The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for July 2021

understand dimly

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Shabbos… a haaa… shabbos

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Saturday, one had a lunch date with a few friends on Manhattan’s Lower East Side… well, actually the extremely Lower East Side. The only part of residential Manhattan that’s still remotely interesting is found between the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges, East of Bowery. That’s where you find architectural variation in the building stock, weird counterpoints, and an actual working class neighborhood. Don’t worry, the City and the EDC will likely declare the entire area a slum soon and knock it down in favor of glassine towers. They’re in the early stages of doing to Manhattan what they did to Brooklyn and Queens over the last few decades. Ugh.

What’s so interesting, you ask?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Going back to the Civil War, when this section of Lower Manhattan was the center of NYC and Manhattan was still quite industrial, groups of do-gooders and reformers have shown up in every generation who had the answer to “how you help the poor.” You had Jakob Riis and his reformers – and there’s still “Old Law” and “New Law” tenement buildings extant from their solution. A generation later, the Settlement House people showed up, then came the (actual) Progressives like FDR with an enhanced education system, then Robert Moses with his urban renewal money brought highways and Section 8 housing, and then Moses and the NYCHA people built the Rutgers and Al Smith Houses and the rest. These days the do-gooder’s hustle involves “affordable housing” for the well off and screw the poor. The fossil skeletons of these behemoth movements and trends litter the streets here. A history book in brick and mortar and steel.

All of these brilliant and connected people who have tried to solve the intractable problem of urban poverty over the centuries, here in Lower Manhattan, and never did it occur any of them to just give some of the cash they were spending to the actual poor people. The core issue of poverty is that you don’t have any money, which means your babies are hungry. When you have hungry babies, you do desperate and often violent things as that makes sense in the circumstance. America’s overlords have always felt threatened by poor people, and worry that actual cash in their pockets will be drank, smoked, or gambled away. There’s a puritanical side to charitable impulses in our country. God forbid somebody on Welfare might use the money to buy their kids an ice cream cone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wish that you could see through time like I can. A fire escape bolted to the front of a New Law Tenement on East Broadway? Well, that’s symptomatic of Jakob Riis and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as the formation of the FDNY after NYC consolidation in 1898 and the creation of a uniform fire code. The East Side of Manhattan’s “Chinatown” occupies a space that has long housed ethnic populations who regularly spoke languages other than English at home. German, Gaelic, Yiddish, Italian, Spanish. I wonder who made that fire escape, where was the foundry, and who got handed the license by the Tammany appointed Fire Inspectors to design and install it. Love it down here, I do, as it’s thought provoking in a way that a glass walled condo tower ain’t.

Speaking of seeing through time… what are you doing on August 7th? I’ll be conducting a WALKING TOUR OF LONG ISLAND CITY with my pal Geoff Cobb. Details and ticketing available here. Come with?


“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

July 30, 2021 at 11:00 am

inconceivable tensions

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Thursday, Brü, Thursday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Priorities are a big deal for a humble narrator. First thing’s first, and there’s other less time sensitive stuff you leave on the back burner while dealing with exigent reality. If something suddenly bursts into flame, you drop everything and deal with that. The people in charge of our common enterprise – the Government, as it were – don’t seem to think like this. This isn’t about political party or philosophy, it should be mentioned. At the moment, there’s a fairly large bundle of “have to’s” which seem to have been overlooked, while the stuff that really isn’t urgent – for whatever reason – is being treated as number one with a bullet.

If you’re fighting to rezone a Manhattan neighborhood in this part of 2021, and acting like it’s a 4 alarm fire to get it done “right now,” you’ve mixed up your priorities. NYC’s existential crisis isn’t “big business” related, rather it’s small business. We need to marshal the forces of our society right now in the name of entrepreneurs and shop owners, and for small landlords who own residential buildings with less than eight units. The latter entities are the most commonly held form of small business citywide, and the ones who are really in trouble at the moment, but the Governmental types and their masters in the Real Estate Industrial Complex seem hell bent on demonizing and destroying them in favor of mega corporations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Establishing Municipality based Credit Unions and low fee Financial Institutions designed to serve and service the sort of people and businesses written off by commercial banks like Chase or Citigroup would be a great start for the so called “Progressives” and “Socialists.” So would creating a mechanism by which NYC and NYS could resell the same insurance plans offered to their own employees with a small markup margin. That margin assures the Unions that they still enjoy an edge and advantage over the private sector, and would provide the funding required to extend health and pension benefits to the destitute or needy. The business of New York City is business, but the people who run NYC don’t seem to have ever thought about owning or operating their own business. It certainly doesn’t occur to them that few of us started out rich. Policy these days favors Alexander the Great situations. It’s easy to be remembered as “great” when your Dad built the world’s greatest army and died when you were still a teenager. We need more Phillips, and fewer Alexanders, right now.

John Lindsay went out of his way to make the poorest New Yorkers dependent on the City in the 1960’s. Michael Bloomberg went out of his way to insinuate a social Darwinism aspect into that dependency in the early 2000’s. Bill De Blasio and his ilk are a nightmare combination of the two.

Why isn’t encouraging and laying the groundwork for good old fashioned American Entrepreneurship not a part of the equation when the redistributing of common treasure occurs via taxation? Ecosystems work best when they’re varied and broad. You need a top predator – a wolf or tiger like Chase – but you also need mice and shellfish and shoreline vegetation for the baby fishes to hide in. In a properly functioning ecosystem, food falls off of the trees and everybody gets fat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next – Imagine if we created a single semester class for High School Seniors that taught the stuff you actually have to know as an adult. The significance of April 15th, how to claim legitimate deductions on your 1040, and how to approach starting a generic business in New York City. Jury duty, how to vote, the basic rules which adults have to follow in pursuance of avoiding fines and or jail time. What to do and who to call if you do get into trouble with the cops. I’d even plan in a remote visit or two with the “Scared Straight” crew at the local Penitentiary. How do I get health insurance, and what’s involved in signing a lease. What’s a household budget, and how much of your income should you save for a rainy day? Basically… Life 101.

When I was in High School, back in the early 1980’s when a young Joe Piscopo taught us all how to laugh again, there were mandatory classes called “Home Economics” and “Shop,” and whereas “Civics” had already been combined with “History” as “Social Studies,” they still talked about all this stuff. Saying that, I’m a grown ass man and that list in the former paragraph intimidates. Imagine being a kid trying to figure out the playing field and its rules?

Speaking of fixing the world… what are you doing on August 7th? I’ll be conducting a WALKING TOUR OF LONG ISLAND CITY with my pal Geoff Cobb. Details and ticketing available here. Come with?


“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

July 29, 2021 at 11:00 am

faiths contrary

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There’s always a one in seven chance that it’s Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So – you’ve got the NYC Ferry and the Staten Island Ferry, as well as the Hudson River NY Waterways ferries – what are you waiting for, an invitation? Get out on the water in the fresh air, bring a camera, and catch some sun. NYC Ferry can (and I’ve pulled this one off, but it requires a bit of planning) get you from the South Bronx to Rockaway for $2.75 if you time it correctly. Soundview is the Bronx line, and it carries passengers up the west channel of the East River and through Hells Gate (Triborough Bridge, Astoria Park, Hell Hate Bridge) and then past the Brother Islands and Rikers Island and berths just across the water from College Point.

The Astoria line incorporates Manhattan’s East 90th street, then stops at Roosevelt Island, Hunters Point North in LIC, Manhattan’s 34th street, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and then Manhattan’s Pier 11 at the foot of Wall Street. From there you can transfer to another line or head over to the Staten Island Ferry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The South Brooklyn line stops at Corlears Hook on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, then Pier 11, then heads across the water to the foot of Brooklyn’s Fulton Street. From there it stops on either side of Atlantic Basin, the southern one (inside the basin itself) allows egress to Red Hook nearby the Brooklyn Passenger Ship terminal. Then it goes to Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal and then all the way to Bay Ridge. There’s also an East River line which goes to Pier 11, 34th street, and Hunters Point South in LIC. I haven’t ridden the Lower East Side line, so I can’t speak intelligently about it. Supposedly, the next series of expansions will include Coney Island Creek and Staten Island, and the rumor is that Hudson side stops are coming too.

As a note, this isn’t paid content or anything, I’m just a fan. I find that getting on a boat and riding around the archipelago is a curative for bad moods and that being outside is generally good for one’s health. The best way to understand the NYC archipelago is from the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Feds. Driftmaster is a United States Army Corps of Engineers harbor maintenance vessel. They scoop flotsam and jetsam out of the water using that prominent crane, and other gizmos they have onboard.

More tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Speaking of navigational channel maintenance… what are you doing on August 7th? I’ll be conducting a WALKING TOUR OF LONG ISLAND CITY with my pal Geoff Cobb. Details and ticketing available here. Come with?


“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

July 28, 2021 at 11:00 am

nobler desires

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Hey, it’s Tuesday again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one has spent an extraordinary amount of time in the last week out on the water, specifically onboard a series of ferry boats. The reasons why revolve around another factor which has been mentioned in earlier posts, specifically the troubles I’m experiencing with my left foot and a strained muscle in my back. Nothing, but nothing, is better for stretching your back muscles than standing on a boat as it plies through the waves and you sway around keeping balance. Also, if your foot hurts when you’re walking around, it makes sense to find a moving platform to carry you about.

I’m a big fan of the NYC Ferry service. Recent endeavor saw me boarding one in Astoria after paying $2.75 for the privilege, and riding it to Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan. Once there, a short walk took me to the Staten Island Ferry’s Whitehall terminal, where I boarded one of the big orange boats for a free ride. Well, technically, I’ve already paid for that ride via income tax.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One major shortcoming experienced with the new camera system, that I especially feel when on the water, is the lack of a native “superzoom” lens. What “native” means is a lens purpose built for Canon’s new RF mount. I’ve got my old superzoom lens – a Sigma 18-300 – which was always my “go to” for such endeavors, but it was designed for a crop sensor camera like my old Canon 7D. Around half of its range produces significant vignette on the full frame camera I’m carrying now, and the only RF superzoom available right now isn’t a terribly desirable one (a 24-240mm f4-6.3 manufactured by Canon) as far as I’m concerned. Over time, third party manufacturers will release something I want, but for right now I don’t have the cash to gamble on a substandard piece of kit. I’m bringing an old lens out of retirement, thereby, a consumer level full frame 70-300 which has been lent out to several friends over the last few years and is now back at home in my camera bag.

That’s an NYPD Harbor Patrol boat, by the way, which was likely doing Homeland Security work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Staten Island side of my afternoon, where I cooled my heels for a bit before getting back on the big orange boat to start the ride back towards home in Astoria.

For quite a few of the shots gathered on this particular afternoon, I used a native RF Mount 24-105 zoom lens and cropped in tight. Saying that, I lost 2/3rds of the image to the crop. Unfortunately, most of the truly desirable “long reach” lenses available right now for my camera require the sort of money which could also purchase a fairly decent used car.

Speaking of lensing… what are you doing on August 7th? I’ll be conducting a WALKING TOUR OF LONG ISLAND CITY with my pal Geoff Cobb. Details and ticketing available here. Come with?


“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

July 27, 2021 at 11:00 am

oppression waned

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whew, what a couple of weeks. One has walked or ridden a boat into 4 of the 5 Boroughs, including… Staten Island… in the last 14 days. I’ve been in Astoria, Long Island City, Bushwick, Greenpoint, East Williamsburg, Sunset Park, Red Hook, Manhattan’s Financial District and Lower East Side, and St. George. This whole spate of activity got started a couple of weeks ago in LIC when I had to meet up with a couple of Newtown Creek Alliance interns to teach them a couple of things about my beloved Creek. Good news is that most of this travel has occurred on boats, specifically on ferry boats.

The shot above is from the sidewalk of Borden Avenue, alongside the Long Island Railroad’s moderately ancient Hunters Point Rail Yard. The current facility is the ninth iteration of a rail yard on this spot. Once, there was a gigantic glass and steel train shed here, and there were turntables that allowed rail engines to reorient themselves from one track to another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some of my travels have involved hopping on the subway. A humble narrator found himself at Queens Plaza just as a 7 line train was entering the Manhattan bound lower level tracks at the elevated MTA complex.

Just in the name of decrying how bad the management is at the redoubtable MTA… so, they had 16 months where basically nobody was riding the trains. During that interval, which you’d imagine as being a golden opportunity to perform upgrades and maintenance, they complained about declining fare revenues and an uptick in crime. Give us more money, they said, and the Feds bailed them out. Now, with the City reopening and everybody trying to get back to normal, just this last weekend they started doing signal upgrades to the Culver line. The F was running on the D, the D on the F, and R service was completely turned off in Astoria. Instruction was to take the 7 to Jackson Heights, and then transfer to the E, which was stopping in seemingly random places – none of which were where I was going.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was gathered by shooting through the dirty window of a N train bound for Queens Plaza. One day it will happen – I’ll be on an N train which doesn’t look it was parked under a flock of seagulls and it will have clean windows offering a crystal clear view of the scene above.

Frustrating, the MTA is. That’s also a good sign of some sort of return to normalcy. How do you bring people together in our politically divided culture? Answer is: our common hatred of MTA management.

Speaking of getting back to normal… what are you doing on August 7th? I’ll be conducting a WALKING TOUR OF LONG ISLAND CITY with my pal Geoff Cobb. Details and ticketing available here. Come with?


“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

July 26, 2021 at 11:00 am

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