The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Brooklyn’ Category

victoriously swept

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If the bridge wasn’t there, it would be impossible to recognize Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mephitic vapors, the effluent of furnaces and forges, a vague scent of molasses, and the smell of freshly smoked crack cocaine used to be all you needed to recognize where you were when visiting Williamsburg. These days, all you’ve got is the visual cue offered by its eponymous bridge and the vague scent of high end Marijuana.

Occasion found me in the ancient village, and as I was headed for Manhattan to meet up with a boat later in the day, a scuttle across the bridge was called for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of people think this span is an architectural travesty, but I’ve never thought it was bad enough to to create a Municipal Arts Society over. There are “separate” pedestrian and bicycle paths, which aren’t really segregated from each other in any cohesive manner, but as one such as myself enjoys playing things “by the rules” – I found myself climbing the surprisingly steep ramp leading up from Brooklyn to the bridge itself. At least it provides for some fairly good “cardio.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in art school, the conventional wisdom imparted to me by a generation of instructors was that you can’t go wrong when there’s an umbrella in your shot. The reasoning is that the umbrella is an inherently interesting shape, and it breaks up the otherwise pedestrian points of view one normally encounters. It wasn’t raining, of course, and the umbrella was simply there to shield its wielder from the particularly powerful emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself whose gaze seemed fixed upon the bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All the tourists seem to flock to the Brooklyn Bridge, and its pedestrian path offers one a frustrating and crowded experience. It’s a bit like a lunch line at a buffet, that walk, a slow shuffle while trapped in a queue. Vast preference for the less popular bridges like Queensboro, Williamsburg, and Manhattan is offered by your humble narrator. Crowds suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For this walk, I used my “crappy lens” – a 70-300 consumer level zoom. After the great camera disaster of July, wherein both camera body and my “best lens” were destroyed, I’ve been making it a point of mixing things up a bit. Thanks to many of you who donated money for replacement equipment to this blog, and both body and “best lens” have been replaced. Regardless, one tries to keep things fresh and the extra reach which the imperfect but serviceable “long lens” provides for slightly different perspectives and color rendition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be utterly pedantic to go into the technical details on this subject, so suffice to say that each and every lens interprets the light moving through it in different ways. Certain lenses are great for portraits, others for landscapes. Camera settings can also affect color rendition as well – for instance, narrow apertures render the color blue in a certain way due to the clipping of upper and lower limits found in the blue light wave.

As I said, technical and pedantic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, at Delancey Street, and looking back towards the infinity of Brooklyn.

The Williamsburg Bridge is 7,308 feet long (measuring between the cable anchor terminals) and the deck is some 118 feet wide. The height at the center of the bridge is 135 feet and each tower is 310 feet in height as measured from the East River’s high-water mark. It was originally called East River Bridge #3 when opened in 1903. Its architect was Henry Hornbostel, and the chief engineer who oversaw its construction was Leffert L. Buck.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

vast and vague

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Cool Cars in Greenpoint (?), in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That long walk under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Greenpoint and Williamsburg mentioned at the beginning of this week provided one with several interesting diversions, and notably this undeniably “Cool Car” was one of them.

I’m of the opinion that this Dodge 4 door coupe was likely a 1948 model, an educated guess based on the shape of the windows, fenders, and bumpers – but it is definitely a product of the 1946-1949 era and the very definition of what I like to refer to as “cool cars.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were no tags or registration information adorning the auto, which makes it kind of a difficult endeavor to identify, and given the relative homogeneity of post World War 2 automobile manufacture (Detroit was still gearing down from the war, and the explosion of creativity which auto manufacturers displayed in the 1950’s was not in effect in the years directly following the war).

from wikipedia 

Civilian production at Dodge was restarted by late 1945, in time for the 1946 model year. The “seller’s market” of the early postwar years, brought on by the lack of any new cars throughout the war, meant that every automaker found it easy to sell vehicles regardless of any drawbacks they might have. Like almost every other automaker, Dodge sold lightly facelifted revisions of its 1942 design through the 1948 season. As before, these were a single series of six-cylinder models with two trim levels (basic Deluxe or plusher Custom).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator is far from an expert on vintage automobiles, it should be mentioned, so if anybody who is reading this is possessed on knowledge on the subject – or recognizes the specific model – please share your smarts with the rest of us in the comments section found below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The location at which this artifact of America’s golden age was found spawns several semantic points as well for the infrastructure nerd. This auto was parked south of McGuinness Blvd. along the west side of Meeker Avenue, under the BQE. Technically, the east side of Meeker is in Bushwick (according to the old ward maps of the pre conolidation City of Brooklyn) and the area to the south of McGuinness is in WIlliamsburg not Greenpoint.

Life long Greenpernters will tell you that their neighborhood actually continues for several blocks east and that the nebulous border Greenpoint shares with Williamsburg is around Withers Street and south of Manhattan Avenue, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, this atavistic automobile seemed to be in decent condition, at least externally. It obviously has been parked in this spot for a while given the amount of soot and dust which adorns it. Being Brooklyn, someone felt obliged to trace out “wash me” in the soot – natch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a funny thing for me, of course, seeing a 1940’s Dodge parked here in the “House of Moses,” where it fits in with the esthetics of Robert Moses’s early career.

Robert Moses was the master builder of much of NYC’s infrastructure, and personally responsible for creating both the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Kosciuszko Bridge. It was his Triborough staffers that mapped out the vast swath that the BQE moves through and was built – condemning and demolishing mile after mile of homes, businesses, and stores to make way for the automobile. Moses plunged Meeker Avenue into centuried and unending darkness when the BQE was constructed, and callously created the divisions between neighborhoods that we all know today. He sort of invented “urban blight.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Manufactured items from the middle of the 20th century like this Dodge Coupe are notoriously rare, and extremely attractive to hot rod enthusiasts. A restored or modified iteration of this vehicle would be an extremely valuable commodity. Back then, they really knew how to “build ’em” – both highways and the cars which populate them.

“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 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

staves and axes

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Walking down Meeker Avenue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First – a confession – I had something else planned for today’s post, as it was a rather exciting (and highly combustible) weekend in Astoria, but the photos aren’t ready for public consumption quite yet. As a result, what was going to be tomorrow’s installment of your Newtown Pentacle is offered in its stead.

Last week, occasion found me in Greenpoint to photograph a Newtown Creek related event in the afternoon. Having a few hours to kill, since my next engagement was in lower Manhattan in the early evening, a humble narrator decided to walk into the City via the Williamsburg Bridge. A medium sized scuttle ensued, and one found himself walking through and beneath one of the “House of Moses’s” more onerous creations – an elevated section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway which over flies Meeker Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst my walk played out, several photos were captured, including shots of this charming bedroom set. One would guess that the Mayor can scratch one unit of affordable housing off of his “to do” list.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Signs of morbid habitation like this one drive me crazy of some reason. To begin with, it’s likely the unhealthiest environment upon the earth for a human being to exist in, here in the traffic choked House of Moses beneath the BQE. Secondly, it exposes the farcical realities of “homeland security” and the so called “security state” in the era of the Terror Wars. If you can set up housekeeping alongside the steel pillars supporting a roadway that carries nearly 200,000 automobiles a day… well… let’s just say you wouldn’t be able to get away with basing yourself in similar circumstance in Riyadh or Tel Aviv.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path continued along Meeker Avenue, towards the home of the Artisinal Pickle in Williamsburg, which has become one of the most pedantically boring neighborhoods in all of New York City in recent years. Dispassionate and jaded esthetes were observed as they moved aimlessly about the place, searching for some sort of “authenticity” or diversion from the tyranny of the now, which seemed to be in short supply hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shimmering memories of the old Williamsburg, with its DMZ’s and danger, are hinted at here and there. The whores and the bangers are relegated to history, however, and after having walked from McGuinness to Metropolitan along Meeker Avenue, it occurred to me that not once did I feel danger. There were no hookers blowing truckers, no collections of scabby kids selling vials of death candy… just a rather well appointed homeless camp or two and construction workers eating lunch.

There were also grown men riding skateboards in the middle of a Thursday afternoon, incredibly thin women covered in tattoos that were ignoring them, and both sexes seemed to be staring into their smart phones while Brooklyn writhed incessantly around them unnoticed.

“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.

horror

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Into every life, a little rain must fall. My life seems to be Hurricance Sandy, every day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is the very last one which will ever be captured by the camera which has been utilized to record the startling truth of our times, as presented in graphic narrative at this – your Newtown Pentacle – for the last 4 years. The device has been, as those of you who know me, omnipresent. Normally, the thing is strapped to me and never leaves my hand. If it was to be put down, extreme care and attention to its resting place has always been exercised. Friends often chide a humble narrator as to why the camera got its own chair.

All that is over now, due to a single careless moment on the 4th of July.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, shots captured from Williamsburg depicted the 4th of July fireworks. After the rooftop gathering attended to view the show, which a friend had graciously invited Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself to join in on, Our Lady insisted that we hire a taxi to cross the short distance from Williamsburg back to Astoria. While exiting the vehicle, the camera tumbled out of my hand and struck the street.

The lens, my “good lens,” shattered into multiple pieces.

The camera body seemed fine at first, but soon revealed itself as non functional after just two mirror flips. Massive self recrimination ensued, as one might imagine, but just as in the case with any kind of accident – what are you going to do? “Command Z, undo, undo” cried I.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, given my tremulous financial equilibrium, (hey, you think environmental activist – historian – blogger – photographer – tour guide – actually pays well?) a trip to BH Photo was demanded. One such as myself cannot be without a capture device, and replacement equipment was expensively acquired. The horror.

The good news is that I’m back in business. The bad news is that I’m out a big chunk of change. For those of you that feel my pain, I beg you to buy some tickets to one of the walking tours I’m doing this summer.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 10, 2015 at 11:25 am

amidst glare

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A few 4th of July shots, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are so many balls in the air at the moment, and so many more which one must work into the juggling act… best to focus in on the fireworks from July 4th in today’s post. Distraction abounds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 4th itself, a friend with a river view invited Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself to his house. Obligatory for shots of this kind, a tripod came along with me. When the Macy’s show got started, one was ready.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Originally, one planned to be in LIC, the titular focus of the fireworks show… but the security theatrics which NYPD got up to scared me away. I tend to avoid areas in which snipers have been deployed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My friend’s place is in the crowded and tony section of Williamsburg, and when the show was over – Our Lady and myself managed to fight off a horde of hipsters in pursuance of a taxi to get back to Astoria. When we arrived there, however… in tomorrow’s post, I will describe to you horror incarnate.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 9, 2015 at 10:33 am

racing ahead

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Happy Birthday, Marine Parkway Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I first mentioned the Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Bridge a few years ago, on its 75th birthday, in this post (I also lifted the shot above from that 2012 post). The post discusses the creation and opening of the vertical lift span (it was the largest specimen of this particular form of movable span in the world in 1937) and a bit of my personal history as well.

The Marine Parkway Bridge was one of Robert Moses’s early projects, and when it was built, it was constructed by the Marine Parkway Bridge Authority. An “Authority” was and is an unholy combination of private corporation and government which is allowed to issue bonds and keep its records away from private or press scrutiny (like a corporation) and also possesses the power of eminent domain and all the other stuff you’d associate with governmental agencies. The Authority was meant to be dissolved once it paid back its bonds, which were guaranteed by toll revenues, and the contractual relationship between lender and Authority was guaranteed by the State constitution as inviolable. This vouchsafed the “Authority” from circumspection by the public and press, and insulated it from the interference of Elected officialdom.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Marine Parkway Bridge Authority, like the Triborough Bridge Authority, was ruled over by Robert Moses. Moses ensured that whenever his various Authority bonds were about to come due a new round of financial offers would be tendered, and these bonds would be readily bought up by financial institutions which knew a “sure thing” when they saw it. Moses offered his bonds at a couple of interest points higher than Municipal bonds, and since the instruments were backed up by ever growing toll revenues and the Master Builder’s reputation, they were highly desirable. If Moses picked your bank as a lender, he also expected you to play ball with him on future projects. For more than forty years in NYC, Moses used this technique to control the building of highways, bridges, tunnels, and eventually housing in NYC. It took Nelson Rockefeller to break Moses’s grip on the system, and shatter the power of the “Authorities” by bringing them under the control of Elected officialdom.

Robert A. Caro called Moses “the Power Broker.” We all live in the aftermath of Moses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Marine Parkway Bridge is owned and operated today by an Authority set up by Governor Rockefeller back in the 1960’s – called the MTA. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, like the Port Authority, has the special government/corporate status that the Triborough Bridge (later the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority) and Marine Parkway Bridge Authorities enjoyed, but have little or no control over their own financing.

As Moses opined often, once the callow forces of the political parties and electoral politics got control over the Authorities, they’d reduce them down into patronage machines which would practice what was and is known as “good honest graft.” Of course, this is exactly what Moses did, and he never had to face the wrath of voters (except for a disastrous campaign for Governor, his one foray into “politics”). 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moses had a system. When he was issuing a bond offer, or doling out insurance contracts, the sealed documents would go to favored financial institutions. These favored institutions often had silent partners who happened to be Borough Presidents, Aldermen, or later in the game – City Council members. When he received his bonds, whose terms extended the life of his Authorities decades beyond their anticipated longevity, he’d dole out contracts to “connected” companies who would then hire workers based solely on political patronage. Ever notice that highway and big infrastructure projects always seem to start during election years? That’s Moses’s legacy at work. The Marine Parkway Bridge Authority, like the TBTA, was folded into the black box that is the MTA Bridge and Tunnels division decades ago by John D. Rockefeller’s grandson Nelson, and the Authority bonds were handed off to and underwritten by his brother – who was the CEO of Chase Manhattan.

It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just the way that it is. 

Welcome to New York City, here’s our shit sandwich, so take a bite – and happy birthday, Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Bridge.

“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

July 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

tricky twists

with one comment

Part of America’s Maritime Super Highway, Newtown Creek is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some of my friends in the “human powered boating” community (kayakers, but they prefer the “human powered” nomen, and trust me on this – don’t argue with the kayak people, as they are kind of like a cult) had an event a couple of weeks back. Long Island City Boat House and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and a few Queens based organizations including Green Shores, paddled from Anable Basin on LIC’s East River frontage over to North Brooklyn Community Boat Club on Newtown Creek in Greenpoint and they asked me to get shots of them doing so.

Me, I’m a maritime industrial guy. Kayak shots ain’t my kind of thing, but if a friend asks for a favor…

After capturing their departure from Anable Basin, I headed over to the Boat Club in Brooklyn’s DUPBO (Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp) and along came the tugboat Dory. Whew, praise Superman.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A 1978 vintage tug, Dory is owned by Coastal Gulf and Marine Transport of Syossett, New York. You can find out all the details on her prior owners, tonnage, and onboard capabilities at the excellent tugboatinformation.com site. Dory was towing an empty barge eastward along the barge, and I would hazard the guess – based on the sort of barge unit employed – that they were heading for either Brooklyn’s Allocco recycling or Queens’ SimsMetal recycling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kayak Crew arrived, and the sun set over DUPBO. Pictured above is the Pulaski Bridge, and as the North Brooklyn Boat Club folks acted hospitably towards their guests from the North the sky grew dark.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, just as a humble narrator was packing up the lenses and camera, Dory returned and was towing a flat top barge while headed westerly towards the East River. Score!

As a note, it’s referred to as towing whether the tug is pushing or pulling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also, as a note, this whole environmental craze – epitomized by a tree growing from the Brooklyn side of the fabled Newtown Creek – tends to be ruinous in certain shots. Freaking nature, occluding the Empire State Building. Bah!

“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 30, 2015 at 11:00 am

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