The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for April 2016

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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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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

with 3 comments

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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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

forgotten nether

with one comment

Saturday – Calvary Cemetery awaits.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At 12 p.m. on this coming Saturday, I’ll be narrating (humbly) a walking tour of First Calvary Cemetery here in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood. I will be at the northeast corner of Greenpoint and Review Avenues at 11:30 a.m. As long time readers of this, your Newtown Pentacle, will tell you – I have a special love for Calvary.

It’s the largest chunk of “green infrastructure” found along the Newtown Creek as well as serving as the final resting place of literally millions of Roman Catholic New Yorkers. It’s part of the firmament of LIC, and a significant touchstone for the history of 19th century NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Expect to encounter unexpected life forms in Calvary. The cemetery lies along the migration routes of several bird species, and I’ve spotted everything from Canada Geese to Great Blue Herons and Red Tail Hawks there. On, and in, the ground there’s a plethora of critters – such as the small rabbits which the Irish of the 19th century would have referred to as “Coney’s.” No guarantee on what we will spot, but there’ll be something interesting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sculptural monuments are found everywhere in First Calvary, from thirty foot high obelisks to enormous mausolea. We will be visiting the final resting place of Governors, Senators, even the tomb of the original gangster himself – Joseph Masseria. The rightful King of Ireland is buried in Calvary, along with members of Corcoran’s Legion – the Fighting 69th. For NYC history fans, and tapophiles – this place is a smorgasbord of interest.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The walking tour will be roughly two hours long, and will range over several shallow hills which host a natural grass surface. A hat or parasol is highly recommended to shield yourself from the sun. The walk is not difficult, but if you suffer from mobility issues – this likely is not the tour for you. Surrounding Calvary Cemetery are the concrete devastations of Western Queens – and the heavy industrial zone which forms the northern shoreline of the Newtown Creek. We will have a unrivaled view of the ongoing Kosciuszko Bridge construction project, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bring your camera along, as Calvary Cemetery is a jewel. The Manhattan skyline is omnipresent, providing for impossibly candid views of an area stretching from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Queensboro. During the era of the so called “Gangs of New York” there was a saying which went “All roads lead to Calvary” and the cemetery was once a major destination for the Catholic masses of tenement Manhattan. Surrounding the great burying ground were saloons and road houses that serviced mourners. After the tour concludes, we will be visiting the last of these road houses (bar and food not included in ticket price, btw, just a post tour hang out). 

One other thing to mention, obviously, is that if there’s a funeral underway we are going to steer clear of it out of respect and deference for the mourners.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walk ups are always welcome, for those of you uncomfortable with online ticketing, and the cost of the tour is $25 per head. For those of you who are comfortable with such online things, the link found below will take you to a credit card processing page. As a note, I couldn’t make the “ships within two weeks” line go away on the cc processing page, which a couple of people mentioned as being confusing. Nothing will be shipped to you, but you will receive an email receipt and your name will appear on the “check in” list I’ll be using “day of.”

Hope to see you Saturday morning, at the corner of Greenpoint and Review Avenue, at 12 p.m.
“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

natural history

with 2 comments

Happy 50th Brithday, Riverkeeper.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I finally got to shoot a Kennedy. 

In this case, it was Robert Kennedy Jr., while onboard a NY Water Taxi celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Riverkeeper organization. Mr. Kennedy, who in addition to being an environmental attorney and President of Riverkeeper, has a degree in history – offered the assembled group an absolutely fantastic encapsulation of the history of the Hudson River and spoke about the role and history of Riverkeeper in NY Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before I continue, my continuing practice of listing my conflicts of interest and personal prejudices must be enacted – Newtown Creek Alliance has had a LONG and deep connection with Riverkeeper. Current DEC Commisioner and former Riverkeeper official Basil Seggos, and Riverkeeper Attorney Philip Musegaas are both former board members of NCA.

Additionally, I have enjoyed the company and tutelage of Riverkeeper’s patrol boat Captain, John Lipscomb, on more than one occasion, and Riverkeeper’s current representative in my part of the world – Sean Dixon – is both a friend and ally of Newtown Creek Alliance and our goal to “reveal, restore, and revitalize” Newtown Creek.

Riverkeeper, as an organization, are the “good guys” in my opinion and I consider being in the company of the organization on this important milestone for them both an honor and a privilege.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Kennedy Jr. – suffice that whatever you want to say about the storied political dynasty from which he descends, when this fellow starts speaking – you pay attention. Kennedy described the formation of Riverkeeper from the Hudson Fisherman’s Association, and its role in cleaning up the notoriously polluted Hudson River over the last half of the 20th century and its expansion into other domestic waterways and now international efforts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, as someone who has always identified with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, a humble narrator was absolutely stoked just to be in the same room (or cabin) with him. That’s an actual leader you’re looking at above, and a bit of rock star at that. I’m not alone in this view, of course, and several of my colleagues from Newtown Creek and activists from the larger Harbor of New York and New Jersey were also invited onboard to celebrate the anniversary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another “actual leader” is Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper. Mr. Gallay assessed Riverkeeper’s current efforts and made a cogent case against the continuing operation of the shoddily constructed and badly managed Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant which is just 45 miles from Manhattan.

He also discussed the so called petroleum “bomb trains” which have begun populating the rail system in upstate New York, and Riverkeeper’s ongoing battle to ensure a swimmable and fishable state for all of New York’s waterways – big or small.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, it was quite rainy and cold when we were out on the NY Water Taxi. I managed to crack out one shot of the surrounding scenery, as evinced above.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

loaded tolerance

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Old things! In today’s post, with a tour announcement at the end!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So… Our Lady of the Pentacle announced that an inspection of a storage room we maintain would be enacted one rainy and quite recent Saturday. We entered the warehouse facility where our storage room is, which is a void mainly filled with the remnants of my career as a comic artist, and rummaged about. She was after a few garments of a certain vintage which were kept therein, and while she was searching for the items, I poked around in a cardboard box full of my Dad’s “things” which I kept after he passed on.

I brought home some of his vintage camera gear, which was fairly well preserved and which I thought some of you Lords and Ladies of the Pentacle might enjoy checking out for their retro design goodness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The gizmo above is a light meter. The thing sticking out of the top right is a spring load button, and pushing it flips up a lid revealing a glass photo cell or sensor. It’s make is a Sekonic Type L – VI “Leader.”

There’s a fellow named M. Butkus over in New Jersey who has actually made the original instruction manual for the Sekonic available as a PDF, click here for the link. According to the various sources I checked, this little gizmo dates back to about 1954. Amazingly, the thing still works. Sekonic is a Japanese company, one which is still around today, and they’re still making light meters.

Before you ask – I checked and the thing would be worth eight bucks on eBay, were it still housed in its original packaging and in pristine condition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The old man always inferred that his “Revere 8 Model 40” 8mm movie camera was purchased at the same time as the Sekonic light meter, both transactions having occurred when he was “in da soyviss” during the late 1950’s. Given the proclivity towards games of chance that Dad and his Brothers all displayed well into the 1980’s, I always presumed he rooked somebody in a card game and received the movie kit in lieu of cash. This unit would have cost about a hundred smackers when it first went on sale in 1955.

My Dad would have become physically ill if you asked him to spend $100 on a camera in 1985, let alone 1955.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Take note of the fact that this camera was spring wound! You’d twist that big key at the bottom of the thing and then it makes a “whirrrrr” sound as the spring returns the mechanical energy to its internal mechanisms, driving both film path and shutter. The thing still works, incidentally.

Revere was a Chicago based auto outfit formed in 1920 that originally manufactured radiators for cars. In 1939 Revere started making 8mm cameras, and then 8mm cameras and lenses in the 1950’s. By the middle 50’s, they were the second largest manufacturer of consumer movie cameras in the country. They also manufactured projectors, tape recorders, and a very popular rotary shop tool. Revere was acquired by 3M in 1960 after the company’s founder grew ill.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The interesting thing about the Revere 8 Model 40 is that it takes cartridge film. Kodak used to manufacture this sort of thing and kept the prices low enough on the film for the developing to be kind of expensive. Kodak made its money on the developing, don’t forget, and they had a Standard Oil type of monopoly on the photography business before digital cameras and environmental laws annihilated their business model.

One of my cousins digitized the old family 8mm home movies a few years ago, most of which were shot with this camera, which Dad would lend out occasionally. My Uncle Irving took his side of the family to the World’s Fair in 1964, and I uploaded what he shot to my flickr account – click here for a brief and somewhat blurry glimpse into the past, as captured by the Revere 8 Model 40.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of my “depression era kid” Dad not wasting his money, one of the items present in his “box of things” was a sample of the aforementioned cartridge film. What cartridge means – for you youngins – is that the film was entirely contained in a plastic shell that had mechanical plug in spots which allowed the camera mechanism to smoothly drive the film past the shutter. The film was entirely contained within this plastic shell, which allowed one to safely load or unload the device sans dark room or light fast bag.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The amazing thing – well there’s two amazing things – one is that this box of film was meant to processed by February of 1966, which actually makes it older than me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other is that it’s still unopened and factory sealed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Less remarkable, but still old timey cool, is the Waxman family Kodak Instamatic 104 camera. A still camera, the Instamatic also used cartridge film. Manufactured in England, of all places, the Instamatic is likely one of the most popular cameras ever produced and something like fifty million of them were shipped out to customers.

The Instamatic 104 hasn’t held up that well over the years – its shutter no longer pops, and there’s a lot of corrosion on the coatings of its plastic surfaces.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scrolls of Eibon, the Dread Necronomicon, the lost ark of the Hebrews – all must be waiting for some unlucky or intrepid soul to find them within the hundreds of thousands of cubic acres utilized as the anonymous storage rooms which are spread about in New York City.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be locked up in there?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

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