The Newtown Pentacle

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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

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

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