The Newtown Pentacle

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Parked on my block, a childhood aspiration.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Saturday last was a challenging day, and after performing certain actions and accomplishing a few obligations one headed back to HQ back in Astoria. Upon arriving on my block, one discovered a true American relic parked on the street – a 1980 Pontiac Trans AM!

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This particular line of automobiles held a sacred place in my teenage heart, although I favored the black variant with the gold eagle on the hood made famous by Burt Reynolds in the “Smokey and the Bandit” franchise of films back then (& now).Remembrances of building more than one plastic scale model of the 1980 Trans Am over the years comes to mind.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Competition in the form of the Camaro forced a change in body design sometime later in the 1980′s, a period of time when the American auto industry first lost its way and began the process of homogenizing their lineups. In the end, the Camaro and Trans Am became nearly identical fiberglass bodied vehicles.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The late 70′s and early 80′s Trans Am’s were late in the game muscle cars, driven hard by young drivers (guys mostly), and this one looks as if its been well taken care of bit did have a whole lot of cosmetic issues. Its amazing seeing one of these at all, as this is a thirty four year old car.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the middle 1980′s, there used to be an impromptu drag strip which drew fast cars and idiot teenagers together on a backwater street found somewhere between East New York, Starret City, and Howard Beach which is called Fountain Avenue. I used to go there occasionally, and watch a few races. It’s since been resurfaced with a series of waves to discourage the racing.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One night, some guy driving a souped up Trans Am floored the gas pedal when the flag dropped, signaling the start of the race. Spinning, his wheels produced a choking veil of smoke until the tires caught traction. It was all very dramatic. At the end of the course, which was the equivalent of about two blocks away, his rear wheels were still smoking and one had little wisps of blue flame at its base.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Illegal drag racing aside, I still want one of these cars, and the logo you see on the hood of this car is the singular image which one would consider getting as a tattoo. This logo is all hot dogs and coca cola and fried chicken and pretty girls who are wearing bikinis and cowboy hats while they’re playing baseball and some guy drinks Budweiser and smokes a Marlboro while thinking about … you get the idea.

Welcomes to Astoria, we got yer Americana, rights overs heres, bro.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

to assent

with 2 comments

Take a breath every now and then. Shhh.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My beloved Astoria can kick up quite a racket, which is my primary complaint at the moment. The not so accurate decibel meter on my phone tells me that the zone around my house is subsumed by a constant din of 60-70 decibels, which can amp up to as high as 80-95 on a regular basis. That’s just ambient noise, I’m not including the passing ambulance, fire engine, or police car in those calculations.

It’s enough to cause one to lose his last nerve, I tell you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Sonic pollution is something that doesn’t seem to register with New Yorkers, and most folks try to “tune it out.” What can you do about it? “That business with the bank of refrigeration units in its yard was here before you were” was what one of my neighbors opined when we were having a “kvetch.” There’s actually a LOT that I can do about it, but I try not to use the relationships with environmental officialdom that I’ve got lightly.

Luckily, there’s always Astoria Park to escape to, but it’s actually pretty noisy there too.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Seeking quiet, I walked over to Luyster Creek with a couple of friends recently and found this impromptu memorial. Set up to commemorate the death of those poor kids who drove into it a couple of months back, I see too much of this sort of thing all over the neighborhood. You’ll recall that a group of high schoolers met their end back here, when their vehicle left the road and the car landed in the drink.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There’s two FREE Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Sunday, June 15th, DUPBO – Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
A FREE tour, courtesy of Green Shores NYC, click here for rsvp info

Sunday, June 21st, America’s Workshop
A FREE tour, courtesy of Green Shores NYC, click here for rsvp info

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 13, 2014 at 11:21 am

courage and action

with one comment

Hey, that’s the Reformed Church of Newtown over there, the big white thing.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, your humble narrator answered a question put to him by the long suffering Our Lady of the Pentacle with a sorrowful exhalation. Her query was “where are you going?” and my answer was simply “Newtown, the center of Newtown.” Quite used to such archaisms at this stage of the game, she said “Elmhurst?” and I said “yes, Elmhurst.”

Off I went and before long - one arrived at the navel, as it were, of ancient Queens.

from “Historic Churches of America” by Nellie Urner Wallington, courtesy google books

Of the Dutch Reformed families in early New York many removed from time to time beyond the limits of New Amsterdam securing for themselves broader sections of land for tillage and among them a number of such families settled in Long Island where they formed the hamlet of Newtown. Unable to support a minister and to maintain a church building of their own they joined hands with others of the same faith at Flushing and for a number of years worshipped there until December 2 1731 when a meeting of the resident members in Newtown was called to form plans for the establishment of a church organisation of their own and to devise means for the erection of a house of worship upon land contributed by Peter Berrien. 

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the facts - original structure built in 1731, but most of what we see here today was started in 1831. A “Historic Place,” there were later additions (a chapel, I’m told) constructed on in the 1850′s (which was repositioned on the lot at least once).

It’s on Broadway, at Corona Avenue.

You can’t miss it, as it’s the giant white thing on your left as you head east. The Internet makes some big deal out of the church offering Chinese language services, as well as English, but if you live in Queens – you know that sort of thing is usual, and not strange or unique in the slightest.

from “three years in north america” by James Stuart, courtesy google books

Mr. Schoonemaker is the minister of the Dutch Reformed church at Newtown, a very respectable person, who had succeeded his father in the ministry of the same church. The Dutch clergy in the neighbourhood of New York still retain the original appellation of Dominie, and Mr. Schoonemaker was, I observed, generally called in conversation the Dominie, or Dominie Schoonemaker. There was also an Episcopalian church at Newtown, and the number of carriages waiting during the period of divine service at this trifling village of 600 or 800 people ,was probably as great as at all the churches in Edinburgh put together; but no one coming from the country to the village ever thinks of walking. I remember mentioning to a lady in Long Island, how different were the habits of people in Great Britain in this respect, on which she remarked, that before she had children she used to walk; but upon questioning her how far she used to walk she admitted that a mile was her limit.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It also wouldn’t be Queens if there wasn’t a graveyard nearby, and the Newtown Reformed has (what I’m told) around 111 people in their ground. There’s some pretty famous and historic names associated with this church – Duryea, Bragaw, Luyster amongst them.

The first baptisms were performed here on April 27, 1736. Ceremonies were performed upon and for Janetie Kounoven Luyster and Abram Luyster Lent, who seem to be cousins.

Everybody seems to have been cousins back then, of course.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Interesting Newtown Trivia is offered - the original church building was used as gunpowder store by His Majesty’s troops during the American Insurrection and Mutiny of the 1770′s. Much ado was raised by the colonists, and appeals to the military from His Majesty’s subjects pled that the explosives be moved from the church, amidst fear of lightning strike or fire.

Check out this wonderful piece from an April 2, 1928 edition of the “The Daily Star” found over at for similar bits and pieces, and the perspectives of a century ago.



- photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s what the big white thing in Elmhurst is.

Back to your day to day and ho hum.

- also - Don’t forget to throw black beans over your shoulder tonight while uttering “haec ego mitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis.” It’s time for the Lemuralla again.


The Reformed Church of Newtown was founded in 1731 by Dutch-speaking farmers and tradesmen. New York had originally been “New Amsterdam,” a Dutch Colony, and although the early members of Newtown were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, they held their services in the Dutch language still common in the community then called “Newtown.” Later, some developers changed the name of the area to Elmhurst, but the church retained its original name, a name still carried also by the local high school and subway station. Some things did change, though. The original Federal-Greek Revival building, completed in 1735, had survived the struggles of the colonial days and the disruptions of the Revolutionary War days (during which the British seized it for use as an armory), but it was replaced in 1832 by the present Georgian-style sanctuary. On the church grounds is a historic cemetery. In 1975, the church was cited by the New York Historical Trust, and in 1980, the church was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. 

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in LIC, Queens and one in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Glittering Realms, with Atlas Obscura, on Saturday May 17th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on Sunday May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 12, 2014 at 11:00 am

perfect service

with 3 comments

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent malfunction in one of the many Con Ed street pits here in blessed Astoria drew the somewhat swift response of service crews. It was only three days before they arrived at the spot where vaporous exhalations from the street had spewed, and they quickly set up for their task. Before long, a series of intense blue white flashes and a sound best described as “popping” sent them back into their service vehicle. They were summoning additional help.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A truck arrived, which had some sort of suction hose on it. The truck was very noisy, reminding one of the sound which might be made by a congress of baboons all vacuuming at the same time. The Con Ed employee was not actually a speedster whose movements were reminiscent of the Flash character of DC Comics fame, instead these are timed exposures which allowed the shutter to stay open for some 15 seconds. I know its difficult to accept that these guys actually move this much in 15 seconds, given the reputation of Union Labor in quasi municipal employ, but there you go.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One prefers instead to believe that the Flash, and other meta human beings, would find easy employment in the municipal services which keep New York City’s fuse from burning away. In my estimate, the City at any given moment in only half an hour from total collapse. We live amongst a series of highly volatile dominoes kept from detonation only by the constant maintenance and tinkering of an army of labor. Somewhere in the Bronx just now, a Union guy casually tightened a screw whose failure would have otherwise unleashed the beast of Armageddon, while in Staten Island- a frayed strand of wire threatens the entire municipality with unthinkably dire and entirely existential implications.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 20, 2013 at 12:15 am


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