The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

unrelieved insanity

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It’s National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One fine day at the end of December, my calendar informed that a holiday party was on my schedule at seven p.m. in Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen neighborhood. Having few things holding me at home, and desirous of an end to my “bouncing off the four walls” that typifies my response to the Christmas season, I decided to make a day of it. I packed up the camera bag and left Astoria at around two in the afternoon. My path first carried me down the Carridor, or Northern Blvd. if you must, and at the undefended border of the neighborhoods of Astoria and Dutch Kills (31st street) one encountered a gargantua construction project whose goal – I believe – is to deliver yet another badly needed hotel to the Dutch Kills neighborhood.

There’s only about twenty or so of them there now, and god knows we need more, as at least one of them has been converted over to a homeless shelter by the administrative geniuses employed by our beloved Mayor – the Dope from Park Slope, Bill de Blasio.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Construction projects have stolen the sky in Long Island City in recent years. Long shadows are cast, and bizarrely reflected sunlight glares from the mirror box surfaces of the new towers. The glare sometimes illuminates a long shadowed factory block, burning away the mold and nitre of the early 20th century Industrial Age of Queens. The towers eradicate these ancient factories and warehouses which still hosted hundreds of blue collar and industrial jobs, replacing them with residences. It’s all done in the name of providing jobs, I’m told, although after the 24-36 months of construction work is done those jobs move on.

Luckily there’s still a handful of jobs for servile labor – doormen, porters, building superintendents. There would be delivery boys too, if the designers and funders of these towers had remembered that a neighborhood is more than just a collection of apartment buildings, and that you need doctors offices, laundromats, and supermarkets too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens Plaza seems to be quite the focus point for construction activity at the moment, answering the clarion call that all New Yorkers have been singing for generations demanding the opportunity to live here. As mentioned earlier, the only good part of these new structures to me is that they act as sun reflectors during the late afternoon and illuminate the transportation hub that serves as the de facto focusing point for nearly all the Midtown Manhattan bound vehicular traffic of Long Island and the locus point for the screeching steel wheels of the elevated N, W, and 7 Subway lines.

I do wish that the orange construction netting was a permanent feature, of course, as it provided for a nice color contrast with the stolen sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always been fascinated by the elevated Subway architecture hereabouts, which forms – technically speaking -“Queensborough Plaza.” The underground Subway complex, where you’ll find the E, R, and M lines, is called “Queens Plaza.” One of the things that has long puzzled me, however is why there isn’t a free transfer between upstairs and downstairs. If I get off a train at either complex, there are free transfers to the NYCTA Bus lines which Queens Plaza is lousy with, via some sort of magical Metrocard alchemy.

Conversely, MTA doesn’t allow a free transfer from… say, the N line to the R. Instead, you’re told to transfer to the 7 from the N, go to the Court Square stop, and transfer there instead. Not too big a deal, but why?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing under the elevated tracks, and towards the Citi building megalith, one encounters another construction zone. These buildings are further along, many have been open and renting for a while now. I know a couple who live in the “Linc LIC” building at the right of the shot above, and they proclaim great satisfaction with their new home.

Of course, as I’m ever a black spider crawling across clean white linen, one had to inform them of their proximity to half a dozen State Superfund sites, and to the Dutch Kills tributary of the noisome Newtown Creek Federal Superfund site. It seems that the realtors of NYC are under no obligation to inform buyers and renters of these new properties about environmental issues present in their new neighborhood. The realtors would be obliged to disclose if the property was known to be haunted by a ghost, conversely, in accordance with NYS jurisprudence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless of opinion, sense, or a web of infrastructure capable of maintaining this new population – construction continues. Hospital beds – Who needs ’em? Sewer plant upgrades – nobody cares about that. 7 train at capacity already, according to the MTA – haven’t you got something else to worry about, Mitch? Clouds of toxic dust mixing into the air column from construction sites – pfahhh, have you tried the new muffins at Coffeed?

Well you get the idea, and it is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day after all, so why aren’t you out shopping for some? What are ya? Some kind of commie? Go buy something. Maybe an apartment in Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Swinging around onto 23rd street, under the elevated tracks of the 7 line, in an area which I’ve always referred to as “the fedora district” since it’s the sort of place you can picture working guys wearing old school hats – I encountered some politically expressive vandalism on the plywood fencing of what promises to be yet another construction site.

The same writer installed the screed “Trump is your fault” around the corner. Politics and vandalism versus expression notwithstanding, one realized that he had left the house without eating breakfast. After counting out how many pennies I had in my pocket – I went to the ever reliable Court Square diner and ordered a sandwich which I call a “cholesterol bun” – 2 scrambled eggs, with ham and swiss cheese, on a roll.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst quaffing my cholesterol bun and sitting on the sidewalk of Jackson Avenue, the construction site occurring on the site of the former 5Ptz caught my eye. This is the one that burns me, incidentally. Maybe people do want to live in Queens Plaza. Maybe I’m just a recalcitrant preservationist and my knowledge of the intricacies of LIC’s environmental woes and infrastructure deficiencies prejudices the way I perceive all of this construction activity which the avarice of the politically connected Real Estate Shit Flies have created.

Thing is, a significant number of people who are moving in to LIC have been sold on its “vibrant art scene” which doesn’t actually exist. There WAS a vibrant art scene at 5Ptz, but nobody in power raised a finger to save the one thing which drew crowds of “artsy fartsy lookie-loos” to LIC. It’s a a crime what happened to 5ptz, from the literal whitewashing of its walls onwards. What’s rising are two more bland towers overlooking an elevated, busy and quite noisy, subway track.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Disgusted by all the short sightedness, and abundant entropy of LIC – and after the consumption of my yummy cholesterol bun – one entered the MTA “system” and paid my fare for a ride on the most photogenic of NYC’s subway lines. As mentioned at the top of the post, I had a social obligation to keep in Hells Kitchen, and it was time to head into town. LIC will shortly resemble a Hells Kitchen anyway – surviving tenements converted to one family “pied a terre” and surrounded by outré scale luxury towers that host the minimum number of low income housing allowable by law, and suffused by staggering levels of congested vehicular traffic.

My plan was to take the 7 to the western end of the line, in… Manhattan. More on that tomorrow, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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