The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘photowalk

mixed anger

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Detestation of convention, polity, and custom

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has mentioned the amazing sense of finality felt when encountering the soon to be absent Kosciuscko Bridge before. This bridge is significant, and its replacement more so, as its opening in 1939 signalled the beginning of the era of Robert Moses in NYC, and the replacement of this first link in his chain of intracity highway projects that would become the Brooklyn Queens Expressway means that Moses is finally gone.

Don’t mention that to our current Mayor, of course, whose grandiose plans for “affordable housing” are essentially the “urban renewal” projects of our modern age. For those of you not in the know on that term, “Urban Renewal” was the blanket term used by Mr. Moses and his cohorts for destroying existing neighborhoods and replacing them with federally funded housing projects.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A creature such as myself loathes the souless nature of the “towers in the park” concept promulgated by the French Crypto Fascist LeCorbusier and his mid century devotees, like Robert Moses. It is my belief that many of the underlying societal forces which drove and continue to drive crime in public housing emanates from the depersonalization and alienation from the surrounding neighborhoods which is engendered by life in the “houses.” Urban Renewal era projects like Stuyvesant Town or the Ravenswood or Cooper houses destroy the street grid and eliminate the sense of ownership residents of traditional blocks feel for their corner or block. Jane Jacobs was entirely correct about this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bridge replacement is entirely necessary, of course, as the old gray truss bridge over my beloved Creek is in a sorry state. One wonders what unexpected consequence the new span will bring us – will the corrected patterns of “flow” for automobile traffic do to the southern extents of Sunnyside or northern edges or Greenpoint?

Only time will tell, I guess. When the Queensboro or Alfred E. Smith housing projects went up they were meant to stem a wave of crime and youth violence thought to be caused by life in dilapidated tenements. Within twenty years of their construction, both of these projects ending up becoming bigger problems than those which they sought to solve, and the slum conditions which they sought to clear had expanded and intensified around these projects to encompass entire regions of the greater City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is truly astounding, seeing that none of the lessons of the 20th century seem to be part of our current Mayor’s agenda. There is a dearth of affordable housing in NYC, you just cant get there and back again from Manhattan easily as this building stock is found in central areas of Brooklyn and Queens which are only accessible by the automobile – thanks to Mr. Moses.

If we have the municipal bucks to even consider decking the Sunnyside Yards, why not think in truly grand terms and extend or create new Subway lines for the first time in nearly a century. If you build it, the forces of the capitalist market will take care of all the housing you need. Building Soviet style blocks in the LeCorbusier style will only magnify the problems of NYC’s most vulnerable classes, not solve them. Then again, maybe thats what the Bureaucrats want – job security.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

grown stern

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Getting meaner and meaner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday’s little post about Earth Day seems to have struck a sour note with some. Apparently your humble narrator was a bit too much of curmudgeon on this topic for some. Well, there you go. One has run into this sort of thing over and over during the last few years, folks who cry “Heresy” if everything they believe in isn’t part of your personal credo. Personally, I’m not the sort who buys the entire restaurant’s menu when sitting down to dinner. I say it all the time to the Newtown Creek people, whenever a disagreement erupts amongst us – There’s more that we agree on than what we disagree on, so let’s focus on that.

Unfortunately, academics and activists are often rather “catholic” in their viewpoints and want you to just sign on to anything they tell you with little critical analysis. You can’t “pick and choose” they’ll tell you. If you persist in pursuing or debating with them, you’re branded with analogies or aspersions of your resemblance to unloved or reviled historical characters that range from Adolph Eichmann to Dick Cheney or Sean Hannity (or other members of the Fox News staff) – a juvenile response which is akin to a drunken adolescent calling a uniformed Police Officer a fascist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Orthodoxy has never sat well with me, whether it be in politics or religion. A closed mind is a closed mind, after all. If you think you’ve got the world all figured out, you’re wrong. Nothing is simple, every action and stance has a consequence and an unimagined result. Robert Moses once suggested that Lucifer himself would be lauded by the Press if he was advocating for Parks. Question everything, I say. Take nothing at face value. Everybody does this thing or that for a reason, nothing is random, and there is not one person in public life who isn’t beating some sort of drum. Unfortunately, we are trapped in a paradigm of political life which has been frozen since the 1960’s. There are no liberals, or conservatives, or progressives, anymore. Those labels no longer apply, and haven’t since the 1990’s. “Conservative George W. Bush” was actually a radical, and “Liberal” Barack Obama is actually a conservative – using the actual meaning of what those terms once meant 50 years ago.

Can’t tell you how many of the urbanists and City Planning types that I’ve met over the years only live in NYC part time, and who actually hate the City lifestyle, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, what sort of drum am I beating?

Famously, I have no agenda. My role in all of this nonsense that I’m involved in is simply to record the tumultuous era we are experiencing – the Superfund period on Newtown Creek, the vast redevelopment of the two East River communities surrounding it in Hunters Point and Greenpoint. I strive to leave behind a photographic record of what was here when I arrived, documenting the last traces of what was, and showing the origins of what will be. The last time that these sort of paradigm shifts happened in Queens, there were a few photographers working on it, but they were in the employ of government or corporate interests. My archive isn’t.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

heavy boots

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Yeah, Happy Earth Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another Earth Day rolls around, wherein large numbers of happy little sophists will gather together in Manhattan Parks and congratulate themselves for separating their trash into “recycling” and “garbage” parcels. They will pat each other on the back, and claim that NYC is the “greenest” and most “resilient” of American cities. You won’t see any of them visiting LIC, or Greenpoint, Maspeth, or Bushwick, or Ridgewood. They won’t think about what happens after they flush their toilets, either.

Few, if any, will find themselves having arrived at the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They won’t see the black waters of Newtown Creek’s tributary Maspeth Creek, or smell the battery acid odor of raw sewage as it is entering the waterway. They won’t comment on the illegal dumping, or the true nature and environmental impact of the recycling industry. Greater good, they would say, were they to leave Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Few will visit Dutch Kills at low tide, over in LIC. If they did, they would be forced to rationalize the rotten egg smell as being produced by anaerobic microbes. They wouldn’t puzzle over the neon colors of this tributary of Newtown Creek, whose mouth is .75 of a mile from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They won’t wander through the borderlands of Brooklyn and Queens to Ridgewood, and witness what the recycling process actually looks and smells like. They won’t worry about what they are breathing either.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Manhattan people like to feel as if they’re doing something to help the environment, and will do so in front of television cameras. They will make a show of discussing the banning of plastic grocery bags, or demand that NYC begins to compost its organics. They won’t realize that this composting has to be done somewhere within throwing distance of their Borough, and that it will carried by truck to some central receiving facility where it will be collected and stored whilst awaiting processing. They don’t know that this area will be somewhere along the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They certainly won’t visit the tracks of the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch line, and see the hundreds of filled cargo boxes that compose the “garbage train.” They won’t care that the concentrating point of roughly 30-40% of NYC’s garbage is found on the corner of Varick Street and Johnson Avenue, nor about the thousands of trucks which descend upon it daily.

So – Happy Earth Day, from Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

were related

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Where do they get all those wonderful toys?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, one had a series of obligations last weekend causing an absence at HQ. Saturday, I conducted a walking tour for Newtown Creek Alliance exploring the more populous sections of Newtown Creek along the East River. Sunday, NCA was engaged in an event at the North Brooklyn Boat Club (I’ll tell you about that one tomorrow) and after that concluded – my lonely walk home carried me through Hunters Point and the western end of the Queensboro Bridge complex.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a fairly complex operation, getting a decent shot under Queensboro. Sepulchral shadow cast by the bridge itself is coupled with the crazily bright light pouring in from the surface roads surrounding it. The City uses a few of the areas under the bridge for vehicle and equipment storage, and as an assembly workshop for municipal projects.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This particular scuttle under the bridge revealed that the DOT (presumptively) is assembling street benches here, currently. These aren’t the street benches of my youth, of course, which were the concrete and wood affairs that you’ll still commonly observe in City Parks. These are the new fancy metal jobs. The old school ones once lined the avenues and boulevards of NYC, but were largely removed sometime during the Koch administration to discourage their usage by the homeless.

For one reason or another, the City government has always been obsessed with discouraging vagrants from sitting down or napping, and with persecuting skate boarders. Bicycles on the sidewalk – that’s fine. Go figure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a similar note, last week I discovered where the DSNY Litter baskets are kept. A huge number of brand spanking new ones were observed on North Henry street in Greenpoint. Luckily, they haven’t been brought into service yet, as that would mess them up.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

that gaze

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A short one for Monday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a pretty busy weekend for a humble narrator, one which has resulted in some minor radiation burns to the epidermis – due to the untrammeled emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself as I walked the earth. My skinvelope exhibits a ruddy hue today.

Pictured above is mighty Queensboro, with the upstart 432 Park Avenue over in the shining city looming in over her. Back tomorrow with something of a bit more substance, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

many galleries

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A short one today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is anxious to get outside and “into the field” today, so a single image greets you this morning, depicting the Long Island Railroad entering Woodside via its ancient path. Back tomorrow with something a bit more substantial at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 15, 2015 at 11:00 am

laugh or frown

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My beloved Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday, the Newtown Creek Alliance held an event over on the North Henry Street side of DUGABO (Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp) in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section. The point of the gathering was to imagine the future of a small inlet canal which NCA has been referring to as “No Name Canal,” but I defer to NOAA and the Coast Guard who call it “Unnamed Canal.” There’s an fairly abandoned DSNY Marine Transfer Station there, and your humble narrator entertained himself with a bit of illegal trespass. Of course, since this is City owned property, and I’m a citizen of said City, it’s mine (and yours) and therefore I was actually exploring my own property.

Our uniformed employees in the offices of lower Manhattan always seem to forget that they are – in fact – servants, and that this land is ours – not theirs – so I like to remind them of this fact periodically. This makes me fantastically popular on Chambers Street, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough, there was a tremendous midden of animal bones on the dock. May of them were clearly sun bleached chicken leg bones, and some had butcher cuts. The quantity was striking, and some specimens were clearly mammal bones – seemingly from large cats or small dogs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One cannot even begin to speculate about the origins of this ossuary pile found on Municipal land in Greenpoint, along the languid Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 13, 2015 at 12:18 pm

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