The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for May 22nd, 2010

Roosevelt Ave.

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Explorations of the more distant areas of the Newtown Pentacle are consuming. Of late, I find myself wandering the vast corridor of Roosevelt Avenue, which of course connects to the historic Greenpoint Avenue- running across the seldom commented border of Brooklyn and Queens- crossing that shunned strait referred to as the Newtown Creek, and heading for the distant East River. The view above is far from that storied waterway, as Roosevelt Avenue follows the Great Machine toward Flushing, and was shot in Woodside.

from wikipedia

Woodside is a neighborhood in the western portion of the New York City borough of Queens. It is bordered on the south by Maspeth, on the north by Astoria, on the west by Sunnyside and on the east by Elmhurst and Jackson Heights. Its ZIP code is 11377. Some areas are widely residential and very quiet, while others (especially closer to Roosevelt Avenue) are more urban. The neighborhood is located in Queens Community Board 1 and Queens Community Board 2.

In the 19th century the area was part of the Town of Newtown (now Elmhurst). The adjacent area of Winfield was largely incorporated into the post office serving Woodside and as a consequence Winfield lost much of its identity distinct from Woodside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too far away is the Broadway intersection in Jackson Heights, near the very model of a major modern intermodal transportation hub at the Roosevelt Avenue 74th Street station.

from subwaynut.com

The Roosevelt Avenue-Jackson Heights is the one intermediate express station on the Queens Blvd Line, one of the most heavily used and crowded subway trunk lines. The station in addition to serving the large surrounding shopping district of Jackson Heights is also a major transfer point for passengers between express and local trains, to the number 7 line, whose local station at 74 Street-Broadway is located on its elevated structure above the station, as well as to six bus routes to surrounding areas without subway service, most of which begin and end in the station’s covered bus loop and layover area just outside the main station building entrance at street level. To facilitate this the station has two relatively narrow by IND standards for a busy transfer point island platforms for the four track line and a full length mezzanine that is almost still completely open with the exception of a small section of it at the extreme eastern end, albeit only the portion above the Manhattan-bound platform. Here some sort of non-public area has been carved out of the mezzanine and has been fully tiled over as part of the stations recent renovations. The mezzanine also has a number of glassed off areas along it, that were built probably to entice a shopping concourse to open within fare control, although the only stores there so far are some Bank of America ATMs and what looks like a record store.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ethnographic scholars treasure this corridor, serving as a cutaway of immigration and sociological patterns. One end of the street is the high modernity of Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside just a few blocks from 2nd and 3rd Calvary Cemeteries, and as it travels through Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona, past Citifield, and into Flushing- one sees a cross section of the entire planet’s human infestation. North American, South American, European, African, Asian, Polar- all the tribes of man are here.

Incidentally, a surprising number of psychics, storefront healers, and ethno-religious peasant magick suppliers are observed along its route.

from wikipedia

A botánica (often written botanica and less commonly known as a hierbería or botica) is a retail store that sells folk medicine, religious candles and statuary, amulets, and other products regarded as magical or as alternative medicine. They also carry oils, incense, perfumes, scented sprays (many of which are thought to have special properties) and various brand name health care products.

These stores are common in many Hispanic American countries and communities of Latino people elsewhere. As such:

Botánicas now can be found in any U.S. city that has a sizable Latino/a population, particularly those with ties to the Caribbean. The number of botánicas found outside of New York and Miami has grown tremendously in the last ten years.

The name botánica is Spanish and translates as “botany” or “plant” store, referring to these establishments’ function as dispensaries of medicinal herbs. Medicinal herbs may be sold dried or fresh, prepackaged or in bulk.

Botánica almost always feature a variety of implements endemic to Roman Catholic religious practice such as rosary beads, holy water, and images of saints. Among the latter, the Virgin of Guadalupe and other devotional figures with a Latin American connection are especially well-represented. In addition, most have products associated with other spiritual practices such as candomblé, curanderismo, espiritismo, macumba and santeria.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm

opiate peace

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is not a dead place, this Creek which forms the currently undefended border between much of Brooklyn and Queens, despite wholly inaccurate statements to the contrary recently presented by major publications. To begin with, there is the teeming human infestation, whose population is in the millions. Additionally- migratory birds, invertebrate and vertebrate water fauna, and an enormous hidden population of higher mammals lurk amongst the canalized shorelines of the Newtown Creek.

from the nytimes.com– an article that gets a lot of things completely wrong, which is surprising for the times, and seems to be shilling against “Big Oil”

People don’t often think of urban creeks as biodiverse waterways, but Newtown Creek was once a rich tidal estuary popular among hunters and fishermen. Starting in the 1870s, however, Standard Oil and other refineries began spilling or dumping excess fuels and toxic chemicals into the water or onto the soil, slowly poisoning the ecosystem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously and recently, a Dolphin’s appearance near the Pulaski Bridge excited the neighboring communities, but such extravagances of nature would have a difficult time at Newtown Creek. There are ocean going and brackish water fish that get swept into the Creek by the East River’s irresistible tidal cycles, which actually drown in the oxygen poor water, but I’ve observed other things swimming in its shallow depths. Weird squamous things that defy description, burrowers and soft bodied tunnelers which thrive in the putrid muds that line its soft bottom. Perhaps, when the federal EPA superfund work begins, studies of these uncommented organisms will commence.

Hey, not everything that lives is beautiful, but against all the odds- life is tenacious and nature will find a way to get by.

from epa.gov

Newtown Creek is a part of the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary that forms the northernmost border between the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. In the mid 1800s, the area adjacent to the 3.8 mile Newtown Creek was one of the busiest hubs of industrial activity in New York City.  More than 50 refineries were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards.  The creek was crowded with commercial vessels, including large boats bringing in raw materials and fuel and taking out oil, chemicals and metals.  In addition to the industrial pollution that resulted from all of this activity, the city began dumping raw sewage directly into the water in 1856.  During World War II, the creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation. Currently, factories and facilities still operate along the creek. Various contaminated sites along the creek have contributed to the contamination at Newtown Creek.  Today, as a result of its industrial history, including countless spills, Newtown Creek is one of the nation’s most polluted waterways.

Various sediment and surface water samples have been taken along the creek. Pesticides, metals, PCBs, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air, have been detected at the creek.

In the early 1990s, New York State declared that Newtown Creek was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act.  Since then, a number of government sponsored cleanups of the creek have taken place. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has sampled sediment and surface water at a number of locations along the creek since 1980.  In 2009, EPA will further sample the sediment throughout the length of Newtown Creek and its tributaries.  The samples will be analyzed for a wide range of industrial contaminants.  EPA will use the data collected to define the nature of the environmental problems associated with Newtown Creek as a whole.

Project Firebox 2

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Project Firebox, 4930 – photo by Mitch Waxman

This battered sentinel is found on Skillman Avenue, just across the street from the cyclopean Sunnyside Yards.

from wikipedia

The yard is owned by Amtrak, but it is also used by New Jersey Transit. The shared tracks of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Main Line and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor pass along the southern edge of the yard. Plans for the LIRR East Side Access project to build tracks to Grand Central Terminal would have those tracks diverging in the vicinity of, or perhaps through, the Sunnyside Yard.

Northeast of the yard a balloon track (or reverse loop) is used for “U-turning” Amtrak and NJ Transit trains which terminate at Penn Station. Leading eastward near the south side of the yard, this balloon track switches off and turns left under the LIRR/Amtrak tracks, turns left once again, and merges with the Sunnyside yard track to turn the train west toward Penn Station.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 22, 2010 at 10:00 am

shining city

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gantry Plaza State Park, along the waterfront in the Tower Town section of Long Island City, offers fine panoramas of the shield wall of Manhattan’s east side. Some of my friends tell me that Long Island CIty is best exploited photographically in the early morning, when the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is still in the east, illuminating the Shining City. For me it’s sunset.

from nysparks.state.ny.us

Gantry Plaza State Park is a 12-acre riverside oasis that boasts spectacular views of the midtown Manhattan skyline, including the Empire State Building and the United Nations. Enjoy a relaxing stroll along the park’s four piers or through the park’s manicured gardens and unique mist fountain. Along the way take a moment to admire the rugged beauty of the park’s centerpieces – restored gantries. These industrial monuments were once used to load and unload rail car floats and barges; today they are striking reminders of our waterfront’s past. With the city skyline as a backdrop and the gantries as a stage, the park’s plaza is a wonderful place to enjoy a spring or summer concert or to enjoy the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks display.Recreational facilities include basketball courts, playgrounds, handball courts, and a fishing pier with its own cleaning table.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The funny thing, of course, if that if a 19th century citizen of the independent cities of Long Island City or Manhattan were to observe the modern scene- their first question would be “What happened to all the ships and factories?”.

from fordham.edu

Shipyards lined both the Manhattan and Brooklyn banks of the East River. In the heyday of New York’s port, the ships being built were primarily square-rigged crafts made of wood, especially oak. The raw materials for ships were readily available on the mainland and the labor force in New York did not lack members, especially during the 19th century, when immigrants were pouring in from Europe en masse. While Europeans experimented with the building of iron ships, Americans perfected the art of building the wooden ship.

Renowned for the quality and style of the ships it manufactured, the Port of New York was also known for the sheer quantity of ships that were built there. The East River was the most concentrated area of shipbuilding in the United States. The three greatest shipyards of the East River were probably the Webb-Eckford yard, the Bergh-Westervelt yard, and the Brown-Bell yard. These produced some of the most famous ships and made a fortune in the business, but they represent only a small fraction of the multiple and diverse shipyards dominating the East River.

Commercial yards made up a vast majority of the East River shipbuilding industry, but the government also took advantage of the area to establish a shipyard. The New York Naval Shipyard was established on the site of a former mercantile shipyard, located on the Brooklyn bank, in 1801. It built and outfitted approximately 100 vessels during the War of 1812 and was called upon again during the Civil War to build nine-gun steam sloops and eight-gun side-wheel double-enders. Established by John Quincy Adams, the New York Naval Shipyard continued to build ships well into the 20th century, until it was finally abandoned in 1966.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The East River was once bursting with industry, and was lined by docks. Famously dangerous, the docks of New York and its corollary municipalities were the first melting pot. When a ship’s cargo was being unloaded and a new one loaded, a process that might take as long as a week, the crews of itinerant sailors would pass the time in flophouses and bars which lined the waterfront. Established society shunned the waterfront, with its temporary populations of tattooed sailors and the mongrel contagion of ideas and exotic possibilities they carried with them.

from earlysda.com

At about 8 o’clock P. M., two lines of people were formed to march each side of the street. Wax candles, about three inches in circumference and four feet long, were now lighted, and given into the hands of each man in the procession. The corpse, which was richly dressed, and adorned with fresh flowers, was placed in a little basket with four handles, four little boys carrying it. It looked like a sweet little child asleep. The procession, with the priest ahead of the child in the middle of the street, and two long lines of men with lighted candles on each side, was rather an imposing sight in the dark night. The walk was about one mile and a half, to an ancient-looking stone church in the upper town. As we passed into the church I saw one of the flagging stones of the floor raised up, and a small pile of bones and dirt beside it. The consul told me the little child was to be put in there. The child was set down by the altar. The priest occupied but a few moments in speaking, then took up a long-handled cup or ball, perforated with holes like a grater, through which, as he uttered a few words, he sprinkled the child with what they call holy water, some of which, whether by accident or otherwise, feel on us who stood at the head of the procession. After this part of the ceremony, all but the child returned in order with the procession. Mr. Harden, the consul, on returning, told me how the child would be disposed of. Two black slaves would strip it of all its clothing, cover it with quick-lime to eat off its flesh, then pound it down in that hole with the other bones and dust, until the stone would lie in its place again. They would have its clothing for their labor. Thus, in this dilapidated charnel-house, and place for divine worship, they disposed of their dead. I was told that Paraiba was one of the oldest towns in South America, being of nearly three hundred years’ standing.

After disposing of our cargo here, we invested our funds in hides and skins, and sailed for New York. After a pleasant and prosperous passage of some thirty days, with the exception of cold, freezing storms on our coast, we arrived at the quarantine ground several miles below the city of New York about the last of March, 1826. As we had no sickness on board, I was allowed the privilege on Sunday of taking my crew with me to hear service at the Dutch Reformed church. This was the first religious assembly I had met with since I covenanted to serve God, and I enjoyed it much. It seemed good to be there. In a few days we were relieved from quarantine, and I was made glad in meeting my companion and sister in New York. My brother F. took my place on board the Empress for another South American voyage, and I left for Fairhaven, to enjoy for a season the society of my family and friends, after an absence of some twenty months.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 22, 2010 at 5:00 am

Like something from the 19th century…

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Big Allis from the Roosevelt Avenue bridge on a cold and humid day, belching Dickensian clouds of steam out over the East River.

from wikipedia

Big Allis, formally known as Ravenswood No. 3, is a giant electric power generator originally commissioned by Consolidated Edison Company (ConEd) and built by the Allis-Chalmers Corporation in 1965. Currently owned by Transcanada Corp., it is located on 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard in western Queens, New York.

During 1963, Allis-Chalmers announced that ConEd had ordered the “world’s first MILLION-KILOWATT unit…big enough to serve 3,000,000 people.” This sheer scale helped the plant become popularly known as “Big Allis”.

At the time of its installation, it was the world’s largest energy generating facility. It is located on the Ravenswood site, consisting of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as several small Gas Turbines (GTs), and an oil farm. The site overall produces about 2,000 MW, or approximately 16% of New York City’s current energy needs. The current installed capacity of Big Allis is around 980 MW.

The Ravenswood, Queens site also includes a steam generation plant consisting of four B&W boilers, commonly known as “The A House”, owned by Con Edison but run by employees of Transcanada. It helps in the supply of steam to Manhattan.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 22, 2010 at 12:05 am

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