The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for February 19th, 2010


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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Conspiring against the timely posting of these missives, confluences of external forces have rendered me somewhat inert for the last couple of days. Time Warner Cable, whose reliability is best compared to some third world provider of rolling blackouts and occasional electrification, knocked out my service wednesday night during my usual “blog time”. Frustrated, as it was network not node that had malfunctioned, I scuttled off to bed. Assuring myself that I’d finish up the post thursday, I discovered that WordPress had gone dark. Wordpress is, of course, the blogging service and software suite that delivers Newtown Pentacle and 9.2 million other blogs to the interwebs on a daily basis.

The vehicle in the image above is an “Astoria Express” school bus, a Bluebird TC/2000, incidentally. It’s one of the many heavy vehicles whizzing around us, half noticed, all the time.

from wikipedia

In 1948, the Blue Bird All American was the first transit-style school bus to be popularized by an East Coast manufacturer. California-based manufacturers Crown, Gillig and Seattle-based Kenworth-Pacific had introduced transit-style school buses long before Blue Bird; while these were marketed outside the West Coast, they did not achieve a national following. With the All American’s design, Blue Bird had chosen a path of slow evolution.

By 1987, the version of the All American on the market was almost 40 years old and Blue Bird was looking for an updated design to sell for a lower price (to attract large fleet orders) without cutting too many corners on quality. The TC/2000 was introduced for 1988 using essentially the same exterior design as the All American with minor changes to lower production costs. Most of these design changes were visible on the front. The All American’s massive amount of chrome trim was pared down to a bare minimum, and four headlights were replaced with two. Inside, the All American’s side control panel was retained, but the wood-panel dashboard was replaced with a simpler black fiberboard design clustered closer to the driver (who was greeted with a smaller steering wheel). As the TC/2000 was focused on being a no-frills design, hydraulic brakes and a gasoline engine were standard specifications, but most were ordered with diesel engines and some were ordered with air brakes. Seating capacity ranged from 54 to 90 students in the FE and 66 to 84 in the RE (introduced in 1991).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been noticing a lot of traffic accidents lately, minor impacts and benders of fenders. This one in Dutch Kills is fairly typical, a gypsy cab hits a non union contractors van, no one is hurt and damage is cosmetic. Nothing will get reported, a couple of bucks will change hands, and its done. One lane and local in nature, one wonders how this scene will play out in 10 years when Dutch Kills has been reborn as a little Manhattan. Clicking through to the link below will open a FEIS pdf from discussing the anticipated environmental effects of adding 35,000 apartments, 9 hotels (6-12 stories), and adding another major transportation hub (at Queens Blvd. and Skillman Avenue) to the Great Machine.



As shown in Figure 9-8, the streetscape in Subarea C is marked by trees and street furniture that enhance the pedestrian experience of the streets surrounding the subway stop at 31st Street and 36th Avenue. Further, mixed-use buildings that feature restaurants and neighborhood business establishments at ground floor, line 37th Avenue, and reinforce the pedestrian friendly character of this Subarea.

The traffic volume and pattern here can best be described as a busy but relatively uncongested two-lanes of traffic found on rectangular grid streets typical of the Dutch Kills neighborhood.  Street parking is readily available to the businesses that line 36th Avenue, as well as 31st Street located under the elevated subway structure.  Although the prevailing streetwalls in this area are not overbearing, few opportunities for views outside the Subarea are available, largely due to the elevated subway platform along 31st Street as shown in Figure 9-8.

In its entirety, Subarea C serves as a commercial and transportation hub of the larger neighborhood marked by significant pedestrian traffic.  A diverse mixed-use sector, this Subarea serves as a highlight of the Dutch Kills neighborhood with an inviting and lively street presence that is aged but well maintained.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the cheery demeanor your humble narrator is distinguished by and reknowned for, the dirge of February darkness continues. This Mack Truck (a Brooklyn born company) pictured above is at the DOT yard found along the Newtown Creek on the Brooklyn side of the Pulaski Bridge. An unremarkable brute, it is nevertheless one of the motive engines that keep New York from collapsing into the seas or bursting into flame. DOT isn’t the “sexiest” service job in the city- that’s Sludge Boat Captain– but they do have some of the coolest gear.

Having no connections to the DOT, however, are recent revelations of extensive concentrations of perchloroethylene in the ground further down the creek near Bushwick- as reported by Andy Campbell in the Brooklyn Paper.

from wikipedia

  • 1890: John M. Mack gets a job at Fallesen & Berry, a carriage and wagon company in Brooklyn, New York.
  • 1893: Mack and his brother, Augustus F. Mack, buy the company John worked for.
  • 1894: A third Mack brother, William C. Mack, joins his brothers in the company’s operations. The Macks try working with steam powered and electric motor cars.
  • 1900s: Inspired by Orville and Wilbur Wright, Willis Carrier and Henry Ford’s inventions, John Mack has a vision, dreaming about producing heavy duty trucks and engines.
  • 1900: The Macks open their first bus manufacturing plant. The Mack bus, ordered by a sightseeing company, is delivered.
  • 1902: The Mack Brothers Company established in New York.
  • 1904: The company introduces the name Manhattan on its products.
  • 1905: Allentown selected as the home of main manufacturing operations, and headquarters. A fourth Mack brother, Joseph Mack, becomes a stockholder. Mack begins to make rail cars and locomotives.
  • 1910: The Manhattan name changed; from now on, the trucks are known as Mack Trucks. Charles Mack, a fifth Mack brother, joins the company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are so many different kinds of trucks in these parts, have you ever noticed the variety? These particular specimens are craft service trucks, mobile kitchens that serve surprisingly sophisticated food at television and film shoots all over the city. This well appointed set of comestible wagons can be found in their off time along the Dutch Kills extant of the Newtown Creek- which is right behind that concrete barrier that the snow is piled against. One wonders if the Clooneys or Jolies of the world know that these gourmet kitchens spend their off time along Newtown Creek. Welcome to Queens.

Speaking of Newtown and Queens- this Sunday, the Newtown Historical Society (which I am a member of) will be doing a presentation at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown and providing a sort of craft service- slices of Pippin. Following text with contact info and schedule quoted from

(February 12, 2010) The Newtown Historical Society will be presenting a free lecture and slideshow about the historic Newtown Pippin apple at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown located at Queens Blvd & 54th Avenue in Elmhurst, on Sunday, February 21st, 2010 at 12:30pm.

The venue was the site of a planting in 2002 which brought the apple back to its area of origin for the first time since the early 19th century.  The presentation will explain the history of the apple in Queens and the new replanting project that has been underway for the past year.  Speakers will include Bob Singleton, Vice President of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, Erik Baard, Co-founder of the Newtown Pippin Project, and Marjorie Melikian, Historian for the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown.  Council Member James Gennaro’s 2009 resolution calling for recognition of the Newtown Pippin as the official apple of the City of New York will also be discussed and samples of the apples will be available for tasting.  For more information, please call the Newtown Historical Society at 718-366-3715 or e-mail

from wikipedia

In the mid-1960’s, Crafts Service Employees still operated as general laborers. They had also became in charge of answering the telephone and making coffee. At Universal Studios, they had huge roll-around carts where they would brew coffee. These carts could be shut during takes so that the bubbling machines wouldn’t spoil a sound take. There was a dish where you could throw a quarter for your coffee at Universal, not at other studios. Eventually, the laborers added doughnuts as a revenue stream, but often had to interrupt the display to dig a trench for dolly tracks or clean up after animals.

In European union film studios, buffets would be set out in lieu of a lunch break, so as not to disrupt the momentum of the day. At four-thirty in the afternoon, the crew would vote on whether they should continue working on overtime, or wrap for the day. As low-budget and non-union filmmaking took hold in the USA, production companies would provide day-long buffet spreads to make up for long hours and lower wages.

As crews migrated to union films and studios, they came to expect these “spreads,” so laborers got a budget and laid out tables overflowing with Ritz Crackers, spray-on cheese, tanks of Dinty Moore Chili, peanut butter, Slim Jims, Ding Dongs and bottles of YooHoo. Much of this was disastrous to expensive wardrobe, and as the day wore on and on, the pickin’s became slim, and the “cut it yourself” salami quite slimey.

Stars, checking out these layouts were appalled at the quality and demanded better stuff. It also became a tradition for Crafts Service to set out a special treat in the afternoon, rumaki, cheese and turkey wraps, sliced cold cuts with your choice of breads.

Occasionally there are two craft service stations, with one being for cast and crew and another for non-union background actors. The food provided can vary widely with pilots often offering very limited food, while big budget shows often offer generous food and drinks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another event to put on your calendars is the DOT presentation of potential replacements for the Kosciuszko Bridge. I missed the meeting last night in Middle Village, but will be attending the meeting at St. Cecilia’s in Greenpoint on February 24th. The site offers a description and CGI renderings of the massive process that’s about to begin, with reportage by Robert Pozarycki. This is going to affect the entire Newtown Pentacle, and its time to get involved, lords and ladies. Change is arriving at the Newtown Creek.

Pictured above are the refrigerated trucks of an online grocer, well known in the community, coming and going from their loading docks on the occluded and vestigial 53rd avenue along the Newtown Creek here in Queens.

from wikipedia

FreshDirect uses SAP AG software to process thousands of orders placed on its website every night. Orders are dispatched to the kitchen, bakery, deli as well as fresh storage rooms, produce ripening rooms and production areas within the company’s refrigerated facility. All order components are custom-cut, packaged, weighed and priced. In the case of dry goods or frozen foods, items are picked from storage before being placed inside bins that travel along conveyors to the sorting area. There, products in a customer’s order are scanned and gathered in corrugated fiberboard boxes. The boxes are labeled, recorded and loaded into refrigerated delivery trucks.

FreshDirect is based in a 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) building in Long Island City and is one of the largest employers in the area. Though the website and plant processes were in development for several years before its public launch, the company made its first deliveries to Roosevelt Island on July 11, 2002. FreshDirect has since expanded service to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the The Bronx and parts of Nassau County, Westchester County and New Jersey. The company now has almost 2,000 employees, 250,000 customers, and has delivered more than 6,000,000 orders.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2010 at 1:02 pm

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