The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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mounting eagerness

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Man, I’ve barely mentioned my beloved Creek lately.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday, business took me to Red Hook’s Erie Basin, a trip which turned out to be abortive as that which I went to photograph would not be available until next week. Having a free afternoon, unexpectedly, one decided to walk home to Astoria. Shots from the journey are being processed, but your humble narrator found himself all along the river, and everywhere from Brooklyn Bridge park to The Navy Yard. My back started to ache in Williamsburg, and discretion being the better part of valor, I cut the walk off at Metropolitan and Roebling. Not bad for my first serious perambulation of 2014, but I am badly out of shape after a hibernation forced by incessant ice and snow.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast soliloquy governed my thoughts on the walk, and a realization that I havent been spending much time on the Newtown Creek- personally and at this blog – in the last few months left me thunderstruck. Accordingly, pictured above is the DB Cabin rail bridge, spanning Dutch Kills, which carries LIRR Montauk branch traffic. DB Cabin hasn’t been opened since 2002, as its motors are non functional. Accordingly, Dutch Kills is an industrial canal which cannot accept anything larger than a rowboat, and that’s only at low tide. There are those who would like to throw this inheritance away, and turn it into some sort of bullheaded swampland, but that’s something that sounds good at cocktail parties. They forget about Mosquitos, and jobs for those beyond their clique, and that M1 zones are for industry – not water sports or bird watching.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This bridge frustrates me as I’ve never gotten a decent shot of a train crossing it. There’s another rail bridge at English Kills which has stymied my desires in similar fashion over the years, but its just a matter of time until I get both. That’s the thing about me and my beloved Creek – I ain’t going nowhere. There are some who wish I would just fall in and disappear into the black mayonnaise, probably due to my brash nature and overwhelmingly unwholesome aspect, but they can go jump in the East River and swim to Manhattan to beg the Mayor for a job for all I care.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek is the subject of much speculation, discussion, and debate. All over the world – architects, planners, and engineers sniff at the air and smell a giant bucket of Federal money about to spent here. They anxiously twist their hands trying to conceive of some angle by which their pet projects can be shoehorned into the Superfund process. They forget that this is the home of industry, which must be encouraged to not just stay here, but to reinvest in Brooklyn and Queens – albeit in a manner which is less destructive to the processes of human and animal life along the waterway. You can have both.

Also, all bets are off, and your Newtown Pentacle is back in session.

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rusty impediments

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Your motive is loco, man.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

So few places to go, no one to see. The gray frigidity has me down, lords and ladies, and it is not impossible that over the last few weeks, I’ve watched everything on Netflix- including a couple of episodes of “Power Rangers Jungle Fury.” Playing with the cords on my hoodie, counting the floor tiles, bored. That’s me. Cabin Fever, I think they call it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Been reading lots of good stuff, including a marathon exploration of the dissimilar topics of leprosy and the genetic consequences of multi generational incest- both of which led to the Hapsburgs. None of this relates one little bit to the history of Newtown Creek nor Queens, which actually has been my intention. Little projects like mine tend to drag you down a long drill hole, and you become so focused that you lose sight of the bigger picture… which somehow includes leprosy and incest.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Its cheerier reading than I normally do during this time of year, when my google searches have historically included “stages of putrefaction of cadaver” and “common practices of yeast distillation in 19th century america.” Hey, a guy gets curious about things. Its better to know something, well… some things… than to remain willfully ignorant about unpleasantries.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

skillful blows

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Random events witnessed and recorded.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While heading for Brooklyn one morning, I noticed these guys screwing up Queens at the Sunnyside Yards. They were part of the army of construction crews working on the East Side Access project, I’d wager.

If you’ll notice, they are literally operating a giant screw housed on that yellow piece of equipment.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too sure what they were doing, but one suspects it has to do with the complex hydrology which underlies the yard. When the place was established at the start of the 20th century, all sorts of issues were encountered in the name of conquering the land.

This was once an enormous swamp, found at the foot of a rocky outcrop known in the 19th century as “Long Island City Heights” which was rebranded in the 20th century as “Sunnyside.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Sunnyside, I’ve been keenly watching the construction of the new school on 43rd street. This is a BIG project, and the steel for the new building is rocketing up towards the sky. Good to see that the municipality is actually reinvesting in the infrastructure of the neighborhood as the rapacious eye of the Real Estate Industrial Complex bears down on western Queens.

We get a few more hospitals, schools, fire houses, and police stations and there just might be a possibility of us surviving the 21st century in as fine a fettle as we did the 20th.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 25, 2013 at 7:30 am

sent forth

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Lonely, ever so lonely.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Transversing the concrete devastations of Western Queens is best performed by ones own self, I belief, with my only company taking the form of an audiobook or podcast. Saying that, it can get pretty old pretty fast being by myself all the time, as I’m a horrible human being and this solitude offers me the opportunity for nothing but soliloquy and self critique. You can keep your professional therapist, I’d rather just wander around and beat myself up for habitually not rising to to the occasion.

I find that it’s the early hours on the weekends, those intervals marked by crowds of inebriates returning to Queens from a Saturday night bacchanalia in Manhattan, which are the loneliest. Even the Long Island Expressway seems to be a seldom traveled country road at this time of day, instead of the motorized river of steel and glass it normally presents itself as.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s in the early part of the day that puzzles such as this safety taped wall present their questions most clearly to me. Is there a lurking fear that some wandering stranger will not notice a scarlet brick wall rising before them? The logic of Queens demands that there is, in fact, some wickedly good reason for the caution tape to be displayed. Perhaps a runaway nuclear reactor or a hidden cache of toxic waste, but the aforementioned logic of Queens also states that once the tape is up, the problem is solved.

The tape itself will persist until nature takes it, whereupon the wind will sweep it into an area waterway.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One always finds it striking, on these long explorations of both internal and external landscapes, how badly maintained the roads are here in the very navel of New York City. Concrete company trucks routinely slough off the extra or unused product contained in their trucks, creating a lahar of irregular pavement. Cannot describe how many times I or some other pedestrian have tripped over these little mounds of poured stone, or how numerous and abundant they are. Probably all we deserve, anyway, as Skillman Avenue in LIC does not connect to anywhere in Manhattan.

Its ultimately our own fault for being in Queens, I guess.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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.

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