The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for December 20th, 2021

abnormal ticking

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well, Merry Christmas, huh? Actually, Festivus comes first – on the 23rd, then Christmas on the 25th, and Kwanzaa is the 26th. So exciting, ain’t it, the holiday season? Yesterday was December the 19th, and I feel compelled to mention the date as being the anniversary of the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903, and the USS Constellation fire at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1960. This was your calendrical paragraph of the day, lords and ladies.

The shots in today’s post were captured while scuttling home from a visit to Long Island City’s Degnon Terminal area, which adjoins the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek. This particular walk (from and to Astoria) is kind of my default destination when I have no particular destination in mind. My feet just point in the right direction and I follow them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the last decade, a great gnashing of teeth in Western Queens has revolved around a movement for safer streets. The answer to all things safe has revolved around bicycles, bike lanes, and a well organized lobbying campaign which engages in the tried and true methodology of redefining commonly held terms and tropes. Bike lane advocates offer that a car isn’t “parked” along the curb, instead it’s “free car storage.” Automobile owners and operators are described as wheeling around in “two ton murder machines” for instance. I’m actually quite impressed with some of the people and organizations who have led this charge, and less so with several of the quite volatile sock puppets who show up at governmental meetings.

What is always forgotten in these conversations are pedestrians. As a dedicated pedestrian, I spend a good amount of my time these days dodging electrically powered bikes riding at 20 mph on the sidewalks, and crossing the street in several places in Western Queens is now a horror show. You used to just step off the curb when the vehicles passed by, now you’ve got to worry about a secondary line of traffic too, one which doesn’t obey stop sign/red light/yield to pedestrian indications. At least cars have license plates and an insurance company to sue if you get hit by one. Meanwhile, in all the arguing and tumult, basics like street lighting and roadway maintenance are ignored. The corner above hosts a bike lane on the sidewalk, relegating foot traffic to a narrow and dark corridor.

How narrow and dark, you might ask?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That narrow and dark, I answer. I’ve opined to the “bicycle people,” whose aims I’m generally quite supportive of, that it’s only a matter of time until the political winds blow in a different direction and the City of Greater New York does what it’s historically done regarding every other issue encountered in its long history and legislates that bikes will need to be registered with an bureaucratic agency and be adorned with some sort of license plate. Operator licenses won’t be far behind that, either. This will be a nightmare, using a City version of NYS’s Department of Motor Vehicles as a model. It’ll become a revenue source for the city, with traffic agents handing out tickets for bikes illegally stored on fences and utility poles. Ask a car owner what to expect.

NYC officialdom has told me point blank that bike lanes are easy for them to do, since it’s a low budget improvement they can make. Those little plastic sticks, officially called “flexible delimiters,” are a lot cheaper than actual concrete separation for bike lanes. The ones without the sticks are “just paint.” Now… the paint isn’t paint, it’s a substance called thermoplastic which is applied to the street. When the paint degrades and fades, where does the plastic go? Into the sewers, that’s where, and since NYC has a combined sewer outfall system which discharges directly into the harbor…

We are just doomed. Merry Christmas.

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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

December 20, 2021 at 1:00 pm

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