The Newtown Pentacle

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public sentiment

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#twotondeathmachines

– photos by Mitch Waxman

“Two Ton Death Machines” is the term which the bicycle fanatics use when discussing automobiles and their murder happy drivers. If I played guitar and was starting a metal band, Two Ton Death Machine would be what I called the outfit, and my first album would be called #CARNAGE. C’est la vie.

The big project I’ve been alluding to for the last several months, which has been actually been distracting me for more than a year, is beginning to come to fruition. This involves the pulling together of tens of thousands of disparate photos, separating them by typology and subject matter, and then stringing them together into some sort of coherent form. The “Cool Cars” YouTube video above is one of the initial attempts. I’d love to put some sort of soundtrack to it, but as mentioned above, I’m no musician. If any of you are, and would be interested in riffing a track for me to include (I’ve got zero $) I wouldn’t say no.

I’m going to figure out how to include narration on forthcoming videos, as a note, but for now there’s no audio – so, be very quiet, the two ton death machines and their death hungry drivers are rolling about and hunting human victims to squish into the pavement and they might hear you. #vrooom


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 7, 2018 at 11:00 am

quiet denizens

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How I’m voting today, and why.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Andrew Cuomo, the Dark Prince of Albany, is terrifying in many ways. His management of the MTA is the biggest mark against him in my book, but in terms of the issue central to my life – Newtown Creek – he’s been perhaps the greatest champion that the waterway has ever had in high state office. As Attorney General, he forced ExxonMobil into court and beat them around the head and neck over the Greenpoint Oil Spill, and was a major player in terms of the waterway being named a Federal Superfund site back in 2010. His Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement project has been absolutely on schedule and budget. For no other reason than Newtown Creek, the big guy gets my vote. I hope he legalizes recreational Marijuana in his third term, as he hinted at when Cynthia Nixon pulled him to the left during the primaries, which will be a first step towards ending the mass incarceration of victimless criminals. Additionally, NYS really needs the revenue to first shore up the MTA, and then to pay the Medicare and Medicaid costs of the baby boomer generation.

Did you see the video of our Governor visiting Cynthia Nixon’s campaign HQ and congratulating her campaign volunteers on the night of his primary win? Click here for it. (note: the Governor appears 42 seconds in).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tish James gets my vote for NYS Attorney General. She’s got a proven record of standing up for the little people, and I’m a fan. One hundred and one years ago today, women finally had their legal right to vote in NYS acknowledged – after a long and often bloody struggle by the Suffragist movement – and I will take particular joy in voting for a lady to hold the second most powerful position in the state today. The NYS Attorney General’s office is considered to be the second most powerful prosecutor’s office in the country, after the Federal AG seat currently held by Jeff Sessions. That’s because the NYS AG has de facto regulatory authority over Wall Street. Given that Tish James is African American, that makes for a pretty interesting moment, historically. Normally, identity politics are something I abhor, but… Tish is sort of the person whom Dr. King was talking about back during the Civil Rights era.

Brian Barnwell is my NYS Assemblyman, and he’s done a great job in his first term for Woodside/Astoria, earning my vote for a second. I expect great things from Brian down the road, as he’s a young guy and just getting going in his career.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez will get my vote as well, since I think it’s time to let somebody new take the wheel in Congress, and start shifting power to a different generation of people who couldn’t care less about Viet Nam or Freedom Fries. She’s electorally electrified my younger friends, waking them up out of a haze, and I’m interested in seeing what happens next with her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The three charter revisions all come out of a lame duck City Hall, and are a wish list offered by the Mayor intended to eliminate criticism of his sophist policies. Can you trust anything that the Dope from Park Slope wants to happen? Three “no’s” and here’s why;

  • The Community Board term limits thing is meant to clear away “dead wood” from the CB’s. Community Board members are currently proposed by the local Council member and then nominated to the Borough President’s office. Should the BP decide to place a candidate on the board, they can serve as long as they wish to – officially. In the unofficial but true reality, the Council person or BP can bounce you out whenever they decide to. Every political action committee allied with the Mayor, from the “Bicycle Fanatics” to the “No Bail” and “Build Tall Buildings Everywhere” crowds, support this resolution. Ask yourself why? Can it have anything to do with the current CB’s regularly opposing the edicts of City Hall?
  • The Community Engagement Committee thing is another patronage mill for the Manhattan elites, which would take the form of a blue ribbon panel for political insiders and the children of the well off (or well connected) appointed by the Mayor’s office which which choose “friendlies” to staff the community boards. In addition to being yet another one of the Mayor’s spending sprees, it would cut the actual community off from decisions regarding their neighborhoods and replace them with recent transplants. Additionally, it would continue the emasculation of the Borough President’s already largely ceremonial offices and weaken the City Council’s options when the Executive Branch in City Hall makes a bad decision.
  • As far as the Campaign Funding item, do we really want to reinforce the franchise to elected office exclusively enjoyed by members of either of the Democratic or Republican parties, which is the only thing that the two organizations can actually agree on? That’s what this would do, by lowering the financial threshold at which they can fundraise before receiving your TAX MONEY to buy political advertising. The wording of this thing does nothing to close the LLC loopholes, PAC funding, or advocacy ads paid for by “concerned citizens.” All it does is lower the contributions which individual citizens can offer to a campaign, which diminishes the importance of individual citizens to the Political Industrial Complex. It also will tend to keep people from the Green Party, Libertarians, and other groups from ever managing to get their foot in the door.

A vote against all three is a rebuke of our vainglorious Mayor, who is likely to announce he’s running for President of the United States at some point in the near future.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 6, 2018 at 11:00 am

nicely scabbed

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Monday continues to suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been burning the proverbial midnight oil for the last few days, working late into the night in the manner which I was once known for. There’s a couple of big projects in the works, which I hope to be telling y’all about in the coming weeks, but there is a dearth of content for the old Newtown Penatcle today, so a few odds and ends are on offer. Pictured above is a food truck observed on the corner of Steinway Street and Broadway in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been running to and fro, and relying on the ever unreliable MTA to get me there. As I often opine – The “A” in “MTA” is for “Adventure.” That’s the M line entering the 46th street station here in Astoria, which one utilized to connect – via the Court Square Station – with the G line and North Brooklyn.

Once upon a time, I used to budget out a little extra time and plan my rides on the Subway in pursuance of getting a seat and taking one train to my destination. These days, I’m more likely to transfer three or four times along the way. When life throws you lemons you make lemonade, and when a Mayor and a Governor play political football with the transit system you figure out how to be agile when traveling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of subways, that streaky light in the shot above is the 7 line exiting the “tube” at the Hunters Point Avenue stop and climbing up the elevated tracks towards the aforementioned Court Square Station. The south western tip of the Sunnyside Yards is what you see in the rest of the shot, along with some of the new real estate development underway which will give everyone another chance to live in a high rise tower rooted into a toxic mess of post industrial ooze.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 5, 2018 at 1:30 pm

exceedingly gruesome

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I still need a vacation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent an interval arguing with a proverbial “angry old white man keyboard warrior” type yesterday afternoon, who accused me of being a “hystrionic hipster clown.” I’ll accept clown, but hipster? I encounter this sort of fellow occasionally in real life, sometimes when I’m conducting a tour. You can always spot them; head cocked back, one eye slightly winced, sour look on the face. They showed up to see me screw up so they can then call me out on something. Usually, they will interject with some obvious thing – “you gonna mention the Long Island Railroad?” or something.

Yes, I will, when we get to that section of the tour. If they continue with the derision, I tend to bury them with a depth of knowledge that they aren’t prepared for, or introduce them to the group and hand them the microphone. Screw with the bull, you get the horns. Given my love of conflict and argument, if you come at me all aggressive like, I’m going to freaking bury you with a smile on my face as I do it. Brooklyn, that’s where I’m from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Getting all granular about every little thing is something that I prefer not to do. I’ve never claimed to be an expert on all things – however – I do possess an enormous knowledge base which covers a lot of subjects. Subway and train people are the worst about this sort of thing, writing you off if you don’t know the model number of some twenty turn screw that the Dual Contracts era engineers had problems with. I know a lot about a lot of things, and know everything about one or two things. Given my particular interests, which generally revolve around Newtown Creek, anything that’s tangentially related to the waterway’s history is something I’ve read up on and at least tried to talk to an actual expert on the subject. That means I know far more than most “civilians” about wastewater management, trash hauling, maritime shipping, and the sociopolitical history of Brooklyn and Queens. It’s a pleasure to meet somebody who wants to share what they know about trolleys or some other esoteric subject, but the vast majority of these armchair scholars just want to hoard their knowledge.

The fellow who was being aggressive and nasty to me yesterday didn’t get the “full treatment,” which is what I call the vulgar display of my well honed internet research powers. Suffice to say that within fifteen minutes of his ugly attentions and nasty commentary, I knew his home address and had a photo of him sitting on his porch in Smithtown out on Long Island. As expected, he was a retired city employee pining for the “good old days.” Seriously, folks, there is no such thing as online anonymity unless you are very, very skilled in hiding your tracks. All I need is your email address and I can follow the wires back to, at least, the corner you live on. Imagine what the cops can do. Don’t make threatening statements online, with the ideation that you won’t get kicked in the skedooch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not offended by the “hipster” or “clown” accusations, incidentally, although “hipster” is a bit of stretch. What pissed me off was the accusation that I’m some sort of transplanted Midwest suburbanite who recently arrived in NYC to disaffectedly enjoy soy mocha lattes at some upscale Williamsburg cafe. I’ve encountered this sort of thing before, and it just ticks me off. Other than something like six to eight composite weeks when I was off galavanting in New England or Europe on vacations, I’ve woken up in New York City every single day for the last fifty one years. I didn’t pick up and move to Long Island or Westchester or …Staten Island… like some goddamned little kid afraid of what he’s seen in the big bad City. That would be giving up, and admitting that the malefic intelligence of the City had beaten you.

It’s standard “keyboard warrior” technique, calling somebody names. Let’s talk face to face, on the street where things are tangible and real. Say it to my face, if you want to deploy your MAGA code words and veiled threats.

Feh. 

Upcoming events


Saturday, November 3rdTidal Toast, a fundraiser party to support Newtown Creek Alliance in our mission to “Reveal, Restore, Revitalize” the Newtown Creek. Since 2002 the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) has been the voice of Newtown Creek; working with industry, agencies, and residents alike to promote awareness, remediation, access, resilient businesses and ecological restoration. This celebration will champion the Vision for the future of the waterway and those that have contributed their time, energy and effort to it.
More information and tickets here. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 2, 2018 at 11:15 am

sordid waylaying

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I don’t like Mondays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s your historical trivia fact of the day, to start – on October 22nd in 1879, Thomas Edison electrified the first carbon filament electric light bulb, which stayed lit for some thirteen and a half hours before burning out. This was the first practical light bulb, and demonstrated the underlying technology which would change everything everywhere for the human race, and solidify Edison as both a historical figure and as a wealthy man. Another one of the technological predicates which those of us born afterwards have taken for granted since, October 22nd is one of those days when everything suddenly changed and the ground rules for “possible” shifted.

The supply chain needed to power the Edison bulb, involving the generation “of” and delivery of electrical current “to,” began as well. Power Plants, ceramics factories, copper mines… the mind boggles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few weeks ago, I got invited to tour NY Harbor with the United States Army Corps of Engineers on their annual harbor inspection, and part of the excursion explored their efforts in Jamaica Bay regarding the maintenance and outright creation of sandy barrier islands designed to provide shoreline resiliency in terms of storms, and wildlife habitat the rest of the time. While rolling through the surf, somebody riding a horse decided to let the great beast wander into the water, which I was lucky enough to get a shot of.

That’s the Belt Parkway in the background, and this had to be somewhere between Canarsie and Howard Beach.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The MTA has been quite busy recently here in Astoria on the weekends. This shot is from Steinway Street, where a bunch of construction workers have been operating some fairly esoteric kit. That’s an electrical cable playing off of the spool above, which was being drawn down into an access shaft and pulled towards a very similar truck and crew which I had spotted a few blocks south of this one. The second truck was pulling a thick yellow rope out of its shaft, so presumptively that rope was affixed to the end of the electrical cable and they were traction pulling the new electrical cable that way.

MTA has stated that there is going to be a terrific amount of this sort of work occurring on the IND lines in Western Queens to prepare for the oncoming L train shut down. If you think that is just going to be a “Brooklyn thing,” you’re wrong. They’re planning on pushing around ten thousand displaced riders through the Court Square station and need to make sure that the E and M lines don’t experience equipment related breakdowns, hence the sudden squall of weekend outages and labor both here, and further “up the stream.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 22, 2018 at 1:30 pm

traumatic incursions

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It’s all so depressing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has given up hoping for a “win” and have instead begun to embrace the concept of mitigating the width and depth of loss. Going to sleep with the same number of fingers and toes that I woke up with is pretty much my daily goal at the moment. A humble narrator has reached that chronological age when body parts just fall off randomly, so I’ve begun carrying a tube of Krazy Glue around with me if I need to perform an ad hoc repair “in the field,” as it were.

My mood will certainly improve once my landlord gets the heat fixed, since right now HQ is the temperature of a meat locker. I told the superintendent last week that there was no heat on that suddenly cold day, and he informed that it “would come on automatically.” It didn’t, doesn’t, and hasn’t, and I think I can see a pinky toe lying under the couch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you speak one of those South African Bushman languages, the sort comprised of clicking sounds, you shouldn’t expect anyone to understand you. It’s like that with obscure tongues. One constantly reminds my colleagues along Newtown Creek that when we say “PRP” or “PCB” or “RI” or “CSO” to people new to the environmentalist world that they have no idea what we’re talking about and it sounds a lot like those aforementioned clicking sound languages. If you’re discussing something that’s novel, or known only to cloistered experts, you need to be explicit and clear while explaining things and avoid introducing cultic acronyms. You also need to educate people about what you’re doing, before you do it.

The new bike lanes on Skillman Avenue are full of clicking sounds for pedestrians, bikers, and vehicle operators. What the hell do all of these new striped in chevrons and curvy symbols mean? What are you meant to be doing here? “Buffer zone” means that you do what, where, and when?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Fully realizing that I have a better chance of getting killed by a dead bird falling out of the sky and hitting me on the head than actually winning, I went out last night and bought a Mega Millions Lottery ticket. There’s an absolutely ludicrous amount of money on the table in this particular drawing, which I would use in pursuance of raining vengeance down upon all that have offended me in the manner of an Old Testament God. If you see me on the news tomorrow with a big evil smile and you know that I’ve taken issue with you in the past, it would be a great idea for you to start planning a long trip or just move to the West Coast as I’m going to be going all Michael Corleone, and real quick like.

The way I see it, if life hands you lemons, the best thing to do is squirt lemon juice into the eyes of those who have opposed or thwarted your will. I’d also buy a few space heaters, since my apartment is freaking freezing.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 19, 2018 at 1:15 pm

aroused about

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A storm’s a coming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Depressing, that’s how I usually describe it. Shortly after taking this photo in the Court Square/Queens Plaza area of Long Island City, where the sidewalk was actually blocked off by this enormous midden of residential tower garbage, I sat in one of the high priced cafes installed into one of those residential towers (the kind that offers fare best described as a single perfect tomato served on a big white artisinal plate) and listened to a group of activists telling me that all this real estate development was just peachy and that they’d like to see more of it. My spiel about opposing the Sunnyside Yards fell on fairly deaf ears, and I inquired about how long the folks I was chatting with had lived here in LIC. The answer was pretty much encapsulated by De Blasio’s term in office, and I realized that these folks hadn’t been here for a transit strike, or a blackout, or had the Mayor turn a hotel on their block into a homeless shelter yet. Give it time folks, and remember the Borough Motto – “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.” 

They didn’t mind the fact that they were living on the site of a 19th century chemical factory, and in fact didn’t care.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another sit down with a group whom I would describe as “hard left” was also somewhat dismaying, as their plan for the future involved collapsing one of the legs of the economic stool which the City’s economy stands upon. I’ve said this a million times, it seems, but one is not “anti-development” as macro economic forces such as our current building boom need to be managed, and the job of government is to manage and eke concessions or “buy-in’s” from the real estate industrial complex which both current and future populations will need. Transit improvements, green infrastructure, medical facilities, supermarkets and laundromats, school space, street level urban furniture like benches and garbage cans. Instead, our government still operates as if it’s the 1970’s and they need to beg developers to begin projects in NYC. The Real Estate people are awash in the “LLC” money that often malign foreigners are laundering through our local economy, so let’s demand that they share the wealth just a little bit and design some ameliorations of the City’s many needs into their towers – that’s what I say. It’s called “good old fashioned graft” in case anyone has forgotten that term. Why isn’t there still any place to take a piss, amidst all this new construction?

Is Long Island City going to function as a “city,” or is it instead just destined to be a dormitory for Manhattan’s job base. Why aren’t we talking about office space and commercial construction here? As the old adage offers – if you build it, they will come. That’s how Queens was originally developed a hundred years ago – they built the Subways, and the people came.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking these not so mean streets as I do, I can tell you that vast stretches of Queens are unfriendly, forbidding, and barren of any of the things you’d expect to find in Brooklyn or Manhattan. We’re starved for hospital beds, school desks, street trees. Our commercial strips are bare as far as street benches and everything else you’d expect to find in the “fastest growing community” in the northeastern United States, and Queens has less park land acreage per person than anywhere else in NYC except for Greenpoint in Brooklyn and the South Bronx. 

While all of this is going on, or not going on, everybody continues to snipe and gripe and fight over an ever smaller piece of the pie. They’re fighting battles that they’ve already lost, which seems to be the Queensican way.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

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