The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘sunnyside’ Category

well realized

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The native art form of Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Venturi. That’s technically the name of the flame structure which a stove top burner is meant to form when gas is pumped through it and ignited by a pilot light. This burner was noticed on the corner of Queens Blvd. at 39th street, and won’t be heating up a can of Campbell’s Tomato soup anytime soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shattered sink basin was found way over on the northern side of Astoria, and artfully arranged in a tree pit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria Blvd. offered one this lovely bit of craft, and don’t think I didn’t notice the amount of effort which went into creating the floral motif. Illegal dumping, as I’ve often asserted, is the native art form of Western Queens. It’s done with a panache and attention to both detail and installed composition that you just don’t find elsewhere.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Skillman Avenue, alongside the Sunnyside Yards, a bit of furniture was posed provocatively for the pleasure of perambulating pedestrians to both peruse and ponder.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also on Skillman Avenue, a somewhat abstract expressionist amalgam of broken furniture boards was offset by a carefully placed mirror box by some unknown auteur.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northern Blvd. displayed this graphic composition to me one morning, and I wondered if it was the same artisan responsible for the Astoria Blvd. radial flower that created this piece.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Purely modern – an installation, if you will – this composition was observed along Jackson Avenue in the Court Square area, across the street from the Citigroup Megalith.

“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 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

not describe

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You really just have to love them Astoria industrial zones.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While performing a perambulation back to Astoria’s southern border where Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself maintain our HQ, after taking a look at the Steinway Mansion found on the forbidden northern coast of Queens – one encountered this comical doorway on an industrial building.

The “danger” sign seemed apt, as there was a drop of about a yard from the door to the sidewalk. Somewhere out there, I thought, there’s an architect who has a bit of string tied around his finger to remind him to complete a task.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another view of it, just for perspective.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly, after rounding the corner, I discovered that there was another doorway on the eastern face of the building offering a similar hazard. Is this some kind of “thing”?

You really, really, have to just adore the industrial sections of Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly, on another walk, this time from the southern border of Queens at Newtown Creek back to Astoria’s Broadway section via Sunnyside – another structure was noticed which seemed to be missing something. This time around it was a residential structure whose entrances would be noticeably difficult to access. Perhaps that nameless architect has more than one piece of string tied about multitudinous digits.

“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 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

no worse

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The world is not as it should be, rather it is as it is and always has been.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When a humble narrator was a boy, there were quite a few “doomsday scenarios” in play. Existential threats included the probable outbreak of a global thermonuclear war fought between the United States and the Soviet Union and the so called “population bomb” which was meant to cause mass starvation (predictions included the deaths of over 60 million Americans due to food shortages – a third of the population at the time). There was also an ozone hole which was meant to BBQ farm and city alike, an atmospheric phenomena whose formation was blamed on the presence of certain chemicals in aerosol hair spray cans. Additionally, an ice age was thought to be just around the corner, one which would depopulate the northern hemisphere and force humanity to cluster about Earth’s equator.

Slightly lower on the scale – but still terrifying – were threats posed by the rise of violent crime, disestablishmentarianism, and the rise of narcoterrorism. The world was ending, so say your prayers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a whole set of existential worries afoot these days – sea level rise, global warming, the rise of religion based terrorism, etc. Since these terrors are routinely explored in mainstream media, there’s no reason to repeat them as I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the various story lines. There’s a lot of drums that get beat upon by the “usual suspects.”

For those on the so called “left” – any factory or mill is by definition “satanic.”

For those on the so called “right” – the natural world is merely a collection of unharnessed natural resources.

The lefties want to see strict regulatory controls enacted on business, capital, and seek to curtail personal liberties in the name of protecting populations whom they have decided are vulnerable. The righties wish for an unfettered business environment, cessation of tax and regulation, and to curtail personal liberties in the name of protecting themselves. Both poles see society as teetering on the brink of destruction. Some predict a second American Civil War as being just around the corner.

Both sides populated by absolutists, who are dwellers in ivory towers. One set of towers is found in academia, the others on Wall Street. Both forget about the rest of us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are no Mongol armies about to ride over the hill and force our village to submit to their yoke. If there were, these Mongols would meet the United States Marines, or the Russian Spetsnaz, or the British SAS and there would soon be no more Mongols. It’s no secret that the biggest problem encountered by the United States military in its recent wars was how to fight a war in which you don’t exterminate the entire population of any given country and instead just target the bad guys.

Superman would have to consciously pull his punches when apprehending bank robbers. One good punch from the big guy could reduce a human’s head to a spray of red mist, and his gaze could easily immolate. Criminals in Metropolis would seldom need to be reminded of what they’re dealing with. Neither would the ones in Gotham City.

The lefties would want Superman or Batman jailed for vigilante activity, and the righties would want them to go overseas and slaughter some Mongols.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I find both arguments pedantic. There are so many things commonly agreed upon, that are actionable, which get lost in this ideological tug of war that it actually depresses me. Don’t throw litter and garbage into the street? Be nice to each other and don’t call people ugly names? Don’t feign political naïveté? Don’t call yourself a “progressive” when you don’t understand what that means?

Maybe I’m just getting old. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maybe everybody else is right, and the Mongols are in fact coming to get us – or we should celebrate their vibrant diversity. The division between the two points of view is exactly the sort of thing which wily old Chingis Khan would have expolited. The Khans viewed themselves as appointed by God itself to rule mankind, and Chingis often referred to himself as “God’s curse.” The Mongol term for submission and peace used the same word.

The Khans would send a rider to the village gates before an attack, who would pronounce the following (the actual quotation is lifted from a letter sent to Pope Innocent IV, in 1246, by Chingis Khan’s grandson Güyük):

“You must say with a sincere heart: “We will be your subjects; we will give you our strength”. You must in person come with your kings, all together, without exception, to render us service and pay us homage. Only then will we acknowledge your submission. And if you do not follow the order of God, and go against our orders, we will know you as our enemy.”

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 2nd, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek – Bushwick & Mapeth Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 30, 2015 at 10:37 am

often hath

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As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens, particularly Western Queens, is far and away my favorite place in NYC to wander through. It’s actually difficult to go more than a block or two without having some sort of eye candy appear. The best thing about Manhattan is not being in it, as you can see the heroic skyline of the Shining City. Brooklyn is fun, mind you, but full of busy body’s and wise asses asking “what are you taking pictures of” while the petitioner is sizing you up for how much he or she can get if they boiled you down for elements. Staten Island… well… it’s largely a residential zone and I don’t like taking pictures of people’s houses so I stick to the shorelines for maritime stuff. Rumor has it that there is some incalculably northern locale known as the Bronx, but I regard that as mere legend.

Queens is the place for me, bro.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, at the Queens Plaza E/M/R station, I discovered that we need to install bike lanes on the subway platforms. One of my daring suggestions for the de Blasio administration to consider is that once half of all NYC surface streets have been converted over to bike lanes, we should consider digging trenches in the remaining vehicle lanes which would be flooded for the usage of kayakers. Also, zip lines should be considered for commuters to fly over the East River to alleviate Subway over crowding.

Why? Affordable housing. This Mayor and his henchmen justify any of their crazy schemes simply by answering “affordable housing.” Pissing on the street? “Affordable Housing.” Reverse twenty five years of crime reduction and return the City to the era of identity politics which nearly destroyed it?  “Affordable Housing.” Allow Al Sharpton to be the person vetting Municpal policies?  “Affordable Housing.” Operate City Hall as the second coming of the Dinkins adminstration? “Affordable Housing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Sunnyside, alongside the Sunnyside Yards (“Affordable Housing”) the native art form of Queens is expressed daily. Illegal dumping is accomplished in Queens with a compositional panache you just don’t see in the other members of the pentateuche which composes our civic archipelago. In Brooklyn, a van door slides open and trash is roughly thrust onto the street. In Queens, refuse is carefully arranged, and the negative space of the environs incorporated into the “work.”

In western Queens, illegal dumping is curated, and really should be considered to be an installation. Why? “Affordable Housing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Why do I love shooting in Queens so much? Perhaps it’s the fact that “Affordable Housing” hasn’t entirely blotted out the sky yet and you can still feel the sun on your face. The sepulchral shadows of Manhattan, and the gathering shadows of Brooklyn, the residential splendors of… Staten Island…, even the supposed existence of the Bronx… you can have them. I’ll take Queens.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 18th, 2015
Newtown Creek City of Water Day Boat Tour 
with Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

public building

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Sunnyside Yard, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody always asks me how I get these shots, or about certain qualities in them. Simple answer is that I’m always experimenting with the camera, and when I come up with some protocol for “how to get this or that” my next move is usually to reverse it and see what happens.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, my friend, practice.

The setting: Recently, an evening meeting carried one up the hill from the elluvial flatlands of Southern Astoria to the heights of the ridge which Sunnyside was built into. Between these two neighborhoods, there’s a former tidal swamp into which the Sunnyside Yard was embedded back in the first decade of the 20th century. Once the largest rail coach yard on earth, the Yard still hosts the busiest rail junction found on the continent, the so called Harold Interlocking. The busy part is due to the frequent passage of Long Island Railroad commuter rail trains, which share the switches and rails with Amtrak.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The conditions: Sunset to the west, which I was going to be shooting right into. The weather was humid, and a bit misty. The point of view is surrounded by steel plated chain link fencing whose purpose is to deny observation of vulnerable infrastructure (I’m told that this fencing was installed during the first decade of the Terror Wars). One such as myself has a vast catalog of fence holes and gaps which are dearly held, and since my meeting in Sunnyside would carry one past an entire series of these occluded viewpoints, a point was made to pocket one of my lenses small enough to fit into while leaving HQ. I also brought some chewing gum, but that’s not important.

My “good lenses,” which are used in particularly high rotation, have a circumference too large for these cracks in the walls around the Sunnyside Yard – so a “decent” lens which has a decidedly smaller diameter was employed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “decent lens” mentioned is the so called “nifty fifty” offered by Canon. It’s far and away my most inexpensive tool, and allows wide open apertures which would make it handy for night time shots but for its persnickety focusing mechanics. The term for what it does, autofocus wise, is called “hunting.” What that means is that it noisily rolls through the range of focus and never quite settles itself into a lock. My usual habit with this sort of thing is to use autofocus to “get it close” and then switch the thing over to manual focus for final adjustment.

The optic formula of the lens also renders things a bit less “contrasty” than I’d like, but you can’t really complain about camera equipment which retails for around a hundred bucks – especially when it fits through fence holes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The methodology: For those of you not in the know, as to how cameras and lenses work – a “bright lens” will allow you to operate it at wide apertures (f1.8 in the instance of the nifty fifty). Wide apertures create a tremendous “depth of field” effect, which means that the area which is in focus will appear sharply delineated and everything else will be blurred. Higher aperture settings – the “f-stops” as it were – will create a hyperfocal range in which everything in frame will be sharply defined. The lower the “f-stop” the more light enters the camera, and the higher ones allow less light to get to the sensor. You balance the shot using shutter speed and ISO settings. Night shots and interior spaces require you to use the lens “wide open,” with slow shutter speeds, and higher ISO settings – all of which introduce certain quality issues to the captured image.

The shots in today’s post were consciously captured with the desire to have “everything” in focus, with a minimum of motion blur as well, and to record a full range of color and tone. Difficult to do with the sun behind the scene, and in a setting where everything is made of contrasting reflective surfaces.

My formula was to actually reverse my night shooting protocol on 2/3rds of the exposure triangle, using a very narrow f-stop and fairly fast shutter speed, but with a high ISO setting for tone and color sensitivity (f10, 1/1250th of a second, ISO 800). Sometimes, particularly during the summer, the problem isn’t that there enough light – there’s actually too much of it and some methodology needs to be employed to control it. Experimentation and failure often emanate from screwing around with your normal shooting habits, but sometimes it pays to mix things up a bit.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

simple swains

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Most photogenic Subway line nomination, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The elevated 7 line has become quite famous for its multitudinous delays, entire weekends wherein service is suspended, and the frustrations of the vast population who count on it as their daily conveyance to and from the Shining City from Queens. One would offer that despite all of this, it looks great, and since appearances are all that really matter under the current administration in City Hall and Albany…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The underground lines just don’t have the same panache as the elevateds, and there are analogs for them in every major human infestation found upon the earth. The subterranean lines are dirty, dark, and the sweating concrete bunkers through which they run are the kingdoms of the rat. The first shot in today’s post emanates from a point in space roughly one hundred or so yards above the one above depicting the E line, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 even looks good from high above, as it turns out of the Hunters Point stop into the open air over the Sunnyside Yard and heads towards Court Square. If the MTA has a “Belle of the Ball,” it’s clearly the 7 – esthetically speaking. There’s a lot to be said about the scenery at Bushwick junction as well, but the 7…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Further east, where the so called international express heads through Sunnyside and Woodside and Jackson Heights high over Roosevelt Avenue – towards its eventual destination in Flushing – the 7 carries itself with a certain bearing and sharply appointed charm. One therefore nominates the 7 as the best looking of NYC’s subways.

Remember, it’s better to look good than to feel good, and that form always trumps function.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

A Short History of the Sunnyside Yards

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A little video action for you, in today’s post.

– photos by Mitch Waxman

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

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