The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Long Island City

negative impact

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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

is where

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Is there anyplace smellier than the IND station at Queens Plaza?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stumbling home through the dark recently, a humble narrator found himself at Queens Plaza, waiting for the R or M to arrive and carry his stinking carcass back to Astoria. “It seems that I’ve been dead for quite a while, judging by the smell,” thought I. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t the standard “eau d’ jew” which accompanies the end of a period of physical exertion and exercise which I was discerning, rather it was some other reeking horror that was permeating the Subway Platform.

At the end of the platform, or at least the side where the last Queens bound subway car arrives, that I found the source of an odor which I can only describe as Satan’s diarrhea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that the syringe had already separated itself from this bubbling spring of buboes breeding Queens juice, but the smell of it…

Now remember, I’m the Newtown Creek guy. I hang around Sewer Plants, and open drains which carry liquids whose coloration ranges from olive green to cadmium yellow, and am possessed by fond memories of walking amongst the settling and aeration pits of the DEP. When I say an odor is nose hair curling, will wither away plastic, and describe something as having smelled like the dysentery of the Devil itself – pay attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can guess where this water is coming from, but it would only be a guess. The underground IND Subways in Long Island City are essentially concrete bath tubs which were set into a wetland that was already despoiled by sewage and industrial pollution by the time LIC incorporated in 1870. The subways didn’t come along until the 20th century, of course, but the waterways that flowed through Queens Plaza are still very much present.

One of them was the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek itself, which flowed across what’s now the Sunnyside Yards and was navigable all the way back to 40th avenue at the corner of Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue. Just ask the East Side Access guys, they drilled right into it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Commuters in Queens who transfer at Queens Plaza, and at the 21st street G station, will tell you about seeing green water spilling out from behind the tile walls and gag a bit trying to describe the smell. In the case of 21st, it’s a different tributary of Newtown Creek – contained into a sewer tunnel – called Jack’s Creek. If you see, or smell the phenomena at Queens Plaza – my bet is that it’s Dutch Kills.

Can I prove this? No. Call it a hunch, or an educated guess by a guy who spends his time on the shorelines of Dutch Kills’s extant path who can recognize its particular pungency from a half mile away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

excellent notion

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Water Pollution can actually be quite lovely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was captured before the cold waste section of the year descended upon us all, with its crappy light and chill air. It depicts the Borden Avenue Bridge in Long Island City, which spans Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary. You’re looking west in this one, and you can just make out the Empire State Building over in the Shining City of Manhattan on the horizon.

The following shots aren’t at the level or perspective of the water, instead they were captured recently from the deck of the Borden Avenue Bridge itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Knowing the sort of things I know isn’t pleasant. I’ve actually had some casual training in recognizing the various things you’ll notice on the surface of Newtown Creek. Your humble narrator can distinguish between fresh petroleum and old, the difference being the sort of “sheen” which it effervesces.

Saying that, this olive colored snot pulling along on the tepid currents of Dutch Kills may – or may not – be petroleum.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If it is petroleum, it’s probably a subaqueous deposit of historical pollution which has worked its way up to the surface having become “moussed” on its way and has formed a sort of aerated foam. It can also be grease, or something that floated out of the open sewers found along Dutch Kills. Heck, it can be a whole series of unpleasant things, only a chemist would be able to tell you for sure.

Whatever it is, it’s fairly interesting from a visual point of view – no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Y’know, we’re moving into an era in which the Newtown Creek will be cleaned up and many of its environmental issues are going to be sorted out. I’m terrified by this, as the place is going to end up being “all niced up,” which will make it boring as heck. I’ll miss the oil sheens, condoms, dead rats – all the variegated crap which is defined as “floatables.”

I guess there’s always Luyster Creek, or Anable Basin, or the Kill Van Kull… luckily, there’s a long list of polluted waterways and future superfund sites here in the City of Greater New York which are splendidly filthy.

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cracked vision

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Like the cops, you can never find a Taxi when you need one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With great interest has a humble narrator been following the dire news which the owners of Taxi fleets have been opining concerning the state of their industry. The first dagger in their hearts were the Boro Cabs – the now familiar fleets of green Taxi’s which are generally operated by independent owners which are forbidden from picking up passengers in Manhattan but can freely ply their trade in the other four boroughs. For one such as myself, the Boro Cabs have been a boon, as I seldom use a cab in the City, but often find myself short of time and needing to move between Greenpoint and LIC in a hurry.

The metered trip, combined with a guarantee that gear allowing the use of a debit or credit card in lieu of cash is onboard and in working condition, have vastly improved hiring a car in the outer boroughs and curtailed the old system of illegal street hails for private car services. The gypsy cab guys would always size you up and try to hit you with an outlandish fee for a trip of a mile or two (any further than that and I’m on the train or bus, yo). Boro Cabs are a giant “yes” check mark on the Michael Bloomberg Mayorality’s “How’d I do” list, IMHO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always been interested in the Taxi business. A favorite Uncle actually drove a Checker Cab, having bought his medallion with his discharge money from the military after WW2. Tales of driving a cab in New York were always gladly related, and as I grew up in a fairly suburban and automobile centric part of Brooklyn (the Canarsie/Flatlands/Old Mill Basin section) there were lots of people I knew who plied the trade. Two close friends of my parents were dispatchers at a taxi company that transformed itself into a corporate “black car” business in the 1980’s as well. My next door neighbor Charlie, he drove a taxi. I even had a couple of friends during college who paid off their tuition by driving cabs on a four p.m. to four a.m. shift. A humble narrator is… shall we say… familiar with the industry – at least by association.

A bit of NYC trivia for you: medallion cabs were mandated to be painted yellow back in 1967.

Suffice to say, the Taxi biz prior to the 1980’s wasn’t exactly lucrative, but you’d make a decent wage. Only, that is, if you owned the Cab’s medallion and the car itself. If not, and all you had was a hack license, you had to work for one of the Fleets, and then as now – you got screwed daily.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s 62,000 yellow cabs in NYC, and according to the 2000 Census, some 82% of the drivers were foreign born.

Notorious scoundrels whose business practices and treatment of its labor pool are reminiscent of the sort of stuff you’d read about in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” the Taxi fleets are essentially holding corporations with deep pockets that would instantly bid as high as they need to whenever one of the limited number of taxi medallions comes up for sail. They can afford to pay whatever it takes, and roughly half of all the medallions in the City are in the hands of just a few wealthy people. Wealthy people who make a lot of campaign donations.

Good honest graft, as it was known, has always ensured that they’d be able control and rig the game they played via political connections. Additionally… well, let’s just say that this used to be an all cash business which operated in a version of New York City that was fictionalizationed in films like Donnie Brasco and Goodfellas. There’s a reason why news stands, candy stores with comics racks, and coffee shops used to exist too. Cash businesses were good for business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the late 70’s, real estate in what is now called Chelsea and Soho began to heat up and the real gangsters from Wall Street and the Upper East Side were involved. The Taxi fleets which used to operate out of these post industrial neighborhoods were priced out of their traditional homes. A migration began to Long Island City and North Brooklyn, where most of the fleets are based today. The Bronx was never a good choice, although one or two yards are there, as it was considered too far from Midtown Manhattan. LIC, in particular, was a perfect spot, with the Queensboro Bridge and Midtown Tunnel close by to allow a fleet’s quick trip to the happy hunting grounds of midtown.

An all cash business, and one which trafficked in small denominations for that matter, was welcomed by the unofficial economy hereabouts as well. Large specimens of currency could easily be exchanged for “clean” money. Not saying that’s what happened, by the way, but that’s what I’ve been told. I’ve always been told, by a truly odd but direly serious fellow, that he was “working for the United Nations on combatting the gray aliens” so grains of salt are always offered on heresay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like my uncle, a pretty good number of the old Checker drivers seemed to be of the Jewish ethnicity. Always a working class job, “outer borough ethnic white guy” was the fellow who drove a cab when I was a kid. Sort of fellow who said things like “terlet” and “boid.” Despite their abundant populations, there seemed to be few Black or Puerto Rican drivers, as I remember it, until the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Presumptive discrimination ended sometime in the middle 1980’s. That’s when the Taxi industry seemed to turn over its entire workforce (it’s also about when my Uncle retired so it might have been a generational thing) and nearly every cab driver seemed to be from the subcontinent. Indians were replaced within a few years by Pakistanis, who have recently begun to be phased out in favor of Spanish speakers from Central and South America. Industry veterans point to this sort of ethnic turnover claiming that it’s all about union busting, and committed in the name of finding new groups of immigrants willing to drive a cab for a few dollars less per shift than the previous generation. Modern day cab drivers have described a pretty miserable set of rules and conditions to me as set down by the fleet owners – which includes a twist on the old “one minute late, you’re docked an hour’s pay” practices – the sort of thing that went out of style in the 1930’s. That’s the reason why you can’t get a cab between three and four in the afternoon – they have to get back to base and exchange the cab with another driver, and if a minute late…

Uber, Lyft, and the rest of the new taxi services have put a serious dent in the yellow cab business recently. The price of Taxi medallions has actually fallen for the first time ever. Again, half of all medallions are in the hands of a few. This is the latest dagger in the Fleet owner’s collective heart, and they’ve used all of their influence to combat the new competitors. As it happens, many of the drivers for these new services are their former employees. Just like the green Boro Cabs, I’ve found these new services to be efficacious. I’ve also noticed that parked in and around the Fleet lots, there are a lot of obviously not road ready cabs on display sans medallions. The Fleets have actually responded to the competition, it would be noted, by creating their own smart phone apps to compete with the new players. They’ve also continued to happily buy up any medallions that become available, the price of which continues to plummet due to the arrival of Uber and the others – they say.

The Fleet owners are fairly disagreeable people, I am told. Mayor Bloomberg is reported to have been particularly peeved by them – “Bloomberg famously told one of the industry’s more notorious barons that he would “destroy” his “ fucking industry” upon leaving office” as reported by Capital New York.

If business was really as bad as claimed, wouldn’t these cars we see parked on the street be actual ready to work models, rather than dinged up models missing stickers and trimmings? If things are as dire as they are meant to be, wouldn’t the Fleet owners be selling – rather than buying – medallions?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

if awakening

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It’s going to be a fun year, lords and ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is false. 

Every nuanced point of view, rhetorical platform, and political stance is plainly bullshit. Nothing is true, and the entire world refuses to admit it, for the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. Conspiracists abound, and they just might be right – for there are, in fact, elite cabals who “rig the game.” We citizens are little more than the pigs at the stock yards of 19th century Chicago, whom workers attached to a mechanical wheel whose sole function was to dismember and commercialize every molecule of their bodies.

All roads lead to Calvary, and are paved not with good intentions, but suffering and humiliation instead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is true. 

The greatest City, of the greatest country, that the world has ever seen – the Megalopolis of the Proletarian mass – wherein “arebeit” truly does “macht frei.” If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Things are nearly perfect, and the system just needs a few conservatively applied tweaks to assure that all within its borders can live as they choose to. The strong will aid the weak, and through labor and sweat – all may partake in this glorious and great Metropolitan cornucopia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is false. 

Living corpses are rejected from common consideration and abandoned to the frozen pavement, disincorporated and dissolute, awaiting only their eventual cremation. Incarceration and persecution is their lot, and deservedly so, for their iniquities. Shunned groups willingly subdivide themselves into ever smaller fractions, which accomplishes the work of political and corporate bosses. Swineherds in blue uniforms push and cajole the offending castes away from the notice of the gentry, lest delicate sensibilities be offended by their presence.

Every hour of every day, the noose is tightened.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is true. 

Struggle and valiant effort provides one with a ladder to climb out of the gutter and neither luck nor familial heritage has nothing to do with success in the Metropolis. Gotham is naught but the survival of the fittest writ large in concrete and steel, and the trees who root themselves most soundly are those who will rise the highest. Even for the lesser specimens, the forest floor holds naught but untold riches waiting for those clever enough to recognize and reap the fecund value of compost.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is false. 

Charlatans and confidence operations stand in shadowed doorways, waiting to hook some rube and roll through their pockets. Even the pillars of law and government are set up to remove as much of the filthy lucre from the working man’s pockets as they can get away with. Nobody cares what happens to you, and won’t offer a helping hand out of fear of having the spotlight of the super predators turn upon them. Better to shelter away from others, for engagement only means new troubles will be added to the list, and thicken the skin.

Scar tissue tends to be numbed to external sensation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is true. 

Gaze upon the works of man, the great bridges, and the towers which do – in fact – scrape against the clouds. The electric glow, the sounds of a society which never stops moving, and a fascinating polyglot culture which offers music, and flavors, and smells which can be found everywhere and nowhere else on an entire planet. A direct line of descent, from Ur to Rome to Constantinople to Paris to London to Manhattan can be drawn, tracing the evolution of mankind from troglodyte ape, to human, to New Yorker.

Surely – this place is where the progress of civilization has, logically, been striving for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has made one resolution for this new year – it’s time to get serious, and to stop pretending that I’m just some kind of tourist in this horrible dichotomy which I’ve lived in for nearly half a century. Iconoclast tendencies will be given full reign, as will the black diamond of hatred in my heart be allowed to bloom. Time’s nearly up, and I’m tired of fooling around with liars and idiots.

All is false, all is true. 

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

once had

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Should old acquaintances…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well, that was kind of lousy year, huh?

Here’s to a better 2016 for everyone, from this, your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 31, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in animals, cats

Tagged with ,

stertorous inflection

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I like me a good truck photo, I does.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself has never experienced full throttle happiness, as there is always a shadow that looms. I point out the cloud in an otherwise clear sky to the non observant, remind people of the constant presence of existential mortality, and in general – be a sour sort of fellow. This is why it’s preferable for me to spend much of his time alone, and spare others the misery of my company. Soliloquy and a camera are my only companions when wandering about the City of Greater New York, and for one reason or another – I notice and photograph a lot of trucks – all different kinds of trucks.

The ones above are heavy duty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s lots of private carting companies around the Newtown Pentacle, and accordingly, lots of waste transfer stations for them to bring their collections of refuse to. The sort of truck you see above is called a “packer,” but most of us just call it a garbage truck. Spotted in DUKBO, on the Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek, before the Kosciuszko Bridge project got rolling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a thoroughly burned up ex truck and trailer, on used to be Cherry Street in Greenpoint, before the Kosciuszko Bridge project got going. Lots of odd things used to occur in DUKBO, and it was a fantastic place to dump a vehicle – especially in the six months or so before the bridge project got rolling. At the time, I was told by one of my neighborhood informants that the truck ignited up on the BQE and that the FDNY towed it off the highway while still aflame.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queens, over in DUGABO, at the Sims Metal dock. That’s a DSNY packer dropping off its charge of recyclables for the global recycling conglomerate to process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queensican Maspeth, the massive lot of the Ferrara Brothers Concrete company is found, and their distinctive orange and white concrete trucks are lined up and ready for duty. I’ve also remarked to myself about how finely detailed and clean the Ferrara trucks are – their fleet maintenance crews obviously give a lot of love to these machines.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Five Star Carting on Greenpoint Avenue in DUGABO and across the street from the sewer plant in Greenpoint, where one of their “roll on’s” is delivering a bin. The recycling company that the bin was being dropped off at burned down In a spectacular fire a couple of years back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The very best kind of truck, the kind that reduces me to running behind it yelling “fireman, fireman” in the same manner that I did as a child in Brooklyn. The FDNY Hazardous Materials Unit 1 is found up the hill in Maspeth, just off Grand’s intersection with the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tanker truck on Railroad Avenue over on the Blissville side of DUGABO in Queens. Based on the signage adorning its bumper, my bet is that it’s carrying gasoline or heating oil. By tanker standards, this is a fairly low capacity vehicle, and it’s used for “last mile” deliveries to residential and small business customers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can find the big boys of the fuel tanker world back in Brooklyn’s DUKBO, just off Meeker Avenue, where Island Fuel maintains an enormous property. These tankers do commercial work, filling up apartment house oil tanks and supplying gas stations with fuel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Greenpoint, a truck which simply sucks. When things go badly for a tanker truck, or a leak develops in some underground doohickey, you call in a vacuum truck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Northern Boulevard in Queens, at the border of Woodside and Astoria, a truck which is in the process of delivering trucks. Kind of like a mama turtle giving a ride to her babies, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Betts Avenue, at Woodside’s border with Maspeth, you’ll notice a series of trucks fresh off the production line and awaiting adoption parked along the fence lines of Mount Zion cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Maspeth proper, near Grand Avenue’s intersection with Rust Street, a crimson battalion of semi rigs is often observed. The military precision of their formation is worth noting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The worst fate that can befall a truck, I believe, is to end up in the hands of one of NYC’s “lesser” agencies – as is the case with these NYCHA trucks arranged in a midden alongside the Queensboro houses in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A medium sized tanker, this Colony fuel oil truck was making a home heating oil delivery in Astoria. I love the color way, or paint job, that the home heating oil industry lavishes on their rigs. Exquisite business graphics often adorn their fleets, and are worthy of notice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was a kid, my dream was to either drive a dump truck or a bull dozer for a living. For some lucky employee of the Corzo construction company, the latter had become a manifest reality on Astoria’s Broadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The vast majority of NYC’s trucking companies – despite being based in Brooklyn, and Queens, and the Bronx, exist to service Manhattan’s needs. The locus point of the megalopolis, vast numbers of trucks converge on Manhattan at all hours of the day and night, choking their streets and disturbing the slumbering bourgeoise.

Of course, the Manhattan people give nary a thought as to where all these trucks go, and how they transit back and forth to their unsustainable island city.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2015 at 1:30 pm

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