The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for September 17th, 2009

Proof and Postulates

with 4 comments

g10_img_7401_trav.jpg by you.

Elevated Subway Tracks leaving Queens Plaza, with Queensborough offramp in background- from 23rd street, LIC – photo by Mitch Waxman

One day in August of 2009, a time when the rainy and cool weather that had typified the early summer was finally ended, and under the burning thermonuclear gaze of god itself – which once again stared down upon the Newtown Pentacle unoccluded- I decided to take a little walk down to LIC.

Given the star born waves of heat observed as they shimmered up from the pavement- on my journey from splendor filled Astoria- I opted to navigate down 23rd street and take advantage of the shade as provided by an elevated track tenanted by the 7 line subway, which springs about the area and hurtles noisomely overhead.

g10_img_7406_trav.jpg by you.

Citibank Megalith from 23rd street, LIC – photo by Mitch Waxman

This street is “behind the curtain” down in Long Island City, and I refer to it in my notes as “the fedora district”. The latter nomenclature is purely my own whimsy, as it looks just like a relict set piece from some 1930’s movie, and in that cinematic era- men wore hats (fedoras in particular). 23rd street is festooned, appropriately, with security cameras and other devices whose function it is to vouchsafe both the subway tracks and… the megalith… from the attentions of anarchists, vandals, and foreign elements who have all sworn expiation and vengeance upon the multinational financial institution residing in the megalith, whose activities they will describe as being some sort of rapacious pillaging of the developing world.

The megalith with its dark lord- a blood drinking juggernaut thing that does not think… or breathe… but which stares down, in the manner of a predator, upon the world of men- with its unblinking and flame shrouded eye– will be discussed in later posts.

I would rather direct you to Heidi Neilson’s “LIC sundial” project, which has caught my fancy and which I believe to be quite a clever bit of thinking.

g10_img_7404_trav.jpg by you.

Warehouse Operation 23rd street – photo by Mitch Waxman

An industrial stretch, 23rd street is home to many warehouse and small factory operations. A theater group maintains a space nearby, and there are multiple Taxi depots along its length, taking advantage of its proximity to the “back door” onramps of the Queensboro bridge which leverage a drivers trip into Manhattan down to mere minutes. Silvercup studios is nearby, as well as a few vocational schools which are operated by local trade unions. Its a fairly deserted area from a pedestrian vantage, but considerable amounts of vehicular traffic are often observed. Not too long ago, these buildings housed elephantine examples of industry. In modernity, they have been divided up for the industrial mice who formerly scurried about on the streets and habitated back alleys.

IMG_7838_projectfirebox.jpg by you.

23rd street, Project Firebox 7838 – photo by Mitch Waxman

Glimpses of the megalopolis beyond the river can be had along 23rd street, but I’ve always found it to be a difficult exposure to pull off. Perhaps, someday, as I develop technical acumen and acquire more sophisticated equipment… but my shortcomings are often the result of my own nature. Drawn to the esoteric and bizarre, since the first postings here at Newtown Pentacle- a common gnomen and meme espoused by your humble narrator has been “who can guess, what it is, that may be hidden down there?”.

Also, in detail choked and exasperatingly phrased paragraphs, you’ve been subjected to the haunting revelation that the ground in New York is “not actually the ground”, but the roof of a vast structure which is anywhere between 15 and 30 feet from the actual surface.

g10_img_7412_trav.jpg by you.

Construction site at confluence of 23rd street, 45th road, and Jackson Avenue – at the 45th rd. Courthouse stop on the 7 elevated subway station – photo by Mitch Waxman

This is one of the ancient places. Along Jackson Avenue, a block from the rail- less than a mile from Newtown Creek- a couple of blocks from the courthouse- 4 blocks from the Queensboro bridge.

g10_img_7407_trav.jpg by you.

Construction site at confluence of 23rd street, 45th road, and Jackson Avenue – at the 45th rd. Courthouse stop on the 7 elevated subway station – photo by Mitch Waxman

Hazy, and somewhat enigmatic- the facts of this project seem to stem from two municipal endeavors. One is a track replacement being conducted by the MTA for the elevated subway, the other is some sort of combined sewer replacement and sidewalk widening project being shepherded by the Queens Borough President’s office and the DOB. For my purposes though, this project serves as a cutaway diagram for the underworld of Long Island City.

g10_img_7409_trav.jpg by you.

Construction site at confluence of 23rd street, 45th road, and Jackson Avenue – at the 45th rd. Courthouse stop on the 7 elevated subway station – photo by Mitch Waxman

Several large building projects are underway in nearby Queens Plaza, and the second avenue subway extension combined with the East Side Access LIRR project are furiously moving forward. If all goes according to plan, a new LIRR station will be sited at the Skillman Avenue/Queens Boulevard intersection at the Sunnyside Railyard. The large hotels that have been springing up in Dutch Kills and Queens Plaza are symptomatic anticipations of the future presence of tens of thousands of commuters and tourists in the area. Unfortunately, all of these projects face Manhattan and ignore that rust choked loam of the good earth here in Queens.

The picture below, I think, is the best illustration of one of those central postulates which governs the logic by which the Newtown Pentacle operates- once more- Who can guess, what it is, that may be hidden down there? Click the photo to go to flickr, and click the all sizes button, to zoom into the image and explore the underworld.

g10_img_7413_trav.jpg by you.

Construction site at confluence of 23rd street, 45th road, and Jackson Avenue – at the 45th rd. Courthouse stop on the 7 elevated subway station – photo by Mitch Waxman


I used to live in Manhattan. A building I resided in was the Whitehall Hotel, where once the NY Giants maintained rooms close to the legendary Polo Grounds. One of my many college jobs was as a third shift doorman at this place, which secured a generous arrangement with the owner on leasing an apartment there years later, and on one occasion I was asked to go find the superintendant of the building who was down in one of the sub-basements. Now, the oil room resovoir in this place was (1980’s) a noxious brick pit with an open surface, loosely covered with ill fitting and rusty hinged iron plates. Said petroleum, when hatches had been thrown back, collected a varied assortment of vermin which had been trapped in the sticky fuel. Forming a sort of upper west side Labrea Tar Pit, there were several chambers below it- allowing egress to oil valves, pumps, and ancient sewer connections. This was 5 flights down below the lobby.

Slime dripping timbers were visible in the lowest level, which the Super – an affable southerner, navy man, and former pugilist named Cappy (who had come to New York in the 1950’s as part of that well commented-upon 20th century migration enacted by African American southerners to the cities of the industrialized north) – said the visible timbers were but a section of those piles that had been driven down during construction of the enormous structure in the early part of the century. In his syrupy and pleasant patois, Cappy told me to put my head close to the wood and listen, and to my astonishment, the sound of tidal action could be heard. Cappy reported this as being the sound of the nearby Hudson, and mentioned that a river or stream ran under Broadway to this day. This Broadway water was no small nuisance for him, causing flooding during snowmelt and storms.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 17, 2009 at 4:40 pm

%d bloggers like this: