The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for February 23rd, 2010

false awakenings

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night I dreamt that I walked over a river.

A former trolley car track on the Queensboro Bridge has been transformed by the City Fathers into a combined pedestrian and bicycle ramp, allowing non vehicular egress to and from the Shining City via Queens Plaza. This is not news of course, as thousands march and pedal across the steel and asphalt lane daily, and many of New York’s bridges allow similar crossings. A firm tenet of this, your Newtown Pentacle, is that you cannot see (really “see”) anything from a moving vehicle or train. You must walk, or scuttle, to truly observe the City.

from wikipedia

After years of decay and corrosion, an extensive renovation of the Queensboro Bridge was begun in 1987 and is still in progress, having cost over $300 million.

The upper level of the Queensboro Bridge has four lanes of automobile traffic and provides an excellent view of the bridge’s cantilever truss structure and the New York skyline. The lower level has six lanes, the inner four for automobile traffic and the outer two for either automobile traffic or pedestrians and bicycles. The North Outer Roadway was converted into a permanent pedestrian walk and bicycle path in 1999.

The Manhattan approach to the bridge is supported on a series of Guastavino tile vaults which now form the elegant ceiling of the Food Emporium and the restaurant Guastavino’s, located under the bridge. Originally, this open air promenade was known as Bridgemarket and was part of Hornbostel’s attempt to make the bridge more hospitable in the city.

In March 2009, the New York City Bridge Centennial Commission sponsored events marking the centennial of the bridge’s opening. The bridge was also designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers during the year of its centennial anniversary.

The Queensboro Bridge is the first entry point into Manhattan in the course of the New York City Marathon and the last exit point out of Manhattan in the Five Boro Bike Tour.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This little excursion, perambulating from Manhattan across the Great Machine’s central artery, was performed on a Tuesday after visiting medical personnel located at Union Square. The Manhattan section of the walk home to Astoria was vague, pedantic, and boring- the City just isn’t fun anymore. During my lifetime, the 45 blocks of Third Avenue transversed would have brought encounters with Junkies, Gangsters, Whores, and a series of intriguing book shops.

The scene today is wholesome, a pedantic stretch of mercantile resellers and upscale restaurants- interspersed by ATM locations. An interesting bit of trivia about Third Avenue, by the way, is that the reason that Bars and Saloons seem to be clustered around certain corners (terty terd and terd) is that their locations vestigially correspond to stops on the Third Avenue El. It’s also why Third seems so widely sited as compared to the other North South streets on the East Side of Manhattan.


The east side branch of the New York Elevated Railroad fulfilled part of the promise of rapid transit yesterday by beginning to run trains from the South Ferry to the Grand Central Depot in Forty-second street. All matters had been thoroughly arranged before the first trip was made; the exact running time that the new engines could make was decided upon and a schedule had been carefully arranged. There were but few stations, however, at which passengers were picked up and dropped. Those were at South Ferry, Hanover square, Fulton street, Eighth street and Forty-second street. The first trip was made from South Ferry to Grand Central Depot at 5:30 A. M., and the distance traveled in twenty-five minutes.

A reporter of THE WORLD road on a train that left South Ferry about 1 P.M. This station is a common one for both branches, and many crowd in waiting started for the door when the agent called out “All passengers for the east side or Third avenue.” There were two handsome cars on the train of maroon color, touched with gold and light paints, and glistening with varnish. The engine also was new and was provided with a regular locomotive cab. The cars within were finished entirely in wood, the seats being of perforated pattern now so common, and running lengthwise of the car. The roofs were slightly decorated, and there was an appearance of neatness without the attempt at elegance of the Metropolitan road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving east on the Queensboro, one is always prompted to view the sum total of millions of hours of labor, which is called Manhattan (the Shining City). Cumulative, this enterprise called New York City is the end product of a supply chain that stretches across North America and all the way to the fabled Orient. This chain of supply requires distant farms, Canadian coal mines, Pennsylvanian steel mills, and Gulf Coast oil refineries to sustain the population of the Shining City.

At any given moment, on any given day, armadas of commercial goods are in motion toward New York City. On the eastern side of the island, the FDR drive snakes across the riverfront, carrying a ludicrous amount of vehicular traffic north and south across the island, connecting mighty Triborough to the ancient warrens of the Battery at the southern end of the island.


PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTION IN THE PRE-WAR ERA: In the 1920’s, public officials and business leaders in New York City proposed waterfront highways along both the Hudson River and East River. The Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs, which was released in 1929 by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), called for a depressed express highway – called the “Chrystie-Forsyth Parkway,” the precursor to the FDR Drive – along the East Side. The tenement districts along the East Side were to be replaced by high-rise buildings housing offices, stores and apartments. To maximize light and air, the widely spaced skyscrapers were to be separated by low-rise buildings and parks.

Robert Moses, arterial coordinator and parks commissioner for New York City, established his vision for the East River Drive: it was to feature six 12-foot-wide lanes, long viaducts for grade separation, and landscaping and parks between the parkway and the river. While the parkway did not have shoulders, it did have emergency pull-off ramps for disabled vehicles. Moses’ riverfront parkway was to connect lower Manhattan with the proposed Triborough Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Near the equinox of the bridge, somewhere over- Blackwell’s… Welfare… oops- I meant Roosevelt Island- the occluding fencing of the pedestrian walkway allows a few openings large enough to stick a lens through, and intriguing details of the East River north of the Great Machine can be observed. Don’t forget to witness the locus of this Great Machine itself, with its cantilevered and geared steel persevering the weight of subways, trucks, auto traffic, and the pressure of the wind. There has always been something about the raw engineering of this structure that has appealed to me, one can almost see the lines of force dancing across the painted alloy.

the boweryboys have a fantastic and enjoyable podcast available on Roosevelt Island, and have posted a great collection of photos and (believe it or not) video from 1903 featuring Roosevelt Island that can accessed by clicking here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze north, toward the extants of noble Astoria, and witness the diminutive Roosevelt Island Bridge with Hells Gate and mighty Triborough beyond. Recent events have revealed that this vista will be obliterated in the next ten years, as a shield wall of tower buildings have been sited and are in preliminary stages. The single large building in the shot is the Shore Towers building, a pygmy compared to what is coming.


(Pygmy, like Esquimaux, is a somewhat racist term which is falling out of favor for describing ethnic groups of small stature. The African Pygmies, I am led to believe- prefer Aka, Baka, Mbuti, or Twa. Outsiders in Central Africa refer to them as Bambenga or Byaka. People of European cultural heritage, myself included, have a bad habit of giving things we don’t understand or fear pejorative names that we can understand- which makes us feel better about being afraid. Hence the colorful racial thesaurus of the northeastern United States in which there are at least 5 names for every ethnicity, and the reason why we “Americans” tend to refer to the UK as England, the Hellenic Republic as Greece, Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó as China, and Bundesrepublik Deutschland as Germany.  It’s “why they hate us”, ultimately.)


HISTORY OF ROOSEVELT (WELFARE) ISLAND: What is known today as Roosevelt Island was first purchased from the Algonquin Indians in 1637 by the Dutch, who promptly renamed the island “Varckens Eylandt,” or “Hog Island.” In the 1660’s, the British reclaimed the island from the Dutch after years of dispute. The island was granted to Captain John Manning, the sheriff of New York. In 1673, Manning was sentenced to death (later commuted to life imprisonment on the island) for relinquishing New York’s Fort James to the Dutch without a shot.

When Manning died in 1686, stepdaughter Mary Manningham renamed the island after her husband, Robert Blackwell. Blackwell Island remained in private hands until 1828, when the City of New York purchased it and transformed it into a setting for mental institutions, hospitals and prisons. Reflecting this setting as a repository for the down and out, the city renamed the property Welfare Island in 1921.

PROVIDING ACCESS TO THE ISLAND: Initially, access to Welfare Island had been through a series of ferries from Manhattan and Queens. In 1930, a four-cab elevator service began between the lower deck of the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge and the island. The service, which had served 230,000 cars per year by the early 1950’s, provided the only public connection to Welfare Island.

The increasing traffic needs to and from Welfare Island, as well as growing congestion on the Queensboro Bridge, prompted the New York City Department of Public Works to propose a new vertical-lift crossing between Queens and Welfare Island. After initial resistance from the New York City Council, which doubted that the $6.5 million span would carry enough traffic to justify its cost, construction of the Roosevelt Island Bridge (then named the Welfare Island Bridge) began on March 17, 1952.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Glancing south, Corbusier’s monolith casts its pale reflections, and the shining city stretches off to the Battery. This is a difficult viewpoint though, as the lanes of lower level bridge traffic are just yards away, and speeding vehicles occlude the perspective. Anyway, who cares about Manhattan anymore? Its nightlife has become a playground for those whom we in Brooklyn used to refer to as driving “Dadillacs” (daddy’s Caddy), and to reiterate- it’s just not fun anymore.


The six-story walk-up at 339 East 94th Street has seen much over the decades: generations of mostly white and Hispanic immigrants, nests of mice, drug deals, a police bust, at least one stabbing, a recent influx of young professionals, and a future presidential candidate: Barack Obama.

In his memoir, “Dreams From My Father” (Three Rivers Press, 1995), Mr. Obama described his Yorkville apartment, on East 94th Street between First and Second Avenues, as “part of the shifting border between East Harlem and the rest of Manhattan.” He described a scene that will sound familiar to undergraduates and others who scraped by in the seedy and dangerous New York of the 1980s:

It was an uninviting block, treeless and barren, lined with soot-colored walk-ups that cast heavy shadows for the rest of the day. The apartment was small, with slanting floors and irregular heat and a buzzer downstairs that didn’t work, so that visitors had to call ahead from a pay phone at the corner gas station, where a black Doberman the size of a wolf paced through the night in vigilant patrol, its jaws clamped around an empty beer bottle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The busy walkway and bicycle ramp on Queensboro has contributed to the general hostility developing in your humble narrator to the biking community. Now, I admit that the young couple in the shot above are breaking the rules and clearly walking in the bike lane, but they’re in love so let’s cut them a break. However, the aggressive entitlement displayed toward pedestrians by the biking community at large (especially on the Pulaski Bridge) compels me to call for the City to complete the process of normalizing bicycle commuting as standard vehicular transportation by requiring licensing, registration, and insurance. If you demand the right to be treated as legitimate vehicle on the streets of New York, you must comply with the law. No sneaking around red lights, charging crosswalks, or use of the sidewalk can be tolerated… imho.


Commuter bicycling in New York City has increased by 26% in the last year, building on last year’s unprecedented growth and representing a more than doubling in bike commuting in just the last seven years. The increase comes alongside the expansion of the City’s bike network, with the number of bike lanes nearly doubled the last three years.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Incongruously handsome, the Rikers Island prison complex is visible from the bridge, the patina of it’s concrete reflecting the golden liberty lost to those within. A little known fact is that the population of Rikers Island is counted as part of our City Council’s 22nd district here in Astoria, but the inmates are not allowed to vote, rendering a sizeable portion of the actual population mute. I’m not advocating letting felons vote, but apportionment of city and state budgets are based on census data and not attendance at elections.

ERRATA!!! Reader Jayspec points out that this is the Manhattan Psychiatric Center on Ward’s Island, which is somewhat obvious in retrospect. Sorry gang, screwed up again- Mitch

from wikipedia

Rikers Island is New York City’s main jail complex, as well as the name of the 413.17-acre (1.672 km2) island on which it sits, in the East River between Queens and the mainland Bronx, adjacent to the runways of LaGuardia Airport. The island itself is part of the borough of the Bronx, though it is included as part of Queens Community Board 1 and has a Queens ZIP code. The jail complex, operated by the New York City Department of Correction, has a budget of $860 million a year, a staff of 10,000 officers and 1,500 civilians to control an inmate population of 14,000. The official permanent population of the island, as reported by the United States Census Bureau, was 12,780 as of the 2000 census.

The island is named after Abraham Rycken, a Dutch settler who moved to Long Island in 1638 and whose descendants owned Rikers Island until 1884, when it was sold to the city for $180,000. It has been used as a jail ever since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Big Allis is quite visible from the bridge, with its busy hive of conduits and valves feeding fuel to its cyclonic turbines. One of the little facts about Queens not being discussed in the current rush to overdevelop the quaint streets of the ancient hamlets of Newtown, which I fear will have dire consequence in the future, is the presence of critical facilities like this amongst large numbers of bourgeois newcomers. Examine the controversies in Long Island City at Hunters Point- the LIRR diesel idling noise (from complaints, and realizations are beginning to surface in Tower Town that Long Island City is indeed “the Ancient Seat of Graft“.


The exhaust fans occupy a squat building that stands at an angle on 50th Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, in a narrow lot surrounded by brush and an iron fence, behind an elegant high-rise building half a block from the East River.

No one denies that they are a necessity: The fans clean the air in a tunnel for the No. 7 subway line when workers are making repairs, something that has happened a lot in the past few weeks and that will continue for several more weeks.

But the problem is that the fans come on without warning, mostly late at night, and stay on for hours, driving people to distraction because the noise makes sleeping virtually impossible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing the bridge tower driven into Queens, the real droning hum is to be found. Queens Plaza is being painfully reborn, and in as traumatic a manner to the surrounding communities as it can be. The survivors of the late 20th century, stolid holdouts who barred their windows and triple locked their doors- but who stuck out the bad years- are told simply to leave. Their century old homes are bought and paid for as “tear downs” by bonded foreign corporations who have been instructed by City officials to “do what thou wilt, for that shall be the whole of the law”.

Crowleyism seems to have become the governing principle of our republic, and ultimately the logic behind “American Exceptionalism“.

from wikipedia

Thelema roughly means “will” in Greek. The phrase True Will does not appear in The Book of the Law, the central sacred text of Thelema. Nevertheless, Aleister Crowley’s various commentaries on the Book routinely postulate that each individual has a unique and incommensurable True Will that determines his or her proper course in life. This invention of Crowley’s appears to be an attempt to explain how some actions may be wrong (or “false”) when “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.” Actions that conform to True Will are thus considered to be correct, while willed actions that deviate from True Will may nevertheless be wrong. In The Book of the Law Crowley wrote “Do What Thou Wilt”.

“DO WHAT THOU WILT” was misunderstood to mean do what you want, however one must consider that a human being is a single machine composed of several parts. So, when one says do what thou wilt , he/she must understand the origin of this will in order to promote or demote its importance. One is formed of a material, mental and spiritual component. These components are all controlled and directed by will that flows through the three and uniting them as one. Initiates of the sacred science are acquainted with the fact of a fourth dimension that is the base of this triad that forms a human being. True will is fourth dimension, that directs the human towards his destiny and forces him into the joy of accomplishing what he/she was meant to accomplish.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Great Machine, visible from the high deck of the Queensboro Bridge, beckons your humble narrator to scuttle home before it begins to get dark.

Predatory and fleet, shapes lurk in the sodium lit shadows of the Newtown Pentacle, hungry and weird things that care little for the normal or expected. Feckless, physical cowards such as myself are given to certain spells… vulnerable panics best experienced in one’s own rooms, in the company of my little dog.

That’s when I woke from my dream of walking across a river, in some Shining City with its cyclopean vistas of titan cut stones and sky flung monoliths…

I’m all ‘effed up.

from wikipedia

The categorical view of psychosis is most associated with Emil Kraepelin, who created criteria for the medical diagnosis and classification of different forms of psychotic illness. Particularly, he made the distinction between dementia praecox (now called schizophrenia), manic depressive insanity and non-psychotic states. Modern diagnostic systems used in psychiatry (such as the DSM) maintain this categorical view.

In contrast, psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler did not believe there was a clear separation between sanity and madness, and that psychosis was simply an extreme expression of thoughts and behaviours that could be present to varying degrees throughout the population.

This was picked up by psychologists such as Hans Eysenck and Gordon Claridge who sought to understand this variation in unusual thought and behaviour in terms of personality theory. This was conceptualised by Eysenck as a single personality trait named psychoticism.

Claridge named his concept schizotypy and by examining unusual experiences in the general population and the clustering of symptoms in diagnosed schizophrenia, Claridge’s work suggested that this personality trait was much more complex, and could break down into four factors.

  1. Unusual experiences: The disposition to have unusual perceptual and other cognitive experiences, such as hallucinations, magical or superstitious belief and interpretation of events (see also delusions).
  2. Cognitive disorganisation: A tendency for thoughts to become derailed, disorganised or tangential (see also formal thought disorder).
  3. Introverted anhedonia: A tendency to introverted, emotionally flat and asocial behaviour, associated with a deficiency in the ability to feel pleasure from social and physical stimulation.
  4. Impulsive nonconformity: The disposition to unstable mood and behaviour particularly with regard to rules and social conventions.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 23, 2010 at 4:20 pm

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