The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Astoria

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Cool Cars of Astoria, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering around the forbidden northern coast of Queens one day, a humble narrator happened across another one of those historic vehicles which are referred to at this – your Newtown Pentacle – as “Cool Cars” in Astoria.

As far as I’ve been able to discern – and as always – if I’m wrong, please correct my assertion – this is El Producto de Ford – a 1954 Mercury Monterey.

from wikipedia

The Mercury Monterey is a full-size car model that was introduced by Mercury in 1952. It would later share the same body style with the slightly more upscale Marquis, and the Park Lane and Montclair until the latter two were extinguished after the 1968 model year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s obviously well weathered, that’s for sure. This auto was parked alongside a series of one car garages and spotted around a block from Astoria Blvd. There’s a lot of similarity in body type and flashing to the Mercury Monterey Sun Valley, but this coupe has a hard top metal roof rather than the translucent plastic which the Sun Valley was offered with.

from kennagelclassiccars.com

The Monterey model was a full-size near-luxury car introduced in 1950 and was the most expensive and luxurious vehicle in Mercury’s lineup.  At the time General Motors and the Chrysler Corporation were producing a number of ‘hardtop convertibles’ and Ford was determined not to stand idly by as GM and Chrysler dominated the market with its attractive new pillarless coupes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Check out that space age design on the grill. Back then, gasoline was cheap, and tacking half a ton of extra weight onto the front of a car for the sake of ornamentation was no big deal. If you’ve never driven a car from this era, I can tell you that they are beasts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cars like this 1954 Mercury Monterey lay heavily into turns, squeal their wheels, and when you step on the gas – it’s no modern differential gear smoothly driving the train – you get pressed back into your seat by zero to thirty in 3.4 seconds type acceleration. There are no lap and shoulder belts to hold you snugly in place while it’s happening, either. This model was built with a Y block V8 engine, which offered the coupe some 161 HP worth of juice.

Vroooooom!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 28, 2015 at 11:00 am

parched and terrible

with 5 comments

Hello 114th precinct, it’s me again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since my last post on this subject, concerning “Los Borrachos” on Astoria’s Broadway, the 114th precinct has definitely been doing “something.” Can’t say exactly what, but the population of these alcoholic mendicants has been visibly reduced from the mid July high of 20-25 down to a late August bakers dozen. The shot above, and several of the ones following it, were gathered at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – which is the central muster point that these fellows use, just last weekend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYPD continues to inexplicably roll right past these guys, however. What sets me off, incidentally, and what has made these inebriates rise to the top of the list of “things I have to deal with” are reports from the ladies of Astoria as to the comments they are offered while passing by this crowd.

Even passing familiarity with the old “espanol” is enough to piece together sentences and phrases from the lingo which include “chupa” and “mi penga.” Sexual harassment of women walking down the streets by a drunken crowd of vagrants… is that OK?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Sunday afternoon, and public drinking is not challenged nor noticed by the cops. Everyone else in the neighborhood notices it, as people move to and fro with their children. If you’re curious, that’s Vodka that fellow is drinking.

Gordon’s Vodka to be precise, an assertion of brand loyalty which is based on the empty bottles littering the curbs along Broadway. The Times Square of Astoria indeed, only it seems to the Times Square of the 1980’s around these parts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The effects of the alcohol reduces these fellows to an insensate condition, regularly. For all of you “City Club head up your ass liberal” types who seldom walk the streets of New York – preferring your Uber or Limo for getting around – Progressivism isn’t about permissiveness. This is not something which Eleanor Roosevelt would have reacted to with any sort of empathy. John Lindsay or David Dinkins, on the other hand…

Don’t get me wrong here, I like a good tipple as much as the next guy – more so in fact. It’s the fact that this situation has gotten completely out of hand this summer, and whatever your intellectual notion is of who these guys are is completely fabricated from your own politics. These are bums, drunks, and hobos. We have a decent number of Homeless people here, who are referred to as “The Harmless.” Mostly down on their luck or mentally ill folks, Astoria takes care of its own – whether it’s just a slice of pizza or a bottle of water or a buck slipped into their palm.

The fellows showcased in these posts get off the R train, drink in the neighborhood all day, and then commute back to somewhere else if they can still keep it together enough to do so. If not, they just pass out on the sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often, Astoria’s Broadway looks like a WW1 battlefield, with bodies arrayed haphazardly on the street. The shot above was from a Friday afternoon around 2. All that’s missing is a dead horse in the tree.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A smoke condition down in the Subway drew the FDNY to the Times Square of Astoria last Sunday, whose actions and blaring sirens served to awaken the sleepers from their distillery dreams. Other units of FDNY would undoubtedly be back on the corner later, to scoop up the insensates. NYPD?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Three in the afternoon on a Sunday. 

The funny thing about this shot is that a friend of mine who works for the City spent years working on installing these Subway grate covers (intended to keep snow melt and storm water from infiltrating down to the tracks), which were specifically designed with the idea that they would be fairly impossible to sleep on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Notice that white car with the blue stripe just at the edge of the shot above? 

Guess which uniformed and highly trained branch of City Government drives white cars with blue stripes. Why, 114th precinct, is this being allowed to continue? Do you really want the civilians in this neighborhood to be the ones to deal with this, as we currently are forced to? A day doesn’t go by when one of us is forced to shoo “Los Borrachos” off their stoop or out of a driveway. Often the only thing which will get them to move on is the threat of calling “La Policia.” The Police, however, seem reluctant to lance this boil.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 27, 2015 at 11:15 am

noisy and numerous

with one comment

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

crude melodramas

with 3 comments

Stay weird, Astoria, stay weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weekends ago, one was on his way to conduct a walking tour of Long Island City which was scheduled to begin at the Court Square Station on Jackson Avenue, so I found myself marching down Steinway Street towards Northern Blvd. Along the way, one of those little bits of Queens goodness manifested before me.

Notice the garbage can in the shot above, and that there’s a little bitty thing sticking out of the top of it. I did.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The little bitty thing, as it turns out, was a tiny plastic goat. One hoped that it might be an actual miniaturized goat, as stranger things have happened in this area in the past, but it was unfortunately made of plastic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have no words to describe the great appreciation and fondness one feels for Astoria, Lords and Ladies, which has to be the most authentically weird neighborhood in the entire City of Greater New York.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

admixture or connection

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Busy, busy, buzzy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another one of those annoyances which distract one from productive pursuits is a certain inclination corporate America has developed in the last few years. It seems that just as our elected and municipal officials seem to have largely forgotten whom their constituents actually are, so too have our corporate entities developed a lack of understanding as to what the nature of the “customer/services provider” relationship entails. A certain amount of pique, therefore, drove my steps as I headed over to a storefront outpost of a certain bank which has enjoyed collecting the fees associated with my various bits of financial business for nearly three decades in order to identify myself. The fact that they were able to reach me on the phone, and send me mail, was immaterial.

It seems that some new set of internal rules which their drones had determined as being necessary to safeguard the world from terror was missing from my account information, and it was the duty of the customer (me) to come to them and dot their “i’s” and cross their “t’s.” The consequences for not doing so would be dire, with accounts closed and an inability to remove my limited funds from their institution without supplying them with the information which they so recently decided was required anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It should be mentioned that the account in question was opened in 1987, an era when a young Joe Piscopo taught America how to laugh and Saint Reagan was in office down in Washington. Upon arriving at the bank, the manager I sat down with (they don’t wear suits and ties anymore, these bank managers. Rather it’s corporate branded polo shirts) was informed that since his institution was wasting my time in a vociferous fashion, so too would this process take as long as it possibly could for him. I apologized in advance and got started.

One launched into an extensive conversation about the history of colonial Woodside and Maspeth, the trade relationships between the Nieuwe Stadt and Boswijck colonies along Newtown Creek during the Dutch colonial period, my thoughts about the current Mayor, and my opposition to the Mayor’s proposed Sunnyside Yards development. Discussion of the current state of the Mets, where to get a good egg sandwich in Astoria, and the relative merits of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ensued.

After wasting after forty minutes of the gentleman’s time, I decided that I was satisfied and supplied him with the requested paperwork. He disappeared into the back room to make photocopies for their files and then returned telling me “you’re all set.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happily ensconced in the comfort of knowing that my accounts were not going to be frozen for the sin of not supplying 2015 era information to the institution back in 1987, one found himself wandering back in the general direction of HQ for around 15 minutes. That’s when my phone rang, and the manager announced that his photocopier had malfunctioned. A second trip to the bank was then called for, and this time I opted not to take it easy on them.

Using my tour guide voice to ensure that everybody in the bank, and likely in neighboring store fronts, could hear me – a long soliloquy began. This time I covered subjects ranging from the Rockefellers to LeCorbusier, mentioned a few bits about Robert Moses and the construction of the Whitestone Bridge, the declining quality of Italian style food in Western Queens, and how much enjoyment I find watching “The Strain” television show on the FX network which tells the story of a vampire takeover of NYC. Ending with the analogy that large financial institutions like the one I started a checking account with back in 1987 are in fact the true vampires of our modern age, I was handed back my paperwork and told “you’re all set.”

You waste my time, I’m going to waste yours.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 10, 2015 at 11:00 am

unknown things

with 2 comments

114th precinct, I’m talking to you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Broadway in Astoria is a lovely stretch of small shops and restaurants which are enjoyed by the largely working class population found hereabouts. Sure, there’s noise, bad actors, crime and all that – no different from you’d find along any commercial strip in the City of Greater New York but our local gendarme does a pretty reasonable job of keeping a lid on things. Luckily, Astoria is somewhat self policing, and there’s so much going on at all times that no one thing can ever really become a paramount concern.

What we’ve got a lot of, however – which the local Bulls inexplicably overlook – is public drunkenness and vagrancy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At 42nd street and Broadway, where you’ll find Tsigonia Paint, a colony of alcoholic vagrants has set up shop and have been present in this area for several years. Once upon a time, there were three of them, which became six, and now there’s around twenty regulars. Before any of you Columbia University people crawl up my back and announce that your liberal sensibilities are offended by this post, or opine that I’m some sort of caveman, let us first define the fact that these fellows aren’t homeless – they are in fact bums. How do I know this? Because unlike those of you in the Ivory Towers of scholastic solemnity, I’ve actually talked with them and learned their names and stories. The fellow in the shot below who is standing up is a tragic figure named Andres, for instance.

Not a week goes by that somebody in the neighborhood doesn’t have to threaten to call the police to get these guys to vacate a residential driveway, stoop, or doorway. For most of us it’s common practice to just step over them as they sleep one off. They inhabit this corner, and you’ll observe them composing a small fraction of the day laborer population that hangs around Tsigonia Paint hoping to pick up work. Nothing wrong with that, of course, a man has to work. These guys, however, aren’t here to work – except on their buzz.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve sat and watched patrol car after patrol car roll right past scenes like the ones depicted in today’s post. It has been pointed out by me to various neighbors and elected officials that this is the sort of thing which can kill a neighborhood. Government people have said to me that these drunks will not be arrested, and that the best I could hope to happen is that the cops will harass them a little bit in the hopes of getting them to move on.

One corrosive effect that the presence of these fellows in the neighborhood has created is generally transmitted to other Spanish speaking immigrants, 99% of whom are not just productive but SUPER productive members of the community, which is an ugly consequence.

Since it seems to be completely fine for drunks to congregate hereabouts, a population of heroin addicts has recently claimed the corner of 41st street and Broadway (at the Queens Library) for their turf. That’s what I mean about “corrosive effect” btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots above and below you’ve seen before, lords and ladies. The fellow in the shot below was personally rescued by your humble narrator back during the epic cold snap in February, when he fell asleep in front of my house and was turning blue as he froze to the sidewalk in front of HQ. A quick call to 911 saw FDNY arrive and take him off to Elmhurst Hospital. I ended up having to help the two EMT’s get him onto the stretcher, as he was fighting them.

NYPD? Never showed, not on their radar.

Is it legal to get drunk and pass out on the streets of Astoria with an open bottle of booze in your hand?

How about shitting in the street? Is that ok as well?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Seldom am I confrontational with NYPD officers, I would point out. Whatever the current political vogue is regarding them, I nevertheless have a terrific amount of respect for the badge and personal relationships with both on duty and retired officers inform as to how much crap they have to endure during any given workday.

Why, however, doesn’t this obvious “Quality of Life” issue merit their attentions? Is it because of Compstat? Is it something political? Is this some of that “vibrant diversity” that all the politicians go on about at work?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What shreds me is that people have to walk their kids around these vagrants, and explain to them why some man is drunkenly crapping between two parked cars. For these kids, this sort of thing is normal.

114th precinct, I implore you to do something about this problem before we begin to slide further back into the chaos of the 1980’s. I promise that I will vote for anybody else than the current Mayor in return.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 4, 2015 at 11:00 am

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