The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

chemical paraphernalia 

with 3 comments

Twirling, always twirling, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here amongst the blessed rolling hills of that tower of municipal Babel called Astoria, a humble narrator has been noticing a scent familiar in recent weeks. Whenever one approached the street corner along Broadway between Steinway Street and Woodside Avenue, the scent of raw sewage occurred. Now – given the amount of time I’ve spent over the years describing my adventures along the Newtown Creek (and within a few DEP facilities that govern the sewer system) I’m just going to ask you to trust me when I say that I know EXACTLY what raw sewage smells like. As is my habit, whilst hoping and praying that I’m not the only person in the neighborhood who give one single “‘eff” about the place, I waited for a couple of weeks before calling 311, hoping that someone else would do it.

Meh. If you smell something, say something.

Last week, DEP responded within an astounding 90 minutes of my 311 call to report the smell conditions. I didn’t even have to invoke the “powers that be” of Western Queens, this time, for the system to expeditiously take care of it.

As a frequent and public critic of DEP, I felt compelled to congratulate the agency’s management, which I personally offered to Deputy Commissioner Eric Landau whom I ran into during an unrelated meeting in Greenpoint on the same day that the photo above was captured. Well done, DEP.

The truck pictured has a crane like rig installed, which in turn has a claw bucket attached to the end of its line. The fellow driving the truck opened the access (or manhole) cover on the corner and removed a blockage in the pipes beneath the street. He pulled out what seemed like a significant amount of garbage from down below which was loaded into the bin on the back of the truck. Good show, DEP, and the smell of raw sewage is once gain confined to the faraway Newtown Creek, rather than Astoria’s Broadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It being preferable that environmental or existential realities be “somebody else’s problem” is the New York City way, after all. All this crap that we all deal with is ultimately our own common fault, and since we got no one else to blame, that means that we don’t want to discuss it. That’s also the New York City way.

I always tell people that despite the fact that I’m involved with multiple environmentally oriented groups, I’m not an environmentalist, but that I know a few and that they are the “real thing.” They’re earth loving nature hippies, sandal wearing berry eaters, and bicycle riding dreamers who don’t understand the harsh realities of the actual tangible universe which the rest of us live in – but may the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself continue to shine beneficently of them, for despite my chides – they can actually get things done and are building a cleaner and healthier future. I’m not an environmentalist, but how can you not aspire to be one?

They are also the people you can count on to call 311 if and when the poop hits the fan, or when the corner sewer grate is exhaling rather than inhaling as it’s designed to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The unwillingness most of my neighbors evince towards getting involved with, and helping to guide the policies of, our government is something I just don’t understand. Men and women of conscience are everywhere you look in NYC, yet it’s also the NYC way to walk past a burning trash fire and say “somebody else’s problem.” People often ask me “what’s the matter with you, you don’t have enough of your own problems?” in regards to my chiding and constant admonitions regarding “getting involved.” My motivation is selfish, as I may need some help from the cops or whomever, and I believe that if they know me, that help might be a bit more profound in nature. Also, I’m not a fan of sewage smells wafting up out of the century old underground pipes which carry the flow.

Maybe I’m just a cheapskate, and want to know how the third of my household income seized by the government in every paycheck is being spent. Value for money? Expensive boondoggle lining the pockets of political favorites? Don’t you want to know what your money is doing, and how our common investments and properties are being managed? Don’t you want to make sure that De Blasio doesn’t intend to put a homeless shelter on your block?

Why not? 

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. You had me with the penultimate paragraph, but lost me in the last. The real question you are asking is, if I may paraphrase, [why are people so willing to take from society, yet so quick to not give back?]

    I’m often wondering this myself, and I don’t think there are any easy answers, but I do have a hunch that it’s a disconnect so many people have in our market driven society.

    I see it directly reflected in the response I get when people throw their refuse on the ground and I ask them to pick it up: “people get paid to do that” SRSLY? They obviously don’t see the ground as their ground, and they seem more than happy to litter because there are magic elves that clean up after them. When people are disconnected from the land, from their neighborhoods, from the city itself, it’s far too easy to go about their way without making the needed effort to make things change.

    A better question may be: “how do we instill that selfishness in people that gets them to take ownership of their surroundings?” Then we can hopefully attend to that tax issue of yours in an equitable fashion?


    October 12, 2016 at 12:05 pm

  2. Suprising, Mitch, that you didn’t hear (or at least elected to write about it yet, or defer that topic for a future post) – the Shelter plans for Maspeth are done (for now).


    October 12, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    • They’re not. While the announcement was being made, a van pulled up with 30 clients of the DHS who were moved in.

      Mitch Waxman

      October 12, 2016 at 12:51 pm

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