The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for December 2009

In the cold waste 3

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This is the 163rd posting of the Newtown Pentacle, last one of 2009, and just about 6 months into this little project. Halfway through writing this, I had to evacuate the building due to a fire in another apartment. NYFD was prompt and performed their work in the normal fashion. Thanks Guys, and Happy New Year… now on with the dirge, apostasy, and dire prophecies…

Gondor, or Manhattan- from recently completed sections of Gantry Plaza State Park – photo by Mitch Waxman

The new East River Parks are magnificent and welcome additions to the waterfront, a tony garland showcasing the shining shield wall of Manhattan, and a value adding loss leader for landlords to dazzle the prospective Tower People with. Queensbridge Park was similarly awe inspiring upon its completion in the 3rd incarnation of Ravenswood, until things went horribly wrong in the Housing Complex it was designed to serve and the vain optimists in City government lost interest in funding it.

Today, its bulkheads are collapsing into the river and the muddy ball fields and patchy lawns are shoddy at best. Perhaps the experiences of the Tower People will be different as the calendar pages roll by, here in the Newtown Pentacle.

From the Wheelspur Yard road crossing beneath the Pulaski Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

The story of Long Island City, as one proceeds south, is told in steel and concrete. Leave the modern world, which is possible in Long Island CIty, and see the apotheosis of victorian aspirations. The industrial past of the 19th century, whose cracked pavement and toxic inheritances define the modern era, can be accessed merely by crossing the street. By 2020, the Manhattan Skyline will be hidden behind even more Tower Condos, and Hunters Point will accommodate some 5,000 new housing units. Hotels and Parks are also planned.

All the while, the City is closing Queens Fire Houses and Hospitals.

LIE from the Pulaski Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Surmount the Pulaski Bridge, but do not touch it with your bare skin. From here, the early and mid 20th century is visible. Witness a steel highway- Robert Moses’s LIE soaring over “the empty corridor“. It once carried the terrified middle class away from a troubled mid and late 20th century New York, in the manner of some open artery, creating the vast populations of suburban Long Island. It also blighted and depopulated western Queens, turning the valuable industrial land it shadowed into empty warehouses and abandoned brick lots. For the last half of the 20th century, Long Island City and the surrounding communities became ethnic ghettos and crime infested wards of municipal indifference. In this mid century midden, the rats ruled, and rat kings ruled over all.

Open air warehouse at Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

And then there is the Creek. The Newtown Creek. I have a lot of purple prose fun with the Newtown Creek- these quotes are culled from various postings-

“I’d rather drink a glass of that queerly coloured effluviam which flows lugubriously through a crucible of dictatorial capitalism called the Newtown Creek.”

“just a little bit of the chemical recipe that produces an anaerobic broth like that found in the Newtown Creek”

“VOC’s are amongst the primary pollutants fouling the waters of a nearby cautionary tale called the Newtown Creek.”

“and indeed- swirling within a nearby cataract of tears called the Newtown Creek”

“which I attribute to the possibly mutagenic qualities of the chemical pollution of that nearby extinction of hope called the Newtown Creek.”

“languidly across that gelatinous slick of black water- called the Newtown Creek- triggered its horns”

“The secular spectacular merely whets the appetite of your humble narrator for the open skies and sacred vantages found along those unhallowed backwaters of an urban catastrophe called the Newtown Creek.”

“The motive engines of the Pulaski began grinding in those deep pilings sunken on both sides of that vexing mystery called the Newtown Creek”

” is powered, fed, and flushed by that which may be found around a shimmering ribbon of abnormality called the Newtown Creek.”

“flabby jowled, staring eyed, scaly group which had been tormenting me- and whose apparent leader was a young girl carrying a curiously polydactyl cat whose aspect “I did not like”- were running off in the direction of that stygian cataract called the Newtown Creek”

There is actually nothing funny about the Creek, its a sobering subject, but I do my best to keep things light. One of the maddening facts though, is that the open air warehouse observed above, is designated to become a City Park as the Hunters Point South phase of the Queenswest development gets rolling in 2010.

Still Waters Run Deep – photo by Mitch Waxman

The EPA comment period on the issue of “superfunding the creek” has just ended, and as expected, the Oligarchs of Manhattan have rendered their opinion that the Creek should remain under their jurisdiction.

Did you think, honestly, that City Hall is going to cede control over a 4 x1 mile strip of Brooklyn and Queens to Washington without a fight?

That’s what Superfund means, the feds TAKE OVER, for as long as it will take to clean up the mess. They will fine whoever they want to for whatever they want to, issue orders that MUST be followed by commoner and king alike, and will not take “NO” or “That isn’t possible in this climate” as an answer. In the case of the Newtown Creek, the estimates for completion of project (at the medium estimate) are 30-45 years (45 years ago in 1963, John Kennedy had just been assassinated in November and LBJ was president). A river of federal money will flush out the Newtown Creek, but the tide is going to hit the masters across the river in Manhattan.

Our fellow citizens in the Western States have been chaffing under the authority of the EPA for a long time, which has created an electoral preference for smaller and less intrusive government policy amongst the citizenry. A lack of “institutional memory”, a disturbing modern trend easily blamed on a 4th estate owned and operated by real estate interests, is a smoking volcano.

Your Humble Narrator – photo by Mitch Waxman

It is the end of a year of change- but all years are “years of change”. New York, and the United States on the whole, continue their trend toward apathy and quasi-fascism.

  • The rich are always right- for by virtue of their fortunes they are proven so
  • Our enemies are all around us- and we must consider which rights to trade away in the name of security
  • Endless is war, with new fronts opening in Northern Africa and the Far East as we speak (did you notice how fast the story of “the underwear bomber” came together?)
  • The burdens of the social contract suddenly seem to be too much to bear as the Baby Boomer population begins to retire.

Ceasar is just a few years away now, and will choose to reveal him or her self shortly- and offer clarity and purpose to the masses- who will love their Ceasar, along with the bread and circuses.

And all the poisons in the mud will leach out.

In the cold waste 2

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from Vernon Blvd., Queensboro - photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite fingertips bleached to parchment white by biting wind and polar conditions, the cold waste beckons, and your humble narrator perseveres.

The relict shores of Ravenswood’s 3rd world persist in atavist glory at Vernon Blvd. and 44th drive, near the Gordon Triangle, which is what passes for a city park in this stronghold of the Oligarchs.

Brutal realities confront one here, 1 and 2 family homes still can be found, abutting vast victorian mill buildings converted to warehouse duty in the early 20th century. Fingerprints, left by the fattened digits of the masters, greasily smear across the neighborhood- every “available” sign on a relict warehouse is a signal of avarice and intent.

Taxis parked – photo by Mitch Waxman

At 46th avenue, the brick horizon opens, and a glimpse of the shining city is offered. Soon, this viewpoint and vantage will be occluded by yet another high rise spire, a warehouse offered to white collar laborers. Where will the unwashed who cook- and clean- and build- live and work when this 3rd world is gone- ground beneath the jeweled heel of progress?

The children of these new residents- where will they play and go to school? What will happen to the fragile infrastructure of 19th century streets, where wounds to the modern asphalt reveal victorian cobblestones? Why is the municipality not requiring the construction of new subway stations and schools, or at least sewers, from these Oligarchs for the rapacious profits they will garner from these grand projects?

Soil remediation tent – photo by Mitch Waxman

All the poisons in the mud will leach out, in the end.

The parable is exemplified at Anable Basin, at 5th street, where a second attempt at remediating the industrial history and unmentioned past of Ravenswood and Hunters Point is underway. This extant of the QueensWest development, whose previous metastasizes eradicated the historic district between the LIRR powerhouse and the LIRR Gantry docks, is troubled by environmental concerns that have postponed the plans of the masters.

Lessons learned there have been incorporated by the municipal chamberlins and chancellors, to avoid such expensive delays in a newer and larger project called Queens South just beginning at Hunters Point.

Megalopolis and Brownfield – photo by Mitch Waxman

Home sweet hell, New York City, the vast human hive.

The cement goddess is mother and home, school and prison, always a battleground- it produces children who are survivalist predators. When we walk the earth, New Yorkers are tigers amongst simpler peoples who didn’t have to endure living with… other New Yorkers.

There is a mind set amongst the rich in New York, and there always has been, that the poor can be saved by example- by having the poor live “as we do”. All of the afflictions of poverty can be alleviated- if not cured. Progressive Reformer or New Law Tenement or Urban Renewal or Gentrification or Upzoning, call it what you want- but Caesar is building the new Roman slums in an entirely inorganic fashion. This neighborhood used to be an industrial center, and then a junkyard, and that’s the reason why the ground is poison.

The industrial revolution happened. Here.

Testing Wells- May 30, 2009 – photo by Mitch Waxman

I am not a fan of vertical tower dwellings whose price of entry is designed to bring a non homologous population into an existing ethnic neighborhood as I can predict what will happen a generation or two from now, but I don’t own the land.

True ownership allows untrammeled discretion- if I own a car, I can set it on fire if I wanted to. If I own a house, I can knock out all the walls if I wanted to. If I could erect a forty story statue of my little dog Zuzu directly across the river from the United Nations building- that would robotically defend the city against giant Cat or Squirrel attack of course- it would be my business- because its my property. Why, though, would the City of New York instead encourage me to build an apartment house on a contaminated site instead of accepting the nature of the place and dedicating it to some acceptable usage? Could it just be the installation of a certain demographic and tax bracket into an overwhelmingly low and middle income neighborhood would benefit the status quo over in Manhattan?

Again, I’m just some guy, who doesn’t own anything. They’re rich guys, and in modern America, rich means you’re right- so what does it matter what I think?

Waste Barrels- June 29, 2009 - photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been haunting this place for a while.

Fascinating little project they have going on, which has actually activated some community activism amongst the new residents of Long Island City- the Tower People. Not bad folks these Tower People, on the whole, despite being a denigrated group referred to with smirks and winks by long time LIC’ers. Degreed and lettered professionals on the whole, they are a legion of bankers and lawyers who exist in the warren shadows of Manhattan’s financial district and turbulent midtown by day, but they turn Long Island City from a neighborhood into a dormitory.

A narrow enough lensing of the past can create causality from coincidence, but if you think that Battery Park City or Jersey City is city planning at its best, you’re going to love the new Long Island City.

Brownfield Work Site – photo by Mitch Waxman

The only buy-in for the community at large to enjoy are the production of riverfront parklands, which are remarkable, from which you may admire Manhattan while ignoring Queens stretching out behind you.

A recent article found at Queenscrap describes the cost of maintaining NYC parks at an astounding $10,000 per acre. Using this metric, Calvary Cemetery would need to raise $720,000 per year for groundskeeping, the average suburban golf course would have yearly expenditures measured in the millions, and a midwestern farm would incur costs in the tens of millions to maintain their lands let alone harvest them. I do believe that the journalists out there should take a close look at the Parks Dept. if this number is accurate. Just to be clear, as acreage is an old fashioned measurement not used commonly in the urban setting, that’s a square which is 208 feet and 8 inches on a side. The riverfront parks associated with Queens West will cost as much as $100,000 per acre.

Brownfield Work Site - photo by Mitch Waxman

9.5 acres, and owned by Rockrose Development (which has recently transformed itself into another corporate entity), this is the future home of four residential towers. As of April 2008, some 80,000 tons of contaminants had been removed from the site at a cost of $31 million. Standard Oil sited an oil refinery here in the 1860′s, and the soil is contaminated with Benzene, Petroleum Distillates, and volatile organic chemicals whose detected presence – in trace amounts- would cause the regular NYFD to evacuate and call in their HAZMAT teams.

Additionally, generations of untreated sewage and industrial pollution swirl and mix with the water table of the East River in the deeply cold gravels and blackened mud beneath the place. Sources also reveal that the “clean fill” being used to replace the contaminated substrates that were removed in the remediation process emanates from the tunnel being bored out from under the East River by the “East Side Access” project.

Who can guess, what it is, that still may lie hidden down there?

Brownfield Work Site - photo by Mitch Waxman

All the poisons in the mud will leach out, in the end.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 30, 2009 at 2:56 am

In the cold waste 1

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from Vernon Blvd., Queensbridge Park – photo by Mitch Waxman

Fearful that I’ve drifted too far into the prurient and macabre aspects of the Newtown Pentacle, haunted by notions that infected me at Calvary and Zion, my wanderings of late have been familiar and “safe” ones along well traveled streets. Of course, with the arrival of winter, I have been burdened by the many layers of insulation my frail physique commands.

Simple coastal walks, through the soot choked brutalities of northwestern Queens, along the East River. Above, Queensboro thunders away , thrumming out ultrasonic scalar waves in the manner of some vast steel cello, with its eternal vehicle and subway traffic a bow etching against concretized fret boards.

from Vernon Blvd., Queensbridge Park – photo by Mitch Waxman

Through the mist appears the shield wall of Manhattan. Everything in Queens looks toward Manhattan.

Ravenswood, as it was and is known, once was home to mansions and in the early 19th century- luxury yachts docked at its private piers. The noveau riche who lived here were captains of local industry in Long Island City (which at the time was a series of individual villages) whose bellies had become swollen by the profits found in exploiting a thriving, natural, and wholesome body of water called the Newtown Creek.

from Vernon Blvd., Terracotta House and Queensboro Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Further south, beyond the cacophony of Queensboro and its harmonic influences, the last remnant of Ravenswood’s second incarnation as manufacturing center lies in ruin.

After the millionaires, and after a period of their former estates being used as asylums and charity hospitals, came the factories. Unclean, 19th century industry’s only regulation and obligation was to profit. Municipal corruption and indifference to the environment allowed this second iteration of Ravenswood to pollute unbound by sense or statute.

When the 2nd Ravenswood went the way of all flesh, in the early-mid 20th century, the politicians and the banks were waiting.

from 43rd road – photo by Mitch Waxman

The city planners and their cabal of banking interests grabbed what they could by eminent domain and by condemning entire neighborhoods in the name of “urban renewal“, creating “the welfare state” and the Queensbridge Houses, along with thousands of similar “complexes” of public housing which rewrote the map of entire boroughs and even distant satellite cities. The blighting effect of siting these massive silos of poverty on the surrounding communities- however-  manifesting the radical crypto fascist architectural theories of LeCorbusier- was an unintended consequence. The third incarnation of Ravenswood.

Megalith from 9th street – photo by Mitch Waxman

When the Megalith was erected, a watchtower for some unholy thing that neither breathes nor lives yet hungers, it signaled the beginning of the Fourth World of Ravenswood. Manufacturing, which somehow survived the 20th century in Long Island City, does not fit the residential and financial business model of this 4th world. Ravenswood will be a gallery of towers, splendid and shining, facing toward the center- toward Manhattan. This corporate version of Ravenswood, the ultimate dream of LeCorbusier.

Queensboro from 9th street – photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing though, concerning this 4th world, which that thing in the Megalith and all the others like it, have not calculated is -

All the poisons in the mud are sure to leach out…

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 28, 2009 at 4:44 am

Posted in newtown creek

Like a great hand

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Came across this dire tableau the other night (December 16th to be exact) here in the oft perplexing grid of Astoria’s streets. At the corner of 44th and Broadway, it seemed that some great hand had reached down and jerked a car skyward, violently.

from wikipedia

Astoria is a neighborhood in the northwestern corner of the borough of Queens in New York City. Located in Community Board 1, Astoria is bounded by the East River and is adjacent to three other Queens neighborhoods: Long Island City, Sunnyside (bordering at Northern Boulevard), and Woodside (bordering at 50th Street). Astoria Heights, more commonly referred to as “Upper Ditmars,” borders Astoria on the northeast, at Hazen Street.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The eternal entrepreneur who owns the bodega establishment on the corner informs me- as his fruitstand and delicatessen has a full video surveillance coverage of the corner- that a “black car” or “car service” driver was parked in the spot when a delivery truck rounded the corner at many times the speed limit.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2009 at 3:34 am

Posted in Astoria

Tagged with , , ,

ChristmAstoria 3

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

All right, I’ll admit it- the last couple of posts about ChristmAstoria have painted the seasonal holiday in a somewhat sarcastic veneer. I grew up Jewish and have always been a little jealous of a holiday with such a rich mythology. Channukah, like Christmas, is all about celebrating “having survived the Romans”, but the Christmas iconography is just so much more compelling. There are also NO Rankin-Bass stop motion Channukah cartoons, and Heat Miser would have to be rethought entirely. The Winter Warlock, however, ports directly over – from an interfaith perspective.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator and the extensive staff here at Newtown Pentacle HQ (its a bit like TMZ around here- swimming pools and movie stars) just wanted to say thanks for following us around and checking in at the blog periodically, as well as wishing you all a healthy and happy holiday. The plan around here is to have one last feast day (or two) and get back to work. I’ll be wandering around the empty streets this weekend whenever I get a break- weather and feast wise. Look for a crazy looking old man in a filthy black raincoat taking pictures of dead rats- that’ll be me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My little dog, Zuzu (left), has extensive obligations all weekend as well, I am told.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll be taking a day or two off, but will most likely get rolling again on Saturday. Have a merry christmas, or at least a couple of days you don’t have to go to work.

(Don’t worry if anything good happens, I’ll post it. Why not subscribe to the RSS feed- found in the column to the right, and updates will just pop up in the gadget or browser of your choice?)

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 24, 2009 at 3:23 am

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