The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

ultimate effect

with one comment

The nighted Newtown Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As detailed in several posts this week, one decided to take advantage of the creepy atmospheric effects of the temperature inversion last Thursday – which produced copious mist and fog – and a journey on foot from Astoria to Newtown Creek began at four in the morning. My eventual destination was the historic Maspeth Avenue Plank Road, from whose vantage I planned on capturing a series of “night into day” shots.

The images in today’s post are what I expended the effort for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking into Brooklyn, that’s the Empire Transit Mix company’s bulkheads. They were just getting to work, as it was just about 5:30 in the morning. Industrial types get started early. Twilight would begin at 6:04 so there was little time for me to fool around, and one started clicking away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards towards Grand Street and Newtown Creek’s intersection with another of its tributaries – English Kills. As a note, these shots are quite a bit brighter than what the human eye could see, but that’s actually what I was “going for.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking across the Turning Basin of Newtown Creek towards the National Grid Liquified Natural Gas facility found at Greenpoint’s historic border with Bushwick.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A wide shot of the tuning basin, with the Kosciusko Bridge at right.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Zoomed in on the bridge, that dark hill is Calvary Cemetery and you can just make out the skyline of Long Island City rising behind it in the mists. What might seem like a developing error – the halation present around the bridge and crane – was actually visually present. The fog and mist were being lit up by work lights.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The remnants of the Plank Road itself, which last spanned the Newtown Creek when Ulysses S. Grant was President in 1875. When the whole superfund thing is over, I’m going to market mud and water from the waterway in the same manner as the folks who do the stuff from the Red Sea – claiming the benefits of its preservative qualities.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

full joys

with 2 comments

On it, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too long ago, some of the neighbors here in Astoria were experiencing electrical problems. The redoubtable employees of the Consolidated Edison Corporation began to appear in great numbers, arrange orange safety cones, and get busy. Luckily, for the 48-72 hours that their repairs took to administer, their idling trucks were directly in front of Newtown Pentacle HQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, what roused me from mere proletarian to activist and “neighborhood crank” was the Great Astoria Blackout of 2006. For an entire week, this neighborhood was without power at the height of summer, and blue fire was erupting from manholes and transformer vaults. People died in the heat, and it seemed as if no one in City Hall cared. Ever since, one pays quite a bit of attention to power supply issues here in the neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The initial swarm of Con Ed employees was soon replaced by one of their emergency units. Like DC Comic’s Flash – the emergency unit is clad in red. Also like the Flash, these workers are meta humans who move faster than the human eye can follow. Often, all you can see is a blur. Guess that’s why they get paid the big bucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It took around 15 seconds for the junior member of this crew to assemble the safety cordon for the work site.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A more senior member moved even faster, opening the access cover to a hidden transformer vault and deploying a ladder and other equipment into it in the blink of an eye.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My upstairs neighbor Mario, who is a union guy and can get other adherents of organized labor to “spill the beans” with a few carefully placed “bro’s,” went out to get the story. It seems that some of the electrical supply cables, damaged by the surges and fires of 2006 I would add, had finally given up the ghost and that three homes on the next block were entirely devoid of juice. He deduced this from slowing down an audio recording he made of the Con Ed guys answering him, which sounded like the buzzing of a fly in the original recording.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The speedsters were assigned the duty of drawing a new set of cables from the transformer vault, in front of HQ, roughly half a block to the affected properties. It seems that in addition to the underground rooms that house the step up transformers which handle the conversion from high voltage “direct” to residential “alternating” current, there are pipes and concrete tunnels through which these wires travel honeycombing the neighborhood. This does beggar the question as to why the high voltage cables that Con Ed hung about Astoria back in 2006 to restore service are still there, but there you go.

Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t get a shot of what they were doing down there, but when I woke up the next morning, the Con Ed guys were sleeping in the idling truck and I’m told that the three properties on the next block had been re-energized.

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

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

yellow paw

leave a comment »

A few randoms, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An assertion which has been offered on several occasions… it’s actually more an observation or opinion, actually… is that the 7 line of the NYCTA division of the MTA is the most photogenic of NYC’s subways – particularly that stretch that emanates off the Queensboro Bridge heading towards Sunnyside and Woodside. There’s all kinds of delays, crowding, and an angry mob has and continues to form from Queensicans suffering the “7 Train Blues” but for a purely visual bit of candy – the 7 just can’t be beat.

I also enjoy photographing the G, particularly at the elevated Smith 9th street stop in far off Red Hook, but the 7 is tops.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Carridor, or Northern Blvd. as it is conventionally known, is also one of my favorite spots to wave the camera around – particularly at twilight. Pictured above is a car lot that occupies a triangular property nearby 43rd street. The particulars of Northern Boulevard’s mapping, which sees it sweep around the curvilinear borders of the Sunnyside Yards, creates several oddly shaped properties. There are few rectilinear or squared off lots along its run from 31st street to Woodside Avenue. As it enters Jackson Heights, the road assumes a more conventional path as it moves through Roosevelt and Corona on its way to Flushing.

I’ve walked all of Northern Blvd. between 31st and Citifield, where pedestrian sidewalks disappear nearby the intersection with Ditmars and Astoria Blvd., and can tell you that the section adjoining Astoria, Sunnyside, and Woodside are my favorites – the happy hunting grounds, as it were.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been fascinated throughout the summer by a certain Brownfield remediation project underway in Queens Plaza, incidentally. Sometime soon, you will be greeted by post detailing the operations underway at the former West/CN Chemical factory and the efforts being made to raise residential towers on the site. Personally, I would not want to a) live in Queens Plaza, b) live on the site of a chemical factory which was erected on a swamp, c) live within throwing distance of the tens of thousands of automobiles which exit the Queensboro or traverse Jackson Avenue, or d) live within direct ear shot of the 7, N, Q elevated tracks. I wouldn’t mind capturing shots of these trains from the windows of one of these towers, I would add, but wouldn’t want to live there.

I’ll happily take my little spot here in Astoria, although it is never quiet here either.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 21, 2015 at 1:36 pm

impelled forward

with one comment

I want one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Caterpillar AP 1055f Track Asphalt Paver you see in the shot above, which was adorned with stickers indicating its owner (or lessee) was the NYC DOT. One was scuttling around on Broadway on a recent afternoon, heading towards Jackson Heights via Woodside, and this baby was just sitting there waiting to be recorded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My instincts tell me that with just a few modifications, this would be an efficacious device to have in case of a zombie outbreak, but the pedants at the DOT was predictably using it for the purpose that it was actually engineered for – road grading and repair.

Combine this gizmo with a couple of those street trenchers I showed you last winter, you’ve got yourself a pretty formidable defense against the undead hordes – imho.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The manufacturer of this wonderfully complex bit of kit is the Caterpillar company, who build all sorts of giant machines. Their site hosts this page which describes the capabilities, mechanical qualities, and advantages which the device offers – which includes a heated seat for the operator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I could not stop myself from thinking about the Cat in the Hat’s “moss-covered three-handled family gradunza” from the Dr. Seuss cartoons when I saw this puppy.

I’m all ‘effed up, of course.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 15, 2015 at 11:00 am

drifting sand

with 6 comments

Sigh… the Steinway Mansion, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of controversies I generally stay away from, the Steinway Mansion is one.

My plate is full, frankly. I’ve got Sunnyside Yards, Newtown Creek, and a good stretch of the East River to worry about – which virtually no one else pays any attention to. The Steinway Mansion is found on the forbidden north coast of Queens, in an off putting industrial zone which isn’t exactly a visually stunning spot.

Frequent Newtown Pentacle commenter George the Atheist has been paying close attention to the controversial sale and development of the Steinway Mansion property, as has the Greater Astoria Historic Society. As I said, my plate is full, but last week I decided to scuttle over and take a gander at what’s going on.

If this mansion was in Brooklyn, or Manhattan, it would have long ago been landmarked and protected – but as you know the borough motto is “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighborhood surrounding the former home of William Steinway, who is the actual father of Astoria (William Hallett and or Stephen Halsey usually get the credit, but Steinway created the modern shape of things in the same way that Neziah Bliss did in Greenpoint), is less than inspirational but it is highly useful. The good news is that this section hosts a blue collar “M1” zone that employs thousands, but its mills and warehouses are mostly products of the 20th century – which means not terribly interesting to look at, and ugly as sin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mansion itself survives simply because it was used as a private home, but the fellow who owned it died of a heart attack during a snow storm while waiting for EMT’s to cross unplowed streets – which is where I refer you back to the borough motto offered in the first paragraph of this post.

His family offered the property for sale, which was snapped up by some developer. Said developer carved up the expansive properties surrounding the mansion, and is erecting a series of sure to be hideous warehouse buildings upon it. My understanding is that the mansion itself will survive, but it’s going to be hemmed in and shadowed by said warehouses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Steinway Mansion is, as mentioned, found on the forbidden north coast of Queens.

The NYC DEP maintains the 1939 vintage Bowery Bay sewage treatment plant there, and there’s a host of industrial businesses and energy infrastructure in the area. About a half mile east, the Rikers Island bridge is found, which offers access to the massive jail complex maintained by the City of New York.

Berrian’s Island used to be out in the bay – a bit to the north and east – but the water between it and Astoria was landfilled in and connected. That’s why the street intersection which serves as Steinway Street’s terminus is shared with a road called Berrian Boulevard, a street which I think used to be called “Winthrop.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The north side of Steinway and Berrian is home to a power plant, called Astoria Energy. It’s still under construction, and will use a combination of oil and natural gas turbines to generate electricity. The elected officials of Astoria take great pride in the fact that they were able to close the fabulously filthy Pollitti (thx Gary) Poletti Power Plant over on the East River side of the neighborhood, but seldom mention that they bent over backwards to allow Astoria Energy to come into being.

Welcome to Queens. Now, go fuck yourself.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

debased patois

with one comment

America’s Workshop, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marching involuntarily down Borden Avenue in LIC recently, one decided to head east on Review Avenue towards Calvary Cemetery. Along the way, the striking architecture of the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the larger Long Island Expressway caught my attention. This section of Borden Avenue rose out of a swamp shortly after the Civil War, originally manifesting as a courdoroy or plank toll road for horse and ox carts. Its purpose was to connect Hunters Point with upland farms in Maspeth (Borden… as in dairy) “back in the day.” This is the sort of thing you’ll hear about if you come on tomorrow’s “13 Steps around Dutch Kills” tour, btw, with ticketing links found at the bottom of the post.

At any rate, one elected to head in a generally easterly direction, leaving the great steel expressway which was installed over Borden Avenue in 1939 by the House of Moses behind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the old General Electric Vehicle complex was demolished a couple of years back, and as is the case with many of the “development” properties in this section of LIC, the lot sat dormant for a while. Construction has started up on the property, which I believe is going to host yet another self storage facility.

One could not help notice the hookup to a fire hydrant which the construction guys on the lot had set up, as it was geysering a spray of water into the afternoon sun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that this is a part of town which could really use a good wash, or at least a nice rinse. The bad news is that the water in this hose was under serious pressure – fire fighting pressure, as it were – and an uncountable amount of water was escaping from the hydrant system. This, no doubt, reduced the amount of water available for… y’know… fire fighting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The hydrant itself was burbling and gushing as it fed the construction hookup, feeding a small but growing pond on Review Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The water was ultimately being fed into this unknown device, which seemed to be some sort of hydraulically driven piston. Can’t tell you what it’s purpose was, but it made a sound which I can try to describe as “shish clack whirrsh clang shish.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sensing the presence of humans moving around behind me, one noticed that the geyser of water was serving another purpose on this warm afternoon in LIC. The pause that refreshes, indeed.

So, whatcha doing tomorrow morning? Want to come along on the walking tour I’m conducting with Atlas Obscura of the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabled Newtown Creek? The weather should be perfect, btw, and quite similar to today. Ticketing link is just below.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,221 other followers

%d bloggers like this: