LIC millstones Blog

To Protect and Preserve

Ring around the Rosie

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Ring-a-ring-a-roses – photo by Mitch Waxman

Windmills must be tilted at, I always say, or in this case millstones. Witness with me, if you would, the state of the LIC millstones on the 26th of march, 2010. It is my habit, when time permits, to walk across the Queensboro Bridge. Often, I find myself walking back to Astoria’s rolling hills through Queens Plaza.

A pocket full of posies – photo by Mitch Waxman

The LIC Millstones remain in the little triangle in Queens Plaza, and continue to be shielded from the non stop truck and automobile traffic by a flimsy chain link fence. The netting affixed to the fence had been torn away by a recent squall of stormy weather.

Hush! hush! hush! hush! – photo by Mitch Waxman

Survivors of the 17th century, the artifacts housed here are an artifact of the agrarian industries that populated Queens before, during, and after the Revolutionary War. It is very likely that some number of the 163 African American slaves known to have been held in Newtown in 1755 were employed in operating these millstones. We won’t know for certain, because scholarly access to them is being denied for unguessable reasons by those municipal authorities who hold tenancy over them.

We’re all tumbled down – photo by Mitch Waxman

Local antiquarians have suggested that the millstones be removed from the street, and a local community supported and operated Historical Society have offered use of their own facility to house the millstones- free of charge to authorities. A public petition is available, and many have signed it, both physically and digitally. Be clear though, that this is no “artifact grab” by this local group, as has been alleged, and they would be quite content to just see the millstones safely indoors and verifiable to inspection. They’re just offering a space for it.

A ring, a ring o’ roses – photo by Mitch Waxman

Indignation is bred amongst those who cherish the story of Queens, and have seen generations of achievement and cultural history swept away by wave after wave of real estate speculation. Historic buildings, entire neighborhoods in fact, are swept away in the name of “development”. This is the way of things in New York City, of course, and it would be shambolic to believe that the process can be altered or halted.

A pocket full o’posies – photo by Mitch Waxman

What we can do, what we owe to the future, is to leave behind a few fragments of what was. Who knows, these millstones may be the Rosetta Stone that some future civilization uses to decode our own.These survivors of centuried tumult should be treated a little bit better than sitting in a box amongst a pile of industrial garbage in Queens Plaza.

Atch chew! atch chew! – photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, all I can say is exposure to this issue, while illuminating and nauseating at the same time… has exhausted me. A microcosm of a larger issue, philosophy and politics have created fortress mentalities centered around turf. Can’t it be agreed by all to just take these things inside one of the many city or state buildings around Queens Plaza? Some neutral turf like a bank or PS1? Can’t we let a few experts have their first real look at these artifacts? Where are the universities in all of this? Columbia or NYU, these are archaeological remains of 17th century Dutch technology… and you folks have a LOT more pull with the City than anyone in Queens.


We all fall down – photo by Mitch Waxman


Written by Mitch Waxman

April 2, 2010 at 5:30 am

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