The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Citi Building Megalith’ Category

refuge open

leave a comment »

Street photography, literally, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been on a bit of a “notice everything” kick of late, which I imagine would translate into “normal person” as “by Jove, one is surrounded by things which have always been accepted but unquestioned.” Well, I guess that’s how normal people think, I wouldn’t know. One of the things I’ve gotten curious about lately are streets, and more specifically – the roadway itself. This has led me down a bit of a merry path, which has led to the realization that just about every road in NYC, the United States, and in fact the world is paved with industrial waste.

Elucidation follows, but first we need to discuss the development of the thoroughfare.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Roads were originally created from the compaction of soil along trade routes in prehistoric times, and there were fairly common paths developed in Eurasia and Africa by around 10,000 BCE. The oldest stone paved road known to archaeology was built by the Egyptians, in roughly 2,300 BCE, although there are older “courdoroy” or log roads known (There’s a few in the UK which date back to around 4,000 BCE). Over on the Indian Subcontinent, streets were paved with brick as early as 3,000 BCE.

Famously, the Romans were bloody brilliant at building roads, many of which have lasted into modern times. Their system involved the excavation of a fairly deep trench, followed by the laying and tamping down of several feet of differing grades of stone into it, with the top layer formed from a series of carefully cut paving stones which were quite heavy. The bottom layers allowed for drainage, the top layer armored the structure while using the force of gravity to keep it in place. For about a thousand years, the Roman system (similar technologies were used in China, and amongst the Inca in South America) was the best you could really hope for.

The Europeans who colonized North America used crushed oyster shells and stones to form a road surface, and they mitigated the dust generated by horse and cart by using various forms of oil to hold the stuff in place. It wasn’t until the middle 18th century that roads became “modern” when a Frenchman named Pierre-Marie-Jérôme Trésaguet began working on carefully graded roads around Paris. Trésaguet was followed at the beginning of the 19th century by a Scot named Telford who created what modernity would refer to as “a cobblestone road” wherein the pavers were mortared in place using stone dust and gravel. Unfortunately, these methodologies used a tremendous amount of material, and required an enormous investment to lay the several feet of stone that was required for proper drainage and surface stability.

It was another Scot – John McAdam – who invented the precursor of the modern roadway, and his pavement came to be known as “Macadam.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Macadam roads wore tougher under carriage wheels, and were cheaper to build than “Telford’s”. Trial and error taught McAdam that a course of stones, broken up small enough and compacted by a heavy iron roller, would act as a solid mass if given proper drainage. It was perfect for horse and carriage, albeit a bit dusty. The roads of the industrial revolution era were generally paved in Macadam.

In 1902, a Swiss doctor named Ernest Guglielminetti hit upon the novel idea of using tar to coat the roads in Monaco. About twenty years later, an Englishman named Edgar Purnell Hooley patented a formula (in the UK and USA) which combined coal tar and blast furnace slag mixed into gravel and called his new product Tarmac, or Tarred Macadam. Tarmac became quite wide spread by the early days of the automobile, but by the late 1920’s the literal king of the road appeared and Tarmac went out of style.

Also, even by the beginning of the 20th century, physician and politicians alike began to realize that Coal Tar was a particularly unhealthy thing to loose upon the environment. Luckily, nothing bad had ever come out of the nascent petroleum industry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are 42 gallons of crude oil in one of those shipping barrels which you always hear business people referring to. When the distillation process is complete, multitudes of chemicals are wrung out of it. 1.7% of every barrel ends up as a fairly inert form of tar which is referred to as “Asphalt or Road Oil.” Asphalt actually occurs naturally, and when it bubbled up out of the ground in historical settings, it was referred to as “pitch.”

Pitch was used for waterproofing the wooden joins on ships, inside buildings – anywhere you’d need a waterproof seal. It was also used as an incendiary for flaming arrows, and for boiling people you’d want to teach a lesson to. The British, and geologists, refer to naturally occurring Asphalt as “bitumen.” There’s natural lakes of the stuff to be found, notably in Trindidad/Tobago and it’s the tar you’ll find in the LaBrea Tar pits over on the left coast in Los Angeles.

The English were paving with Asphalt as early as the 1830’s, and in 1837 a fellow named Richard Tappin Claridge was granted a patent on a formulation for asphalt paving. Claridge’s company survived until the First World War, when it had just entered into a new venture to manufacture “Asphalted Macadam.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In New York City, modern day roads (with the exceptions of historic “Belgian Block” pavement, or the rare brick surface like Stockholm Street in Ridgewood) are paved with asphalted concrete. It’s a layer cake, according to the NYC DOT. There’s a base layer of gravel, which is covered by cement or concrete (which is sometimes reinforced with structural steel, depends of where it is and what the substrate is) which is armored by a top layer of asphalted concrete. Luckily, the roads in Queens are crappy, and on a recently replaced section of Northern Blvd. in Long Island City – you can see two of the layers surrounding a collapsing sewer drain.

It’s actually quite a thin crust, when you get down to it. This PDF at NYC.gov offers the “Materials” chapter of the DOT’s street design manual, and it covers the various approved road surfaces (sidewalks too) which you are encouraged to use in the City of Greater New York. It will tell you that, amongst other things, asphalted concrete is the most highly recycled substance in our municipality.

There is a “Green Asphalt” plant found in Blissville, at my beloved Newtown Creek, which is one of many facilities around the City which perform this sort of service. It seems that there is an economic, and practical, reason for placing these facilities within the City itself. Your “mix” needs to be within a certain distance of where you’re going to be laying it down, otherwise it begins to solidify and degrade in transit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Closer to home – my home at least – on Broadway in Astoria, a “trencher” was observed cutting its way through the street. You can see the layer cake of concrete and asphalt, and in the post which originally described the device – this one – your humble narrator reported that several largish chunks of timber were being brought to the surface along with the concrete and asphalt.

Broadway, in this section, is quite a complicated structure. The IND tracks of the R train are found at what’s probably 20-30 feet under the surface, which were constructing using the “cut and cover” method. There’s all kind of other stuff snaking around – sewers, utility tunnels, rat middens, etc. That means that the street is actually the uppermost section of a larger structure, meaning that if you fell down in the crosswalk – you’ve actually just landed on the roof of a building. As I mentioned above, how normal people think is a bit of a mystery to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to officialdom, 99% of Asphalt is recycled, and that 95% of the roads in the United States are paved with it. Asphalt pavement is rated according to the weather extremes it can withstand, and there are certain formulations designed for different climates. A different mix of tar and concrete is used for roads in Buffalo than those in NYC, for instance, due to climatological factors.

Engineers I’ve checked in with like the stuff – describing it as “easy to work with, and easy to repair.” It seems that a fresh laid bed of asphalted concrete is structurally a single unit – until something goes wrong under the surface or utility access requirements and repairs forces laborers to start cutting holes in it. That’s when the surface starts to flow, and pull, and crack. NYC is basically always working on one street or another – grinding, paving, laying new foundations. Given that a lot of the City sits on former wetlands, it’s a task best described as Sisyphean.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So – back to the industrial waste part of things – according to a buddy who works as an Enviro-Cop, asphalt is actually a fairly benign substance as far as petroleum goes. Unlike other derivates, it’s environmentally stable once it has set. The recycling industry uses high levels of heat to release the bitumen from the concrete matrix, which allows it to be mixed in with a fresh batch of concrete and applied to a street. There’s all sorts of things which have, and still, get mixed into asphalted concrete. Although NYC claims its has never used the stuff on its roads, some have experimented with mixing in asbestos fibers, and or coal tar. Plastics collected by the recycling industry are often shredded and mixed in with the tar and concrete, as is glass. For a while, automotive tires were considered a good candidate for inclusion in the mix, but the cost of shredding steel belted rubber was too high. Routinely, fly ash from industrial furnaces is mixed in, along with all sorts of other stuff which would otherwise just fill up an ever shrinking square footage of municipal landfills and dumps. By the ton, the singularly largest part of the flow of NYC’s garbage involves the disposition of road construction waste. The fumes emitting from hot and freshly laid asphalt carry some risk, cancer wise, but the injuries most often associated with the material in its malleable form are laborers getting burned while working with it.

Regardless, it’s another one of the many byproducts produced by the petroleum industry. Remember, asphalt – which is found on nearly all of NYC’s 6,074 miles of roads and on 95% of the roads in the United States represents 1.7% of every barrel of crude oil sent to the refinery.

About half of that barrel will become gasoline. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information: “In 2014, the United States consumed a total of 6.97 billion barrels of petroleum products, an average of about 19.11 million barrels per day. This total includes about 0.34 billion barrels of biofuels”.

Of course this beggars the question, a paradox actually, which asks: if 99% of asphalt is recycled, where’s all the freshly manufactured stuff going? 1.7% of 6.97 billion barrels of oil would suggest that the U.S.A. produces 118,490,000 barrels of fresh Asphalt (or road oil) per year.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

impolite exclusions

leave a comment »

It’s horrible to be me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found me wandering amidst the Degnon Terminal in Long Island City during a light drizzle, which for one such as myself indicates that’s it’s time to start recording the things I see. Above, the off ramp of the Queensboro Bridge that doth feed traffic unto the Thomson Avenue Viaduct.

As I’ve stated in the past, NYC never looks as good as it does when it’s raining.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was on my way to attend a meeting for the group that’s sprung up around the abandonment of the Montauk Cutoff tracks by the MTA, a project which was described at this – your Newtown Pentacle – recently. The meeting of the so called “Cut off coalition” was taking place over in the former Waldes Koh I Noor complex in the Degnon Terminal, and since it was raining I used the subway to get there rather than my usual methodology of walking in pursuance of not getting drenched.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Degnon Terminal, just in case you’ve missed the thousands of times I’ve referenced it, is an industrial park which was built in the early 20th century by a fellow named Michael Degnon. Degnon and his team land filled a famously honerous swamp fed by Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary at around the same time that the Pennsylvania Railroad was busy building the Sunnyside Yards railroad complex. Degnon’s project took advantage of the yards, and provided for a “ship to rail” link at the head of Dutch Kills.

“Progress” was a pretty big concept back in the early 20th century, and the Degnon Terminal saw some of the first poured concrete mega structures in the United States rise from the reclaimed wetlands of LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Loose Wiles bakery, Eveready Battery, American Chicle and other large manufacturers based themselves here and provided tens of thousands of jobs, which drew the immigrant masses out of Manhattan and out to LIC and its environs. By the 1930’s, this section of LIC had become a vast industrial sector.

After the Second World War, when manufacturing in the northeastern United States began to decline, the buildings were left behind and nobody was quite sure what to do with them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the early 1990’s, it was decided to demolish a hospital to make way for the new, and the Citi building megalith was erected. The first of the glass and steel skyscrapers in LIC, this malefic eidolon used to be a singular tower. That has changed in the last ten years, as multiple high rise residential buildings have risen around “court square.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Pearson street off of Skillman, in the Degnon Terminal, the four building Koh I Noor complex found profitable life after splitting the property up amongst smaller tenants. The Waldes company manufactured milliners and tailoring supplies – it’s said that they invented the metal zipper, for instance. Warehouse businesses, printers, and small manufacturers have taken up residence here in the 21st century.

None of them utilize the rail, nor the maritime connections, and are instead truck based businesses.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

circumstance which

with 3 comments

Feasibility, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’re reading this, in the filth choked furnace rooms and dark satanic mills of the NYCEDC, acolytes of the Real Estate Industrial Complex are working feverishly on the feasibility plan for the decking of the Sunnyside Yards. Syncopated, hammers are smashing out imperfections in the armor plating of their unholy works. Armies are at work, happily consuming the roughly two million dollars which have been allocated to their studies. At the end of the process, hordes of their making will emerge from the EDC’s subterranean vaults, proclaiming that a new order has been achieved, and all of New York’s problems will be solved by the fruits of their labor.

Housing will be made affordable, transit and other municipal services will be abundant and available, and the children of Queens will be assured a bright future. A great darkness will be conquered, and prosperity will spread through the land. In their keeps and towers will wizards and oligarchs rejoice, for Queens will be saved by those for whom the warren of lower Manhattan is a paradise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The grand obfuscation, of course, will arrive when the Mayor’s office announces that the feasibility study of the EDC has made recommendations that City Hall must follow. The inheritors of Tammany will omit the fact that the NYCEDC, or New York City Economic Development Corporation, is not some independent or autochthonous entity. Pretense that the board of the EDC is not composed entirely of political appointees from the Mayoral and Gubernatorial mansions, or that it’s ranking staffers are not in fact just awaiting their turn at either electoral or corporate fortune, will be offered.

Not mentioned either will be the fact that the current so called “Progressive” Mayor of New York City has merely adopted the policies and projects of a predecessor whom his fringe coalition demonized, and that the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards was and is the personal passion of Michael Bloomberg’s “aide de camp” Daniel Doctoroff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The coming of the darkness, an era when Sunnsyide will be referred to as “Shadowside” nears. One has been vocal about the opinion that sometime during the 21st century, at least some portion of the gargantuan rail yard found here in Western Queens will likely be decked over. The despoiled bureaucrats of Lower Manhattan have indicated to me, and others, that the decking will likely happen in three stages – a sort of creeping metastases which will begin with the section between LIC’s 21st street and Queens Plaza. This is the narrowest part of the Sunnyside Yards, incidentally, a part of the project which will be cheaper to accomplish than the sections abutting Northern Blvd. and Sunnyside.

During this last Summer, a meeting with the crew of loathsome sentience who are conducting the study began with a humble narrator slamming a box of donuts down on the table in front of them. I stated “when somebody comes to my house, I serve cake.” They did not know what to make of this, nor the unremitting hostility with which they were greeted. At one point during the meeting, I asked a high ranking member of the team to stop smiling, as it was freaking me out and there is absolutely nothing worth smiling about regarding this existential threat to the health and well being of Queens.

To their minds, the decking of the Sunnyside Yards represents a solution. To those of us who live in, and love, Western Queens – they are the coming of darkness and destruction, a barbarian horde sent to loot our communities and whose mission is to steal the sky and blot out the sun itself.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

daytime pilgrimmage

leave a comment »

Jackson Avenue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been watching the construction efforts underway at the former West Chemical site adjoining Queens Plaza for a while now. Building condominium towers in Queens Plaza is a questionable proposition, beggaring the question “who would really want to live in Queens Plaza?,” but the bigger one for me is “would you want to live on the former location of a chemical factory?.” I often remark to myself that the reason why the history of Queens is often so tough a nut to crack is the careful obfuscation of its past by the real estate industrial complex so as to preclude casual mention of the fact that so many of the new residential towers rising from Western Queens are in fact built atop such sites.

State and City officialdom call sites like these “brownfields,” which sounds a lot better than “toxic and irreversibly polluted” I guess. Just say “affordable housing” or “green infrastructure” and you’ll feel better about the whole thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brownfield remediation, or “opportunity area,” sounds a heck of a lot better at cocktail parties and let’s face it – lower Manhattan and North Brooklyn cocktail parties tend to grind into uncomfortable territory when you mention the environmental consequence of a century’s worth of industrial use. One would point out that at least the “powers that are” aren’t planning on putting a school on top of the old West Chemical site, but that brings up the uncomfortable subject of the infrastructure required to support a residential population being inserted into a former industrial zone, and the lack thereof, so that’s best avoided as well so as to not make the bond brokers skittish and derail the program.

It will not be conducive, condo sales wise, to mention all of those closed FDNY units or the frankly astounding conditions encountered at the centuried Queensboro or Ravenswood NYCHA projects, nor where the nearest hospital emergency room is located.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The old “chickens coming home to roost” adage will likely be punching Western Queens in the nose some time in the late 2020’s – by my estimate. That’s when our trains will be running at (instead of near) capacity, our lack of school desks and hospital beds will be most apparent, and when the new populations installed in these former industrial corridors begin to organize – politically speaking. One wonders if these new populations will vote in as reliable and “party loyal” a fashion as the current residents do. Will the 20’s roar, or howl, for the Democrats?

The folks who can afford the so called “affordable housing,” rising from these “brownfields,” will they vote for a Democrat party candidate and continue the rule of the “Queens Machine” – or will they support somebody else who is a little more in tune with them socioeconomically? Only time, and a roll of the political dice, will tell.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

fully ascertained

leave a comment »

Yggdrasil, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yggdrasil, as you may recall, is the world tree in Viking/Norse mythos. Its roots go down into the underworld of the undistinguished dead, Hel, and it crowns in the heaven of Asgard. There’s a dragon chewing at the deepest root, the so called “Midgard Serpent,” and there’s also a couple of tale telling squirrels who spend all their time running up and down the thing. Here in LIC, the closest thing we’ve got to this allegorical tree would be the Megalith, I guess. Often have I wondered how deep this sapphire dagger goes. Is it possible that the old adage “as above, so below” applies here?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long has one warned of that malediction which cannot possibly exist in the cupola of this structure. An impossible thing which gazes rapaciously down upon this corner of the megalopolis, watching mankind with its unblinking three lobed eye and commanding a global army of mortal acolytes – surely this is a sick fantasy, the concoction or delusion of a paranoid mind. What sort of thing does not feel, nor breathe, nor sleep – but endlessly hungers instead? Imagine that if such a sky flung thing could exist, what its subterranean counterpart might be like?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If “as above, so below” applies and that thing which cannot possibly exist in the sapphire Yggdrasil of Queens has an antipode in the ground, what might one expect to find some fifty three stories below LIC? I can attest that never have I witnessed messenger squirrels moving along the glassine surfaces of the Megalith but I’m not in any position to tell you what’s going on beneath it.

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

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 17, 2015 at 12:00 pm

titanic gateway

leave a comment »

3 top reasons that Listicles blow chunks, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You many have noticed a certain invective this week, aimed specifically at the so called “Listicles.” The phylum of Internet posts propagated by buzzfeed and other high volume sites which promise “5 things we love about” or “3 things we hate about” or “7 best moments in…” annoy me as they tend to dumb down the discourse and feed off of content created by others. One does not offer promises which will not be kept, but one oath which a humble narrator will swear to is that Newtown Pentacle will not be offering posts of that ilk to you in 2015. My plan for the year is to continue the current publishing schedule – 5 days a week, Monday to Friday, with posts arriving sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Add in my two posts a week at Brownstoner Queens, as well as my other obligations, and I think you’ll agree that my plate is rather full. Pictured above: one of the best lit USPS trucks on Northern Blvd in Queens, which is parked by a Best Buy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Goals for the new year are non existent. I have an odd desire to photograph Rockaway Beach during a blizzard, for some reason, but plans for the year are still forming up. When Spring comes, I’ll likely resume my walking tours of the Newtown Creek watershed and other area waterways, but nothing is definite or scheduled yet. I do have a certain something that I’m trying to cook up on Staten Island, but it’s too early to mention specifics on that one. One desire which I will admit to is to spend some time exploring the more easterly parishes of Queens a bit, scuttling past Maspeth and Jackson Heights and into the central districts of the Borough.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s plenty going on right here in LIC to keep an eye on, of course. The Degnon Terminal will be receiving a major facelift this year when LaGuardia Community College implements its capital program in January to reconstruct the facade of its “Building C” – the former “Thousand Windows Bakery” of the Loose Wiles company. Additionally, Tower Town has now extended itself all the way to Queens Plaza and there’s lots of new construction going on to keep an eye on. As always, however, My Beloved Creek will retain center stage in 2015.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

common attributes

leave a comment »

Wednesdays? I can take ’em or leave ’em.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Curmudgeon, that’s what one fears he is best described as these days. It is best to be alone, I think. At least that way the only person that can disappoint or malign, and the methods utilized thereof, is well known. Frankly, I’ve grown tired of watching others play out their passion plays and foibles, while heading toward obvious conclusions. I’m not going to be saving anyone from themselves anymore, as that circuitry has become burned out in my brain. Go ahead and grasp that wire which has fallen into a puddle, for I’m not going to caution you not to. Not anymore. Go ahead, see what happens.

from wikipedia

Misanthropy is the general hatred, distrust or disdain of the human species or human nature. A misanthrope, or misanthropist is someone who holds such views or feelings. The word’s origin is from Greek words μῖσος (misos, “hatred”) and ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, “man, human”). The condition is often confused with asociality.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Logical progressions, falling dominoes… I can see these things clearly. Incompetence is rewarded in modern discourse, where “trying” is a worthy alternative to succeeding. Everybody is a winner and there is no qualitative scale by which to judge the efficacy of action. The human hive has driven me to the edge of wit, and everywhere I look – what drives our society is the notion of what should be rather than what is. A humble narrator wishes nothing more than to emulate Ezekiel and retreat to the hermitage of wild mountain tops to enjoy some alone time.

from wikipedia

A loner is a person who avoids or does not actively seek human interaction. There are many reasons for solitude, intentional or otherwise. Intentional reasons include spiritual, mystic and religious considerations or personal philosophies. Unintentional reasons involve being introverted, highly sensitive, extremely shy, or having various mental disorders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vain glory and hubris rule. False faith and political equivalency rule over the hive, with carefully selected cautionary tales presented by self elected elites as exemplars of the “way things should be.” All these ideations drive one towards isolation, the status of a curmudgeon, and are exactly the sort of emotionally callous states that the forces shaping our society hope we will all embrace.

note: Today’s “depressive” post will likely be followed by a “manic” one tomorrow, btw.

from wikipedia

Bipolar disorder, also known as bipolar affective disorder (and originally called manic-depressive illness), is a mental disorder characterized by periods of elevated mood and periods of depression. The elevated mood is significant and is known as mania or hypomania depending on the severity or whether there is psychosis. During mania an individual feels or acts abnormally happy, energetic, or irritable. They often make poorly thought out decisions with little regard to the consequences. The need for sleep is usually reduced. During periods of depression there may be crying, poor eye contact with others, and a negative outlook on life.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,165 other followers

%d bloggers like this: