The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for December 2016

guttural accent

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Old acquaintance be forgot, all that jazz, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last post of 2016 right here, lords and ladies, coming to you from the Empty Corridor of LIC. As y’all know, my favorite part of the concrete devastations for many years has been the splendid isolation it offered, which is getting all screwed up by real estate development. There’s so many more people around these parts than there were ten years ago… where’s a humble narrator got to go to find some solitude and listen to his HP Lovecraft audiobooks? I suppose there’s always Calvary Cemetery, but…

The Empty Corridor, I would mention, is a term of my own invention. It’s the zone of LIC found down under the Long Island Expresway – or DULIE. You’ve got to stay ahead of the real estate people, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s an MTA owned railroad access road which isn’t exactly a NYC DOT street, despite it having a “29th street” sign hanging on it. It adjoins the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, connecting Hunters Point Avenue and 47th avenue. If you send mail to one of the businesses found on this street, you can write the address as “One Dutch Kills” rather than “29th street” and it will be delivered. That’s something I learned in 2016.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of looking forward to 2017, the battle of Queens looms large. The Mayor of NYC announced, a while ago now, that he intends to deck over the titan Sunnyside Yards and build what promises to be a disastrous number of housing units there without a concurrent buildout of infrastructure. Bill de Blasio; the big little mayor, the dope from park slope, the vainglorious ideologue – he’s got another thing coming if he thinks he’s going to wreck Western Queens.

A sleeping activist giant has awoken in this borough, thanks to his homeless hotels, disingenuous neoliberalism masquerading as progressive policy, and his crass Tammany style corruption.


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glittering pinnacles

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Nothing I like better than a bleak post industrial landscape.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Behind the scenes on this whole environmental cleanup thing, there’s a lot of arguing and derision. As you’d imagine, the Government people operate according to a series of byzantine rules and exceptions, as do the so called “PRP” or “Potentially Responsible Parties” who have admitted culpability, and responsibility for, cleaning up the historical mess they’ve created in Newtown Creek. The PRP’s are divided into two camps – one is a consortium of energy companies (National Grid, ExxonMobil, BP etc.) and the former copper refinery Phelps Dodge which have styled themselves as the “Newtown Creek Group” or NCG. The other is the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, which despite its name and municipal mission is actually the biggest modern polluter of the waterway itself. The DEP’s sewer plant in Greenpoint is the largest source of greenhouse gases which you’ll find in Brooklyn, accounting for more climate changing emissions than the Battery Tunnel, believe it or not.

NCG and DEP are both on the hook for paying to clean things up on the Newtown Creek, as the agreement they signed with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that defined them as PRP’s was essentially the environmental law equivalent of a plea bargain agreement. As you’d imagine, both sides are trying to point a finger at the other and trying to force them into paying a larger share of the cleanup bill.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The difference between DEP and NCG, of course, is that the latter are publicly traded corporate entities who can simply pass the cleanup costs on to their customer base. National Grid recently announced a rate hike to its customers in pursuance of this goal. DEP is funded by and is an agency of the City of New York, and is funded by water taxes. No elected official, especially the current Mayor of NYC, wants to announce that taxes are going up so DEP is fighting tooth and nail to appear as an innocent and aggrieved party despite the fact that they signed that “plea bargain” alongside the NCG admitting their culpability. DEP allows in excess of a billion gallons of untreated sewage, per annum, to enter the waterway. I wish I could give you an exact number, but that’s one of the things that everyone is arguing about. If it’s raining, at all, in NYC you’ve got (according to DEP) a 63% chance that their “CSO’s” or “combined sewer outfalls” are belching raw sewage directly into the water.

DEP has argued to the various community organizations that since “chemicals of concern,” as defined in the Superfund “CERCLA” regulations, aren’t being transported in this sewage flow that they’re not even sure why they’re part of the Superfund process. Notably, they don’t do this when EPA is in the room. Speaking as a member of a few of these community organizations, I’ve queried EPA about this, and pointed out that the sewage flow is carrying a literal shit ton of solute and floatable garbage along with it. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

2016 was a pretty disappointing year on the Newtown Creek.

The City DEP is doing everything it can to wiggle out of fixing their mess. Their solution to the billion plus gallons of sewage which carry oxygen eating bacteria into the water is to spend hundreds of millions on an aeration system, which will – in essence – act as an aquarium bubble wand for the sewage. If they get the level of dissolved oxygen in the sewage high enough, they can tell the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation that they’ve solved the problem. The fact that the aeration system will be driven by electric air pumps, which will consume energy and produce greenhouse gases? Well, they’re under an order to increase the dissolved oxygen content of the water. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection is the largest modern source of ongoing water pollution on the Newtown Creek

On the historical pollution side, NCG is talking about using different “solutions” for the various regions of the Creek, which boil down to “dredge” versus “dredge and cap” versus “cap only” scenarios for removing the sediment bed of “Black Mayonnaise” which sits 20-30 feet deep along the waterway. The Black Mayonnaise is a witches brew of petroleum byproducts, coal tar, and everything else that’s ever been deposited in the water. The top layers, which represent about the last fifty years or so, were deposited by the DEP’s sewers, but the stuff at the bottom is industrial waste and spilt products which were manufactured by and belonged to Standard Oil’s refineries, Brooklyn Union Gas’s Manufactured Gas Plant, and Phelps Dodge’s acid factory and copper refinery. ExxonMobil, BP, National Grid etc. are the modern incarnations or inheritors of the energy companies mentioned above. Phelps Dodge acts a bit like a monster hiding under some kid’s bed in a dark room, and maintains a low profile. The oil and gas people are very much present in the conversation, however.

“Dredge and cap” means that the black mayonnaise will be entirely scraped away all the way down to the actual bottom of Newtown Creek, and that a layer of clay and “rip rap” (rocks) will be laid down to seal the bottom off from the water column.” “Cap only” means that the clay and rip rap will be installed OVER the sediment bed, which is a far cheaper scenario. NCG seems to be leaning towards the latter scenario for the extant tributaries like LIC’s Dutch Kills (pictured above), Maspeth Creek, and the East Branch in Ridgewood. This solution is quite a bit cheaper and easier to enact than the dredging one, which is why they’re pushing it, while dressing the plan up as “shoreline reconstruction” and “environmental restoration” in the name of palatability to people like me and my pals at Newtown Creek Alliance.

As mentioned, not a great year on the Newtown Creek.

All sides are offering carrots. I’m fashioning sticks, for use in 2017.


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eastern headland

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Cool cars trucks, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering home one day, I encountered this fantastically retro GMC RV parked alongside the Sunnyside Yards on 43rd street. Fiberglass body panels, panel truck frame… I didn’t check the registration sticker, but I think this is a GMC Motorhome, which was produced from 1973-8. There were only about 12,000 of these manufactured, and according to online sources, 7,000 of those are still registered and on the road.

They really knew how to make ’em back then, huh? This sucker is almost as old as me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A fence was down at the Sunnyside Yards the same day I spotted the GMC Motorhome, revealing the cable truck seen above. Love the wooden spools, I do. Made me think that some titanic tailor had taken up residence at what was once the world’s largest railroad coach yard, and had used up all the threading which the truck brought in.

If you’re a giant, you can’t buy off the rack, as even a “big and tall” clothing shop has limits. Just ask the Mayor… as the Dope from Park Slope is Brobigdagnian. Maybe the giant tailor is working for him.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Northern Blvd., the delivery of automobiles is a daily occurrence. I’ve mentioned before that this sort of sight brings out my inner seven year old in the same way that FDNY engine units screaming by does. There’s a reason that I call Northern Blvd. “the Carridor” y’know.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 28, 2016 at 1:00 pm

terrible keenness

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The southern side of Woodside, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 27th of December in 1657, the Flushing Remonstrance was presented to Peter Stuyvesant, over in the City. That’s your Queens history factoid of the day. I’m going to a holiday party in the City tonight, and I can virtually guarantee that nothing quite so earth shattering as the emergence of the legal precursor of Constitutionally protected religious freedom will emerge from the endeavor. There will likely be soft cheeses, crackers, and wine however.

Life is shit. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, whilst wandering along the fence lines of and through the “House of Moses” in Elmhurst, Winfield, and Woodside the other day I got to thinking about something that bugs me. During political type conversations with various folks in the last couple of years, a common statement has been offered to me which states that the U.S.’s Constitutional Bill of Rights “grants” me this and that (including the notion of the freedom of conscience which was first clarified to Peter Stuyvesant way back in 1657 Queens). If you check the actual language of the thing – it “acknowledges” “certain inalienable human rights.”

“Grant” means that it gives you these rights, and that it can take them back if warranted. That’s “stinking thinking” if you ask me, but what do I know? I’m no law scholar, just some idiot with a camera and an afternoon off, which I spent walking along a highway in Queens. I do know what “inalienable” means, however, and that “acknowledge” is better than “grant.”

Think about it in terms of acknowledging the right you have to live another day without being murdered, versus being granted another murder free day. This is the sort of stuff which keeps me up nights, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anywho, the little path I picked for myself was quite hilly. I followed Laurel Hill Blvd. in Woodside while trailing the BQE on my way back to Astoria from Elmhurst. My pal Kevin Walsh from Forgotten-NY could probably have built around a hundred posts out of the area I wandered through, but as I’ve mentioned in the past – residential neighborhoods ain’t my thing.

I like the wastelands, which is why I was walking along a highway. I picked the hilly path just for the cardio.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are numerous scenarios which I can envision that would explain the shot above. I prefer the one involving modesty, wherein a naked hydrant was somehow offensive and one of the neighbors decided that it needed some dress up.

You don’t ask, in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been looking and looking for the last few months, and finally I’ve spotted another type of manhole or access cover which I haven’t previously recorded. On the whole subject of trade, international deficits, and so on – why aren’t we forging these things in the United States? I’m positive that “made in Pittsburgh” would fit if a smaller font was used.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2016 at 1:00 pm

apparent coherence

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One last set of archive shots, for Boxing Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle hails from the UK, so Boxing Day is kind of a thing in our house, and that’s today. The British tradition originates, at least in its modern form, from the habit of allowing the servile to go visit their own families after facilitating the Christmas celebrations of their masters. The Lords and Ladies would present their servants with boxes of gifts to take back to the hovels that they were created in. As times changed, modern Boxing Day became sort of what Christmas Day is in the United States, the calendrical marker wherein gifts are distributed and families gather to feast, drink, and argue.

It’s also Saint Stephen’s Day. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saint Stephen was the protomartyr of the Christian tradition, as in he’s the first martyr to die horribly after the boss got hung up on the rood. Stephen (or as he likely spelled it – Στέφανος) was a Hellenistic Jew and later Christian Deacon, supposedly appointed by the Apostles themselves, whose church was found in first century AD Jerusalem. Stephen pissed off the Jerusalem establishment, specifically the conservative Pharisees, and he was stoned to death after they accused him of blasphemy. The denunciation, trial, and carrying out of the sentence was supposedly witnessed by a fellow named Saul of Tarsus – later Saint Paul – who provided the only primary source material for the story of Stephen.

BTW – politics, history, religion, politics. If you read up on Baruch and the Persians, the hot and cold wars between Rome and Persia/Parthia, and the role of the City States of the Levant caught between the Italians, Greeks, and Persians during this period – the bible suddenly makes a lot more sense. The Three Wise Men? They were Mede and Persian priests who illegally crossed the border into a Roman conquest, formerly a Persian Suzerainty, to anoint a new king of the Jews… Frankincense, Myrrh, Gold? All things which a warrior King would require to claim his kingdom. That’s the way that the Romans saw it, at least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the former holdings of the British Empire, with the notable exception of the United States, Boxing Day has turned into a capitalist bellwether holiday – analogous to “Black Friday.” The only holdover of Boxing Day in the good old USA is found in the former states of the confederacy, which gives public employees a paid day off on the 26th of December. Saint Stephen’s Day is celebrated in several countries with traditions that predate the Roman Empire, with pagan Celtic and Viking rituals that have been Christianized. In Ireland, for instance, you’ve got “Lá Fhéile Stiofáin” or “Day of the Wren.” In Welsh culture it’s “Gŵyl San Steffan,” and Catholic Germans celebrate “Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag.”

Happy Boxing Day. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 26, 2016 at 12:30 pm

febrile energy

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Getting high in LIC, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

None of these shots are recent, I’ll first offer. To magnify that statement, due to the recent and quite abysmal climatological conditions, one has been forced to dig into the archives this entire week. Secondly, one is so thoroughly bored at the moment that if a television reporter suddenly presents a story about a black hole opening up in Astoria – interpret that as the fact that my event horizon has finally collapsed and I’ve given in to the ennui.

Pictured above is a set piece from an Angeline Jolie movie that was being filmed in LIC around seven years ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is full of desire and ambition, wanting to get higher and higher in the name of gathering uncommon views of everyday things. The most photogenic of NYC’s subway lines is in the shot above, as is a NJ Transit train heading back to the City after sitting out the day in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Northern Blvd., looking towards 31st street, in the shot above. I call the section of Northern between 52nd and 31st streets the “Carridor” for several reasons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Sunyside Yards, with the Degnon Terminal behind it. For some reason, LaGuardia Community College, which is partially housed in the big white structure once known as “The Thousand Windows Bakery of the Loose Wiles Company” has decided to paint their building gray and brick over the thousand windows.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

obsolete phraseology

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Getting high, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not so easy getting high in the age of terror. Once upon a time it was fairly easy to gain entrance to a building and find your way to the roof, but not so much anymore. Accordingly, whenever I get the opportunity, the camera is deployed.

This one is from a friend’s wedding, which was held at a Manhattan hotel on Park Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gridlock Sam didn’t necessarily want me to be bodily hanging out one of his office windows, on Broadway and Houston Street, but since I was there anyway for a meeting…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one was gathered in LIC from the roof deck of one those shiny new condo towers, and looks down on Hunters Point Avenue, the LIE, and a little bitty piece of the Sunnyside Yards.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

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