The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Astoria

negative impact

with 3 comments

Credos, declarations, statements on the street – in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst wandering about, your humble narrator likes to take note of the various missives and graffitos encountered. Most of the graffiti you see are “tags” left behind by “writers” which indicate mainly that they have been there before you. There’s also the “art” types who do renderings and or complex paintings. You’ve also got the gang stuff, which is meant as either provocation or an announcement of territorial preeminence. My favorites are the credos, seeming attempts to liberate the minds of those who read them. Often, these credos are placed in highly visible locations, what the graffiti community would refer to as “a good wall.”

The shot above is from 48th street in Sunnyside, along the LIRR overhead tracks. This particular writer has been quite busy in the recent past.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A similar typographic style and brand of rhetoric has been appearing all over the study area which I call the Newtown Pentacle in recent months. The messaging above is found in Queens Plaza, and my presumption of its authorship is that it’s the same as the missive in the first shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Probably not the same graffiti enthusiast, but this less than monumental declaration was recently witnessed on Jackson Avenue nearby the Court Square subway station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Astoria, nearby Steinway Street’s intersection with Broadway, this messaging appeared one morning in the late autumn. Again, I believe, it’s the work of the person(s) featured in shots 1&2.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at Socrates Sculpture Garden, this polemic was observed on a lamp post during the summer, but you’ll always find a whole lot of “artsy fartsy” graffiti near the institution.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Sunnyside, on 48th street near Skillman, a more permanent sort of scrawl was observed which mirrors the sentiment of the block printed missives found along the LIRR tracks, in Astoria, and Queens Plaza.

It’s not quite as eloquent, but there you are.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

wouldn’t stop

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Astoria at night, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent circumstance compelled one to don the 35 pounds of coat and sweater, tie on the recording devices, and perambulate across the cold wastes of Astoria’s southern edge to a meeting in the Dutch Kills neighborhood. As opportunity to crack out photos is severely constrained due to the cold, one got busy with the camera.

See that little dog? The “pisher” decorating the street lamp? My dog Zuzu unreasonably hates that dog, and will go batshit insane anytime he appears on one of our nightly scratch and sniff sessions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve never shopped at Dave Shoes, but the notion that they advertise for a 6E width shoe is daunting. I checked on what a 6E sized shoe would entail, and from size 6 to 15, it covers a 4 & 1/16 to 5 & 3/16 width foot. I could not find a reference for a size 4 6E, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I could have walked a shorter path, going down Northern Boulevard, but I had a little time to kill and I walk that way literally all the time on my way to LIC, so I went the long way – down Broadway and south on 31st street under the elevated tracks of N and Q subway lines.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terror has struck in this part of the neighborhood, as the Governor has recently announced that all of the N and Q stops between 30th avenue and Northern Blvd. will be closed for 18 months in the name of rebuilding them. It’s a good thing, ultimately, modernizing track, signal, and station – but man oh man is this going to be a pain in the neck for anyone who lives or works along this stretch. I’m sure there’ll be some sort of shuttle bus, but… wow… is the R station at 36th street about to get busy or what?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometime in the near future, I’m going to visit all of these stops and get a proper set of shots “for the record” before they’re all closed and rebuilt. Funny thing is, my understanding of things indicates that there’s a bubble of construction activity about to light off in this area with huge apartment buildings and hotels replacing the older housing stock and warehouses currently observed. This might actually be why the Governor seeks to rehabilitate the stations, in order to handle the load.

That’s the 36th avenue stop, incidentally, in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I wouldn’t want to live here, simply because of the presence of the overhead trains. Also, can’t imagine what it’s like to live next door to a poultry warehouse and abattoir. You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your neighbors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some of that construction is already underway nearby the 39th avenue stop. A former parking lot and taxi depot has been claimed by the Real Estate Industrial Complex for development, between 39th and Northern and 30th and 31st streets. The property is dead bang center of the swamp which Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary once fed, and those of you familiar with the area will recall the depression in altitude experienced at this side of the neighborhood.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 2, 2016 at 11:00 am

anytime, anywhere

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A few shots from last week’s blizzard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given a humble narrator’s legendary vulnerability to cold, as you might have guessed, I spent most of the blizzard last Saturday firmly ensconced in the steam heated walls of Newtown Pentacle HQ in Astoria. I did venture outside during the afternoon to visit the bodega across the street for breakfast cereals, I like a bowl of Cheerios with a banana cut into it, and to vouchsafe a bar of chocolate for Our Lady of the Pentacle.

When venturing into the cold waste, I discovered that at least one Chinese restaurant was open, and offering delivery services. Early bird gets the worm and all that, but… Jaysis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were those who had decided to try and motor about, this was before the Mayor banned automotive traffic, but they were soundly rebuffed by road conditions. It was actually kind of difficult just to crack out a couple of exposures due to wind blown snow, which tended to “spot” the lens, let alone cross the street.

Luckily, most of the neighbors didn’t attempt to drive, and the streets were eerily quiet hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thing you saw much of were Municipal vehicles like the ambulance pictured above. One neat thing was that everyone in the neighborhood was given the opportunity to recognize the undercover vehicles which the 114th pct utilizes after the Mayor’s ban on travel was enacted.

After 2:30 p.m., anything you saw on Broadway was basically “blue” or “red.” Or Green, Orange, and a White in the case of the sanitation guys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having purchased my Cheerios and Chocolate, I began to scuttle back towards home, and one of the hundreds of plow trucks operated by DSNY rolled by. The annual Astoria problem has begun again, incidentally. As happened last year, and the year before – recycling pickup was cancelled due to Martin Luther King day. Recycling in my neighborhood is Sunday night’s problem, so it is up to us to store the stuff in anticipation of the following weekend. Now, we’ve got a blizzard’s worth of snow, so recycling pickup is again postponed till next week.

Last year, a series of similar cold weather events and legal holidays pushed the storage of the entire month of January’s recycling trash until well past President’s day in February.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in HQ, and with no intentions of leaving the place, one nevertheless used the fortuitous positioning of the building relative to the prevailing wind in pursuance of a few shots in the evening. As you’ll recall, this is when the storm really got rolling. I set up a tripod and all my night shooting gear, but in the end elected to use low light techniques for the shots.

The long exposure methodology effectively eliminated the falling snow from the shots, and since I wanted to have a “truer” record of the event – I went for high ISO and a faster shutter speed to capture the drifting snowflakes. As is always the case, getting the color temperature of the light was critical, and for the new LED street lights that’s 4300 Kelvin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Got to hand it to the neighbors, they were fighting this storm while it was at full force and attempting to keep their cars from being completely buried in the drifts. The different technologies of street lighting which were discussed a couple of weeks ago – the old school orange yellow sodium lights versus the new school led blue colored lights can be discerned in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new school LED’s actually performed quite well during the storm, I would add.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The buildup of a shelf of snow on my window sill while shooting inspired me to shove a couple of flashlights into it and get a macro shot of the translucent accumulation. These lights are part of what I call my “ghetto lighting” rig. Ghetto as in I have zero funds for real lighting and therefore have been forced to jury rig a set, which given my normal shooting habits – needs to easily portable. The warm light and blue light are formed by identical and quite powerful LED flash lights which can pump out an amazing 300 Lumens and are powered by just 3 AAA batteries each. That’s actually kind of amazing, but I’m a flashlight geek, and will jump up and down if you say “Cree.”

The warmer light is created by the flashlight having an old pill bottle gaff taped to its head.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

be fair

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I love to photograph, So mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today, it’s all about the yellows. The particular wavelength and angle of light emanating from the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is ugly at this time of year, and a certain responsibility is felt to attempt to brighten things up. Pictured above is one of the groundling burrowers with the glowing red eyes who inhabit the Roman Catholic polyandrion called Calvary Cemetery, here in LIC.

Word has it that their role is to carry messages between those who exist above and below the till, and that the daily challenge is to try and avoid the multitudes of Hawks, Cats, and other predators who desire the rending of their flesh during the carrying out of their task.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last summer in Astoria, we had what seemed like a record crop of Sunflowers, which led to great rejoicing in the apiaries of Western Queens. I’ve mentioned a certain paranoia – carried over from childhood – regarding sunflowers and the buzzing harvesters which infest them, in the past. Regardless, the stalwart photographer must pursue his craft, and the fancies or terrors of infancy are best left on the back shelf.

Still, sunflowers freak me out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dead things abound in Western Queens, and not all of them are found below the soil of the so called cemetery belt. This poor little bastard counted its last minutes on a sidewalk in Queens. Often, one fears that this is the sort of posture one such as myself will be displaying when discovered by passerby.

Life a leaf, you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pineapples, in some abundance, observed at an Astoria fruit stand.

The most amazing part of our culture, in my opinion, is that after reading this post – in the middle of January – you can go out into the cold, and by writhing through the atmosphere for just a few blocks find tropical cultivars on sale. It will not be difficult for you to find mangoes, strawberries, pineapples – in January. That is simply amazing, when you get down to it, and it’s a reminder that despite the climactic challenges you’ll encounter – you live in the financial capital of a nuclear armed superpower which enjoys the actual highest standard of living ever known and that other nations and cultures send us regular tribute.

In many ways, we are living in the modern equivalent of late Republic Rome.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of living in an analog for Rome (prior to the First Triumverate, natch), you can be reasonably assured of the presence of the fire fighters should sudden immolation occur. FDNY’s trade dress, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, always brightens things up. The only times that the phrase “everything is going to be alright” escapes my lips is when FDNY shows up – they’re our army of municipal super heroes, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The darkness of winter gives the Vampire community of Western Queens vast regency. As opined in the past, the army of Strigoi shuns entry into Astoria due to vast numbers of South and Central European ethnicities resident hereabouts. My neighbor Mario prefers to use high visibility paint on his cruciform wards, because “safety first.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s down on the western section of the Sunnyside Yards that you really need to be carrying the garlic in LIC. The area is infested with the Nosferatu in the Hunters Point Avenue section nearby the LIRR. It’s a big part of the reasoning behind the stout fences protecting the 7 train as it rises from the tunneled depths. You probably don’t want to accept the fact, I know, but there you go.

Don’t get me started on the Witch Cult. Vampires are merely rabid dogs inhabiting the shadowed corners of our world, whereas the worshippers of Hecate and the Magna Mater are hidden amongst us and actively working… I’ve probably said too much already.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm

from behind

with one comment

Breaking in, stretching out, forced marches – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The holiday season saw me largely sitting on my butt, and eating too much, which caused my butt to grow largely. Accordingly, muscle tone has slackened and tendons have grown stiff. As one doesn’t heal as fast as formerly, a series of short perambulations around Astoria have seen me wandering in circles around Newtown Pentacle HQ, which have grown concentrically larger as the days have gone by.

HQ is found along Broadway in the 40’s, a part of Astoria known to the historical community as “the German Settlement” which was founded by members of the German Cabinet Makers Association back in 1869. Catholics from the south of Germany, they settled here at the border of Woodside and Astoria in pursuance of something they referred to as “Kleindeutchland” or “Clean Germany.” The Germans, or Dutch as their contemporaries would have called them, had a huge footprint in western Queens and North Brooklyn. The German population center was actually in Bushwick and Ridgewood “back in the day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering down Broadway in the direction of the East River, at 34th street a new pizza shop has opened and I’m happy to see that my personal “naming convention,” which tacks “Astoria” onto any other word which ends in an “a” has been adopted by the owners. One hopes they can make a go of it, but this is one of those “cursed locations” where one restaurant after another has opened and then closed shortly thereafter over the years.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We have a new graffiti writer in the neighborhood, who has been prolifically sharing their wisdom in a distinctive block scripted typography. There are three new writers, actually. The second one is in love with “love” and extols the emotion’s virtues in a flowery script which is writ large. The third works in a crude block script and describes various societal ills while detailing the sins of capitalism and the financial industry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Swinging north on Crescent Street, on a whim, this lovely line of Long Island City style row houses has somehow resisted being broken up by the fires of gentrification. I didn’t get close enough to them to look for the little flecks of iron pyrite which typifies the specie, but from across the street they seemed to be dressed in the yellow Kreischer Brick which adorns the Matthews Model Flat type row houses. This yellow brick is found all over Western Queens, incidentally, which has nothing to do with the fact that Steinway’s kid married Kriescher’s kid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing north, one encounters a series of homes which enjoy automobile garages on their lots. It is amazing that the NYC Dept. of City Planning hasn’t drawn a gigantic development bullseye on these structures as of yet. One can envision a “super block” of maximum density super tall buildings here. It would fit in with the current logic evinced by the municipality – the neighborhood schools are overcrowded, the sewer and electrical system at capacity, the Police already overwhelmed by the current population, it’s fairly distant from the subways – exactly the sort of situation into which you’d want to insert thousands of families into in de Blasio’s New York.

Incidentally, this side of the neighborhood is what those of us who live in the “German Settlement” side of Astoria refer to as “Astoria, Astoria.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of “Astoria, Astoria,” you don’t get much more “Astoria, Astoria” than the corner of Astoria Blvd. and 31st street.

Just a block away is the spot that Robert Moses raped the Triborough Bridge and Grand Central Parkway into, and 31st street carries the elevated tracks of the N and Q IND subway lines. It’s a high traffic zone, and street crossings are made at your peril. Accordingly, our local “connected” development group – HANAC (Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee) – has installed several mega structures hereabouts which primarily serve the aging Greek community. HANAC has also been given several large lots on 21st street to develop by the powers that be. They are building “affordable” and senior housing all over this section, and there is an unspoken understanding that the residents will all vote “Democrat” on Election Day.

Of course, the powers that be forget that most people in Astoria will tell you that they don’t vote, as it inevitably results in getting called for Jury Duty and being forced to report to some court in Rego Park or Jamaica at 7:30 in the morning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearing 31st street, a taxi driver was doing his religious duty and praying on a mat – presumptively before starting his shift. Didn’t have the desire to interrupt him and tell him that he was pointing north east, and that his devotions were being directed towards Boston rather than Mecca.

Not trying to be a smart ass here, as I’m actually curious about this – my understanding of Muslim devotion is that your daily prayers are meant to be directed towards Mecca. Is there a methodology by which one finds the correct direction towards the Arabian penninsula? As an technology obsessed American, I would make it a point to carry a compass if I was obligated to such devotion, but is there an Islamic “way” to determine the vector?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing 31st street, there is yet more construction going on, as observed when headed in the direction of the 114th precinct house found along Astoria Blvd. The good news here is that the construction has revealed some historical graffiti which was long hidden by occluding structures which occupied this land in the interval since the paint was laid down. One lives in hope of witnessing graffiti that dates back to the Nixon era revealed as the furnaces of gentrification are further stoked here in the ancient village.

“Turn on, drop out,” that sort of claptrap.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the 114th, we really have to figure out some kind of parking solution for the unformed officers who vouchsafe the community in these parts. One of the reasons that the local kids don’t respect the badge is simple observance of the blue army breaking the laws which they are meant to enforce on a daily basis. Every car you’ll see illegally parked along Astoria Blvd. between 31st and Steinway Street has a PBA placard on the dashboard, or they’re off duty radio patrol cars done up in NYPD trade dress as seen in the shot above.

Do as I say, not as I do? Indeed?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

sun choked

with 2 comments

Consarned and new fangled gizmos – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY is the lamp post guy. You will tremble in your boots when he begins discussing “luminaires” and other mechanistic implementations designed to light the streets of the City of Greater New York. Saying that, here on Broadway in Astoria (and along 34th avenue) between Steinway and 48th street, the inestimable NYC DOT has recently installed the latest generation of street lighting – which are LED fixtures that replace the familiar sodium lighting which has long punctured the sepulchral darkness of Gotham.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the start of December, work crews from Weisbach – DOT’s contractor for all things electrical – were observed on the throroughfare in a “cherry picker” truck swapping out the old school sodium lights for the new LED ones. According to official sources “NYC DOT operates the largest municipal street-lighting system in the country, with 262,000 lights on City streets, bridges and underpasses, 12,000 in parks and 26,000 on highways,” and the City plans on replacing every single one of them with the new LED lights.

The effort is expected to reduce the amount (and cost) of electricity consumed in pursuit of lighting the streets by a significant amount, as well as reforming the “carbon footprint” of the municipality. It’s costing us tax payers about $75 million smackers to change out every light, but is expected to save about $6 million a year in energy costs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’d imagine, the gentry here in Astoria have been busy debating the relative merits of the new lighting. On the plus side, the LED’s produce a brighter light which is quite a bit “whiter” than the old sodium lamps. The actual color of the light is 4300 Kelvin, which is quite a bit “bluer” than the sodium lamps which produced the familiar (and warmer) orange yellow light that all New Yorkers are used to suffering in. The LED light is quite a bit better focused on the street itself, and from a photographic point of view – has brightened things up by around two stops.

Observation and conversation, however, have revealed that the new lights create quite a bit of glare. I wear glasses, so… bother.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Non empirically speaking, the sodium lamps scattered their light in a globe of illumination whereas the newer lights are a bit more like a reading lamp in design. Drivers have reported to me that on rainy nights the new lights create a problem for them, windshield glare wise, but nothing insurmountable. There’s also people who just don’t like the new color.

Most of Astoria’s Broadway community seems fairly ambivalent/positive about the change, as a note, offering “why would I care, what can you do about it?” as a response to queries such as “what do you think about the new street lights?”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are all sorts of theories on the effects which LED lighting on human perception. Like the shutter of a motion picture projector, the LED’s flicker at a rate which is just outside of normal human perception. Some say that the flicker induces a state of anxiety to the sensitive, but truth be told, I’ve tried to capture it using video capture and have been unable to perceive anything other than steady illumination – no strobing, in other words.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the plus side, the directed light is no longer illuminating the residential windows along Broadway, and since I live along the street – I can report that at night my windows are considerably darker than they used to be under the old sodium lights. Additionally, the streets and particularly the sidewalks seem considerably and perceptually brighter.

Everything you could possibly want to know about the new LED lights is answered by this PDF at NYC.gov.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can discern the different temperatures of the two lighting systems in the shot above. The avenue (Broadway) is lit by the new and bluish LED’s and the street (44th) by the older and orange sodium light system.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

impossible manifest

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Merry Christmas, y’all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My Russian Jewish grandmother always pronounced Merry Christmas “Marry Kracksmerez,” and referred to the central object of veneration at Christian churches as “Yuyzel en da cruss.” Back Monday with more Newtown Creek stuff, see ya then.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

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