The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 20, 2019 at 12:30 pm

4 Responses

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  1. ” 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.”

    Why Mitch, you’ve been reading my blog, you sly dog !
    A quote of mine from a post 10 days prior, a wee bit paraphrased but essentially the same idea. You didn’t add the part about colonialism and imperialism and ethnic cleansing is still a bit too edgy, but this is a good start.

    No joking, I’m flattered.

    Donald Cavaioli


    February 25, 2019 at 6:17 pm

  2. Tastes, I’ve no disagreement with, in the literal sense. Preferences? Doubtful.

    Haven’t met many peoples who don’t prefer to live in a “box” – that is, four walls bounded above by a ceiling, and below by a floor, arranged in a self-contained configuration that generally delineates between a living, sleeping, eating, and toiletry space.

    A box is basically been where it’s at for the past however many thousand years, no? The aesthetic outward form those boxes take have more to do with developers and density than any particular preference of the people living within them, I’d venture: see how the Koreans along the quieter side-streets off of Northern (into Murray Hill and beyond) preference residing in single-family homes with yards and garages, like any other aspirationally-minded group. Most people would prefer to have single-use boxes configured in an accommodating and spacious manner. Most people here have to unfortunately settle for far less. This is a result of free markets, government inaction, government overreach, and a weak or otherwise absent influence of consumer demand outside a narrow elite, brought about by the simple fact of massive overcrowding.

    Anywhere in the world where there is over-crowding, you will find that the boxes people live in are quickly shrunk and stripped of any “excess” in design and beauty. That is not particular to any culture. Having been to Hong Kong, Malayasia, Vietnam, Thailand, Spain, Italy, etc…it’s the same everywhere. In crowded places, only the very well off get to determine how large and nice their boxes are, or otherwise the earliest and earlier settlers. The late-comers, of any types and stripes, but especially the poor, get mass-manufactured boxes of one sort or another.

    At least things have gotten ever so slightly better than tenements and government housing! Slightly.

    Now, if you weren’t implying “housing”, specifically, then what else could preferences mean? For all we exoticize the Eastern “other”, the stores in places like Flushing are as mundane as anywhere else. Clothes, food, housewares, appliances…home-goods. How fantastic! It’s just that they’re also labelled in Cantonese or Mandarin.

    Tommy Efreeti

    February 28, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    • “Tastes, I’ve no disagreement with, in the literal sense. Preferences? Doubtful.”

      Tommy, here I must respectfully disagree. Have a look at Kevin Walsh’s Forgotten New York blog, the photos of houses from the early 20th century. Even the more modest homes have far more aesthetic appeal from the brickwork to the cornices than the soul crushing blandness of modern “worker barrack” buildings. Made to be as cheap as possible and utterly lacking in even the smallest nod towards pleasing the eye. Such styles are more common in totalitarian nations or with peoples who more value parsimony over aesthetics. De gustibus non disputandem est still depends very much on one’s cultural frame of reference.

      “Anywhere in the world where there is over-crowding, you will find that the boxes people live in are quickly shrunk and stripped of any “excess” in design and beauty.”

      The overcrowding here in NYC is actually planned and desired by our own government. The U.S. with George W. Bush as a signatory to the U.N.’s Agenda 21 and to which New York state has endorsed has stipulated that more people be relocated into large cities with higher population densities. This is in contravention of policies that were designed in the 1930’s and implemented through the 1980’s to reduce urban population density. That we must be condemned to third world living standards in this complete about face of policy and refutation of traditional American culture and thinking is the fallout of globalism and chasing the nonsensical (and I might add completely wrong headed) fantasies of sustainability.

      ” That is not particular to any culture. Having been to Hong Kong, Malayasia, Vietnam, Thailand, Spain, Italy, etc…it’s the same everywhere.”

      Except for Spain and Vietnam, I’ve been to those countries myself as well as a few others and no, it is not the same everywhere. Different peoples with different cultures express themselves and adhere to their standards according to what works best for them in the context of their respective environment and abilities. The different architectural styles and standards of living reflect this. Once again, review American history and look at earlier examples of architecture or even the cars we drove. To state all houses have four walls, a floor and ceiling is as overly reductionist as saying as all human beings have two arms and legs therefore all are exact carbon copies of each other. This is obviously not true.

      ” For all we exoticize the Eastern “other”, the stores in places like Flushing are as mundane as anywhere else. Clothes, food, housewares, appliances…home-goods. How fantastic! It’s just that they’re also labelled in Cantonese or Mandarin.”

      How is the Eastern “other” exocticized? What is the relevance of it? Fetishization of other cultures is mostly a white liberal thing and used as virtue signalling and can be disregarded as irrelevant if not ridiculous. That stores label their merchandise in Mandarin or Cantonese is first incorrect as the written language is the same for both dialects, if you’ll forgive the sperging. Further, this is an example of colonialism and imperialism and deserves no celebration. It was wrong when practiced by European powers and just as wrong when practiced by any other nation. The point I have made is that we are becoming an empire, different nations of peoples ruled by a common government. The fate of empires throughout history should be noted and in the present example, gravely regarded.

      The present dada of multiculturalism is an absurd pursuit of some sort of social engineering alchemy whereby different peoples are mixed together in the hopes of transmuting the base metal of human nature into the dubious gold of a generic, grey humanoid and a banal mono-culture. A pursuit that has never succeeded before and will inevitably fail again. One can only hope the failure will not prove to be disastrous.

      Donald Cavaioli


      March 4, 2019 at 10:01 pm

  3. Cheers, Don – that was a good write-up; but the point of my post was to poke a bit at that “according to t & p” quip, which seemed to be implying, “according to the bland, hi-rise, poor-quality/lower tastes of the Chinese incomers”…. to which I counter, that if it were ever *really* up to the people actually residing IN them, the “boxes” would be ALWAYS be on the nicer side, on that spectrum of terrible-to-bland-to-decent-to-ornate-ness in terms of flourish and design. Few people actively CHOOSE to live in the equivalent of hi-rise cardboard boxes, that’s an outcome of urban policy and skewed elitist decision making, with the occupants simply settling for what’s available/”affordable”. They have no hand at the drafting table.

    For example — in Barcelona, beauty abounds (architecturally) – but it’s generally the older buildings on the main avenues. At the edges, where new construction is happening, you’ve got the same bland boxes going up that we do here. The exceptions are where district regulations prevent the pretty facades from being torn down, such that new construction must take place “invisibly” behind the “false fronts” which tradition/aesthetic maintain must stay up, and also be capped at the same heights as adjacent neighbors – brilliant solution, I think. Barcelonians are rightly incensed that they are being priced out of their fair city by Air BnB and the very rich. The ones who can afford to remain are by necessity moving outward from the center into downscale, modernist abodes at the edges – that’s not their preference, obviously. Actually, Barcelona is one of the very few centrally planned cities with a common governing aesthetic that got the execution really, really right.

    In any case, there are no easy solutions to correct for this, short of arbitrary population caps and trying to time-capsule areas improbably. Growth will happen inevitably – it’s a question of managing its direction and pacing. The best examples we have suggest a robust mixture of concentrated density in City centers with rigorously enforced beauty standards in outward concentric circles that is inversely proportional to increasing spacious-ness: if you hafta live in a dense hi-rise complex, in other words, then the governing municipality better damn well make sure it’s a really, really, pretty looking one, surrounded likewise by pretty neighbors.

    One thinks of the Potter building, for example, although that’s an office space that became a residential one.

    Tommy Efreeti

    March 5, 2019 at 12:50 pm

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