greatest number of cemeteries?

(8) Governor Andrew Cuomo loves muscle cars. In high school, he worked at a garage in Hollis and drove a AAA pick-up truck. He used to buy broken down cars, fix them up, and sell them for a tidy profit. The scheme worked well, but one prize eluded him. Despite weeks of work, when he took this "car"for a drive, he hit the gas and it exploded. What model was it? (Year optional.)
(Courtesy New York Times)

(9) In 1986, three black men whose car had broken down in Broad Channel were chased by a group of white Howard Beach teenagers, at least one with a baseball bat. One of the men fleeing was fatally struck by a car on which Queens roadway as he tried to elude his pursuers?

(10) In the HBO show Entourage, Vince made an indy about his native borough (also Turtle's, Eric's, and Drama's). What was the movie called?

(Bonus Question!) The great Polish-born memory painter, Karol Kozlowski, traveled every day from the house he lived in on India Street in Greenpoint to the Con Edison works in northern Astoria. Before the IND subway line connected Queens and Brooklyn, how did he get across the Newtown Creek? Hint: He didn't know how to drive.
Japan's Mt. Huzi

Answers tomorrow!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pop Quiz!

Get out your number 2 pencils! It's time for the first annual BTB Queens IQ Quiz. 5 questions today, 5 tomorrow. They're all, one way or another, related to roads, cars, and drivers in Queens. Sorry, no multiple choice--and no Googling!

Blue Sand Box (1950)
(1) The artist Joseph Cornell lived and worked for nearly his whole life in a house with his mother and his brother Robert on this Queens thoroughfare.

(2) On January 10, 1986, a car being driven erratically by recently reelected Borough President Donald Manes was pulled over on which Queens roadway? (That's Donald below with Ed Koch and John McEnroe in happier times.)
Courtesy New York City Archives/DORIS

(3) "Over my dead body," said Bourough Pres Claire Shulman (she succeeded Donald). What was the project she was talking about?

(4) Willets Point Boulevard forms the hypotenuse of the "Iron Triangle."What streets comprise the other two sides?
(5) Name the author and the book for this quote: "The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty of the world."
Photo by Berenice Abbott

Answers to Part I tomorrow!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Sentinel

Waiting on the 8:53 to Babylon
Take a look at this photo I shot from the LIRR platform in Woodside. Nothing special, right? If you look closer, though, you can make out the figure of a very white guy standing on the corner of the office building in the center. Take a closer look.
What's up, Doc?
I did a double-take when I saw him the other day. We've got a jumper flashed through my mind. Granted, a very very stupid jumper since the two-story fall wasn't likely to kill him. Fortunately, he would be right in front of the Total Body Healthcare center.

On second thought, I realized he was there to promote the healthcare center. I don't know about you, but there's something mildly creepy about a human size figure perched on the edge of a rooftop. Somebody should remind the good folks at Total Body that scarecrows are meant to drive away the crows, not bring them in.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Only the Drop Dead Know Queens

Is that Donald Manes?
Recent posts have focused on Brooklyn. Well, how else could I solve the BQE's most serious traffic problems? Beginning with yesterday's post from Cork Association of New York (aka, The Bantry Bay) in Long Island City, I begin to balance the scales a bit in Queens' favor. Thus, the new header photo above from the CUNY collection. It's labeled "Alley Pond Parkway." There is no such parkway; since Alley Pond Park is skirted by the Cross Island Parkway, I'm guessing that's it. Circa 1965, I'd say.

Queens is known for many things, including shady politicians and magnificent cemeteries, like the New Calvary Cemetery the BQE passes above. These photos are from a series by Bruce Gilden in which he set up a Mafia funeral in Queens. You can see more images and hear the photographer talk about the piece here. While it might not do much to dispel stereotypes of Queens, it's a nice piece of theater.
"Thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

End of the Line

The home office
Things were already bad when I got onto the BQE in Woodside yesterday morning. The sign said "Road Repair at Morgan Avenue. Two lanes closed. Heavy delays." It wasn't lying. I bailed out at the Queens Midtown Expressway exit to take my chances on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Traffic backed up solid. I had Calvary Cemetery on one side and the Bantry Bay on the other. I had to go one way or the other. So I left the Buick running, threw a fiver on the seat for gas money, and headed into the Bantry Bay. I ordered a pint then called the office from the bar's payphone and told my girl to cancel my appointments for the afternoon. I've been here ever since.