The Newtown Pentacle

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overtones of

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Another random series of shots, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Greenpoint, a line of empty taxis parked on Provost Street, across the street from the sewer plant.

It’s actually meant to be pronounced as “Provoost” despite being spelled as “Provost.” The Provosts were one of the original five families of Greenpoint, along with the Bennets, Calyers, Praas, and Messeroles. These five Dutch families dominated Greenpoint politically for nearly two centuries, owned most of the land, and only began to recede into history when Neziah Bliss married into the Messerole clan. Bliss laid out the modern street grid, erected the first bridges over Bushwick and Newtown Creeks, and is the father of the modern community.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The IND R train entering into Queens Plaza. Queens Plaza’s IND service opened for business on August 19th in 1933, but back then there was only express service between Manhattan and Queens. It wasn’t until 1955 when the 60th street tunnel opened that the Queens local trains began to travel back and forth into the Shining City. I work on getting this shot every time I’m there, and you have to time it just right to catch an arc flash that the train sets off as it comes to the station tracks grade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s amazing how many manhole cover types there are, a subject which has been discussed endlessly at this – your Newtown Pentacle. The story of municipal consolidation can be read in the screeds embossed onto these iron discs, and the one pictured above was once the property of the “Bureau of Water and Sewers” which is now part of the NYC DEP and can be observed at the border of Sunnyside and Blissville in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a “Brooklyn Department of City Works” access cover, which was found back in Greenpoint. DCW is also now a part of the consolidated DEP.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Queens, on the “carridor” of Northern Blvd., a puzzling bit of signage has emerged on one of the enormous advertising bill boards found on the corner of 38th street. The easterly facing side says “Stay Calm” with a screed reading “-Peter.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The westerly facing side says “Don’t Panic,” and also has the “-Peter” signature. Dictionary definitions are superimposed on the block print messaging, this one bears the definition of courage. I’ve looked around for what these signs are meant to be selling or saying, but haven’t been able to find out much. If anybody knows what’s up with these messages, please share in the comments.

Either way, they are reminiscent of the sort of things Rowdy Roddy Piper observed in the John Carpenter film “They Live.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A gorgeous bit of hand painted signage adorns the back of a NYCHA emergency truck back in Greenpoint, and is pictured above.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 10, 2016 at 11:00 am

serious bubbles

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It’s all so depressing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A somewhat random series of images greets you today. As endlessly mentioned in recent posts, I’m bored boredity bored bored, tired of winter already, and literally dying for something interesting that isn’t horrible to happen. This horsey ride over in Sunnyside… I wish they made adult versions of these things so I could at least have something to look forward to after the goal of achieving fifty cents was accomplished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted this arrangement over in LIC, on Jackson Avenue. I don’t think that the Union guys consciously create compositions when they’re doing their thing, but they are often responsible for moments of true rapture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The literal dust bin of history was stumbled across at the Vernon Blvd. street end in LIC’s DUPBO, where some thoughtful soul had disposed of a series of history textbooks and what seemed like an entire library of Time Life WW2 hard cover photo books.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was there, in LIC I mean, exploitation of one of the many holes in the fencing of the LIRR Hunters Point yard was undertaken. I’ve got a catalog of these holes and POV’s, incidentally, which includes the entire Sunnyside Yards and follows the Montauk line all the way back to Ridgewood. For those of you who live in Bushwick, Ridgewood, or East Williamsburg – two words – Scott Avenue (bet Randolph and Meserole).

Trust me, but be there early or late.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For some reason, I’m fascinated by laundromats at the moment, a subject which I’m planning on discussing with my team of physicians. This one is in Park Slope, where I somehow ended up one day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at Central Park Zoo, there are Grizzly Bears. Their names are Betty and Veronica, and I have no idea which one this is. Where’s Archie, ask I?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

negative impact

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Credos, declarations, statements on the street – in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst wandering about, your humble narrator likes to take note of the various missives and graffitos encountered. Most of the graffiti you see are “tags” left behind by “writers” which indicate mainly that they have been there before you. There’s also the “art” types who do renderings and or complex paintings. You’ve also got the gang stuff, which is meant as either provocation or an announcement of territorial preeminence. My favorites are the credos, seeming attempts to liberate the minds of those who read them. Often, these credos are placed in highly visible locations, what the graffiti community would refer to as “a good wall.”

The shot above is from 48th street in Sunnyside, along the LIRR overhead tracks. This particular writer has been quite busy in the recent past.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A similar typographic style and brand of rhetoric has been appearing all over the study area which I call the Newtown Pentacle in recent months. The messaging above is found in Queens Plaza, and my presumption of its authorship is that it’s the same as the missive in the first shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Probably not the same graffiti enthusiast, but this less than monumental declaration was recently witnessed on Jackson Avenue nearby the Court Square subway station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Astoria, nearby Steinway Street’s intersection with Broadway, this messaging appeared one morning in the late autumn. Again, I believe, it’s the work of the person(s) featured in shots 1&2.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at Socrates Sculpture Garden, this polemic was observed on a lamp post during the summer, but you’ll always find a whole lot of “artsy fartsy” graffiti near the institution.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Sunnyside, on 48th street near Skillman, a more permanent sort of scrawl was observed which mirrors the sentiment of the block printed missives found along the LIRR tracks, in Astoria, and Queens Plaza.

It’s not quite as eloquent, but there you are.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

wouldn’t stop

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Astoria at night, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent circumstance compelled one to don the 35 pounds of coat and sweater, tie on the recording devices, and perambulate across the cold wastes of Astoria’s southern edge to a meeting in the Dutch Kills neighborhood. As opportunity to crack out photos is severely constrained due to the cold, one got busy with the camera.

See that little dog? The “pisher” decorating the street lamp? My dog Zuzu unreasonably hates that dog, and will go batshit insane anytime he appears on one of our nightly scratch and sniff sessions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve never shopped at Dave Shoes, but the notion that they advertise for a 6E width shoe is daunting. I checked on what a 6E sized shoe would entail, and from size 6 to 15, it covers a 4 & 1/16 to 5 & 3/16 width foot. I could not find a reference for a size 4 6E, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I could have walked a shorter path, going down Northern Boulevard, but I had a little time to kill and I walk that way literally all the time on my way to LIC, so I went the long way – down Broadway and south on 31st street under the elevated tracks of N and Q subway lines.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terror has struck in this part of the neighborhood, as the Governor has recently announced that all of the N and Q stops between 30th avenue and Northern Blvd. will be closed for 18 months in the name of rebuilding them. It’s a good thing, ultimately, modernizing track, signal, and station – but man oh man is this going to be a pain in the neck for anyone who lives or works along this stretch. I’m sure there’ll be some sort of shuttle bus, but… wow… is the R station at 36th street about to get busy or what?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometime in the near future, I’m going to visit all of these stops and get a proper set of shots “for the record” before they’re all closed and rebuilt. Funny thing is, my understanding of things indicates that there’s a bubble of construction activity about to light off in this area with huge apartment buildings and hotels replacing the older housing stock and warehouses currently observed. This might actually be why the Governor seeks to rehabilitate the stations, in order to handle the load.

That’s the 36th avenue stop, incidentally, in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I wouldn’t want to live here, simply because of the presence of the overhead trains. Also, can’t imagine what it’s like to live next door to a poultry warehouse and abattoir. You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your neighbors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some of that construction is already underway nearby the 39th avenue stop. A former parking lot and taxi depot has been claimed by the Real Estate Industrial Complex for development, between 39th and Northern and 30th and 31st streets. The property is dead bang center of the swamp which Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary once fed, and those of you familiar with the area will recall the depression in altitude experienced at this side of the neighborhood.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 2, 2016 at 11:00 am

is where

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Is there anyplace smellier than the IND station at Queens Plaza?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stumbling home through the dark recently, a humble narrator found himself at Queens Plaza, waiting for the R or M to arrive and carry his stinking carcass back to Astoria. “It seems that I’ve been dead for quite a while, judging by the smell,” thought I. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t the standard “eau d’ jew” which accompanies the end of a period of physical exertion and exercise which I was discerning, rather it was some other reeking horror that was permeating the Subway Platform.

At the end of the platform, or at least the side where the last Queens bound subway car arrives, that I found the source of an odor which I can only describe as Satan’s diarrhea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that the syringe had already separated itself from this bubbling spring of buboes breeding Queens juice, but the smell of it…

Now remember, I’m the Newtown Creek guy. I hang around Sewer Plants, and open drains which carry liquids whose coloration ranges from olive green to cadmium yellow, and am possessed by fond memories of walking amongst the settling and aeration pits of the DEP. When I say an odor is nose hair curling, will wither away plastic, and describe something as having smelled like the dysentery of the Devil itself – pay attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can guess where this water is coming from, but it would only be a guess. The underground IND Subways in Long Island City are essentially concrete bath tubs which were set into a wetland that was already despoiled by sewage and industrial pollution by the time LIC incorporated in 1870. The subways didn’t come along until the 20th century, of course, but the waterways that flowed through Queens Plaza are still very much present.

One of them was the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek itself, which flowed across what’s now the Sunnyside Yards and was navigable all the way back to 40th avenue at the corner of Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue. Just ask the East Side Access guys, they drilled right into it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Commuters in Queens who transfer at Queens Plaza, and at the 21st street G station, will tell you about seeing green water spilling out from behind the tile walls and gag a bit trying to describe the smell. In the case of 21st, it’s a different tributary of Newtown Creek – contained into a sewer tunnel – called Jack’s Creek. If you see, or smell the phenomena at Queens Plaza – my bet is that it’s Dutch Kills.

Can I prove this? No. Call it a hunch, or an educated guess by a guy who spends his time on the shorelines of Dutch Kills’s extant path who can recognize its particular pungency from a half mile away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

anytime, anywhere

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A few shots from last week’s blizzard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given a humble narrator’s legendary vulnerability to cold, as you might have guessed, I spent most of the blizzard last Saturday firmly ensconced in the steam heated walls of Newtown Pentacle HQ in Astoria. I did venture outside during the afternoon to visit the bodega across the street for breakfast cereals, I like a bowl of Cheerios with a banana cut into it, and to vouchsafe a bar of chocolate for Our Lady of the Pentacle.

When venturing into the cold waste, I discovered that at least one Chinese restaurant was open, and offering delivery services. Early bird gets the worm and all that, but… Jaysis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were those who had decided to try and motor about, this was before the Mayor banned automotive traffic, but they were soundly rebuffed by road conditions. It was actually kind of difficult just to crack out a couple of exposures due to wind blown snow, which tended to “spot” the lens, let alone cross the street.

Luckily, most of the neighbors didn’t attempt to drive, and the streets were eerily quiet hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thing you saw much of were Municipal vehicles like the ambulance pictured above. One neat thing was that everyone in the neighborhood was given the opportunity to recognize the undercover vehicles which the 114th pct utilizes after the Mayor’s ban on travel was enacted.

After 2:30 p.m., anything you saw on Broadway was basically “blue” or “red.” Or Green, Orange, and a White in the case of the sanitation guys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having purchased my Cheerios and Chocolate, I began to scuttle back towards home, and one of the hundreds of plow trucks operated by DSNY rolled by. The annual Astoria problem has begun again, incidentally. As happened last year, and the year before – recycling pickup was cancelled due to Martin Luther King day. Recycling in my neighborhood is Sunday night’s problem, so it is up to us to store the stuff in anticipation of the following weekend. Now, we’ve got a blizzard’s worth of snow, so recycling pickup is again postponed till next week.

Last year, a series of similar cold weather events and legal holidays pushed the storage of the entire month of January’s recycling trash until well past President’s day in February.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in HQ, and with no intentions of leaving the place, one nevertheless used the fortuitous positioning of the building relative to the prevailing wind in pursuance of a few shots in the evening. As you’ll recall, this is when the storm really got rolling. I set up a tripod and all my night shooting gear, but in the end elected to use low light techniques for the shots.

The long exposure methodology effectively eliminated the falling snow from the shots, and since I wanted to have a “truer” record of the event – I went for high ISO and a faster shutter speed to capture the drifting snowflakes. As is always the case, getting the color temperature of the light was critical, and for the new LED street lights that’s 4300 Kelvin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Got to hand it to the neighbors, they were fighting this storm while it was at full force and attempting to keep their cars from being completely buried in the drifts. The different technologies of street lighting which were discussed a couple of weeks ago – the old school orange yellow sodium lights versus the new school led blue colored lights can be discerned in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new school LED’s actually performed quite well during the storm, I would add.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The buildup of a shelf of snow on my window sill while shooting inspired me to shove a couple of flashlights into it and get a macro shot of the translucent accumulation. These lights are part of what I call my “ghetto lighting” rig. Ghetto as in I have zero funds for real lighting and therefore have been forced to jury rig a set, which given my normal shooting habits – needs to easily portable. The warm light and blue light are formed by identical and quite powerful LED flash lights which can pump out an amazing 300 Lumens and are powered by just 3 AAA batteries each. That’s actually kind of amazing, but I’m a flashlight geek, and will jump up and down if you say “Cree.”

The warmer light is created by the flashlight having an old pill bottle gaff taped to its head.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

mental images

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It’s an insult to Jackie Robinson, if you ask me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Interborough, or Jackie Robinson Parkway if you must, is one of those less well known connecting points between Brooklyn’s East New York and Kew Gardens in Queens which the Manhattan people don’t really care about. It’s New York State Route 908B, and was known as Interborough until 1997. It opened in 1935, was profoundly reworked in the late 1980’s, and is another one of the traffic corridors which crisis cross through the citywide House of Moses.

As a note, my Dad used to curse vehemently whenever our daily round involved the Interborough, and he believed that it’s design was purpose built to populate the many cemeteries through which Team Moses cut it out of. I am not 100% sure that my Pop wasn’t correct about this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent outing with frequent Newtown Pentacle commenter “Cav” saw us careening along the Interborough, traveling as fast as traffic allowed. There are virtually no shoulders on this road, as it is surrounded by the aforementioned cemeteries and a series of steep hills. The parkway is cut through many of these cemeteries, and it’s construction required the disinterment of many graves. If ever there was a haunted highway here in NYC, it would be this one.

The always excellent nycroads.com has a page on the history of the Interborough/Jackie Robinson Parkway, check it out here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cav and I were chatting about our January boredom recently, and we decided to visit East New York, which is seldom boring for long. Luckily, he is a dedicated motorist, which meant that we could visit the murder capital of Brooklyn without having to get out of the car – a plus for one such as myself – who is a vast physical coward given to falling into convulsive fits at the slightest hint of danger.

East New York ain’t no joke, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having grown up in a neighborhood adjacent to East New York (Canarsie/Flatlands area), East New York – incidentally – was the place my friends would threaten to leave you tied up and naked if you were acting like a jackass while drinking, one still maintains a healthy amount of respect for the place and those who can endure it. Again, East New York ain’t no joke.

Of course, since our current Mayor is gaga about “Affordable Housing,” he’s decided East New York is the place to install a large residential population and attempt to gentrify the place. I would point out that rents are fairly affordable in East New York as it is, mainly because it’s the murder capital of Brooklyn, and functionally just about as far from Manhattan as you can get without leaving Brooklyn. It is served by a Subway line, but it’s a LONG commute. I remember taking the L from its terminus in Canarsie, and that was an unbelievably long trip back in the 80’s.

Incidentally, I understand that Jackie Robinson himself – or at least his mortal remains – can be located at Cypress Hills Cemetery nearby exit 3.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things which makes the Interborough so spectacularly dangerous are actually the drives leading out from the cemeteries which line its route. One will not pretend to have any sort of familiarity with East New York, since as mentioned, it was a place to be avoided when I was growing up in 1980’s Brooklyn.

I lived on the Canarsie/Flatlands side of things, and 1980’s Brooklyn was a racially divided community. As you may have guessed, I’m a pale face, and back then there were “dividing lines” and “DMZ’s” between the various ethnic populations hereabouts. 1980’s Brooklyn plainly sucked for this reason.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Jackie Robinson or Interborough follows the Terminal Moraine of Long Island into a lowland area, the hills formed from the same geologic structure into which the Ridgewood Resovoir was set. There are sub neighborhoods in East New York which are named for said geology – The Hole, for instance, and “Flatlands” is right next door to “Flatbush.”

There used to be a “Stanley Avenue Dip” off Fountain Avenue, which followed the former path of Spring Creek from Jamaica Bay on its way inland. Fountain Avenue is where illegal street racing used to take place, which was quite multiracial, and apocryphal tales offered by the “Utes” of Brooklyn suggested that the sand strewn lots of East New York were a Mafia dumping ground that you didn’t want to ask too many questions about.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

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