The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

faulty circuits

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Just another day in paradise, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If memory serves, the section of Manhattan along the East River found between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges was once known as “the fourth ward.” Formerly hosting some of the busiest docks on the entire planet, this stretch of shoreline was occupied by tenements, factories, and warehouses. Robert Moses took care of that back in the mid 20th century when his arterial road project “The FDR Drive” was driven through, an endeavor which was accompanied by an “urban renewal” project that saw the surrounding building stock leveled and replaced by public housing and large apartment blocks.

Today, shadowed by the “high speed” roadway above, there’s a “park” along the waterfront. One thing to take notice of in the shot above are the pipes descending down from the roadway, which carry wastewater from the elevated road and allow it to drain directly into the water. For some reason, nobody in government thinks this is much of a problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you look over the fence at the waters of the East River, you’ll notice the stubby remains of concrete pier footings jutting out of the water here and there. To be fair, unlike today, the citizenry wanted nothing to do with the East River. Until quite recently, the City treated the East River as an extension of the sewer system and it was rife with not just sewer effluents but with industrial waste products as well. The political struggle in modern times is to create unfettered public access to the water for recreation.

As you’d imagine, and as mentioned several times over the years, when the weather is cold and forbidding a humble narrator is busy consuming historical literature and studying the great human hive. My dad would say that this is one of those periods when I’ve got my head stuck right up my butt and that I should put the books down and get outside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a block or two back from the waterfront is the financial district of lower Manhattan, an inhuman landscape of glass walls and towering blocks where the greed demons Mammon and Asmodeus rule. A Potemkin Village called the South Street Seaport is nearby, which purports to represent what once was, and every now and then you’ll encounter some toony old structure which has somehow survived the wrecking ball, but Manhattan is ultimately a lost cause – historically speaking.

For some reason, whenever I’m walking around down here, I hear Al Smith’s voice singing “The Sidewalks of New York.”


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 18, 2018 at 1:30 pm

One Response

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  1. Do share what you’re reading.

    TommyR

    January 18, 2018 at 2:56 pm


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