The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘photowalk

only crawl

with one comment

Astoria, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other night, while hanging out at my local pub here in the southern end of Astoria, some rough fellow accosted one with the usual “hey, what are taking pictures of?” thing. Bellicose, the gentleman began to advise me that I should spend my time photographing the skyline of Manhattan because “no one cares about Queens.”

He was rather insistent about this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is kind of rallying cry for me, this “no one cares about Queens” thing, and it’s bothersome to have to argue about it with some guy who – as it later turned out – had a largish back tattoo whose motif included a shoulder to shoulder swastika.

I’m all for political expression of course, but a Nazi in Astoria?

Conversation with amiable bartenders over the weekend revealed that there seems to be a small population of like minded individuals in the neighborhood. They’ve actually had to reprimand one fellow who liked to read passages from “Mein Kampf” out loud at the bar.

“Really?” was all I could say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not strange that racists and other adherents to rather ugly philosophies can be found in Astoria. We’ve got Jihadi sympathizers on the ass end of Steinway Street, and those Greek “National Front” guys are here as well -heck- a few years ago I even ran into a small group of actual card carrying Bolsheviks who opined that the revolution was nigh. “Diversity” includes nut jobs and jerks too, it would seem.

Thing is – If you’re a racist, “politically” a racist that is, Astoria probably ain’t the sort of place you’re going to want to live in. It will be exhausting for you to merely identify or classify the human infestation hereabouts, let alone espouse a specific grievance about all the groups who are living and working here. We have everybody from Egyptians to Eskimos, Thai to Tibetan, Irish to Indian. There’s normal human prejudice and frictions encountered occasionally when these wildly different cultures rub up against each other, but Nazi’s?

How retro.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Historically speaking, Queens has a rather checkered past on this subject. Members of what we would call the American Nazi party – the so called German American Bund – were rather active in the years leading up to the Second World War here in Queens (and especially so in Ridgewood and Bushwick).

These neighborhoods hosted a rather large German population back then, who referred to their communities in New York City as “Kleine Deutschland” and the “bund” was usually in tune – politically speaking – with their distant homeland. All of that fell apart during the Second World War and the American Nazi’s became associated with extreme elements of the Ku Klux Klan, and prison gangs like the Aryan Nation.

Hey, when you grow up Jewish, you develop a certain sensitivity to this sort of thing. Swastika bad.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

quaint fusion

leave a comment »

Shots from a recent boat trip to the Gowanus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few weeks back, I conducted the Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek boat tour, which was followed by an excursion to the Gowanus Canal. Both boats were solidly packed with harbor enthusiasts, curious explorers who welcomed the opportunity to visit some of NY Harbor’s less well known spots. Obviously, I didn’t get any shots on the Newtown Creek tour (my curse) but since my pals Joseph Alexiou and Eymund Diegel were handling the narration on the Gowanus trip, I was able to have some #superfun for once.

Pictured above, the push boat Emerald Coast in Gowanus Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Quadrozzi Jr. was also onboard, and he jumped onto the microphone once or twice during the voyage. Seeing as how JQJr. actually owns big giant chunks of Gowanus Bay, he had a few things to say about this and that – offering the Working Harbor audience insider insights from his unique point of view.

One of the “this’s” Mr. Quadrozzi discussed was his Grain Terminal building, and one of the “that’s” was the ship Loujaine – both pictured above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I do like the point of view one is offered by the entrance to the Gowanus Canal, don’t forget that Gowanus Bay is kind of a separate banana from the Gowanus Canal, whose navigable entry point is found at the Hamilton Avenue Bridge.

That hulking monstrosity you’ll notice lurking above the bridge, in all its neighborhood blighting glory, is the Gowanus Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our vessel’s passage required the Hamilton Avenue Bridge to open, and while we waited for the redoubtable employees of the NYC DOT to actuate its mechanisms, I noticed this bit of former maritime industrial glory sitting on the poison shoreline. First thought that entered my head when I saw it was “this is the dreidel of the gods.” For those of you reading this who are “goyem,” a dreidel is that little Jewish spinning top thing with the Hebrew lettering on it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The HMS Liberty, observed as it passes by the SimsMetal facility and a windmill on the southern shore of Gowanus Bay. Liberty is a tugboat, as opposed to the Emerald Coast found in the first shot of today’s post – which is a push boat. Both are towing vessels, of course, and tug versus push is pretty descriptive of the different approaches to the mission which they’re engineered for.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

far within

leave a comment »

A bright, light, sunshiney day, in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, the Federal NOAA agency placed a plaque at Bushwick Inlet’s U.S.S. Monitor Museum site, signifying the launch site of the United States’ first ironclad war ship from the spot in Greenpoint. One made it a point to arrive early, there was an event planned which involved dignitaries speaking and children singing, and take a bit of time to get “artsy – fartsy” with the camera and grab some shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one above is a stitched panorama, representing around 200 degrees of view. Just to the right of center are some of the big condo buildings in Williamsburg, and at far right are the tanks of Bayside Fuel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Franklin Street on the other side of the fence, btw, behind an overgrown fence line which one didn’t explore except with a zoom lens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was, indeed, a duck of some kind there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rotting timbers found in the littoral zone, which look quite a bit different than the ones you’ll find along my beloved Newtown Creek. These are green and teeming with life, as the East River is actually quite a bit cleaner here than in its northern tributary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were lots of rusty bits sticking up out of the ground, but heck – this used to be Continental Iron Works after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continental Iron Works, in addition to building the Monitor, also fabricated the caissons of the Brooklyn Bridge here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of this stuff doesn’t date back to the 1860’s, obviously, there’s a large MTA warehouse and workshop on the landward side and this was the industrial coast of North Brooklyn. Nothing laid fallow here until pretty late in the game – the 1960’s at the very earliest. The experts on this site are George and Janice from the Greenpoint Monitor Museum, who can tell you all about it here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My interest in Bushwick Inlet is Newtown Creek oriented, of course. The historical definitions of the wetlands surrounding my beloved Creek always mention Bushwick Creek (here) to the south, and Sunswick Creek (Hallets Cove) to the north.

The area between Newtown and Bushwick Creek was called “the Cripplebush,” which is a fun fact.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking past the mouth of Bushwick Inlet, one finds the Freedom Tower, rising from the LeCorbusier inspired NYCHA housing which rings the Shining City.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

sidetracked once

with one comment

Death, annihilation, and hatred… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is not in a good mood, so bitching will ensue.

Psychological firmament at the moment would be best defined as reminiscent of the general anger and malaise one enjoyed in the late 1980’s. A neighbor casually asked me the other night “Howz yooz doins, brah?” and my only answer emanated from that era with “What this City needs is a good plague.” If it weren’t for the physical cowardice and generally avoidant set of behaviors which rule me, I might stamp my feet and cry out loud at passerby. A desire to craft a sandwich board vest which announces the nighness of the end compels and overtakes. The train is crowded, and so are my thoughts.

Why is it so noisy all the time, and why is there no place to pee?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’d bring up the whole dumb idea of decking over the Sunnyside Yards with these innocent travelers whom I’d acost with the truth of our times, and check off a list of realities associated with the population whose arrival in Western Queens is already scheduled. Thing is, if one was to become overexcited and display the wild eyed zeal and abundant mania which typified the behaviors of times gone by, one might fall into one of his states and need to be taken to a trauma center of some kind and the nearest one is found in Manhattan at Bellevue.

How could I achieve carbon neutrality after spending a hour in an Ambulance in Manhattan traffic? Ow, my algorithm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Would one opine about the corrosive effects that afternoon drunkeness and public vagrancy cause in the minds of kids in particular and the community as a whole? Here, on Broadway in Astoria, populations of fellows like the gentlemen pictured above spend their days and nights wandering about in a drunken haze. Public urination, defecation, and drinking are commonly observed. As well, one routinely has to wake them up when they pass out in his doorway. Whether you feel sorry for these chaps or hate them, why aren’t the Police policing them?

Would the presence of obvious brothels in storefront locations on the main shopping thoroughfare be mentioned, and would the seeming toleration of such establishments by the aforementioned local police come up as well? If you leave your car parked in the wrong place for just a few minutes, the gendarme are promptly on scene to issue a ticket. What about drunks sleeping in front of your grocery stores and in your driveways, or storefront whores performing their trade next door to the bagel shop?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“What this City needs is a good plague” was a standard answer for me when people asked “Howze it goin, dude” back in the 80’s. That era in NYC wasn’t the way that some are describing it these days, opining about “energy and vigor and…” It was a grimy shithole which had seen better days, where you took your life in your hands by getting off at an unfamiliar Subway stop. An era of “getting jumped” and “mugged,” when you’d routinely see trails of blood on the pavement which would lead you from place to place. Sometimes they’d lead back to a party, but you didn’t have to go far to find a house party somewhere in East Village back then. More often the trails would lead over the bridge from Alphabet City into Williamsburg, where a lot of people found themselves bleeding back then.

Meh, I’m going to go listen to some Black Flag.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

magnified by

leave a comment »

Scenage from Tower Town, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, a humble narrator found himself invited to a party/fundraiser for the Friends of Hunters Point South Park group, and a generalized scuttle was enacted to the East River in LIC’s Hunters Point section. For those of you not in the know, Gantry Plaza State Park (which has been open for several years) is the recreational waterfront amenity found just to the north (ca. Center Blvd. to Anable Basin), and Hunters Point South Park (which includes the so called LIC Landing of the East River Ferry, and which will eventually wrap the ER shoreline all the way to and around the Newtown Creek) is a more recent phenomena.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I hate to admit it, but the whole Tower Town thing seems to be congealing together as intended by the “powers that once were and will be again.” These two parks are VERY well used and the human infestation hereabouts really seem to have taken to them in a big way. Most members of the local infestation with whom one confers attest that they all love living here, with the only two complaints commonly offered by these residents involving transit and a complete lack of any nearby supermarkets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was at the party as well. For some reason, the shot above makes it seem as if he was singing a song to the crowd, but in fact he was merely greeting the assembled group. There were a few other dignitaries about, but this wasn’t a press event or anything, it was an “LIC Henge” party.

On a personal note: Mr. Van Bramer has recently announced that he will be running for reelection, and I for one will whole heartedly cast a ballot for him. One dwells within the political district he oversees and JVB is bloody fantastic. Watch this guy, that’s a future Mayor crooning on the mike in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One brought his trusty tripod along, since the scenery to the west is entirely filled by the phosphorescent towers of the Shining City itself. One such as myself finds his eyes drawn to the vast public housing complexes which line the East River in all their Title 1 glory, but manifest hubris naturally pulls my attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The famous “Manhattanhenge” wasn’t meant to happen until the following evening, which was a washout anyway due to storms blowing in from the continent found due west of our archipelago, but sunset is always a sure thing when you’re in this spot. It was a fun gathering, and I got to spend some time with a bunch of my Queensicans. If you haven’t been, get on the 7 or East River Ferry and check this space out.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

listless drooping

with 3 comments

Ye Olde Dutch Kills in today’s eminently practicable post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior posts, one somehow found himself in a canoe on Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary a couple of weeks ago, recording the delivery of a floating dock by the HarborLab group to the waterways Turning Basin for the use of the faculty and students of LaGuardia Community College. The dock was paddled in by volunteers from HaborLab, and I was in a second canoe with a wonderful lady named Lynne Serpe. Water access to Dutch Kills is a rarity, so I took full advantage of the opportunity afforded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunters Point Avenue is a 1910 vintage single bascule bridge which provides the gateway to Dutch Kills’s Turning Basin. 

Like Borden Avenue, Hunters Point Avenue was originally a late 1860’s era plank road cut through a swampy morass, which is often referred to in the historic record as either the “sunken meadows” or “waste meadows.” These meadows were reviled by the paleo Queensicans as being a great breeder of biting insects and a factory for waterborne pathogens like Typhus, Cholera, and Malaria. Famously, a series of studies by an environmental contractor of the United States Army Corps of Engineers back int he late 1990’s also recorded the presence of Gonnorhea in these waters – which is just charming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are combined sewer outfalls on either side of the bridge, which has created a serious amount of segmentation around its footings. These sediments are near the surface, and at low tide the water can be measured in inches rather than feet around the bridge. The sediments are referred to as “Black Mayonnaise” by scholar and activist alike and they are a combination of industrial runoff, historic petroleum and coal tar pollution, and human excrement.

I did mention that I was in a freaking canoe, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing under the draw bridge – and yes, I have seen it open – the Turning Basin of Dutch Kills comes into view. The large white building is the former Loose Wiles Thousand Windows Bakery, showpiece of the Degnon Terminal. It’s currently building C of the LaGuardia campus.

The Dutch Kills Turning Basin, as the name suggests, was designed to allow articulated tug and barge combinations an area large enough to reverse direction, and back in the salad days of “America’s Workshop” there were barge to rail connections available at its terminus. Barges could unload cargo directly onto the rail cars of the Degnon Terminal Railway which also allowed siding access to Sunnyside Yards and the Long Island freight system.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south toward Hunters Point Avenue, the dock’s paddling crew were fighting a slight current. The low tide which allowed us to enter the canal by inching under the decrepit DB Cabin rail bridge was moving surface water back towards the main stem of Newtown Creek. It should be mentioned that this was a very weak sort of current, as the waters of Dutch Kills could be most accurately described as rising and falling in a vertical column with the tide rather than moving in and out in a lateral manner.

This tepid flow condition is a big part of the reason why the sedimentation along the waterway is so pronounced, and why the water quality is as horrible as it is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless of current or sedimentation, the stout limbs of the HarborLab triad managed to guide the decidedly non hydrodynamic floating dock towards its destination along the western bulkheads of Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The owner of these bulkheads is cooperating with LaGuardia Communty College in its studies of the waterways. The property is occupied by a truck based business which doesn’t use their bulkheads, and some of the LaGuardia people’s plans for Dutch Kills are also being assisted by other area businesses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The HarborLab folks accomplished their mission, and began the unenviable task of securing the dock to a bulkhead with no anchored cleats to tie up to. Luckily, jagged bits of rebar were available. In tomorrow’s post, a few more views from the Turning Basin itself.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

hysterical madness

with one comment

Shots and anecdotes from Astoria, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Queens Cobbler is at work again, this singular shoe was observed on the 21st street side of the ancient village while perambulation was underway. A trophy hunting predator walks amongst us, unseen and unnoticed by the Gendarmes. Mark my words, lords and ladies, soon you will see banner headlines about the Queens Cobbler and his nefarious work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My upstairs neighbor, one of the laconic Croatians who populate my particular neck of the woods, tells me that the price of food has become “terrible” hereabouts. She laments what has happened to her adopted country in the roughly three decades that she has dwelt here, and informs that once she reaches retirement age a return to Istria will be a top priority.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Pentacle’s district office is found at Doyle’s, an Irish bar on Broadway and 42nd street – the Times Square of Astoria. During the warm months, it is my habit to pack up Zuzu the dog and make an end of day pilgrimage to this District Office, in order to touch base with the neighbors and enjoy a pint or two of beer.

Not long ago, whilst engaged in this activity, a bird on a wire was observed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria, Queens… we now have wild Parrots infesting the neighborhood. There’s also Opossums, one of which showed up at my own door recently. Zuzu the dog bit it on the butt, which caused it to retreat back to whatever cryptid critter bolt hole is preferred by the out of place and unexpected fauna wandering about the ancient village.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 11th, 2015
BROOKLYN Waterfront Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,080 other followers

%d bloggers like this: