The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for December 18th, 2012

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mayan Apocalypse Countdown: just 3 days left until the 13th b’ak’tun ends, initiating the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st. Tick, tock.

Our Lady of the Pentacle demanded that we enjoy this last weekend before the prolapse of reality on the 21st occurs.

Hence- we set off to a pair of holiday parties set at equidistant intervals from the subway and found ourselves negotiating an unfamiliar path on Queens Blvd. Saturday Night., which carried us past the Borough Hall of Queens in some garden called Kew.

Fever pitch, our anxiety over the fate of time and space was nevertheless abated as merrily we skipped along. Our bacchanal of perambulation, however, ended suddenly when we realized that there were shadowy forms crawling upon Civic Virtue.


This landmark was designed by Frederick MacMonnies and sculpted by the Piccirilli Brothers (Ferrucio, Attilio, Furio, Horatio, Masanielo and Getulio) of the Bronx. (Attilio and Furio also sculpted Daniel Chester French’s statute of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial and the Lions in front of the New York Public Library.) Civic Virtue stood in front of City Hall [see the 1923 picture] until Mayor La Guardia decided he was sick of being mooned by it everytime he left the office. In 1941, La Guardia finally thought of a way to get rid of the thing. He made a gift of the statue to Queens County in honor of the opening of its new Borough Hall. Civic Virtue was moved to the park next to Borough Hall where it has remained since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was on Saturday afternoon around 4:30, an odd time for non emergency service municipal employees or contractors to be at work. A large and adroit flashgun was attached to my trusty camera, and the tableau was revealed.

Immediately, one realized that the leaders of our fair borough- realizing that the forthcoming and foretold Mayan Apocalypse would wreak havoc upon the artistic heritage of future Queensicans, had begun certain preventative measures to preserve and protect the already deteriorated statue.


A spokesperson from Borough President Helen Marshall’s office said, “Borough President Marshall is pleased that the statue will be restored and will work to see that the base of the statue, which will remain here, will be transformed into a public sitting area with benches and landscaping. She would also like the public area to pay tribute to outstanding women who have made a significant contribution to our borough and city.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If there is one thing for which the masters of the Queens Borough Hall are known for, it is the protection of and frank veneration of the iconic symbols of Queen’s past – such as St. Saviours in Maspeth, and the Queens Plaza Millstones.

Also, it was obvious that by conducting this operation quietly, under a twilight sky and unpublished schedule, they were attempting to avoid any build up of anxiety or panic within the local population or the broader constituency of the City of New York.

Such diligent service- ensuring that the surprise of this long standing work just disappearing from a perch it has stood upon since the 1930’s would cause no great tumult during the busy work week, during which a torch bearing mob of depressives, self immolators, and arts enthusiasts would surely chain themselves to the statue in order to guarantee its permanence- is the hallmark of true civic virtue.


Despite the criticism, “Civic Virtue” remained in place, in part because politicians were leery of demolishing something on which $60,000 had been spent. It was left to George U. Harvey, borough president of Queens in 1941, to put Manhattan out of its misery. Discerning a kindred spirit, he welcomed “Civic Virtue” to Borough Hall that year, two months before Pearl Harbor.

“I have been kicked around for years, just as that statue has,” Mr. Harvey said. “I felt that he and I had so much in common that if he were over here, near my office, I could come out here sometimes and we could tell each other our troubles.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dross interpretations, influenced by politics and ideological pedagogy, described the statue as denigrating toward women. This is due to its representation of crime and vice in the fanciful form of serpentine hybrids. The 1922 Frederick MacMonnies statue originally stood in Manhattan’s City Hall Park, where it was loathed by more than one Mayor.


Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz‘s push for a professional soccer team in his borough–possibly at the expense of Queens–did not go over well with a certain Astoria councilman:

“Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., called it a declaration of war.

‘Brooklyn is already in the process of stealing our . . . Civic Virtue statue and moving it to Green-Wood Cemetery, so what’s next, the Mets?’ he fired back. ‘I better go and lock up the Unisphere.’

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It came to Queens in 1941, just as all of Manhattan’s problems do. A rumor has been planted that the Borough Hall wishes to construct a “monument to women” here in its place, but that can’t be true- it must be a ruse designed to disguise the fact (and avert panic over) that the sculpture is simply being protected from the fiery event horizon of the looming and inevitably indescribable horrors of the Mayan Apocalypse.


Out of all of Queens today, only one farm survives — and that as an historical restoration. Henceforth, all further development will necessarily involve infilling and upbuilding, deterioration and replacement, rejuvenation and adaptation, and similar processes. Queens today is a physically mature urban territory but also one of intense social dynamism.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 18, 2012 at 12:15 am

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