The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for September 2019

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Cool stuff I get to do, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as the fellow pictured above, I’d normally reference Captain America, but in the case of Thomas Asbery it’s Colonel America. Col. Asbery is the commandant of West Point and heads up the United States Army Corps of Engineers in the NYC region. He’s an immensely nice and friendly guy, and last Wednesday was the second time that I got invited out on his boat with a bunch of other activists, officials, and water facing people to do a harbor inspection. Last year, we went out to Jamaica Bay so that the Colonel and his staff could show off some of the shoreline resiliency projects they were working on. This year, we headed off in a different direction – for a circumnavigation of Staten Island.

A number of post Hurricane Sandy USACE shoreline projects which have been planned in the interim are about to start playing out in Richmond County, and which are designed to protect upland neighborhoods and businesses from future storms, and also to prepare NYC – proactively – for rising sea levels in the 21st century. Whatever your politics are on the subject of climate change are is immaterial to the engineers and soldiers of the USACE – they have a job to do and that’s protecting the citizenry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

About a hundred of us gathered on the west side of lower Manhattan, a couple of blocks away from the World Trade Center site. We boarded the vessel pictured above, the DCV Hayward. A drift collection vessel, Hayward is one of several boats operated by the USACE that performs maintenance functions in NY Harbor. You can read a bit more about her mission and function here.

If you didn’t click through, Hayward and it’s crew remove flotsam and jetsam and any other navigational hazards which might interfere with maritime traffic from the water. Hence the big crane.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hayward first navigated eastwards and then moved in a southern direction along the coast of Brooklyn for a bit, then began the southwest journey towards Staten Island. Along the way, Col. Asbery and his staff told the assembled guests about various efforts they were involved in executing, and we were treated to the usual variety show that NY Harbor offers.

It was medium early in the morning – or late afternoon by military or maritime standard – we left the dock at 9 a.m. There were articulated tug and barge combos everywhere, as well as standard harbor tugs performing various duties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the tug Shawn Miller, towing a flat top barge that had two semi tractor trailer trucks on it, as well as a statue of a horse festooned with “Longines” logos. Doesn’t matter if the tug is pulling, pushing, or tied up “on the hip,” it’s called towing.

Tug companies in NY Harbor generally name their boats after family members. The tug pictured above is owned by a family owned company. Obviously, the family surname is Miller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hayward navigated into the section of the Narrows between Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge and Staten Island. Gerritsen Bay is the official nomenclature for this section of the water, and our course carried us directly under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Notice the low lying shoreline above?

The section of Staten Island between the Bridge and the Arthur Kill were amongst the most heavily flooded sections of the City during Sandy, back in 2012, and the USACE has designed a plan to keep that from happening again. The beaches along Father Cappodano Blvd. on this coast are going to completely redone, we were told, with a sloping sandy berm and a Rockaway Beach style boardwalk designed to structurally support it. Most of the drowning deaths associated with the storm occurred in the neighborhoods (Arrochar, South Beach, Ocean Breeze, Midland Beach, and New Dorp Beach) found along this shoreline.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Photographically speaking the shoreline mentioned above is fairly “meh,” as it’s a residential and wooded area. A humble narrator began to perk up when the Hayward entered the maritime channel on the western shoreline of Staten Island known simply as the Arthur Kill. That’s the Port Authority’s Outerbridge Crossing bridge pictured above.

More tomorrow, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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.

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Whom will stop the rain? Still, I wonder.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one had to attend a Superfund meeting at Greenpoint’s PS 110, and since the presentation being offered by officialdom was something I was seeing for the third time, I got bored. Accordingly, I wandered around the public school floor I was on for a few minutes, wondering what grade school class rooms looked like these days. In the case of PS 110, which is a centuried building found across the street from McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, the answer is found in the shot above.

I don’t know, wasn’t expecting holograms or something, but that’s pretty much what school looked like 45 years ago when I could still fit in one of those chairs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, last weekend, I had to attend an event at Newtown Creek Alliance HQ – the Kingsland Wildflower Festival – and I also got bored. I’m easily bored, as a note. I went wandering for a bit and disappeared from the event, and noticed this crew digging and scraping into the pavement. They must have heard the old legend about the pirate Blackbeard burying chests of loot here in Greenpoint back in the colonial era and were trying their luck. Didn’t see any 18th century Spanish Doubloons, Dutch Gilders, or gold of any kind in their truck, so I figure that they came up empty.

Ever hear the one about the guy in Greenpoint who set up an improvised oil derrick in his back yard about twenty years ago, seeking to tap into the underground oil spill?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a fairly adventure free and somewhat frustrating summer, the Fall has been absolutely and stunningly fun for me. This week alone, I’ve managed to spend a day on a boat with the US Army Corps of Engineers, and yesterday I got to ride in a locomotive engine on the former Evergreen (modern day Bushwick Branch) tracks found on the eastern side of Newtown Creek.

The camera has had a real workout recording all sorts of cool stuff, as you’ll see next week at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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

September 27, 2019 at 11:00 am

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My busy week is busy as promised.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator managed to get onboard that United States Army Corps of Engineers Harbor Inspection boat which I hoped to be on yesterday. One had a pretty nice day, despite having to get up at six in the morning to get there. Soldiers get up early, what can I tell you, and if you want to hang out with them so do you. The excursion returned to dock at about 2:30 in the afternoon, whereupon a quick train ride back to Astoria ensued. While the photos on my camera were downloading to the computer (the boat circumnavigated Staten Island, and the USACE described their various flood resiliency projects) Zuzu the dog received a bit of my attention.

Then I had to attend a Transportation Committee meeting for Astoria’s CB1 in the evening. There were two items on the agenda.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first was a request for support by the Durst Organization, who are petitioning the NYC Ferry service to include the E. 91st street (Manhattan) stop on the Astoria Ferry Route. As you’d imagine, I stepped up and did a lot of the talking with them on this one, given the whole maritime side of my life. It’s a good idea, ultimately, but this would add another ten minutes or so onto the Astoria route which has already been lengthened by the addition of a stop at Brooklyn Navy Yard. I asked if the Durst people were agnostic about which route would connect the Hallets Cove and E. 91st routes, and suggested that the Soundview Route might be a good candidate for the service. Additionally, I asked for their petition to include the creation of a stop at Randalls/Wards Island, to allow the kids from Astoria and in particular the NYCHA Astoria Houses easy access to all the ball fields on the islands. They liked that one. As a rule, when somebody wealthy is asking you for a favor, you ask for something in return. They became wealthy by being transactional, and this is a normal thing for them. Try to get something done for your community before saying “yes.”

Then came the bike lane discussion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Transportation Alternatives people are currently working on getting a protected bike lane installed along Crescent Street. It’s not a bad idea at all, and there’s a lot of support for it, and not just amongst the Elected Officialdom who are seemingly terrified of drawing the group’s ire. The Transportation Committee voted unanimously to send a letter requesting that the NYC DOT look into it, and do a study. The study would then be presented publicly, whereupon commentary from the actual community and not activists would be received by the Community Board which would then vote on it according to the local feedback. Odds are pretty good that the project would be controversial, but adopted. That’s the correct procedural methodology, according to the veteran community board members and committee chairs who were present.

Thing is, if you’re a belligerent group of activist bullies…

I won’t go into names and or details here, but suffice to say that several members of the committee are far more than just ideologically aligned with TA. They began an hour long circular argument that requesting a “bridge to bridge” study wasn’t good enough, and that they specifically wanted the committee to request a “Crescent Street” route which would align neatly with their advocacy position. The Chair of the Transportation Committee was adamant about not doing that, as it was procedurally inappropriate. The bullies, including one who couldn’t be bothered to attend but was instead texting to a present member and using them like a sock puppet, were incensed. In the end the motion for calling it a Crescent Street lane versus a Bridge to Bridge lane ended up being withdrawn.

I do not like belligerence, bullying, or a group of ideological activists shoving their current advocacy campaign down my throat. When one of them asked to review a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order…. grrr.


“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

September 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm

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How minimalist are your Wednesdays, anyway?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Red Hand, or El Mano de Roja as my bagel guy Jose calls it, is pictured above. El Mano de Roja is my enemy, and is always forbidding from doing those things which I wish to do. The Red Hand is everywhere, a seemingly omnipresent and inescapable scold who works for the government. Freedom demands an end to the tyranny of the Red Hand. Freedom’s soil is best fertilized with the blood of tyrants, and blood is red – just like the hand. The Red Hand is part of the janitorial staff, at the house of tyranny and encroachment on individual freedoms.

What can I tell you, I’m an idiot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If a vampire was riding a bicycle past the hidden driveway on 39th street – or the Harold Avenue Truss Bridge over Sunnyside Yards if you must, which the traffic mirror above services – a trucker would never know they were there and would likely strike the cycling strigoi. Not sure if you can kill a Vampire with a mack truck, but I’m sure you could ruin its day with one. I’ve always wondered about the whole mirror thing with the Nosferatu, as in why do their clothes turn invisible too – reflection wise – but only when they’re wearing them. Shouldn’t you just see an empty suit and cape standing there reflected in the silvered glass? Is it the silver in the glass? What if the mirror is backed with some sort of plastic? If the proverbial cyclist vampire was crossing through the field of view of that mirror pictured above, would you just see the bicycle?

These are the sorts of things which keep me up at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Working for the same creeping tyranny group as the Red Hand, but in a different department, the adjure offered above indicates the presence of active rail. You’d probably notice this from the tracks splayed out on the ground, or the bells and flashy lights affixed to the movable barriers, or the dozens and dozens of box cars blocking the road – but some folks plainly refuse to notice the nose at the end of their face, so there you are.

If everything worked out as I planned it, as you’re reading this I’m onboard a boat with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, inspecting the Harbor of New York and New Jersey – specifically Port Elizabeth Newark. I’ll tell you all about that at the end of the week, hopefully.


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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

September 25, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Simple things, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amongst the first things that one of my neighbors in Astoria wants to know is what zodiac sign you were born under. When you indicate where your birthday lands on the wheel of the year, she shoots a knowing look at you and acts like you just revealed the code you use for the ATM terminals at the bank. It’s made up, astrology is. Bunk.

Another neighbor loudly pronounces that “he doesn’t give a ‘eff” before doing something stupid or self destructive. He’s part of a whole crew I know that doesn’t give an ‘eff about this or that. At my age, the single thing that I’ve gleaned about life is to give lots and lots of ‘effs. Not giving an ‘eff can get expensive, consequence wise. I’ve gotten to the point these days to proactively give ‘effs, just to save some dough.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something I use as a gauge of intellect in the people I meet and encounter is whether or not a stressor will cause the phrase “I don’t care, call the Cops, I don’t care” to emerge from their face hole. The statement is meant to elicit fear in the listener, and indicate how “thug,” “street,” or just plain “bad ass” the petitioner is. Usually, the statement is offered as part of a series of aggressive primate display behaviors, with a lot of hand waving and other declarative statements (see paragraph above) wound in.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, doesn’t care when the Cops arrive. If you don’t care when they get there, NYPD will ensure that you do. Me? I do not wish for encounters with people who believe in the efficacious nature of dime store astrological advice and who do not “give an ‘eff” to escalate into requiring the mediating presence of the gendarmes. Seriously… what is wrong with our culture these days?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody you see is under constant pressure… the rent is due next week, tick tock. This thing is wrong, and that thing hurts for no reason, and the subways, and now that his Presidential Campaign is done the Mayor is going to get back to doing stupid things again… Washington, and the Executive Branch in particular, is currently being staffed by comic book villains. Everybody is under constant existential pressure, and the ropes tighten up a bit every single day. I can see the appeal of embracing the pseudo scientific, supernatural, and behaving as if you were a mafioso when you are… in fact… a dry wall installer or drive a truck or something.

The question I always ask is “what do you want to achieve,” or “what result do I think this particular set of things I’m doing and saying will cause to happen”? Was it my status as a Virgo that caused me to break a car window while screaming “Call the Cops, I don’t care, I don’t give an ‘eff” and did it cause me to act like an asshole when I got my wish and get all aggressive towards them when they show up? Smart move is to give up. A cop on the street has the legal right to kill you, they are god on the street. Starting from the minute that the cuffs go on, and progressing through the arrest process, the street cop becomes less and less godlike. Be smart.

I just don’t understand people. Really don’t. Better to spend my time alone, wandering through the concrete devastations. There are no fortune tellers there, nor vainglorious fools shouting “worldstar.”


“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.

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