The Newtown Pentacle

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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.

vast and vague

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Cool Cars in Greenpoint (?), in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That long walk under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Greenpoint and Williamsburg mentioned at the beginning of this week provided one with several interesting diversions, and notably this undeniably “Cool Car” was one of them.

I’m of the opinion that this Dodge 4 door coupe was likely a 1948 model, an educated guess based on the shape of the windows, fenders, and bumpers – but it is definitely a product of the 1946-1949 era and the very definition of what I like to refer to as “cool cars.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were no tags or registration information adorning the auto, which makes it kind of a difficult endeavor to identify, and given the relative homogeneity of post World War 2 automobile manufacture (Detroit was still gearing down from the war, and the explosion of creativity which auto manufacturers displayed in the 1950’s was not in effect in the years directly following the war).

from wikipedia 

Civilian production at Dodge was restarted by late 1945, in time for the 1946 model year. The “seller’s market” of the early postwar years, brought on by the lack of any new cars throughout the war, meant that every automaker found it easy to sell vehicles regardless of any drawbacks they might have. Like almost every other automaker, Dodge sold lightly facelifted revisions of its 1942 design through the 1948 season. As before, these were a single series of six-cylinder models with two trim levels (basic Deluxe or plusher Custom).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator is far from an expert on vintage automobiles, it should be mentioned, so if anybody who is reading this is possessed on knowledge on the subject – or recognizes the specific model – please share your smarts with the rest of us in the comments section found below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The location at which this artifact of America’s golden age was found spawns several semantic points as well for the infrastructure nerd. This auto was parked south of McGuinness Blvd. along the west side of Meeker Avenue, under the BQE. Technically, the east side of Meeker is in Bushwick (according to the old ward maps of the pre conolidation City of Brooklyn) and the area to the south of McGuinness is in WIlliamsburg not Greenpoint.

Life long Greenpernters will tell you that their neighborhood actually continues for several blocks east and that the nebulous border Greenpoint shares with Williamsburg is around Withers Street and south of Manhattan Avenue, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, this atavistic automobile seemed to be in decent condition, at least externally. It obviously has been parked in this spot for a while given the amount of soot and dust which adorns it. Being Brooklyn, someone felt obliged to trace out “wash me” in the soot – natch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a funny thing for me, of course, seeing a 1940’s Dodge parked here in the “House of Moses,” where it fits in with the esthetics of Robert Moses’s early career.

Robert Moses was the master builder of much of NYC’s infrastructure, and personally responsible for creating both the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Kosciuszko Bridge. It was his Triborough staffers that mapped out the vast swath that the BQE moves through and was built – condemning and demolishing mile after mile of homes, businesses, and stores to make way for the automobile. Moses plunged Meeker Avenue into centuried and unending darkness when the BQE was constructed, and callously created the divisions between neighborhoods that we all know today. He sort of invented “urban blight.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Manufactured items from the middle of the 20th century like this Dodge Coupe are notoriously rare, and extremely attractive to hot rod enthusiasts. A restored or modified iteration of this vehicle would be an extremely valuable commodity. Back then, they really knew how to “build ’em” – both highways and the cars which populate them.

“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

noisy and numerous

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Puzzling are the neighbors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a helper parrot named Jiminy. Jiminy is a local celebrity in Astoria, and what he helps with is controlling his owner’s blood sugar. It seems he can sniff out when his Mom’s glucose is low and warn her to drink some juice. “Drinking juice” is why a small crew of my neighbors and friends often collect at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – which is where you’ll find a pub called Doyle’s. Jiminy likes the fried calamari on the bar menu, btw.

Doyle’s is Newtown Pentacle’s District Office, and you’ll often spot a humble narrator enjoying a pint of beer at this location on summer evenings. You want to keep track of what’s going on in the neighborhood? Best place to start is at the bar, I always say.

Not long after the above shot was captured, Jiminy turned to me and said “Feed the Parrot.” Yes – he talks, follows conversation, and often interjects with surprisingly astute observations. Jiminy mentioned that something was going on across the street which we should pay attention to. When a Parrot points something out, you should listen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This couple was carefully measuring the distance between a fire hydrant and a parked car. The lady seemed annoyed at participating in the operation, but the fellow seemed to be on some sort of mission. Over the course of around twenty minutes, they measured and remeasured the interval between street furniture and automobile, then disappeared into one of the two story private homes which line 42nd street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shortly, the fellow reappeared, after having donned a business suit. He began to recalculate the distance again. The lady didn’t accompany him this time, formal attire notwithstanding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Jiminy and I watched as the fellow began to photograph the tape measure with his smartphone. The group at our table speculated upon his plan of action, and we came to a generally agreed upon theory that he had either received a parking ticket or was performing prophylactic measures in anticipation of receiving one.

“Feed the Parrot” rang out again, and Jiminy’s mom ordered a plate of calamari – ostensibly for the table, but we all knew who it was for.

“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm

later civilizations

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Last Saturday was quite eventful, here in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Late in the afternoon on Saturday the 15th of August, the Broadway neighborhood here in Astoria suddenly began to smell of burning insulation and the sounds one associates with FDNY equipment began to reverberate. One was busy with other things, but when the internet suddenly went down and the lights began to flicker – a humble narrator grabbed his gear and headed out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These fellows are RCN cable installers, and anecdotal tales were offered by witnesses that their lines had become electrified which fried the wires within and rendered the insulation material cladding the wires into a charred mess. My internet service had returned by this point, but I use a different service provider.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on the corner of 46th street, evidence of the FDNY at work was observed, and one of my neighbors shared the video below with me, which documented the efforts of the Fire Department in extinguishing a utility pole fire. Don Mario is one of my redoubtable and sturdy Croatians, and offers apologies for the NSFW salty language he was uttering. He’s an Astoria boy, and that’s how folks talk around these parts.


– video by Don Mario

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was there long after FDNY had spilt, and after Consolidated Edison emergency crews had done their thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Notice that the pipe which carries the high voltage wires up and out of the ground has actually melted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some poor sap is also out a bicycle, it would seem. As a note, Con Ed has never finished the job of replacing the electrical wiring in the neighborhood that was destroyed during the Great Astoria Blackout of 2006.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just after dark, FDNY was back on Broadway, so one reemerged from HQ to investigate.

– photo by Missy Liza

This time FDNY was there to scoop up another one of the drunks which have been plaguing the neighborhood in recent months. The photo above and the one below were supplied by another member of my network of neighborhood informants – who prefers going by “Missy Liza.”

– photo by Missy Liza

This particular drunk decided to encamp upon a residential stoop, which the lady pictured at the right of the shot uses to access her home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY was sent to collect the inebriate, which seems to be a misappropriation of municipal resources if you ask me. This is a Police matter, IMHO, not a Fire Department emergency requiring a fully staffed Engine truck and an EMT ambulance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The FDNY personnel asked me what about this situation demanded photographic attention. I informed them that the cops should be handling this, and that without documentation of this growing problem neither politician nor policemen will admit that it’s happening.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not 15 minutes later, the next phase of the action started, as RCN linemen began to layer more cables onto the already burdened utility poles which criss cross the neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cut down or remove the burnt up wire? Hell no, this is Astoria. Just layer on more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The linemen had no walkie talkies to communicate with each other, so the guy in the cherry picker was just screaming instructions at his driver.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wire they were layering on was being fed off of this giant spool on 44th street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, they decided to support the wire as it fed out by laying it on top of other wires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another RCN truck showed up to fix the new problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This group of fellows seemed to be combining several cables into one strand.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The process continued well into the wee hours. All was back to normal by the morning, it would seem. The drunks were arrayed unconscious all along Broadway, and RCN customers had their service back on.

“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm

staves and axes

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Walking down Meeker Avenue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First – a confession – I had something else planned for today’s post, as it was a rather exciting (and highly combustible) weekend in Astoria, but the photos aren’t ready for public consumption quite yet. As a result, what was going to be tomorrow’s installment of your Newtown Pentacle is offered in its stead.

Last week, occasion found me in Greenpoint to photograph a Newtown Creek related event in the afternoon. Having a few hours to kill, since my next engagement was in lower Manhattan in the early evening, a humble narrator decided to walk into the City via the Williamsburg Bridge. A medium sized scuttle ensued, and one found himself walking through and beneath one of the “House of Moses’s” more onerous creations – an elevated section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway which over flies Meeker Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst my walk played out, several photos were captured, including shots of this charming bedroom set. One would guess that the Mayor can scratch one unit of affordable housing off of his “to do” list.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Signs of morbid habitation like this one drive me crazy of some reason. To begin with, it’s likely the unhealthiest environment upon the earth for a human being to exist in, here in the traffic choked House of Moses beneath the BQE. Secondly, it exposes the farcical realities of “homeland security” and the so called “security state” in the era of the Terror Wars. If you can set up housekeeping alongside the steel pillars supporting a roadway that carries nearly 200,000 automobiles a day… well… let’s just say you wouldn’t be able to get away with basing yourself in similar circumstance in Riyadh or Tel Aviv.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path continued along Meeker Avenue, towards the home of the Artisinal Pickle in Williamsburg, which has become one of the most pedantically boring neighborhoods in all of New York City in recent years. Dispassionate and jaded esthetes were observed as they moved aimlessly about the place, searching for some sort of “authenticity” or diversion from the tyranny of the now, which seemed to be in short supply hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shimmering memories of the old Williamsburg, with its DMZ’s and danger, are hinted at here and there. The whores and the bangers are relegated to history, however, and after having walked from McGuinness to Metropolitan along Meeker Avenue, it occurred to me that not once did I feel danger. There were no hookers blowing truckers, no collections of scabby kids selling vials of death candy… just a rather well appointed homeless camp or two and construction workers eating lunch.

There were also grown men riding skateboards in the middle of a Thursday afternoon, incredibly thin women covered in tattoos that were ignoring them, and both sexes seemed to be staring into their smart phones while Brooklyn writhed incessantly around them unnoticed.

“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

with 10 comments

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.

marvels unspeakable

with one comment

A possessed train?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, your humble narrator has a somewhat encyclopedic knowledge of the location of every single hole in the fencing surrounding the Sunnyside Yards which is large enough to stick a camera lens through. The Amtrak people patch these lapses all the time, but others will just spontaneously appear. It’s kind of a cat and mouse situation, but given that the Yards sit between HQ and My Beloved Creek, one spends a lot of time walking back and forth past the titan facility and I do so enjoy taking pictures of rolling stock.

One particular chunk of our national railroad infrastructure caught my eye the other day – specifically Amtrak engine 631, which seemed to be possessed or something. It’s actually a bit of newish kit for them, btw. God help me for the fact that I know this.

from wikipedia

The Siemens ACS-64, or Amtrak Cities Sprinter, is an electric locomotive designed by Siemens Mobility for use in the northeastern United States. The first 70 locomotives built are to operate on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and the Keystone Corridor, replacing the railroad’s existing fleet of AEM-7 and HHP-8locomotives. The first Amtrak ACS-64 entered service in February 2014; deliveries will last until 2015. SEPTA Regional Rail will receive an additional 13 locomotives for commuter service in 2018.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Notice how its “eyes” seem to glow red with fiendish intent? How the engineering of the thing’s leading edge seems to suggest angry eyes? Imagine having this thing bearing down on you while it was thundering down some lonely trackway in the woods of upstate NY. Something wicked this way comes, indeed.

It would be chilling, I would imagine, having those red demon eyes fix their gaze upon you as it races through the North East Corridor at 125 mph.

from wikipedia

The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is an electrified railway line in the Northeast megalopolis of the United States. Owned primarily by Amtrak, it runs from Boston through New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore to Washington, D.C.

The corridor is used by many Amtrak trains, including the high-speed Acela Express, intercity trains, and several long-distance trains. Most of the corridor also has frequent commuter rail service, operated by the MBTA, Shore Line East, Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey Transit, SEPTA, and MARC. Several companies run freight trains over sections of the NEC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amtrak’s Acela Express engine 2000, in comparison, seems like it would be quite a friendly locomotive, although it’s general outline is somewhat reminiscent of the Toho studios “Kaiju” monster and frequent Godzilla sparring partner that is called Mothra (while still in its larval phase, of course).

from wikipedia

The Acela is certified with a top speed of 165 mph (266 km/h) and reaches a maximum of 150 mph (241 km/h) in regular service. The Acela Express is the only service in North America that exceeds the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 125 mph (201 km/h) definition of high speed rail. The Acela achieves an average speed (including stops) of 81.7 mph (131 km/h) between Washington and New York, and an average speed of 66.9 mph (108 km/h) from Washington to Boston.[68] The average speed from New York to Boston is a slightly faster 69.8 mph (112 km/h). The average speed for the entire length excluding stops is 84 mph (135 km/h). Its maximum speed limit is 150 mph (241 km/h) on three sections of track totaling 33.9 mi (55 km) in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lamentably, there is a lack of folkloric tale telling about the various light and heavy rail lines that transit through Western Queens. Other parts of the country tell richly ornamented tales about ghost trains and haunted rail cars. Along the Metro North tracks that feed into Manhattan via the Spuyten Duyvel bridge, there are stories of a ghostly steam locomotive, for instance.

You seldom hear tell of a haunted Subway or station, although some describe the appearance of the 7 along the elevated tracks in Sunnyside with hushed voices and describe it with an air of dread expectation.

from wikipedia

On June 13, 1915, the first test train on the IRT Flushing Line ran between Grand Central and Vernon Boulevard – Jackson Avenue, followed by the start of revenue service on June 22. Over the next thirteen years, the line was extended piece by piece to its current form between Times Square and Flushing – Main Street, after the former opened on March 14, 1927. Express service started in 1917. The service on the Flushing Line east of Queensboro Plaza was shared by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation from 1912 to 1949; BMT trains were designated 9, while IRT services were designated 7 on maps only. The 7 designation was assigned to trains since the introduction of the front rollsigns on the R12 in 1948.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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