MILLSTONES TO REST AT THE L.I.C. LIBRARY FOR NOW
(ASTORIA TIMES OCT. 7, 2010):
MILLSTONES FIND A TEMPORARY HOME
(QUEENS GAZETTE OCT 20, 2010):
And finally we have their direct quote “We’ve made sure the stones are not leaving the Dutch Kills area and that they are protected. They are as secure as they can be and insured. And it’s been determined that they will not be moved until they are ready to be taken to their final setting.” (New York Post December 1, 2009)
On your recent article “Millstones Find Temporary Home” October 20, 2010:
The Greater Astoria Historical Society is relieved that the millstones of Dutch Kills have been moved to the Ravenswood library. Finally they are in a location safe from a construction site and are accessible where the community can enjoy them.
This is exactly what the community, led by Dutch Kills Advocacy League, historians from around the country, and the Greater Astoria Historical Society, asked for – over a year ago.
There is just one thing that puzzles us.
How is it that Penny Lee of City Planning and her associates George Stamatiades and Jerry Walsh who were quoted in many papers fighting this (including the Western Queens Gazette) are now getting credit?
The Board of Trustees
The Greater Astoria Historical Society
THIS IS AN URGENT APPEAL BY THE TIDE MILL INSTITUTE IN SUPPORT OF ACTION TO PRESERVE RARE 17TH CENTURY MILLSTONES FROM THE JORISSON TIDE MILL.
The millstones in question are treasures of New York’s early industrial history and as such should be preserved in a secure environment with appropriate interpretative, educational information for the public.
It is rare for tide mill millstones of any sort to be preserved complete–and not be shattered, or destroyed. It is rarer still for any such millstones to be associated with a 17th century mill. The Jorissen artifacts must be one of the earliest such tidal millstones in the United States, if not in the Western Hemisphere.
Since 1631, tide-powered water mills were used in Boston, New England and New York to grind grain, cut lumber, grind spices, make snuff, pound iron, and do a thousand other heavy labor tasks that made America the great Nation it is today. These “tide-mills” also supported maritime commerce that linked emerging metropolitan centers along the entire Atlantic Coast. In New York, being given the privilege to build these mills was the historical event that launched your city to greatness–a fact acknowledged by two flour barrels on your city’s coat of arms.
The TIDE MILL INSTITUTE, established in 2008 by Boston’s Dorchester Historical Society was formed to help preserve America’s great tide-milling history and heritage. We believe it important that relics, photographs and memories of America’s hundreds of ancient working tide mills be preserved and used appropriately to inspire and educate new generations. As such, we vigorously support any action to preserve, display and interpret these stones, preferably in a museum environment.
The TIDE MILL INSTITUTE urges all municipal, county, regional and state entities to join with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, and to support their efforts to host the millstones in a temporary exhibit where their history can be on display for the community. This is the best place to give local residents a better understanding of their heritage and where the millstones themselves could be best made available for historians and scholars to study them.
The TIDE MILL INSTITUTE is opposed to the questionable proposal to drill holes in the millstones, to mount them on pedestals, or to leave them outdoors in the center of a busy transit hub where they would be exposed to the elements, vibrations, and vandalism. There is abundant evidence that such treatment has already deteriorated their fabric. We believe those plans would place these millstones in serious long–term jeopardy
The TIDE MILL INSTITUTE believes they should be permanently displayed in a museum–like setting within the community. The historical society and the local community, which in one form or anther, have cared for these stones for over 350 years, should both be regarded as the primary stakeholders in making this determination for a final placement.
The TIDE MILL INSTITUTE urges city and state commissions and elected officials to cut through whatever stands in the way of honoring the heritage of New York’s colonial past and save the Jorissen millstones. We urge the media in New York to play an important role in celebrating your city’s incredible heritage and to stand with the Greater Astoria Historical Society and the local community in their efforts to save these irreplaceable artifacts.
For further information please contact:
The Dutch Kills Community Millstone Blog: http://licmillstones.wordpress.com/
Greater Astoria Historical Society: http://astorialic.org
The Tide Mill Institute: http://www.tidemillinstitute.org/1.html
August 10, 2010
“The residents of Dutch Kills have voiced their concerns about the future of the historic millstones that have suffered years of abuse and neglect, however their calls for the city to find an appropriate indoor space for these artifacts, perhaps the oldest historical relics of the Borough of Queens, have been consistently ignored by city officials and Representative Carolyn Maloney.
“The city’s decisions about moving the millstones have been made in backroom dealings instead of in open public forums. Residents of Dutch Kills want to know why their member of Congress hasn’t spoken up on our behalf. These historic millstones should be moved to the Greater Astoria Historical Society, where they can receive the care they deserve. The community has consistently called for the millstones to be moved to this location; unfortunately the city and elected officials have ignored them.
“The decision to move the historic millstones must include community input. The mishandling of the millstones is yet another failure of leadership and a clear example of how the Dutch Kills community has been consistently neglected by Carolyn Maloney and other officials.”
DUTCH KILLS ADVOCACY LEAGUE: THE LEAGUE
PO BOX 8070 LONG ISLAND CITY NY 11101
August 10, 2010 Press Release
We are writing to you about the Dutch Kills millstones, objects that have been taken care of, and have been watched over by our community, for more than 350 years. They are now, according to City Planning and EDC, being slipped out of our community against our wishes. Still seething from the recent bungled rezoning by City Planning, many believe that the same parties are now involved in this latest outrage.
When the millstones disappeared into a Queens Plaza construction site last fall, a town hall meeting with attendees from around the borough voiced concerns about their safety. Although invited, no elected officials or representatives of either City Planning or EDC attended the meeting.
Photographs throughout the fall and winter showed the community’s concerns well placed for the millstones were dangerously exposed with construction debris piled around them. Behind fencing designed to conceal, one was moved. An outpouring of outrage finally forced EDC to take some cosmetic steps. A sign was put up.
A few weeks ago, during a meeting to defuse growing anger, City Planning and EDC made public their intention to remove the stones from the community. Called “fragile” in the fall, City Planning now termed them “robust.” Later, an EDC report described their plans. The stones would be displayed in an area with one standing upright, to “economize on space.” An EDC spokesman said their library transfer was in “advanced discussions.”
Upon hearing that the worse rumors were confirmed, questions were raised. Was this an appropriate use for the library, particularly in light of the limited hours and threats in funding? Why were alternative proposals ignored, as a museum like setting in the community where they could be studied and put on display?
To avert a potential public relations disaster for the Queens Borough Public Library, we call for an immediate halt to EDC’s plans. We want a public examination to see if the Queens Plaza renovation does not violate federal and state guidelines. Considering the track record of both City Planning, and EDC in managing our community’s zoning and the millstones, we want to hear other voices with alternative solutions.
We want our elected officials to show up – in person – at a town hall meeting. The Dutch Kills Advocacy League invites you to Dutch Kills for a chat.
The Historic Millstones of Dutch Kills.
A fitting home must be found for historic Millstones which have languished at their peril for decades among the traffic and pollution on Queens Plaza. These millstones are connected to the Grist Mill in the first European community in Queens, in what was and is today, Dutch Kills.
Penny Lee of the Department of City Planning, working with powerful figures at the Dutch Kills Civic Association, without the advice of an archeologist, have decided to make this a battle of wills, insisting they remain on pedestals on Queens Plaza. To treat these historic artifacts as pawns, to exclude our community from any meaningful say on their future, goes against everything this nation stands for and against 350 years of local tradition and pride. As a result of very poor planning by the City, these millstones and Dutch Kills, our community, have suffered abusive neglect. Despite the heritage of these artifacts, various City officials have allowed these millstones to be eroded, cracked, even permitted hot asphalt to be poured on them.
It is hardly surprising that the value of these Millstones has been disregarded by the City since the Dutch Kills Community itself has been totally “rolled over” by the planning apparatus of the City of New York. To the current administration, these historic artifacts are just as invisible as we apparently are.
Back in 2005, the Department of City Planning offered to rezone Dutch Kills in a way that would encourage new residential builds in order to maintain and protect “the character and quality of life” of our community. All residents embraced the City’s plan because we wanted to protect the quiet, the light and the safe and friendly atmosphere that we cherish in Dutch Kills as well as to encourage new residential building. In 2007 the City made a huge announcement that there was a new zoning plan for Dutch Kills and that once the new zoning was voted into law by the City Council no longer could high-rise commercial buildings be built. (By the way, there never has been one high-rise commercial building built in the 50 years of the old zoning). The Department of City Planning then delayed the start its own Environmental Impact Study for over 6 months and then added 4 months more of unnecessary delays to the ULURP process. In nearly a year of delays, 14 permits were given to hotel developers to build high-rise hotels anywhere in our community. Most chose to plant these out of character monstrosities in the middle of quiet, tree lined streets of 2-3 story houses, blocks from any public transport.
It is hardly surprising that The Department of City Planning is bullying the community into agreeing to leave these artifacts in the middle of traffic on Queens Plaza at risk of being damaged by vehicles and pollution.
It is time that someone draws a line in the sand. It might as well be now in Dutch Kills and today in 2010. We have nothing to lose. For like those stones, we, in Dutch Kills have been marginalized, disenfranchised, ignored, and tricked. How ironic, indeed, for from our back windows, now screened by hotel towers, we used to see the United Nations. This institution, whose very existence was designed to banish mistreatment of the common man, is itself now invisible, blocked by the same forces that are toying with the symbols of our heritage, the Millstones. It’s important to note that not one new residence has been built since the new zoning was implemented.
A nexus of multiple traffic lanes, underground and over ground trains is not a safe place for these artifacts. They should be removed to the Greater Astoria Historical Society where they can be protected and studied. George Stamatiades, a board member of the Queens Library, has also suggested installing the Millstones in a local branch of the library, but a local library is not a museum. Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of Historic Districts Council suggests that the millstones be relocated to the GAHS. William Henry Payntar, Sr., a direct descendant of the Payntar/Skillman family which once owned most of the land in what is now Queens Plaza, including the old mill where these millstones once turned, stated last month in a letter that the millstones should be moved to an exhibit space within the Greater Astoria Historical Society building.
As a resident of Dutch Kills and the Vice-President of the Dutch Kills Advocacy League, I urge that the good of our community prevail and that these historic artifacts, the Millstones, be protected in our near-by museum, the Greater Astoria Historical Society as soon as possible.
Megan Dees Friedman
Profile of the Greater Astoria Historical Society / 718-278-0700 / http://www.astorialic.org
Temporary Exhibit Space for the Dutch Kills Millstones
The Dutch Kills Millstones, during the renovation at Queens Plaza, belong at the Greater Astoria Historical Society. The society’s Mission Statement declares the organization’s purpose:
To discover, procure, and preserve whatever may relate to the natural, civil, literary, and ecclesiastical history of the … the State of New York, in general, and to the Greater Astoria area in particular, and to establish and maintain collections in art and archaeology; and
To display, present, and exhibit historical data and structures as well as artifacts of personal property for public exhibition and to conduct tours, etc. for public information and educational purposes to people of all ages, but primarily for esthetic or informative values and purposes.
The organization, a 501(c)(3) under a ruling by the Internal Revenue Service, is chartered as a museum under the New York State Board of Regents, and is registered as a New York State Charity. It is a member of the Queens Tourism Board and the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition. This year, 2010, we are celebrating our 25th Anniversary.
The society renewed a four year lease in a space occupied since 1993. It leases 6,000 sq feet on the fourth floor of the Quinn Building, a prewar reinforced concrete loft at 35-20 Broadway, Long Island City – about six blocks from the millstones’ location. The building has a security alarm and camera system. A security firm that subleases space from us has offered installation of cameras for the exhibit. We have a loading dock, an elevator and are wheelchair accessible. Galleries where the millstones would be on display are open from 8 AM to 8 PM weekdays and 8 AM to 6 PM on weekends; twice those of the public library.
Within four blocks of the facility are two transit lines (Broadway station for the N and Q trains and Steinway Street station for the R and M trains) and a number of major bus lines (including Q104 Ravenswood–Sunnyside, Q66 Long Island City–Flushing, Q18 Astoria–Maspeth and Q102 Astoria–Roosevelt Island.) The proposed library location is far from the subway and has only three bus lines by its front door.
The society’s facility at the Quinn Building includes office space, a library for the collections (housed in appropriate climatic environment), a lecture hall, and several exhibit galleries with both permanent and rotating exhibits. The crown jewel of the exhibit was the Blackwell House door (ca 1700), a nine foot colonial Dutch door from a house in Ravenswood that was deaccessed by the Brooklyn Museum and transported to our facility by the society from a warehouse near the Gowanus Canal. The facility has plenty of foot traffic: we are the premier meeting space for the community with a busy schedule hosting civic and community groups, community board committee meetings and Queens Council on the Arts panels et al. The exhibit would be in a public gallery sharing space with (an already installed) photo exhibit of the 17th Century Lent-Riker-Smith House, a local New York City Landmark that is commonly believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited house in New York City. The two exhibits would complement each other.
The society has regular historical features in four borough-wide newspapers and magazines and is soon publishing a fifth book on local history. For more than a decade, it has conducted weekly factory tours at Steinway & Sons, which have been praised in publications from Reader’s Digest to Forbes Magazine as one of the top such tours in the country.
We also must add that the Greater Astoria Historical Society is referenced by your consultant, Historical Perspectives, as underpinning “the historic facts and information” on the Dutch Kills Millstones in their report to the Economic Development Corporation on the Queens Plaza Streetscape Project.
Our board of directors includes professional educators and museum experts with graduate degrees in the museum sciences and education. We have signed a number of contracts with the city as, for example, the Department of Cultural Affairs for grants and the Department of Education for programs on training local history topics to secondary school teachers. We have a close relationship with the New York City Archives. The historical society has strong support from both the local community and from around the country (for example, the Payntar family, caretakers of the millstones for several generations, support our efforts).