The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Empty Corridor’ Category

no dream

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Another archive shot, today from Queens.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Expressway squats and sags over Borden Avenue as it returns to ground nearby Greenpoint Avenue at the border of Blissville and Long Island City. My little break is turning out to be kind of productive, so look forward to some cool stuff in the near future. Also, I’ve got a couple of shots in an article at today’s NY Daily News- check it out.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 12, 2013 at 9:53 am

imaginative stimuli

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In today’s post- the chiaroscuro of Queens.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Visual splendor makes Queens remarkable, with its open vistas and relicts of vainglory. Whenever the City of New York, since its consolidation, feels itself broken or in need of some experimental improvement- Queens is the place where it has tinkered with rail and expressway, bridge and tunnel, or with municipal zoning and tax abatement schemes. The old girl supports a lot of people these days, and all signs point to the Queens family growing larger.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There are things which we aren’t talking about in this election cycle, like what happened to the Bowery Bay Sewage Plant during Hurricane Sandy, or the alarming antiquity of the electrical grid. If you spend as much time as I do around Newtown Creek, specifically the Dutch Kills tributary of that infamous ribbon of urban malfeasance and political neglect, the future of Queens is very much reflected in its past.

How long, I wonder, how long before the tinkering begins anew?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My predictions for the future are dire, as one is pessimistic both by nature and through experience. The growing modern corridors of western Queens will require new power plants and a modernized waste water control system before long which “somebody” will have to pay for. How long before stainless steel digester eggs reminiscent of the type found in Greenpoint tower over Astoria? How long will it be before red and white smokestacks rise over Dutch Kills here in Queens?

When will the tinkering begin?

Things to do!

Working Harbor Committee presents: Great North River Tugboat Races and Competition, September 1st, 2013
9:30-11:30 a.m. at West 42nd Street and the Hudson River. Spectator Boat tickets now on sale.

Modern Corridor

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Want to see something cool? Bring a camera, and follow me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

When I decided to start doing walking tours of the Newtown Creek watershed a few years ago, I found myself presented with a significant organizational issue. There’s a different story to be told about Maspeth than there is about Greenpoint (also, there are arguably two Greenpoints), yet… the two communities are inextricably linked up. Same thing with Bushwick and Ridgewood, or the residential centers at the Creek’s intersection with the East River. 3.8 miles long by around a mile wide, the Creeklands are vast when on foot. There is also SO much information to pass along, not just about the Creek’s past, but about all the stuff that’s going on right now- EPA, Superfund, the cool things my pals in NCA are doing with Green Infrastructure and Citizen Science…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My solution was to simply to connect the stories of these places up along the ancient roads or paths along which they grew, and follow the water from one borough to another. “Poison Cauldron” does the Greenpoint to Bushwick route, “Insalubrious Valley” follows a colonial era turnpike path, “Glittering Realms” moves from residential East River Greenpoint back to the industrial zone along another colonial pathway, and “13 Steps around Dutch Kills” traces the Queens tributary back to the Creek and ends at its smaller counterpart Whale Creek in Brooklyn.

The new one- “Modern Corridor”- is all about Hunters Point, one of the least known sections of New York City, which sits directly opposite the Shining City of midtown Manhattan.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This “Modern Corridor” walking tour starts at the old city center, nearby Jackson Avenue and Court Square, and explores the brave new world rising from the ashes of a 19th century industrial titan- the independent municipality of Long Island City. Writ large, the growing community of the titan real estate development which has reshaped the colonial vintage section of Queens called Hunters Point will be encountered, and one of the finest parks in the entire city visited. This park is built upon a significant piece of rail infrastructure which once allowed train cars to be loaded onto barges for maritime transport to Manhattan and points west.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Then we walk through to the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, and to the industrial machine surrounding the infamous Newtown Creek. Former home to sugar refineries and cargo docks, rail yards and powerhouses, this will be the future home of thousands who will live in the forthcoming Hunters Point South development which has already begun construction. See it as it is, before the towers rise and the land is reshaped to modern wants and desires.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Skirting along the Creek, you’ll see vast infrastructure, visit DUPBO (Down under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp), and walk over railroad tracks as we head back to the modern incarnation of Long Island City. Bring your cameras, as your friends won’t believe you when you try to describe the places you’ve witnessed. Closed toe shoes are also highly recommended, as is a hat or parasol as there will be little to no shelter from the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself. The walk will be approximately 2 hours in length and will cross all sorts of ground. There will be one flight of stairs involved.

paddy

- photo by Mitch Waxman

We’ll be passing from the 21st century all the way back to the 1600′s with particular emphasis on the late 19th century, when the fellow pictured above- the notorious Patrick “Battle-Ax” Gleason, served as the last Mayor of Long Island City. Gleason was personally responsible for the construction of the exquisite PS1 schoolhouse pictured in the second shot above, which nearly bankrupted LIC- amongst other imbroglios. Dogged by claims and accusations (and at least one conviction) of corruption- Gleason used to sit in a barber chair outside the Miller Hotel- which is today the LIC Crab House- and hold court with constituent and passerby alike. This was his favorite spot, directly across the street from the LIRR train and ferry terminal. He told those he met to avoid addressing him as “Mayor”, instructing them instead to “Just call me Paddy.”

Hope you can come along, this Saturday at 10- meetup at Court Square Station on Jackson Avenue.

dry ground

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Declination and Altitude. These are two concepts referenced and always mentioned when I’m conducting a walking tour around Newtown Creek, where nothing is “as god made it.”

For instance: The real Borden Avenue in Long Island City, what comics fans would refer to as the “Golden Age Borden Avenue” is buried 20-30 feet below the modern street- which would equate to “Bronze Age,” if one were to collect and assign value to important industrial corridors in the same manner as you would with comic books (scarcity, condition, desirability). Borden’s value would be downgraded, of course, as the modern day Borden isn’t exactly in “mint condition.” That’s what happens, I guess, when an Internet grocery chain runs thousands of heavily laden delivery trucks across it on a daily basis, as do thousands of other business and private vehicles.

In terms of scarcity and desirability, however… well, there ain’t that many industrial corridors left in New York today (golden, silver, or bronze age)- which makes it akin to finding an Amazing Fantasy 15 at a thrift store.

from wikipedia

Amazing Adult Fantasy and its retitled final issue, Amazing Fantasy, is an American comic book anthology series published by Marvel Comics from 1961 through 1962, with the latter title revived with superhero features in 1995 and in the 2000s. The final 1960s issue, Amazing Fantasy #15 (cover-dated August 1962), is the title that introduced the popular superhero character Spider-Man.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The original street was a plank road built into and over a boggy swamp, held together by Cypress roots and salt grasses.

I’ve read accounts of the place as having been what modernity would describe as a “thriving wetlands environment,” similar in appearance to the bayous of the southern United States, but quite obviously populated by latitudinal appropriate flora and fauna. This plank road, which would have ridden around 2-3 feet above flood tide upon wooden struts planted into the mud, was a rough surface by modern standard, but which was appropriate for teams of draft horses and cargo laden wagons.

The protocol for building this sort of wooden or plank road is something that people from north of the Mason Dixon line got very, very good at during the 1860′s during the Civil War. By the early 20th century, advanced or modern forms of engineering had landfilled this part of Long Island City and raised the street level (or grade) to modern altitudes.

from wikipedia

The Bronze Age of Comic Books is an informal name for a period in the history of mainstream American comic books usually said to run from 1970 to 1985. It follows the Silver Age of Comic Books.

The Bronze Age retained many of the conventions of the Silver Age, with traditional superhero titles remaining the mainstay of the industry. However, a return of darker plot elements and more socially relevant storylines (akin to those found in the Golden Age of Comic Books) featuring real-world issues, such as drug use, alcoholism, and environmental pollution, began to flourish during the period, prefiguring the later Modern Age of Comic Books.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Of the many “nerdgasms” which I experience around the Creek, and particularly on the LIC side when I’m around this area- which I’ve vaingloriously named “The Empty Corridor- ones involving the actual declination of the land itself are particularly intense. The truss structure above is the oft mentioned 51st avenue footbridge, which allows one to see the surrounding neighborhood rise above the rail tracks leading away from Hunters Point. The tracks sit on engineered ground themselves, which was highly compacted and rises an uncertain number of feet above the water table.

The height of said water table level is easily calculable by examining the particular altitude of the nearby Newtown Creek in relationship to the declination of the tracks, as the ground water here actually is the Newtown Creek.

from wikipedia

Condition is a significant factor in the valuation of a comic book. An example is Action Comics #1, the first published appearance of Superman. In 2010, 2 copies sold on the comic book auction website comicconnect.com for record prices. One copy was CGC graded 8.0 and sold for $1 million USD. The second book at a later auction, a copy CGC graded at 8.5 sold for a record setting $1.5 million dollars, the most ever paid for a comic book. So with CGC’s ability to provide a grading service as a neutral third party from a transaction, this created a degree of impartiality that did not exist before. This has shown that there is a demand for graded books as consistently these books have set sales records.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

A free event, “Watch Wildlife on Maspeth Creek with NCA and DEC!” – Friday, April 26
Meetup at Maspeth Creek at 1 p.m., for more information visit newtowncreekalliance.org.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman - Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

The 2013 Spring and Summer Tours Schedule

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

Pana_NCA_CreekEDU_Boat_102311_013359_a

- photo by Mai Armstrong

Want to see something cool?

Odds are that a bunch of the folks who will be reading this might have no idea who Mitch Waxman is, why they should come along with him on a tour of some weird neighborhood in Brooklyn or Queens or Staten Island, nor what a Newtown Creek or Kill Van Kull are- let alone where. Who is this weirdo?

Check out the “bio” page here at Newtown Pentacle, or this profile of me from the NY Times published in 2012. My tours of Newtown Creek have garnered no small amount of interest from the fourth estate- whether it be DNAInfountappedcities.com, Queens Chroniclenewyorkview.net, the 22blog, photobycateblog.com, or Queensnyc, and I’ve turned up in a bunch of media reports, documentaries, and been interviewed for multitudinous reports on the lamentable history of the Newtown Creek.

Most recently, it was National Geographic and Curbed. Attendees on my tours come from a variety of backgrounds- photographers, history and rail buffs, maritime enthusiasts, and there always seems to be an odd and welcome concentration of elected officials and journalists about.

What is with this guy?

I’m the Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, Official Photographer and Steering Committee member of the Working Harbor Committee, a member of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee and the Newtown Creek CAG, and am also a member of the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee. Newtown Pentacle, this blog, has been steadily published since 2009. I live in Astoria, Queens with my wife and our little dog, Zuzu.

In just the last few years, I have exposed thousands of people to the Newtown Creek, and its incredible history. This is where the industrial revolution actually happened, along this 3.8 mile long waterway that defines the border of Brooklyn and Queens.

t3_Atlas_PoisonCauldron_082512_012520_a

- photo by Mai Armstrong

In 2013, continuing relationships with Atlas Obscura, Newtown Creek Alliance, and the Working Harbor Committee (as well as friends like the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and others) allow me to offer the following schedule. Live ticketing links will be made available as they come online, and all dates are subject to cancellation or rescheduling due to weather or unforeseen circumstance. There are 6 unique walking tours listed here, and one boat trip in which I will be the principal speaker.

Private tours are possible, schedule permitting, and can be arranged by contacting me here. Last year, for instance, several private University classes engaged me for a day at the Creek, as did a few private groups. As mentioned, contact me and we will figure something out if you’ve got a meetup group, college class, or special request.

Here then, is my official schedule as it stands right now. There will likely be a few additions as time goes on, which I will let you know about as they occur. Best to subscribe to this blog (top right, email subscription)  or “follow” me on Twitter @newtownpentacle for news.

In April, 2013- There will be a brand new tour  of Greenpoint debuted, which I call “Glittering Realms.”

Glittering Realms- Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

In May, 2013- We start off with 13 Steps around Dutch Kills, go to the Insalubrious Valley, visit DUKBO, and finish off the month with a Working Harbor boat tour.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman - Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

NCA Birdwatch Bus tour- June 24, 2012

- photo by Mai Armstrong

In June, 2013- We visit the Poison Cauldron, return to the Insalubrious Valley, and check out the Kill Van Kull.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

In July, 2013- We visit Queens’s Hunters Point with a brand new tour. I might have another offering or two for you, but nothing I can speak about quite yet.

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

t3_MWA_COWD_071412_012314_a

- photo by Mai Armstrong

In August, 2013- We return to the Poison Cauldron, repeat the 13 steps, and the Kill Van Kull walks.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, August 24, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

There are a few other dates coming in the fall, and a couple of more summer events which are still being discussed, but I’ll let you know more about them in coming posts.

Also, I will definitely be onboard but not on the microphone during the Working Harbor Committee “Beyond Sandy” Hidden Harbor tours on Tuesday nights, all summer. Hope you can come along.

Click here for more on “Beyond Sandy.”

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