The Newtown Pentacle

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The manhole cover saga of Astoria, and Jimmy Van Bramer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I’m out and about here in Astoria the neighbors will express their various problems to me and then ask me to call 311 for them, as they don’t want to get involved. It could be a basketball sized wasp’s nest hanging over their driveway, a busted street light, or just a funny smell coming from the sewer. Why the neighbors cannot grasp their tacit ownership of the environs of their own community is something which one such as myself cannot fathom. Admittedly – I’m the one who tears down stickers advertising “cash for junk cars” on Broadway, chases drunks around with a camera, and I’m the one who calls 911 when I find them passed out. Neighborhood crank, that’s me. The weirdo guy with the cute dog named Zuzu who talks to everybody.

It was one fine night in October, while escorting the aforementioned canine on her nightly rounds, that one encountered this defective access cover on the corner of 45th street and Broadway. Just this once, I decided, I wasn’t going to do anything at all and see if either one of the neighbors – or the literally hundreds of City vehicles that cross it daily – would make an attempt at getting it taken care of. This was back in October. The shot above is from December 7th, so as you see – I was let down once again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was paralyzed with a sort of fever on this December night. While the dog sniffed about at the base of a tree, I angrily watched city buses driving over the thing, causing it to spin like a dime in the broken rim of the pipe it covered. A motorcycle driver almost rolled into it, and then a FedEx truck making the left off of 45th street plunged a wheel into the hole, causing it to flip.

God damn all of you. 

I called 311, and told my tale to an operator whom I had to convince that Astoria was in Queens and not the Bronx. The operator decided it was a police emergency and forwarded it to the 114th pct (who called me some four and a half hours later, btw). Ultimately, the cops did nothing (and the situation persisted through November).

Fearing someone might actually get hurt waiting for the Gendarmes to arrive, I called my neighbor Mario (a construction guy) to grab a few safety cones from the basement and bring them over to the corner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suffice to say that Mario has an abundance of traffic safety devices primed for ready deployment, and he showed up with not just traffic cones but one of those barriers with a blinky thing attached to it. We arranged the safety devices about the broken manhole cover, and again this was the 7th of December. Fervently, one hoped for succor throughout the month, and that a crew from either DOT or DEP would show up and remedy things.

As mentioned in the past, I’m an optimist.

The shot above is from January 2nd of this year. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 3rd of January, I was again walking around with Zuzu the dog and noticed that the impromptu safety devices we had arranged about the hazard nearly a full month earlier had begun to scatter. Cursing my neighbors, the City of New York itself, and whatever malign powers there are which have regency over my life – a decision was made that I was going to be forced into exercising the nuclear option.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Elected officials are kind of a dice throw in Queens, where a single political party enjoys landslide elections and office holders are appropriately described as having been appointed rather than having won an election. In my section of Astoria, the dice have fallen propitiously, as our representative in the City Council is Jimmy Van Bramer.

I’m a big fan of Mr. Van Bramer, it should be mentioned, and several times in the past I’ve reached out to his office for assistance involving one quality of life issue or another. I’m also in regular contact with several of the local electeds (Newtown Creek stuff), and overall – Western Queens is ably served by our representatives on the subject of “Quality of Life” issues.

January 3rd was a Sunday, so I pulled the glass cover away from the big red button that must never be pushed on Newtown Pentacle HQ’s control panel, and called Team Van Bramer’s office on the 4th.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, Monday the 11th actually, while returning from the subway stop at 46th street to Newtown Pentacle HQ, the shot above was taken. A dangerous street condition first noticed in October, which was reported to 311 in December, and which persisted through the holidays to January – was fixed.

It’s for the saga of the Astoria manhole cover and many, many other reasons that Mr. Van Bramer and his team can expect my support, endorsement, and vote in the next election cycle. They can somehow work the levers on the juggernaut mechanism which is the City of Greater New York in expert fashion, and realize that to the citizens of our metropolis – it’s the little things which matter.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

4 Responses

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  1. Everbody loves a happy ending!


    January 18, 2016 at 11:05 am

  2. Do you know what the manhole cover was for, by the way? I couldn’t find ‘PSBU’ on


    January 18, 2016 at 11:42 am

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