ASTORIA EL LAMP

by Kevin Walsh

I’ve said repeatedly to watch carefully when walking under elevated trains. Not for falling debris (not that that can’t happen) but for outmoded or unusual signage or lamp fixtures, because sometimes down below the el is the Land the Department of Transportation Forgot. In most cases under els you will find a mishmosh of lampposts. (Once els are removed, some weird poles indeed once came out into the light). In many cases you will find Dwarf posts that are exact replicas of the usual octagonal poles, just much shorter, with abbreviated cobra neck masts and narrower shafts. However, in the 1980s those Dwarves were largely supplanted by Brownies, short L-shaped poles carrying large circular New3 Gumball fixtutes, actually Holophane bucket lights with large glass reflector coverings. In the Age of the LED the Brownies have been facing attack from legions of short, davit-shaped LED masts.

But occasionally you have Dwarves of a different species, as happened on 31st Street Under he Astoria El. These are indeed different, as they sport cylindrical shafts; they were installed in the early 1960s. A close look reveals that the mast is detachable, a feature of this make. Unfortunately I don’t know the make; bases sometimes have the make in small embossed letters, but no luck here. The base, though is of a type I see most often in poles in New Jersey towns in the NYC area such as Jersey City, Union City etc. (NYC poles have four “claws” bolted onto the piece connecting the shaft and base.)

As I mentioned, this pole and others along 31st Street likely go back to the early 60s or perhaps the late 50s. Currently sporting an LED lamp, it has held sodium, mercury and perhaps incandescent lamps.

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5/31/22

2 comments

Sunnysider June 1, 2022 - 12:58 am

They prefer the term Little Posts now if you don’t mind.

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S.+Saltzman June 12, 2022 - 12:54 pm

Those poles were manufactured by Pfaff and Kendall, Newark,NJ. The company is now known as P&K Tubular Products Company. This type pole is still listed on the website as being equipped with the “type H base”. I have lived within a few blocks of this intersection for almost 72 years( except for the all expenses paid vacation with my “ Uncle” from 6-29-68 to 6-22-71) , so I can give a pretty accurate history of the area.
The intent of New York City’s mercury lighting program was to replace existing poles on a one for one basis to get the job done as quickly as possible. Relighting was completed in Astoria and Long Island City by the winter of 1964-65. 31st street under the el was not converted since there were plans to reposition all the poles to improve the lighting. In late 1965 the contractor started installing the new foundations for the repositioned street lights. From Northern Blvd. to 39th Avenue, the height of the el structure allowed the installation of standard Deskys. From 39th Avenue to the end of the el required shorter poles. These poles were used when they were installed, apparently removed from some other installation.
It was a long process. First as I said the contractor had to install the foundation. Then when concrete had cured, the contractor could install the pole. Then there was the wait for the utilities contractor to install the conduit from the street light foundation to the Con Edison manhole and then for Con Edison to run the wiring. I think it was almost two years before the last of the existing lampposts were removed.
One of the ways I can recall this is that the existing incandescent lights mounted on G type pole were controlled by individual astronomic time switches. The great blackout of November 1965 threw all the time switches on 31st street out of time by about twelve hours, so all the lights were on during the day and off at night. It was about a week before all the time switches were reset.

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