The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for April 2016

unlimited demand

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Me? I like a good arch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In glorious Astoria, Queens, you’ll notice that the neighborhood hosts a rail viaduct which carries the New York Connecting Railroad tracks to the Hell Gate Bridge, and that the cyclopean concrete structure uses a series of arches to carry the load. Whenever I’m out shooting, a point is made to photograph arches whenever they’re encountered, strictly in the name of “framing” for the composition. These tracks have been here since 1917, and opened in March, or possibly July of that year.

The arch is actually a relatively modern “thing” as far as human history goes, and began turning up in the built environment roughly 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Romans are famous for their usage of the arch and created several twists on the structural element. They would line up a series of arches to create an arcade, or twist them around a focal point to build domes. They also came up with the idea for triumphal arches, like the one you’ll find on the Canal Street side of the Manhattan Bridge, which also has a colonnade.

In case you were wondering – the Manhattan Bridge arch and colonnade were opened for inspection some five years after the bridge itself premiered. It was in 1910, a year after the bridge opened, that the architectural firm Carrère and Hastings drew the plans for the arch, and it was sculpted by Carl A. Heber. There’s also a sculptural frieze called “Buffalo Hunt” by a fellow named Charles Rumsey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of arches and the New York Connecting Railroad, as well as Astoria, you’d be remiss not mention the treasure of treasures which is Hell Gate. Lindenthal and Horbostel designed the great rail bridge, which is actually a series of bridges when you get down to it. The main attraction is an inverted bow spring arch.

Technically speaking, it’s called the East River Arch Bridge.

The New York Connecting Railroad Bridge, aka the East River Arch Bridge- or commonly the Hell Gate Bridge- is estimated to be the most permanent of all the structures garlanding NY Harbor. According to Discover Magazine’s Feburary 2005 issue – it would take a millennium of environmental decay for Hell Gate’s steel to fail and collapse as compared to a mere 300 years for the other East River crossings. A target of no small strategic importance, Hell Gate was a mission objective for the Nazi saboteurs who were landed in Amagansett, Long Island by a Submarine (U-Boat 202– the Innsbruck) during the second World War’s Operation Pastorius. The legal consequences of Pastorius, by the way, are the precedent setting United States Supreme Court decision of Ex Parte Quinn.

Ex Parte Quinn is the legal pretext that underpins the detention of and trial, by military tribunals, of “foreign combatants” in the United States – a central tenet of our modern Terror War.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite arches can be found at my favorite place, of course. The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge over Newtown Creek is featured above. There have been multiple bridges erected at this location over the years, but the first one was known as the “Blissville Bridge” and it was erected in 1850.

from the DOT website:

The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is a double-leaf trunnion bascule, with 21.3m wide leaves. This bridge is a steel girder structure with a filled grid deck. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 45.4m and in the closed position a vertical clearance of 7.9m at MHW and 9.4m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a four-lane two-way vehicular roadway with a 1.2m striped median and sidewalks on either side. The roadway width is 8.6m and the sidewalks are 4.0m and 3.7m for the north and south sidewalk respectively. The approach roadways are narrower than the bridge roadway. The west approach and east approach roadways are 17.1m (including 1.4m center median) and 11.9m respectively.

Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is also known as the J.J. Byrne memorial bridge. Who was Byrne? Long story, click here to learn more.

 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Staten Island, the Bayonne Bridge opened for use to the general public was 28,856 days ago, on November 15th, 1931 at 5 A.M. Bayonne is the fourth longest steel arch bridge upon the entire planet, and was designed by Othmar Amman. Click here for more on the Bayonne Bridge, and the construction project underway which is raising its roadway to accommodate a new class of cargo vessel.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 29, 2016 at 1:00 pm

additional fact

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I can’t help it if I’m “literal minded.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that I used be a “comics guy” who wrote and drew the things, there’s a certain presupposition which possesses me to interpret things in an extremely literal fashion. Given that my days and nights are spent here in Western Queens, which is famously the most diverse collection of humanity upon the entire earth, a humble narrator often finds himself in quite a pickle when signage is encountered. Some of the neighbors offer a charming interpretation of the American variant of English, after all.

I was confused by the signage in the shot above, encountered at the border of Woodside and Sunnyside. They sell Tacos, but not pets? Is the meat in the Taco not pet meat? If so, then what about the hot dogs?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Certainty exists that the fellow who crafted the signage above intended to signal that the sidewalk was not open for its intended purpose, but one likes to assume it’s a general warning about the pavement’s proximity. On a technical note, the kerning and tracking of the letterforms adorning the missive could really use some love and attention – lousy typography is another one of my pet peeves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The chalk screed on the signboard pictured above wasn’t just advertising a Soccer match on Astoria’s Broadway to me, instead it was describing the last 75 years of United States foreign policy. Then again, I am literally minded as offered above, and if you put “USA vs. World” on a sign…

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 28, 2016 at 11:00 am

neatly fitted

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A short, and kind of weird, one today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a number of theories about the shot above, captured on Greenpoint’s Manhattan Avenue near the corner of Commercial Street – about one block from the fabulous Newtown Creek. One involves a war in Pigeon Heaven and the stripping away of a rebel eidolon’s wings. Another revolves around an undescribed form of life, or something very much like life, which might lurk in the shadowy recesses of Greenpoint.

The most likely explanation involves feral cats, of course, but what fun is there in pondering that?

Back tomorrow with something a bit more substantial, a post that’ll carry a beat more “meat on the bone.”

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

heavy features

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A few shots from NYC’s most photogenic subway line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, a post was offered at this – your Newtown Pentacle – describing the 99th anniversary of the opening of the IRT Flushing Line’s Corona Extension. That’s the 11 stops between Queensboro Plaza and what’s now called 103rd Corona Plaza on the 7. My intention for that post was to show you every station, which I did in fact visit and shoot… but you know me… a week late and a dollar short.

Speaking of, I’m running a bit late today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Large groupings of photos – in the case of the 7 line shots, I came home with something close to a thousand individual captures which have been boiled down to around 200 – create a sort of roadblock for me. They need to be treated as one continuous shoot during the developing process (I shoot in RAW format, so every shot gets a little love and attention). Procedurally, it works like this – an initial pass to cull out over and underexposed or just junk shots, followed by key wording and then cropping. At the end of the procedural stuff I finally get to do the “developing” stage which is the photoshop equivalent of what you film people used to do in the dark room when pulling prints. Once that’s done I can finally start spawning the final incarnations of the things you see, and upload them to the web for dissemination.

When you’re starting with a thousand individual images, this ends up taking a lot of time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I ended up riding the 7 for several hours last week, between Willets Point and Queensboro Plaza. To me, at least, it was worth the effort.

Speaking of transit, tonight at 6:30 at Riccardos by the Bridge in Astoria, there’s a meeting to plan a centennial celebration for the Hell Gate Bridge which I intend on attending. Come with?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2016 at 1:00 pm

pedantic overexposure

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Manhattan is an “only when necessary” destination.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the little diatribes I’m known for concerns Manhattan, specifically the section of it found below 96th street and above the Battery. Once, this was an interesting place. There is still some interesting architecture to observe, of course, but the chances of encountering anything that isn’t crass and or exploitative are pretty much nil these days. Seven bucks for a hot dog? Really?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only reason a humble narrator ever goes there anymore involves where my physicians have set up their offices, the catching of a ferry to Staten Island, or attending some harbor related function.

It’s sanitized, Manhattan is, and having had all of its edges sanded down has resulted in it becoming quite bland. Rich people and tourists are, by definition, not terribly interesting. Most of what you’ll find at the street level – shop wise, has become banal. The entire island was once brightly colored, but there has been so much bleach applied to it over the years…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent appointment with my team of Doctors required me to visit the island, and I took the opportunity to perambulate from 59th street to Union Square – roughly two miles. Two miles in North Brooklyn or Western Queens would have seen me return to HQ with literally hundreds of shots of interesting things I’d encountered. The Manhattan walk resulted in about 15 shots.

Above, a film crew at work nearby Union Square Park, is included simply because it’s part of a larger series of “Photographing Photographers while they’re Photographing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thankfully, after a clean bill of health was pronounced by the professional staff at my Doctor’s office, a chariot back to the bountiful vistas of Queens arrived at the Subway station just as I did. The best part of visiting Manhattan is leaving it behind.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm

poised on

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Happy Earth Day, from the Poison Cauldron in DUKBO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, a humble narrator found himself in Greenpoint over in Brooklyn. One was scuttling along a proscribed route whose intention and path was built around a walking tour conducted for a private group. Given the enormous construction project underway in the area, the NYS DOT’s construction of a replacement for the 1939 vintage Kosciuszko Bridge which carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek, there is little certainty that just because you can move from “point A to point B” via one street or another on one day you can do it on another due to street closures and ongoing construction. From a vehicular POV, it’s actually a bit of a challenge to negotiate the streets hereabouts – there’s detours and so on – but from a pedestrian’s perspective, it’s a real bugbear as you find yourself dodging heavy trucks and moving through an enormous cloud of airborne dust and particulates in this area which are less than desirable to breathe in.

This is the area I describe as “The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek” after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I just got invited to attend a tour of the actual construction site with the DOT show runners next week, so for today I’ll abstain from making a full progress report as by next week I’ll have heard it directly “from the horse’s mouth” and I’ll have shots from within the fence lines to show you.

Saying that, observationally, the project continues to move along at a fast rate, and the roadways of the new bridge are stretching towards the turgid waters of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the curious, one would like to reiterate that whereas this area is a photographic wonderland, I cannot describe how dangerous it is and that it’s really best for you to avoid the area for a number of environmental and safety reasons. A humble narrator has received multiple hours of “safety training” from various industrial giants along the Creek (requirements for stepping on several sites around the waterway include a mandatory “union” safety course) and I’m versed in the mores and methods of how to move about safely when the sort of equipment you see above is passing by.

There’s a reason I call it “the Poison Cauldron.” This area in Brooklyn’s DUKBO hosts a startling number of waste transfer stations, and all of that airborne particulate mentioned above is literally just hanging in the air.

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Walking Tour – Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

First Calvary Cemetery Walk.
Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman at First Calvary Cemetery, found in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood along Newtown Creek. Attendance limited to 15 people.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm

hath forgotten

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It’s 99 for the 7’s original 11.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On April 21st, 1917 – the original 11 stops of the IRT Subway line in Queens opened for business. We call the IRT Flushing line the 7, of course. The first stops on the line in Queens – Vernon/Jackson, Hunters Point Avenue, Court Square, and Queensboro were completed a couple of years earlier – but the stretch along Queens Blvd. and Roosevelt Avenue from 33rd Rawson to 103rd Corona Plaza is 99 years old today.

The NY Times was along for that first ride – leaving Grand Central at 3 p.m. and visiting the first 11 stations of the so called Corona Extension. Check out their reportage here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The original names for these IRT Flushing line stops were Rawson street (33rd), Lowery street (40th), Bliss street (46th), Lincoln street (52nd), Flake street (61st), Fiske Avenue (69th), Broadway (74th), 25th avenue (82nd), Elmhurst avenue, Junction Blvd., and Alburtis avenue (103 Corona Plaza). Willets Point came online in May of 1917, and Main Street in Flushing would open in February of 1928.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I actually spent my afternoon yesterday visiting and photographing all of these locations, but was unable to deliver the finished product in time for the anniversary this year, so archive shots of the 7 – some of which have been presented before – are here in their stead.

The historical development of western Queens from a community of farmers and dairymen to the bustling and crowded community of modernity is tied back to several watershed moments in the early 20th century. The opening of Queensboro in 1909, Sunnyside Yards in 1910, and the Steinway subway tunnels opening for business in 1907.

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Walking Tour – Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

First Calvary Cemetery Walk.
Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman at First Calvary Cemetery, found in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood along Newtown Creek. Attendance limited to 15 people.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm

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