The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

acquired enough

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A short one today

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting 31st street’s borderland between the Astoria and Dutch Kills sections of the neighborhood. That’s the N and Q tracks above, which can emit a calamitous cacophony second to none during rush hours.

Back tomorrow…

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Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, October 25th, Glittering Realms
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

 

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

mocking instruments

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One dares, or he dares not.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one found himself entering the death inducing environs of Queens Plaza last week. Navigating the cryptic signage painted onto the pavement, which mixes bike lane and pedestrian lanes intermittently, at night… Well, the NYC DOT really needs to be thinking about a do-over concerning them. Path finding is not based on any sort of recognizable municipal language, and there are few if any “tells” indicating where the pedestrian pathways fall. I walk through here all the time, and it scares the patootie off a humble narrator every time.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Automotive lanes suddenly appear in front of you, ones in which cars are already moving at a pretty good clip by the time they hit a badly marked cross walk. There’s nothing to “stand behind” while waiting for the light to change, and a feeling of exposure is experienced. This can’t be right. When the Dutch Kills Green park on the northern side of Queens Plaza opened a few years back, it dramatically improved the pedestrian situation on the Dutch Kills side, but the south eastern side is dangerous as all get out and difficult to navigate.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Don’t get me wrong, the northern side ain’t perfect, but it’s vastly easier to navigate through it than its opposite. As a note, I’ve been unable to stop noticing the super tall Manhattan building “432 Park Avenue” and everywhere I go these days it’s just popping up and demanding to be acknowledged. Here it is from Queens Plaza, a monster building as seen from the central gearbox of the Great Machine. One wonders, and more than wonders, what the weather is like up there.

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abhorrent discords

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Queens Plaza is antithetical to life.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Long has one theorized that the biblical Garden of Eden was actually located in what is now known to be North America, specifically at the corner of 42nd and Broadway in Manhattan. The metaphor of mankind turning a paradise into Times Square is somewhat delicious, but one wonders if perhaps this theorized location of the former Garden of Eden is just a little too far west and that paradise lost is actually found in Queens Plaza. A vile place, fraught with multiple hazards for the itinerant pedestrian, Queens Plaza wants you dead – and it will try to kill you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

All of the human senses are under severe assault in this place. Harsh light creates glaring contrasts, and oily shadows slither twixt and fore. From above, a cacophony that drowns out all other aural information is accrued as two elevated subway lines converge. The tumult is amplified by the roadways and their torrent of automotive flow, as well as the many vertical metal surfaces which tend to amplify and reflect noise rather than abate it, while steel columns heavily shadow the pavement. Engine exhaust fills the air, and lungs, with an oily miasma. From below – the thrumming vibrations of speeding locomotives burrow deep into the intestines, shaking the bowels. Bike lanes cross and intersect with pedestrian ones, allowing spandex clad missiles purchase to surprise and surpass an ambling innocent, and a truly byzantine series of street markings conflict, confuse, and astound.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what one experiences just as you near Queens Plaza, as vague and existential dread overtakes you. Realization of the true randomness of fate blossoms upon reaching the locus of the Great Machine, where vehicles of many types and descriptions approach mighty Queensboro. One might trip while walking cracked pavement cloaked in shadows, be pummeled by some loosened piece of the overhead tracks, or be impacted upon by 200 pounds of spandex clad primate riding his bike at 10-15 mph on the sidewalk. A car might strike, a bus would hit, a truck could squish. There’s also the other pedestrians to consider… with their blood shot eyes rapaciously darting and or noticing passerby. The world is a scary place, for one such as myself, and Queens Plaza is especially scary.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 16, 2014 at 11:00 am

rumbling, lumbering, crawling

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The horror…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One actually had to sit down and wait to get these three shots, a violation of normal shooting protocols. An interminable seven or eight minutes was spent uselessly fretting, searching for signs of an approaching chain of motorized boxes as they turned off of Queens Blvd. for Queens Plaza. Rules are rules, and if something isn’t randomly happening why I’m passing by, it might as well not have happened at all – as far as I’m concerned.

It is a delusional belief one has often enjoyed – that the rest of you simply power down, like some urbanized version of Disney’s “Pirates of the Carribbean” ride, whenever I leave the room. Right now, there’s a diner full of automata, waiting for me to trigger their pre recorded dance at dinner time. There’s also electric schoolchildren, who wait to point and laugh at the threadbare thing seen scuttling along area lanes. One pretends as if he doesn’t know, but realizes all.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The world is a stage, and we are all just players upon it… somebody said something like that, probably someone important or noteworthy… someone who was likely English and favored iambic pentameter. Confusion about whether I might be asleep in the world’s balcony cloud and perturb.

What does any of this have to do with the elevated section of the 7 line, here in Long Island City, you ask? Well, this sort of self recrimination and existential angst is how one idled away those seven to eight eternities of static position waiting for a subway to appear. I do not know how the wildlife photo people deal with the waiting.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned ad infinitum, under normal photowalk circumstance and custom, one scuttles along across the concrete devastations with no destination – allowing interest and fancy to guide me around. More often than not, when all the gears are clicking, something finds me. As I’ve grown older, I seem to avoid steep hills more and more, which means a lot of time is spent along the waterfront.

Keep moving, don’t stop, shoot on the go. That’s me. Spending seven or eight minutes waiting for a shot? Your humble narrator is getting long in the tooth, and cannot afford to waste any time at all. Seven or eight minutes might be a statistically relevant portion of my remaining time amongst the automated marionettes, here in the Newtown Pentacle.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 15, 2014 at 11:00 am

padding, clicking, walking

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Want to feel better? Take a walk in Queens.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Skillman Avenue between 39th street and 49th avenue is “big sky country” here in Western Queens, with the majesties of the Sunnyside Yard and the glorious skyline of the Shining City laid out for all observers. It has always been one of my favorite spots for a stroll, and never more so than at twilight.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a number of things I can tell you about the yards. When it opened, this was the largest coach yard on the planet, and it hosts the busiest tracks on earth to this day – specifically, the Harold Interlocking, which is shared by Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad. There’s an ocean of PCB’s and other industrial chemicals in the ground here, and its likely going to be listed for some sort of environmental cleanup or remediation before too long.

The odd and continuing appearances of cast off single shoes found along the fence line continues to intrigue and puzzle a humble narrator, but that’s another story.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the whole “deck over the yard and build a new neighborhood on top of it, with a stadium and hotel complex at the Queens Plaza side and affordable housing to the east” chestnut has surfaced again – the latest iteration of a plan espoused by Dan Doctoroff early in the first Bloomberg term. A number of people have asked me what my thoughts on the matter are.

My reply is always: How, in any way, would that be good for Queens? Does the proposal to deck the yards include hospitals and schools, an annex for the already stretched 104th and 114th precincts, additional FDNY personnel and equipment, or some mechanism to incorporate this new population into the existing wastewater system? Who will bear the costs of these municipal services? It won’t be the entity that builds a stadium or hotel complex, one guarantees you.

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innermost monstrosities

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I know things, I tell you, things!

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Owing to it being Columbus Day and all, one got to thinking what the old boy might have seen were he to have ever made it to Newtown Creek. Columbus, of course, never got anywhere even remotely close to NYC – but if today’s post was a thought experiment designed to picture a spot that the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek flowed to prior to European colonization… well, 40th avenue between 29th street and 30th is a darned good place to visit. Just saying.

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all pantheons

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Hey, youse, whatcha taking pixchas of? Comere, ahlls gis yes someting to take pixchas of right heres…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The first time that a camera was used as a weapon of war, not for propaganda or image capture but as a bludgeon, was during the First World War. A century ago, a British infantryman who was completely out of ammunition on the Western Front swung his Kodak Brownie stoutly around for 17 straight hours, holding off a German division singlehandedly before succumbing to his injuries.

I’m making that up of course, to illustrate the ridiculous nature of people’s reactions when they see a camera being used these days. Folks don’t react in the same manner to cell phone cameras, mind you, dslr’s must awaken some ancestral memory of one eyed predators stalking our primate predecessors. At any rate, here we go again with the Subway pics.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Compared to the shooting protocol I’ve been perfecting for the underground system, down in the tubes, the 7 line is a piece of cake. Above ground through most of Queens, every one of its platforms (except Hunters Point, which has its own virtues) offer fantastic points of view. The shot above is the Corona Yard, nearby Flushing Meadow Corona Park and Citifield, on the pedestrian bridge between the LIRR station and the 7 line’s stadium stop.

Whilst shooting this one, some faceless security guard asked me “what are you taking pictures of?”. Gesturing to the yard, I said “the trains.” He offered that it was disallowed, noticing such things and capturing the reflected light streaming off of them. Not desiring to discuss constitutional law with a fellow in a rented cop suit, I instructed him to summon the police. He declined and began to harass a teenaged skateboarder instead.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While on Skillman Avenue near Queens Plaza recently, the 7 came sliding in over the intersection and the deployed camera was called to action. An older woman, whose logical decision making process is clearly flawed – she made the decision to drive into Manhattan at rush hour – called out to me from her idling automobile, offering a question.

Her query was “are you a terrorist?”. I affirmed the negative on that one, and asked if she had remembered to turn the oven off before she left the house. I’m a real stinker like that, she was probably worried about it for the rest of the day. Seriously though Queensicans, leave me the hell alone when I’m working, because that’s what photographers are doing when we have those one eyed predator weapons systems pressed to our faces.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 10, 2014 at 12:44 pm

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