The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for February 2019

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A day late, and a dollar short.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the single image today, a humble narrator’s scheduling got the best of him and that’s why you’ve got a shot of the 4 entering 59th/Lex instead of a proper post today. Back Monday with some of the interesting stuff I saw while riding the new Soundview Line of the NYC Ferry last week.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 22, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Manhattan, Photowalks, Pickman, Subway

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radical profundity

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Wrapping up at Flushing Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ignorance is bliss.

As described in prior posts, one found his way down onto the sand at Flushing Creek, which was a fairly intriguing spot. I’ve already made inquiries with one of my paddler buddies about who I have to talk to in order to get on the water in a rowboat or something back here, so stay tuned as the weather gets warmer and the plants start turning green again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As also mentioned, I’m trying to stay a bit ignorant about conditions and history back here for the moment, but at first flush there are a very different set of environmental issues hereabouts when compared with my beloved Newtown Creek. Everywhere I looked, there were shellfish clinging to this and that all along the intertidal or littoral zone. My ignorance is willful, as I just want to wander around and take pictures.

Of course, I’m entirely ignorant… about… kinds… of… shellfish… speciation… of… No!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of the talk centering around the Superfund Rememdiation process on my beloved Creek has discussed the creation of wetland habitat not dissimilar to what’s pictured above. Hopefully, the illegal dumping and wind blown trash won’t be part of the final equation in Long Island City or Greenpoint.

I wonder how long that truss bridge is… how high… average daily traffic… about who built… NO! My ignorance will not be pierced… I refuse!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally speaking, it was actually quite a bit of fun for a humble narrator to see new things, given how much time I devote to chronicling the western end of the Newtown Pentacle. Yes, Flushing has always been on my map, but there’s always been something else to do which is closer to home.

Akkk… is that the Van Wyck… Grand Central… something that ends in a “78”… IGNORANCE!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Val and I left the beach and proceeded up onto the Northern Blvd. truss bridge leading to downtown Flushing and what, by this point, would be a well deserved and very affordable luncheon meal at a Chinese restaurant in the downtown area.

Even on a weekday winter afternoon, throngs of shoppers were marching about, and the streets of downtown Flushing were quite crowded. The neighborhood BIDS and the Chambers of Commerce of Western Queens could learn a thing or two at the end of the 7 Line, I think. Managers and promoters of dying or moribund commercial strips like Steinway Street – for instance – should study Roosevelt Avenue, and Prince or Main Street. In terms of street level retail activity and abundant small businesses, Flushing is popping. What do I know? I’m largely ignorant.

Down by the water though, it’s the usual story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Government owned shorelines with fenced off industrial facilities, too few businesses taking advantage of those precious maritime bulkheads. Has to be all kinds of yuck in the water… Flushing Creek itself is situated at a locus of high speed roads, the 7 line… Arrggggghhhh… I almost just looked up Flushing Creek… NO!

I shall maintain my ignorance… I will not… I…

Back tomorrow with something completely different at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 21, 2019 at 12:30 pm

awkward signatures

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On the sand at Flushing Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After having successfully navigated my way to the water’s edge at Flushing Creek through an open gate, a humble narrator (and my pal Val, who was game for this particular caper) proceeded off the concrete and down onto the sand. As mentioned previously, I’m intentionally staying dumb about the Flushing Creek waterway – for now – as it’s entirely novel to me to “know” nothing about something and I want to preserve that as long as possible. It’s philosophic with me, ignorance, and it’s difficult to preserve. Every year, I play my “Super Bowl Challenge,” which is prophylactic in terms of information regarding the big game. I don’t want to know when, where, who… anything. It’s more difficult to know nothing than everything about something these days.

A challenge I’m several years into, as a note, is the Lady Gaga challenge. I know nothing about Lady Gaga other than her name. Never looked at a photo, listened to a song, wouldn’t recognize her if she was sitting next to me. No animosity against the house of Gaga is offered, of course, it’s just extremely challenging to remain completely ignorant of somebody is who apparently a huge pop star – and it’s a challenge I accept. I guess I know she’s a pop star.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By my standards, which are set to a high bar by that legendary exemplar of urban neglect which is the Newtown Creek, things didn’t look too bad around here. There were all sorts of garbage, dumping, broken pipes like the one above encountered… but… I mean… Maspeth Creek… y’know?

Part of the reason I wanted to come here during the brown and brittle months of the winter, incidentally, involved the lessened chances of encountering biting insects and ticks in particular. Got to imagine that there are clouds of mosquitos and black flies around this spot during the summer months.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was some sort of ruggose canvas placed on the shoreline, no doubt an attempt at fighting erosion of the sandy beach. The good news is that said canvas created a hard pack surface which was easy to walk on. We were visiting Flushing Creek at the low tide interval of the daily cycle, so lots and lots of shoreline was revealed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Modern day Flushing, with its massive “Hong Kong” style real estate developments, provided a backdrop for the scene. Like LIC, this “other” end of the 7 line in Queens has been growing exponentially in recent years. Manhattan’s Chinatown has been relegated to history’s dustbin, a relic of a forgotten age in NYC. Flushing is where it’s at these days, as far as where Chinese people live and work, and the place is being remodeled according to their tastes and preferences.

The “American Way” at work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We proceeded back along Flushing Creek for a bit, and the further that we went in the direction of Roosevelt Avenue, the more marshy the ground became. Brush and grasses became thicker, and salt water streams punctuated the foliage with increasing frequency. The sound of traffic on the nearby highways and area streets were the only non naturally generated sounds, other than the occasional passage of a 7 Line train set on the overhead trackage which carries the subway to and from Flushing’s Main Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were oodles and oodles of birds flapping around, and I’m sure that at night this part of Flushing Creek would be crawling with Raccons and Rats and all sorts of nocturnal critters doing their thing.

More tomorrow, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 20, 2019 at 12:30 pm

helpless resignation

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Getting to Flushing Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the mouth of a waterway, or so I’m told, which is called Flushing Creek. As a note, I’m not going to be going all “history boy” on Flushing for a bit. The reasoning behind that particular statement involves not wanting to kill the fun of discovery for me, as I’m willfully coming at this waterway “cold.” Haven’t read up on it, talked to the locals in any sort of detailed fashion, pored through dusty old books, or even hit the Wikipedia page for it. This stance is assumed in the name of not having any preconceptions regarding the place, and is an attempt to preserve some sort of joy before getting all “heavy” with the researched facts and details that I inevitably will get curious enough to learn. At the moment, I’m rolling on “vibe.” Like most of the water found on the forbidden northern coast of Queens, Flushing Creek requires you to display some level of “intent” to consciously reach it.

There’s a point of pedestrian access, however, which I stumbled across.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing through an open gate under the Northern Blvd. bridge, there’s a well worn footpath which allows some access to the sandy beach and grassy marsh shoreline. The first thing encountered down there, between the highways and overpasses, was a singular shoe. It would seem that the Queens Cobbler has also felt a bit of wanderlust during the winter months of 2019, and got here first.

Previous conversations with (the few) people I know that live in Flushing indicate that there is zero access to the shorelines, which is something that I can now report isn’t true. Zero “official” access is more accurate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the shoreline found alongside the Van Wyck and its off ramps, and between Northern Blvd. and Roosevelt Avenue. As mentioned above, there was a pretty well worn footpath down here. There was also evidence of habitation at various points along the footpath, including a shredded hammock and other bedding. Under the highway ramps, there were coolers and other indications that somebody was living down here. I did spot some fellow sleeping one off with his back up against the highway retaining wall, but I got the sense that he was just enjoying an afternoon siesta. I’ve been told about insalubrious gatherings occurring down here which I definitely don’t want to be a part of, but that’s just rumor for me at this particular moment so… pfahh.

More tomorrow. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2019 at 1:30 pm

utterly bewildered

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Getting minimalist at Flushing Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I found myself out in Flushing again last week, making good on my threat to return there during the daylight hours. Last time that I was in this neighborhood, it was at night, which really isn’t the best time to scout a location properly. This time around, it was a mid day winter’s afternoon.

Ultimately, where I wanted to get to was Flushing Creek, but more on that in subsequent posts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have to admit, it was a little odd just waving the camera around without having to do the whole “set up” needed for the night shot process. Funny how something so normative to me can suddenly become alien, sort of like eating the first real meal after an interval with a stomach virus can seem bizarre.

Light, abundant light that I need to cut down and control? Weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a car tire submerged in the surf which has been turned into a colony nest for shellfish, which is something I found neat. Saw several examples of this sort of thing all around the bay and later on Flushing Creek itself. Just goes to show that the mechanisms of nature, given enough time, can adapt to anything.

Back tomorrow with more, and we’ll be exploring part of Flushing Creek for the next few days at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 18, 2019 at 12:00 pm

genuine gravity

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All your base belong to us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pretty much every time my phone rang yesterday, it was someone asking me what I thought of Amazon pulling out of the Long Island City arrangement they had made with the Mayor, Governor, and the NYC EDC. As you may have noticed, I’ve been rather “silent” (well, silent for me) on this particular subject, with one longish NP post, a Greenpointers interview, and a singular radio interview being my only statements about it. In all statements, the message which I was trying to impart was that the fact of Amazon was less disturbing than the idea that the executive branches of both State and City had finally managed to figure out a way past the various checks and balances which had been inserted into the City Planning process since the era when Austin Tobin or Robert Moses could do whatever they wanted to with zero local community input. Apparently, this is what ended up being the Achilles heel of the Amazon deal, as LIC collectively rose up and said “NO.”

That’s the most important takeaway here, in my mind. The sleeping giant has finally awoken. Queens is mad as hell and isn’t going to let the City or the State do what it wants here anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The BQX also died with the Amazon deal yesterday since its moribund carcass has only sparked back to life due to the arrangement, and while the Sunnyside Yards project is still on the horizon, the people running the show for that one are – I guarantee you – in a panic. I predict an executive level bloodbath at the NYC EDC in the next year, who have a less than stellar recent track record as it is (Staten Island Ferris Wheel, anyone?) and angry bosses in the Real Estate Industrial Complex who are going to want to know how this happened. They were expecting to reap a windfall over in the REBNY camp, and have already begun to bemoan their situation and call LIC “overbuilt” with a “glut of rentals.” The bosses won’t or can’t go after the Mayor or Governor, and beyond some petty shots at Jimmy Van Bramer and Michael Gianaris, they’re going to need somebody to blame this on.

Doom and gloom for the powers that be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Winners and losers, that’s how the media will frame it, as if the world of politic and policy is some sort of sport. It’s not, and it’s a toxic POV which first emerged back in the 1980’s when punditry shows like the McLaughlin Report first appeared. There are no winners in this story other than that the activist community, there are only losers. The Amazon deal and the collapse of same will prove to be a divisive force in the LIC community and body politic for quite a while, I predict. There’s going to be all sorts of “high politique” going on which we, the public, will never be privy to.

As I often say when pronouncing such grim statements – It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 15, 2019 at 1:00 pm

fundamentally suspicious

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Thought experiment day…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suppose that the subways ran at street level, in lanes shared with motor vehicles. Said motor vehicles behave in familiar fashion, pulling over to deliver parcels and people, breaking down, getting into “accidentals” and acting in the sort of erratic fashion that non tracked vehicles do. You’ve also got human powered vehicles scooting all over the place, bicycles and skateboards and so on. Then there’s pedestrians, people walking dogs, all of the things you see on a daily basis in New York City and “tune out.” The subway would have to constantly stop short and “dwell” in between stops and there would be a ton of vehicular accidents, including the trains themselves getting struck by cars and trucks and also smashing into errant pedestrians. That would necessitate NYPD activity, which would further increase “dwell” or delay time for the train. The designers of the system, a century ago, foresaw all of this and went to the expense of creating both “cut and cover” tunnels and “elevated” trackways. This gives the subway a “dedicated lane” wherein a lot of the random things that used to happen to the streetcar or trolley lines would be avoided.

This is why the BQX is a stupid idea, incidentally, since the folks pushing for it aren’t planning on dedicated lanes. The bicycle fanatics demand dedicated lanes, as a note, with “protected” border indicators made of concrete. Now, the Subway is the primary form of conveyance for the vast majority of working New Yorkers, but for most it’s only a part of their daily grind. Something like 75% of all Subway riders have a bus figure into their commute, and particularly so in Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Brooklyn.

Ok, now transpose the word “subway” with “bus” and reread the first paragraph.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in recent posts, I’ve been “getting smart” about the MTA’s NYCTA Bus system. One of the most common complaints which bus riders will offer, after crowding, is that the published bus schedules are theoretical at best. You actually can’t blame MTA for this one, as their “on time” surface transportation statistics are vulnerable to weather and traffic conditions. There’s all sorts of pundits out there – including the Union Representatives of the Bus Drivers – who have offered ways to reduce trip time, including novel ideas like two door fare control entrances. I’ve come to believe that what we really need to be discussing are dedicated bus lanes.

The Mayor is willing to commit a significant amount of our black top street pavement to the Bicycle Fanatics, but in terms of numbers… there’s a fairly limited number of people whom these bike lanes actually serve in terms of the traveling and commuting masses. MTA’s buses serve so many more people than the bike lanes do that the comparison wouldn’t even qualify as a rounding error. So, here’s my thought experiment:

Why not create dedicated bus and bike shared lanes, which the bike riders can use in the twenty minute or so intervals in between bus passages? Obviously, you couldn’t do this on every bus line since many of them wind through narrow one way streets, but for the “big boulevard and avenue street lines” – like the Q53 from Rockaway via Cross Bay Blvd. (ridership of about 21,000 per week or 1,092,000 annually) or the Q19 on Astoria Blvd. (ridership of about 4,000 per week or 208,000 annually) or the Q60 on Queens Blvd. (ridership of about 14,000 per week or 728,000 annually) for example?

I know, I’m using logic in DeBlasio’s NYC… In comparison, btw, the entire NYC Ferry system carried about 2.1 million people in 2017. The fare is the same as riding the bus ($2.75), but the City underwrites each fare to the tune of about $6.60 (combined $8.96 according to official sources), which means that the tax payer is kicking close to $14 million bucks into that particular mode of getting around per annum. I’m certainly not suggesting we get rid of the service, as I’m a big fan of it, but I think it’s important to know what things actually cost when talking about transit matters. I wonder what a mile of bike lanes costs, versus what a mile of dedicated bus lane would cost.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s actually quite a bit of room available for novel forms of transit like street car trolleys through the densest sections of the City, believe it or not, as evinced by the shot above which was gathered a block or two west of Queens Plaza. The NYC DOT uses this space to store their trucks and other equipment, which they also do under the 7 line viaduct on Queens Blvd. and in lots of other spots around the City. Eliminate a lot of this municipal storage, and it frees up a lot of land. Why do you think they want to close Rikers? What, mercy? Kindness? You need to put these facilities somewhere.

I know there’s nothing more fun than a wonky post about transit infrastructure to warm the cockles, but again – numbers matter when it comes to City Planning and spending. I understand and know that under our current Mayor, it’s about “feeling groovy” and “sounding good” but it seems to me that if a bus line – such as the Q53 with its roughly one million annual riders – carries the equivalent of one eighth of the entire population of NYC, we should be talking about creating dedicated bus lanes which can also serve bicyclists. This dedicated lane would also fit nicely into the “Vision Zero” traffic calming policies currently in vogue better than the “single task” bike lanes serving a statistically irrelevant number of commuters.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

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