The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for December 2011

warnings and prophecies

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2011’s Greatest Hits:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In January of 2011, while walking along in knee deep snow, your humble narrator happened across this enigmatic and somehow familiar item sitting in a drift at the NYC S.E.M./Signals Street Light Yard of the DOT at 37th avenue near the Sunnyside and Astoria border. It looked familiar to me, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was until sharp eyed reader TJ Connick suggested that this might be the long missing Light Stanchion which once adorned the Queensboro Bridge’s Manhattan landing.

These two posts: “an odd impulse“, and “wisdom of crowds” discuss the discovery and identification in some detail.

Some good news about this iconic piece of Queens history will be forthcoming, but I’ve been asked to keep it quiet for the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In February of 2011, “Vapour Soaked” presented a startling concurrence of comparitive detail for the discerning viewer, when the shot above was presented in contrast with a 1920’s shot from The Newtown Creek industrial district of New York City By Merchants’ Association of New York. Industrial Bureau, 1921″, (courtesy Google Books).

Admittedly, not quite as earth shaking as January’s news, but cool nevertheless. I really like these “now and then” shots, expect more of the same to come your way in the future.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In March of 2011, “first, Calvary” discussed the epic (for me) quest to find a proverbial “needle in a haystack” within First Calvary Cemetery- the grave of its very first interment, an Irish woman named Esther Ennis who died in 1848. I have spent an enormous amount of time searching for this spot, where Dagger John Hughes first consecrated the soil of Newtown.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In April of 2011, the world lost one of its best people and my official “partner in crime”, Bernard Ente.

He was ill for awhile, but asked me to keep the severity of things quiet. He passed in the beginning of April, and one of the last requests he made of me (along with “taking care” of certain people) was to continue what he had started along the Newtown Creek and all around NY Harbor.

This was when I had to step forward, up my game, and attempt to fill a pair of gargantuan boots. Frankly, I’m not even half of who he was, but I’m trying. That’s when I officially stepped forward and began introducing myself as a representative of Newtown Creek Alliance, and joined the Working Harbor Committee– two organizations which Bernie was committed to. I’m still trying to wrap my head around his loss.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In May of 2011, while attempting to come to terms with my new roles in both organizations, it was decided that a fitting tribute to our fallen comrade would be the continuance of his annual “Newtown Creek Cruises” and the date of May 21 was set for the event. An incredible learning experience, the success of the voyage would not have been possible without the tutelage of WHC’s John Doswell and Meg Black, NCA’s Katie Schmid, or especially the aid of “Our Lady of the Pentacle” and the Newtown Pentacle’s stalwart far eastern correspondent: Armstrong.

Funny moments from during this period included the question “Whom do you call to get a drawbridge in NYC to open for you?”.

During this time, I also became involved with Forgotten-NY’s Kevin Walsh and Greater Astoria Historical Society’s Richard Melnick and their ambitious schedule of historical tours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In June of 2011, the earliest Newtown Creek Chemical Factory which I’ve been able to find in the historical record, so far, was explored in the post “lined with sorrow“- describing “the Bushwick Chemical Works of M. Kalbfleisch & Sons”.

Additionally, my “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” was presented to a sold out and standing room only crowd at the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

This was also the beginning of a period which has persisted all year- in which my efforts of behalf of the various organizations and political causes which I’m advocating for had reduced my output to a mere 15 or fewer postings a month.

All attempts are underway to remedy this situation in 2012, and apologies are offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In July of 2011, another Newtown Creek boat tour was conducted, this time for the Metropolitan Water Alliance’s “City of Water Day”. The “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” was also performed at the Admiral’s House for a packed room.

Additionally, my so called “Grand Walk” was presented in six postings. This was an attempt to follow a 19th century journey from the Bloody Sixth Ward, Manhattan’s notorious Five Points District, to Calvary Cemetery in Queens. Once, this would have been a straightforward endeavor involving minimal connections of Trolley and Ferry, but today one just has to walk. These were certainly not terribly popular posts, but are noteworthy for the hidden and occluded horde of forgotten New York history which they carry.

From the last of these posts, titled “suitable apparatus“- “As the redolent cargo of my camera card revealed- this “Grand Walk”, a panic induced marathon which carried your humble narrator across the East River from St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan into Williamsburg and up Grand Street to Maspeth and the baroque intrigues of the Newtown Creek– wound down into it’s final steps on Laurel Hill Blvd.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In August of 2011, “the dark moor” presented intriguing aerial views of the Newtown Creek Watershed, and “sinister exultation” shared the incredible sight of an Amtrak train on fire at the Hunters Point Avenue station in Long Island City. “revel and chaff” explored the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in LIC’s Zone A, and an extraordinary small boat journey around Dutch Kills was detailed in: “ponderous and forbidding“, “ethereal character“, “pillars and niches“, and “another aperture“.

This was an incredible month.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In September of 2011, a posting called “uncommented masonry” offered this declaration:

” By 1915, there approximately 40,000 automotive trucks plying the streets of New York City.

What’s surprising is that 25% of them were electric.

Lords and ladies of Newtown, I present to you the last mortal remains of the General Electric Vehicle Company, 30-28 Starr Avenue, Long Island City– manufacturer of a substantial number of those electrical trucks.”

I’m particularly fond of this post, as this was a wholly forgotten moment of Newtown Creek and industrial history which I was able to reveal. Organically born, it was discovered in the course of other research, and I believed at the time that it was going to be the biggest story that I would present all year about Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In October of 2011, a trio of Newtown Creek Tours (two public and one for educators) were accomplished. The public tours were full to capacity, as were the Open House New York tours I conducted on the 15th and 16th of that Month. Also, the Metropolitan Water Alliance invited me to photograph their “Parade of Boats” on October 11th, and I got the shot below of the FDNY Fireboat 343.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In November of 2011, a visit to Lovecraft Country in Brooklyn was described in “frightful pull“, and “vague stones and symbols” came pretty close to answering certain mysteries associated with the sky flung Miller Building found at the foot of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A December 2011 post titled “An Oil spill… in Queens” broke the news that petroleum products are seeping out of the bulkheads of Newtown Creek, this time along the Northern shoreline, which lies in the Queens neighborhood of Blissville.

Rest assured that your Newtown Pentacle is on top of the story of “the Blissville Oil Spill”, lords and ladies of Newtown, and will bring you breaking news as it develops in 2012.

crystal oblivion

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day I had the pleasure of some company on one of my little walks, Ms. Heather from NY-Shitty, and together we perambulated the hinterlands of Brooklyn- a no mans land between Greenpoint and East Williamsburg which has long been referred to as DUKBO in postings at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

This is a dusty, worn down, and fairly evocative place, crammed to the gills with industrial yards and century old mill buildings. A palpable evil lurks about the place, and the colour coats every surface. As a boy, when I asked my dad what was down there- he would turn pale, and demand promises that I never visit this area. This is the darkest of the hillside thickets found along the Newtown Creek, after all, legendary homeland of all that might go wrong under the American system of government.

Sorry Pop.

from the “Fellowship of the Ring” by Peter Jackson, et al.

Boromir: One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep, and the Great Eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust, the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a pretty good reason that I was in the neighborhood, which will be discussed in later postings, but we soon found ourselves traipsing along beneath the rotting steel of the Kosciuszko Bridge. This is a fairly dangerous place, from a pedestrian point of view. Trucks rattle by at full throttle, sidewalks (when they exist) exhibit broken concrete and pooled water. Hideously barbed weeds sprout from the shattered roadbeds, and from every abyss something or someone stares back suspiciously.

There is nowhere to run to, in this abattoir of hope- your best hope is to attempt to fit in.

This clip from the same director’s “Return of the King” neatly encapsulates the sort of day Ms. Heather and I experienced:


– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mad stories have been told to me by those who labor in the area about what transpires in the fuligin hours around these parts, tales which I am duty bound not to repeat. Suffice to say that certain “ethnic fraternities” and other “ad hoc associations” maintain a certain presence in this locale, the members of which desire privacy and the cover of night to pursue their crafts. Said privacy is zealously guarded, as much of the City has been denied them by the efforts of an alliance of regional and national law enforcement.

Even during the daylight hours, the sure knowledge of their presence informs and constrains my movements and actions, but I’m from Brooklyn and know that what lurks around these parts both demand and deserves “Respect”.

As I’ve been told in the past by members of these groups- “Don’t ‘eff around back here”. Additionally, scholastic and mainstream critics have accused me of describing this area as “Mordor”, and that its not that bad.

from wikipedia

Three sides of Mordor were bounded by mountain ranges, arranged in a rough rectangle: Ered Lithui, translated as ‘Ash Mountains’ in the north, Ephel Dúath, translated as ‘Fence of Shadow’ in the west, and an unnamed (or was possibly still called Ephel Dúath) range in the south. In the northwest corner of Mordor, the deep valley of Udûn formed the region’s gate and guard house. That was the only entrance for large armies, and was where Sauron built the Black Gate of Mordor, and later where Gondor built the Towers of the Teeth. Behind the Black Gate, these towers watched over Mordor during the time of peace between the Last Alliance and Sauron’s return. In front of the Morannon lay the Dagorlad or the Battle Plain.

Within this mountainous region, Sauron’s main fortress Barad-dûr formed its tower, at the foothills of Ered Lithui. To southwest of Barad-dûr lay the arid plateau of Gorgoroth, forming the region’s keep, and Mount Doom its forge. To the east lay the plain of Lithlad.


photo courtesy wikipedia- 

Mount Doom and Sauron’s tower of Barad-dûr in Mordor, as depicted in the Peter Jackson film

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, that’s a ridiculous charge.

When have I ever suggested that there is some disembodied evil, a great eye, lurking at the top of a tower that looks down over some ash blasted wasteland which has a river of poison flowing through it?

cool recesses

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– photo courtesy google books, from: Queens Borough, New York City, 1910-1920: The Borough of Homes and Industry

This image was found in one of the many ancient books which your humble narrator is known to haunt. The shot’s vantage point is familiar to regular riders of the LIRR, and would be somewhere very close to Trimble Road’s intersection with 64th street in Woodside. Notice the Woodside Court building on the left, it would have been around 10 years old in the shot above, having been constructed in 1916.

It’s supposed to be the very first apartment house in all of Woodside, or so I’m told.

From the aforementioned book linked to above,

“The importance of this station as a transfer point is directly proportional to the number of Long Island Railroad trains which stop there. About seventy-four percent of the trains stop today. The Queensboro Chamber of Commerce believes that more trains should stop at that point for the interchange of passengers, at the same time realizing that passengers bound for all points in New York City can go through to the Pennsylvania Station and make connections there with the Seventh Avenue Subway”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman, 2011

My shot is from the platform of the modern Long Island Railroad platform, in the summer of 2011. The Woodside Court building is still there, as are the two electrical towers and the elevated train station which crosses over the LIRR tracks along Roosevelt Avenue. The elevated tracks arrived in 1917, so I guess that means that very little has actually changed- from an infrastructure point of view- in the intervening 94 years.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 29, 2011 at 12:15 am

uncouth syllables

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The dark months of the winter offer few opportunities for me to go out shooting, as the times when “the light is good” are limited to an hour or two in the morning (I’m a late riser) and a similar interval in the mid afternoon. Luckily, during one of these narrow moments recently, I found myself in Long Island City in an area which I refer to as “the Fedora District”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The trick with light during the winter all comes down to the angle of the sun. The sky flung monoliths and tall slabs of masonry which distinguish New York City are illuminated in a harsh fashion during the winter months, resulting in deep shadow adjoining light blasted highlights. At the end and beginning of the day, however, the sun hangs low in the sky and provides long and cooly colored shadows interacting with bright and often orange illumination.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Miserably dim nevertheless, the sun appears bright to the human eye, but photographic pursuits betray its dimness. Sacrifices in image fidelity and the presence of visible grain brought on by high ISO settings annoy me, and the aforementioned darkness coupled with an omnipresent atmospheric haze force me to avoid the long depth of field and detailed clarity which I normally attempt to capture, so I focus in on the near rather than the far during the winter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m one of those people who carries a camera everywhere I go, a practice which causes no end of annoyance to those whom I encounter on a daily basis. An obstacle which has been very difficult to overcome, now conquered, is the violation of the social normative which one encounters when whipping out “the rig” and clicking away in the midst of the vast human hive.

There are some, often members of various branches of law enforcement, who perceive my interest in recording the daily round as an act of aggression and suspicious at best.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing is, and allow me to wax a bit more rhapsodically than usual here, is that Long Island City as we know it today will be inextricably altered (as it already has been) within the next decade and that time grows short to record and document the transition. Will the future know about the gruff beauty of the place, or the delicate interplay of reflected sunlight upon centuries old wood, as they wander about an antiseptic landscape of glass and steel?

When the Sapphire Megalith is a relict, and the ever watching thing that dwells at its apex has grown senile and blind, will anyone remember what this place once was?

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 28, 2011 at 12:15 am

chilly depths

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my little hobbies involves the recording of manhole covers, the large iron discs which act as a removable hatch for access tunnels to the stygian world of infrastructure that underlies the streets of New York City. Often, the cover will betray the age of the street, indicate the company or municipal organ that installed it, and provide some subtext to the relict building stock adjoins them.

This post isn’t about manholes, however, it’s about a beautiful bit of street art recently observed in the Dutch Kills neighborhood nearby the legend choked Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This bit of graffiti surpasses the normal tags and scrawled affirmations common to the so called art form, due to its masterful draftsmanship and painterly quality. My own background in commercial illustration makes me a bit of snob when it comes to drawing, and this more than passes my rigid and stoic standards.

Owing allegiance more to Arisman than to Bode, this is no “cheech wizard smoking a doobie”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Check out the wonderful contour line drawing in the elephant, and the gorgeous use of highlight and tone in the face. Nice, nice work. Whoever the artist(s) is, they have a wonderful touch. This sort of thing is normally the province of Ms. Heather at NY-Shitty, as Newtown Pentacle seldom focuses on street art, and perhaps she might be able to identify the artist.

Normally, presentation of graffitis is only engendered when it is enigmatic or curious, suggests the hidden occult, or is a blatant example of time and opportunity available at a transportation center.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2011 at 12:15 am

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