The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Blissville’ Category

not so small

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Enough is enough.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One’s path led to Blissville recently, as it often does. Perambulating down Greenpoint Avenue in the direction of the Long Island Expressway on a singularly lovely afternoon. the abundances of illegally placed advertising signs adorning lamp post and utility poles finally forced me to start taking notice of and commenting on it. This is flat out illegal, and DSNY (Sanitation) is responsible for the prosecution and policing of such matters. If this was a graffiti tagged sticker on a Manhattan phone booth, they would have long ago ended the perpetrator, but this is Queens… so you know… go fuck yourself. That’s our Borough Motto, you know – “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.”

Cash for any car indeed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Cash for Any Cars signs are everywhere. I’ve torn down a few dozen personally, mainly on the block where HQ is located. Luckily, I spotted this secondary advertisement for a company that actually prints the god damned things on a utility pole. One has no evidence to back this up, but the proximity and arrangement of the Cash for Any Car sign alongside the Caristo Printing one suggests to me that they were likely placed together and in conjunction.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

If you are as sick of seeing “signs just like this one” as I am, mayhap you’d want to contact Caristo Printing and let them know how you feel about their illegal advertising on the streets of Queens and or their complicity in the “Cash for Any Cars” signs. If you’re truly beside yourself about these abrogations of the public space, perhaps you’d like to complain about them to your elected officials and the various powers and potentates of the City of Greater New York. If you are an elected official or a regulatory officer, perhaps you’d like to address a letter or two to this printing company about “signs just like this one.”

Alternatively, there’s always “welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself”.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

wondered whether

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My Bubbe would have described the first shot as “Yoyzel on de cross.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who didn’t grow up in a Jewish family, “Bubbe” is Grandma, and let me tell you this – Sarah would not have liked me even taking pictures of a crucifix, let alone hearing about me wandering through First Calvary cemetery on a regular basis. She was not a big fan of Halloween either, preferring to see the masks and costumes come out for Purim instead. Hailing from the Pale, and having lived through late 19th and early 20th century Pogroms (and other indignities) inflicted upon her rural community by the Cossacks, my Grandmother was particularly suspicious of the Goyem. She instructed that one should dwell with their own kind, because at least then “you’d see it coming when somebody had it in for you.” You have to cut the old lady some slack though, she saw her younger brother’s head chopped off by the Cossacks, who played a drunken match of polo with it afterwards. For Bubbe Sarah, the word “Russian” was a synonym for “rapist.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While reminiscing about transmitted generational prejudices and familial lore, one happened to notice this odd scene at the monument to Sarah Bell and the Kelly family. A doll lay upon the loam, in a position which would be familiar to crime scene investigators. No investigation of the Bells or Kelly’s has been undertaken, but one suspects that their sentiments about the English were probably quite similar to my Bubbe’s feelings about the Russians. It amazes me to this day how much effort, finance, and political capital these two empires expended in the name of oppressing and exploiting rural peoples – the Irish and the Jews of the Pale – over the centuries. The same goes for the United States, incidentally. How much has our government spent over the centuries suppressing – not just the aspirations of negroes and native Americans – but a vast rainbow of minority opinions?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’m in the “if it doesn’t affect me, why should I care what you do” camp, and that’s the end of my progressive neo prudentialist liberal politics for the day. Bubbe would have been beside herself at the idea that some child had lost her dolly, however. She would have used the astoundingly forceful personality for which she was famed, during her “shtetl” and Lower East Side garment worker days, to compel me to stand out in the middle of Greenpoint Avenue and ask every passing motorist if their child had lost their toy until it got dark. The old lady was tougher than leather, but had a big heart, which bled for everybody that told her a sad story. She also made one hell of a pot of chicken soup, which is dearly missed by one such as myself in the autumn.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 28, 2014 at 11:20 am

healing balm

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Cry havoc, and let slip the dog of Blissville…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way to a recent Poison Cauldron tour, wherein a group of overtly curious New Yorkers were guided around neighborhood found in Brooklyn’s DUKBO, a rather large canine was spotted. It is my belief that I have met this dog before, and if I’m correct in my assumption of its identity, all one hundred pounds of slavering canine flesh contained in its skinvelope are overtly friendly and desirous of a good scratch. One way or another, he caught my eye whilst a humble narrator was scuttling toward the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Stinging critique is omnipresent in my mind, as always. A novel one has been added to the list over at my Brownstoner Queens column, where someone has characterized a recent post as “classist.” That’s a new one. I’ve been called a lot of things over the last five years or so, but classist ain’t one of them. Just so that you understand where I come from, my Dad called the commode “a terlet” and the conventional wisdom in my family was that the best you could do in life was to pass a civil service exam which would vouchsafe “security” in the form of a job working for the City.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dogs are generally good, to me at least. Here in Astoria, where a significant number of the neighbors hail from the near east and adhere to the mores of a Muslim upbringing – they’re not so good. There’s a whole other cultural imperative at work with these folks, and they view dogs as “unclean.” Canines aren’t as “haram” as pigs, of course, and I’ve noticed that there seems to be a coefficient to how unclean they are based on geography. Conversation with the neighbors has revealed that folks from the western side of the near east – Lebanon, Egypt etc. – are fairly tolerant of dogs although they are a bit wary about them (much like the Greeks who hail from the Cyclades). When you meet folks from further east – Bangladesh, India etc. – the sudden appearance of a dog amongst them is tantamount to pulling the pin on a grenade. The dividing line between the two points of view seems to be somewhere around the Arabian peninsula. This is entirely unscientific, of course, and based strictly on conversation with the neighbors.

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know thy zone

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As everyone knows, August 23rd is the Night of the Living Dead. Prepare your “go bags,” Lords and Ladies, and know your zone.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, there are indeed more dead people in Queens than there are living. The Rural Cemeteries Act of 1847 forbade interments in Manhattan, which begat what is called “the Cemetery Belt” spanning the borders of Brooklyn and Queens. There are three million corpses in Calvary Cemetery alone. Should the dead rise this or any other year, we are going to be in a real pickle.

As a public service, zone maps of the danger that various communities face are offered in the hope that individuals can prepare for the coming storm.

nold_pentaclemap_001a

Courtesy of openstreetmap.org, here’s a shot of western Long Island and the southern tip of Manhattan.

nold_pentaclemap_001b

Here’s a rough illustration of our study area, the so called Newtown Pentacle. As you might notice, a significant number of cemeteries are found therein, and the area transverses from Bushwick to Astoria and from Flushing to the Wallabout.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearly all of the area cemeteries are surrounded by stout fencing, and there are but a few points of egress into and out of the polyandrions.  How well these often century old fence lines would do against an army of flesh eating ghouls is questionable, but one cannot speculate on their structural integrity.

Zombieland rule # 32 applies

nold_pentaclemap_003

First Calvary, in particular, is isolated by high walls and expressways from its environs, with only two points at which the slavering horde of undead assassins might access the surrounding neighborhoods. One would not want to be in West Maspeth or Blissville on Saturday night, however.

nold_pentaclemap_001c

In the graphic above, the actual cemetery boundaries are roughly sketched out in orange.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One would imagine that the NYPD would be forced to collapse the East River Tunnels and detonate the roadways of the great bridges to protect the Shining City of Manhattan from the onslaught of the Living Dead.

nold_pentaclemap_001d

For those of us who reside in the Newtown Pentacle, this heat map is offered. The areas of darkest red are surely goners, and it is suggested that we refer to these areas as Zone A. Zones B & C likely have a fighting chance, should they be well prepared to shelter in place for an interval. Realistically, if you haven’t evacuated within the first twelve hours of the Night of the Living Dead, you’re already doomed.

Because Dawn is coming.

also, from youtube-

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 22, 2014 at 11:52 am

furious delirium

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Your music sucks, why do you play it so loud?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the midst of everything else, a humble narrator has to worry about getting the laundry done, which is not always as easy a proposition as it sounds like. More often than not, indecision about the logical process by which one arrives at some sort of conclusion about whether a soiled garment should be considered for the “colors” or “darks” bags reduces one to gibbering madness. Crouched in the corner of the room, wild eyed and slaked with cold perspiration, I often find myself impaled on the horns of dilemma. That navy blue shirt… where does it belong? Does it belong? Where do any of us belong? This is why I largely dress in black.

All ‘effed up, me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dire portent abounds. A general tension is palpable, and even the normally laconic army of bicycle delivery guys seem tense, here amongst the raven tressed hillocks of Western Queens. As one sorts his socks and towels, preparing them for drop off at the local laundry shepherd, a distinct sensation of dread permeates the atmosphere hereabouts. Even my little dog Zuzu seems to sense approaching calamity, as she drums her claws across the worn floorboards. At least the humidity seems to have broken.

I fear the polar vortex itself might return, carrying with it certain things which Esquimaux legend only hints at, and am quite unsure if I should send certain articles of Our Lady of the Pentacle’s wardrobe to the laundromat or segregate them out for dry cleaning.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Were this the 21st century that a humble narrator was promised, when still an innocent moppet – the one which had jet packs and moving sidewalks and flying cars – we’d all be dressed in self cleaning space age fabrics which would obviate little need for the services of the laundry shepherds. These were supposed to be “onesies,” or speed suits as Dr. Venture would refer to them, whose coloration would be indicative of social rank. Unfortunately, the world we’ve got is neither “Brave” nor “New.”

Oh no… what do you do with a sock that has red, white, and black stripes? Oh dear lord… the horror of it all…

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demon beckoned

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1854, lords and ladies, 1854.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Kerosene was “invented” by a Canadian named Abraham Gesner. He received the patents for the stuff, and coined the name (like a lot of 19th century industrial product names, we use the trademarked nomen as the descriptor for the entire category. It’s the same shorthand we use for facial tissue as being “Kleenex” or photocopying as “Xerox”) for a distillation of coal oil. Gesner was looking for a way to get an angle on the lamp oil trade. In 1854, lamp oil was produced from animals, in particular from fish and especially whales. When the time came to set up shop and build a factory to produce his coal oil, it was along the Newtown Creek that Abraham Gesner built the first large scale Kerosene works in North America – in what we call Queens.

from wikipedia

Gesner’s research in minerals resulted in his 1846 development of a process to refine a liquid fuel from coal, bitumen and oil shale. His new discovery, which he named kerosene, burned more cleanly and was less expensive than competing products, such as whale oil. In 1850, Gesner created the Kerosene Gaslight Company and began installing lighting in the streets in Halifax and other cities. By 1854, he had expanded to the United States where he created the North American Kerosene Gas Light Company at Long Island, New York. Demand grew to where his company’s capacity to produce became a problem, but the discovery of petroleum, from which kerosene could be more easily produced, solved the supply problem.

Abraham Gesner continued his research on fuels and wrote a number of scientific studies concerning the industry including an 1861 publication titled, “A Practical Treatise on Coal, Petroleum and Other Distilled Oils,” which became a standard reference in the field. Eventually, Gesner’s company was absorbed into the petroleum monopoly, Standard Oil and he returned to Halifax, where he was appointed a Professor of Natural History at Dalhousie University.

via Wikipedia

This was Gesner, who kind of looked a bit like General Zod in my opinion.

 

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The North American Kerosene Gas Light Company, later the New York Kerosene Company, would eventually be acquired by Charles Pratt and folded into his growing Astral Oil empire (Pratt’s own Kerosene refinery was centered at Bushwick Inlet at the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg) and would became a part of Standard Oil when Pratt joined forces with John D Rockefeller. The Gesner works are often mentioned by environmental officials, but no one ever gets specific about where they were. You’d think the first large scale petroleum refinery in the United States would have left behind a plaque or something, but welcome to Queens.

from 1909’s “The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, Volume 1″, courtesy google books

During the year 1859 the North American Kerosene Gaslight Company imported upwards of 20,000 tons of Boghead coal for the supply of their works at Newtown Creek Long Island at an average cost of $18.00 per ton It was found that a ton of this mineral run in common retorts yielded 120 gallons of crude oil per ton which gave 65 gallons of lamp oil 7 gallons of paraffin oil and 12 pounds of paraffin wax The cost of the oil was estimated at 63 cents per gallon 5

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of work has gone into screwing down the exact location of the facility around Newtown Pentacle HQ in recent days, and I can tell you that the footprint of the North American Kerosene Gaslight Company was incorporated into what we now refer to as Pratt’s Queens County Oil Works – which is in Blissville and across the street from Calvary Cemetery. Equidistant from the Greenpoint Avenue and long demolished Penny Bridges, this is the site of the Blissville Seep, which I’ve been rattling on about for a few years now.

from a December 2011 posting at this, your newtown pentacle

Sadly, oil is seeping out of a bulkhead on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek.

Famously, the Greenpoint Oil Spill (click here for a link to newtowncreekalliance.org for more) occurred just across the water from this spot, but every indication points to this as being a separate event. The former site of Charles Pratt’s Queens County Oil Works, which was an approximately 18 acre parcel which would later be called the “Standard Oil Blissville works”, the sites occupation in modernity has little or nothing to do with petroleum.

also, from 1921′s Welding engineer, Volume 6, courtesy google books

 

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up,
one in LIC, Queens and one in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Glittering Realms: Brooklyn’s Greenpoint with Atlas Obscura, on Saturday May 17th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor: Queen’s LIC with Brooklyn Brainery, on Sunday May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

hellish ooze

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Paranoids and conspiracists rejoice at the Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Those who have had the scales cast off from before their eyes, when they’re not telling you that the Queen of England is a star born reptile or that the moon landings were faked, will inform petitioners about the Rockefellers. The family is reported to be illuminati, in cahoots with the Bilderbergers, agents of Lucifer itself, and or working with space aliens to reduce 99% of humanity down to the status of a herd animal. Your humble narrator is a paranoid, but ain’t that far gone yet. I do give them credit for a lot of what’s wrong on my beloved Newtown Creek, however.

from 1882’s “Annual Report, Volume 2 by New York (State) Dept. of Health,” courtesy google books

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just mentioning the name of the sire, John D Rockefeller, in connection with his Standard Oil company (which by 1892 had a stranglehold on oil refining around the Creek and owned 95% of the petroleum industry by 1911), has caused several well meaning folks to pull me to the side and ask that I not mention his name for fear of repurcussions. It seems that the grand kids and great grandchildren of the old man are funders of and heavily involved in water based non profits, and they worry about me rocking the boat, donations wise. Greater good, I’m told.

Still, its John D’s legacy that’s oozing out of the bulkheads on Newtown Creek to this very day.

from 1870’s “The Insurance Times, Volume 3,” courtesy google books

KEROSENE EXPLOSIONS Is there to be no end to the destructive ravages of kerosene. Already it kills more than railway and steamboat accidents put together, aud yet the fatal explosiveness is mainly a consequence of adulteration. Commercial traud is becoming an agency more deadly than the most dreaded epidemic it poisons the community through its drinks and destroys lifu and property by means of ti c domestic lamp The poor creatures who were left houseless and destitute the other night by the tire in Thirty fourth street may have no appeal against the injustice that diluted the household oil with elements of destruction but the State ought to take cognisance of an abuse so shameful and so inhuman Sun KEROSENE FIRE AT GKEKNPOIKT LONG ISLAND A MAN FATALLY BURNED The Kingsiand Oil Works on Newtown Creek Ureenpoiut owned by Messrs Fleming & Wells were set on lire last night by the explosion of a tank of benzine Michael Casey the night watchman was severely burned about the face and hands He is not expected to live The loss by the fire is estimated at $5,000

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing is, unlike most involved in the “environmental” scene, I’m decidedly not anti-business and I am certainly not some vegan muffin eating virgin who thinks that oil companies are necessarily evil. The fact is, you can’t blame a drug dealer for selling their wares to an addicted clientele, and you also can’t point your accusing finger at an oil company if you’re thrusting an arm out of an automobile window to do so.

I will concede, however, that since the Rockefellers and Pratts originally marketed their kerosene businesses as selling “illuminating oil,” that they might accurately be described as illuminati. The jury is out on the Queen of England and her House of Saxe Coburg being lizards, although it would explain a lot of things.

from 1910’s “Seventh International Congress of Applied Chemistry, London, May 27th to June 2nd, 1909 Section 3a, Metallurgy and Mining,” courtesy google books

Oil Shales of Canada By CHARLES BASKEBVILLE Ph D The use of shale as a source of oil by destructive distillation is well known in Scotland France Germany and Australia and requires no explanation to this Congress In America however this fact is not so well recognised although Gesner claimed to have been the first to produce illuminating oil from bituminous materials on that continent At public lectures delivered in Prince Edward's Island in August 1846 he burned in lamps the oil obtained by distilling coal Patents granted to Gesner nine years latert passed into the hands of the North American Kerosene Gaslight Company who manufactured the oil at their works at Newtown Creek Long Island and sold it under the name of Kerosene Oil The agents of this company encountered considerable difiiculty in selling their product

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There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up,
one in LIC, Queens and one in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Glittering Realms, with Atlas Obscura, on Saturday May 17th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on Sunday May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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