The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for June 1st, 2021

equally himself

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering disdainfully through the universe’s garden spot, Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section, one struggles to maintain any sort of hope for the future. Jack ass Real Estate enthusiasts masquerading as altruists are the latest addition to the milieu that I have to deal with. Their entire point of view is built around a single disingenuous issue – “affordable housing” for people earning over $100,000 a year. When you point out that every bit of societal infrastructure (power, water, transit, education, healthcare) required to maintain a growing populace is currently failing and the installation of much of it dates back to an era before women were able to vote, they grow indignant. Everything is connected. NYC is complicated. The five boroughs are virtually a nation state unto themselves, and the NYPD’s headcount is larger than most country’s actual militaries. As an example, there are fewer active duty Royal Marines employed by the United Kingdom than there are NYPD officers. There’s 36,000 cops in NYC’s 5 boroughs versus 7,760 Royal Marines for all of Great Britain. I should mention that a Royal Marine is generally considered to be worth 20 regular soldiers, and that NYPD is trained for an entirely different mission so the numerical difference isn’t offered to suggest that the NYPD would win a fight with the British Royal Marines.

The entire British military establishment numbers about 200,000 active duty personnel. Their job is to protect the roughly 67 million people who live on the actual island, and the various bases and territories left over from the time of Empire. The Royal Marines are “tip of the spear” troops, meaning they are the equivalent of America’s Green Berets, Navy Seals, or Army Rangers in terms of training and lethality.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Where does “it” go when you flush your affordable toilet in your new condo? Who pays for the pipe and the sewer plant and what happens to “it” after it gets there? See those four pipes in the photo above? Largest single source of greenhouse gas in Brooklyn, bigger than all the highways and tunnels put together. What powers this sewer plant in Greenpoint and who does it serve? The answer to the former is a bit complex, but the latter is Manhattan below 96th street.

Much will be made of the “need” for affordable housing built close to the urban core along the East River. Few will discuss the need to build new and to fortify existing mass transit. If you understand NYC history, you can say with zero qualification that the Government is shit at building housing. Conversely, Government is great at building roads and train lines and sewer plants. Let’s talk about getting the Government out of the real estate business, and back into the building schools and hospitals and transit space.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everything in NYC is interrelated. Nothing exists in a solitary silo. A new luxury apartment building, using modern construction technique, isn’t built here – it’s assembled here. Prefabricated sections are brought to the job site from a distant factory and lifted by crane into the correct spot. Those “wide load” sections have to get “here” from somewhere else. How do you do that, when the Real Estate people have eliminated port and rail infrastructure across the five boroughs in a systematic manner over the last fifty years? By heavy truck, of course. In a vastly interconnected system like NYC, a small change in one place causes ripples through others.

Those trucks, coming from distant factories, have to move through other people’s neighborhoods. They encounter obstacles like the elevated tracks of the 7 line on Queens Blvd. or the overpasses of highways. Since everyone is a fucking environmentalist these days, how about we calculate the amount of carbon these truck trips spend while idling in traffic in upper Manhattan on their way to the Triborough?

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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 for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2021 at 11:00 am

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