The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Astoria’ Category

stymied appetites

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It’s National Seafood Bisque Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One loathes the fact that the Queens Cobbler, a probable serial killer operating on both sides of the Newtown Creek who leaves single shoes behind as a taunt to both community and gendarmes alike, left this stiletto heeled shoe behind at the very same Astoria saloon at which a humble drinks his troubles away. Just last weekend, on a night when I had brought my little dog Zuzu out with me for an evening of commiseration with the neighborhood commentariat – as I was walking my trusty canine around the corner to allow for a moment of her lavatorial relief – this scene was encountered.

Should you find a singular size 11 Merell hiking boot displayed prominently somewhere in North Brooklyn or Western Queens, that means the Cobbler has finally zeroed in on me and that you’ll need to find a replacement for this – your Newtown Pentacle. If you see a headline saying “blogger catches killer” then it’ll mean I got the best of him or her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been working on a Newtown Creek event, one which is not public facing I’m afraid, assiduously over the last couple of weeks and is highly distracted. Due to this – and other obligations – one hasn’t had a lot of “me” time. One of those many obligations recently saw me attending a rather contentious meeting with environmental officialdom in Sunnyside, where I noticed some fellow doing his job in the rain at a local tire shop on 39th street.

The “G” bomb, which is the term I use for the unfolding wavefront of so called “gentrification” has observedly hit the street side auto industry hardest in recent years. Gas stations, taxi yards, tire shops, mechanics – have all been disappearing at a rapid rate in recent years. They occupy large lots and generally have shallow pockets, a pair of factors which are quite attractive development opportunities for the Real Estate Industrial Complex.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Subway conductor recently told me that MTA employees absolutely hate it when shots like the one above are captured. They are especially enraged when their faces are recognizable. One plans on continuing to photograph the men and women who operate the system, however. Just last night, when a token booth worker at Fulton Street made me miss two trains so that he could complete a phone call with his wife before performing the transaction to charge up my Metrocard, I didn’t take his picture as I was particularly “geared up” with a tripod and bag of lenses and my hands were full.

Another reason for me to enjoy enraging the MTA workforce with photos captured involves the weekend habits they employ, announcing that a train is going express to some extant locale just after the subway doors close at Queens Plaza, negating any chance of not visiting Forest Hills or Briarwood.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm

doomed intuitions

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It’s National Chocolate Cupcake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Legend has it that on one particular evening Mose the Fireboy, who was the legendary “sachem” and hero of the Bowery B’hoys gang in 19th century NYC, heard that a sea serpent had appeared on the East River. Mose, a giant whose legends are similar to those of the gargantuan lumberjack Paul Bunyan, rowed out onto the river and plucked the leviathan from the water with his bare hands. Strangling the monster in his iron grip, Mose then skinned the great beast and brought his prize to McGurk’s Suicide Parlor – a bar formerly found on the west side of the Bowery, nearby Cooper Square at east 4th street. It’s said that the skin hung over the bar afterwards, as a totem of the mysteries of the harbor and testament to the great strength and power of Mose. Mose supposedly could extinguish blazes by clapping his hands and was known to smoke three cigars at the same time. If his horse wasn’t pulling the fire wagon fast enough, Mose would pick up the horse in one hand and the wagon in the other and carry them. Mose the fireboy was apparently quite a fellow, so much so that he was a regular character appearing in Bowery theater productions centered around “life in our town.”

The largest known specie of eel, incidentally, is the European Conger, which is known to grow to lengths of nearly ten feet and achieve body weights of up to 240 pounds. They’re native to the eastern Atlantic Ocean and tend towards the European coastline. They’re carnivorous, feeding on all sorts of deep sea critters, and have been found at depths of up to 3,840 feet. The American Eel is a relative dwarf in comparison, achieving lengths of up to 4 feet and body weights of up to 17 pounds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The largest living crab, and largest arthropod as well, is the Japanese Spider Crab. Large specimens can spread their clawed arms out to span 18 feet, and they can weigh as much as 42 pounds. Closer to home, the American Lobster (Homarus americanus) is known to achieve weights of 44 pounds and body lengths of two feet – excluding their claws. Both are members of the Malacostraca class of crustaceans, whose ancestors first appear in the fossil record during the Cambrian age. All sorts of large marine animals are spotted in the East River from time to time – including cetaceans like Whales and Dolphins, large bony fish and living fossils like the Sturgeon, and occasionally sea turtles.

The leatherback sea turtle is the largest extant turtle and fourth largest living reptile, and can be found in nearly all of the world’s ocean waters. Leatherbacks can grow to nearly seven feet in length and achieve body weights of up to 2,000 pounds. Sea Turtle ancestry dates back to the Triassic age.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1895, the NY Times offered reports of a sea serpent of more than 100 feet in length moving quickly through New York Harbor about a half mile from shore. According to the testimony of one Willard P. Shaw of Wall Street, it repeatedly raised its head out of the water more than ten feet above the waves. Shaw’s story was confirmed by other witnesses.

This sounds like the sort of thing we would need Mose the Fireboy to handle.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be sloshing and swimming around down there?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 18, 2017 at 1:00 pm

bygone mystery

with 5 comments

It’s National Sausage Pizza Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gentrification… it’s all anyone wants to talk about these days, and it seems like people are just coming out of the woodwork to use the “G” word and pronounce the oncoming doom of NYC. One wonders where they’ve been all these years. All of us out here in the wilds of Brooklyn and Queens have watched first DUMBO, and then Williamsburg, and of late LIC and Greenpoint get hit by the wrecking ball, which is then followed by the erection of banal residential towers without any accompanying infrastructure to accommodate the increased population. For decades, voices in the wilderness have been yelling and screaming about this, and our pals over in the Shining City of Manhattan said “so what”?

Something else I’ve been saying for a decade now is that the Manhattancentric city planning model is the problem. Manhattan is not something you want to point to other than as a cautionary tale.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that the same process is playing out in the East Village and Chelsea, where the ivory towered academics live and hang out, it’s become a crisis. You’ve got “not from here” interlopers showing up in Queens and sounding the alarm bells about a fire whereas those of who live here are ankle deep in ash. They inform us that we are not “real” community activists, and that they have the answer to all of our problems without any understanding of how things work. The tactics employed by these outsiders are provocative, and deadly to relationships between government and community which have been painfully and slowly built by generations past and maintained by those in the present.

Are these relationships effective? Is there nothing that can be done to resist the population loading and exploitation of Western Queens by the speculative financiers of Lower Manhattan? Are these outsiders correct in believing that 1960’s era protest techniques will do anything but cause the government people to circle their wagons? Would they be here at all if cherished Manhattan neighborhoods weren’t now in the sights of the financiers of the Real Estate Industrial Complex?

Are the financiers mustache twirling villains colluding with Tammany style politicians?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reality (census and tax base wise) states that the vast majority of residential buildings in NYC fall under the category of family owned small businesses, once you move away from the City’s core (think 5 subway stops from Manhattan). If you were to draw a bell curve depicting the rising rents in NYC and compare it to a) inflation, b) fuel costs, c) water taxes you’d find a disturbing concurrence in the shape of those curves. Our homeless situation is due largely to the fact that the City and State no longer supplies the levels of supplemental rent assistance to low income families which they used to, a program which I believe was suspended back in 2010, but I may be wrong on the date for that one. As the wrecking balls along the East River have demolished the industrial and warehousing sectors, low income New Yorkers have been forced to take service sector jobs which neither pay as well nor offer any sort of job security.

This is something which the folks who throw the “G” word around miss – jobs and job creation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For nearly a decade now, a humble narrator has been deriding the “statements that sound good at cocktail parties” thrown about by elected officialdom and real estate industrial complex employees alike. The REIC folks will offer that their construction activity creates mass employment, and that despite the tax abatements like 421a they enjoy, their projects are a nexus of job creation activity that includes the entire supply chain of their projects – concrete, steel, etc. This is actually true, but given that construction of a new building does not continue forever, it means that all of their contributions to the tax base tend to end after a period of 36-60 months after the demolition crew came in and knocked down the old factory or warehouse which provided career long employment. After that, the warehouse which employed thirty people is replaced by a residential building that has a porter, manager, and a super. It’s also common practice for the development corporation to transfer the property to a management corporation, whereupon all the agreements made by the former do not have to be honored by the latter.

Speaking from a historical perspective, NYC is defined by constant change, construction, and tumult – and going back to Astor – Real Estate has always been one of the major economic forces in our municipality since the earliest days. Believe it or not, the influence of the financial industry on Wall Street is a relatively recent thing. Used to be that industrial activity, shipping, and real estate were the dominant financial contributors to NYC’s health and wealth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it before, and I fear I’ll be saying it for the rest of my life – infrastructure is the skeleton on which our municipal flesh hangs. Without, we’d be a bag of mostly water flopping around in the sun.

The very quality of our lives depends on the transit, water, sewerage, and electrical grids. Hospital beds, school desks, fire stations, police capabilities. All the social welfare agencies, old age homes and elderly rent control programs like SCRIE, are essential. I’ve had high ranking City officialdom use the metaphor for running the show as being “like working on the engine of a locomotive while moving at 1,000 mph, towards a cliff.” You need to tinker around enough to improve the system as you go – but shutting it down, going off the cliff, or applying the brakes to it are unthinkable options.

Thing is, infrastructure costs a lot of money, and involves a lot of labor. People who labor have, by definition, jobs. People who have jobs can afford to pay rent to the hundreds of thousands of residential small business property owners in NYC, which creates a tax base. Don’t know why I have to spell this out, but the “G” people don’t seem to understand it. Maybe it’s because academics and poli-sci majors at say… Hunter… don’t take economics classes and focus on their music instead. Dunno. Sometimes you gotta see the forest beyond the trees.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2017 at 1:00 pm

decadent locale

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Another void in the National Food Holiday Calendar, with a single nonofficial source reporting today as National Tic Tac Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle recently informed me of her opinion that Vegan Zombies would be groaning “grains…” instead of “brains…”. That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard so far this week, but it’s only Tuesday, to be fair. The shots in today’s post were captured whilst returning from a “happy hour” promotion offered by the “Friends of The BQX” group wherein they were laying out the case for the creation of a trolley service along the East River Coastline. My official statement on this project, the latest quixotic offering from Mayor “Dope from Park Slope” De Blasio, is one of agnosticism towards the project. It would certainly simplify my life, and would be a boon for several waterfront bloggers and photographers I know, but the logistical hurdles and compliance with – a) The Americans with Disabilities Act and b) The Federal laws governing the operation of rail at street grade – make the project seem like it’s going to cost a LOT more than the Mayor claims it will. The BQX people are now talking about dual tracks for the thing, btw, which would negate 18 miles of parking spots, as a note. Saying that, I remain agnostic on this vanity project of the Mayor’s paymasters.

Our Mayor is, after all, a feckless quisling who has been bought and sold by Real Estate interests while pretending to be a “progressive.” I don’t think he’s ever looked up the meaning of the word “progressive” in a dictionary, it just sounds good to him. If he really wanted to help the people he claims to want to help, he’d set up a low or no fee credit union on the City’s dime instead of vanity projects. As Eleanor Roosevelt used to say – “We all do better when we’re all doing better.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our fragile electrical infrastructure here in Astoria was receiving a bit of tender loving care one recent evening, as evinced in the shot above. I believe that the specific contractor you see above works for the NYC DOT, so whatever they were doing down in that access shaft (manhole) likely involved either traffic signals or street lights somewhere along Broadway here on the south side of the ancient village. It’s been a few months since our last transformer explosion, after all.

I’d like to see signs hung on the lamp posts detailing how long it’s been since our last transformer explosion, the same kind they put up at job sites that proclaim how many days it’s been since the last “on the job” injury.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last shot from my walk home the other night, this one on the far and kind of wild western side of Astoria. There’s a LOT of real estate activity going on in this zone. Observation reveals multiple one and two story homes being razed in pursuance of medium sized apartment buildings. Can’t blame the owners of those homes for getting a good price and selling their equity, and it’s none of our business that they did. This is America, after all.

The infrastructure crisis, however, continues to loom. Instead of addressing that, of course, outside agitators and groups of straw men are busy distracting us with promises of shiny baubles of proclaiming vast conspiratorial plots. Bread and circuses, my friends.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm

fouled iteration

with 2 comments

It’s National Noodle Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is not what you might describe as a “morning person.” Despite my predeliction for being awake during the “hour of the wolf” and the “witching hour,” however, duties and obligation have seen me waking up before the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself presents itself in the eastern sky for the last couple of weeks.

An interval of confusion, and sudden onset of weakness and physiological discohesion, occurs periodically and causes me to fall into unconsciousness. One then wildly hallucinates for several hours – which I think you people call “dreaming sleep” – and this has been occurring earlier and earlier in the evening of late. One classifies this as “no good.” I’ve always opined that my ancestors were the ones who sat at the mouth of the cave with a spear whilst the rest of the tribe slept, at the ready to fight off nocturnal bears or opportunistic giant serpents. The only time I enjoy seeing the oculus of God itself rising is when I’ve been up all night.

Bah!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was working late one recent night here at HQ in Astoria, despite having seen the entire solar cycle play out, when a change in atmospherics occurred and a blanket of fog rolled through the ancient village. Couldn’t resist setting up my old Canon G10 on its magnetic tripod and cracking out a few shots – just to capture the utter creepiness of the night.

As a note, this was proper fog, not a precipitating mist. The latter is ruinous to try and capture, as it’s actually “grounded rain” rather than the fine mist typical of the former. On nights such as this, the stout Croatians of Astoria bind their windows shut tightly, proclaiming that the fog might carry some miasmic disease or mysterious things that swim through the air. Strigoi, they call them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Greenpoint, on one of the early morning outings which I’ve been forced to endure, this evidentiary shot was captured showing that the Queens Cobbler serial killer is still amongst us and continuing their deviltry. Someday, we will all know the truth of the Cobbler, if he or she doesn’t get us first and leave behind a single shoe, meant to serve as a taunt for the Golden Shield Detectives of the NYPD to analyze and puzzle over.

Who can guess, all there is, that happens in the darkest corners of the Newtown Pentacle at night?

I will say it again – BAH!


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

disturbingly heterogenous

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It’s National Drink a Beer Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the single shot today, lords and ladies, a humble narrator is a bit behind on his schedule this week. Back tomorrow with something a bit more “in-depth” at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2017 at 11:00 am

intense interest

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It’s National Ice Cream Cone Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few odds and ends, in today’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

There’s nothing that somebody who works for the City hates more than being photographed while pursuing their occupation, and none moreso than the NYPD. Saying that, if you’re doing a traffic stop right in front of me while I’m hanging out with my pals at the neighborhood saloon… what’s a humble narrator to do? Constitutionally speaking y’all have less of a right to privacy in the public sphere than the rest of us do because you’re wearing that blue suit and sporting the badge, and the inherent lack of privacy that all of us suffer when out in public is the constitutionally justified reason y’all can get away with hanging surveillance cameras and speed trap gizmos on lamp posts.

Big brother? Little Brother? All part of one big happy, and quite paranoid, family.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same corner in Astoria, different day, and a DSNY garbage truck was experiencing mechanical problems. You don’t see tow trucks of the type pictured above too often… well… I do, but most don’t. I didn’t stick around too long to watch them towing the truck back to 58th street and the garage found at the angle between Woodside and Maspeth.

I had somewhere to be, people to see, politicians and officials to annoy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down in Hunters Point one night, as I was passing by the LIRR yard, I noticed this cool bit of kit. My surmise, based on the sort of tools that the gizmo sported in its front end, was that this was a track maintenance mechanism. It had what looked like two claws that stuck out of the front which were positioned pretty close to where the steel tracks are found.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 22, 2017 at 12:00 pm

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