The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for March 2018

uneasy peace

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Happy Easter, Passover, whatever you’re into.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A single bunny greets you on this Good Friday, which for a humble narrator is merely a so-so Friday. Enjoy your holidays, lords and ladies, see you Monday.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?
Tickets and more details here.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 30, 2018 at 1:51 pm

obscure trembling

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There may be vampires there, but how can you avoid Queens Plaza?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Two of the proposals which Access Queens, a transit advocacy group which I’ve been working with for the last couple of years, has offered to the MTA to ameliorate the chaos which the forthcoming L train shutdown will bring to Queens when the masses of infinite Brooklyn are steered towards Long Island City are: a) extend the G line one stop from Court Square to the IND Queens Plaza station and b) allow a free “walking transfer” between the IRT Queensboro Plaza station upstairs (N, W, 7) to the IND station below (E, R, M).

In the case of the G extension, it would simply undo one stop’s worth of the cutbacks in service which the MTA created back in 2008 and allow Queensicans the opportunity to not have to use the particularly narrow and crowded platforms of the former 23rd Ely stop on the IND tracks at Court Square.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By MTA’s own numbers, which must always be taken with a grain of salt, the 7 line is at capacity by the time it rolls out of Woodside. The E and M lines are fairly close to the number of passengers one can expect to fit on board, and the R line is extremely crowded as well. When the L train shuts down for repairs of the Canarsie tunnel, MTA’s announced intentions are to add another car to the G and pulse the L’s cross river ridership into Court Square, where they’re meant to transfer to – you guessed it, the 7, E, or M lines. Court Square is a “Frankenstein” station, cobbled together from the IRT above and the IND below to satisfy the needs of real estate interests in LIC. The escalators and elevators in the station seldom operate reliably, and there’s a chaotic scene at work there during the busy times as masses of people move through corridors connecting the lines that can be as long as two city blocks.

Were the option to transfer at a station purpose built for massive crowds of people moving through it, aka the IND tracks at Queens Plaza with their wide platforms, the situation would be somewhat manageable. At Court Square, it’s the proverbial ten pound load being crammed into an already full five pound box.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I first moved to Astoria about fifteen years ago, I was startled to discover that there was no mechanism in place to facilitate a transfer between the upstairs IRT and downstairs IND platforms. Given that in Manhattan the N and W lines share trackage with the R… well, I guess that logic often has little to do with the way that MTA operates.

One is continually surprised that MTA (the A is for adventure, you know) still operates the NYCTA system as if it were the age of the dual contracts, and that after a half decade of absolute control over both the A and B divisions of the Subway they maintain the distinction. One would imagine, if private capital was involved, that after fifty years there would be greater interoperability at least in terms of fare control – let alone maintaining two seperate fleets of rolling stock to accommodate a few inches of variance in platform depth.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 29, 2018 at 11:30 am

house below

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Me? I’m the curious type.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To begin with, my understanding of such things is that the City’s water system offer sufficient pressure to carry water about six stories up from the water mains in the street. Anything higher than that requires one to get clever. In tall buildings, electric pumps bring the wet stuff up to the roof, where NYC’s iconic water tanks get filled up. The return pipe from the water tank goes down into the building and fills the plumbing that supplies both drinking water and fire suppression systems. The water towers themselves are apparently quite filthy inside, and seldom inspected. A NY Times investigation back in 2014 took samples from the sedimentation found inside these wooden tanks, which revealed the presence of Fecal Coliform and E. Coli bacteria in 5 of the 12 that they tested. Theoretically, the bacteria found in the water towers got there due to intrusion by critters (squirrels, birds, etc.). 

Who can guess, all there is, that might be sloshing around up there?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are two firms who pretty much own the water tower business in NYC, Rosenwach Tank and the Isseks Brothers, or so I’m told. I’m also led to believe that the average load for these tanks are about ten thousand gallons, but it depends on the installation and the size of the building being served. You supposedly get about three to four decades of life out of a water tower, depending on conditions and regular maintenance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a bit of water tower trivia for you, lords and ladies.

Notice how many steel rings there are at the bottom of the water tower as opposed to the top?

The uneven spacing is due to the aggregate weight of the water held within the thing. The weight of the water in the top third of the tank presses down on that found in the middle, both of which compress the stuff at the very bottom. Some fairly astronomical pressure exists at the very bottom of these big barrels, requiring extra structural support.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 28, 2018 at 11:00 am

weird cadence

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The night time is the Creek time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one had a City based event to photograph last week and an event in Greenpoint the same evening. At the start of the Greenpoint leg of my day, I apologized to the filmmaker whose work Newtown Creek Alliance was screening that night (as well as my colleagues) as I’d be disappearing for a few minutes while the projector was running.

I’d already seen the film, at a screening held at the Greater Astoria Historic Society last year, and I had permission from the owner of the property where we were doing the event to get down to his bulkheads – which face out on the fabulous Newtown Creek – and crack out a few shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A former petrochemical based lubricant mill, found next door to a modern day biofuel depot, the site I was at is in the section of the Newtown Creek which one refers to as “DUGABO” or Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp. That crazy nor’easter had blown through the day before, leaving behind a layer of now rotting snow and slush.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next door at the biofuel company, specifically Metro Oil, an articulated tug and fuel barge were tied up and pumping material from the on shore storage tanks into the barge. On the horizon, in the shot above, is Calvary Cemetery in Blissville on the Queens side of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking roughly northwards, that’s the Long Island Expressway behind Railroad Avenue, with the Sapphire megalith of Long Island City and all the new residential towers surrounding it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northwest, and the Sims Metal Management facility.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

West towards the Shining City of Manhattan, past the Allocco Recycling company bulkheads.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

latter saw

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To and from the Shining City, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I had an assignment to shoot some pics at a conference in Lower Manhattan. Nothing special, just the usual “kid gets award,” and “important people talking to crowded room” shots. Later in the day, actually the evening, I had to get to Greenpoint for a Newtown Creek Alliance event.

Knowing that the “A” in MTA stands for “adventure,” I gave myself a bit of extra time on the trip in, which involved the usual razzmatazz of getting on the R and transferring to the Lexington Avenue line at 59th street. Pictured above is the latter arriving at the station. For once, the commute was seamless and I was down at the Battery lickety split.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the conference gig was over, the last thing I wanted to do was chance fate by getting back on the Subway. To get to Greenpoint by Subway from Lower Manhattan would have been a dice throw involving connecting to the G in Brooklyn, so instead one shlepped over to Pier 11 and bought a ticket for the NYC Ferry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One never misses a chance to travel by water rather than within the sweating concrete bunkers found below ground. During the winter months, my vulnerability to cold weather plays into avoiding this aquatic mode of transportation, but during the warmer months it’s hard to keep me off a boat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The East River route offered by NYC Ferry goes to India Street in Greenpoint, so once onboard one was able to just relax and take a bunch of shots. A strange thing is that when I’m not doing the tour guide thing during the winter months it feels like alive forgotten everything.

Once I’m back on the boat, however, my eyes begin twitching and my head clocks back and forth as a well practiced narrative wells up behind the eyes and between my ears.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, my “goal” on the Ferry is to get to LIC and walk back to Astoria. On this particular evening, NCA was screening a film by a fellow named Hank Linhart about the Blissville neighborhood. Mr. Linhart calls his Blissville film a “docu poem,” but I call it a film. One had to be at the Newtown Creek side of Greenpoint for the filming, but unlike the adventurous MTA, they know how to maintain a proper schedule.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a particularly pretty night, last Thursday. Stark contrast to the stormy and snowy weather that had blown through the Shining City just 24 hours previously.

More tomorrow.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 26, 2018 at 1:00 pm

induced hypoplasia

with 4 comments

Odds and ends, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, when one refers to “street furniture,” the term applies to lamp posts, fire hydrants, benches, or any of the other bolted to the sidewalk bits of kit that the City of Greater New York installs here and there. In Western Queens, and especially in any of the neighborhoods which were once part of the independent municipality called “Long Island City,” street furniture is a cast off chair or couch which has been abandoned on the curb. The one above has been resident at the corner of Steinway Street and “terty fourt avensues” for a while now.

As a note, I have a personal preference for fabric covered furniture rather than items which are clad in plastics or animal skins. During the summer months, you end up “sticking” to them and getting up from such an accoutrement can be quite uncomfortable. For any of you reading this who have been planning on buying a living room set, my advice has been offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Sunnyside Yards scene above was captured from the vantage offered by one of the many, many fence holes which one such as myself maintains a catalog of. This is late in the afternoon, when a significant number of train sets are being stored at the coach yard. New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and the Long Island Railroad store rolling stock here in LIC in between the rush hours. When the “busy time” arrives, these train sets will begin to either start rolling through the tunnels to Manhattan or head eastwards towards Woodside and Jamaica to fulfill their purpose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It laughs at us, the thing which dwells in the cupola of the sapphire megalith of Long Island City. Looking down at the pedantic world of men through its three lobed burning eye, this inhuman thing which does not breathe nor sleep but instead only hungers has been hanging in the sky above LIC since 1992, when this great dagger was driven into the heart of Queens.

As above, so below. Rumor has it that some fifty stories below the poison mud and concrete devastations of Long Island City is where you’ll find the actual forges and fiery engines of gentrification, stoked and tended to by this impossible entity’s armies of acolytes.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

 

small pit

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I don’t actually do that much shooting in Astoria, for some reason.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning home to my section of Astoria (Broadway in the 40’s) on the southern extant of the neighborhood is easily accomplished. Steinway Street allows for a quick walk, although I could have easily hopped on the Q101 bus and gotten to HQ even quicker. Saying that, it’s only about ten fairly long blocks from 19th Avenue to Broadway, so why not walk?

Not going to see anything interesting from a vehicle, and I won’t be getting any photos if I’m on the bus, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The northern end of Steinway Street is exactly the sort of desolate industrial zone which I normally inhabit. You’ll notice the RV and the sleeper van on the corner of 19th avenue, I imagine. In recent years, more and more of these sorts of vehicles have been turning up in my shots. The sleeper van actually had a generator on a hitch which was running. There’s folks living in them.

I know someone who lives in an RV which you might notice around the Newtown Creek. This person is saving for retirement by not paying rent, despite enjoying a high paying Union job at a major utility company. Not bad, as that’s some gordian knot style lateral thinking right there. Somewhat illegal, of course, but let’s face it – things are illegal in NYC only if there a cop around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Residential Astoria is not my “cup of tea” to photograph, but I decided to break my rules for once and did a few tripod setups on my way home. In general, I don’t wave the camera around at residences unless they are something extraordinary or there’s some historical tale that revolves around the building.

Also, it makes the neighbors antsy and the last thing I want is to have to talk to anyone while I’m focused on shooting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Astoria Blvd., and the gateway to “Little Egypt.” The area is so called because of the huge concentration of middle eastern restaurants, peoples, and a large Mosque which can be found just south of the corner.

The shot is captured from one of vehicle/pedestrian bridges which spans the Grand Central Parkway which Robert Moses jammed through Astoria “back in the day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Grand Central feeds to and from the Triborough Bridge in a trench which Moses’s engineers cut into Astoria, forever severing the north and south sides of the neighborhood. Lifers in the neighborhood will refer to the area north of the highway as “y’know, Ditmars” or “Astoria, Astoria Bro.” To the south, they’d say “tertieth avensues” or “Broadway” to describe the zone your domicile is found in. There is some debate about “terty fourt avensues” being Long Island City or Astoria , a status which might be debated fiercely by Mumbly Joe, Mattie the vampire, or Glazier Chris at the local saloon.

I prefer the neat borders offered by Woodside Avenue to the east, and Northern Blvd. to the south to define this particular edge of the neighborhood. Things get a bit wiggly along the border with the Dutch Kills section of LIC, but it’s generally agreed that their border with Astoria is defined by Crescent Street and 36th avenue. Don’t dare mention Ravenswood to Mumbly Joe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal, Greenpoint historian Geoff Cobb, makes a joke when he speaks in public that he’s lived in Greenpoint for thirty years so he’s just now not being considered a newcomer by the lifers. Same logic applies to Astoria, and even though I’ve lived here for fifteen years, the lifers will tell me I’m “fresh off the boat.”

As a note to long time residents of Astoria, my aunt Yetta has recently passed on at 99 years of age. You will likely remember Yetta as the owner of the “Three R’s” card shop on 30th avenue nearby the train at 31st street, a storefront which was next door to the butcher. Her actual name was Ethel, but the Greeks hereabouts back in the 70’s had trouble with that and renamed her Yetta – which stuck.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Blissville Stories Film Screening –
with Newtown Creek Alliance. Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222.
Click here for trailer.

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

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