The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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familiar details

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 16, 2013 at 2:13 am

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Eulogy

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Kinda personal post today, its been a bad day.

Yesterday, Tuesday the 25th, your humble narrator was helping out on a Working Harbor Committee tour of New York Harbor. The goal of this tour was to encourage a group of inner city kids to continue their education beyond secondary school and to present the notion of a career in the maritime industries for their consideration. Several notable speakers made the case while I shot pictures of the event, and of course- passing tugboats and other watercraft. That’s when the phone rang.

It was a Doctor, a nursing home staffer on Staten Island that had been caring for my Mom. He adjured me to make all haste toward their facility as her time was near. Trapped onboard the ship, however, I would either need to return to Manhattan and catch the Staten Island Ferry or jump ship and swim – the irony was that my actual location in the Kill Van Kull was a mere mile from their inland location. Within moments, the phone rang again, and the Doctor informed me that Mom had died.

from wikipedia

The Kill Van Kull is a tidal strait approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) long and 1,000 feet (305 m) wide between Staten Island, New York and Bayonne, New Jersey in the United States.[1] Spanned by the Bayonne Bridge, it is one of the most heavily travelled waterways in the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Kill Van Kull connects Newark Bay with Upper New York Bay. The Robbins Reef Light marks the eastern end, and Bergen Point its western end. Historically it has been one of the most important channels for the commerce of the region, providing a passage for marine traffic between Upper Bay and the industrial towns of northeastern New Jersey. During the colonial era it played a significant role in travel between New York and the southern Thirteen Colonies, with passengers changing from ferries to coaches at Elizabethtown. Since the final third of the 20th century, it has provided the principal access for ocean-going container ships to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, the busiest port facility in the eastern United States, and Howland Hook Marine Terminal.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My mother has been dying for nearly 10 years, with periods of intense illness followed by long lulls spent in a half life of pharmacological stasis. Her once vast intellect had shattered, her body weakened, and finally her physicians ordered her to give up the smart little apartment she had bankrupted herself for. She checked into a nursing home, which was her last mailing address.

Suffering from dementia, she ended up on the sixth floor, where the screamers are. Her life became something very close to my personal vision of hell- an institutionalized and undignified existence without a shred of freedom or self determination. Confused, sick, confined.

Don’t get me wrong, the old lady was no angel, this isn’t one of those stories. Just like every other post here, at your Newtown Pentacle, this description of her fate was neither good nor bad- it just is.

Today, a priest who never met anybody in my family will officiate at a ceremony in some town on Long Island that we have no connection to at a burial ground which adheres to a peripheral and unfamiliar religious system. He will speak in a language that nobody present will understand, and say prayers that were ancient when Rome was founded. At the end of it, the extended family will disperse to diners.

People will try to comfort me, offer open ended promises, and search my face for emotional cues to follow. Problem is that I’m a cold fish, very hard to read, and will appear aloof. Nobody can do or say anything right now, and the offers are appreciated, but one of the traits my Mom beat into me was “freak out later, take care of business now”.

from wikipedia

The Jewish funeral consists of burial, also known as interment. Cremation is not considered a viable possibility. Burial is considered to allow the body to decompose naturally. Burial is intended to take place in as short an interval of time after death as possible. Jewish law forbids embalming. Displaying of the body prior to burial does not take place.

In Israel the Jewish funeral service will usually commence at the burial ground. In the United States and Canada, the funeral service will either commence at a funeral home or at the cemetery. Occasionally the service will commence at a synagogue. In the case of a very prominent individual the funeral service can begin at a synagogue or a yeshivah. If the funeral service begins at a point other than at the cemetery the entourage accompanies the body in a procession to the cemetery. The funeral itself, the procession, the burial, are referred to by the word levayah, meaning “accompanying.”

Levayah means “accompaniment” because the funeral procession involves accompanying the body to the place of burial. Levayah is Hebrew and it also indicates “joining” and “bonding.” This aspect of the meaning of the word levayah conveys the implication of a commonality between the “souls” of the living and the dead.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The great commonality of human existence is that nobody dies well. There is no “good death”. As long time readers can attest, I understand the actual physical processes of death in arcane detail, and it ain’t nice.

Mom, however, died in a bed with a team of experts doing their level best (within the legal restrictions of her wish to not be subjected to “heroic measures” commonly called a DNR order) to save her. How lucky, and wonderful an end, for in her last moments- Mom had regained control over her life again. That’s something.

The Pentacle won’t be updating with anything new for a day or so, your humble narrator has to engage with the funerary industrial complex for the next couple of days.

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi, indeed.

from wikipedia

A do not resuscitate document is a binding legal document that states resuscitation should not be attempted if a person suffers cardiac or respiratory arrest. Abbreviated DNR, such an order may be instituted on the basis of an advance directive from a person, or from someone entitled to make decisions on their behalf, such as a health care proxy.

DNR documents are widespread in some countries and unavailable in others. In countries where a DNR is unavailable the decision to end resuscitation is made solely by physicians.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 26, 2010 at 1:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

COOPER!!!

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First, for almost every correct pronunciation of the name “Cooper”- as enunciated by Tony Todd and Patricia Tallman, click here.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Peter Cooper is a name known to modernity as a place name, and as the founder of the Cooper Union academy on the Bowery, and ephemerally as a product of a degenerate Dutch and Anglophile ruling class called the “Knickerbocracy“, which ran the City of New York well into the late 19th century.

He was a great deal more, and its odd that histories of the United States produced in the 20th century generally omit the name of this prominent industrialist- an opponent of slavery and proponent of Native American rights, father of a New York City Mayor and father in law of another Mayor- from discussion. His contributions to the Nation’s industrial history are similarly overlooked.

A Newtown Pentacle posting of June,4 2009 revealed that the origins of his great fortune were founded along the loathsome Newtown Creek, where his industrial operations chemically converted animal tissue and bodily waste into useful products like glue and Jell-O brand gelatin (as a note: if you enjoy gealtin treats, NEVER inquire as to what it is actually made from, or the methodologies employed in manufacture- for you will strike this item from your diet forever. I warn you, and point out that similar warnings against investigating the realities of Chimpanzee Attack have been proven out in the past).

from cooper.edu

Peter Cooper was a self-taught engineer, beloved philanthropist, presidential candidate and founder of the Cooper Union in New York City (the nation’s first free institution of higher learning).

Cooper had a number of patents and inventions to his credit. Builder and inventor of the famous “Tom Thumb” protoytpe locomotive, which was used to demonstrate the potential of steam-powered rail transport to leaders of the American transportation industry, he also obtained the very first American patent for the manufacture of gelatin (1845). He subsequently established a number of other patents for its manufacture and established manufacturing standards for its production. Some time later (1895), Pearl B. Wait, a cough syrup manufacturer, bought the patent from Peter Cooper and adapted Cooper’s gelatin dessert into an entirely prepackaged form, which his wife, May David Wait, named “Jell-O.” The rest is history…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Cooper was instrumental to the B&O railroad, instigated the installation of the first transatlantic telegraph cable, and ran for president of the United States at the age of 85. The statue pictured above is sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and can be found alongside the Cooper Union university building in Manhattan. It shows a promethean and physically robust specimen, which is a somewhat inaccurate visual description. Thanks to the archives at that august academy of the arts, photos of the great man in life are available.

from wikipedia

Influenced by the writings of Lydia Maria Child, Cooper became involved in the Indian reform movement, organizing the privately funded United States Indian Commission. This organization, whose members included William E. Dodge and Henry Ward Beecher, was dedicated to the protection and elevation of Native Americans in the United States and the elimination of warfare in the western territories. Cooper’s efforts led to the formation of the Board of Indian Commissioners, which oversaw Ulysses S. Grant’s Peace Policy. Between 1870 and 1875, Cooper sponsored Indian delegations to Washington, D.C., New York City, and other Eastern cities. These delegations met with Indian rights advocates and addressed the public on United States Indian policy. Speakers included: Red Cloud, Little Raven and Alfred B. Meacham and a delegation of Modoc and Klamath Indians.

Cooper was an ardent critic of the gold standard and the debt-based monetary system of bank currency. Throughout the depression from 1873-78, he said that usury was the foremost political problem of the day. He strongly advocated a credit-based, Government-issued currency of United States Notes. He outlined his ideas in his 1883 book Ideas for a Science of Good Government.

photo from cooper.edu

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The 6.5 acre site of Cooper’s glue factory, which picked up stakes and left Brooklyn in 1895, was sold by his descendants to the City of Brooklyn for $55,000 (that’s $55,000 in 1895, by the way). Today, it’s known as Cooper Park, which sits between Sharon and Olive Streets and Maspeth and Morgan Avenues in Greenpoint. The Glue factory was considered quote a nuisance by contemporaries- but one wonders how much of that reportage was driven by politics. Cooper was what modernity would classify as a liberal and progressive reformer, and was a bulwark against the trusts and Tammany. A powerful man gains powerful enemies- or as Stan Lee would put it- “with great power comes great responsibility”.

from uua.org

Peter was born in New York City to Methodists Margaret Campbell and John Cooper. Their home was opened to traveling clergy. Peter later recalled that his “father’s religion was of that kind that he feared everybody would go tumbling into hell.” Although he abandoned his father’s doctrine, he never strayed from the work ethic his father instilled in him from an early age.

John Cooper attempted several craft and merchandising occupations, with little success. Among other tasks, Peter had to “boil the hair out of the rabbit skins to be used in the manufacture of hats.” This experience may well have inspired his later invention of gelatin, made by boiling animal skin and connective tissue. He began inventing early in adolescence. He devised a machine for washing clothes, which aided his mother greatly. He helped his family by finding new ways to net wild pigeons, construct shoes, make bricks, and brew beer. So occupied, he had little opportunity for schooling. “My only recollection of being at school,” Cooper explained in his autobiography, “was at Peekskill [New York] about some three or four quarters and a part of the time it was half-day school.” As he began to hone his entrepreneurial skills, his lively curiosity nevertheless helped him to acquire an informal education.

In 1808 Cooper was apprenticed to a New York coachmaker. Although he showed promise in this trade, he declined to take the loan necessary to set himself up in the business. Instead he took a job in Hempstead, Long Island with a manufacturer of cloth-shearing machines. There he obtained a license to make and sell the machines in New York. He then designed, patented, and manufactured an improved version of the machine. He recalled that “the first money I received for the sale of my machines was from Mr. [Matthew] Vassar, of Poughkeepsie, who afterwards founded that noble institution for female education, called Vassar College.”

In 1813 Cooper married Sarah Raynor Bedell. Only two of their six children, Edward and Sarah Amelia, survived childhood. For a time he operated a grocery store in partnership with his brother-in-law. A jack-of-all-trades, he also ran factories to make furniture, glue, and isinglass. In 1828 he founded the Canton Iron Works in Baltimore, Maryland. This made his fortune. He set up other foundries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and a rolling mill in New York (which he later moved to Trenton, New Jersey).

In addition to the washing machine, Cooper invented a cutting device for lawn mowers, a torpedo boat, and the first American steam locomotive (named “Tom Thumb”). With his brother Thomas, in 1854 he manufactured the first iron structural beams. He also invented the first blast furnace, a compressed air engine for ferry boats, a water-powered device to move barges down the newly-constructed Erie Canal, a machine to grind and polish plate glass, and a musical cradle.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just for giggles, I include this tangential link- which takes you to Archive.org’s “Historic and Antiquarian Scenes in Brooklyn and its vicinity“. Examine the “Suydam House” section, which is the 1700 farmhouse that was commandeered in revolutionary times as a barracks for Hessian soldiers, uses phrases like “Dutch pertinacity” and discusses the history of the site that the Cooper Glue Factory would be built on. Notable moments in the english language found within include:

“It is built as was the invariable practice of the old Hollandish settlers, in a gentle depression of the ground, where it would be protected from the sweep of the dreaded north wind. The airy site and broad prospect which so entice the newer occupants of Brooklyn soil, had no attractions for the phlegmatic and comfort-loving Dutch race.”

“The Germans early entertained a fondness for the soil of Bushwick and Brooklyn, for even at this period they exhibited the strongest desire to escape from military control, and settle upon it. That they had then discovered its capacity for the manufacture and storage of lager beer is susceptible of some proof. Certainly all the frightful tortures which awaited the captured deserter did not deter them from attempting escape from British protection. Many of them settled in Brooklyn, and by their thrift and industry acquired not a little property.

One of the subjects of the Elector of Hesse Cassel, named Louis Warner, in some quiet Dutch fashion of his own, crept out of the watch and ward of his majesty, George the Third’s soldiers, who zealously endeavored to return the dear subjects of the Elector to his paternal care. Louis pursued the occupation of milkman for a long time on the Luqueer farm, in Bushwick, now nearly covered by the building of Peter Cooper’s glue factory, where he had bivouacked with his Hessian comrades for many months during the revolution. “

and finally from rebresearch.com, (click through to their page to see the various diagrams and photos referred to in the quotation)

1820-1865: Age 30, Peter Cooper buys a glue factory from Mr. Vreeland in Kipps Bay (Grammercy Park) Manhattan. Peter had bought glue from there knew the business to be a good one. He sells the grocery shortly thereafter to concentrate upgrading the glue factory. He’s nearly killed several times in this. As business expands he moves the glue factory to Burling Slip, Brooklyn and later to Maspeth, Queens. In Maspeth, Queens, near Newtown creek, Cooper builds the large facrtory shown in the picture below. Peter Cooper invents the double boiler, a major innovation (see figure) that avoids burning the glue by heating it directly with a fire. Instead, in the double boiler water is heated by coal fire, and steam from the hot water cooks the glue. The double boiler is used to this day thoughout the food industry, and steam remains the most popular heat transfer fluid throughout the chemical industry. Using the double boiler Peter Cooper’s begins to make glue in ten, different, standard grades. The lightest grade will be sold as edible gelatin as well as for glue use. Cooper invents a method for freeze-drying glue and similar products, 1845. (need technical details — how was this done in the 1800s?). Quality control is an important part of Cooper glue. Peter Cooper invents a vernier test for glue stiffness (see picture below); a weight is placed on a block of gelled gule, and one measures how far the weight sags. His test method for testing glue stiffness will be used till the 1950s.

Peter Cooper’s glue works also produces animal-fat based oils and chemical products. Of particular importance is Neat’s Foot Oil, a lighting and machine oil made from calves feet. It’s comparable to whale oil, and is still in use today. Peter Cooper invents American Isinglass, a brightener and clarifier derived from fish oil; it is cheaper than Russian Isinglass, used to clarify wine and deserts. In 1865 Cooper retires from active involvement in the glue business. He sells the main factory and land to his son, Edward, his agent, William Serrell, and their children for $200,000. At this point, the Glue Factory is probably the largest in the country, and perhaps in the world. It is selling approximately $200,000 worth of glue per year, with distribution from London to South America. In the 20th century the glue works would leave Queens for Gowanda, NY. There reamins a small monument to the factory in Maspeth, Queens. His Grandson, Peter Cooper Hewitt will patent an improved chiller table for gelatin making.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Don’t Know Jack

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Social obligations carried your humble narrator to the teeming streets of New York City’s famous Chinatown over the weekend, where this enigmatic ovum was observed. Alien to my eyes, this is a Jack Fruit, which is apparently one of  asian cuisine’s most popular cultivars. Ignorant of the pacific tropics and their unique biota, my initial thought upon encountering the Jack Fruit was that it was a pod not unlike those utilized by the “Body Snatchers” during one of the many attempts to infiltrate human society by extraterrestrials during the 1950’s. Turns out that the Jack Fruit has been a part of the Asian diet since Ashoka the Great ruled India in 250 BC. The name Jack Fruit is derived from the Portuguese term for it- Jaca, after the Malaysian Chakka.

from wikipedia

The jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus or A. heterophylla) is a species of tree in the mulberry family (Moraceae), which is native to parts of South and Southeast Asia. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh. It is called Kanthal (কাঁঠাল) in Bangla, Katahar (कटहर) in Nepali, Panasa (पनस) in Sanskrit, Katahal (कटहल) in Hindi, Nangka in Bahasa Indonesia,Halasu (ಹಲಸು) in Kannada, Panasa in Telugu, Pala in Tamil (is one of the three auspicious fruits of Tamil Nadu),Chakka in Malayalam language, Phanas in Marathi language and पणस in Konkani language. It is well suited to tropical lowlands. Its fruit is the largest tree borne fruit in the world, seldom less than about 25 cm (10 in) in diameter.

photo from wikipedia

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Armstrong, the Newtown Pentacle’s far eastern correspondent and expert on asian dessert items, simply states that the Jack Fruit is delicious. After a lifetime spent in New York City, with the limited compliment of American staple fruits (banana, citrus, apple, grape, peach, tomato) and their variants available, it is a real pleasure to see that the latest waves of immigration are expanding the variety of foodstuffs. I’ve seen other exotic and alien crops, Durrians and Yuca for example, on sale in Queens markets in the last couple of years. Even the local supermarket here in Astoria carries a remarkable variety.

from crfg.org

In Malaysia and India there are named types of fruit. One that has caused a lot of interest is Singapore, or Ceylon, a remarkable yearly bearer producing fruit in 18 months to 2-1/2 years from transplanting. The fruit is of medium size with small, fibrous carpels which are very sweet. It was introduced into India from Ceylon and planted extensively in 1949. Other excellent varieties are Safeda, Khaja, Bhusila, Bhadaiyan and Handia. In Australia, some of the varieties are: Galaxy, Fitzroy, Nahen, Cheenax, Kapa, Mutton, and Varikkha. None of these appear to be available in the US at this time.

Yet, even as the ever changing ethnic waves bring new and exciting comestibles with them, other traditions fall away. Corned Beef does not sweat in bar room steam tables anymore, I haven’t seen the Krishnas making rice and beans in Thompson Square Park for a while, Jewish Deli is virtually extinct, and…

What ever happened to the Bear Claw?

do they still exist in sticky sweetness, within the City of New York?

more on this Bear Claw business to come…


Written by Mitch Waxman

February 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Alive and well

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the lack of postings in the last few days, but the next big batch of photos and research has been occupying me, and I’m a little “written out” at the moment. As mentioned in previous posts, I’m attempting to control myself- to not allow an “all cemetery” Newtown Pentacle to emerge. Of course, that would indicate that there was some sort of grand plan governing when things appear here, or that these postings are following an agenda of some kind. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the weather has largely shut me down for the last month or so on the “gathering content” front lines. As is usually the case during this time of the year, I’m frustrated by my inability to be outside due to my vulnerable and weakened constitution.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that I was recently invited to take a series of shots indoors at JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK airport, while under the supervision of airport personnel which assured no hassle with security. Certain restrictions (don’t shoot security or actual runways) applied, and the vast majority of the shots are in the hands of and controlled by a major metropolitan ad agency, but I’m authorized to share a subset of them publicly- which will be coming sometime this week. Proper postings will resume shortly, why not subscribe to the RSS feed found in the toolbar to the right so you don’t miss anything? No spam or commercial crap from me, can’t speak for wordpress but that’s really not their style- and the nice bit about “push” services like RSS is that you’ll be able to read the Pentacle on the gizmo of your choice.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Astoria, Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Taxi town

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

When the intrepid shutterbug wanders around the back streets and hidden lanes of Long Island City (in particular) and North Western Queens (in general), the sheer number of Taxis observed is astounding. In the post WW2 period many, many Taxi garages and dispatchers relocated their fleet garages (mainly from the west side of Manhattan, whose rising real estate valuations priced such large footprint business out of the borough) in the area due to its proximity to Manhattan and the easy (free) egress offered to the business districts of the shining City by the Queensboro Bridge. Also, the land was cheap, by New York standards.

note:

The inexpensive nature of the land in Long Island City during the last half of the 20th century presents an inexplicable paradox given the paradise that LIC – south of the bridge- is reported to have been during the 1970’s and 80’s by comment threads at LIQCity.

I just can’t let this one go, by the way. A general excoriation of this blog and me personally has been detailed in the comment thread there by a few dedicated trolls who have focused on half a sentence in a 1,000 word post that was part of a 3,000 word sum up editorial at the end of the year.

When confronted to back up a statement, I supplied primary source material and was then told “don’t believe what you read”. So far, they’ve made intonations and accusations about my sexual preferences, called me amateur, lazy, gullible, self promoting, on drugs, like a spoiled 2 year old, an untalented liar, having written a “disgraceful and distasteful article complete with racist undertones”, making false claims about having lived in NYC all my life, and one anonymous poster has suggested “Think about it. A few years ago it was an Italian neighborhood. It’s okay to use that locution, right? Well, not for nothin’, but only idiots would try to get away with anything around here”. To my ears, that is the epitome of racist undertone- suggesting that stereotypical organized crime elements kept LIC safe and are exactly the sort of thing that they are all so upset about. I respond here, as comments at Newtown Pentacle are moderated and require you to sign your name, and I don’t participate in acrimonious flame wars.

Notice that at no point do they supply anything besides anonymous anecdotes in argument. The difference between these “anon” posters and myself is that I sign my name to things that I write, and can back up what I say. I fully expect to be connected to global terror and accused of being a sexual predator before the weekend is over. Also, the notion that I would use the tragic death of a car service driver to “promote myself” is anathema and personally offensive. I take my battles outside, to the street, where it counts. Coward.

from nyc.gov

What is the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission?

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), created in 1971, is the agency responsible for licensing and regulating New York City’s medallion (yellow) taxicabs, for-hire vehicles (community-based liveries and black cars), commuter vans, paratransit vehicles (ambulettes) and certain luxury limousines. The Commission’s Board consists of nine members, eight of whom are unsalaried Commissioners. The salaried Chair/Commissioner presides over regularly scheduled public Commission meetings, and is the head of the agency, which maintains a staff of approximately 400 TLC employees assigned to various divisions and bureaus. The Hon. Matthew W. Daus was named as Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s designee to the Chair of the TLC in June 2001 and was unanimously confirmed by the New York City Council on August 22, 2001. He was then reappointed by Mayor Bloomberg in July 2003 and was again unanimously confirmed by the New York City Council on July 23, 2003.

The TLC licenses and regulates over 50,000 vehicles and approximately 100,000 drivers, performs safety and emissions inspections of the more than 13,000 medallion taxicabs three times each year, and holds numerous hearings for violations of City and TLC rules and regulations, making it the most active taxi and limousine licensing regulatory agency in the United States.To find out more about the TLC, or to review the agency’s procedures, rules and regulations and programs, you may review the constantly updated information available throughout this web site, or you may call the TLC’s Customer Service Hotline at 311.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Omnipresent, the New York City Yellow cab is available for hire and will take you just about anywhere. A point is made, by your humble narrator, to converse with Cab drivers. Often, the conversation will involve their native country – which is what I’m really interested in- or their “immigrant story”. Eye opening, some of the stories I’ve been told about life in the far and middle east have changed my perceptions and corrected certain misconceptions acquired through ignorance and cultural prejudices. Ultimately, the one thing all cab drivers seem to have in common is a shared hatred of the Van Wyck.

from nyc.gov

The Following Vehicles are Currently in Use as New York City Taxicabs

  • 2009-Ford Crown Victoria Stretch
  • 2009-Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
  • 2009-Saturn Aura Hybrid
  • 2009-Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
  • 2009-Volkswagen Jetta Clean Diesel Sedan
  • 2009-Lexus RX400h
  • 2009-Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • 2009-Toyota Prius-48 mpg city
  • 2009-Toyota Highlander Hybrid (4WD)
  • 2009-Saturn Vue Greenline
  • 2009-Nissan Altima Hybrid
  • 2009-Ford Escape Hybrid (2WD)
  • 2009-Mercury Mariner Hybrid (AWD)
  • 2010-Ford Crown Victoria Stretch
  • 2010-Volkswagen Jetta Clean Diesel Sedan
  • 2010-Lexus RX450h
  • 2010-Lexus HS250h
  • 2010-Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • 2010-Toyota Prius-48 mpg city
  • 2010-Toyota Highlander Hybrid
  • 2010-Nissan Altima Hybrid
  • 2010-Ford Escape Hybrid (2WD)
  • 2010-Ford Fusion Hybrid
  • 2010-Mercury Milan Hybrid
  • 2010-Mercury Mariner Hybrid (AWD)

The following are the approved for use as Wheelchair Accessible Taxicabs:

  • 2007-Eclipse Mobility Dodge Caravan
  • 2007-Eldorado National Mobility Chevrolet Uplander
  • 2007-2008 Autovan Toyota Sienna
  • 2007-2008 Freedom Motors Toyota Sienna Kneelvan
  • 2008-2009 Freedom Motors Toyota Sienna Kneelvan

Additional vehicle models come on the market from time to time that may comply with TLC rules.  Any questions about a vehicle model not listed above, or about any vehicle retirement issue, should be referred to TLC hack site at (718) 267-4501.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Because of the presence of the fleet garages, one will observe hundreds of smashed and destroyed vehicles which have been towed home for repair. Self employed on the whole, the shift drivers of New York’s Taxi fleets must maintain and pay for their own health insurance. When they are sick or injured and can’t work, they don’t get paid. I’ve often wondered why the city doesn’t offer a buy-in to the generous and inexpensive (due to the size of “the plan”) health insurance plan enjoyed by other employees of the City, to help these defacto city workers afford coverage. During the transit strike a few years ago, the municipality depended heavily on these folks, it would only be fair to thank them somehow. Taxi drivers, however, are a maligned and oft abused group.

from yellowcabnyc.com

For the city’s cabbies, the quest for a bathroom is no potty joke.

Finding bladder relief is a daily dilemma for the city’s 44,000 cabbies, who typically work 12 hour shifts and cruise miles away from their garages. And the hunt for a toilet is getting harder as new bike lanes and MUNI meters make it harder to jump out without getting ticketed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman (note: this was a film shoot in progress, down in LIC)

Cab drivers are victimized by anybody who feels like it. During the last quarter of the 20th century, it became an increasingly dangerous job. Casual racism and derogatory comments are suffered by drivers, as well as robbery and theft of services. Drivers often say that the reason they don’t want to go to some outlying area of the city is fear of the passenger exiting the vehicle with the meter still running. Also, as a cab at the middle and end of its shift is carrying a decent amount of cash, they are prime targets for robbery. The city also preys upon the yellow cabs, with NYPD ticket blitz tactics and an ever shifting mosaic of rules and regulations.

from nyc.gov

Are drivers required to know how to get to any destination in New York City?

Drivers are required to know the streets of Manhattan as well as major destinations in the other boroughs.  Additionally, all New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission licensed taxi drivers must have a map available to them when on duty.  If they do not, they are in violation of TLC rules and regulations.  In addition, as per TLC rules, they are required to know the “lay of the land”, that is, have extensive knowledge of the NYC area.  Taxi drivers are not permitted to refuse service, because they do not know how to reach a destination.  They must consult their 5-borough map to identify the best route to any destination within the 5 boroughs.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Like all New Yorkers, I count on yellow cabs being available as soon as I step off the curb and stick my hand out. A preference for mass transit is enjoyed here at Newtown Pentacle HQ, but every now and then when time is short and the vagaries of the MTA cannot be counted on, a Taxi is the way to go. As mentioned above, I make it a point to chat with willing drivers, and have learned many interesting things about the modern taxi industry, which contrasts with the experiences of an uncle who owned and drove a Checker cab in NYC for 30 years (retiring in the mid 70’s). Once, a modern driver shared his “drivers manual” with me, which was fascinating.

from wikipedia

The first taxicab company in New York was the New York Taxicab Company, which in 1907 imported 600 gasoline-powered cars from France. The cars were painted red and green. Within a decade several more companies opened business and taxicabs began to proliferate. The fare was 50 cents a mile, a rate only affordable to the relatively wealthy. Previous taxis, including the one that killed Henry Bliss in 1899, were electric.

By the 1920s, industrialists recognized the potential of the taxicab market. Automobile manufacturers like General Motors and the Ford Motor Company began operating fleets. The most successful manufacturer, however, was the Checkered Cab Manufacturing Company. Founded by Morris Markin, Checker Cabs produced the large yellow and black taxis that became one of the most recognizable symbols of mid-20th century urban life. For many years Checker cabs were the most popular taxis in New York City.

from another 22nd street

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The drivers manual, and this was back in the 1990’s so it’s a bit of a hazy memory, had a table towards the back of the book which described flat fees and regulations for a New York City Taxi to charge when a passenger wants to go to a locale wildly outside of the NY area. At least back then, a cab (which had the right of refusal for such exo-destinations) could be hailed, and the driver told “I need to go to Kansas City”. The driver could only be expected to drive a certain number of hours per day, would have to provided with accommodations and meals, and would be expecting quite a bit more than the usual buck or two tip. A longtime fantasy of mine has been to take a trip to San Francisco in an NYC yellow cab with a documentary film crew- the fare of said trip, back in the ’90’s, would have been (as I said hazy memory, I might be flubbing this number) around $3,800 + fuel, hotels, meals, and tip.

from pubadvocate.nyc.gov

On-duty New York City taxis, or yellow cabs, must take passengers to any destination within the five boroughs, Westchester County, Nassau County and Newark Airport. Unless traffic is tied up or the passenger requests otherwise, the driver is required to take the shortest route. To complain about a cab or cabbie, or find out about lost items, call the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Because there are over 40,000 licensed taxi drivers and over 11,000 licensed taxi cabs, try to have the following information ready: the driver’s name and license number and the taxi medallion number. In addition to yellow cabs, for-hire vehicles (FHVs) carry passengers around town. FHVs, commonly used in all five boroughs, serve passengers by prior arrangement and cannot stop for a hailing customer. FHVs come in three styles and price ranges: car services, black cars, and limousines. The NYC diamond decal on the windshield of licensed FHVs distinguishes them from unlicensed gypsy cabs. Write to the Taxi and Limousine Commission at the above address with complaints about FHVs. Your letter should include the license plate number, the name of the dispatch company, the date and time of the incident, and a brief description of the incident. Allegations of overcharging will be addressed immediately, other complaints less rapidly, and incidents that involve the police will take longer.

Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4 pm

Taxi and Limousine Commission
40 Rector Street, 5th Floor (212) NYC-TAXI (692-8294)

note: the above photo is “highly processed” and is a composited shot of something like six individual photos “photshopped” together. Just in the name of full disclosure, as I wouldn’t want to be accused of being a “liar” – photo by Mitch Waxman

from wikipedia

By the mid-1980s and into the 1990s the demographic changes among cabbies began to accelerate as new waves of immigrants arrived in New York. Today, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, of the 62,000 cabbies in New York 82 percent are foreign born: 23 percent are from the Caribbean (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), and 30 percent from South Asia (India, and Pakistan).

Some drivers became puzzled about why the TLC isn’t scrutinized for profiling the demographic make-up of cab permit holders, while drivers are scrutinized for superficial evaluation, mis-characterized as racism.

The production of the famous Checker Cab had stopped and although there were still many in operation, the Chevrolet Caprice and Ford Crown Victoria became the industry top choices. Large frame, rear-wheel drive, former police cruisers, available at auctions provide a steady supply of used, well-maintained cars for cab fleets nationwide.

The working conditions of cabbies have changed as crime in New York has plummeted, while the cost of medallions has increased. Fewer cabbies own their taxicabs than in previous times. The TLC bureaucracy involved makes single-cab and small-fleet operations less attractive.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 9, 2010 at 6:37 pm

In the cold waste 2

with one comment

from Vernon Blvd., Queensboro – photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite fingertips bleached to parchment white by biting wind and polar conditions, the cold waste beckons, and your humble narrator perseveres.

The relict shores of Ravenswood’s 3rd world persist in atavist glory at Vernon Blvd. and 44th drive, near the Gordon Triangle, which is what passes for a city park in this stronghold of the Oligarchs.

Brutal realities confront one here, 1 and 2 family homes still can be found, abutting vast victorian mill buildings converted to warehouse duty in the early 20th century. Fingerprints, left by the fattened digits of the masters, greasily smear across the neighborhood- every “available” sign on a relict warehouse is a signal of avarice and intent.

Taxis parked – photo by Mitch Waxman

At 46th avenue, the brick horizon opens, and a glimpse of the shining city is offered. Soon, this viewpoint and vantage will be occluded by yet another high rise spire, a warehouse offered to white collar laborers. Where will the unwashed who cook- and clean- and build- live and work when this 3rd world is gone- ground beneath the jeweled heel of progress?

The children of these new residents- where will they play and go to school? What will happen to the fragile infrastructure of 19th century streets, where wounds to the modern asphalt reveal victorian cobblestones? Why is the municipality not requiring the construction of new subway stations and schools, or at least sewers, from these Oligarchs for the rapacious profits they will garner from these grand projects?

Soil remediation tent – photo by Mitch Waxman

All the poisons in the mud will leach out, in the end.

The parable is exemplified at Anable Basin, at 5th street, where a second attempt at remediating the industrial history and unmentioned past of Ravenswood and Hunters Point is underway. This extant of the QueensWest development, whose previous metastasizes eradicated the historic district between the LIRR powerhouse and the LIRR Gantry docks, is troubled by environmental concerns that have postponed the plans of the masters.

Lessons learned there have been incorporated by the municipal chamberlins and chancellors, to avoid such expensive delays in a newer and larger project called Queens South just beginning at Hunters Point.

Megalopolis and Brownfield – photo by Mitch Waxman

Home sweet hell, New York City, the vast human hive.

The cement goddess is mother and home, school and prison, always a battleground- it produces children who are survivalist predators. When we walk the earth, New Yorkers are tigers amongst simpler peoples who didn’t have to endure living with… other New Yorkers.

There is a mind set amongst the rich in New York, and there always has been, that the poor can be saved by example- by having the poor live “as we do”. All of the afflictions of poverty can be alleviated- if not cured. Progressive Reformer or New Law Tenement or Urban Renewal or Gentrification or Upzoning, call it what you want- but Caesar is building the new Roman slums in an entirely inorganic fashion. This neighborhood used to be an industrial center, and then a junkyard, and that’s the reason why the ground is poison.

The industrial revolution happened. Here.

Testing Wells- May 30, 2009 – photo by Mitch Waxman

I am not a fan of vertical tower dwellings whose price of entry is designed to bring a non homologous population into an existing ethnic neighborhood as I can predict what will happen a generation or two from now, but I don’t own the land.

True ownership allows untrammeled discretion- if I own a car, I can set it on fire if I wanted to. If I own a house, I can knock out all the walls if I wanted to. If I could erect a forty story statue of my little dog Zuzu directly across the river from the United Nations building- that would robotically defend the city against giant Cat or Squirrel attack of course- it would be my business- because its my property. Why, though, would the City of New York instead encourage me to build an apartment house on a contaminated site instead of accepting the nature of the place and dedicating it to some acceptable usage? Could it just be the installation of a certain demographic and tax bracket into an overwhelmingly low and middle income neighborhood would benefit the status quo over in Manhattan?

Again, I’m just some guy, who doesn’t own anything. They’re rich guys, and in modern America, rich means you’re right- so what does it matter what I think?

Waste Barrels- June 29, 2009 – photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been haunting this place for a while.

Fascinating little project they have going on, which has actually activated some community activism amongst the new residents of Long Island City- the Tower People. Not bad folks these Tower People, on the whole, despite being a denigrated group referred to with smirks and winks by long time LIC’ers. Degreed and lettered professionals on the whole, they are a legion of bankers and lawyers who exist in the warren shadows of Manhattan’s financial district and turbulent midtown by day, but they turn Long Island City from a neighborhood into a dormitory.

A narrow enough lensing of the past can create causality from coincidence, but if you think that Battery Park City or Jersey City is city planning at its best, you’re going to love the new Long Island City.

Brownfield Work Site – photo by Mitch Waxman

The only buy-in for the community at large to enjoy are the production of riverfront parklands, which are remarkable, from which you may admire Manhattan while ignoring Queens stretching out behind you.

A recent article found at Queenscrap describes the cost of maintaining NYC parks at an astounding $10,000 per acre. Using this metric, Calvary Cemetery would need to raise $720,000 per year for groundskeeping, the average suburban golf course would have yearly expenditures measured in the millions, and a midwestern farm would incur costs in the tens of millions to maintain their lands let alone harvest them. I do believe that the journalists out there should take a close look at the Parks Dept. if this number is accurate. Just to be clear, as acreage is an old fashioned measurement not used commonly in the urban setting, that’s a square which is 208 feet and 8 inches on a side. The riverfront parks associated with Queens West will cost as much as $100,000 per acre.

Brownfield Work Site – photo by Mitch Waxman

9.5 acres, and owned by Rockrose Development (which has recently transformed itself into another corporate entity), this is the future home of four residential towers. As of April 2008, some 80,000 tons of contaminants had been removed from the site at a cost of $31 million. Standard Oil sited an oil refinery here in the 1860’s, and the soil is contaminated with Benzene, Petroleum Distillates, and volatile organic chemicals whose detected presence – in trace amounts- would cause the regular NYFD to evacuate and call in their HAZMAT teams.

Additionally, generations of untreated sewage and industrial pollution swirl and mix with the water table of the East River in the deeply cold gravels and blackened mud beneath the place. Sources also reveal that the “clean fill” being used to replace the contaminated substrates that were removed in the remediation process emanates from the tunnel being bored out from under the East River by the “East Side Access” project.

Who can guess, what it is, that still may lie hidden down there?

Brownfield Work Site – photo by Mitch Waxman

All the poisons in the mud will leach out, in the end.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 30, 2009 at 2:56 am

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