The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for October 2017

witchcraft panic

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It’s National Caramel Apple Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rich Melnick is no witch, as far as I know. Instead, Mr. Melnick is instead one of the longstanding leaders of the Greater Astoria Historic Society, a heck of a guy, and last Saturday he performed and presented his “Haunted Waters Tour” along Hells Gate and Hallets Cove here in the ancient village. I hadn’t seen Rich for awhile and since I had my first weekend off in months, decided to tag along. As you can see, Rich pulls a pretty nice crowd. Still, he’s probably not a witch, but if he were that would be ok with me. This is America, after all, and if you want to be a witch, nobody can say “boo” to you. First Ammendment, yo! 

I’ve been on this “Haunted Waters” tour several times, I would mention, and upon my arrival volunteered to act as a second set of tour guide eyes for Mr. Melnick and so I took up a station at the back of the group, sometimes repeating something he had just said for somebody who missed it. While Rich was busy at the front of the group narrating, I helped keep the them from stretching out along multiple blocks, and assisted him with street crossings. Rich didn’t need me of course, but since I was there, why not help out? We’re all one big happy family out here in Western Queens, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One noticed a couple of strange things over the course of the afternoon, while acting as “sweeper” for this tour of Hells Gate, as Rich Melnick explored and described the long history and fairly macabre lore concerning this riverine section of Astoria. He was discussing the odd history of Hells Gate, when I noticed the coppers were doing their thing.

The NYPD Harbor Unit seemed unusually busy for a Saturday afternoon in late October, and were buzzing around the river a bit, moving back and forth under the two bridges that define the former maelstrom of Hellegaat – as the decadent Dutch of New Amsterdam might have called it. 

There are legends about this spot which suggest that the largest intentional explosion in human history – until the advent of the Atomic Age – which the United States Army Corps of Engineers detonated under the river here at Hells Gate in 1885, was only partially in the name of eliminating the navigational dangers presented by the so called “Bright Passage.” These legends say that there was something else down there, something older than Henry Hudson, Adriaen Block, or even the aboriginal civilization of the Lenape (who avoided this spot like the plague). It was a “something” which the Federal Government saw fit to obliterate, as part of a clandestine nationwide campaign initiated after discoveries of certain conditions in a decayed Massachusetts fishing town – shortly after the Civil War – were revealed to the War Department. The Corps did a LOT of explosives work in the waters all around the northeast between the Civil War and the First World War, all supposedly in the name of “navigational improvements.” 

Yeah, right… pffft.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While Mr. Melnick was telling the tragic tale of the General Slocum disaster, a humble narrator decided to climb around a fenceline in pursuance of getting a shot of the two bridges which wasn’t occluded by foliage. Denied my desire, this red brick structure leading off into the river caught my attentions instead.

All sorts of individuals talk to me, it should be mentioned. 

Cops and robbers, ordained priests and devil worshippers, abolitionists and addicts. I know people who – if they say “run,” you do. I also know those whom “run” is followed by sitting down and asking them what’s wrong and inquiring as to whether or not they’re still “on their meds.” A few of the latter and far more numerous grouping – whom I consider to be “a few steps off the beaten track, and more than most” – have reported to me that they’ve seen man like “things” pulling themselves out of the water here in the dead of night. Fish like and unblinking eyes, accompanied by  an unbelievable stink and dripping with riverine slime – those are the commonalities. One or two highly circumspect witnesses describe these fish or frog men as wearing jewelry and tiaras made out of some queer kind of gold. 

Nonsense, say I, hallucinations arrived at by combining cheap liquor with questionable narcotic powders. Still… I wonder, and more than wonder…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The walk led by Mr. Melnick continued beyond Shore Road and Astoria Park, towards the sub neighborhood known as Old Astoria Village. While passing by an enormous and out of scale apartment house along the route, I noticed the handiwork of the Queens Cobbler. The single shoe phenomena, left behind by a probable serial killer whom I’ve christened as the “Queens Cobbler,” continues to grow in intensity in the area. 

As a note, Rich Melnick didn’t mention any of this to his group, neither the Nest of the Deep Ones which existed at Hell Gate until 1885 nor the reports of their continued occupancy, or the whole Queens Cobbler thing.

That’s because Rich pretty much sticks to a provable and sane version of reality, unlike me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s what I did last Saturday. Today, of course, is Hallomass, or Halloween if you must.

I’ll be in Astoria tonight, sitting outside with Our Lady of the Pentacle at the neighborhood saloon, giving away candy to kids and asking their parents if I can take photos of their costumery for future presentation at this – your Newtown Pentacle. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 31, 2017 at 11:00 am

old diarists

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It’s National Oatmeal Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “ideation” (if it’s not some vision or prophetic message) came upon me again, the one wherein a humble narrator finds himself moving about and through a city of titanic oozy blocks of elder masonry – dripping with decay – whose ruinous facades nevertheless speak to the former habitancy of some race of giants within it. In these visions that occur when a sudden wave of physical weakness and psychic discohesion overcome a humble narrator – a condition which has recurred daily since childhood – inducing both unconsciousness and an accompanying series of wild hallucinations. One is aware of himself, as a wandering mendicant clad in a filthy black raincoat, lost and wandering along the shadow blasted streets. 

Half remembered snippets of barely realized imagery, sense shattering revelations harvested during these usually nocturnal hallucinatory episodes leave one with a sense of disquiet, even long after awakening from these daily lapses of consciousness. Groggy and congested upon the return of cognizant wakefulness, one will often try to jot down the experience but this is a usually fruitless enterprise. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Towers of cylcopean scope occlude the sky in this place, like daggers thrust violently upwards towards the soft belly of the heavens. The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself hangs wanly above the scene in these hallucinatory visions, irradiating and illuminating the dispossessed, the barren, the broken. Great cylinders rise into the sky, carrying poison effluents, as do enormous concrete and steel waste conduits snake greasily to the surrounding waters of the City. 

All is fouled, filthy, and fecund.

Great metallic insect like things roll about noisily in the open air and and stealthily hidden in burrows beneath the ground, accepting and vomiting forth the fleshy inhabitants of a city of dark secrets both cherished and kept. There is always a sense that the metropolis itself is sentient, an ancient coiling dragon possessed of a macabre sense of humor and dire intent, displaying naught but cynicism and contempt for those who dwell within the subaqueous boundaries of her archipelagic territory. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Disquieted, depressed, and disillusioned – a humble narrator’s dream avatar, wandering about in this shifting miasma of sound and image, found itself entering one the gargantuan metallic centipede “things” and surrendering to its destination. The chromium skin “thing” with the two glowing eyes I boarded was headed for the sclerotic heart of this metropolitan entity, where the psychic power and tumult of the City waxed rather than waned. Horror overtook this alternate reality’s narrator, as realization that the belly of the noisome beast was empty save for himself. 

Was this some sort of snare? A ruse?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the great centipede picked up speed and hurtled upon its course, observation revealed no other living soul within the segment ahead of mine, and in the segment behind there was similarly no occupation. Panic began to set in, as the disconnect was realized. You are never alone within the belly of this particular beast, after all. Was this charonic conveyance contrived simply to corral and control one such as myself? Producing a pocket tool, attempts were made to extricate, but the great metal beast was held together with some sort of proprietary headed screws which were impossible to budge.

Throwing ones body against both plasticine armored glass or polished metal wall was both futile and somewhat painful. Whatever the sentience of the city wanted of me – or wanted to do to me – acceptance of it was my only option. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tunnel was entered, and the gargantuan metallic insect thing sped into the gelatinous darkness of the subterrene. Without its metal shell, weird shadowed entities were glimpsed in the tunnel only briefly, but it was enough to drive one into a fit of wild panic. Organisms – both micro and macroscopic – beyond counting have been reported by scientific observers as inhabiting these subterrene bolt holes, punched through the very flesh of this sentient metropolis or “magna mater.” Collectively, these beings are her bridegroom, slithering in and scratching away at her decay in the safety of the dark. It is said that there are things which fester, and crawl, and slither, and even some that walk about on two legs – down there.

It is only when the glowing eyes of the metallic centipede flashes in their direction that can that they can be glimpsed, and even then, only dimly. But… I mean… this was only a vivid hallucination, experienced while passed out… right… I mean… right? A place like this… it cannot be…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Familiar locations were observed in the dreamscape… but the great hurtling metal insect like thing did not stop in them, despite the presence of the City’s loathsomely abundant population therein. This population, disturbingly heterogenous individually – and as a group willfully ignorant of their surrounding, due to a societal preference for staring into small glowing rectangles of handheld polished glass – barely noticed as the centipede thing shot past them. 

None seemed cognizant of a terrified face, nor the panicky pounding of fists on the window being offered by a strange man in a filthy black raincoat, instead preferring to stare blankly at the little slabs of glass that illuminate their faces with a peculiar and quite pale bluish glow. The tunnel ahead swallowed this metallic leviathan one had been trapped in, and the sudden air pressure differential offered by billions of gallons of river water outside the tunnel suddenly caused one’s eardrums to compress. 

This altered the timbre of hearing for that alternate or dream avatar of my own personality, trapped in this lucid landscape of existential dread and daemonic dementia. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One wonders, and more than wonders, if what I remember hearing was more than just a combination of the metallic centipedes many steel feet striking against the tunnel floor, combined with both the scalar reflections of its speedy passage through the tunnel and accompanying atmospheric compression, mixing seamlessly with the rythmic thrumming of my own terrorized pulse which was omnipresent in my ears. 

There should be nothing down there which can speak, in those rock hewn tunnels beneath the river of sound – or East River as it is known in modernity…

There is nothing down there that can speak, damnit… nothing… 

This is not some charnel house of horror, redolent of the foulest abominations of the pit and absent from the sight of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself, this is… but I heard what I heard… and it deeply struck terror in my quickly beating heart as I began to realize that this was no idle nocturnal vision, but that instead I had been fully awake the whole time. 

“Ia, Ia, shug nigguarth,” the sounds seemed to say, which was followed by “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.” 

Then the worst thing of all was vocalized, and the ultimate horrorific revelation arrived, when a voice suddenly said: 

“This train is being held due to Police action, and a sick passenger at Grand Central…”


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

uncanny library

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It’s National Breadstick Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is an example of the ultimate reason as to why the proposed BQX trolley line is infeasible, what with the blinking signal arm barriers and the train horn blowing – which rail is required to do at grade crossings such as the Borden Avenue location adjoining the Pulaksi Bridge and Queens Midtown Tunnel pictured above in LIC. One doesn’t want to deep dive on that topic today, however, as thinking about the Mayor depresses me and I don’t want to be “blue.”

A humble narrator was on his way to a “thing” in LIC when this train began to move across Borden Avenue, an occurrence which caused him to utter something which sounded like “squeeeee,” drop to one knee in the middle of the street, and laugh maniacally while waving the camera around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad uses their nearby Hunters Point Yard to stage train sets for rush hour duty, and the tracks lead across Borden Avenue over to the Hunters Point Avenue stop at the southern extant of the Sunnyside Yards. From there, the trains head into the City and Penn Station, before heading out to Woodside, Jamaica, and then Long Island.

At least, that’s what I think happens. I’m not a rider of the LIRR except for rare occasion, and mainly I just like taking pictures of trains moving around in crowded urban settings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that tour season is just about over, and my weekends are my own again, plans for how to spend my time are being laid. I’ve got more than a few things to shoot on my list, which I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to.

It really bakes my muffins when I don’t get to regularly wave the camera around at cool things, and despite the amazing places I’ve been this summer, I’ve generally been the tour guide or if onboard a vessel – on the mike – and I’ve barely been able to “do my thing.” I’ll sneak the occasional photo in when conducting a tour, but it’s a snapshot, not a photograph (there’s a difference).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Good news is that the weather is finally in the “filthy black raincoat” range of temperatures, and since I don’t have to maintain my summertime “early bird” schedule quite as stringently – late night shooting is back on the menu.

Where will I go first? Things to do, things to see, people to avoid – here in the great metropolitan city…


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

hip pocket

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It’s National Mincemeat Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the late post today, flickr was having some sort of issue this morning and one was unable to access the library. A single shot was coming your way anyway, so no biggie. See you tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 26, 2017 at 2:35 pm

furtive fragments

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It’s National Greasy Foods Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Working Harbor Committee, a non profit whose mission is “to educate the public about the Harbor and New York and New Jersey” and which a humble narrator is both the official photographer for and a member of the organization’s steering committee, called a meeting recently. We had some organizational business to conduct, voting on Board members and other nitty gritty at an annual meeting.

Instead of some banal office, however, this time our annual gathering occurred at the South Street Seaport Museum’s Wavertree. a historic sailing vessel which dates back to 1885 and which is the flagship for the museum.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It should be mentioned that a humble narrator isn’t possessed of the same sense of wonder and excitement that some of my cohorts at WHC are when the subject of sailing vessels comes up, but it was pretty cool to be able to visit an artifact of the “forest of masts” era on NY Harbor.

The Wavertree recently spent some time at Cadell’s shipyard on Staten Island, wherein the old girl received expert attention and refitting. The renovations and so on are still ongoing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are just a few historic ships in NY Harbor, with the South Street Seaport museum hosting the majority. Given NYC’s predilection towards annihilating anything older than a few decades old whether terrestrial or maritime, the presence of Wavertree in Lower Manhattan is a not insignificant thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot, and the following, are tripod shots captured from onboard the ship itself. The far background in them will appear a bit blurry, as Wavertree was bobbing about a bit in the tide. It was interesting, from a behind the camera POV, to have the fixed point in my focal zone set for the ship I’m on rather then some thing which is off in the distance – the opposite of what I normally do when onboard a vessel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s some complicated rigging up there, and I joked around with one of my WHC pals about him going all “Burt Lancaster” and swinging around on the ropes. My pal assured me that he was not going to go all “Burt Lancaster.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the quarterdeck looking across the East River towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also from the quarterdeck, and looking west towards Manhattan.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 25, 2017 at 11:00 am

excite attention

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It’s National Bologna Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For many reasons, a humble narrator has found himself at Hallets Cove along the Astoria waterfront in recent weeks. Partially, this recent focus was related to a humble narrator being invited to write a guest blog for the NYC Ferry service’s new Astoria stop (check it out here), but didn’t go “super granular” with it in my usual manner. Something I learned while writing my old Brownstoner Queens column was sometimes you need to approach a story, and a more general audience, with a different voice than you normally would (the NYC Ferry is operated by the Hornblower company, under the auspices of the NYC EDC, in case you’re wondering). 

The other reason I’ve been down at Hallets Cove a lot in recent weeks has been to actually use the Ferry to get to and from work, as the MTA has seemingly deduced that nobody in Queens needs to get to and from Manhattan on the weekends. Luckily, my destination for conducting boat tours is Pier 11, which is one of the terminal stops for the ferry, so problem solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The kids of Queens never disappoint, as evinced by these phalluses recently scratched into the sand at Hallets Cove. There’s actually a lot of fine detail to appreciate in these, from the spurts to the hairy sacks. Good show.

As a note, I know of just three sandy beaches along the East River, Hallets Cove being one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The future site of a floating “Eco Dock” as my pals from the Waterfront Alliance call it, one has long been fascinated by the muddy flats underlying a discarded pier found at the entrance to the NYCHA Astoria Houses on what is historically known as Lawrence Point, but which has been rechristened as “Astoria Point” by real estate interests and elected officialdom alike.

This sort of marshy area is immensely important to the ecology of the waters surrounding NYC, as my pals from Riverkeeper will tell you, and you don’t see very much of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a derelict pier overflying those muddy flats, which as mentioned, will be replaced with an eco dock. My understanding is that the pier was installed to support a radio station’s broadcast tower, specifically WLIB, back in 1953. Further, I’m told that the radio station abandoned this location in 1967, and that the structure has been feral ever since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you haven’t tried out the new ferry service leaving from Astoria yet, I recommend it for nothing other than seeing the sights. The route carries you along the east channel of the East River, which transits between the Ravenswood section of Long Island City and Roosevelt Island. You’ve got some pretty incredible stuff along the route, including both the Roosevelt Island Lift bridge and the amazing Queensboro bridge, and the Big Allis power plant is on display as well.

This particular ferry service makes an amended series of stops as compared to the longer tenanted East River route, stopping first at Roosevelt Island, then the northern ferry stop at Hunters Point, 34th street and then Pier 11/Wall Street in Manhattan. Im personally really looking forward to the upcoming Soundview route, opening in 2018, which will go to the southeastern Bronx – which is the unknown country for one such as myself.

Check the Astoria ferry out, what else have you got to do?


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

quiet removal

with one comment

It’s National Boston Creme Pie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you want to know what the end of the world looks like, I can take you there. It’s about 3.8 miles from the East River, in an area of Brooklyn that is clearly Bushwick but which the real estate people refer to as East Williamburg. The end of the world is surrounded by heavy industry and waste transfer stations, and is crossed by a railroad bridge. It’s defined by a waterbody called English Kills, which is a dead end tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek.

Just last week, a visit was paid to this paradise of nihilism.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The open sewers are just one of the apocalyptic factors back here, as is the enormous waste transfer station operated by a transnational conglomerate that handles about a third of the black bag (or putrescent) garbage collected by the Department of Sanitation. There is virtually zero laminar flow to the water here, which means that the rising and falling of the tide is a vertical affair rather than a horizontal one, creating stinking shoals along the banks and allowing sediment mounds to rise from the channel. It often smells like rubber cement thinner along this stretch of English Kills, the waters are greasy, and they commonly exhibit an uncommon and unnatural coloration highlighted by patches of weird iridescence.

Men and women seem to become possessed by the spirit of the place, wildly dumping garbage into the shallows with a gleeful abandon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

References in the historical record refer to distinct periods in English Kills’ existential course. Once, a mostly fresh water stream fed by the springs and streams of a Bushwick that drew German beer Brewers to the area, which bled sweet water into the main body of Newtown Creek, just a decade after the American Civil War English Kills began to be described as the “industrial canals of Brooklyn.” By the time that the Army Corps of Engineers oversaw the WW1 era shaping of the Newtown Creek watershed into something we would recognize on a google map in modernity, English Kills had open pipes carrying industrial and chemical waste products into the water from acid factories and the other dirty industries surrounding it. The upland springs and steams which drew the brewers here were paved over or turned into sewers, and the only naturally occurring liquid entering the narrow channel afterwards was a tepid trickle of brackish East River water (which was itself terribly compromised) weakly pulsing in with the daily tide, or storm runoff from the streets.

Brooklyn legend suggests this area was used as a graveyard by mobsters, but that’s just a legend. Gangsters dump bodies into fast moving or oceanic water bodies like Jamaica Bay or the Hudson River. The idea is to get rid of the evidence, not to leave something incriminating in a place where it can be found.

Whatever enters English Kills stays in English Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The structure pictured above is the Montrose Avenue Railroad Bridge, part of the Bushwick Branch lead tracks of the Long Island Ralroad. The bridge, and adjacent fencelines, are covered in odd graffiti which is in English but drawn with characters that betray a runic influence. The screeds warn of witches and other mythological creatures.

This is what the end of the world looks like, if… like me… the borders of your world are defined and bisected by that lugubrious ribbon of urban neglect known as the Newtown Creek.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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