The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

idly digging

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Another odd occult altar encountered, this one in Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Involuntarily marching about in Queensican DUKBO (Down under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp) recently, on my way over to East Williamsburg to conduct an iteration of the “Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek” walking tour, an occult altar was encountered not far from the bridge. It was at the grade crossing of the Haberman rail siding, nearby the intersection of 49th street and 56th road in Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This area has been observed, in the past, hosting some odd activity. The very same spot is where the “3 Headless Chickens” described in this 2012 post were found.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ceramic plate was filled with what looked like corn meal or some other roughly ground grain. The liquor bottle was white rum, and there was a considerable amount of the stuff in the bottle. The fact that it hasn’t been scooped up and consumed is noteworthy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The eight arranged dark shapes seemed to be yams or sweet potatoes. There was some sort of shape impressed into the “corn meal” which reminds me of some skinny or tiny person’s naked butt, or possibly those tablets which Moses brandished about.

Entirely likely that there’s a missing piece to this altar which was swept aside by rail traffic passing over it, imho.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

simple swains

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

daytime pilgrimmage

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Jackson Avenue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been watching the construction efforts underway at the former West Chemical site adjoining Queens Plaza for a while now. Building condominium towers in Queens Plaza is a questionable proposition, beggaring the question “who would really want to live in Queens Plaza?,” but the bigger one for me is “would you want to live on the former location of a chemical factory?.” I often remark to myself that the reason why the history of Queens is often so tough a nut to crack is the careful obfuscation of its past by the real estate industrial complex so as to preclude casual mention of the fact that so many of the new residential towers rising from Western Queens are in fact built atop such sites.

State and City officialdom call sites like these “brownfields,” which sounds a lot better than “toxic and irreversibly polluted” I guess. Just say “affordable housing” or “green infrastructure” and you’ll feel better about the whole thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brownfield remediation, or “opportunity area,” sounds a heck of a lot better at cocktail parties and let’s face it – lower Manhattan and North Brooklyn cocktail parties tend to grind into uncomfortable territory when you mention the environmental consequence of a century’s worth of industrial use. One would point out that at least the “powers that are” aren’t planning on putting a school on top of the old West Chemical site, but that brings up the uncomfortable subject of the infrastructure required to support a residential population being inserted into a former industrial zone, and the lack thereof, so that’s best avoided as well so as to not make the bond brokers skittish and derail the program.

It will not be conducive, condo sales wise, to mention all of those closed FDNY units or the frankly astounding conditions encountered at the centuried Queensboro or Ravenswood NYCHA projects, nor where the nearest hospital emergency room is located.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The old “chickens coming home to roost” adage will likely be punching Western Queens in the nose some time in the late 2020’s – by my estimate. That’s when our trains will be running at (instead of near) capacity, our lack of school desks and hospital beds will be most apparent, and when the new populations installed in these former industrial corridors begin to organize – politically speaking. One wonders if these new populations will vote in as reliable and “party loyal” a fashion as the current residents do. Will the 20’s roar, or howl, for the Democrats?

The folks who can afford the so called “affordable housing,” rising from these “brownfields,” will they vote for a Democrat party candidate and continue the rule of the “Queens Machine” – or will they support somebody else who is a little more in tune with them socioeconomically? Only time, and a roll of the political dice, will tell.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

only crawl

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Astoria, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other night, while hanging out at my local pub here in the southern end of Astoria, some rough fellow accosted one with the usual “hey, what are taking pictures of?” thing. Bellicose, the gentleman began to advise me that I should spend my time photographing the skyline of Manhattan because “no one cares about Queens.”

He was rather insistent about this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is kind of rallying cry for me, this “no one cares about Queens” thing, and it’s bothersome to have to argue about it with some guy who – as it later turned out – had a largish back tattoo whose motif included a shoulder to shoulder swastika.

I’m all for political expression of course, but a Nazi in Astoria?

Conversation with amiable bartenders over the weekend revealed that there seems to be a small population of like minded individuals in the neighborhood. They’ve actually had to reprimand one fellow who liked to read passages from “Mein Kampf” out loud at the bar.

“Really?” was all I could say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not strange that racists and other adherents to rather ugly philosophies can be found in Astoria. We’ve got Jihadi sympathizers on the ass end of Steinway Street, and those Greek “National Front” guys are here as well -heck- a few years ago I even ran into a small group of actual card carrying Bolsheviks who opined that the revolution was nigh. “Diversity” includes nut jobs and jerks too, it would seem.

Thing is – If you’re a racist, “politically” a racist that is, Astoria probably ain’t the sort of place you’re going to want to live in. It will be exhausting for you to merely identify or classify the human infestation hereabouts, let alone espouse a specific grievance about all the groups who are living and working here. We have everybody from Egyptians to Eskimos, Thai to Tibetan, Irish to Indian. There’s normal human prejudice and frictions encountered occasionally when these wildly different cultures rub up against each other, but Nazi’s?

How retro.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Historically speaking, Queens has a rather checkered past on this subject. Members of what we would call the American Nazi party – the so called German American Bund – were rather active in the years leading up to the Second World War here in Queens (and especially so in Ridgewood and Bushwick).

These neighborhoods hosted a rather large German population back then, who referred to their communities in New York City as “Kleine Deutschland” and the “bund” was usually in tune – politically speaking – with their distant homeland. All of that fell apart during the Second World War and the American Nazi’s became associated with extreme elements of the Ku Klux Klan, and prison gangs like the Aryan Nation.

Hey, when you grow up Jewish, you develop a certain sensitivity to this sort of thing. Swastika bad.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

quaint fusion

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Shots from a recent boat trip to the Gowanus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few weeks back, I conducted the Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek boat tour, which was followed by an excursion to the Gowanus Canal. Both boats were solidly packed with harbor enthusiasts, curious explorers who welcomed the opportunity to visit some of NY Harbor’s less well known spots. Obviously, I didn’t get any shots on the Newtown Creek tour (my curse) but since my pals Joseph Alexiou and Eymund Diegel were handling the narration on the Gowanus trip, I was able to have some #superfun for once.

Pictured above, the push boat Emerald Coast in Gowanus Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Quadrozzi Jr. was also onboard, and he jumped onto the microphone once or twice during the voyage. Seeing as how JQJr. actually owns big giant chunks of Gowanus Bay, he had a few things to say about this and that – offering the Working Harbor audience insider insights from his unique point of view.

One of the “this’s” Mr. Quadrozzi discussed was his Grain Terminal building, and one of the “that’s” was the ship Loujaine – both pictured above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I do like the point of view one is offered by the entrance to the Gowanus Canal, don’t forget that Gowanus Bay is kind of a separate banana from the Gowanus Canal, whose navigable entry point is found at the Hamilton Avenue Bridge.

That hulking monstrosity you’ll notice lurking above the bridge, in all its neighborhood blighting glory, is the Gowanus Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our vessel’s passage required the Hamilton Avenue Bridge to open, and while we waited for the redoubtable employees of the NYC DOT to actuate its mechanisms, I noticed this bit of former maritime industrial glory sitting on the poison shoreline. First thought that entered my head when I saw it was “this is the dreidel of the gods.” For those of you reading this who are “goyem,” a dreidel is that little Jewish spinning top thing with the Hebrew lettering on it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The HMS Liberty, observed as it passes by the SimsMetal facility and a windmill on the southern shore of Gowanus Bay. Liberty is a tugboat, as opposed to the Emerald Coast found in the first shot of today’s post – which is a push boat. Both are towing vessels, of course, and tug versus push is pretty descriptive of the different approaches to the mission which they’re engineered for.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

far within

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A bright, light, sunshiney day, in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, the Federal NOAA agency placed a plaque at Bushwick Inlet’s U.S.S. Monitor Museum site, signifying the launch site of the United States’ first ironclad war ship from the spot in Greenpoint. One made it a point to arrive early, there was an event planned which involved dignitaries speaking and children singing, and take a bit of time to get “artsy – fartsy” with the camera and grab some shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one above is a stitched panorama, representing around 200 degrees of view. Just to the right of center are some of the big condo buildings in Williamsburg, and at far right are the tanks of Bayside Fuel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Franklin Street on the other side of the fence, btw, behind an overgrown fence line which one didn’t explore except with a zoom lens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was, indeed, a duck of some kind there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rotting timbers found in the littoral zone, which look quite a bit different than the ones you’ll find along my beloved Newtown Creek. These are green and teeming with life, as the East River is actually quite a bit cleaner here than in its northern tributary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were lots of rusty bits sticking up out of the ground, but heck – this used to be Continental Iron Works after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continental Iron Works, in addition to building the Monitor, also fabricated the caissons of the Brooklyn Bridge here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of this stuff doesn’t date back to the 1860’s, obviously, there’s a large MTA warehouse and workshop on the landward side and this was the industrial coast of North Brooklyn. Nothing laid fallow here until pretty late in the game – the 1960’s at the very earliest. The experts on this site are George and Janice from the Greenpoint Monitor Museum, who can tell you all about it here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My interest in Bushwick Inlet is Newtown Creek oriented, of course. The historical definitions of the wetlands surrounding my beloved Creek always mention Bushwick Creek (here) to the south, and Sunswick Creek (Hallets Cove) to the north.

The area between Newtown and Bushwick Creek was called “the Cripplebush,” which is a fun fact.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking past the mouth of Bushwick Inlet, one finds the Freedom Tower, rising from the LeCorbusier inspired NYCHA housing which rings the Shining City.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

sidetracked once

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Death, annihilation, and hatred… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is not in a good mood, so bitching will ensue.

Psychological firmament at the moment would be best defined as reminiscent of the general anger and malaise one enjoyed in the late 1980’s. A neighbor casually asked me the other night “Howz yooz doins, brah?” and my only answer emanated from that era with “What this City needs is a good plague.” If it weren’t for the physical cowardice and generally avoidant set of behaviors which rule me, I might stamp my feet and cry out loud at passerby. A desire to craft a sandwich board vest which announces the nighness of the end compels and overtakes. The train is crowded, and so are my thoughts.

Why is it so noisy all the time, and why is there no place to pee?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’d bring up the whole dumb idea of decking over the Sunnyside Yards with these innocent travelers whom I’d acost with the truth of our times, and check off a list of realities associated with the population whose arrival in Western Queens is already scheduled. Thing is, if one was to become overexcited and display the wild eyed zeal and abundant mania which typified the behaviors of times gone by, one might fall into one of his states and need to be taken to a trauma center of some kind and the nearest one is found in Manhattan at Bellevue.

How could I achieve carbon neutrality after spending a hour in an Ambulance in Manhattan traffic? Ow, my algorithm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Would one opine about the corrosive effects that afternoon drunkeness and public vagrancy cause in the minds of kids in particular and the community as a whole? Here, on Broadway in Astoria, populations of fellows like the gentlemen pictured above spend their days and nights wandering about in a drunken haze. Public urination, defecation, and drinking are commonly observed. As well, one routinely has to wake them up when they pass out in his doorway. Whether you feel sorry for these chaps or hate them, why aren’t the Police policing them?

Would the presence of obvious brothels in storefront locations on the main shopping thoroughfare be mentioned, and would the seeming toleration of such establishments by the aforementioned local police come up as well? If you leave your car parked in the wrong place for just a few minutes, the gendarme are promptly on scene to issue a ticket. What about drunks sleeping in front of your grocery stores and in your driveways, or storefront whores performing their trade next door to the bagel shop?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“What this City needs is a good plague” was a standard answer for me when people asked “Howze it goin, dude” back in the 80’s. That era in NYC wasn’t the way that some are describing it these days, opining about “energy and vigor and…” It was a grimy shithole which had seen better days, where you took your life in your hands by getting off at an unfamiliar Subway stop. An era of “getting jumped” and “mugged,” when you’d routinely see trails of blood on the pavement which would lead you from place to place. Sometimes they’d lead back to a party, but you didn’t have to go far to find a house party somewhere in East Village back then. More often the trails would lead over the bridge from Alphabet City into Williamsburg, where a lot of people found themselves bleeding back then.

Meh, I’m going to go listen to some Black Flag.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

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