The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘NY 11101’ Category

daytime pilgrimmage

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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.

ought to be

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Photo enforced indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A point is made to document the demolition/construction process at the former 5ptz/Neptune Meter site along Jackson Avenue in LIC. Whenever one is scuttling past, the camera ends up getting stuck into some gap in the construction fencing and progress on the site is recorded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One feels a certain responsibility to do so, as everyone else stopped paying attention when the graffiti art museum was torn down, but since a buried tributary of Newtown Creek flows throughout the ground here, I consider it to be part of my turf. There’s a good amount of poison in the ground, I’m told, but don’t worry – it’s been designated a “Brownfield Reclamation Site” by the State and City so obviously the soil here will be returned to natural splendor by the cleanup process. Either that or they’ll just pile a bunch of clean dirt onto the surface to achieve the sixty inches of clean fill required by the State environmental people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One would point out that in other Brownfield Reclamation Sites, you’d notice monitoring wells and pumping equipment at work. You might observe a temporary structure that looks like a giant tent being erected to protect the surrounding neighborhood from the process. There would be fellows wearing protective gear. At 5ptz, they seem to just be digging holes and placing steel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Jobs, jobs, jobs, I guess. Progress on the March and all that.

On a historical note – did you know that the Title 1 slum clearance projects of the 1950’s and 60’s actually expanded the slums? That more people lost their homes than gained new ones? That the rent for the apartment complexes which would eventually become NYCHA housing were more expensive than the so called slum tenements which they replaced? That shattering the communities and neighborhoods of pre war NYC actually contributed mightily to the conditions of crime and poverty which bedeviled the City throughout the late 20th century and continue to this day?

“Progress,” and the ghost of Robert Moses, are still with us. When you hear the Mayor say “affordable housing” – think “slum clearance” instead.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 11th, 2015
BROOKLYN Waterfront Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

historical realities

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From the Magic Lantern show…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Welcome to DUPBO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

glancing through

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Caution, everyone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, I wander the earth. There are few places that I won’t go. Photography and eventual postings at this, your Newtown Pentacle follow. When leaving the house, there are seldom objectives in mind, instead I literally just follow my path and keep the sun on my back. There are issues which one cares deeply about, with Newtown Creek at the paramount. For the last month or so, I’ve been talking to a LOT of people about the Sunnyside Yards and discussing my objections to the project proposed by the current Mayor which would deck them over and install the population of Albany atop them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Inevitably, sometime during the 21st century, some portion of the Sunnyside Yards will be so converted. Likely, it will be the area around 21st street – the so called Arch Street Yard. This is likely, as it adjoins the Jackson Avenue corridor leading from Queens Plaza to the Court Square neighborhood, a zone which is undergoing a radical amount of construction – as discussed in a recent posting at my Brownstoner column.

Thing is, Queens isn’t ready to handle the amount of people this will bring – from a hospital bed, school desk, police officer, fire fighter, transit, or sewage plant point of view. It’s a bad idea being propagated by a weak Mayor whose own electoral coalition is rebelling against him, and who has a terrible record of actually delivering on the affordable housing he offers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The effect that the Sunnyside Yards will have on my beloved Creek are somewhat terrifying, from a sewage runoff point of view. This is something I’ve been emphatically mentioning to all who would listen, which at this point is a significant number. Quite obviously, someone in City Hall has heard that I’ve been speaking out about this issue.

This is going to sound ridiculously paranoid, I realize, but the last few times that I went out for one of my long walks – I’ve been followed. I feel sorry for whomever has been assigned to do so, of course, as they’re being exposed to a ridiculous amount of pollution – but the surveillance hasn’t escaped me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Saturday, while walking through Maspeth, a fellow – who I managed to get a shot of (the guy in the black jacket and jeans at the lower left hand corner of the shot, right by the Phelps Dodge property) – followed me for something like two miles. I ducked off the street into a bolt hole nearby Penny Bridge, and reappeared behind him, asking if he was lost and needed directions. His confusion at how to react was actually comical as I offered him walking directions by which he could reach the 7 or G from Review avenue. Yesterday, a plain clothes detective spent his day on the corner opposite my house, swiveling his head around, for something like six hours. I know that you know that I know, now.

You’re not being paranoid if someone is actually surveilling you, and I’ve noticed that they’ve noticed.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 10, 2015 at 11:01 am

strange oceans

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Over on Davis Street in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Early for an appointment, one recently had some time to kill around the Court Square section of LIC, and I decided to visit “used to be 5Ptz” to see what was doing there. Funnily enough, the site is now referred to as the Brownfield Cleanup Program’s “Former Neptune Meter (NYS DEC # C25=41138)” site now, which hearkens one back to the industrial days of yesteryear.

“Transform the Past… Build for the Future.” It says that on the sign.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’ll recall, for many years this site was the home of 5ptz, NYC’s premier gallery for street art. The owners of the structure decided not too long ago that it was time to evict the institution and replace it with luxury apartments. Not to worry though, there will be an “affordable” component to the builds, so if you want to live alongside the 7 train’s elevated track and the Sunnyside Yard – it’ll be in reach starting at $2,200 – 2,500 a month for a one bedroom before too long.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve stated in the past, one does not condemn the owners of the land for seeking the greatest value out of it. It’s their property, and in many ways they should be lauded for maintaining the Neptune Meter building for as long as they did and allowing 5Ptz its long residency. The thing that just smacks one in the face, however, is the fact that their residential development is going to be called 5Pointz Towers.

That just stinks, its bad branding, and rubs the community’s face in the mud for no reason.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure what’s going on in this shot. My first instinct is that there is some sort of prehistoric beast that has been trapped beneath the Neptune Building all of these years, and that a substantial weight must be used in the name of keeping it imprisoned until the new towers rise and permanently cage it once again. I am, of course, an idiot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, my upstairs neighbor who works in the construction field and would be able to instantly recognize this technique and tell me all about it isn’t at home as this post is being prepared. He’s taking his niece to see Cinderella, I’m told.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

cosmic vengeance

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Death, annihilation, hatred.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post come from that time before Viking Hell consumed our megalopolis, and depict the modern version of Long Island City from a fairly high vantage. The glaciers have covered all of this by now, and the frost giants – or Jotun – now exercise sovereign control this territory. One begins to grasp why the suicide rate is so high in Northern Europe’s frost belt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Enormous amounts of study have been enacted, during these cold and dark months, centering around the subject of the Sunnyside Yards. It’s odd, how you can “know” a lot about something, and then discover that your knowledge base is ephemeral at best. Then you start reading century old engineering reports and examine old maps of the area, and the depths of your ignorance become apparent. I can tell you many things now – for instance, the chief engineer who built the yards was named Albert Noble, and he oversaw the East River division of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s efforts during the “New York Tunnel Expansion” which occurred between 1904 and 1910.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the coming months, I will be talking a LOT about the yards, and the Big Little Mayor’s plans to deck them over and wreck at least two thriving communities in the process. What I can say at this point in time, however, is that the amount of taxpayer money which would be required to deck over the close to 200 acres of the Sunnyside Yards could easily reactivate several LIRR lines in Queens AND extend the 7 line all the way to College Point. We are talking 150-200 billion dollars for this caprice, and that’s before any structure rises from the deck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things that has also emerged, and this is fairly novel for me, is empathy for the Real Estate Industrial Complex investors who have been dutifully “developing” Long Island City for the last 25 years. Can you imagine investing millions in a piece of property, securing financing for construction and obeying the annoyances of the regulatory process, all the while greasing all the right political palms – and then having a one term Mayor come along and announce a plan that will devalue all you’ve done?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 27, 2015 at 11:00 am

directly upward

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Whence goeth I?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite my vulnerability to cold – hey, Superman’s got Kryptonite but he still gets out – last week I found myself wandering around Long Island City in what felt like a negative a thousand degrees air mass. Owing to my particular weakness, rather than walking from place to place, mass transit has been utilized. Of late, I’ve found myself on a staggering number of buses and Subway lines, which is a sobering reality for the inveterate pedestrian. Don’t forget, during warmer climes I routinely walk back and forth from Astoria to Red Hook. Funnily enough however, Long Island City – which is the concentrating point of rail and subway on Long Island – often forces you to walk great distances in search of conveyances. It’s virtually impossible to find a cab here as well, despite it being the de facto home of the Taxi industry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking is my preferred methodology for getting around, of course. I detest using mass transit as it’s an admission of defeat. Problem is the derelict condition of the sidewalks – isn’t there a law about shoveling snow and clearing the pavement? There is such a law, but as in many other cases, the rules which the City of Greater New York enforces upon the citizenry does not apply to itself. I can actually spot city owned property by its unkempt state during the winter, and can report that when you’re in a municipal building things are not exactly “up to code.” There ain’t no water saving toilets or CO2 detectors readily visible on Chambers Street, in my limited observations of the municipal lairs. There are hundred year old marble stand up urinals, however, which are framed in black mold.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Queens Plaza, the old CN building complex has been obliterated. The Real Estate Industrial complex has seized control of the site, and construction crews are busily preparing the ground for yet another residential tower. I know what you’re thinking – “Wow, I’ve always wanted to live in Queens Plaza.” “Thank goodness that the “market” has finally responded to this desire, and I can have the 7 train and thousands of motor vehicles rolling right past my window 24/7.”

I hope that this new building will be one of the transformers – apartment towers which can autonomously turn into giant robots that defend the City – which are called “the CondoBots.” At the CN site, another one of the smaller transformers was sighted, that yellow earth mover in the shot above. It calls itself Diggity Dig Dig Dig. Nice enough cyber guy, but a bit single minded.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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