The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Staten Island

squamous aspiration

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Constantly disappointing, and complaining, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Winter boredom is anathema to one such as myself. The cold and dark, the thirty five pounds of insulation, the constant flux between the dry and cold air of the out of doors contrasted with the high temperature and humidity found within. The constancy of a drippy nose. Bah.

It’s always been a bit of a mystery to me why some feel the need to jack the heat up to the mid 80’s inside of structures, knowing full well that inhabitants and visitors will be wearing clothing appropriate for the out of doors. The worst culprit on this front seems to be the subway system, where you’ll step off of a station platform whose atmospheric temperature is commensurate with the freezing of water and suddenly find yourself in a hurtling metal box whose ambient air mass is heated to something approaching that of an afternoon in July. Add in the sniffling, coughing, and dripping orifices of the mob…

Well, I’ve often opined that what this City needs is a good plague – and I’m fairly certain that one will eventually start on a Subway in Queens during middle January. Don’t touch that subway pole, if you can help it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, one is awaiting a particularly personal moment which occurs every year, when a humble narrator’s boredom grows so intense that he has little choice but to brave the cold and head back outside. At this juncture, however, the moment hasn’t arrived, and one has been spending his time reading about the Second Empire period of French history, Otto Von Bismarck, and researching the chemicals which the seething cauldrons of industry produce that are classified as petroleum or coal distillates. One does a lot of reading during this time of the year.

I’ve also read up a bit on Kazakhstan, the Crimean Tartars, and the Deccan Plain on the Indian subcontinent. Briefly, I also looked into the Chicago stock yards and the post civil war meat packing industry as well as the suffragettes of 19th century Brooklyn Heights. I continue to study the rise and fall of the Roman Catholic empire in New York City, which is fascinating. Also reiterated will be the fact that if you enjoy gelatin based desserts – never, ever, inquire too deeply as to what gelatin actually is nor how it is produced for you will never, ever, eat it afterwards. Jello brand gelatin was invented by Peter Cooper in a glue factory on Newtown Creek in the 19th century, which is all you really need to know about it. Isenglass is also soul chilling.

Sexy stuff, I know, but the so called “fin de siècle” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are when the foundations of our modern civilization were laid down and it remains a certain benchmark from a cultural point of view. Labor unions, representative government (both socialist and capitalist), industrial warfare – all of it was imagined up back then. It’s also when the environment surrounding us began to die off due to anthropogenic reasons. The dominoes were lined up, quite unconsciously, back then for the end of our world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Fin de siècle” is a French expression which gained popularity in the first decade of the 20th century, a part of the run up to the Great War, which indicated that the “end of the cycle” or “end of an age” was apparent. It’s part of a phenomena known as millennial fatalism, wherein a culture believes that the “end of the world” nears. It’s difficult to not think that our culture may have reached its breaking point, given what we see on the nightly news. The fatalism and general horror which the various news organizations pump into our heads is, of course, not accidental. Don’t forget that most of the news gathering and dissemination companies are owned and operated by defense contractors.

I’ve always been an optimist, however. What other choice have you got, ultimately? Winter will come and go, and then… flowers and puppies. That’s the way that the wheel of the year spins, after all.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

sights familiar

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Newtown Pentacle’s 2015 Year in review

January, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the Newtown Pentacle “Year in Review” post, which is replete with links to earlier postings. The links were chosen for inclusion based on my own predilection. Either the photos contained in them don’t suck, or they were written to cover something significant that passed in front of my camera. There’s some pretty good stuff contained herein, IMHO. There will be a single image posted on Thursday the 31st and Friday the 1st, and new material will resume on Monday the 4th at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

2015 started off with a bang – and the loss of a dear friend – Captain John Doswell, who was eulogized in this post on January 5th. Out of a desire to escape from existential reality, I went searching for the Vampires that hang around the House of Moses down in Red Hook. Life kept on happening though, and while enduring an excruciating interval in Manhattan’s Gas Light district, a neat relic of tenement New York at a Church on 14th and 1st was described.

February, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator spends a lot of time outdoors and concurrently complains endlessly about the weather. Too hot, too cold, humid, dry, raining, or way windy – I’m a regular complaint department on the subject. This post from February depicts a frozen over Newtown Creek, and what turned out to be creosote oil migrating out of a wooden maritime structure called a “dolphin.” “Other Objects” discusses curious altars and offerings discovered adorning certain corners in Astoria from around the time of the lunar new year. Over at Bushwick Inlet on the East River, in hoary Greenpoint, a spectacular fire at the Citystorage building was observed.

March, 2015

x

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the Big Little Mayor announced his intentions to deck over the Sunnyside Yards, which is literally “in my back yard,” I was forced to say “not.” As history is ultimately the best weapon in my quiver, the video above was created and disseminated to the web. A dedicated effort to focus in on Queens was made in 2015, after having spent most of 2014 over in Greenpoint. Strange Oceans focused in on “used to be 5ptz” on Davis Street in LIC. Not Permitted continued to discuss the Sunnyside Yards issue, and Very Confines witnessed mystery discharges into the Newtown Creek at the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens.

April, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent quite a bit of time and effort visiting the “House of Moses” in 2015, and “Resting and Brooding” spent a bit of time observing the heart of Robert Moses’s empire here in Astoria – mighty Triborough. On the south end of Steinway Street, a tropical bird was noticed that was suffering from neglect in “Nearby Where,” and “Were Related” revealed where the City government stores a bunch of its gear under the Queensboro Bridge and at North Henry Street in Greenpoint.

May, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my highlights for 2015 was getting invited down into the Second Avenue Subway project, which spawned a series of posts. “Who can guess” “all that there is” “that might be” “buried” and “down there” arrived in Newtown Pentacle subscribers email, Twitter streams, or Facebook feeds in late May of 2015. Earlier in the month, “historical realities” explored DUPBO – Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp – back at Newtown Creek.

June, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In June of 2015, I was operating at full throttle. Opening about the ridiculous lack of public bathrooms to be found in the greatest City on the planet in “fully inanimate,” discussing the ongoing Superfund situation at Newtown Creek in “arduous details,” and asserting that 7 line Subway is far and away the most photogenic of NYC’s mass transit options in “simple swains,” and I got to bring the camera out with the Working Committee on a tour of Gowanus Bay in “quaint fusion.” The HarborLab group built and delivered a dock to Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary for the usage of LaGuardia Community College’s science programs, and I tagged along to document the effort in “jouncing descent,” “grim facade,” “listless drooping,” and “stinking shallows.

July, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amidst Glare” showcased the last photos my old camera ever took, before an accident destroyed the thing. A call out to Newtown Pentacle’s readers for financial aid in replacing it was answered handsomely, which warmed the calcified vesicle which passes for my heart. “Racing Ahead” returned to the House of Moses, and wished the Marine Parkway Bridge a happy birthday. An uncharacteristic post explored the macroscopic world of an Astoria cucumber patch in “vine encumbered,” whereas “Portal Guardians” brought me right back home to the gutter.

August, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking from Astoria to lower Manhattan one sunny day, via the Williamsburg Bridge, was discussed in “victoriously swept,” and led to another visit to the House of Moses in “pale vapors.” The House of Moses is citywide, and Greenpoint’s iteration was explored a bit in “staves and axes.” Over at Staten Island’s own Kill Van Kull waterway, a pretty significant bridge rebuilding project is underway at the Bayonne Bridge, which was detailed in “decadent element.” Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood was profiled in “ordinary interpretation.” Closer to home, Astoria’s Broadway was invaded this summer by an army of drunks which the 114th Precinct refused to notice. I forced them to notice in a flurry of posts and social media efforts, starting with “unknown things,” and “parched and terrible.” My efforts at documenting the neighborhood and its issues continued with “later civilizations.

September, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In September, like every other idiot with a camera and tripod in North America, I was up on the roof photographing the so called “super blood moon” in “khephrens gateway.” The battle of the Borrachos continued here in Astoria, in “another city.” “Drifting Sand” visited Astoria’s Steinway Mansion and offered a shout out to Newtown Pentacle’s most frequent commenter – George the Atheist – for his tireless documentation of the sinful manner in which the cultural heritage of Queens is treated. At Newtown Creek, the area I refer to as DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge – was discussed in “horrors and marvels.” I got to gather some night shots from mid channel on the Newtown Creek in “gorgeous concealment,” and tripod shots of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek were offered in “could furnish.

October, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With tour season winding down in the late fall, my wandering about the City of Greater New York increased. Over at Newtown Creek’s Unanmed Canal at North Henry Street, a Newtown Creek Alliance event allowed me some purchase to explore the unexpected ossuary found at a semi abandoned DSNY Marine Transfer Dock in “gently heaving.” An Atlas Obscura night time event at Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery provided time and opportunity to provide some fairly surreal “night into day” shots in “breathing marble.” Back in Astoria, “swinging and plunging” showcased some passing maritime action at Hells Gate, and showcase a cool car spotted at the border of old Astoria in “other metals.” Newtown Creek has finally seen MTA re activating its rail presence, albeit for the purpose of shipping trash around, and the garbage trains at the Blissville Yard were described in “viewless aura.

November, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Halloween was spent at the corner pub which I refer to as my district office – Doyle’s at the Times Square of Astoria, 42nd and Broadway. Costumed hordes allowed me to photograph them in “rose oddly.” Oddly, my energy levels in November were quite high, whereas Consolidated Edison was busy dealing with low levels of residential supply found in Astoria as detailed in “full joys.” Discussion of manhole covers resumed in “discoursed of,” Mayor de Blasio and his agenda were derided in “mountain folk,” and LIC’s Montauk Cutoff was discussed in “these views.” The Montauk Cutoff post explored my growing interest and fascination with low light photography,  and a series of posts about a pre dawn walk from Astoria to industrial Maspeth – “grotesque night,” “betraying myself,” “duplicate and exceed,” and “ultimate effect” displayed what I saw on an uncharacteristically warm November night. Finally, DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge(s) Onramp(s) – and the NYS DOT construction project, was visited in “brought up,” and “leftward fork.

December, 2015

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The close of 2015 began as it started, with the death of a good friend – Kill Van Kull chronicler and Photographer John Skelson, who was eulogized in “Marine Things.” The forbidden north coast of Queens, and Luyster Creek,  was visited in “known specie,” and the Queens side of DUKBO described in “cyclopean endeavor.” A boat trip on Newtown Creek found a Hindu god lurking along the bulkheads in “systemic horror,” and an encounter with some cheeky monkeys in Central Park was described in “urge primal.

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marine things

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R.I.P John Skelson.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another member of “Team Bernie” has left us, this time it’s photographer John Skelson. John was a life long Staten Islander who spent a lot of his time on the North Shore along the Kill Van Kull photographing passing ships. Working Harbor Committee alumni, John produced shots for the WHC blog’s Friday feature – Ship Spotting with Skelson. Ship Spotting got John noticed by the NY Times and others, and happily I can report that during his final years he enjoyed a certain notoriety in maritime circles. He’s survived by his wife, Phyllis Featherstone.

That’s John Skelson pictured above, at his office on the Kill Van Kull, just a few months before he died.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, in his honor, a few of us met up at Skelson’s office to collect a few shots and reminisce. Will Van Dorp from tugster.com showed up onboard the NY Media Boat. Afterwards, we retired to Liedy’s Shore Inn, drank a beer or two, and then headed back to other parts of the archipelago.

You people have no idea how connected all of us are to each other, out there on the edge of the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Team Bernie, as mentioned above, was the collection of harbor rats, rail enthusiasts, and antiquarians whom photographer Bernie Ente included on his adventures. Bernie went first, cancer. John Doswell went next, cancer. Skelson just died, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m so obsessed with what’s lurking in the water. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Skelson was a good and kind man, as were Bernie Ente and John Doswell. He, and they, are dearly missed. The collective knowledge which died with them, which will be lost to time, is irreplaceable. Bernie, also a photographer left behind a wife and daughter, who are doing fine last I heard. Capt. Doswell’s wife Jeanne is still one of the operative and moving gears which allows Working Harbor Committee to continue.

And you people wonder why I blog every day, and kiss Our Lady of the Pentacle every chance I get.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s the worst part of growing older – just at that moment when you’ve got yourself figured out, know what and who you actually are – that’s when it comes. All the wasted time and emotional tumult, all the troubles and tribulations, just at the point when you’ve “figured your shit out” is when it all ends. That’s when all that’s left are clothes, papers and possessions, and someone you love finds themselves alone. There’s some truth to the concept that the person that suffers least is the one who died. Saying that, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m the guy with the sign boards in Times Square that say “the end is nigh.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is Skelson’s Office. The tracks of the Staten Island Railroad are still there, at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Bard Avenue, between the gas station parking lot and the water. A general call is going out to the maritime community to refer to it as such. For those of you interested in photographing the show along the Kill Van Kull, Skelson’s Office is available for new tenants. Bring a zoom lens, and dress warm. Get there early, stay there late. NY Harbor never disappoints.

And you people wonder why I talk about legacy and “passing it on” so much. 

Also, on a completely different note:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Want to get involved in the future of the Montauk Cutoff? A “visioning meeting” will be taking place tonight (December 2nd) at LIC’s Nomad Cycle (47-10 Austell Pl, Queens, NY 11101), between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. There will be snacks!

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

work round

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Kirby Towing’s Siberian Sea tug, along the Kill Van Kull’s Chemical Coast.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, one is taking a short break – hence the singular image which greets you above. Back Monday with new stuff.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

flashed before

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New York Harbor, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, my chums at the Working Harbor Committee conducted one of the group’s Education Tours for students. We had a gaggle of ninth graders onboard, as well as some rather top shelf speakers from the NYC EDC, Maritime Association, and Port Authority. The goal of the trip is to encourage the kids to consider a career in the Maritime industry, and teach them a little bit about the harbor. Most of the kids onboard were from inland neighborhoods in Manhattan and the Bronx, so visiting the sixth borough was a real treat for them. Me? I was there to take pictures, and frankly, I was just happy to be out on a boat again after the insane winter we’ve all just suffered through.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The trip was conducted on a NY Waterways Ferry, and proceeded from Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan first to Erie Basin in Red Hook and then up the Kill Van Kull (a tidal strait found betwixt Staten Island and Bayonne, New Jersey) to Port Elizabeth Newark in Newark Bay. Pretty familiar turf to me, as long time readers of this, your Newtown Pentacle, will attest – but it was fantastic watching the faces of the kids who were seeing it for the first time. Education about the harbor of New York and New Jersey, after all, is ultimately what Working Harbor Committee’s mission is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In between getting shots of the kids and dignitaries on the mike, one managed to crack out a few shots of passing maritime traffic, as evinced by the shots in today’s post. I’m going to be on the mike for a trip down Newtown Creek on the 31st of May (leaving at 11 a.m. from Pier 11), which will be directly followed by a second journey down the Gowanus Canal. My pals and I at WHC are currently forming up a summer tour schedule which will visit locations both familiar and novel, btw, and will shortly be announcing our 2015 schedule.

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Upcoming Tours –

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.

little, indeed

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Just a short one today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This kitten was observed living in the rip rap shoreline of Staten Island a while back. Other members of the family were present, and based on the threatening “ruhhhrrrrrrrr” sound emanating from a hidden spot in the rock pile, one of them was its mom.

A humble narrator is hurting for content at the moment, and will be out wandering all afternoon seeking pleasurable scenes and interesting things to photograph. Wish me luck.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 10, 2015 at 11:36 am

these assertions

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Boats, and a ship, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent trip to the Kill Van Kull, the busy waterway that defines the border betwixt New Jersey and… Staten Island… happened to coincide with a small burst of shipping activity. DonJon’s Emily Ann is pictured above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A cargo ship was emerging form the Port Elizabeth Newark complex after having crossed under the Bayonne Bridge. She was riding pretty high in the water, destination unknown. The rail tracks are all that’s left of this branch of the Staten Island Railroad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moran tugs are iconic, especially when posing against the newest NYC icon, the so called Freedom Tower. Sorry for the “softball” post today, it’s been a heck of a week. More on that in a future posting.

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