The Newtown Pentacle

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tangible stream

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To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and they call it peace.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A colloquial translation from Tacitus’s Agricola, attributed to the Caledonian Chieftain Calgacus, the little ditty at the top of this post was originally written in Latin (as you’d imagine). The original goes like this – Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

It’s exactly what I was thinking while transiting through the Brooklyn side of DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp, just the other day as one spotted this thoroughly destroyed truck.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s hardly the Roman Empire affecting these parts, rather it’s the Empire State. The properties and businesses all along Cherry Street have been vacated, as have all but one of the waste transfer stations which used to underlie the Kos, all in the name of the NY State project which will be replacing the 1939 era truss bridge with a new cable stay bridge.

What you’ve got down here, in the interim between now and then (then being the beginning of construction on the new bridge) is the absolute dream of every illegal dumper and freelance mechanic in NYC.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My understanding of the project suggests that Cherry street will cease to be, as the BQE and the new bridge will sit slightly east of the current span. Parts of Meeker Avenue will shift a bit as well. Accordingly, the Empire (state) has been acquiring properties on both sides of Newtown Creek for quite awhile and making sure that they have a clear path.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as the titular subject of this post, being the skeleton of a semi truck and trailer, my understanding is that the vehicle had been brought to this spot approximately a week or so ago. It had caught fire on the BQE, and was towed off the highway by FDNY. Evidence of my eyes suggests that this is not true, as there would be visible scorch marks on the onramps, and the street that the thing sits on does not betray the presence of the foam suppressants that FDNY typically deploys during vehicle fires.

Also, FDNY usually doesn’t let things burn out this completely.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The plants and concrete traffic barriers around the vehicle do not appear to have suffered flames, nor the presence of the 10 to 20 firefighters and their equipment either. Curious, this, but one must accept things in DUKBO as they are.

The whole “towing it off the highway” thing was offered to me by a local witness, so I transmit it as such.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A good natured Spaniard that called himself “Zumba” and who was working as a mechanic, on a somewhat less immolated truck, and it was he who transmitted the tale of the tow. Zumba inquired if I was working for the City, nervously eyeing my camera, out of probable concern that I might be some sort of taxman seeking to screw up his weekend job. Waxman, I explained.

Zumba kept on walking back and forth to this open hatch as he went about his work. The aperture sits alongside one of the emptied industrial buildings that occlude the path of the new Kosciuszko Bridge. Someone, or something, was passing him tools from down below.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be found down there?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, September 27th, 13 Steps Around Dutch Kills
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, September 28th, The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek
Walking Tour with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

inexpressibly more

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This actually and absolutely astounds one such as myself.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering from Red Hook back to Astoria around a week ago, your humble narrator found himself on the south side of Williamsburg at the triangle formed by Wythe, Heyward, and Wallabout. This splinter of a building is rising up from a paved triangle which is created by the ancient paths surrounding it. A tiny three story house, it just seems… wow, in Williamsburg, every patch of soil will have apartments on it pretty soon. Wow.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Based on the number of entrances, this has to be a three unit building presumptively? A basement, a first floor, and then a duplex upstairs? Then again, the stairs on the Heyward (left) side might be a common entrance with internal stairs? Talk about an efficiency apartment. Sheesh. Check it out in google street view (this is a very new building, doesn’t even seem to have an address yet) to get an idea of the actual size of this lot – which is just bigger than five parking spots for cars.

Note: I did try to find a street address on this structure at NYC DOB, where I was easily defeated and gave up without trying too hard.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

By the way, there’s two cool Working Harbor Committee events going on this weekend you might want to attend.

Saturday, the 30th is a Port Newark excursion onboard the Circle Line with Captain John Doswell, Ed Kelly of the Maritime Association of Port of NY/NJ and Maggie Flanagan – Marine Educator South Street Seaport Museum. The boat boards at 10:30, sails at 11, and returns at 1:30. Click here for more info and tix.

Sunday, the 31st is the annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition. 10:00 AM – Parade of tugs from Pier 84 to the start line. 10:30 AM – Race starts – From South of 79th Street Boat Basin (near Pier I) to Pier 84. 11 AM – Nose to nose pushing contests and line toss competition. Noon – Tugs tie up to Pier 84 for lunch and awards ceremony. Exhibits, amateur line toss, spinach eating contest 1 PM – Awards ceremony. Tugs depart at about 2 PM.

For tix on the spectator boat, click here.

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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

relentless thing

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Heh. You may think I don’t know what you’re thinking, but you don’t know that I know what you’ve been told to think and by whom. Heh.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The south side of Williamsburg, where many bad things have occurred, was where a humble narrator recently found himself scuttling along when a series of very bad ideas began to infiltrate his thoughts. Perhaps it was brought on by the stares and pointing fingers offered by the crowds of Hasidic women and children, or their stifled gasps of horror and revulsion as one passed by. Perhaps it was merely remembrance of days gone by, and an iteration of North Brooklyn which only one such as myself seems to remember and acknowledge or admit.

from murderpedia.org

Known as the Williamsburg Strangler, Vincent Johnson, pleaded guilty to strangling five women and will serve life in prison without parole. Johnson’s 10-month killing spree began in August, 1999. The 31-year-old homeless crack addict admitted to the murders a week before prosecutors were to decide on whether or not to seek the death penalty.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An uncomfortable sense that if one were to merely look through the cracked glass of a warehouse’s ground floor window, or notice what is going on beyond the aperture of an open doorway at some centuried factory building, a tidal wave of bad intentions and evil inclination would carry the observer into a world of unending and quite metaphysical horror. Intuition hints that evil is slumbering just beneath the surface, existing as some kind of psychic or spectral latency, and given enough time… It is simply best to focus on the pavement in this section of Brooklyn, and stray not from it, for there are things buried hereabouts that should remain unknown. Who can say what malevolent forces are combated, nightly, by Satmar Kabbalists or Palo worshipping Padrinos, hereabouts?

from wikipedia

Self-consciousness was characterized as an aversive psychological state. According to this model, people experiencing self-consciousness will be highly motivated to reduce it, trying to make sense of what they are experiencing. These attempts promote hyper vigilance and rumination in a circular relationship: more hyper vigilance generates more rumination, whereupon more rumination generates more hyper vigilance. Hyper vigilance can be thought of as a way to appraise threatening social information, but in contrast to adaptive vigilance, hyper vigilance will produce elevated levels of arousal, fear, anxiety, and threat perception.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Haven’t you ever wondered why, when they are constructing domiciles for their sect, the Hasidim in Williamsburg construct fortresses? They don’t do this in Monroe, or Borough Park or Midwood, which are other population centers in Brooklyn for the ultra orthodox. The senile and simple amongst them will tell you that Dibbuks rise from the Wallabout and East River when darkness falls, seeking to consume whosoever might be on the very streets which I was walking. Who can guess, all there is, that might be stalking the streets of the Boswijck Strand at night?

from wikipedia

Somatoparaphrenia is a type of monothematic delusion where one denies ownership of a limb or an entire side of one’s body. Even if provided with undeniable proof that the limb belongs to and is attached to their own body, the patient produces elaborate confabulations about whose limb it really is, or how the limb ended up on their body. In some cases, delusions become so elaborate that a limb may be treated and cared for as if it were a separate being.[

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 19, 2014 at 11:00 am

greatest suddenness

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Vas doin on English Kills, boychik, mit the bubbles?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

DUMABO. Down Under the Metropolitan Bridge Onramp, is a spot that bisects the pathway of the so called “industrial Canals of Brooklyn” or English Kills. The darkest thicket of the troubled Newtown Creek, English Kills is largely isolated from casual perusal by the electorate by a continuous shield wall of industrial buildings, which means that what happens on the water is usually commented on by an unlucky few such as myself. The engineered path that the water flows through follows the Brooklyn street grid, which creates a series of right angle turns that impede the tidal actions of the East River which is some 3 miles from here.

This adherence to the street grid, and the hydrological issues it introduces, has caused huge accretions of the so called “Black Mayonnaise” sediments to agglutinate. This sedimentation, along with the summer heat, causes the water to be “anoxic,” meaning that it often carries little or no dissolved oxygen. This kills off any aquatic life that may have wandered back here, and promulgates the colonies of sewage bacteria in the water whose aromatic exhalations remind one of rotting chicken eggs.

The sewage bacteria is provided by the many CSO’s (Combined Sewer Outfalls) found along the waterway.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

To combat these anoxic conditions, the ever reliable NYC DEP (in concert with the state DEC) have installed an aeration system. Basically a giant pipe through which pressurized air is pumped, the thing operates in the same manner as a bubble wand on your aquarium fish tank. Disturbing the surface allows atmospheric gases like oxygen to become dissolved in the water. The DEP building you’ll notice on Metropolitan Avenue in East Williamsburg that adjoins the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge contains the air compressors.

It all sounds rather logical, as the efforts of engineers often do. Problem is that the sewage bacteria conditions are being caused by the Combined Sewer Outfalls on English Kills, which the DEP engineers are not focusing on. It’s sort of like shitting in a fish tank every day, and attaching more and more aerating bubble wands to combat the conditions being caused, without doing anything about… y’know, not shitting in your aquarium.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s the problem - my pals over at Riverkeeper have voiced MAJOR concerns about this system, and cite a study by M. Elias Dueker which shows that bacterial fauna from English Kills are provided with an opportunity to enter the air via this system. A “Culturable Bacterial Aerosol” as they describe it, is allowed purchase into the atmosphere.

Said organisms can then find a home on any friendly terrestrial surface.

In effect, these bubbles provide a ladder for the worst pathogens in the Newtown creek watershed an opportunity to get up and out of the water. Keeping this sort of bacteria away from the general populace is sort of the mission of the DEP, btw.

from riverkeeper.org

Riverkeeper raised concerns when the city proposed aerating the rest of the creek last spring and asked the DEP to test for pathogens and sewage associated bacteria in the air, which they did not agree to do. Aeration creates bubbles on the water’s surface and is a Band Aid solution to the underlying serious problem of combined sewage overflows. Low oxygen conditions in the creek occur due to sewage contamination and although aeration increases the oxygen level in the water, it does not reduce the amount of sewage or sewage associated bacteria that are dumped into the creek. Riverkeeper has argued that aeration is an ineffective way of addressing the pollution problem and the recent study suggests that it may also negatively impact local air-quality.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Worse still, the aeration system performs its job quite well. Dissolved oxygen levels in English Kills are higher than they used to be. Accordingly, the DEP is planning on expanding the system from English Kills all the way to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, more than a mile away.

The pipes are planned to follow the contour of the Queens coastline, of course, because you wouldn’t be able to get away with doing it on the Brooklyn side. This puts Maspeth, and parts of Sunnyside and Blissville, in the path of the pestilent wind which would rise from the loathsome Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm

night gaunts

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The Suydam tomb, at Greenwood Cemetery.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Monday, Atlas Obscura produced an event at Greenwood Cemetery wherein your humble narrator would join with authors Clay Chapman and Bess Lovejoy in reading H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook” for a group of pale enthusiasts. The excursion was nocturnal, and offered cocktail selections from the East Village’s forthcoming Lovecraft Bar.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the charms of the evening, as organized by Atlas’s Megan Roberts and Allison C. Meier, was the opportunity to visit the interior of two mausolea at the ancient burying ground of Brooklyn.

One of them was the Stephen Whitney monument, which was discussed last year in the posting ” fastened ajar ” which described another nighted exploration of the place.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the thousands of cool things about Greenwood, the sets of keys which govern admission to the mausolea. More often than not, these keys are hand carved, early 19th century affairs. The sort of keys you’d see on a heavy metal album cover from the 1980’s, essentially. When they turn the bars inside the locking mechanisms of the heavy gates and slab doors, there’s an audible “klunk” sound as the lock disengages.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One is happy to report that within the tomb itself, the marble slabs were indeed crusted with a powdery Nitre, and the smell of mold and decay were omnipresent but quite tolerable. Of course, the ghastly contents contained in these walls include little more than mouldering bones after their long occupancy here, but there is a distinct perfume found in old tombs – something which is sensed rather than smelled.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Suydams are one of the ancient Knickerbocker families, landed gentry whose founders helped build a Dutch colony called New Amsterdam into something. The tomb’s official dedication is to Lambert Suydam, who died on April Fools day in 1833 in his 89th year, but there are many other members of the clan here, including his wife Sarah. It is very odd to stand in a structure like this, which is just shy of 150-175 years old, and more than one person along for the excursion commented on the bizarre acoustic excesses experienced within.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, a humble narrator is given to letting his mind wander, and the ideation of what might be carried by the static volume of air within the tomb began to prey upon me. Miasmic liquors would be found just beyond these marble slabs, pooling amongst those buckles and buttons and bits of bone which had survived the corruptions of the grave and persisted in perspicuous dissolution just in eyes away.

This is the kingdom of the conqueror worm, after all.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My fellow narrators and I all used artificial illumination when reading our sections of the text of “The Horror at Red Hook,” and the crew of curious tapophiles which participated in the evening all carried lanterns (that’s Clay Chapman in the shot above, at the Pierpont monument). I opted to read off my iPad so that my face would be underlit and I’d look extra creepy. It was all quite an atmospheric evening, and I hope we might be able to arrange another at some future date.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 28, 2014 at 11:53 am

Things to do

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Lots of cool fun coming up.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On Monday the 21st of July, your humble narrator will be part of a triad reading H.P. Lovecraft’s “Horror at Red Hook” in Greenwood Cemetery – at night. This is an Atlas Obscura Event, one which I’m pretty excited about participating in. We will actually be entering the mausoleum of the Suydams.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Also with Atlas Obscura, the Insalubrious Valley walking tour of Newtown Creek is on my schedule for the 26th of July. This is one of my favorite tours, which starts in East Williamsburg (or Bushwick as it used to be called) and crosses the Newtown Creek into Maspeth. We end up at the Goodfellas Diner, and lunch is included in the ticket price. Tix link at the bottom of this post, below.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 27th, a Sunday, I’ll be out with Brooklyn Brainery checking out the East River and Newtown Creek coastlines of Greenpoint (which also, coincidentally, used to be called Bushwick) on the Glittering Realms tour. Come with? Tix link at the bottom of this post, below.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, July 26th, The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek
With Atlas Obscura, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, July 27th, Glittering Realms
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

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