The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

victoriously swept

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If the bridge wasn’t there, it would be impossible to recognize Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mephitic vapors, the effluent of furnaces and forges, a vague scent of molasses, and the smell of freshly smoked crack cocaine used to be all you needed to recognize where you were when visiting Williamsburg. These days, all you’ve got is the visual cue offered by its eponymous bridge and the vague scent of high end Marijuana.

Occasion found me in the ancient village, and as I was headed for Manhattan to meet up with a boat later in the day, a scuttle across the bridge was called for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of people think this span is an architectural travesty, but I’ve never thought it was bad enough to to create a Municipal Arts Society over. There are “separate” pedestrian and bicycle paths, which aren’t really segregated from each other in any cohesive manner, but as one such as myself enjoys playing things “by the rules” – I found myself climbing the surprisingly steep ramp leading up from Brooklyn to the bridge itself. At least it provides for some fairly good “cardio.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in art school, the conventional wisdom imparted to me by a generation of instructors was that you can’t go wrong when there’s an umbrella in your shot. The reasoning is that the umbrella is an inherently interesting shape, and it breaks up the otherwise pedestrian points of view one normally encounters. It wasn’t raining, of course, and the umbrella was simply there to shield its wielder from the particularly powerful emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself whose gaze seemed fixed upon the bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All the tourists seem to flock to the Brooklyn Bridge, and its pedestrian path offers one a frustrating and crowded experience. It’s a bit like a lunch line at a buffet, that walk, a slow shuffle while trapped in a queue. Vast preference for the less popular bridges like Queensboro, Williamsburg, and Manhattan is offered by your humble narrator. Crowds suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For this walk, I used my “crappy lens” – a 70-300 consumer level zoom. After the great camera disaster of July, wherein both camera body and my “best lens” were destroyed, I’ve been making it a point of mixing things up a bit. Thanks to many of you who donated money for replacement equipment to this blog, and both body and “best lens” have been replaced. Regardless, one tries to keep things fresh and the extra reach which the imperfect but serviceable “long lens” provides for slightly different perspectives and color rendition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be utterly pedantic to go into the technical details on this subject, so suffice to say that each and every lens interprets the light moving through it in different ways. Certain lenses are great for portraits, others for landscapes. Camera settings can also affect color rendition as well – for instance, narrow apertures render the color blue in a certain way due to the clipping of upper and lower limits found in the blue light wave.

As I said, technical and pedantic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, at Delancey Street, and looking back towards the infinity of Brooklyn.

The Williamsburg Bridge is 7,308 feet long (measuring between the cable anchor terminals) and the deck is some 118 feet wide. The height at the center of the bridge is 135 feet and each tower is 310 feet in height as measured from the East River’s high-water mark. It was originally called East River Bridge #3 when opened in 1903. Its architect was Henry Hornbostel, and the chief engineer who oversaw its construction was Leffert L. Buck.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

twining tightly

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Tugboats, tugboats, tugboats – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion to Port Elizabeth Newark was particularly photogenic. We’ve entered into “that time of the year,” wherein the angle of the light emanating from the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is propitious to photographic pursuit. From now until mid November, and again in the March to June period, the light is just right.

Pictured above are the Liberty Service and Marion Moran tugs at full steam on the Kill Van Kull.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Kirby Moran, which is a new boat for me, with the Bayonne Bridge as back drop, was observed over in Newark Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DonJon Towing’s Emily Ann was headed north in Newark Bay, with the titanic Global Marine Terminal behind her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure which tug this was, as I couldn’t spot a name or IMO number on her, but she was docked at Governor’s Island – on the south or Buttemilk Channel side, with some old French chick standing behind the barge she was tending.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Buttermilk Channel, Mary H. was towing a fuel barge past Atlantic Basin when I spotted her. I know where Mary H. was likely headed for – East Williamsburg’s Metropolitan Avenue – and the Bayside fuel depot found 3.1 miles from the East River on the English Kills tributary of my beloved Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

EXCLUSIVE – Man Shot in Astoria, Queens

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Reporting from Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shortly before Midnight on August 21st, at the corner of 34th Avenue and 44th street, a man was shot in the leg. Witnesses described three men as approaching an SUV which was stopped for a red light at said intersection, and opening the drivers side door. The driver struggled with the three.

A member of the trio then produced and fired a gun at the driver.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The driver, according to Police sources, was hit in the leg and has been transported to a hospital for emergency treatment. Eyewitnesses said that the three men drove off in the SUV (which was unconfirmed by the Police, who said they couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation – fair enough), while the victim staggered around on 34th avenue, eventually coming to rest on a curb on the north side of the street, where he began bleeding profusely.

That’s some of the victims clothes, and his blood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the eyewitnesses, the victim was a light skinned man with a shaved head who was recognized as being from the neighborhood. The three assailants were described as dark skinned. No word on color or make of the SUV.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 22, 2015 at 1:30 am

Posted in Astoria, NY 11103, Queens

Tagged with , ,

obvious empiricism

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Tomorrow – Calvary Cemetery awaits.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At 11 a.m. tomorrow, I’ll be narrating (humbly) a walking tour of First Calvary Cemetery here in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood. I will be at the northeast corner of Greenpoint and Review Avenues at 10:30 a.m. As long time readers of this, your Newtown Pentacle, will tell you – I have a special love for Calvary.

It’s the largest chunk of “green infrastructure” found along the Newtown Creek as well as serving as the final resting place of literally millions of Roman Catholic New Yorkers. It’s part of the firmament of LIC, and a significant touchstone for the history of 19th century NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Expect to encounter unexpected life forms in Calvary. The cemetery lies along the migration routes of several bird species, and I’ve spotted everything from Canada Geese to Great Blue Herons and Red Tail Hawks there. On, and in, the ground there’s a plethora of critters – such as the small rabbits which the Irish of the 19th century would have referred to as “Coney’s.” No guarantee on what we will spot, but there’ll be something interesting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sculptural monuments are found everywhere in First Calvary, from thirty foot high obelisks to enormous mausolea. We will be visiting the final resting place of Governors, Senators, even the tomb of the original gangster himself – Joseph Masseria. The rightful King of Ireland is buried in Calvary, along with members of Corcoran’s Legion – the Fighting 69th. For NYC history fans, and tapophiles – this place is a smorgasbord of interest.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The walking tour will be roughly two hours long, and will range over several shallow hills which host a natural grass surface. A hat or parasol is highly recommended to shield yourself from the sun. The walk is not difficult, but if you suffer from mobility issues – this likely is not the tour for you. Surrounding Calvary Cemetery are the concrete devastations of Western Queens – and the heavy industrial zone which forms the northern shoreline of the Newtown Creek. We will have a unrivalled view of the ongoing Kosciuszko Bridge construction project, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bring your camera along, as Calvary Cemetery is a jewel. The Manhattan skyline is omnipresent, providing for impossibly candid views of an area stretching from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Queensboro. During the era of the so called “Gangs of New York” there was a saying which went “All roads lead to Calvary” and the cemetery was once a major destination for the Catholic masses of tenement Manhattan. Surrounding the great burying ground were saloons and road houses that serviced mourners. After the tour concludes, we will be visiting the last of these road houses (bar and food not included in ticket price, btw, just a post tour hang out). 

One other thing to mention, obviously, is that if there’s a funeral underway we are going to steer clear of it out of respect and deference for the mourners.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walk ups are always welcome, for those of you uncomfortable with online ticketing, and the cost of the tour is $25 per head. For those of you who are comfortable with such online things, the link found below will take you to a credit card processing page. As a note, I couldn’t make the “ships within two weeks” line go away on the cc processing page, which a couple of people mentioned as being confusing. Nothing will be shipped to you, but you will receive an email receipt and your name will appear on the check in list I’ll be using “day of.”

Hope to see you tomorrow morning, at the corner of Greenpoint and Review Avenue, at 11 a.m.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 22nd, 2015
First Calvary Cemetery – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
click here for details and tickets.

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

vast and vague

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Cool Cars in Greenpoint (?), in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That long walk under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Greenpoint and Williamsburg mentioned at the beginning of this week provided one with several interesting diversions, and notably this undeniably “Cool Car” was one of them.

I’m of the opinion that this Dodge 4 door coupe was likely a 1948 model, an educated guess based on the shape of the windows, fenders, and bumpers – but it is definitely a product of the 1946-1949 era and the very definition of what I like to refer to as “cool cars.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were no tags or registration information adorning the auto, which makes it kind of a difficult endeavor to identify, and given the relative homogeneity of post World War 2 automobile manufacture (Detroit was still gearing down from the war, and the explosion of creativity which auto manufacturers displayed in the 1950’s was not in effect in the years directly following the war).

from wikipedia 

Civilian production at Dodge was restarted by late 1945, in time for the 1946 model year. The “seller’s market” of the early postwar years, brought on by the lack of any new cars throughout the war, meant that every automaker found it easy to sell vehicles regardless of any drawbacks they might have. Like almost every other automaker, Dodge sold lightly facelifted revisions of its 1942 design through the 1948 season. As before, these were a single series of six-cylinder models with two trim levels (basic Deluxe or plusher Custom).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator is far from an expert on vintage automobiles, it should be mentioned, so if anybody who is reading this is possessed on knowledge on the subject – or recognizes the specific model – please share your smarts with the rest of us in the comments section found below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The location at which this artifact of America’s golden age was found spawns several semantic points as well for the infrastructure nerd. This auto was parked south of McGuinness Blvd. along the west side of Meeker Avenue, under the BQE. Technically, the east side of Meeker is in Bushwick (according to the old ward maps of the pre conolidation City of Brooklyn) and the area to the south of McGuinness is in WIlliamsburg not Greenpoint.

Life long Greenpernters will tell you that their neighborhood actually continues for several blocks east and that the nebulous border Greenpoint shares with Williamsburg is around Withers Street and south of Manhattan Avenue, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, this atavistic automobile seemed to be in decent condition, at least externally. It obviously has been parked in this spot for a while given the amount of soot and dust which adorns it. Being Brooklyn, someone felt obliged to trace out “wash me” in the soot – natch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a funny thing for me, of course, seeing a 1940’s Dodge parked here in the “House of Moses,” where it fits in with the esthetics of Robert Moses’s early career.

Robert Moses was the master builder of much of NYC’s infrastructure, and personally responsible for creating both the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Kosciuszko Bridge. It was his Triborough staffers that mapped out the vast swath that the BQE moves through and was built – condemning and demolishing mile after mile of homes, businesses, and stores to make way for the automobile. Moses plunged Meeker Avenue into centuried and unending darkness when the BQE was constructed, and callously created the divisions between neighborhoods that we all know today. He sort of invented “urban blight.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Manufactured items from the middle of the 20th century like this Dodge Coupe are notoriously rare, and extremely attractive to hot rod enthusiasts. A restored or modified iteration of this vehicle would be an extremely valuable commodity. Back then, they really knew how to “build ’em” – both highways and the cars which populate them.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 22nd, 2015
First Calvary Cemetery – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
click here for details and tickets.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

noisy and numerous

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Puzzling are the neighbors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a helper parrot named Jiminy. Jiminy is a local celebrity in Astoria, and what he helps with is controlling his owner’s blood sugar. It seems he can sniff out when his Mom’s glucose is low and warn her to drink some juice. “Drinking juice” is why a small crew of my neighbors and friends often collect at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – which is where you’ll find a pub called Doyle’s. Jiminy likes the fried calamari on the bar menu, btw.

Doyle’s is Newtown Pentacle’s District Office, and you’ll often spot a humble narrator enjoying a pint of beer at this location on summer evenings. You want to keep track of what’s going on in the neighborhood? Best place to start is at the bar, I always say.

Not long after the above shot was captured, Jiminy turned to me and said “Feed the Parrot.” Yes – he talks, follows conversation, and often interjects with surprisingly astute observations. Jiminy mentioned that something was going on across the street which we should pay attention to. When a Parrot points something out, you should listen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This couple was carefully measuring the distance between a fire hydrant and a parked car. The lady seemed annoyed at participating in the operation, but the fellow seemed to be on some sort of mission. Over the course of around twenty minutes, they measured and remeasured the interval between street furniture and automobile, then disappeared into one of the two story private homes which line 42nd street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shortly, the fellow reappeared, after having donned a business suit. He began to recalculate the distance again. The lady didn’t accompany him this time, formal attire notwithstanding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Jiminy and I watched as the fellow began to photograph the tape measure with his smartphone. The group at our table speculated upon his plan of action, and we came to a generally agreed upon theory that he had either received a parking ticket or was performing prophylactic measures in anticipation of receiving one.

“Feed the Parrot” rang out again, and Jiminy’s mom ordered a plate of calamari – ostensibly for the table, but we all knew who it was for.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 22nd, 2015
First Calvary Cemetery – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
click here for details and tickets.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm

later civilizations

with one comment

Last Saturday was quite eventful, here in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Late in the afternoon on Saturday the 15th of August, the Broadway neighborhood here in Astoria suddenly began to smell of burning insulation and the sounds one associates with FDNY equipment began to reverberate. One was busy with other things, but when the internet suddenly went down and the lights began to flicker – a humble narrator grabbed his gear and headed out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These fellows are RCN cable installers, and anecdotal tales were offered by witnesses that their lines had become electrified which fried the wires within and rendered the insulation material cladding the wires into a charred mess. My internet service had returned by this point, but I use a different service provider.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on the corner of 46th street, evidence of the FDNY at work was observed, and one of my neighbors shared the video below with me, which documented the efforts of the Fire Department in extinguishing a utility pole fire. Don Mario is one of my redoubtable and sturdy Croatians, and offers apologies for the NSFW salty language he was uttering. He’s an Astoria boy, and that’s how folks talk around these parts.


– video by Don Mario

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was there long after FDNY had spilt, and after Consolidated Edison emergency crews had done their thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Notice that the pipe which carries the high voltage wires up and out of the ground has actually melted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some poor sap is also out a bicycle, it would seem. As a note, Con Ed has never finished the job of replacing the electrical wiring in the neighborhood that was destroyed during the Great Astoria Blackout of 2006.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just after dark, FDNY was back on Broadway, so one reemerged from HQ to investigate.

– photo by Missy Liza

This time FDNY was there to scoop up another one of the drunks which have been plaguing the neighborhood in recent months. The photo above and the one below were supplied by another member of my network of neighborhood informants – who prefers going by “Missy Liza.”

– photo by Missy Liza

This particular drunk decided to encamp upon a residential stoop, which the lady pictured at the right of the shot uses to access her home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY was sent to collect the inebriate, which seems to be a misappropriation of municipal resources if you ask me. This is a Police matter, IMHO, not a Fire Department emergency requiring a fully staffed Engine truck and an EMT ambulance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The FDNY personnel asked me what about this situation demanded photographic attention. I informed them that the cops should be handling this, and that without documentation of this growing problem neither politician nor policemen will admit that it’s happening.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not 15 minutes later, the next phase of the action started, as RCN linemen began to layer more cables onto the already burdened utility poles which criss cross the neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cut down or remove the burnt up wire? Hell no, this is Astoria. Just layer on more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The linemen had no walkie talkies to communicate with each other, so the guy in the cherry picker was just screaming instructions at his driver.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wire they were layering on was being fed off of this giant spool on 44th street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, they decided to support the wire as it fed out by laying it on top of other wires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another RCN truck showed up to fix the new problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This group of fellows seemed to be combining several cables into one strand.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The process continued well into the wee hours. All was back to normal by the morning, it would seem. The drunks were arrayed unconscious all along Broadway, and RCN customers had their service back on.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 22nd, 2015
First Calvary Cemetery – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
click here for details and tickets.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm

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