The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

maniacal force and fury

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Special Note: I’m going to fill in for Newtown Creek Alliance’s Michael Heimbinder at the DEP speaker series tomorrow night at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Mike has a family obligation to fulfill, and Shawn Shaffner of the POOP project asked me to sit in his chair. For more on the (free) event in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on Thursday the 23rd of June, click here. The official press release text follows:

Newtown Creek: Past, Present, and Future

When: Thursday, June 23rd, 6:30-8:30pm

Where: Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Visitor Center, 329 Greenpoint Ave.

Join us for the NYC Dept of Environmental Protection’s speaker series where we will be hearing from Michael Heimbinder (Founder and Executive Director, HabitatMap), Kate Zidar (Coordinator, SWIM Coalition) and Paul Parkhill (Director, Place in History). The panel discussion will be moderated by Shawn Shaffner of the The People’s Own Organic Power Project.

Now, on with the Pentacle:

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had participated in Working Harbor Committee’s “student cruise” (an effort to introduce the concept of maritime career opportunities to kids from the landlocked core of the City who might otherwise never consider such a path) and found myself with several hours to kill before a second Working Harbor trip in the evening which would be leaving from South Street Seaport and Pier 17.

Luncheon at “the Frying Pan” was achieved, and your humble narrator found himself enjoying the Hudson River Park’s amenities and scenic possibilities. When I lived in Manhattan, of course, I seldom left the apartment except for the bacchanal nights spent at certain favorite bars.

For most of the 1990’s my place was Hogs and Heifers, which was opened by a buddy of mine in a desolate and dangerous stretch of the west side known as the “meat packing district”.


The bar was started by Michelle Dell’s husband, Allan Dell, in 1992, when the Meat Packing District was known for transvestite hookers and crack, not fancy restaurants and clubs. Dell slowly built the business, and in the process helped to turn around an entire neighborhood, turning Hogs and Heifers into a major tourist destination, and the Meat Packing District into one of the hottest club and restaurant destinations in the world.

Allan Dell died on June 7th, 1997, at age 31. Michelle Dell continues to operate the bar as its sole proprietor, as well as operating the much larger location, opened in 2005, in Las Vegas, NV.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A friend of mine from art school, who was a confidant and companion of the infamous Lydia Lunch, gave this neighborhood the unforgettable motto “we’ve got the reddest, we’ve got the rawest, just step inside” and the place was no joke “back in the day”. The high line was the worlds longest homeless camp, and the baser elements of New York society stalked the streets untrammeled by the attentions of police or polite society. Things have changed here, as everywhere else, in the Shining City.

Debauchery and drunkenness is much beloved by the uniformed services of our City, and the early bar soon became a magnet for off duty cops, firefighters, and representatives of the various trade unions. After 911, however, I found myself going there less and less. Not to run away from what had happened of course, but simply speaking- my life had changed when Our Lady of the Pentacle arrived on the scene and my nightlife activities had been tapering off anyway as age began to set in.

from wikipedia

The West Side Highway (officially the Joe DiMaggio Highway) is a mostly surface section of New York State Route 9A (NY 9A) that runs from West 72nd Street along the Hudson River to the southern tip of Manhattan. It replaced the West Side Elevated Highway, built between 1929 and 1951, which was shut down in 1973 due to neglect and lack of maintenance, and was dismantled by 1989. The term “West Side Highway” is often mistakenly used, particularly by the news media traffic reporters, to include the roadway north of 72nd Street which is properly known as the Henry Hudson Parkway.

The current highway, which was completed in 2001, but required some reconstruction due to damage sustained in the 9/11 attacks, utilizes the surface streets that existed before the elevated highway was built: West Street, Eleventh Avenue and Twelfth Avenue. A short section of Twelfth Avenue still runs between 129th and 138th Streets, under the Riverside Drive Viaduct.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the demographics of the neighborhood began to change as well, as the success of Hogs had spawned dozens of other- more upscale- watering holes which catered to an entirely different population of fashionable and moneyed customers. You didn’t see Celebrities slumming anymore, they came here instead “to be seen”.

Basically, it just stopped being fun in the meat packing district, in the same manner that the Lower East Side ceased in the late 80’s. In my mind, Manhattan as a whole is no fun anymore, just expensive.

Recently, I noted that a fruit cart on Park Avenue in the lower 20’s was selling oranges at $1 each. A dollar for an orange?

from wikipedia

In 1900, Gansevoort Market was home to 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants, but by the 1980s, it had become known as a center for drug dealing and prostitution, particularly transsexuals. Concurrent with the rise in illicit sexual activity, the sparsely populated industrial area became the focus of the city’s burgeoning gay BDSM subculture; loosely embracing the business model of disco impresario David Mancuso, over a dozen sex clubs — including such notable ones as The Anvil, The Manhole, and the heterosexual-friendly Hellfire Club — flourished in the area. At the forefront of the scene was the members-only Mineshaft on Little West 12th Street. A preponderance of these establishments were under the direct control of the Mafia or subject to NYPD protection rackets. In 1985, The Mineshaft was forcibly shuttered by the city at the height of AIDS preventionism.

Beginning in the late 1990s, the Meatpacking District went through a transformation. High-end boutiques catering to young professionals and hipsters opened, including Diane von Furstenberg, Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Theory, Ed Hardy, Puma, Moschino, ADAM by Adam Lippes, Jeffrey New York, the Apple Store; restaurants such as Pastis and Buddha Bar; and nightclubs such as Tenjune, One, G-Spa, Cielo, APT, Level V, and Kiss and Fly. In 2004, New York magazine called the Meatpacking District “New York’s most fashionable neighborhood”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been watching the so called Freedom Tower rising from the pit of national despair, an aspirant memorial and architectural experiment. Like the towers that were raised by the Rockefellers in the 70’s or the Newsboy Governor’s Empire State Building, it’s meant to connote that no matter how hard times get, NYC will always grow higher and farther than any other city.

What is odd for me, however, are the throngs of tourist pilgrims who make a point of visiting the construction site. During this Hudson walk, I was diverted from my path by the construction project and I found myself taking a sit down break on the gated wall in front of St. Paul’s on Church and Vesey.

Amazing, the numbers of foreign tourists, who make their way here from across the globe.

from wikipedia

The design of 1 WTC generated controversy due to the limited number of floors in the previous design (82) that were designated for office space and other amenities. The overall office space of the entire rebuilt World Trade Center will be reduced by more than 3,000,000 square feet (280,000 m2) as compared with the original complex. The floor limit was imposed by Silverstein, who expressed concern that higher floors would be a liability in another major accident or terrorist attack. In a subsequent design, the highest space that could be occupied became comparable to the original World Trade Center.

An unofficial movement to rebuild the lost towers instead of building a single tower, called The Twin Towers Alliance, collected more than seven thousand signatures supporting the rebuilding of the Twin Towers. Developer Donald Trump proposed a twin building design called World Trade Center Phoenix (Twin Towers II). The twin design would look similar to the original twin towers, but the buildings would be considerably taller with improved safety measures and would feature much larger windows.

Former New York Governor George Pataki faced accusations of cronyism for supposedly using his influence to get the winning architect’s bid picked as a personal favor for a close friend.

The base of the tower (fortified because of security concerns) has also been a source of controversy. A number of critics (notably Deroy Murdock of the National Review) have suggested that it is alienating and dull, and reflects a sense of fear rather than freedom, leading them to dub the project “the Fear Tower”.

In May 2011, detailed floor plans of the tower were displayed on New York City’s Department of Finance website resulting in an uproar from the media and citizens of the surrounding area who questioned the potential use of the plans for a future terrorist attack. New York Police Department Chief Ray Kelly described One World Trade Center as “the nation’s number one terrorist target”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My own travels in Europe have often been illuminating, for when these folks are comfortable in their own environment, they discuss the United States in the same context as they would Nazi Germany and I’ve been told by English, Dutch, and Frenchman alike that “we had it coming”.

I find it paradoxical, as there is some truth to their point of view- the same Rockefeller money that built the first World Trade Center was generated by Standard Oil, whose worldwide operations supported and in many cases created the oppressive North African and Arabian governments which would prove to be so friendly to the petrochemical industry back in the 1950’s.

Conversely, the so called “American hegemony” which allowed the petrol companies to guarantee cheap energy to the “west” also created the longest period of peace in European history. The economics of maintaining a large military, or not, is what allowed the shattered landscape of post war Europe to be rebuilt- and many of the modern European birthrights- free or relatively cheap higher education, great roads, and universal health care- are what you can have if you don’t have to maintain a standing army.

from wikipedia

The “Seven Sisters” was a term coined in the 1950s by Italian businessman Enrico Mattei to describe the seven oil companies which formed the “Consortium for Iran” and dominated the global petroleum industry from the mid-1940s to the 1970s. The group comprised Standard Oil of New Jersey and Standard Oil Company of New York (now ExxonMobil); Standard Oil of California, Gulf Oil and Texaco (now Chevron); Royal Dutch Shell; and Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now BP).

In 1973 the members of the Seven Sisters controlled 85% of the world’s petroleum reserves but in recent decades the dominance of them and their successor companies has been challenged by the increasing influence of the OPEC cartel and of state-owned oil companies in emerging-market economies.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm

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