The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for June 2018

horribly disturbed

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Don’t get fooled again… yeah…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All anyone I talk to can talk about in Western Queens, at the moment, is the fall of Boss Crowley. “It’s a great day for Democracy” is what one elected official who often stood defiant in front of the Congressmen told me the other day. Shock waves are the best way to describe the sensation, as political hopefuls and operatives that had “paid it forward” into the Queens Machine realign themselves and attempt to figure out where the new center of gravity is. I can tell you who the big winner in all this derring do is, and it’s not Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (whom I’ve met, and she does live up to the hype).

The big winner of the Crowley primary is Bill De Blasio. Allow me to explain my perceptions on this…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Boss Crowley was in league with several of the other borough honchos, notably the Democrat clubs and Civic organizations in the Bronx and Queens. The former boss of North Brooklyn, Vito Lopez, notably went down in flames a few years ago. Brooklyn’s centers of political power moved south to Borough Hall and to South, and Eastern Brooklyn. Staten Island is its own political entity, and power over there is centered around the Republican rather than Democratic Party. Manhattan is fairly weak, in terms of organization and turning out the votes, I’m told. What that all means has little to do with the public face of Government that you see on TV and read about – rather “power” is about who gets to be made a Judge, or County Clerk, or even the Speakers of the New York State Assembly and NYC Council and by whom. “You can have Corey Johnson or Carl Heastie, but I get to name who executes Estate Law in Queens, and name two Deputy Commisioners to Sanitation,” or elevate some promising new player from a connected family to become an assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn.” Ever wonder what the connection between David Patterson, Elliot Spitzer, and Anthony Weiner is? They were all protégés of Senator Chuck Schumer, and all were methodically brought down by public sex scandals. Who “outed” them? Good question, and I’ve always wondered if it involved a certain ex-President setting up shop in Harlem, and a former First Lady becoming a Senator. The answer doesn’t actually matter, what matters is that room at the top of the ash heap was made by clearing dead wood from somebody else’s vertical silo of political patronage. With Boss Crowley moved out of the picture, there’s now a vacuum of high level power in Queens, and the Bronx has been demoted as they’ve lost a powerful partner. Brooklyn’s political clubs are now elevated in position and importance, and so are Staten Island’s. A struggle for political primacy in Queens is beginning, and there’s only one unifying “Boss” left for NYC’s elites to gather around and trade horses.

That’s the Mayor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator, of course, has no skin in this game. Other kids collected baseball cards, I collected politician cards which had all their legislative stats on the back. I’ll trade you a rookie Donald Manes for a mint 2014 Gregory Meeks, nobody has ever said except me. The next election to watch the hijinks for is Gubernatorial in nature, as the Dark Prince of Albany uses all of his art and craft to crush a challenger rising from his southern left flank, with said challenger a firm ally and agent of the Mayor. Additionally, the “lefties” of Queens have already begun realigning their allegiances with City Hall. The “read” must be that since Ocasio Cortez was to the left of Crowley, the best way to realign themselves would be in that direction. They’re missing the truth, which is that just like Hillary Clinton, Joe Crowley ran a crappy (primary) campaign and failed as a Candidate. The Mayor is already capitalizing on this, as is the south Brooklyn political establishment that he’s the representative of. Thing is, he’s a fake “leftie,” and is in fact a neoliberal corporatist and “Gentrifier in Chief” who seeks to maintain the system exactly as it is right now (as he is at the top of said system), just with higher graduated income taxes on about two percent of the total population to pay for his unending expansion of government (20% in six years!) and to continue his spending spree. The Mayor has actually been a godsend for one particular group, whom upstate Republicans present as a boogie man to their constituencies while raising funds.

Meanwhile, as the left continues to eat its own arm, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

All of this is just one idiot’s opinion, take it for what it’s worth.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 29, 2018 at 1:00 pm

to escape

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Rabbit Holes!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was scuttling along Jackson Avenue in Hunters Point recently, and this MTA (unit 559) Street Sweeper caught my eye. Built onto a GMC 5500 HD frame, this vehicle is technically a Stewart Amos Equipment Company Mechanical Broom Street Sweeper. The invention of the first mechanical street sweeper, recorded as such, dates back to the 1840’s in Manchester, England by a notable fellow named James Whitworth. It was a horse drawn affair, with rotating brushes actuated by road wheels. A similar device was patented in the United States, in 1849, by a fellow named C.S. Bishop. Variations of theme and function saw hundreds of patents filed for this sort of technology but things settled down when the Elgin Sweeper Company and James Murphy were granted a patent in 1917. The basic form and function of street sweepers has evolved since, but the underlying technological and engineering systems of  what you see above comes from inventor and developer James Murphy. According to environmental officialdom, the best thing that you can do as far as the health of nearby waterways is to have a robust street sweeping schedule. Also, it’s MTA Bridge and Tunnels unit operated, as you can tell from its service dress and branding. The “A” in MTA is for “adventure,” I would remind.

Rabbit hole number one, accomplished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of MTA Bridge and Tunnels, their pals at the New York State Department of Transportation are in charge of the Long Island Expressway, which feeds some thirty million vehicle trips a year into the Queens Midtown Tunnel where that street sweeper in the first shot is no doubt employed. Greenpoint Avenue is carried over the L.I.E. by a pedestrian and vehicle bridge, and that’s where the latest trophy of the Queens Cobbler (probable) serial killer was recently discovered.

This time around, it was a size 10 Nike brand high top sneaker. Nike was founded in Oregon in 1964 by two guys, originally called Blue Ribbon Sports. They rebranded with the current name and swoosh logo in 1971, and these days Nike has 74,000 global employees and the company is valued at nearly $35 billion buckaroos. Rabbit hole two, folks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is no greater joy than finding yourself alongside that fabulous cataract of maritime industrial splendor which the happy children of Brooklyn and Queens call the “Newtown Creek” when it’s just started raining. Is it the smell of camphor and burning electrical insulation, the way that the raindrops impact the powderized glass sand on the asphalt, or the rust colored water that flows from the waste transfer stations? I love it all.

What you’re looking at up there is the theoretical street end of North Henry Street at the Unnamed Canal tributary basin of the Newtown Creek, looking north towards Queens. North Henry used to connect to the street grid of Greenpoint prior to the modernization of the sewer plant, but what I’ve always wondered about is the significance of it being called “North Henry Street.” Regular Henry Street runs from “Downtown Brooklyn” in the DUMBO zone all the way down to the Henry Street Basin in Gowanus Bay. North Henry goes from Newtown Creek, through the sewer plant (they’ve still got street signs in there), and east(ish) to Richardson Street on the Bushwick side of Greenpoint near St. Cecilia’s on the south side of Meeker Avenue. What’s the occulted connection between the North and Regular Henry Streets?

Rabbit hole, third.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

never fainted

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I now know it was you, Larry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving HQ the other day, this is the scene which greeted me. Our Lady of the Pentacle spotted this tableau separately. Astoria, Queens is a place full of mystery, but you can’t beat the “block watchers” when you’re playing detective. On Saturday late afternoon/evening, while enjoying a few pints of beer at the “local” with some of the local commentariat, we put our heads together and pieced together the story of a skeleton cat wearing a collar that read “heartbreaker” which appeared in front of my door.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My neighbor Kenny, who is in many ways the adult man that Nelson from the Simpsons (the haw haw kid) would grow up to become, provided many of the individual pieces of the puzzle. He described seeing an affable fellow named Larry emerge from his building with the skeleton cat in hand, who thereupon placed it on the sidewalk with the intention of letting it find a new home.

Another neighbor described the Cat being picked up by ready hands and then abandoned again. It seems to have moved up and down the block a few times before coming to rest in the tree pit in front of HQ, one building lot from its original placement by the aforementioned Larry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heartbreaker apparently made it most of the way up to Newtown Road from the Broadway side of the block before track of it was lost. Having satisfyingly assembled the origin and travels of the thing, discussion of the articulation and manufacture of the skeleton cat ensued. Such are the minor points of interest upon which the neighborhood grinds away, here in Astoria. Whether or not Larry was the original owner of the thing, I cannot say, and speaking for the community – we’ve lost interest and moved on to other topics.

The possibility of having a block party during the late summer months came up, whereupon everyone turned to me in pursuance of getting a permit for said function.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

terrible colloquy

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The view, man, the view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance, along with the Broadway Stages Company, the Audubon Society, and Alive Structures, applied for and received a grant from the GCEF fund (an environmental settlement which arose out of the Greenpoint Oil Spill litigation) a few years ago in pursuance of creating a 22,000 square foot green roof at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section. The 520 Kingsland property is an active TV production studio owned by Broadway Stages, but the flowering roof on top of is all about the environment. For me, it’s a wonderland of photogenic views.

The shot above looks westwards, just after sunset and towards the Shining City of Manhattan, with the Newtown Creek industrial zone in the foreground.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When mentioning 520 Kingsland to newcomers, I always use the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge as the nearest recognizable landmark for them to aim themselves at. The industrial zones on both sides of the Newtown Creek, former petroleum facilities mostly, have been acquired by and repurposed as television and movie production facilities in recent years. Broadway Stages owns large properties on both sides, and in Queens the Silvercup East studios are found just off Van Dam Street in the Blissville section of Long Island City. While I was on the roof at 520 Kingsland the other night, a crew at Silvercup was setting up to do some sort of “shoot” and they deployed theatrical lighting rigs.

Normally, I just make do with ambient light. It was great having the movie folks provide me with “proper” sculptural light.  The shot above looks eastwards towards the Kosciuszcko Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The industrial property pictured above is Metro Oil, a biofuel company founded by a friend of mind named Paul Pullo and his brothers. The Pullo brothers sold their business to John Catsimitidis (of Gristedes, FreshDirect, and Mayoral candidate fame) a few years ago. It sits right alongside the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and those are the oil tanks you see on your passenger side when driving from Queens to Brooklyn along the span.

These shots were gathered post facto after a walking tour of the area I conducted for Newtown Creek Alliance, with my colleague T. Willis Elkins, last Friday night.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2018 at 11:00 am

stagger dangerously

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The Hoek is finally open, yo, a 21st century shoreline at a 21st century park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is fairly typical of the view which the southernmost section of Hunters Point in Long Island City, where the East River and Newtown Creek collide, has offered for the last few years. Construction fence, heavy equipment, etc. This particular area was once called Dominie’s Hoek, after the first European owner of the land, a Dutch priest named Dominie Everardus Bogardus. Dominie is a title, in English we’d use “Pastor” or “Father” for the priestly honorific. Bogardus died in a ship wreck and the land ended up in the hands of another Dutchman, specifically Captain Peter Praa. Praa, who founded one of the great land holding families of both Newtown and Greenpoint, left the land behind as an inheritance, and eventually it passed into the hands of his descendant Anna Hunter. Anna Hunter held the property right about the time of the American Revolution, and it’s been Hunters Point ever since. Mrs. Hunter’s will stipulated that her three sons sell off the land (she must’ve feared a King Lear situation) and by the early 19th century, the Hunters Point waterfront had been carved into individual plots and had begun to industrialize. The Long Island Railroad came through in 1870, and for about a century afterwards, Hunters Point was the very definition of a maritime industrial working waterfront. Everything began to fall apart, industrially and economically speaking, by the 1970’s and the industrial waterfront became a semi abandoned stretch of junkyard punctuated by warehouses. In the late 1980’s, the City began to make plans for converting the land to residential usage, and loosened zoning restrictions to encourage real estate interests to invest there. This was, as it turns out, quite a successful plan and Hunters Point is the fastest growing neighborhood in the entire country.

Part of the City’s plan, which has seen dozens of residential towers rising in Hunters Point and all of Long Island City in recent years, was the creation of parklands.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the northern side of Hunters Point, the first park to be created was a New York State institution called “Gantry Plaza State Park.” Then to the south, there’s a City park called “Hunters Point South Park,” which is anchored by the LIC Landing ferry dock and an accompanying concession stand currently operated by an outfit called “Coffeed.” For the last few years, the peninsular final section of the park – which I’m told is called “Queens Landing” – has been under construction. No more.

Wednesday last, the 21st of June in 2018, the gates were finally opened to the public and I was there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were meant to be ceremonial proceedings on the morning of the 21st, but the political establishment had its attentions drawn away by the ongoing immigration controversies, so the ceremony which will officially “cut the ribbon” was rescheduled for this week on Wednesday the 27th at 11 a.m. If you want to yell things at the Mayor, or pat Jimmy Van Bramer on the back, that’s probably when you’ll have a chance to do so.

I was blown away by the job which the NYC Parks department accomplished at the new Queens Landing. As mentioned above, it’s a 21st century park with a 21st century shoreline. It’s a pretty good bet that by 2118, the shoreline of most of the inner harbor of NYC is going to look a great deal like this new park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A resilient shoreline, as those of us involved with such ideations would call it, encircles the new park. Salt marshes, hidden resiliency berms, places for water to flow through and around during storms… the new park has it all. The architecture and design of the place are decidedly “modern,” as if that 20th century term had any meaning in the current era.

The recent Newtown Creek Alliance/Riverkeeper visioning plan that we released a few months ago is rife with recommendations for the post Superfund Newtown Creek shorelines which display illustrations and architect drawings that look just like this new park, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the days of Dominie Bogardus and Capt. Peter Praa, the southern tip of Hunters Point was described as being an island of grass in the East River which would get cut off from the rest of the land by high tide. The Parks Dept. designers and horticulturalists have actually designed salt marsh and other littoral environmental features into the shoreline which would likely be familiar to Capt. Praa. I’ve only done the one walk through so far, but “wow” is this place incredible.

Luckily, my walk through was with my pal Mark Christie of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, who has been one of the formative voices in the creation of this new community resource. He made it a point of detailing the various plantings and why they’re where they are. If you’re visiting the new park, definitely start your trip at LIC Landing and ask if anyone from the HPPC is around to inform and instruct.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself is looking forward to the photographic vantage point possibilities offered by the new park. This shot looks eastwards along the fabled Newtown Creek towards the Pulaski Bridge. A new boat house is going to be constructed nearby, operated and managed by my pals at HarborLab, in the very near future.

Newtown Creek is changing, materially, every single month now.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 25, 2018 at 11:00 am

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