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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

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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

Remember, Remember- the 21st of December

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Pour me a drink and I’ll tell you some lies – photo by Mitch Waxman

An axial tilt of loathsome memories, shifting identities, and unrealized vengeance torments your humble narrator and makes him thankful that December 21st is, indeed, the shortest day of the year. The long nocturne of the Solstice, however, is no cause for celebration here in the Newtown Pentacle.

Solstice indicates that the Famine Months of January and February are upon us. The ancient Hellenes would enact the barbarous Lenaia bacchanal on solstice, and the Maenads would feast upon human flesh. It was also the central night of a week long Babylonian festival called Zagmuk, a celebration of divine Marduk’s victory over the darkness called the Anunnaki and their champion- the chaos dragon Tiamat. In modernity, in the nation of Mali, the Amma Cult of the atavist Dogon will sing and offer boiled millet at the conical altar of their high god.

from dailyworldbuzz.com

Today is the Celebration of Winter Solstice Traditions – Monday, December 21, 2009 marks the Winter Solstice traditions, and this is the announcement of the official start of the winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter Solstice is also known as Yule.

More precisely, winter solstice will take place at 12:47 pm EST (1747 GMT) on Dec. 21. It is a date that will also mark the shortest day and longest night.

Winter solstice falls every year around Dec. 21. It is because of the earth’s axial tilt, which is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26′. At this time of the year, the sun is closer to the horizon, thus giving out least amount of daylight therefore shortening the day and lengthening the night.

But there is a bright side to it. Starting Tuesday, the days will start getting longer, leading to summer solstice, which in 2010 will fall on June 21. At that time, the day will be the longest with the daytime lasting for about 15 hours compared to 9 hours on Monday.

Long Island City is ready for an undead invasion, so are parts of Greenpoint – photo by Mitch Waxman

Tonight- Cernunnos- the Horned God of the Wiccans, who the Arabs call Dhu’l Qarnayn, will be reborn after being ritually slain on October 31st.

December 21st is a special day in history, signs and portents abound.

Disraeli and Stalin were born in 1879 and 1804 respectively, Pierre and Marie Curie identified radium in 1898, Elvis had his famous meeting with Nixon in 1970, Ireland finally won its independence from a large and aggressive neighbor in 1948 and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves premiered in 1937. Oh… and then there was Apollo 8.

from wikipedia

Apollo 8 was the first human spaceflight mission to achieve a velocity sufficient to allow escape from the gravitational field of planet Earth; the first to be captured by and escape from the gravitational field of another celestial body; and the first crewed voyage to return to planet Earth from another celestial body – Earth’s Moon.

shot on June 21st 2009 – Summer Solstice – photo by Mitch Waxman

Do not be surprised if you see oddly costumed people beating out unfamiliar melodies on drums today as you make your way around the great metropolitan city. Gatherings of initiates are sure to form, and wild orgiastic dancing will ensue.

Can you be sure, were you to find yourself caught up in some modern celebration in Long Island City or Greenpoint, that you weren’t in the company of flesh eating Maenads? Or that you hadn’t become one yourself? Your humble narrator, lords and ladies of Newtown, will be casting one eager eye at that rivulet of arrested misery called the Newtown Creek- in particular.

from souledout.org

At certain ancient cairns in Ireland the sun only reaches deep inside on the winter solstice, only on that one day is the inner chamber lit … like the celestial body of male Sun impregnating the Mother Earth with rays of light.

At the winter solstice the sun reaches its southernmost position in the northern hemisphere perspective (**), and begins to move northward as it enters into the cardinal, earth sign Capricorn. Through the ages, the period when the sun moves northward again ~ from the winter solstice to the summer solstice ~ has been regarded as a festival season. In many lands and civilizations the winter solstice season has been associated with the coming of a Sun-God to save the world ~ bringing light and fruitfulness to the earth, and bringing hope to humanity.

Gabled roof of netherlandish design, windows glowing with a strange colour, Astoria Church – photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, this whole rumination on the Solstice takes place against the dominant culture’s winter holiday season. For the better part of a month, ritual feasting and familial gift giving consumes the modern mind. This period of the year, beginning with “Thanksgiving”, culminates in Advent/Yule/Christmas and ends with celebration of a calendar cycling.

1,096 days ago, I was in a hospital bed, and hadn’t yet experienced the pale ecstasies found in the glass strewn alleys and loamy graveyards of the Newtown Pentacle. 26,309 hours ago

The darkest day, the longest night- my hour of the wolf is an interval of brutal introspections- here at Pentacle HQ in the ice choked heart of Astoria.

Note: Please say a quiet devotion for the ever patient and long suffering “Our lady of the Pentacle” today… she’s going to have to put up with and listen to this kind of maudlin revisionist crap all day…

from wikipedia

In many countries Advent was long marked by diverse popular observances, some of which still survive. In England, especially in the northern counties, there was a custom (now extinct) for poor women to carry around the “Advent images”, two dolls dressed to represent Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. A halfpenny coin was expected from every one to whom these were exhibited and bad luck was thought to menace the household not visited by the doll-bearers before Christmas Eve at the latest.

In Normandy, farmers employed children under twelve to run through the fields and orchards armed with torches, setting fire to bundles of straw, and thus it is believed driving out such vermin as are likely to damage the crops. In Italy, among other Advent celebrations, is the entry into Rome in the last days of Advent of the Calabrian pifferari, or bagpipe players, who play before the shrines of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Italian tradition being that the shepherds played these pipes when they came to the manger at Bethlehem to pay homage to the infant Jesus. It is the second most important tradition behind Easter for Roman Catholics.

In recent times the commonest observance of Advent outside church circles has been the keeping of an advent calendar or advent candle, with one door being opened in the calendar, or one section of the candle being burned, on each day in December leading up to Christmas Eve.

and just as a note: December 21 is also the anniversary of the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock and getting the whole “America thing” started.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 21, 2009 at 6:28 am

Calvary Cemetery Section

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I’ve done so many posts on the place that I thought a catch-all page was in order- This will live in the menus to the right of the screen, and will be added to as more posts on the place are added.

Walking Widdershins to Calvary

g10_img_6737_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Click here to preview this photowalk in a google map

Hunters Point avenue intersects with the ancient course of Greenpoint Avenue at the degenerate extant of Long Island City. The Queens Midtown Expressway also comes back down to earth here, feeding Manhattan vehicular traffic to all points east. This is a very busy intersection, so be mindful of traffic, as fellow pedestrians are rare.

As with anyplace else in Queens you’d want to see, Forgotten-NY has been through here before. Click here for their page on Blissville and Laurel Hill.

Up and Through Calvary

Cavalry Cemetery by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Addled as we are by the manipulations of the political class during the 20th century, with its “ism’s” and “movements“, Newtownicans have lost sight of the fact that the Newtown Creek was the center of the world for those who dwelt here in the 19th century. Before the American Civil War, the banks of the Newtown Creek were lined with homes built to the highest aesthetic standard, and peppered with grand hotels which catered to the sportsman and recreational fisherman. It was into this pastoral wildrness that the Calvary Cemetery was embedded in 1848, and which it sought to blend into with its fine arboreal stock and tasteful mastery of the art of landscaping.

It seems odd to us- sitting in our comfortable climate controlled and fully electrified homes and offices, to put a cemetery like this- with its ornate stonework and elaborate masonry, so close to the polluted industrial zones of the nearby Newtown Creek. Calvary spreads atavistically across a deserted and blasted landscape in our 21st century, surrounded by the trampled nest and discarded remnants of the industrial revolution.

Calvary Mystery Box

g10_img_6870_phwlk.jpg by you.

Calvary Cemetery at 48th street – photo by Mitch Waxman

As one proceeds up the glacier carved hillocks that define northwestern Queens- climbing away from the terrors of Laurel Hill and leaving the malefic secrets of Maspeth and the Newtown Creek behind, the intrepid pedestrian will pass under and above an arcade of highways and find second Calvary.

Old Calvary is the original cemetery- second, third, and fourth Calvary are the metastasized and sprawling additions to the venerable original- and a significant portion of the Cemetery Belt.

Calvary Cemetery Walk

Old Calvary looking toward Newtown Creek by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Just across the street from the site of the former LIRR Penny Bridge station. Easily accessed via the street, upon crossing the gates of Calvary, one will find a staircase carven into the hill by whose ascent the Newtown acropolis may be obtained. Cresting over the surrounding neighborhoods, and soaring over the Newtown Creek’s former wetlandsCalvary Cemetery keeps its secrets buried in centuried silence. Looking south toward Brooklyn, the Kosciuszko bridge approach of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway looms over its passage, carrying millions of vehicles over and across the necropolis of New York City.

Tales of Calvary 1 - The O’Briens

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Hallowmas, or All Saints Day, is coincident with the running of the NYC Marathon’s tumult laden course. The secular spectacular merely whets the appetite of your humble narrator for the open skies and sacred vantages found along those unhallowed backwaters of an urban catastrophe called the Newtown Creek.Calvary Cemetery- dripping in centuried glory- sits incongruously in an industrial moonscape stained with aqueer and iridescent colour. It’s marble obelisks and acid rain etched markers landmark it as a necropolis of some forgotten civilization.

Today, I determined to ignore the psychic effects of the graveyard, which are both palpable and remarkable. Resolving to climb to the highest point on this Hill of Laurels, my aim was to discover whose grave would occupy such a socially prominent spot. Secretly, I hoped to discover some celebrity or famous mobster’s resting place. Instead I found the O’Brien’s.

Tales of Calvary 2 - Veterans Day

-photo by Mitch Waxman

21 Roman Catholic Union soldiers are interred amongst the 365 acres of first Calvary Cemetery in Queens, nearby the cuprous waters of the much maligned Newtown Creek.

The wars of the 20th century, terrible in scope and vulgar in effect, cause us to overlook these men whovouchsafed the American Republic in the 19th century as we focus in on the veterans of the second thirty years war which modernity myopically calls World Wars One and Two. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a federal holiday called Armistice Day in 1919, celebrating the anniversary of the legal end of the first World War in 1918. Congress agreed, seven years later, and then took six years to pass an act which made Armistice day an official United States federal holiday celebrated on November 11 annually.

Ed Rees, a populist Representative from the state of Kansas during the post World War 2 era, spearheaded a successful campaign in 1953 to have “Armistice Day” reclassified as “All Veterans Day” so as to include the veterans of WW2, and the ongoing conflicts fought by our “permanent government” on the world stage.

Tales of Calvary 3 - Rumors and stories

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Swirling, my thoughts.

A vast and byzantine pattern which extends beyond even the coming of the Europeans into the mist of olden days, traced by rail and road, reveals itself step by step as the burning eye of god itself leads me to and fro across the glass strewn Newtown Pentacle.

Bits of information, nuggets of pregnant fact, theosophical themes and mystic iconography obfuscating itstruths and meaning, a maelstrom of barking black dogs crowds my mind. Cowardly and infirm, I run to the grave.

Solace is found amongst the tomb legions, and the nepenthe of their silence.

Tales of Calvary 4 - Triskadekaphobic Paranoia

Cavalry Cemetery, a morbid nutrition 04 by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Near the crest of one of Calvary Cemetery’s hills, can be found what I’ve described in previous posts as “a tree that is fed by some morbid nutrition”.

A convenient afternoon vantage point for photographing the Johnston mausoleum and a frequent destination, a Hallowmas (nov. 1) stroll through Calvary revealed some interesting goings on beneath the swollen boughs of this loathsome landmark.

Tales of Calvary 5 - Shade and Stillness

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the past, the desolating loneliness and isolation which define my internal dialogue have been described to you simply – I’m all ‘effed up.

Shunned by those considered normal, my human- all too human- nature forces visceral desires for companionship. Lacking fellowship amongst the the living, one instinctively reaches out for those things which are no longer- or have never been- alive. That odd man in the filthy black raincoat that you might glimpse as you drive past the graveyard, scuttling along taking pictures of sewers and odd boxes in the Cemetery Belt- might very well be your humble narrator.

I was at Calvary Cemetery, intent on investigating the puzzling knots I had observed, beneath a hilltop tree- fed by some morbid nutrition, when I came across the Sweeney monument.

Tales of Calvary 6 - The Empire State Building and the Newsboy Governor.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Looming, in this place, is the megapolis. Here lies Tammany, gazing eternally upon their work. The city. The great city.

The greatest and last of their projects is promontory above the shield wall of Manhattan, a familiar vista of Calvary Cemetery offered as an iconic representation by most.

The tower called the Empire State building was built, almost as an act of pure will, by a former newsboy from South Street.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 19, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Manhattan Bridge Centennial Parade 3

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Manhattan Bridge Tracks – photo by Mitch Waxman

Under normal conditions, the time it would take to even steady and focus my trusty Canon G10 would have seen your humble narrator reduced to juices by Brooklyn bound traffic.

Directly after the Manhattan Bridge Centennial Parade, I had a good half hour or so to just wander around the roadway (in the company of city officials and with NYPD everywhere) and just take pictures, which was kind of surreal. In the age of the Terror Wars, whose only victor will be the side that scares the other more, such access is rare.

A similar experience was had at Queensboro Bridge, several months ago, and upon the many Working Harbor Committee voyages I attended over the summer and fall.

Brooklyn Bound Manhattan Bridge- photo by Mitch Waxman

A curious defect has emerged after a year of carrying my trusty Canon G10. The lens shutters seem to be less than a tenth of a millimeter too close to the lens, and over time, symmetrical scratches have scribed into the glass. You can see one of them catching the sun in the top of the shot above. These scratches are at the wide angle, and a tiny zoom-in eliminates their effect, but regardless- the thing goes back to Canon this week for repairs- hopefully on warranty. Despite this defect, this is one great camera, whose only real weakness is in low light. Recommended.

Empire State from Manhattan Bridge - photo by Mitch Waxman

Empty Manhattan Bridge roadway perspective, facing infinite Brooklyn - photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan Bridge cable perspective, facing infinite Brooklyn - photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan Bridge disturbing rust - photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan Bridge Centennial Parade Fireworks Show - photo by Mitch Waxman

Later that night, incontrovertibly next to the Williamsburg Bridge in a Lower East Side Manhattan Park, a scheduled fireworks show was performed to celebrate the Bridge Centennial. Additionally, musicians plied their arts as did political speakers.

Manhattan Bridge Centennial Parade Fireworks Show - photo by Mitch Waxman

I won’t bore you with a lot of fireworks, if you could use some shells bursting on high, click over to our flickr page and check them out.

and just as a note: this is Wright Brothers Day is the USA.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 17, 2009 at 5:41 am

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