The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for June 2019

half forgot

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Is there a “usual” anymore?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is notoriously a creature of habits. If I find something enjoyable, I’ll repeat the experience over and over until it’s either no longer available or all the joy has been sucked out of it. Rinse, wash, repeat. I’m that way with certain points of views too. It’s an absolute imperative that I grab certain shots when passing the POV by, which is the case with the photo above from the Brooklyn Navy Yard perspective. You never know if “today’s iteration” is the last time you’ll see something, given how fast change occurs these days. To wit, notice how that new construction of yet another glass box residential tower is screwing up the primacy of the Empire State Building?

Additionally, whereas we’ve had wet and rainy years in the past, 2019 seems to be the year that NYC has become the Seattle of the East Coast. I’d prefer London fog to rain, myself, but I like it all atmospheric like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, before conducting a tour and whenever possible, I like to run the route a couple of days in advance and get my thoughts together. Accordingly, having ridden the Astoria line of the NYC Ferry to Wall Street/Pier 11, I transferred onto the Soundview line that goes north along the East River to the Bronx. After hugging the eastern coastline of Manhattan to East 90th street, the ferry heads into the Hells Gate section of the River. That’s the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridge pictured above, with Randalls/Wards Island on the left and the Shore Blvd. side of Astoria Park on the right.

I often wonder why there isn’t a ferry stop on Randalls/Wards. There’s such an abundance of playing fields and parkland there. Perhaps with future expansions of service there will be. Let’s just say that a certain someone is whispering into a few of the right ears about that one, every chance he gets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something you might notice, when riding the ferry, are units of the NYPD Harbor Patrol. I’ve ridden the boats with officers onboard, or seemingly at random, an NYPD vessel will shadow the Ferry along its route – as was the case last week. Obviously, this is connected to NYPD’s Homeland Security mission, an appropriately so.

That’s a SAFE “response boat medium” pictured above, which are increasingly long in the tooth vessels that first started populating the fleets of the “services” a little more than a decade ago. Every service has its own flavor of SAFE boat.

On a site maintenance note, I should be rectifying this ad banner insertion bullshit that WordPress has been inflicting on this site shortly.


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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 18, 2019 at 1:30 pm

varying antiquity

with 2 comments

And so doth Monday once more rise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Prepping for last Saturday’s NYC Ferry tour found me riding around on a few of their boats last week, which is where I spotted the MV Hunts Point “Sludge Boat” crossing under the Williamsburg Bridge. Originally built as “East River Bridge #3” the bridge opened in 1899, a full ten years before East River Bridge #2 (Manhattan Bridge). It was built to replace the old Grand Street to Grand Street ferry operated by the company which Robert Fulton had founded. The Williamsburg Bridge was considered an eyesore when it opened, and the Municipal Art Society was founded as a response.

The Astoria line of the NYC Ferry, from which these shots were gathered, has recently added a new stop to its service, one which goes into the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wallabout Creek was the first recorded site of European settlement on the Long Island side of the East River, in these parts. The Lenape word for the Wallabout, I’m told, was “Hemegacknock.” In 1801, shortly after the American Revolution, the newly minted Federal Government desired a ship yard along the East River. At the time, the busiest boat building center on the planet was found on the East side of Manhattan, and real estate prices for a property large enough for what the Feds wanted to occupy forced them to look towards the east. They purchased Wallabout Creek and Bay, and created the Brooklyn Navy Yard there in 1801.

By the American Civil War in the 1860’s, the BNY was employing over 6,000 people at the Wallabout.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By World War 2, there were 10,000 employees and the Brooklyn Navy Yard hosted five miles of paved roads, 2 steel shipways to launch new vessels, six pontoon and cylindrical floats, and 4 dry docks. That ship you see above is sitting high and dry in one of the dry docks (it’s actually called a graving dock, but there you go).

Between 1937 and 1953, amongst several other large vessels; the BNY launched the Battleships Iowa, North Carolina, and Missouri. They also built the first angled deck aircraft carrier here, which was called the Antietam. After the Federal Government began contracting its ship building and servicing in NY Harbor, the Navy Yard fell on hard times. These days it’s experiencing a bit of a renaissance, and has become a corporate industrial park of sorts. The FDNY and NYC Ferry maintain bases here, and there’s also a movie studio, the country’s largest urban farm, and several warehouse operations working out of the Navy Yard. Additionally, there’s a new museum here called “Bldg 92” which preserves the history of the place, accessible from the Flushing Avenue or landward side.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

burying dust

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Ferry rides never get old, man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wednesday last, one spent the late afternoon riding around on a couple of the NYC Ferry system’s routes. My desire was to freshen up my recollections for this Saturday’s tour, which will play out on the Soundview route. To get from “A” to “M,” the Astoria line was accessed at Hallet’s Cove nearby the NYCHA Astoria houses. This particular line’s terminal stop is at the location above, then it stops at the east side of Roosevelt Island beneath the Queensboro Bridge, LIC North nearby Anable Basin, 34th street in the City, a new stop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard has just been added, and then it proceeds to Pier 11/Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. If you time it right, and I did, a free transfer is available to the Soundview line which carries you up to the Bronx.

There’s all sorts of amenity and inducement onboard to encourage the comfort of riders, but for me, the NYC Ferry is a cheap way to offer my camera a weapons platform for remote deployments. Pictured above are the Roosevelt Island Bridge and a section fo the Big Allis power plant in Queens’ Ravenswood section.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The view from the Brooklyn Navy Yard is offered above.

As of right now, it doesn’t look like the sort of boat tours which I’ve normally offered and or participated in during the last ten summers will be possible. The popularity of the NYC Ferry during the summer months has seen the service reserving or leasing every single boat in NY Harbor to buttress their own fleet, and its “taken the air out” of the rental boat market. There’s still plenty of higher end vessels you can hire, but they are either too large and expensively risky – Circleline, for instance – or are floating catering halls which are far too slow and costly. There’s also a few vessels which are just out of my price range, or would necessitate ticket prices that are stratospheric.

It’s funny, actually. What my friends and I have been advocating for over the last decade (and change) has come to pass. New Yorkers are once again embracing their waterways, and using maritime transit to get around. There’s no shortage of “normal people” advocating for waterfront access these days, not just us “harbor rats,” and there’s so many people paddling around in kayaks and canoes that it’s actually become quite crowded in certain parts of the harbor. Imagine that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s something I’ve learned over the last decade, take it for what it’s worth.

In the world of “tours,” you’ve got a couple of basic delineations; vehicle tours, site tours, walking tours. My pals at Turnstile Tours, who essentially have a franchise at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, offer the very definition of “site tours.” The folks who do the Grand Central Station tours also do “site tours,” or the extremely successful Empire State Building operation. That’s when you’ve got exclusive access to a particular place. Walking tours, which I offer regularly during the summer months, follow a particular route that expresses a certain narrative or story. Vehicle tours take a variety of forms, from the bus operations that feed off the tourist trade in Manhattan to CircleLine or even the sort of boat tours which I usually offer during the summer months that go to some out of the way but interesting place like Port Newark or Newtown Creek.

Then, there’s the “subway tour,” which take advantage of preexisting transit infrastructure to cover a large distance quickly. The NYC Ferry tour I’m conducting tomorrow, links below, will follow the model of a subway tour. If it works out, and so far there’s been quite a lot of interest in this one, I’m planning on doing more of them on the less travelled routes. The Rockaway line, for instance, is far too popular to even consider doing one during the summer months.

There’s just so much to see and talk about on the Soundview and Astoria lines, it boggles the mind.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

 


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 14, 2019 at 1:30 pm

dread induced

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Better late than never?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the late post, and for the lack of meat on the bone. Back tomorrow with something decidedly more substantial than an abstraction of the superstructure of the Grand Street Bridge over my beloved Creek.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 13, 2019 at 3:17 pm

innocuous solidity

with 3 comments

The “A” in MTA is for “adventure.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On our return trip from the Queens Zoo last weekend, Our Lady of the Pentacle and I took a stab at using the cheapest and fastest way from 111 street in Corona to Broadway in Astoria. In the morning, we were forced to use a cab and plunked out nearly $20 doing so. The alternative was to take the R into Manhattan, and transfer at 42nd street/Grand Central to the 7 line which would then take us to the zoo. Maintenance crews were at work on both lines, and there was neither an east bound option on the R (to Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights where you normally transfer to the 7, or the E and F for that matter) nor a west bound one since the R was bypassing Queensboro Plaza. You had to go into Manhattan. Another alternative I sometimes use, when needing to access the 7 line, is the Q 104 bus which connects Astoria’s Broadway to Queens Blvd. Unfortunately, the 7 line was skipping more than half of its eastwards route as well, which included the stretch from Queens Plaza to Jackson Heights. As mentioned above, the “A” in “MTA” stands for “Adventure.”

Before one of you jokers jumps in with “why not ride a bike, Mitch,” allow me to offer a saying I learned from the Sicilians of Canarsie – Bafongoo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily for us, upon arriving at the 7 line stop at 111th street after our zoo experience, we discovered that the trains heading towards Manhattan were operating in the standard fashion. After weaving our way through the groups of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had arranged themselves around the station, we swiped through “fare control” and joined with the hundreds and hundreds of people waiting for the 7 up on the platform. Seemingly, Corona still hosts a large population of Puerto Ricans, many of whom seemed to be traveling to the Puerto Rican Day Parade over in the City. I presume they were Puerto Rican, given that many of them were wearing clothing adorned with the island’s flag and were also adorned with various garments reading “Boricua” or “Nuyorican.” They might have just been fans of the island and its peoples, who knows. Never assume.

All I can tell you is that it was a pleasure to hear Spanish spoken with the particular rhythms that the Puerto Rican accent brings. Growing up in NYC, most of the Spanish speakers I encountered were Puerto Rican or Dominicans. These days, the entire Spanish speaking world is represented here in NYC, but the dulcet and softer spoken tone of the Mexican and Central American accents seem to be the ones most commonly encountered. Kind of a Boston accent versus a Louisiana one sort of thing, y’know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Alongside basic mathematics, the intellectual weakness I’ve most commonly displayed over the decades has been a consistent inability to speak other languages. I can understand a bit of Spanish, or at least watch an espanol movie or TV show and follow along with most of the dialogue. Often, I can form a simple sentence in my mind ina foreign tongue, but can’t force my mouth to make the words come out correctly. I’ve tried and tried. Yiddish was regularly spoken by my family, but the same issue occurs if I try to speak it. Essentially, I’m doing an imitation of somebody talking yiddish rather than speaking it. Weird, huh?

I’ve got friends, born overseas, from all over the world here in Astoria. They’ll often apologize for not knowing some esoteric English word or turn of phrase and proclaim their stupidity. I remind them that they speak two languages cogently, and oftentimes more than two. That’s a pretty incredible thing, when you think about it. I pronounce “hors d’oeuvres” (those little French snack things) as “whores da ohvoors,” after all.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

corner pivot

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How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, anyway?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may think the delivery truck pictured above represents some sort of madness. This is not madness, this is Sparta…

I’ve been waiting about two years to make that joke, so thanks for indulging a humble narrator in his puerile goals. I notice this particular truck all the time in Astoria, making deliveries of flour and other whatnots to the local bakeries and bagel shops. They’re a local business, Sparta is, operating out of a building opposite Rainey Park on Vernon Blvd. One is resisting the further urge to make a thousand jokes revolving around the movie “300,” write a detailed history of the Laconian Peninsula over in Greece, or describe the many attempts to penetrate the Astoria markets which the Persian Bakery Supply people have been denied over the years by these Spartans.

The Persian Bakery Supply people have said that “if we can get a single bagel shop to use our services, we could take over the entire neighborhood and expand our empire.”

Spartan Bakery Supply always replies to the Persians, laconically, with “if.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the quirky things about Astoria is the habit that early 20th century real estate developers had in creating “courts.” A court, in this context, is an open space designed either for the entryway of a large building or one that exists between two distinct structures, and it provides for light and air circulation in residential units that would otherwise have none. The one pictured above is on Steinway Street between 34th Avenue and Broadway, and the shot was captured during a doctors visit for Zuzu the dog. Just a checkup for my increasingly elderly pup, whereupon she got a fairly clean bill of health. Zuzu is getting old, is a bit plump, and seems to have some sort of issue going on with her back – according to the doc. Since dogs are “all back” that’s a worry, but both the ravages of advancing age and the conqueror worm are inevitable, so there you are.

Personally speaking, I’m feeling the decades more than ever these days. Luckily, Zuzu and I have gone gray at the same time so we match. She looks like a giant possum, though, whereas I’m starting to look like Dr. Zaius from “Planet of the Apes.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Long Island City, where new construction driven by the fiendish avarice of the Real Estate Industrial Complex has finally burst through the barriers long provided by the Pulaski Bridge on one side and the LIRR tracks on the other, this trio of feral predators was observed the other day. I’ve mentioned a few times the novel approach to controlling vermin on industrial properties which I’ve observed in LIC, wherein one omits the expense and consequence of employing an exterminator – with their noxious chemicals – and instead embracing the presence of the omnipresent feral cat. Most of these wild kitties have been sterilized by “TNR” (trap, neuter, release) services. You can tell that because they have had the tip of one their ears clipped.

The “bird people” hate this concept, since the particular speciation which they advocate for are predated by these cats. Personally, I’m willing to take a few dead pigeons in return for not having watered down chemical weaponry like Malathion spritzed all over the place. Using cats to control rats and mice is part of what I mean when opining that smartly using natural mechanisms to control the urban environment is the way forward. There’s unintended consequence, of course.

Remember that Daffy Duck cartoon where Daffy has a mouse in his hotel room? The one where Porky Pig is the manager? Porky first sends a cat up to the room to get rid of the mouse. Then a dog to get rid of the cat, a lion to get rid of the dog, and an elephant to get rid of the lion. How to get rid of the elephant? Send the mouse back in. Someday, before Zuzu and I age off of this planet, I’d like to see herds of wild elephants roaming around LIC. Word has it that Persian Bakery Supply once deployed delivery elephants in their never ending quest to cross the Spartan Bakery Supply lines but it didn’t go well for them.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

natural laws

with 2 comments

Queens Zoo, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in the recent past, I’m now serving as a member of Community Board 1 here in Astoria, and upon receiving an invitation to attend a (borough wide) Community Board members event at the Queens Zoo I leapt at the chance. The bad part of the invite was that I had to be at the zoo in Corona at 8:30 a.m., but the good part was that I got to bring Our Lady of the Pentacle along. Our Lady is a big fan of the petting zoo section of Queens Zoo, where you can purchase little cups of animal treats to filter into the goats and sheep they maintain.

Me? I just like the zoo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As all political events do, this one started with a short speech, and the narration discussed – in particular – 2019 programming changes and initiatives at the Queens Zoo. A few plates of bagels and fruit were available for the CB members to graze through, and we were given free run of the place prior to it opening to the public.

We were encouraged to proselytize our “people” to visit the institution, which is in the Flushing Meadows Corona Park complex and accessed via 111th street in what I’d describe as the south eastern section of Corona. Accomplished, as you have now been proselytized.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s gardening season at the moment in Queens, and especially so at Newtown Pentacle HQ here in Astoria, where Our Lady has been spending a great deal of time on the pursuit. Accordingly, some notice was taken of the various plantings surrounding the animal display areas at Queens Zoo. The plant above caught my notice, which was found nearby an enclosure housing Lynxes. Nice splash of color, thought I.

We got lucky coming home, as MTA was actually running trains that connected to Astoria from Flushing Meadow Corona Park without necessitating a round trip through Manhattan – a rarity in recent years.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 10, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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