LIC millstones Blog

To Protect and Preserve


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A quick glance at articles in the local press during the course of last year had Penny and George and Jerry telling the public that their concern for the millstones “vanished” when they were encased in a wooden crate as part of their “bitter fight to keep them in the Dutch Kills community” (W Q Gazette May 19, 2010).
The Queens Chronicle stated they claimed that efforts by others to move them indoors were “self-serving” (June 17, 2010), a sentiment echoed in the Daily News which reported that Penny and George and Jerry stated the stones were “safe” in the construction site. (November 20, 2009) 

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) 

Now Penny Lee of City Planning and Dutch Kills Civic are, in our opinion, blatently taking credit for our efforts (Gazette 10/20/10 par. 8) Look at them – standing next to the stones with big smiles.
The  stones should have been moved away from the construction site all along.  
But it appears that their support is down to one or two small newspapers and a handful of local elected officials who looked foolish (in our opinion) by not only fighting their own community, but leading experts on this subject both in New York and across the nation.
We have nothing to say about the library finding money to move and display them at a time when they were forced to let 40 librarians go due to funding shortfalls.

Written by licmillstones

November 19, 2010 at 3:03 pm

GAHS Letter to the Queens Gazette

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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

Written by licmillstones

November 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm

The Tide Mill Institute Lends Their Support!

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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:

Greater Astoria Historical Society:

The Tide Mill Institute:


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                    

August 10, 2010

NEW YORK — Reshma Saujani today released the following statement, calling on the City of New York and the elected officials representing Western Queens to find an appropriate home for the historic millstones that have been subject to abuse. 

“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.”

James Allen

Written by licmillstones

August 10, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Press Release From DKAL 8-10-10

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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.

Written by licmillstones

August 10, 2010 at 8:41 pm


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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

Written by licmillstones

August 6, 2010 at 4:12 pm

The Greater Astoria Historical Society is the Right Place for the Millstones!

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Profile of the Greater Astoria Historical Society / 718-278-0700 /

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).

Written by licmillstones

August 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Experts Agree: G.A.H.S. Is the Way To Go:

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The Queens Historical Society has stated that the Greater Astoria Historical Society is the most reasonable place to keep the millstones:

“Thank you for informing the Queens Historical Society of the plan to remove the grist Mill stones from Queens Plaza to a temporary exhibit organized by the Greater Astoria Historical Society (GAHS). We support this temporary plan, especially in light of current major reconstruction of Queens Plaza and appreciate the effort of GAHS…”


Patricia Sherwood

President Pro Temps

And in a recent online question and answer session, the new Queens Historian, Jack Eichenbaum refered a question about the millstones to G.A.H.S.:

Q.  “What is your position on the Millstones at Queens Plaza? These are said to be the oldest European artifacts in Queens – dating from the 1650’s if the story is correct. Do you feel that the city’s plan to display them outdoors exposed to the elements is wise, given the damage that salt, freeze-thaw, etc. has already caused them?”  –

=Terence Bolger, LIC

A. ” I am no expert on preservation of artifacts, so I defer Terence Bolger’s question about the LIC millstones to Richard Melnick, president of the Greater Astoria Historical Society.”

-Jack Eichenbaum, Queens Borough Historian*

*Source: :




Written by licmillstones

August 1, 2010 at 12:37 am

Press Release From The Greater Astoria Historical Society

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Profile of Queens Plaza Millstones

Greater Astoria Historical Society / 718-278-0700 /

Jorrisen’s Mill, built between 1643 and 1654, was the first tidal mill in western Queens. It was powered by ditch, called Berger’s Sluice, which ran just east of Northern Boulevard between 40 Road and 48th Street. The backbreaking work of grinding wheat and sifting flour was generally done by African–American labor.

We have a fairly clear record of ownership: Parcell, Bragaw, Polhemus, and Ryerson to the Payntar family which bought the mill in 1831. The mill and mill pond remained to 1861, when the Long Island Railroad drove tracks through the area obliterating the location. The Payntar family rescued the millstones and placed them in front of their home on Jackson Avenue some 300 feet north of Queens Plaza.

About the time when the home was torn down in 1913, the stones were transferred to the plaza in front of the Long Island Savings Bank at 41st Avenue and Queens Plaza North. A postcard from about 1925 shows tall light fixtures with circular bases that seem to resemble the stones.

When the Queens Plaza subway station was built (about 1930) the stones were again temporarily moved, this time to a nearby flower bed. A photo in a booklet published by the Long Island Savings Bank in the 1940s shows the millstones embedded in a traffic island where they remained until late last year. The booklet shows them, at that time, to be in pristine condition.

The historical society has inspected the millstones over 25 years and has noticed, exposed to vandalism and the rigors of the elements, a marked deterioration in the last decade. Their centers eroded (someone dumped asphalt in them.) One was cracked. As early as 2001 we went on record with the New York Times expressing our concerns.

As part of the multimillion dollar renovation of Queens Plaza by the NY City Planning and the NYS Economic Development Corporation, the millstones are to be moved to the center of the plaza and mounted to pedestals with four pins drilled through them. Their centers are to be filled with gout. In that location they will be exposed to the vibrations of one of the most congested traffic hubs in New York (elevated, subway, and vehicular).  Their planned siting, next to a bike lane, is not safe. Deserted at night, they be will exposed to vandalism. They will be subject to road salt and weathering.

An application for designation to NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, who called them ‘decorative sidewalks,’ was rejected. They are sitting in crates with large signs designating them as ‘Historic Objects Under Study.’

Custom holds them to be the oldest surviving European artifacts in the borough. Some claim they arrived on a West Indian merchantman. The design on their face is late (perhaps early 19th century.) The millstones are either replacements or originals with their faces rescored.  Even if not original, they are still remnants of a 17th century mill.

The Astoria Historical Society is seeking support to temporarily house them in our museum, to retain experts to study them to determine their origin and age, and to place them on exhibit for the community until an appropriate permanent local interior space is found. The historical society, with the professional expertise to house the artifacts in a secure location, would make them available twice as many hours as an alternative proposal, a branch of the cash-strapped Queens Borough Public Library.

Information is from James Riker’s Annals of Newtown (1852) and personal recollections of the Payntar Family. The Payntar Family, professional organizations as the Historic Districts Council, as well as the Queens Borough historian, have gone on record supporting our efforts at preserving the stones.

Written by licmillstones

July 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm

The Payntar Family Supports G.A.H.S.

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This week, William Payntar, a direct descendent of the owners of the old mill and the land that eventually became Queens Plaza corresponded with NYC Councilman Van Bramer concerning the Millstones:

Monday July 26, 2010

Dear Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer & Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.

     I am a direct descendant of the Payntar/Skillman Family, who once owned most of the land in and around what is now called Queens Plaza, formerly Dutch Kills.

     The Historic Payntar Millstones, were used to made flour for Washington’s Continental Army and is indeed a Treasure and worth Preserving.  The Millstones are priceless and played an important part not only in the Revolutionary War but the old way of life in Dutch Kills.  They are now languishing on a Queens Plaza construction site.

     The Greater Astoria Historical Society has done much research on these Millstones.  My family and I really feel that these two Colonial Era Millstones, should be moved to an Exhibit Space within the Greater Astoria Historical Society Building, where they can be exhibited and studied.  They care about History and you should too.  They are not just two pieces of stone.

     It is my hope that our families Millstones will find a home with the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

                                                                                             Yours Truly,

                                                                                             William Henry Payntar Sr.

Wed. July 28, 2010


Thank you for reaching out to our office with your suggestions on the Millstones. The Council Member is taking this issue very seriously and appreciates your concern as well.  Over the course of the last few month the Council Member has met with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, Economic Development Corporation and many other interested civics, community groups and individuals who are interested in the preservation of the Millstones.  Thank you for writing.  

Best regards,

Joe Kenton

Constituent Liaison

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

Written by licmillstones

July 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm