The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for November 12th, 2009

Linkage, and it’s Exploding Whale day

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Some really great stuff has come through the inbox this week, here’s some to check out

Ms. Heather, over at NYShitty

posted an amazing video of 2 Greenpointers attempting to report an oil slick floating down the Newtown Creek to the DEP and receiving brusque treatment in return for their efforts. Funny thing for the DEP operator, who forgot the call center maxim of “you don’t know who you’re talking to, so be polite”, is that the 2 Greenpointers were Laura Hoffman and Christine Holowicz.

This is the public part of who Christine is:

Christine Holowacz immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1972. She became involved in environmental issues in the Greenpoint community during the 1980s. President of the Greenpoint Property Owners since 1989, Christine devotes much of her time to issues concerning senior citizen homeowners. She is also the Church of St. Cecilia political and housing coordinator. Christine served on the Greenpoint Community Board #1’s 197a Committee as well as its Rezoning and Kosciusko Bridge upgrade Task Forces. She initiated the first meeting in the successful fight against the proposed Key Span/Con Edison power plant in Greenpoint, leading to the founding of GWAPP, which she co-chairs. She is currently part of the Greenpoint Coalition, St Nicholas Preservation and the Greenpoint Williamsburg Waterfront Task Force, and is the Community Liaison at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant for the Newntown Creek Monitor Committee (NCMC). Christine received the Woman of the Millennium and the Carmine “Dusty” De Chair Community awards from the Seneca Club, (2001 & 2002) for her work with GWAPP and a Citation in 2002 from the Borough President for her work in the Polish Community. She holds a BA in Economics and Accounting from Brooklyn College.

Laura is a member of the Newtown Creek Alliance, Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Planning and Parks, and did a great profile on her in 2007- which can be accessed here.

I know these two ladies from Newtown Creek Alliance meetings and they are formidable women. I actually feel bad for the DEP operator.

The EPA page

to watch for news and community coordinator for the Superfund Newtown Creek drama can be found here. Its the beginning of something very large, which will take decades, and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. A river of federal money will wash out the creek, and all the poisons in the mud will be hatched out, or so say the G-Men. Every community along the Creek will be irrevocably altered by this process. The dragon of “Progress” is awakening again.


just posted a cool “slice” of Little Neck, click here

Just over the weekend, I mentioned the Moore Jackson Cemetery, in the “More on the White Lady of Astoria” post. I was sent a link to, which did a great workup on the place just yesterday- the 11th of November. Check it out here.


Queenscrap posted a great article…

on the efforts our friends at the Greater Astoria Historical Society are undertaking to preserve a piece of Queens history

from Queenscrap

Meeting to preserve the millstones


The Greater Astoria Historical Society and the community of Long Island City/Astoria, are concerned about the safety of the historic millstones located at Queens Plaza.

Hidden in plain site, the two millstones, some say, date from the 1600’s and are the oldest European artifacts in Queens. The city’s recent stewardship has not been very good. Photos over time show significant wear and tear to their fabric. Recently, a multimillion-dollar renovation at the Plaza has dropped them from view and construction debris litters the site.

The New York Daily News covered the issue:

Ancient millstones grist for historians

$43M Queens Plaza face-lift hits the fast lane

Colonial-era millstones in danger at Queens Plaza construction site, preservationists peeved

We ask the city to support the community’s heritage by:

  • Making the millstones available to the community by moving them from the hazards of a construction site to an exhibit space at the Greater Astoria Historical Society (or another location within the local neighborhood) where they will be not only safe, and on display, but accessible to the public along with an exhibit outlining their history.
  • Making the millstones available to historians and scholars to conduct research (during the period while they are out of the ground), and to support efforts to make them official New York City Designated Landmarks.
  • Open the millstones’ permanent installation process by selecting a location that will not only ensure their preservation within the community with an installation that will be marked with appropriate signage.

The Greater Astoria Historical Society, which not only has assumed the mantel as a watchdog over the LIC–Astoria community’s heritage, but has taken a very active role in their preservation, is calling for all interested parties, from the city planning, civics, preservation experts, and, most importantly, the general public, to come to a meeting at the Greater Astoria Historical Society, 4th Floor, 35–20 Broadway, LIC, at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, November 18, 2009.

All opinions and suggestions are welcome. Go to for additional information and pictures. Questions? Call 718–278–0700 or email

Now for the Exploding Whale.

Click here for the youtube link to the video, you’ve seen it before, but today’s the anniversary.

from wikipedia

On November 12, 1970, a 14 m (45 ft 11 in), eight-ton sperm whale died as a result of beaching itself near Florence, Oregon. All Oregon beaches are under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, but responsibility for disposing of the carcass fell upon a sister agency, the Oregon Highway Division (now known as the Oregon Department of Transportation, or ODOT). After consulting with officials from the United States Navy, they decided that it would be best to remove the whale as they would remove a boulder. They thought burying the whale would be ineffective, as it would soon be uncovered, and believed the dynamite would disintegrate the whale into pieces small enough for scavengers to clear up.

Thus, half a ton of dynamite was applied to the carcass. The engineer in charge of the operation, George Thornton, stated his fear that one set of charges might not be enough, and more might be needed. (Thornton later explained that he was chosen to remove the whale because the district engineer, Dale Allen, had gone hunting).

The resulting explosion was caught on film by cameraman Doug Brazil for a story reported by news reporter Paul Linnman of KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon. In his voiceover, Linnman alliteratively joked that “land-lubber newsmen” became “land-blubber newsmen … for the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.” The explosion caused large pieces of blubber to land near buildings and in parking lots some distance away from the beach, one of which caused severe damage to a parked car. Only some of the whale was disintegrated; most of it remained on the beach for the Oregon Highway Division workers to clear away.

Tales of Calvary 3

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-photo by Mitch Waxman

Swirling, my thoughts.

A vast and byzantine pattern which extends beyond even the coming of the Europeans into the mist of olden days, traced by rail and road, reveals itself step by step as the burning eye of god itself leads me to and fro across the glass strewn Newtown Pentacle.

Bits of information, nuggets of pregnant fact, theosophical themes and mystic iconography obfuscating its truths and meaning, a maelstrom of barking black dogs crowds my mind. Cowardly and infirm, I run to the grave.

Solace is found amongst the tomb legions, and the nepenthe of their silence.

from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1880, via

The extension of Calvary Cemetery by the addition of one hundred acres occasions the demolition of the Alsop mansion, of historic interest. The Alsop family was distinguished n the annals of Newtown down to recent date. Now but one descendant remains, and he long ago quitted his ancestral home. Thomas Wandell was the founder of the Alsop family, through Richard Alsop, his nephew, when be brought from England, while a mere boy, about the year 1665 and adopted his son and heir. The one act in mr. Wandell’s life in Newtown which serves to perpetuate his name in local history was his effort to thwart the burning of human beings for witchcraft. He was foreman of the jury that tried Ralph Hall and his wife, and acquitted them…

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Researches into the hallowed grounds of Calvary Cemetery have hinted at a lost mausoleum, whose hidden entrance was last known in the 1900’s – and which served as an exclusive tomb for Catholic clergy.

Neighborhood gossips whisper of hidden rites and orgiastic meetings, conducted by caribbean cultists and drug crazed adolescents who dance in candlelight upon Calvary’s swollen ground, on moonless nights.

Personal observation has served a buffet of puzzling evidences, odd coincidence, and terrifying implication. If you dial the correct number at midnight, who – or indeed what- might answer?

from the Annals of Newtown

Mr. Wandell, according to reminiscence in the Alsop family, had been a major in Cromwell’s army; but, having some dispute with the protector, was obliged to flee for safety, first to Holland, and thence to America. But some doubt of this may be justly entertained; because Mr. Wandell was living at Mespat Kills in 1648, which was prior to the execution of King Charles, and when Cromwell enjoyed but a subordinate command in the parliamentary army.

Mr. Wandell, the widow of Wm. Herrick, whose plantation on Newtown Creek, (originally patented to Richard Brutnell,) he bought in 1659, afterwards adding to it fifty acres, for which Richard Colefax had obtained a patent in 1652. On this property, since composing the Alsop farm, Mr. Wandell resided. He was selected, in 1665, as one of the jury for the trial of Ralph Hall and his wife for witchcraft, (the only trial for witchery in this colony,) and shared the honor of acquitting the accused. Some years later, he made a voyage to England, returning by way of Barbadoes, and, it is supposed, brought with him from England his sister’s son, Richard Alsop, who, about this time, came to America, and was adopted by Mr. Wandell as his heir, he having no issue. He d. in 1691, and was interred on the hill occupied by the Alsop cemetery. Many years ‘after his death, the silver plate of his coffin was discovered, in digging a new grave.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Shrouded by ancient copyright and purpose driven obscurity, the building of Calvary was a gargantuan project.

Hints of some enormous underground water calvert electrify my imaginations. The notion of a tunneled world beneath the sepulchral depth, collecting storm driven torrents of rain that would otherwise carry this vast attempt at elysian splendor into the nearby Newtown Creek (in the manner of some macabre mudslide), and the anticipation of where- and what- this system of sewers might empty into fill me with an overwhelming and loathsome joy.

from “A history of Long Island” at

At ye Court of Assizes held in New Yorke ye 2d day of October 1665 &c.

The Tryall of Ralph Hall and Mary his wife, upon suspicion of Witchcraft.

The names of the Persons who served on the Grand Jury: Thomas Baker, fforeman of ye Jury, of East Hampton ; Capt. John Symonds of Hempsteed ; Mr. Hallet, Anthony Waters, Jamaica ; Thomas Wandall of Marshpath Kills ; Mr. Nicolls of Stamford ; Balthazer de Haart, John Garland, Jacob Leisler, Anthonio de Mill, Alexander Munro, Thomas Searle, of New Yorke.

The Prisoners being brought to the Barr by Allard Anthony, Sheriffe of New Yorke,

This following Indict was read, first against Ralph Hall and then agst Mary his wife, vizt.

The Constable and Overseers of the Towne of Seatallcott, in the East Riding of Yorkshire upon Long Island, Do Present for our soveraigne Lord the King, That Ralph Hall of Seatallcott aforesaid, upon ye 25th day of December ; being Christmas day last, was Twelve Monthes, in the 15th yeare of the Raigne of our Soveraigne Lord, Charles ye

Second, by the Grace of God, King of Eng- land, Scotland, ffrance and Ireland, Defender of the ffaith &c, and severall other dayes and times since that day, by some detestable and wicked Arts, commonly called Witchcraft and Sorcery, did (as is suspected) maliciously and feloniously, practice and Exercise at the said Towne of Seatalcott in the East Riding of Yorkshire on Long Island aforesaid, on the Person of George Wood, late of the same place by which wicked and detestable Arts, the said George Wood (as is suspected) most dangerously and mortally sickned and languished. And not long after by the aforesaid wicked and detestable Arts, the said George Wood (as is likewise suspected) dyed.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Calvary Cemetery is very much alive, teeming with a population of wild cats, rabbits, migratory birds. A sort of ecosystem exists here, but disturbing subsidences are common, the soil collapsing into a familiar rectangular pattern.

At intervals throughout the cemetery, there are oddly shaped concrete pillboxes- clearly hollow- which are secured with heavy iron lids that are often padlocked. Once, I dared to look into an unlocked one, and the dread implications of a staircase allowing egress down into a corridor roughly 15 feet below the surface, and the fresh muddy footprints leading away into that underworld nearly brought on one of my nervous attacks.

But- hatches abound in the Newtown Pentacle, and it is best not to dwell on all it is, that might be lurking down there.


Samuel Dibble accused his father-in-law, William Graves of witchcraft in the death of his wife, Abigail. There was a history of disagreement between Samuel and his father-in-law over his wife’s dowry. Abigail suffered horribly during the birth of her daughter (with a condition now possibly diagnosed as eclampsia (toxemia)) and Samuel blamed William Graves and depositions were taken in his complaint against him. The outcome of these depositions is unknown, however, it is likely that there was no severe action taken against William Graves as he lived another twelve years and died in Newtown, Long Island.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Meditating on the oddly suppressed events that have occurred here at Calvary, my mind reels with implied meanings and unheralded imaginings.

On Christmas Eve of 1996, “vandals” overturned between 50 and 75 headstones.

Recently, Crows- the name I’ve coined for the large population of metal collectors who scavenge and pry to feed raw material to the recycling industry along the Newtown Creek – have been accused of stealing valuable copper ornaments adorning the mausoleums here.

Evidences of unwholesome activities may be found all along the great walls, adorned with the spear motif of the high iron gates that surmount and complete them, which seal the great ossuary off from its environs. In the waning years of the 19th century- 1866 to be exact- the Newtown Board of Health was forced to bring charges in courtagainst the cemetery for improper treatment of the bodies of the poor.


In the five years between 1793 and 1798, New York City suffered terrible outbreaks of yellow fever, and by the end of the crisis, the city had lost nearly five percent of its population. An investigation into the causes of the outbreaks found shockingly unsanitary conditions, and the City responded with sweeping health reforms. Those reforms effectively staved off yellow fever for several years, but in the summer of 1803, the disease struck again. In 1805, the City created the Board of Health, which used its powers to evacuate residents from all streets near the East River, where the epidemic hit the hardest. This successfully warded off the disease for another 14 years. In 1830, a Manhattan ordinance forbade burials below Canal Street, and land in the suburbs was set aside for cemeteries. Newtown, the region between Brooklyn and Queens, was the site of so many cemeteries that it was often called “the city of the dead.”

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Today, visual inspection will confirm the Review Avenue and Laurel Hill Blvd. fences as being a favorite spot for illegal dumping of both construction debris and deceased animals. Directly across the street from the Review Avenue gate, at the former Penny Bridge Calvary railroad stop- fascist iconography adorns the scene.

and from “The Annals of Newtown” at

This cemetery, which is located at Laurel Hill, was set apart and consecrated in 1848. It is one of the most accessible rural cemeteries near New York, and it would be difficult to select a lovelier or fitter spot as a place of sepulture. The old ground comprised one hundred and ten acres, but in 1853 a charter was obtained from the State by the trustees of St. Patrick’s cathedral, New York city, for 250 acres; 165 acres of this are now enclosed. The artesian well in that part of the enclosure called New Calvary was sunk in 1879. It is 606 feet deep and 6 3/4 inches in diameter, and was bored in white granite for a large part of its depth. Last year 32,000 persons died in the city of New York, and of this number 15,500 were buried in Calvary. The cemetery keeps one hundred and fifty men regularly employed, and two hundred more are kept at work by the relatives and friends of the deceased. Here may be found some of the choicest of materials and the finest models in monumental structure; and here we may mention as worthy of note the vault and chapel built by John Johnston, at a cost of $75,000, and regarded as one of the finest to be found in any ground. This cemetery is to the Catholics of New York what Greenwood is to the Protestant population. Since 1872 Hugh Moore has been the general superintendent, and to his ability much of the beauty and attractiveness of the place is due; he has been assisted by Michael Rowen. The mortuary chapel, of fine architectural design and finish, was built in 1856. The present chaplain is Rev. M.J. Brennan.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 12, 2009 at 3:57 am

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