The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Long Island City

gleam and grin

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Checking in on that little bit of construction occurring down in DUKBO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project is in full swing these days, and there’s a small army of optic orange clad construction workers at work in that shallow valley between Laurel and Berlin Hills which has always provided a border betwixt LIC’s Blissville and West Maspeth’s Berlin neighborhoods. The old blue gray mare was built by the “House of Moses” back in 1939 as the “New Meeker Avenue Bridge,” carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek, and is considered as being dangerously deficient from the structural integrity and the traffic engineering points of view – so the NYS DOT is overseeing the implementation of its replacement.

Nobody else seems to be paying any mind to this mega project, but a humble narrator is not at all like anybody else.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots are all from the Queens side of the project, which will see the new bridge rise nearly one city block to the east of the 1939 model’s footprint. One has begun to refer to the street it will adjoin as “used to be 43rd street.” The shot above was captured on Laurel Hill Blvd., and depicts one of the many elevated piers which will carry the BQE towards its intersection with the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Closer to “used to be 43rd street” you’ll notice that the NYS DOT engineers have had the orange clad fellows jamming big bits of steel deep into Queens. The substrate which the bridge(s) sit upon is the elluvial flood plain of Newtown Creek – which is basically a giant agglutination of mud and aggregate. The piles need to be sunk down around one hundred and eight feet to meet bedrock, with the anchoring mechanisms for the piers going far deeper – from 160-180 feet depending on location.

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An unoccluded view of the metal bits, which are marked off with gauge measurement indications. This is the corner of “used to be 43rd street” and 54th avenue, for the curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same corner, but looking to the south rather than the antipode displayed in the former shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Skanska crews working on the site, who are the aforementioned “fellows dressed in orange,” have a disturbing habit of leaving their fences open – given the fact that the BQE continues to run along the span offered by the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge.

No big “whup” of course, as this section of the highway has never really been “secure” in any real manner and has been a target for graffiti and illegal dumping enthusiasts for multiple generations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The project continues along Laurel Hill Blvd. and includes the Kosciuszko Bridge approaches. The Meeker Avenue side of the approaches, which roll through Greenpoint and Williamsburg, have been receiving quite a bit of attention from the fellows in orange in recent months. The work on the Queens side is just getting started, in comparison.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Phase One of the project will see the eastern half of the new bridge erected, followed by the dismantling of the 1939 era Kosciuszko Bridge. Traffic on the BQE will be rerouted onto the new span, and the construction on Phase Two will see the western section of the new bridge erected – whereupon traffic patterns on the BQE will be given their new and permanent form – with the eastern “Phase One” section carrying the South to North (Brooklyn to Queens) flow and the western “Phase Two” section allowing North to South (Queens to Brooklyn) traffic.

The good news is that Phase Two will include a pedestrian and bicycle path, which will overlook my beloved Newtown Creek.

“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 26, 2015 at 1:33 pm

obvious empiricism

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Tomorrow – Calvary Cemetery awaits.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At 11 a.m. tomorrow, I’ll be narrating (humbly) a walking tour of First Calvary Cemetery here in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood. I will be at the northeast corner of Greenpoint and Review Avenues at 10:30 a.m. As long time readers of this, your Newtown Pentacle, will tell you – I have a special love for Calvary.

It’s the largest chunk of “green infrastructure” found along the Newtown Creek as well as serving as the final resting place of literally millions of Roman Catholic New Yorkers. It’s part of the firmament of LIC, and a significant touchstone for the history of 19th century NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Expect to encounter unexpected life forms in Calvary. The cemetery lies along the migration routes of several bird species, and I’ve spotted everything from Canada Geese to Great Blue Herons and Red Tail Hawks there. On, and in, the ground there’s a plethora of critters – such as the small rabbits which the Irish of the 19th century would have referred to as “Coney’s.” No guarantee on what we will spot, but there’ll be something interesting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sculptural monuments are found everywhere in First Calvary, from thirty foot high obelisks to enormous mausolea. We will be visiting the final resting place of Governors, Senators, even the tomb of the original gangster himself – Joseph Masseria. The rightful King of Ireland is buried in Calvary, along with members of Corcoran’s Legion – the Fighting 69th. For NYC history fans, and tapophiles – this place is a smorgasbord of interest.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The walking tour will be roughly two hours long, and will range over several shallow hills which host a natural grass surface. A hat or parasol is highly recommended to shield yourself from the sun. The walk is not difficult, but if you suffer from mobility issues – this likely is not the tour for you. Surrounding Calvary Cemetery are the concrete devastations of Western Queens – and the heavy industrial zone which forms the northern shoreline of the Newtown Creek. We will have a unrivalled view of the ongoing Kosciuszko Bridge construction project, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bring your camera along, as Calvary Cemetery is a jewel. The Manhattan skyline is omnipresent, providing for impossibly candid views of an area stretching from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Queensboro. During the era of the so called “Gangs of New York” there was a saying which went “All roads lead to Calvary” and the cemetery was once a major destination for the Catholic masses of tenement Manhattan. Surrounding the great burying ground were saloons and road houses that serviced mourners. After the tour concludes, we will be visiting the last of these road houses (bar and food not included in ticket price, btw, just a post tour hang out). 

One other thing to mention, obviously, is that if there’s a funeral underway we are going to steer clear of it out of respect and deference for the mourners.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walk ups are always welcome, for those of you uncomfortable with online ticketing, and the cost of the tour is $25 per head. For those of you who are comfortable with such online things, the link found below will take you to a credit card processing page. As a note, I couldn’t make the “ships within two weeks” line go away on the cc processing page, which a couple of people mentioned as being confusing. Nothing will be shipped to you, but you will receive an email receipt and your name will appear on the check in list I’ll be using “day of.”

Hope to see you tomorrow morning, at the corner of Greenpoint and Review Avenue, at 11 a.m.

“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.

sepulchral adorations

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Tour announcements, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On August 22nd, your humble narrator will be offering a walking tour of First Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood. First Calvary was founded in 1848 by the Roman Catholic Church and is one of the most amazing spots to experience in the Borough of Queens. It sits alongside the Newtown Creek, and is hemmed in by automotive expressways.

The walking tour will meet up at the corners of Greenpoint and Review Avenues at 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 22nd and will be two hours long (give or take).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The narrated walk will play out over several shallow grassy hills. If mobility is a issue for you, this might not be the tour for you, accordingly. We will enter the cemetery on the Newtown Creek side, and exit on Greenpoint Avenue nearby the Bantry Bay Public House and the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the path through First Calvary Cemetery, several noteworthy New Yorkers who are interred there will be discussed, and amongst other attractions we will visit a theoretically unique place on the Earth – the colonial era Alsop Cemetery, which is a Protestant burying ground entirely enclosed within a Roman Catholic cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Calvary hosts multiple valleys of mausolea which are amongst the finest examples of Victorian era funerary architecture found in NYC, and certainly so in Queens. Closed toe shoes are highly recommended, as is a hat or parasol to shield you from the late August sun. Dressing appropriately for late summer weather goes without saying. Bring your camera, as this landscape is spectacular, and a visual feast.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Commanding views of the NYS DOT’s Kosciuszko Bridge reconstruction project will also be experienced.

Additionally, my pal from Newtown Creek Alliance – Will Elkins – and I, will be narrating on two Newtown Creek Boat tours on September 3rd for the Open House NY organization. Ticketing links for both excursions are found below.

“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.

debased patois

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America’s Workshop, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marching involuntarily down Borden Avenue in LIC recently, one decided to head east on Review Avenue towards Calvary Cemetery. Along the way, the striking architecture of the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the larger Long Island Expressway caught my attention. This section of Borden Avenue rose out of a swamp shortly after the Civil War, originally manifesting as a courdoroy or plank toll road for horse and ox carts. Its purpose was to connect Hunters Point with upland farms in Maspeth (Borden… as in dairy) “back in the day.” This is the sort of thing you’ll hear about if you come on tomorrow’s “13 Steps around Dutch Kills” tour, btw, with ticketing links found at the bottom of the post.

At any rate, one elected to head in a generally easterly direction, leaving the great steel expressway which was installed over Borden Avenue in 1939 by the House of Moses behind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the old General Electric Vehicle complex was demolished a couple of years back, and as is the case with many of the “development” properties in this section of LIC, the lot sat dormant for a while. Construction has started up on the property, which I believe is going to host yet another self storage facility.

One could not help notice the hookup to a fire hydrant which the construction guys on the lot had set up, as it was geysering a spray of water into the afternoon sun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that this is a part of town which could really use a good wash, or at least a nice rinse. The bad news is that the water in this hose was under serious pressure – fire fighting pressure, as it were – and an uncountable amount of water was escaping from the hydrant system. This, no doubt, reduced the amount of water available for… y’know… fire fighting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The hydrant itself was burbling and gushing as it fed the construction hookup, feeding a small but growing pond on Review Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The water was ultimately being fed into this unknown device, which seemed to be some sort of hydraulically driven piston. Can’t tell you what it’s purpose was, but it made a sound which I can try to describe as “shish clack whirrsh clang shish.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sensing the presence of humans moving around behind me, one noticed that the geyser of water was serving another purpose on this warm afternoon in LIC. The pause that refreshes, indeed.

So, whatcha doing tomorrow morning? Want to come along on the walking tour I’m conducting with Atlas Obscura of the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabled Newtown Creek? The weather should be perfect, btw, and quite similar to today. Ticketing link is just below.

“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

curious pacts

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The great anniversary, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It all started in the Belgian Congo, over in Africa, when a fellow named Robert Rich Sharp discovered the deposit near a little town called Shinkolobwe.

The Union Minière du Haut Katanga, a Belgian Mining Company, assumed control over the resource and began to refine the material into something useful. It was something unique, this mineral deposit at Shinkolobwe, and the mine was soon producing ore materials that were 65% pure. Other global deposits of the stuff, discovered and exploited later in the 20th century, were considered major finds if they held 5% pure ore, and Shinkolobwe is described as a “freak occurrence in nature” by minerologists. The Belgians owned the Congo, and UHMK held a virtual monopoly on the rare elements found within the colony. Refineries were set up in Shinkolobwe, and both the town and the mine were excised from maps and official mention.

When the Second World War broke out, Belgium fell before the German Blitzkrieg, but the UMHK had already stockpiled some 1,200 metric tonnes of refined ore in the United States. It was stored in New York City, where UMHK had warehoused it on Staten Island, beneath the Bayonne Bridge. On the 18th of September in 1942 – Edgar Sengier, the head of UMHK, had a meeting with United States General Kenneth Nichols.

Nichols purchased the 1,200 tonnes of refined uranium from the Belgian Company, which was already in America and warehoused on Staten Island, and arranged for another 300 tonnes of the stuff to be shipped across the Atlantic from Shinkolobwe for usage by the War Department of the United States. This transaction ultimately caused the death of some 66,000 people, and the maiming of at least 70,000 more, a scant three years later on this day in 1945. Thousands more died on the 9th, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The military project General Nichols represented was started in 1939, eventually employing more than 130,000 people and costing nearly US $2 billion (about $26 billion in 2015 dollars). There were four known major deposits of the precious ore in 1940: one in Colorado, one in northern Canada, Joachimstal in Czechoslovakia, and Shinkolobwe in the Belgian Congo. Joachimstal was in German hands. The Canadian and American deposits were quickly nationalized, and the Congo mother lode was soon held firmly by British interests.

Across North America, dozens of industrial plants were built and got to work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

History is full of “what if’s.” What if Charlemagne had refused the title of Holy Roman Emperor? What if John III Sobieski didn’t break the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683? What if Chingis Khan had never invaded the Middle East? What if the Japanese Empire didn’t attack Pearl Harbor and force the United States into the Second World War? One can speculate…

Eventually, the U.S. would have intervened in Europe. Simply put, the English and French owed billions in war debts from the First World War to American banks, and the U.S.A would have been forced to intervene simply to protect its interests. The Pacific was considered an American and British lake back then, and the Phillipines were a de facto American colony in the 1930’s – so it was only a matter of time before the Japanese Empire and the United States would find themselves in one conflict or another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the European Powers, the Japanese understood what “total war” meant in the age of industry. Their miraculous conversion, in just one century, from Medieval backwater to industrial superpower had already resulted in Japanese forces utterly dominating and annihilating both German and Russian armies in one sided conflicts. Their naval strength was staggering, and by the 1930’s their armies made short work of capturing the infinite resources of China. Pearl Harbor was meant to be a decapitating blow, clipping the Eagle’s wings.

There are mistakes in history, blunders of epic scale, and Pearl Harbor ranks up there with the Khwarazm Shah telling Chingis Khan to go fuck himself. The America that the Japanese empire attacked wasn’t the one we know today, full of soul searching and unsure of itself – rather it was the country which had produced Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and especially John D. Rockefeller.

It had also produced Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves, whom General Kenneth Nichols worked for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ore purchased from the Union Minière du Haut Katanga by General Kenneth Nichols, which was scratched out of the earth in the Belgian Congo’s Shinkolobwe mine and stored in a warehouse on Staten Island, was uranium. The United States of America used that ore to refine and produce Plutonium in a massive industrial complex which it built in just six years. On September 18th, 1942 – the fate of two Japanese cities was sealed when the ore came passed into the hands of the Manhattan Project, which came to fruition on August 6th in 1945.

Seventy years ago today – a device named Little Boy carried that ore, mined from Shinkolobwe and stored in Staten Island, over a city called Hiroshima in Japan.

“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 6, 2015 at 11:30 am

incomprehensible if

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As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Citizen Narrator found himself walking through the pedestrian paradise called Queens Plaza recently. The commissars who guide the workers paradise of Queens – from the offices of central planning in the Shining City – would encourage every common worker to do so, in order to experience the glorious cultural vibrancy and ethnic diversity of this testiment to collectivism and proletarian rule. Under our glorious new system, all citizens will be afforded the opportunity to visit secular cathedrals like Queens Plaza. Just a short time ago, when the financial industry vampires occupied City Hall, such things were one hundred percent denied to any common worker and reserved for the aristocracy.

Imagine what it was like in those bad old days, when public defecation was still considered a crime, under the despotic rule of these capitalist strigoi and fascists who so recently monopolized our municipal life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Under the guidance of First Citizen De Blasio, all injustice shall soon be struck down. Crime is only criminal if it is so defined to be. The First Citizen learned his trade in the 1980’s in Nicuaragua, while defying the official edicts of the Capitalists in Washington, who denied aid and comfort to the enemy. So great was the First Citizen’s compassion, and true his convictions, that he continued to rally aide for the Ortega regime after returning to his native New York.

The First Citizen has many loyal supporters, of course, for no great champion of the Proletariot can work alone. Accusations by recidivist elements of the old regime notwithstanding, it is ridiculous to suggest that the First Citizen’s agenda is bought and paid for by this cabal of concerned comrades.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The vampiric elements of the old regime, who inflicted a million trees upon the people and imprisoned them for minor offenses like public drunkeness or urination, writhe and twist under the reforms offered by the First Citizen. Luckily enough for the proletarian masses, our leader has cut funding for maintenance of these examples of “green infrastructure” shortly after rising from within the Party to his well deserved position as our leader. The First Citizen demands that all new infrastructure be red.

Soon, the only crime prosecutable by the Police will be the harboring of counter revolutionary ideologies.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 18th, 2015
Newtown Creek City of Water Day Boat Tour 
with Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 17, 2015 at 12:29 pm

often hath

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As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens, particularly Western Queens, is far and away my favorite place in NYC to wander through. It’s actually difficult to go more than a block or two without having some sort of eye candy appear. The best thing about Manhattan is not being in it, as you can see the heroic skyline of the Shining City. Brooklyn is fun, mind you, but full of busy body’s and wise asses asking “what are you taking pictures of” while the petitioner is sizing you up for how much he or she can get if they boiled you down for elements. Staten Island… well… it’s largely a residential zone and I don’t like taking pictures of people’s houses so I stick to the shorelines for maritime stuff. Rumor has it that there is some incalculably northern locale known as the Bronx, but I regard that as mere legend.

Queens is the place for me, bro.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, at the Queens Plaza E/M/R station, I discovered that we need to install bike lanes on the subway platforms. One of my daring suggestions for the de Blasio administration to consider is that once half of all NYC surface streets have been converted over to bike lanes, we should consider digging trenches in the remaining vehicle lanes which would be flooded for the usage of kayakers. Also, zip lines should be considered for commuters to fly over the East River to alleviate Subway over crowding.

Why? Affordable housing. This Mayor and his henchmen justify any of their crazy schemes simply by answering “affordable housing.” Pissing on the street? “Affordable Housing.” Reverse twenty five years of crime reduction and return the City to the era of identity politics which nearly destroyed it?  “Affordable Housing.” Allow Al Sharpton to be the person vetting Municpal policies?  “Affordable Housing.” Operate City Hall as the second coming of the Dinkins adminstration? “Affordable Housing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Sunnyside, alongside the Sunnyside Yards (“Affordable Housing”) the native art form of Queens is expressed daily. Illegal dumping is accomplished in Queens with a compositional panache you just don’t see in the other members of the pentateuche which composes our civic archipelago. In Brooklyn, a van door slides open and trash is roughly thrust onto the street. In Queens, refuse is carefully arranged, and the negative space of the environs incorporated into the “work.”

In western Queens, illegal dumping is curated, and really should be considered to be an installation. Why? “Affordable Housing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Why do I love shooting in Queens so much? Perhaps it’s the fact that “Affordable Housing” hasn’t entirely blotted out the sky yet and you can still feel the sun on your face. The sepulchral shadows of Manhattan, and the gathering shadows of Brooklyn, the residential splendors of… Staten Island…, even the supposed existence of the Bronx… you can have them. I’ll take Queens.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 18th, 2015
Newtown Creek City of Water Day Boat Tour 
with Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

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