The Newtown Pentacle

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I’ve done so many posts on the place that I thought a catch-all page was in order- This will live in the menus to the right of the screen, and will be added to as more posts on the place are added.

Walking Widdershins to Calvary

g10_img_6737_phwlk.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Click here to preview this photowalk in a google map

Hunters Point avenue intersects with the ancient course of Greenpoint Avenue at the degenerate extant of Long Island City. The Queens Midtown Expressway also comes back down to earth here, feeding Manhattan vehicular traffic to all points east. This is a very busy intersection, so be mindful of traffic, as fellow pedestrians are rare.

As with anyplace else in Queens you’d want to see, Forgotten-NY has been through here before. Click here for their page on Blissville and Laurel Hill.

Up and Through Calvary

Cavalry Cemetery by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Addled as we are by the manipulations of the political class during the 20th century, with its “ism’s” and “movements“, Newtownicans have lost sight of the fact that the Newtown Creek was the center of the world for those who dwelt here in the 19th century. Before the American Civil War, the banks of the Newtown Creek were lined with homes built to the highest aesthetic standard, and peppered with grand hotels which catered to the sportsman and recreational fisherman. It was into this pastoral wildrness that the Calvary Cemetery was embedded in 1848, and which it sought to blend into with its fine arboreal stock and tasteful mastery of the art of landscaping.

It seems odd to us- sitting in our comfortable climate controlled and fully electrified homes and offices, to put a cemetery like this- with its ornate stonework and elaborate masonry, so close to the polluted industrial zones of the nearby Newtown Creek. Calvary spreads atavistically across a deserted and blasted landscape in our 21st century, surrounded by the trampled nest and discarded remnants of the industrial revolution.

Calvary Mystery Box

g10_img_6870_phwlk.jpg by you.

Calvary Cemetery at 48th street – photo by Mitch Waxman

As one proceeds up the glacier carved hillocks that define northwestern Queens- climbing away from the terrors of Laurel Hill and leaving the malefic secrets of Maspeth and the Newtown Creek behind, the intrepid pedestrian will pass under and above an arcade of highways and find second Calvary.

Old Calvary is the original cemetery- second, third, and fourth Calvary are the metastasized and sprawling additions to the venerable original- and a significant portion of the Cemetery Belt.

Calvary Cemetery Walk

Old Calvary looking toward Newtown Creek by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Just across the street from the site of the former LIRR Penny Bridge station. Easily accessed via the street, upon crossing the gates of Calvary, one will find a staircase carven into the hill by whose ascent the Newtown acropolis may be obtained. Cresting over the surrounding neighborhoods, and soaring over the Newtown Creek’s former wetlandsCalvary Cemetery keeps its secrets buried in centuried silence. Looking south toward Brooklyn, the Kosciuszko bridge approach of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway looms over its passage, carrying millions of vehicles over and across the necropolis of New York City.

Tales of Calvary 1 – The O’Briens

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hallowmas, or All Saints Day, is coincident with the running of the NYC Marathon’s tumult laden course. The secular spectacular merely whets the appetite of your humble narrator for the open skies and sacred vantages found along those unhallowed backwaters of an urban catastrophe called the Newtown Creek.Calvary Cemetery– dripping in centuried glory- sits incongruously in an industrial moonscape stained with aqueer and iridescent colour. It’s marble obelisks and acid rain etched markers landmark it as a necropolis of some forgotten civilization.

Today, I determined to ignore the psychic effects of the graveyard, which are both palpable and remarkable. Resolving to climb to the highest point on this Hill of Laurels, my aim was to discover whose grave would occupy such a socially prominent spot. Secretly, I hoped to discover some celebrity or famous mobster’s resting place. Instead I found the O’Brien’s.

Tales of Calvary 2 – Veterans Day

-photo by Mitch Waxman

21 Roman Catholic Union soldiers are interred amongst the 365 acres of first Calvary Cemetery in Queens, nearby the cuprous waters of the much maligned Newtown Creek.

The wars of the 20th century, terrible in scope and vulgar in effect, cause us to overlook these men whovouchsafed the American Republic in the 19th century as we focus in on the veterans of the second thirty years war which modernity myopically calls World Wars One and Two. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a federal holiday called Armistice Day in 1919, celebrating the anniversary of the legal end of the first World War in 1918. Congress agreed, seven years later, and then took six years to pass an act which made Armistice day an official United States federal holiday celebrated on November 11 annually.

Ed Rees, a populist Representative from the state of Kansas during the post World War 2 era, spearheaded a successful campaign in 1953 to have “Armistice Day” reclassified as “All Veterans Day” so as to include the veterans of WW2, and the ongoing conflicts fought by our “permanent government” on the world stage.

Tales of Calvary 3 – Rumors and stories

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Swirling, my thoughts.

A vast and byzantine pattern which extends beyond even the coming of the Europeans into the mist of olden days, traced by rail and road, reveals itself step by step as the burning eye of god itself leads me to and fro across the glass strewn Newtown Pentacle.

Bits of information, nuggets of pregnant fact, theosophical themes and mystic iconography obfuscating itstruths and meaning, a maelstrom of barking black dogs crowds my mind. Cowardly and infirm, I run to the grave.

Solace is found amongst the tomb legions, and the nepenthe of their silence.

Tales of Calvary 4 – Triskadekaphobic Paranoia

Cavalry Cemetery, a morbid nutrition 04 by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Near the crest of one of Calvary Cemetery’s hills, can be found what I’ve described in previous posts as “a tree that is fed by some morbid nutrition”.

A convenient afternoon vantage point for photographing the Johnston mausoleum and a frequent destination, a Hallowmas (nov. 1) stroll through Calvary revealed some interesting goings on beneath the swollen boughs of this loathsome landmark.

Tales of Calvary 5 – Shade and Stillness

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the past, the desolating loneliness and isolation which define my internal dialogue have been described to you simply – I’m all ‘effed up.

Shunned by those considered normal, my human– all too human- nature forces visceral desires for companionship. Lacking fellowship amongst the the living, one instinctively reaches out for those things which are no longer- or have never been- alive. That odd man in the filthy black raincoat that you might glimpse as you drive past the graveyard, scuttling along taking pictures of sewers and odd boxes in the Cemetery Belt- might very well be your humble narrator.

I was at Calvary Cemetery, intent on investigating the puzzling knots I had observed, beneath a hilltop tree- fed by some morbid nutrition, when I came across the Sweeney monument.

Tales of Calvary 6 – The Empire State Building and the Newsboy Governor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looming, in this place, is the megapolis. Here lies Tammany, gazing eternally upon their work. The city. The great city.

The greatest and last of their projects is promontory above the shield wall of Manhattan, a familiar vista of Calvary Cemetery offered as an iconic representation by most.

The tower called the Empire State building was built, almost as an act of pure will, by a former newsboy from South Street.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 19, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Calvary Cemetery walk

with 7 comments

feel like taking  a walk? I’ll show you something cool… Bring your camera- and ID

Here’s a google map.

For a larger contextual view of Calvary Cemetery- check out our previous posts- 

The Cemetery Belt

Walking Widdershins to Calvary

This post also intersects with 

Dead Ends, A short walk from Maspeth to Calvary

Old Calvary looking toward Newtown Creek by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Just across the street from the site of the former LIRR Penny Bridge station. Easily accessed via the street, upon crossing the gates of Calvary, one will find a staircase carven into the hill by whose ascent the Newtown acropolis may be obtained. Cresting over the surrounding neighborhoods, and soaring over the Newtown Creek’s former wetlands, Calvary Cemetery keeps its secrets buried in centuried silence. Looking south toward Brooklyn, the Kosciuszko bridge approach of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway looms over its passage, carrying millions of vehicles over and across the necropolis of New York City

Cavalry Cemetery by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Phantoms of what could have been haunt Calvary, roaming in soliloquy amongst the avenues of nitre dripping marble. The 1918 superflu and an earlier cholera epidemic staffed the ranks here with both the sacred and the profane. St. Patrick’s in Manhattan used this place for the interment of New York’s best and brightest. This is where the ossified remnants of the men who died battling the traitorous slavers of the Confederate South can be found in the Newtown mud. In subterranean vaults of marble and basalt, and within leaden coffins, these gentlemen– the ultimate product of an age of victorian aspirations- lie in putrid splendor, alongside the occasional merchant and immigrant whose life savings were traded to purchase their final resting place.

Cavalry Cemetery by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

A member of our flickr group, sorabji, has written an excellent description- in some great detail on the Civil War monument and the Johnston mausoleum. Which you’ll find in concrete reality when you gaze from the summit of the great hill. I won’t attempt to better sorabji’s efforts, and will simply ask you to follow the link and check out the research.

At the apex of the hill, which is the acropolis of Calvary on the Newtown Creek side, there can be found a tree. 

Cavalry Cemetery by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Undoubtedly centenarian at the very least, the bark and leaves of this tree are of an unnaturally dark and forbidding aspect. Its branches sway in patterns that have nothing in common with the prevailing winds. Its trunk is observed wearing a a sickly blanket of moss. Vigorous and quite healthy despite its proximity to the poisons of the Newtown Creek, the tree is obviously nourished by some sort of morbid nutrition.

Cavalry Cemetery, a morbid nutrition 01 by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

An apocryphal story passed down by Brooklyn folks is that of the door to door salesman seeking to sell you a funeral plot “on a hill, under a shady tree, near a babbling brook”. The proper Brooklyn response is- ‘yeah? and I gots a bridge to sell youse”.

This, my friends, is the very archetype of that con job. The hill is called Laurel and the babbling brook is, and was, the Newtown Creek and the grave is in Calvary.

Cavalry Cemetery, a morbid nutrition 03 by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

How deep do the roots of this tree plunge into the tumulous earth? And where can they lead? What foul corruptions do they feed upon?

Cavalry Cemetery, a morbid nutrition 04 by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Can it be, that just like every other place in New York’s megalopolis, Calvary’s “holy ground” is actually the roof of some cyclopean structure?

Anything you may experience, in situ, by following these walking directions is at your OWN RISK, and is offered by the Newtown Pentacle for documentary and entertainment purposes only. Remember- the rule we follow at the Newtown Pentacle is to NEVER trespass. Like Vampires, Newtownicans should wait to be invited into a house before they can do their work.  Also, Please note — if something you read here is inaccurate, DO NOT BE SHY- contact me– additions and corrections are always welcome at the Newtown Pentacle.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 5, 2009 at 2:44 am

calloused outlook

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A few shots from the Degnon Terminal, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Modernity knows the complex of cyclopean factory buildings along Thomson Avenue in Long Island City as the campus of LaGuardia Community College. If – like me – you can see through time to earlier ages, you know that Thomson Avenue was named for the guy who used to own the Neptune Water Meter company over on Jackson Avenue, a recently demolished building which in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries was the home of 5ptz. You’d know that until the start of the 20th century, this area was a pestilential mosquito breeding swamp known as the waste meadows, and that it wasn’t until the Pennsylvania Railroad decided to site their Sunnyside Yard nearby that the swamp was drained and filled in.

The waste meadows were owned by the estate of a former Governor of New York State named Roscoe P. Flowers, and their acreage was bought up by the Degnon Terminal Realty company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Michael Degnon was a contractor who could accomplish the impossible during the age of “progress” in the newly consolidated City of Greater New York. He came to prominence installing the masonry cladding of the Williamsburg Bridge and finishing the subway tunnels which August Belmont and William Steinway had started. The rock “spoils” which were produced when mining the subway tunnels connecting Queens and Manhattan were brought here to LIC, raising the land to a high and dry condition. Degnon began to sell his land off to large industrial concerns, and constructed their factories for them. His Degnon Terminal offered a “terminal railway” which allowed for shipping connections to maritime barge and cargo ships at Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, as well as direct connections to the Long Island Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad trackages on the LIRR’s Lower Montauk and Main Line. Additionally, connections to the New York Connecting Railroad and the Hell Gate bridge were possible as well. Degnon is buried in First Calvary Cemetery if you’d like to leave him some flowers.

As the Queens Chamber of Commerce called it contemporaneously, Queens was the “Borough of Homes and Industry” a hundred years ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just this last week, a meeting of the “Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group” was held at one of CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College buildings in the former Degnon Terminal, and as is my habit – the camera was deployed before and after the meeting. The shot above looks north in the direction of the Sunnyside Yard and you can just see the arch of the Hell Gate Bridge on the horizon. That yellow streak is the IRT Flushing Line – or 7 train – moving through the shot while the shutter was open for about fifteen seconds.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

suggesting question

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Canada Goslings in industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marching about recently, my path carried the camera past Maspeth Creek, which – as the name would imply – is in industrial Maspeth and is in fact a tributary of that lugubrious cataract of cautionary tales known to all simply as the “Newtown Creek.” Whilst scuttling past the Maspeth Creek waterway’s head waters, which flow out a sewer, these Canadian invaders were shifting from foot to foot in a manner which I did not like.

Geese, in general, are dicks. Canada Geese, in particular, are jerks as well as dicks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news, for this dick specie, is that there’s now more of them. “Goslings” are what you call baby geese. While I was shooting this, one of the adults – I’m presuming it was the papa – was ambling towards me while sticking his tongue out. I once had to punch a goose in the face at one of the area cemeteries to ward off an attack. This particular paragon of poultry  was intent on killing me for wandering too close to a nest, I guess. For you PETA types out there, one tried every other recourse first including “flight” before “fight” became my only option. That “sumbitch” chased me half way across Calvary Cemetery before I had to vigorously assert my right to be unmolested with a closed fist.

Seriously, Geese are mean dicks, but they’re real cute when they’re babies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one who was messing with me the other day is the big one, at the back of the group in the shot above. I’m not sure if Maspeth Creek is in the 108th or the 104th precinct, but if anyone recognizes that goose I’d appreciate it if you called the NYPD tips line and let them know. I bet that its name is Claude or Jean or something… pfft… Canada.

Back in conventional reality, rather than within my inner dialogue about rude avian biota, the Canada Goose is one of the many, many birds that arrive at Newtown Creek each and year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek, and all of NY Harbor, sits in the migratory Atlantic Flyover zone. Every year you get to see nestlings putting on weight and size all summer long around the creek. Towards mid August and late September, they’ll begin vacating the area for parts unknown, returning in late March and April.

There’s a bunch of them wallowing around in the toxic sediments of Maspeth Creek, in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of what I look out for as a hazard around the Newtown Creek are trucks rather than birds, and while making my way home, one marveled at all the different kinds. Semis, packers, roll on and roll offs, panel, box, wreckers, concrete… I even saw a couple of crane trucks. Industrial Maspeth is lousy with that sort of thing. There’s trains, too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving the Maspeth area via 48th street, you cross under and over the Long Island Expressway while heading north into Sunnyside. I like to use this steel and concrete landmark, a corridor of the House of Moses, to mentally signal that I’ve left the Creeklands and reentered the world as it’s meant to be.

As in, if an aggressive goose showed his face around south Sunnyside, he’d soon find himself cooked.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

neighboring alcove

with 4 comments

Kosciuszcko Bridge project in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weekends ago, I decided to take the camera out for a walk and we headed on over to the Queens side of DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Most of what’s going on at the work site right now, which will result in the second half of the new bridge, seems to involve foundation and structural work. Laurel Hill Blvd. is largely closed to traffic due to the construction, as you’d imagine.

The shot above looks south along Laurel Hill Blvd. towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The steel piles above are the firmament which will carry the approach ramp for the bridge, which in turn carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. These will be the southbound lanes, which are also meant to host the bicycle and pedestrian lane that I – for one – am pretty excited about. I’ve seen renderings of the planned bike and pedestrian section and it promises to be a photographer’s dream come true.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszcko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Here’s a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’s some night shots from early July of 2017. A series of posts focused in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

Most recently, in late September of 2017, a final series of shots of the old bridge were captured in this post. Acquisition of a souvenir chunk of steel from the 1939 bridge was described in this post, and a video of the “energetic felling” of the approaches on October 1st was offered in this one. Still shots and views of the aftermath from the waters of Newtown Creek from later in the day on Oct. 1 are found in this posting, and the aftermath of the demolition as seen from Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section in this post from October 5th. This post from December of 2017 closed out an event filled year in DUKBO, and a visit to the site at night is described in this March of 2018 post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the first section of the new bridge, which opened last year, and as seen from 43rd street in industrial Maspeth.

The NYS DOT has committed to making the currently dirt and equipment filled lots along 43rd street available to the NYC Parks Dept. for conversion to public “green space.” There’s other spots around the project which will turned into publicly accessible areas, but most will be shadowed by the onramps.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One scuttled across the Lower Montauk tracks of the Long Island Railroad to get a better view of the progress at the construction site. The land in this spot used to be the home of a company called Phelps Dodge, which acquired it from the original tenant – General Chemical. General Chemical manufactured sulphuric acid hereabouts, and Phelps Dodge incorporated the GC campus into their operations, which was mainly copper refining.

This section of the LIRR tracks used to be known as “Deadman’s curve” for all the factory workers who were struck by speeding locomotives hereabouts. It’s also the site of the Berlinville Railroad disaster, where two LIRR trains collided in 1893. Check out this contemporaneous NY Times piece for more on that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After having crossed the tracks and a byway formerly known as “Creek Street the still forming concrete towers which will support the “cable stay” roadway of the second bridge came into view. Having followed the project so closely as the first half of the new K-Bridge went up, it’s actually pretty interesting to watch them working on it this time around, given that I know how the story plays out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, depicting the teeny tiny construction workers moving around on ladders, is included for scale. Down on the ground, these guys are HUGE, six + footers who weigh a couple of hundred pounds each and who tower over a humble narrator. On the K-Bridge site, they look like action figures.

I continued along my southern path and headed down to the bulkheads of that lugubrious cataract of urban neglect known as the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszcko Bridge is found 2.1 miles from the East River, and overflies the Newtown Creek. It carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway from the border of Sunnyside/Blissville/Maspth in Queens to Greenpoint/Bushwick/Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

Newtown Creek itself is an inland tributary of the East River, and extends 3.8 miles eastward of the larger waterway. There are multiple tributaries of Newtown Creek itself which extend into Long Island City, Bushwick, and Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having satisfied myself with a “check in” on the bridge project, one began his trek towards home and HQ in Astoria.

Sometime during this week, I plan on heading over to Greenpoint to see what’s doing with the K-Bridge project over there. I’ll let y’all know what I find.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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