The Newtown Pentacle

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parched and terrible

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Hello 114th precinct, it’s me again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since my last post on this subject, concerning “Los Borrachos” on Astoria’s Broadway, the 114th precinct has definitely been doing “something.” Can’t say exactly what, but the population of these alcoholic mendicants has been visibly reduced from the mid July high of 20-25 down to a late August bakers dozen. The shot above, and several of the ones following it, were gathered at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – which is the central muster point that these fellows use, just last weekend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYPD continues to inexplicably roll right past these guys, however. What sets me off, incidentally, and what has made these inebriates rise to the top of the list of “things I have to deal with” are reports from the ladies of Astoria as to the comments they are offered while passing by this crowd.

Even passing familiarity with the old “espanol” is enough to piece together sentences and phrases from the lingo which include “chupa” and “mi penga.” Sexual harassment of women walking down the streets by a drunken crowd of vagrants… is that OK?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Sunday afternoon, and public drinking is not challenged nor noticed by the cops. Everyone else in the neighborhood notices it, as people move to and fro with their children. If you’re curious, that’s Vodka that fellow is drinking.

Gordon’s Vodka to be precise, an assertion of brand loyalty which is based on the empty bottles littering the curbs along Broadway. The Times Square of Astoria indeed, only it seems to the Times Square of the 1980’s around these parts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The effects of the alcohol reduces these fellows to an insensate condition, regularly. For all of you “City Club head up your ass liberal” types who seldom walk the streets of New York – preferring your Uber or Limo for getting around – Progressivism isn’t about permissiveness. This is not something which Eleanor Roosevelt would have reacted to with any sort of empathy. John Lindsay or David Dinkins, on the other hand…

Don’t get me wrong here, I like a good tipple as much as the next guy – more so in fact. It’s the fact that this situation has gotten completely out of hand this summer, and whatever your intellectual notion is of who these guys are is completely fabricated from your own politics. These are bums, drunks, and hobos. We have a decent number of Homeless people here, who are referred to as “The Harmless.” Mostly down on their luck or mentally ill folks, Astoria takes care of its own – whether it’s just a slice of pizza or a bottle of water or a buck slipped into their palm.

The fellows showcased in these posts get off the R train, drink in the neighborhood all day, and then commute back to somewhere else if they can still keep it together enough to do so. If not, they just pass out on the sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often, Astoria’s Broadway looks like a WW1 battlefield, with bodies arrayed haphazardly on the street. The shot above was from a Friday afternoon around 2. All that’s missing is a dead horse in the tree.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A smoke condition down in the Subway drew the FDNY to the Times Square of Astoria last Sunday, whose actions and blaring sirens served to awaken the sleepers from their distillery dreams. Other units of FDNY would undoubtedly be back on the corner later, to scoop up the insensates. NYPD?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Three in the afternoon on a Sunday. 

The funny thing about this shot is that a friend of mine who works for the City spent years working on installing these Subway grate covers (intended to keep snow melt and storm water from infiltrating down to the tracks), which were specifically designed with the idea that they would be fairly impossible to sleep on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Notice that white car with the blue stripe just at the edge of the shot above? 

Guess which uniformed and highly trained branch of City Government drives white cars with blue stripes. Why, 114th precinct, is this being allowed to continue? Do you really want the civilians in this neighborhood to be the ones to deal with this, as we currently are forced to? A day doesn’t go by when one of us is forced to shoo “Los Borrachos” off their stoop or out of a driveway. Often the only thing which will get them to move on is the threat of calling “La Policia.” The Police, however, seem reluctant to lance this boil.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 27, 2015 at 11:15 am

EXCLUSIVE – Man Shot in Astoria, Queens

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Reporting from Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shortly before Midnight on August 21st, at the corner of 34th Avenue and 44th street, a man was shot in the leg. Witnesses described three men as approaching an SUV which was stopped for a red light at said intersection, and opening the drivers side door. The driver struggled with the three.

A member of the trio then produced and fired a gun at the driver.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The driver, according to Police sources, was hit in the leg and has been transported to a hospital for emergency treatment. Eyewitnesses said that the three men drove off in the SUV (which was unconfirmed by the Police, who said they couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation – fair enough), while the victim staggered around on 34th avenue, eventually coming to rest on a curb on the north side of the street, where he began bleeding profusely.

That’s some of the victims clothes, and his blood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the eyewitnesses, the victim was a light skinned man with a shaved head who was recognized as being from the neighborhood. The three assailants were described as dark skinned. No word on color or make of the SUV.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 22, 2015 at 1:30 am

Posted in Astoria, NY 11103, Queens

Tagged with , ,

noisy and numerous

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Puzzling are the neighbors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a helper parrot named Jiminy. Jiminy is a local celebrity in Astoria, and what he helps with is controlling his owner’s blood sugar. It seems he can sniff out when his Mom’s glucose is low and warn her to drink some juice. “Drinking juice” is why a small crew of my neighbors and friends often collect at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – which is where you’ll find a pub called Doyle’s. Jiminy likes the fried calamari on the bar menu, btw.

Doyle’s is Newtown Pentacle’s District Office, and you’ll often spot a humble narrator enjoying a pint of beer at this location on summer evenings. You want to keep track of what’s going on in the neighborhood? Best place to start is at the bar, I always say.

Not long after the above shot was captured, Jiminy turned to me and said “Feed the Parrot.” Yes – he talks, follows conversation, and often interjects with surprisingly astute observations. Jiminy mentioned that something was going on across the street which we should pay attention to. When a Parrot points something out, you should listen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This couple was carefully measuring the distance between a fire hydrant and a parked car. The lady seemed annoyed at participating in the operation, but the fellow seemed to be on some sort of mission. Over the course of around twenty minutes, they measured and remeasured the interval between street furniture and automobile, then disappeared into one of the two story private homes which line 42nd street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shortly, the fellow reappeared, after having donned a business suit. He began to recalculate the distance again. The lady didn’t accompany him this time, formal attire notwithstanding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Jiminy and I watched as the fellow began to photograph the tape measure with his smartphone. The group at our table speculated upon his plan of action, and we came to a generally agreed upon theory that he had either received a parking ticket or was performing prophylactic measures in anticipation of receiving one.

“Feed the Parrot” rang out again, and Jiminy’s mom ordered a plate of calamari – ostensibly for the table, but we all knew who it was for.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 22nd, 2015
First Calvary Cemetery – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
click here for details and tickets.

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm

later civilizations

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Last Saturday was quite eventful, here in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Late in the afternoon on Saturday the 15th of August, the Broadway neighborhood here in Astoria suddenly began to smell of burning insulation and the sounds one associates with FDNY equipment began to reverberate. One was busy with other things, but when the internet suddenly went down and the lights began to flicker – a humble narrator grabbed his gear and headed out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These fellows are RCN cable installers, and anecdotal tales were offered by witnesses that their lines had become electrified which fried the wires within and rendered the insulation material cladding the wires into a charred mess. My internet service had returned by this point, but I use a different service provider.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on the corner of 46th street, evidence of the FDNY at work was observed, and one of my neighbors shared the video below with me, which documented the efforts of the Fire Department in extinguishing a utility pole fire. Don Mario is one of my redoubtable and sturdy Croatians, and offers apologies for the NSFW salty language he was uttering. He’s an Astoria boy, and that’s how folks talk around these parts.


– video by Don Mario

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was there long after FDNY had spilt, and after Consolidated Edison emergency crews had done their thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Notice that the pipe which carries the high voltage wires up and out of the ground has actually melted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some poor sap is also out a bicycle, it would seem. As a note, Con Ed has never finished the job of replacing the electrical wiring in the neighborhood that was destroyed during the Great Astoria Blackout of 2006.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just after dark, FDNY was back on Broadway, so one reemerged from HQ to investigate.

– photo by Missy Liza

This time FDNY was there to scoop up another one of the drunks which have been plaguing the neighborhood in recent months. The photo above and the one below were supplied by another member of my network of neighborhood informants – who prefers going by “Missy Liza.”

– photo by Missy Liza

This particular drunk decided to encamp upon a residential stoop, which the lady pictured at the right of the shot uses to access her home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY was sent to collect the inebriate, which seems to be a misappropriation of municipal resources if you ask me. This is a Police matter, IMHO, not a Fire Department emergency requiring a fully staffed Engine truck and an EMT ambulance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The FDNY personnel asked me what about this situation demanded photographic attention. I informed them that the cops should be handling this, and that without documentation of this growing problem neither politician nor policemen will admit that it’s happening.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not 15 minutes later, the next phase of the action started, as RCN linemen began to layer more cables onto the already burdened utility poles which criss cross the neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cut down or remove the burnt up wire? Hell no, this is Astoria. Just layer on more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The linemen had no walkie talkies to communicate with each other, so the guy in the cherry picker was just screaming instructions at his driver.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wire they were layering on was being fed off of this giant spool on 44th street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, they decided to support the wire as it fed out by laying it on top of other wires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another RCN truck showed up to fix the new problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This group of fellows seemed to be combining several cables into one strand.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The process continued well into the wee hours. All was back to normal by the morning, it would seem. The drunks were arrayed unconscious all along Broadway, and RCN customers had their service back on.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 22nd, 2015
First Calvary Cemetery – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
click here for details and tickets.

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm

vine encumbered

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It’s “something completely different day” in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle has been exercising her green thumb since the late spring, and we have quite a cucumber patch situation in one of the flower boxes out on said porch. Our Lady is an early riser, whereas your humble narrator is not, so one recent evening after she had retired to the boudoir, I was found out on the porch. Astoria is somewhat infested with rats, and given the abundance of cucumbers found hereabouts, a rustling in the patch caused me to grab a flashlight and inspect. While doing so, and it was just the wind btw, it occurred that it would be cool to stick a camera down in the pot and see what I could see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My trusty old Canon G10 has a fantastic macro lens function on it, but the device’s weaknesses have always been most apparent in low light situations. Luckily, one of my flash guns has a “slave” function built into it, which triggers it when another camera flash is actuated within a certain visual range of its sensor.

Accordingly, the secondary flash was positioned at the far end of the vine, and the G10’s onboard flash (which is pathetic, but adequate for the task at hand) activated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The G10 was outfitted with a remote cable release, and its menu of options set up, whereupon I sat it down on the soil deep within Our Lady’s flower trough. A little bit of noodling on the settings was called for, and eventually, the correct combination of instructions were encoded into both the capture device and external flash gun. Did I mention that these shots were captured well after midnight and in somewhat complete darkness?

Also, I never knew that cucumbers were covered in little hypodermic needles when immature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Encouraged by my results in the first few shots, I ran inside and grabbed another bit of photographic kit, a clamp with a tripod’s ball head built into it and used the same technique to shoot down into the vine at some of the maturing fruit. In some of these shots, like the one above, you can actually see worms emerging from the recently watered soil. I plan on exploring this approach in the future, presuming that some urban farmer will allow me access to their planting beds at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One realizes that botanical macro shots aren’t exactly par for the course here at your Newtown Pentacle, but since I couldn’t stop looking at them, it was decided to share them in today’s rather late in the day post.

Also, for all of you who donated money to the camera fund last week, I cannot express my gratitude. I will at some point in the near future, incidentally, when my financial life isn’t quite as rugged. Like the Grinch confronted by Mary Lou Who, my heart grew two sizes due to your generosity and support.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

only crawl

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Astoria, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other night, while hanging out at my local pub here in the southern end of Astoria, some rough fellow accosted one with the usual “hey, what are taking pictures of?” thing. Bellicose, the gentleman began to advise me that I should spend my time photographing the skyline of Manhattan because “no one cares about Queens.”

He was rather insistent about this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is kind of rallying cry for me, this “no one cares about Queens” thing, and it’s bothersome to have to argue about it with some guy who – as it later turned out – had a largish back tattoo whose motif included a shoulder to shoulder swastika.

I’m all for political expression of course, but a Nazi in Astoria?

Conversation with amiable bartenders over the weekend revealed that there seems to be a small population of like minded individuals in the neighborhood. They’ve actually had to reprimand one fellow who liked to read passages from “Mein Kampf” out loud at the bar.

“Really?” was all I could say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not strange that racists and other adherents to rather ugly philosophies can be found in Astoria. We’ve got Jihadi sympathizers on the ass end of Steinway Street, and those Greek “National Front” guys are here as well -heck- a few years ago I even ran into a small group of actual card carrying Bolsheviks who opined that the revolution was nigh. “Diversity” includes nut jobs and jerks too, it would seem.

Thing is – If you’re a racist, “politically” a racist that is, Astoria probably ain’t the sort of place you’re going to want to live in. It will be exhausting for you to merely identify or classify the human infestation hereabouts, let alone espouse a specific grievance about all the groups who are living and working here. We have everybody from Egyptians to Eskimos, Thai to Tibetan, Irish to Indian. There’s normal human prejudice and frictions encountered occasionally when these wildly different cultures rub up against each other, but Nazi’s?

How retro.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Historically speaking, Queens has a rather checkered past on this subject. Members of what we would call the American Nazi party – the so called German American Bund – were rather active in the years leading up to the Second World War here in Queens (and especially so in Ridgewood and Bushwick).

These neighborhoods hosted a rather large German population back then, who referred to their communities in New York City as “Kleine Deutschland” and the “bund” was usually in tune – politically speaking – with their distant homeland. All of that fell apart during the Second World War and the American Nazi’s became associated with extreme elements of the Ku Klux Klan, and prison gangs like the Aryan Nation.

Hey, when you grow up Jewish, you develop a certain sensitivity to this sort of thing. Swastika bad.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

sidetracked once

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Death, annihilation, and hatred… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is not in a good mood, so bitching will ensue.

Psychological firmament at the moment would be best defined as reminiscent of the general anger and malaise one enjoyed in the late 1980’s. A neighbor casually asked me the other night “Howz yooz doins, brah?” and my only answer emanated from that era with “What this City needs is a good plague.” If it weren’t for the physical cowardice and generally avoidant set of behaviors which rule me, I might stamp my feet and cry out loud at passerby. A desire to craft a sandwich board vest which announces the nighness of the end compels and overtakes. The train is crowded, and so are my thoughts.

Why is it so noisy all the time, and why is there no place to pee?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’d bring up the whole dumb idea of decking over the Sunnyside Yards with these innocent travelers whom I’d acost with the truth of our times, and check off a list of realities associated with the population whose arrival in Western Queens is already scheduled. Thing is, if one was to become overexcited and display the wild eyed zeal and abundant mania which typified the behaviors of times gone by, one might fall into one of his states and need to be taken to a trauma center of some kind and the nearest one is found in Manhattan at Bellevue.

How could I achieve carbon neutrality after spending a hour in an Ambulance in Manhattan traffic? Ow, my algorithm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Would one opine about the corrosive effects that afternoon drunkeness and public vagrancy cause in the minds of kids in particular and the community as a whole? Here, on Broadway in Astoria, populations of fellows like the gentlemen pictured above spend their days and nights wandering about in a drunken haze. Public urination, defecation, and drinking are commonly observed. As well, one routinely has to wake them up when they pass out in his doorway. Whether you feel sorry for these chaps or hate them, why aren’t the Police policing them?

Would the presence of obvious brothels in storefront locations on the main shopping thoroughfare be mentioned, and would the seeming toleration of such establishments by the aforementioned local police come up as well? If you leave your car parked in the wrong place for just a few minutes, the gendarme are promptly on scene to issue a ticket. What about drunks sleeping in front of your grocery stores and in your driveways, or storefront whores performing their trade next door to the bagel shop?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“What this City needs is a good plague” was a standard answer for me when people asked “Howze it goin, dude” back in the 80’s. That era in NYC wasn’t the way that some are describing it these days, opining about “energy and vigor and…” It was a grimy shithole which had seen better days, where you took your life in your hands by getting off at an unfamiliar Subway stop. An era of “getting jumped” and “mugged,” when you’d routinely see trails of blood on the pavement which would lead you from place to place. Sometimes they’d lead back to a party, but you didn’t have to go far to find a house party somewhere in East Village back then. More often the trails would lead over the bridge from Alphabet City into Williamsburg, where a lot of people found themselves bleeding back then.

Meh, I’m going to go listen to some Black Flag.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

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