The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last stop on my early morning walk from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Astoria… well, I didn’t make it to Astoria on foot since my left one was screaming with arthritic pain by this point… was the Meeker Avenue Street End site in Greenpoint. This used to be the Brooklyn side mooring of the Penny Bridge, replaced in 1939 by the “New Penny Bridge” which was renamed as the Kosciuszcko Bridge in 1940 and has since been replaced by the modern day Kosciuszcko Bridge seen above. I cannot count how many times I’ve had to make all of those connections to explain Penny Bridge over the years.

In every post describing every step of the way, I’ve mentioned the constancy of needing to find a place to pee or poop. Why? Well, in the midst of all the high fallutin political movements here in the City that never sleeps, one of the things that we continually ignore is basic human biology. You can decarcerate, you can include, you can… but you can’t work out how to create public bathrooms. The City has a hundred billion dollar budget and there’s no way to solve this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During non pandemic times, the “NYC system” revolved around walking into a diner or fast food joint and ordering something cheap off the menu – like a coffee – and then asking if the facilities are available. That’s what’s known as “passing a problem off to the private sector.” We do a lot of that here in NYC. The political estate mandates stuff all the time, and then hopes that the private sector can work out the details. It’s a big part of the pandemic issue right now. Vaccine requirements are meant to be enforced by bars and restaurants, but there’s no clear set of regulations for them to follow, nor is there a clear set of instructions for what to do if somebody refuses to cooperate other than summoning the cops to come and do their usual wrecking ball “overt display of authority” thing. It’s dopey.

My understanding is that NYPD’s morale is at the lowest it’s been since the late 1980’s. Telling people what to do is different than convincing them to do what’s best for everyone. It’s not a Cop’s job to do the latter, it’s a politician’s. Our Politicians all want to be superstars, and spend most of their time coming up with new laws rather than finding ways to make the old ones work better, and expect the cops to enforce whatever the hell it is they just came up with. Also, our laws never get retired, despite irrelevancy or ineffectiveness. You still can’t keep a goat, ferret, or chicken in your apartment for instance, and the NYC Anti Mask mandate of 1845 is still on the books. It’s illegal to wear a mask in public in several regions of the United States, which was a 1960’s statutory response to the Ku Klux Klan. The NYC version was installed to keep landlords from sending masked gangs into tenement buildings to keep their tenants in line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Politicians rattle on about climate issues, but the vast majority of the so called affordable housing built under the recent regime, in the last decade, is rated “D” or worse by the City’s Department of Buildings on energy efficiency. Fossil fuel companies are the culprits, they say, and not the political campaigns which take election year contributions from National Grid and a host of other “energy and job providers.” What is the “super power” of a City Council member? It’s called ULURP, for NYC’S “Uniform Land Use Review Procedure,” which effectively gives an office holder the power to shape development in their district. ULURP power is also held by the Borough Presidents, and City Hall. You need Council, BP, and Mayor’s offices to sign off on this process. The latter can overwrite what the former opposes, but that’s a whole other story which involves pecking order and rank.

Let’s say that you’re a City Council Member – would you demand that new construction in your district include real estate investment that has environmental benefit and green space? Playgrounds? Transit contributions? Or – would you just let the same players who have been raping the urban environment and exploiting the political system’s vanity your whole life sidle up to the trough for another rich meal? Tenants don’t write checks during election campaign season, after all, landlords do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mantra… Nothing matters and nobody cares…

There’s a situation at another section of the fabulous Newtown Creek, one in Long Island City, which grows increasingly perilous. A collapsing shoreline and tidal action which is clearly undermining a well travelled street that’s within a stone’s throw of LaGuardia Community College and several charter schools. Reporting the situation to the relevant agency was the most depressing experience I had in 2021, and given what the rest of that cursed year was like… The agency essentially said that they wouldn’t even inspect the situation since they looked at it three years ago when a different section of the shoreline collapsed.

Now, if a thumb tack was found in a bike lane – they’d call the FBI – but… Bah.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few people on the Twitter have asked me why I keep on rattling on about bike lanes, which is a program and network expansion thereof that I’m generally very much in support of. Here’s the thing – bike lane support doesn’t make you an environmental crusader – and support for a network of protected pathways for non automotive traffic to flow through isn’t a substitute for talking about the frankly existential storm water issue, and about legitimate and actual open soil green space. The actual implementation of most of these bike lanes has been piss poor – painting the gutter green, and surrounding it with plastic sticks about 30% of the way isn’t sufficient. You need actual physical separation, as in concrete barriers, not paint and plastic sticks. You also need to install a fourth lens on traffic signals, which will allow bikes an extra thirty to forty five seconds to cross and clear intersections before vehicular traffic gets the go ahead. Other cities with fewer resources have managed this.

If I’m wrong, then why did the Vision Zero years see traffic related fatalities go up instead of down? I swear, if anyone brings up Amsterdam to me again… Amsterdam has a population of just under 900,000 living in the central city, and about 2.5 million in its “greater metropolitan” area. The latter number is about how many people live just in the Borough of Queens. When a City agency tells you why they can’t do something it’s “because of scale,” but then they bring up freaking Amsterdam as an example of what’s possible. This is New York City, we don’t follow trends, we set them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

See that leaking fire hydrant? I’ve watched it leak for about 15 years. It’s been reported to the City hundreds of times. The water it oozes carries street garbage to a nearby sewer grate which empties directly into Newtown Creek. The garbage causes the grate to become clogged, which creates a garbage pond. The pond, in turn, slowly empties into Newtown Creek carrying trash along with the flow. The last time that I managed to get the drain cleared, you want to know who I called to bring in a work crew? ExxonMobil. They operate some of their pumping equipment nearby, for the oil spill cleanup operation, and when I mentioned the “optics” of this to one of their principals, it was handled quickly and they used heavy equipment to scoop away the garbage pond’s embankments. Saying that, it was about four or five years ago. The hydrant continues to leak, and the pond grows. Someday, there’s going to be a waterbody called “Lake Meeker” here. Will that qualify as green space, or parkland?

Nothing matters, and nobody cares.


“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

January 5, 2022 at 1:00 pm

One Response

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  1. If you wear a specially tight-fitting Depends or something similar, you can crap away to your heart’s content on your frequent constitutionals. No worry. No problemo. Just dump the mess when you get home.

    georgetheatheist . . . eezy-peezy

    January 5, 2022 at 1:31 pm


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