The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Lower East Side’ Category

mad and fantastic

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Busy bees, and misanthropy, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The insect above was busily raiding Our Lady of the Pentacle’s herb garden one recent afternoon. Accordingly, I chased it around from blossom to blossom with a camera and flash. Soon, it was chasing me around. Such is my lot. The bee was merely attempting to shoo a representative of NYC’s human infestation away, something for which I can hardly blame it. There’s too many of us.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One shouldn’t be surprised at the various indignities and inequities commonly experienced along the daily round, I suppose, given that many of the places I find myself have the word “hell” in their place names. Over in Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen, for instance, this taxi garage was queerly devoid of human habitation. A good start, I guess, but there’s still too many of us.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Down on the Lower East Side, in an area once known as “Jew town,” this laundromat scene reminded me of certain Edward Hopper paintings. The facility was offering the humans housed therein a chance to remove the soils and bodily excreta which had accreted into their textile garb – using a variety of semi caustic chemicals, detergents, and mechanically agitated hot water. There’s way too many of us, and I fear that what this city could really use is a good plague.

Someday a real rain will come and wash these streets clean…

Sorry for the misanthropy, I get a bit “Travis Bickle” when my back hurts…

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”

photo courtesy wikipedia

“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm

extended indefinitely

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Manny hatty keeps on forcing me to visit.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For someone who actually loathes visiting Manhattan, preferring the ruinations of western Queens and devastations of northern Brooklyn to the Shining City, I do seem to be spending an awful lot of time there of late. Another recent series of events demanded that I visit the Bloody Sixth Ward and Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, so down the hole and into an electrically driven aluminum box of monkey meat did I go.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The visit to Old St. Patrick’s was all business, introducing a certain engenue to the Church’s resident historical hierophant. While on site, I snapped a few quick shots, all the while wishing that I had brought my tripod along with me. Unfortunately, the bulky tool is a bit of a carry, and unless I expressly know that I’m going to be utilizing the thing it gets left home. When I’m not on that rattling contraption that hurtles beneath the streets, I’m walking, after all.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While doing some of that walking, on my way back to the underground monkey mover, this absolutely cliche “little italy” shot appeared before me. It looked so incredibly staged, couldn’t help but record it.

Note: A holiday schedule of single images will be presented here next week, although I’m going to be solidly ensconced in Queens as no one will have me. Time for a little break, and to mix things up a bit. You may have noticed that Maritime Sunday hasn’t splashed into port the last couple of weeks- which is mainly due to my inability to get out on the water during the cold months, precluding the gathering of fresh and or interesting content for the feature. It’ll return in the future, when I’m able to get out there again.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

granite portal

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One step forward, two steps back.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Once upon a time, this charming section of Manhattan was home to cattle yards, rendering plants, and an enormous industrial sector which ran on coal. It was described as smokey, stinky, and not very pleasant by the Knickerbockracy. By the time of the Civil War, that had all changed, and this area which came to be called Union Square had begun to gentrify. Shedding itself of dirty or noisome industry is something the folks over in the City have absolutely excelled at over the years. These days, the place drowns in sentiment, seems fairly underutilized, and would benefit from some of the thinking and urban planning which guides the burgeoning shorelines of the East River in Brooklyn and Queens. Have you noticed that there are few buildings around Union Square which are under 20 stories?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Obligation carried one to the Shining City again just last week, for a lunch meeting this time, and I spied this crew of fellows tearing up a substantial chunk of 18th street. They seemed to be having a great time, using esoteric equipment and enjoying a ribald orgy of demolition. When I was a younger and less humble narrator, around the age of 5, my ambition was to drive a bull dozer. It is good to see that, for some, the dreams of childhood did not suffer the brutal euthanasia which mine have. The City people did not seem to notice the crew, presumptively this scene was just another obstacle for them which impeded rushing about and spending. It’s enough to drive one into the arms of a mixologist.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Profoundly unpopular, physically repulsive and societally unacceptable, one such as myself desires nothing more than to be included in things. How one wishes that parties such as the one witnessed in today’s post were the sort of thing for which an invitation might be offered. This looks like so much fun, tearing into the concretized firmament with powerful engines of modern design. Long have I been curious about what might lie below, but such obsessions are denied me, and one can only photograph that which occurs in a brightly lit world illumined by the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself, here in the Shining City.

Upcoming Tours

Saturday- September 28, 2013
Newtown Creek Boat Tour with the Working Harbor Committee- tickets on sale now.

Saturday – October 19, 2013
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale soon.

Sunday- October 20th, 2013
The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek with Brooklyn Brainery- tickets on sale now

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Written by Mitch Waxman

September 25, 2013 at 12:19 pm

idle curiosity

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In today’s post- The New York Marble Cemetery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

If your view of second avenue in Manhattan’s East Village looks like what you see in the shot above, there’s only one place you can possibly be.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

You would be standing on the other side of these gates, found at the end of an alley, and within a walled off corridor which was established in 1831- the same year that the French Foreign Legion first deployed and Charles Darwin left England for the Galapagos onboard the Beagle.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the perks of working with Atlas Obscura is that I can sometimes insert myself into somebody else’s adventure, and in this case, it was Allison Meier’s walking tour excursion to the New York Marble Cemetery at 41 1/2 Second Avenue. She graciously allowed me to attend her sold out tour.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Check out this page, which I think Allison wrote- at the Atlas Obscura- for the full history of the place (there’s no point in me paraphrasing it). The tombs are all underground, with the grave markers arranged on the walls in the form of stone plaques. The surrounding neighborhood has literally risen around the place, with every building style from 19th century tenement to ultra modern luxury hotel represented around it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The president of the cemetery association was there to talk to the attendees, and she described the walls as being quite fragile and in bad condition. Nearly two hundred years of New York air, and vibration, have taken their toll on mortar laid down just ten years before Mary Rogers “the beautiful cigar girl” was found in a trunk floating along on the Hudson- sparking the interest of none other than Edgar Allen Poe.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the plaque denoting the tomb of Uriah Scribner, father of the eponymous founder of the publishing house “Charles Scribner’s Sons.” Uriah died in 1853.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

1830’s New York City is literally the stuff of legend.

It’s Poe’s town, as well as the NYC that Herman Melville and Washington Irving and William Cullen Bryant knew, a city which had less than a quarter million inhabitants. What we call the lower east side was farmland back then, and the center of town was down near the Battery.

The river fronts were described as a “forest of masts” for all the merchant trading vessels found docked there.

Check out the New York Marble Cemetery here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

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

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

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

hollow voice

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Consolidated Edison facility on 13th street and avenue D in Manhattan famously exploded during Hurricane Sandy. Oddly, just a few months prior to this, I had found myself perched upon the DEP property across the street- when the shot above was captured. Embedded below is a video which seems to have been captured from a vantage in Long Island City (by someone else) which depicts the explosion.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm

raised place

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Marie J. Turecamo, a Moran tug, getting all iconic on the East River. This tug has been discussed in earlier posts at this, your Newtown Pentacle, specifically the posting “Circumnavigation 1” from which the following is quoted:

…along came the Marie J. Turecamo tugboat- a 2,250 HP twin screw tug operated by Moran Towing. It was originally built as the Traveller in 1968, by Tangier Marine Transport which operated out of the Main Iron Works facility in Houma, LA.


Moran is a leading provider of marine towing and transportation services, a 150-year-old corporation that was founded as a small towing company in New York Harbor and grew to preeminence in the industry. The cornerstone of our success has been a long-standing reputation for safe, efficient service, achieved through a combination of first-rate people and outstanding vessels and equipment.

Over the course of its history Moran has steadily expanded and diversified, and today offers a versatile range of services stemming from its core capabilities in ship docking, contract towing, LNG activities and marine transportation. Our tug fleet serves the most ports of any operator in the eastern United States, and services LNG terminals along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts and the West Coast of Mexico. The Moran barge fleet serves the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, the Great Lakes, the inland waters of the U.S. eastern seaboard, and the Gulf of Mexico. We also provide worldwide marine transportation services, including operations in the Caribbean and periodic voyages to South America and overseas waters.

Another appearance of the tug, wherein it played a similar iconic role and chewed a different bit of harbor scenery was in the posting “curious customs“.

Also- Upcoming tours…

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

deserted midnight

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

A friend recently published an excellent book (Eat the City) and your humble narrator was invited to the reception party her publisher was sponsoring on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. On the way to the event, deep in Alphabet City, this church building at 345 East 4th street between Avenues B and C caught my eye.

Built in 1895 as a Russian church, it currently houses the congregation of “San Isidro y San Leandro of the Western Orthodox Catholic Church of the Hispanic Mozarabic Rite”.

from wikipedia

Western Rite Orthodoxy or Western Orthodoxy or Orthodox Western Rite are terms used to describe congregations and groups which are in communion with Eastern Orthodox Churches or Oriental Orthodox Churches using traditional Western liturgies rather than adopting Eastern liturgies such as the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. While there are some ancient examples of Western Rite churches in areas predominantly using the Byzantine Rite (the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Latins, often referred to as Amalfi, is a common example), the history of the movement is often considered to begin in the nineteenth century with the life and work of Julius Joseph Overbeck. Less commonly, Western Orthodoxy refers to the Western Church before the Great Schism.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The history of this structure is somewhat hazy, but it was purpose built as a church. Originally a catholic church serving the St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish, ownership was transferred to the “Russian-Greek Orthodox Chapel of the Holy Trinity” and then the “Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas”. I’ve been unable to tie down exactly when the current congregants took possession of the structure.

from wikipedia

The Mozarabic Rite is the second-best attested liturgy in the Latin Church in terms of preserved documentation. The Mozarabic Rite was considered authoritative for the clarification of a Sacramentary received by Charlemagne from Pope Adrian I (d. 795). The first is, of course, the Roman Rite, which, to encourage unity of faith and worship, generally replaced the Mozarabic in Iberia from about 1080.

In the year 870, Charles the Bald, wishing to see what the ancient Gallican Rite had been like, had priests sent from Spain to celebrate the Mozarabic Rite before him.

In the latter part of the eighth century, the Rite had fallen under some suspicion owing to quotations cited by Elipandus of Toledo in support of his Adoptianist theories, and the Council of Frankfurt 794 spoke somewhat disparagingly of possible Islamic influence on it. It was due to these suspicions that in 924, John X sent a Papal Legate named Zanello to investigate the Rite. Zanello spoke favourably of the Rite, and the Pope gave a new approbation to it, requiring only to change the words of consecration to that of the Roman one. Spanish clergy gradually started to use the Roman words of institution (though there is no evidence whether or not it was done consistently).

When King Alfonso VI of Castile conquered Toledo in 1085, it was being disputed as to which rite Iberian Christians should follow: the Roman rite or Mozarabic Rite. After other ordeals, it was submitted to the trial by fire: One book for each rite was thrown into a fire. The Toledan book was little damaged whilst the Roman one was consumed. Henry Jenner comments in the Catholic Encyclopedia: “No one who has seen a Mozarabic manuscript with its extraordinarily solid vellum, will adopt any hypothesis of Divine Interposition here.” The king allowed six parishes in the city to continue to use the Mozarabic rite.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Baroque, and literally gothic in its decoration and design elements, the church reminds one that the monolithic Roman Catholic Church of modernity was once rent asunder by schisms. The Church was once caught between two dying and one growing empires (Latin Rome, Greek Rome, and the Arab Rum) which caused isolated pockets of Christian adherents to stray from Vatican orthodoxy. Often, it was the endless sea of politics which created these schisms, but as often as not it was merely regional variation in belief.

from wikipedia

Saint Isidore of Seville (Spanish: San Isidro or San Isidoro de Sevilla, Latin: Isidorus Hispalensis) (c. 560 – 4 April 636) served as Archbishop of Seville for more than three decades and is considered, as the historian Montalembert put it in an oft-quoted phrase, “le dernier savant du monde ancien” (“the last scholar of the ancient world”). Indeed, all the later medieval history-writing of Hispania (modern Spain and Portugal) was based on his histories.

At a time of disintegration of classical culture, and aristocratic violence and illiteracy, he was involved in the conversion of the royal Visigothic Arians to Catholicism, both assisting his brother Leander of Seville, and continuing after his brother’s death. He was influential in the inner circle of Sisebut, Visigothic king of Hispania. Like Leander, he played a prominent role in the Councils of Toledo and Seville. The Visigothic legislation which resulted from these councils is regarded by modern historians as exercising an important influence on the beginnings of representative government.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The world of a thousand years ago, while bearing strange similarity to our own, saw one of the great wheels of history grinding to a halt. The process that began with Alexander the Great and continued through Rome’s unified empire, then the Western and Eastern Roman imperiums, and the fall of the West and subsequent reign of the barbarous men of the North- spawned several Catholic variants which few have ever heard of. The Copts, Mozarabs, and Syriacs come to mind, of course- as do the Arians, Monophysites, and Nestorians.

from wikipedia

Leander and Isidore and their siblings (all sainted) belonged to an elite family of Hispano-Roman stock of Carthago Nova. Their father Severianus is claimed to be according to their hagiographers a dux or governor of Cartagena, though this seems more of a fanciful interpretation since Isidore simply states that he was a citizen. The family moved to Seville around 554. The children’s subsequent public careers reflect their distinguished origin: Leander and Isidore both became bishops of Seville, and their sister Saint Florentina was an abbess who directed forty convents and one thousand nuns. Even the third brother, Fulgentius, appointed Bishop of Écija at the first triumph of Catholicism over Arianism, but of whom little is known, has been canonised as a saint. The family as a matter of course were staunch Catholics, as were the great majority of the Romanized population, from top to bottom; only the Visigothic nobles and the kings were Arians. It should be stated that there was less Visigothic persecution of Catholics than legend and hagiography have painted. From a modern standpoint, the dangers of Catholic Christianity were more political. The Catholic hierarchy were in collusion with the representatives of the Byzantine emperor, who had maintained a considerable territory in the far south of Hispania ever since his predecessor had been invited to the peninsula by the former Visigothic king several decades before. In the north, Liuvigild struggled to maintain his possessions on the far side of the Pyrenees, where his Merovingian cousins and in-laws cast envious eyes on them and had demonstrated that they would stop at nothing with the murder of Liuvigild’s sister.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting series of clips, detailing the choral aspects of the Mozarabic rite, can be accessed here. Always fascinated by the prismatic flavors of faith, your humble narrator is glad to have stumbled across this enigmatic little church. Should any congregants of the institution have anything to add or correct, please use the comments link to share your knowledge.

from wikipedia

The Mozarabs (Spanish: mozárabes [moˈθaɾaβes]; Portuguese: moçárabes [muˈsaɾɐβɨʃ]; Catalan: mossàrabs [muˈsaɾəps]; Arabic: مستعرب‎ trans. musta’rab, “Arabized”) were Iberian Christians who lived under Arab Islamic rule in Al-Andalus. Their descendants remained unconverted to Islam, but did however adopt elements of Arabic language and culture. They were mostly Roman Catholics of the Visigothic or Mozarabic Rite.
Most of the Mozarabs were descendants of Hispano–Gothic Christians and were primarily speakers of the Mozarabic language under Islamic rule. Many were also what the arabist Mikel de Epalza calls “Neo-Mozarabs”, that is Northern Europeans who had come to the Iberian Peninsula and picked up Arabic, thereby entering the Mozarabic community.

A few were Arab and Berber Christians coupled with Muslim converts to Christianity who, as Arabic speakers, naturally were at home among the original Mozarabs. A prominent example of Muslims who became Mozarabs by embracing Christianity is the Andalusian rebel and Anti-Umayyad military leader, Umar ibn Hafsun. The Mozarabs of Muslim origin were descendants of those Muslims who converted to Christianity, following the conquest of Toledo and perhaps also, following the expeditions of king Alfonso I of Aragon. These Mozarabs of Muslim origin, who converted en masse at the end of the 11th century, many of them Muladi (ethnic Iberians previously converted to Islam), are totally distinct from the Mudéjars and Moriscos who converted gradually to Christianity between the 12th and 17th centuries. Some Mozarabs were even Converso Sephardi Jews who likewise became part of the Mozarabic milieu.

Separate Mozarab enclaves were located in the large Muslim cities, especially Toledo, Córdoba, Zaragoza, and Seville.


August 5th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley- This Sunday

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman will be leading a walk through the industrial heartlands of New York City, exploring the insalubrious valley of the Newtown Creek.

The currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and the place where the Industrial Revolution actually happened, provides a dramatic and picturesque setting for this exploration. We’ll be visiting two movable bridges, the still standing remains of an early 19th century highway, and a forgotten tributary of the larger waterway. As we walk along the Newtown Creek and explore the “wrong side of the tracks” – you’ll hear tales of the early chemical industry, “Dead Animal and Night Soil Wharfs”, colonial era heretics and witches and the coming of the railroad. The tour concludes at the famed Clinton Diner in Maspeth- where scenes from the Martin Scorcese movie “Goodfellas” were shot.

Lunch at Clinton Diner is included with the ticket.

Details/special instructions.

Meetup at the corner of Grand Street and Morgan Avenue in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. on August 5, 2012. The L train serves a station at Bushwick Avenue and Grand Street, and the Q54 and Q59 bus lines stop nearby as well. Check as ongoing weekend construction often causes delays and interruptions. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your vehicle in the vicinity of the Clinton Diner in Maspeth, Queens or near the start of the walk at Grand St. and Morgan Avenue (you can pick up the bus to Brooklyn nearby the Clinton Diner).

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic as we move through a virtual urban desert. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed-toe shoes are highly recommended.

Clinton Diner Menu:

  • Cheese burger deluxe
  • Grilled chicken over garden salad
  • Turkey BLT triple decker sandwich with fries
  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce or butter
  • Greek salad medium
  • Greek Salad wrap with French fries
  • Can of soda or 16oz bottle of Poland Spring

for August 5th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2012 at 12:15 am


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