Where Mespeatches Indians Roamed


| ddynak@queenscourier.com |


THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

The name of this magazine is LIC Courier. but this month I’m making an exception to write about Long Island City’s south-east neighbor, Maspeth – and for good reasons. It’s the oldest European settlement in our borough. It’s very close, just at the end of Review Avenue, it ends at the Newtown Creek in the South, and connects via a movable bridge with Brooklyn, just like LIC. And, if you never tried it, the best views of Long Island City’s new high-rise skyline are from the Maspeth Plateau.
It also possibly borders the most number of different neighborhoods of any other zip code: LIC, Woodside and Sunnyside, Elmhurst, Middle Village and Ridgewood in Queens, and East Williamsburg and Greenpoint of Brooklyn. Finally, the highest elevation land in Maspeth is actually occupied by the dead… Mt. Olivet Cemetery is there not going anywhere.

It is, effectively, where many of LIC’s manufacturing and warehousing tenants, chased out by residential rezoning of LIC, have been moving in the past 10 years. With Hunters Point, Court Square, Queens Plaza, etc. changing from industrial to office, retail and residential use, for many companies Maspeth, northern-most Astoria and Woodside contain the last available pockets of M-zoned properties within a five-minute drive to Manhattan in Queens, required for majority of manufacturing, trucking, food processing and warehousing activities in the city.

At least several times each month a new prospective commercial tenant will call us looking for “cheap” rent in those areas only to discover that it may actually not be any cheaper than Long Island City. While Greenpoint, E. Williamsburg and Bushwick are experiencing similar migration out of Williamsburg, what is unique about Maspeth specifically is total lack of subway stops.

As a result, while some newer construction warehouses can fetch same or higher price than properties closer to Manhattan, and office space is more and more in demand in LIC, pure office space alone is not very desirable in Maspeth. It turns out blue collar employees and business owners drive or put up with bus connections, while office workers refuse to do so.
My office happens to be in West Maspeth, and in the past couple of years street parking has become increasingly difficult due to growth in local business. It will get worse, as the DOT is planning a massive construction project on the Kosciuszko bridge (more lanes, lowering of the bridge and changes to traffic patterns) that will take years, Skanska, one of the largest construction outfits, is building a large complex there, and more new-construction warehouses are planned on every lot in sight.
Named for the Mespeatches tribe of Native Americans who occupied its land, Maspeth was purchased in 1635 by the Dutch and became the first European settlement in Queens. Ironically, the name means “at the bad water place” relating to the area’s stagnant swamps so the fact that Newtown Creek, the most polluted body of ware in the U.S., runs through it, lives up to its name till now.

But just as Maspeth once became “the next” affordable industrial area, it is now becoming more expensive and overcrowded, and other neighborhoods, East and South, will soon be next in line. Maspeatches Indians were eventually chased away from Maspeth, and farms built on their land were eventually replaced by manufacturing industries. What’s next for the neighborhood for years known mostly for Polish delis and a field of 270-foot-diameter gas tanks (now a new Gas Tank Park), and scenes shot in the area for Goodfellas and The Sopranos as legacy to its mafia ties?

Progress, of course, just not the kind folks living in a high-rise condo may understand.