The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘queens

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

sepulchral adorations

with 9 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

crude melodramas

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Stay weird, Astoria, stay weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weekends ago, one was on his way to conduct a walking tour of Long Island City which was scheduled to begin at the Court Square Station on Jackson Avenue, so I found myself marching down Steinway Street towards Northern Blvd. Along the way, one of those little bits of Queens goodness manifested before me.

Notice the garbage can in the shot above, and that there’s a little bitty thing sticking out of the top of it. I did.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The little bitty thing, as it turns out, was a tiny plastic goat. One hoped that it might be an actual miniaturized goat, as stranger things have happened in this area in the past, but it was unfortunately made of plastic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have no words to describe the great appreciation and fondness one feels for Astoria, Lords and Ladies, which has to be the most authentically weird neighborhood in the entire City of Greater New York.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

perhaps retreat

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In LIC, the night time is the right time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason that I found myself on Hunters Point Avenue in LIC at around 11 p.m. with both Our Lady of the Pentacle and our little dog Zuzu is immaterial. Suffice to say that the whole family was present in the concrete devastations last weekend, and that as we were making our way back to a world less inchoate, called Astoria, Queens was putting on a bit of a show for us down in LIC. The 7 train was rising from the rotting concrete of its subterranean corridors, and riding noisily on the elevated tracks which overfly the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As longtime readers will attest, one of my projects for the last couple of years has been to master the art of low light photography sans the use of a camera support like a tripod or portable illumination like flash or battery lights. Tripod shots are awful at capturing a fast moving shot anyway, as the long exposure technique employed with that methodology produces motion blur. There’s something to be said for that, of course, but preparation and set up of the equipment removes all spontaneity from the shot and Queens comes at you “a mile a minute.” In pursuit of this technical goal, I’ve been shooting down in the Subway’s underground system and have developed certain “go to” ratios of exposure and ISO which have proven somewhat reliable in capturing fast moving shiny things as they pass through dark environments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Employment of these techniques in the night time streets of NYC are now underway, and all of the shots in today’s post were captured while Our Lady of the Pentacle and Zuzu patiently waited for me to conclude my incessant recording of the extant world surrounding us.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

admixture or connection

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Busy, busy, buzzy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another one of those annoyances which distract one from productive pursuits is a certain inclination corporate America has developed in the last few years. It seems that just as our elected and municipal officials seem to have largely forgotten whom their constituents actually are, so too have our corporate entities developed a lack of understanding as to what the nature of the “customer/services provider” relationship entails. A certain amount of pique, therefore, drove my steps as I headed over to a storefront outpost of a certain bank which has enjoyed collecting the fees associated with my various bits of financial business for nearly three decades in order to identify myself. The fact that they were able to reach me on the phone, and send me mail, was immaterial.

It seems that some new set of internal rules which their drones had determined as being necessary to safeguard the world from terror was missing from my account information, and it was the duty of the customer (me) to come to them and dot their “i’s” and cross their “t’s.” The consequences for not doing so would be dire, with accounts closed and an inability to remove my limited funds from their institution without supplying them with the information which they so recently decided was required anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It should be mentioned that the account in question was opened in 1987, an era when a young Joe Piscopo taught America how to laugh and Saint Reagan was in office down in Washington. Upon arriving at the bank, the manager I sat down with (they don’t wear suits and ties anymore, these bank managers. Rather it’s corporate branded polo shirts) was informed that since his institution was wasting my time in a vociferous fashion, so too would this process take as long as it possibly could for him. I apologized in advance and got started.

One launched into an extensive conversation about the history of colonial Woodside and Maspeth, the trade relationships between the Nieuwe Stadt and Boswijck colonies along Newtown Creek during the Dutch colonial period, my thoughts about the current Mayor, and my opposition to the Mayor’s proposed Sunnyside Yards development. Discussion of the current state of the Mets, where to get a good egg sandwich in Astoria, and the relative merits of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ensued.

After wasting after forty minutes of the gentleman’s time, I decided that I was satisfied and supplied him with the requested paperwork. He disappeared into the back room to make photocopies for their files and then returned telling me “you’re all set.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happily ensconced in the comfort of knowing that my accounts were not going to be frozen for the sin of not supplying 2015 era information to the institution back in 1987, one found himself wandering back in the general direction of HQ for around 15 minutes. That’s when my phone rang, and the manager announced that his photocopier had malfunctioned. A second trip to the bank was then called for, and this time I opted not to take it easy on them.

Using my tour guide voice to ensure that everybody in the bank, and likely in neighboring store fronts, could hear me – a long soliloquy began. This time I covered subjects ranging from the Rockefellers to LeCorbusier, mentioned a few bits about Robert Moses and the construction of the Whitestone Bridge, the declining quality of Italian style food in Western Queens, and how much enjoyment I find watching “The Strain” television show on the FX network which tells the story of a vampire takeover of NYC. Ending with the analogy that large financial institutions like the one I started a checking account with back in 1987 are in fact the true vampires of our modern age, I was handed back my paperwork and told “you’re all set.”

You waste my time, I’m going to waste yours.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 10, 2015 at 11:00 am

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