The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for March 2013

artificial means

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Maritime Sunday is suspended again this week, so as to incorporate the timely but dire warning that another Abomination has been spotted, moving freely through the community. This time the sighting was on Greenpoint Avenue in Sunnyside, whereas the last place and time I reported that such an entity walked amongst us was in Manhattan, back in December of 2012.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The beast had taken up station on the block opposite the park, and in some wild pantomime of clumsy gesticulations admonished passersby to accept a script of some kind. The blood chills thinking about what sort of bargain might be offered by such a creature, and one wonders if there are some things which might well be worth any cost.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The whirring staccato of my camera shutter attracted the attention of this rodent of great size, no doubt due to its overdeveloped auditory capabilities. Irregular coruscations of the cardiac action ensued deep within your humble narrator when the great beast suddenly stiffened and began to turn towards me, for given the speed legendarily attributed to its kind an attempt at escape would be, at best, a fruitless endeavor.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Cruelly baleful in expression, the monster fixed me in its glare while baring monstrous teeth, which were not fangs, instead its mandibular apparatus appeared to be bare plates of bone whose prominent shape and appearance reminded one of nothing less than the steel blades of jack hammers. ThIs halfling hare was around one and three quarter meters tall, and seemed both sturdily built and well armored by a dense hide which tended to hang loosely about its presumably sinewy limbs.

Watch your back out there today, it may be Easter Sunday, but this Abomination was lurking around, on the sunny side of the Newtown Pentacle, just yesterday.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 31, 2013 at 4:06 am

Project Firebox 65

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Always on the look out for friendly neighborhood Fireboxes which have eluded my notice, this sturdy specimen was encountered on Astoria Blvd. at 42nd street. Unfortunately malfunctioning, it bears familiar signage adjuring the reader to rely on telephone contact with the Fire Department instead of using the alarm system.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

“Engine 263 and Ladder 117′s station house happens to be on the block” thought a humble narrator. “Why would there actually be a firebox on the same corner as a fire house” entered my mind next, but then I remembered that this was, after all, Queens. Logic and Queens are often exclusive of each other.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

No sign of the crews inside, so one imagines that this sign, advising one to use the broken firebox on the corner would need updating. Shame, as it is lovely typography.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A seeming memorial, this firebox like device ornaments a prominent spot on the building’s facade. The “343″ is a reference to the number of FDNY personnel who perished at the World Trade Center at the turn of the century.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 30, 2013 at 2:15 am

decreasing wind

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Foaming, your humble narrator was scuttling his way to Brooklyn recently when sonic evidence of certain titanic exertions, whose only source could be a locomotive engine at work, penetrated through my ever present head phones.

On this particular afternoon, nearby the so called “Bliss Tower” along those tracks of the Long Island Railroad which snake along beneath the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in a nameless section of Queens, once known as Blissville but which I describe as DUGABO, it was a NY and Atlantic freight operation which was raising the ruckus.

from anacostia.com

New York & Atlantic Railway began operation in May 1997 of the privatized concession to operate freight trains on the lines owned by Long Island Rail Road. The railway serves a diverse customer base and shares track with the densest passenger system in the United States.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My headphones were not playing Norwegian Black Metal, nor late 80′s NYC Hardcore. They were not transmitting one of my many H.P. Lovecraft audio books, the soundtrack from the first Omen movie, or any of my usual playlists of childish anthems and guitar driven ballads.

Instead, the audio files I was enthralled by were podcasts, specifically Dan Carlin’s “Wrath of the Khans” series, which is presented episodically at his Hardcore History show.

If you’re not listening to Dan, you’re missing out.

from wikipedia

There is an urban legend that Julius Caesar specified a legal width for chariots at the width of standard gauge, causing road ruts at that width, so all later wagons had to have the same width or else risk having one set of wheels suddenly fall into one deep rut but not the other.

In fact, the origins of the standard gauge considerably pre-date the Roman Empire, and may even pre-date the invention of the wheel. The width of prehistoric vehicles was determined by a number of interacting factors which gave rise to a fairly standard vehicle width of a little under 2 metres (6.6 ft). These factors have changed little over the millennia, and are still reflected in today’s motor vehicles. Road rutting was common in early roads, even with stone pavements. The initial impetus for the ruts probably came from the grooves made by sleds and slide cars dragged over the surfaces of ancient trackways. Since early carts had no steering and no brakes, negotiating hills and curves was dangerous, and cutting ruts into the stone helped them negotiate the hazardous parts of the roads.

Neolithic wheeled carts found in Europe had gauges varying from 130 to 175 centimetres (4 ft 3 in to 5 ft 9 in). By the Bronze age, wheel gauges appeared to have stabilized between 140 to 145 centimetres (4 ft 7 in to 4 ft 9 in) which was attributed to a tradition in ancient technology which was perpetuated throughout European history. The ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Greeks constructed roads with artificial wheelruts cut in rock spaced the wheelspan of an ordinary carriage. Such ancient stone rutways connected major cities with sacred sites, such as Athens to Eleusis, Sparta to Ayklia, or Elis to Olympia. The gauge of these stone grooves was 138 to 144 centimetres (4 ft 6 in to 4 ft 9 in). The largest number of preserved stone trackways, over 150, are found on Malta.

Some of these ancient stone rutways were very ambitious. Around 600 BC the citizens of ancient Corinth constructed the Diolkos, which some consider the world’s first railway, a granite road with grooved tracks along which large wooden flatbed cars carrying ships and their cargo were pulled by slaves or draft animals. The space between the grooved tracks in the granite was a consistent 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in).

The Roman Empire actually made less use of stone trackways than the prior Greek civilization because the Roman roads were much better than those of previous civilizations. However, there is evidence that the Romans used a more or less consistent wheel gauge adopted from the Greeks throughout Europe, and brought it to England with the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43. After the Roman departure from Britain, this more-or-less standard gauge continued in use, so the wheel gauge of animal drawn vehicles in 19th century Britain was 1.4 to 1.5 metres (4 ft 7 in to 4 ft 10 in). In 1814 George Stephenson copied the gauge of British coal wagons in his area (about 1.42 metres (4 ft 8 in)) for his new locomotive, and for technical reasons widened it slightly to achieve the modern railway standard gauge of 1.435 metres (4 ft 8.5 in).

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, the media I consume is not something I think people would be interested in, at least that’s been my experience in real life. A recent conversation with Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY fame, wherein that intrepid explorer queried me about where to find some of these Lovecraft audio files which are so often mentioned, forced me to reconsider that maxim. Accordingly, since its a holiday weekend and you might have some free time, here you go.

The Atlanta Radio Theater Company is great. The website… their stuff is available as mp3′s at itunes and others, so go hunt them down.

The astounding H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

ARTC made a better Dunwich, by my taste, but HPLHS did both “Mountains of Madness” and “Shadow Out of TIme” better and they made a freaking “Call of Cthulhu” silent movie as well as the unbelievably great “Whisperer in Darkness” film. Dark Adventure Radio Theatre just rocks.

Huge talents, a podcast performed by two of its associates is HPPodcraft.com.

Incidentally, just like the LIRR Engine 102 featured in yesterday’s post, today’s NY&A engine is an EMD SW1001.

from wikipedia

The EMD SW1001 was a 1,000-horsepower (750 kW) diesel locomotive for industrial switching service built by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division between September 1968 and June 1986. A total of 230 examples were constructed, mainly for North American railroads and industrial operations.

The SW1001 was developed because EMD’s SW1000 model had proved unpopular among industrial railroad customers, as the heights of its walkway and cab eaves were much greater than those of earlier EMD switcher models. The overall height was similar, but the SW1000′s roof was much flatter in curvature. Industrial railroads that only operated switchers often had facilities designed to the proportions of EMD’s earlier switchers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Gold standard, the best of the best unabridged readings are from Audiorealms, featuring narrator Wayne June. Flat out readings of the Lovecraft Texts by professional voice talent in a studio. Genre defining, these are commercial works which really deserve support. Buy em, highest Mitch Waxman ratings- lengthy, mellifluous, well worth the hard slaved money. Six volumes, covering all the really good stuff. I think I got them through iTunes, although audible.com has them for sale.

The unmentionable Jeffry Combs reads “Herbert West Re-Animator.”

Additional mentions for theatrical productions of “Call of Cthulhu” and “Lurking Fear,” pro recordings from “back in the day,” when audio books were released on things called “audio cassettes.” Check out lovecraftzine.com for a list of free downloads which includes these two gems.

Archive.org is hosting Maria Lectrix‘s readings of “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.“ Free, and open sourced, go get em. Poke around at archive.org, by the way. This isn’t the only Lovecraft audio there- look for “Herbert West: Reanimator” and others.

from nyc.gov

Greenpoint Avenue is a four-lane local street in Queens and Brooklyn, running northeast from the East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Roosevelt Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens. The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, also known as the J. J. Byrne Memorial Bridge, is located approximately 2.2 km from the mouth of Newtown Creek. The bridge is situated between Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Review Avenue in the Blissville section of Queens.

dark and furtive

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

While inspecting the scene which stands extant in DUPBO, or Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp, one cannot help but notice the regular appearance of the Long Island Railroad operating along those tracks which it has held tenancy over since 1870.

The singular thrumming and vibrations of the municipal railways engines often rouse me from the piles of trash and wind blown debris amongst which one such as myself dwelleth, commanding my attentions and demanding proximity.

from 1877′s “Long Island and where to go!!: A descriptive work compiled for the Long R.R. Co.“, courtesy google books:

Long Island City is the concentrating point upon the East river, of all the main avenues of travel from the back districts of Long Island to the city of New York. The great arteries of travel leading from New York are Thomson avenue, macadamized, 100 feet wide, leading directly to Newtown, Jamaica and the middle and southern roads on Long Island, and Jackson avenue, also 100 feet wide, and leading directly to Flushing, Whitestone and the northerly roads.

Long Island City is also the concentrating point upon the East river, of the railway system of Long Island.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Diminished expectations notwithstanding, someday I would hope to actually ride upon one of these trains, transiting merrily from terminus to terminus and happily recording the largely pedestrian experience in photographs, anecdote, and the occasional video.

Of course, such pleasures must be denied to one such as myself, who is an onerous, undeserving, and decidedly feckless quisling renowned for publicly embarrassing himself with wild flights of fantasy and fantastic predictions of an uncomfortable and dire future.

from wikipedia

This station has 13 tracks, two concrete high-level island platforms, and one wooden high-level island platform. All platforms are two cars long and accessible from Borden Avenue just west of Fifth Street. The northernmost one, adjacent to tracks 2 and 3, is the only one used for passenger service. The other concrete platform adjacent to tracks 6 and 7 and the wooden one adjacent to tracks 8 and 9 are used for employees only. All tracks without platforms are used for train storage. The southernmost four tracks are powered by third rail while the remaining tracks are used only by diesel-powered trains.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Feeling somehow exposed down in DUPBO, a dark corner of the Newtown Creek watershed occasionally occluded by the gaseous exhalations of high volume roads, vehicular tunnels, and hundreds of thousands of automotive engines, your humble narrator retreated to the increasingly well used and so called “51st Avenue bridge”.

The elderly engine you see above, which is still at least ten years younger than me, is an EMD SW1001.

from wikipedia

The EMD SW1001 was a 1,000-horsepower (750 kW) diesel locomotive for industrial switching service built by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division between September 1968 and June 1986. A total of 230 examples were constructed, mainly for North American railroads and industrial operations.

The SW1001 was developed because EMD’s SW1000 model had proved unpopular among industrial railroad customers, as the heights of its walkway and cab eaves were much greater than those of earlier EMD switcher models. The overall height was similar, but the SW1000′s roof was much flatter in curvature. Industrial railroads that only operated switchers often had facilities designed to the proportions of EMD’s earlier switchers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A decaying and increasingly decrepit truss bridge designed for pedestrians, the structure hurtles over the tracks and leads one under the steel of the fabled Long Island Expressway. Several years ago, I witnessed documents prepared by certain members of the government which proposed the utter destruction and subsequent replacement of this bridge. This report continued in dire tones- describing the bridge as standing, but unsound due to decaying concrete and rusted steel.

For a longer look at the bridge and environs, check out this post from February of 2010, “dimly lit and illimitable corridors.”

Personal observation has revealed that this is a VERY well traveled route between the industrial labor force of LIC and the nearby 7 train at 49th Avenue- or Hunters Point Avenue- depending on which century you’re describing. The 7, of course, offers connections to the east via Queens Plaza or a short journey into Manhattan via the Steinway Tunnel.

Forgotten-NY has been here too.

from wikipedia

The Steinway Tunnel carries the 7  trains of the New York City Subway under the East River between 42nd Street in Manhattan and 51st Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, in New York City. It was originally designed and built as an interurban trolley tunnel (hence the narrow loading gauge and height), with stations near the 7 ; trains’ current Hunters Point Avenue and Grand Central stations. It is named for William Steinway, who was a major promoter of its construction, although he died in 1896 before it was completed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is officially “one of my spots,” by the way.

During the week, especially around rush hour, a series of trains roll through here, providing a good opportunity for photography enthusiasts to gain a less common angle on the familiar blue and yellow passenger service. The phrase “one of my spots,” by the way, refers to an area I visit often while looking for a perfect combination of sky and light and subject. A wealth of photos of this particular spot and situation adorns my photostream at flickr, but I still haven’t hit that moment here, which is another failure I can pin on to my sweater.

There’s magic on the 51st Avenue bridge, I just have to find the right place and time to photograph it, which will take nothing but persistence.

from wikipedia

The Long Island Rail Road owns an electric fleet of 836 M7 and 170 M3 electric multiple unit cars, and 134 C3 bilevel rail cars powered by 23 DE30AC diesel-electric locomotives and 22 DM30AC dual-mode locomotives.

In 1997 and 1998, the LIRR received 134 double-decker passenger cars from Kawasaki, including 23 cab control cars, and 46 General Motors Electro-Motive Division diesel-electric locomotives (23 diesel DE30ACs and 23 dual-mode DM30ACs) to pull them, allowing trains from non-electric territory to access Penn Station for the first time in many years, due to the prohibition on diesel operation in the East River Tunnels leading to Penn Station.

illusion brought

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Cloudy days and colorless nights are all that one such as myself can look forward to, and it is only within the wasted devastations of the Newtown Creek where memories of succor and happiness might be found.

In such a spot, and for several months in fact, these trailers of automotive tires have been sitting. Seemingly abandoned, one knows not the purpose of their corporeal presence at the Vernon Street End here in Long Island City, but given the long history of dumping in the area- one presumes their status as circumspect. It should be mentioned that the trailers have license plates and identifying marks, which is unusual for such scenarios.

from wikipedia

Tire stockpiles create a great health and safety risk. Tire fires can occur easily, burning for months, creating substantial pollution in the air and ground. Recycling helps to reduce the number of tires in storage. An additional health risk, tire piles provide harborage for vermin and a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may carry diseases. Illegal dumping of scrap tires pollutes ravines, woods, deserts, and empty lots; which has led many states to pass scrap tire regulations requiring proper management. Tire amnesty day events, in which community members can deposit a limited number of waste tires free of charge, can be funded by state scrap tire programs, helping decrease illegal dumping and improper storage of scrap tires.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Four of these trailers have been here since at least late January. You can see them in the background of this shot from the 22nd day of 2013.

At various intervals, the doors of more than one of these trailers have hung open before me, and they are all full of tires. Mayhaps there is some legitimate and wholesome purpose for their presence, which is beyond my reckoning.

It’s not as if 4 seemingly abandoned trailers, parked in proximity to the Buckeye Pipeline and directly over the G train tunnel (and within throwing distance of a rail yard and the Midtown Tunnel) would be noticed or investigated by the same security and law enforcement personnel who will regularly inquire “what are you taking pictures of” of me from their squad cars. This is Queens.

What could happen?

from wikipedia

Security theater is the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually achieve it. The term was coined by computer security specialist and writer Bruce Schneier for his book Beyond Fear, but has gained currency in security circles, particularly for describing airport security measures.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you used to the Brooklyn point of view, these are the slabs of cement that the boat people are tied off to on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek, around a block from the LIRR yard. Nothing to worry about, go back about your business.

I’m told that the group of boats nesting along the shore here has taken to calling itself the “Hunters Point Boat Sanctuary.”

This was once the home of the Newtown Creek Towing Company, incidentally, right alongside the Vernon Avenue Bridge.

1908 image from “Illustrated History of the Borough of Queens, New York City By Georg von Skal, Flushing Journal, Flushing, N.Y” – courtesy google books. That’s Brooklyn on the right, Queens to the left.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The situation here continues to scare the hell out of me, but no one seems particularly concerned about it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

To my admittedly age ravaged eyes, this doesn’t look so safe. The heavy concrete blocks which support the ad hoc moorings of these boats is clearly and inexorably being pulled toward the Creek. Never mind the fact that they are docking in the direct outfall of a combined sewer pipe.

from nyc.gov

Sometimes, during heavy rain and snow storms, combined sewers receive higher than normal flows. Treatment plants are unable to handle flows that are more than twice design capacity and when this occurs, a mix of excess stormwater and untreated wastewater discharges directly into the City’s waterways at certain outfalls. This is called a combined sewer overflow (CSO). We are concerned about CSOs because of their effect on water quality and recreational uses.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s the scene at the ragged border of Queens known as Newtown Creek and the Vernon Avenue Street End in the early spring of 2013.

It has been decided to do an occasional series of posts which are strictly “here’s what is there” in nature, simply to document the place as it begins a season of tremendous change. Hunters Point South has begun, and the Kosciuszko reconstruction will be starting up this fall, Greenpoint Landing is not far away either.

This is the penultimate year for the Newtown Creek’s 20th century incarnation, which will be utterly altered, upgraded, and updated in the next decade.

from nyc.gov

Newtown Creek is a 3.8-mile long tidal water body located in the City of New York, having five main tributaries (Dutch Creek, Whale Creek, Maspeth Creek, East Branch and English Kills) and is itself a tributary of the East River. The creek is a part of the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary that forms the north-south border between the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

The Newtown Creek area has a history of widespread industrial development dating back to the 1800s. In the mid-1800s, the area adjacent to Newtown Creek was one of the busiest hubs of industrial activity in New York City. More than 50 refineries were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. Newtown Creek was brimming with commercial vessels. During World War II, the creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation. This historic development has resulted in changes in the nature of the Creek from a natural drainage condition to one that is largely governed by engineered and institutional systems.

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