The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Broadway’ Category

walled gardens

with one comment

It’s National Raspberries and Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s almost as if the Apple corporation had designed the modern day Subway system. Interoperability between distinct devices is painful to achieve without spending a ridiculous amount of treasure and time, and legacy equipment is likely to be “bricked” every time the system software is updated. The fact that – after nearly fifty years of being run by a common management team – nobody has come up with the bright idea of creating a common operational standard between the IND and IRT lines… it boggles.

The current plans which are being offered by political operatives of all stripes as a “fix” for MTA is simply to pour more money on this trash fire of a management team so that they can continue doing things EXACTLY as they’ve been doing them for a century, rather than planning for a future state of good repair and regular service. I argue that this strategy is analogous to paying August’s rent for your drug addict brother without some sort of commitment that he enter rehab. We’re just maintaining the current dysfunction without doing anything about the core issues that cause the problem. We, the public, are the MTA’s management team’s co-dependent.

How do you change a light bulb in a ceiling lamp when you’re sitting in a chair? The MTA’s answer would likely be to appeal for funding to lower the ceiling, whereas I say that you should think about standing on the chair instead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

IND and IRT subways are contained within the same system, but have distinct hierarchies of management and procurement. There’s also the Long Island Railroad, Metro North, NJ Transit, and PATH systems which operate in vertical silos. None of these distinct commuter railways operate in a manner which would allow interoperability or the sharing of resources between them. The only thing they share, operationally, is track gauge (the rails themselves).

Going back to the Apple analogy, which is designed to rake as much cash out of the customer as possible – “Sorry, your older iPad can’t talk to your new iPhone after that last software upgrade, unless you also buy an iWatch, so you should just buy a new iPad which won’t be able to sync with your iCloud until you buy a new MacBook and you’ll need to buy an overly expensive dongle cable to connect it to the new iPhone with.” 

You can’t get better service on the subway until we expensively modernize the… (sound familiar)? Once we install those new digital CBTC switches… That’ll fix everything… or it’ll just kick the can down the road. Just pay your brother’s rent so he has a safe space to shoot up, otherwise he’ll end up on the street…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Right now, we have to pay the rent for our junkie brother, just to keep the system rolling. What I’m proposing though, is that we need to start thinking about the NYC transit network of fifty years from now. As it currently stands, what would be rolling through the (probably flooded by sea level rise by 2067) MTA tunnels will look surprisingly like what’s there now. The MTA needs to start thinking about a long term plan, instead of just responding to this emergency or that one.

The Dope from Park Slope wants to tax millionaires, the Governor wants to tax everybody. Joe Lhota says that he needs close to a billion dollar’s worth of band aids just to keep the system running. They all want to fund a junkie, or just replace their old iPhone and hope it works better than the last model.


Upcoming Tours and events

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 7, 2017 at 11:15 am

narrow mounting

with 4 comments

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was hanging around Astoria at the local pub recently, and while enjoying a lovely pint of beer and carousing with the local crowd, a group of scabs were busily at work doing an installation for Time Warner Spectrum cable.

As you may or may not know, the worst company in America has been involved in a labor strike by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3. The fellows pictured in today’s post, who are scabs, were employed by some non union shop in LIC that’s handling the conglomerate’s business while its actual employees stand up for their rights and a fairer contract.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being the sort of arse that I am, I started playing the Dropkick Murphys cover of “which side are you on” on my phone, and let the union guys inside the bar know that a couple of scabs were undercutting organized labor as a whole outside. We all marveled as these scabs were running wires across Broadway and right through traffic, and at their complete lack of regard for the safety of passing pedestrians or bicyclists. There were no safety cones, except around their trucks. Kids and passerby were just allowed to step over their wires and under their ladders.

As a note, I’ve got no skin in the union game. Thing is, as a history minded fellow who has in particular studied the industrial past rather extensively, one of the greatest cons ever offered to Americans is that unions are somehow bad. You work an eight hour day? Get hurt on the job and receive compensation? Unemployment benefits? Have health insurance? A retirement plan or pension? You owe all of that to organized labor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of safety, the personal rigs you’d normally see the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 wearing to vouchsafe themselves against falls were not anywhere to be seen, and as mentioned above the scabs thought it was just fine to allow pedestrians to walk under their ladders while they did their thing up on the utility poles.

The only interjection which one offered to them was that the DSNY collection baskets on the corners were not meant to be receptacles for their trash, and my attention to the matter caused them to scoop out the forty to fifty feet of coaxial cable which they had decided to attempt disposal of in the corner bin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is my distinct desire, once this strike has been settled, that our local elected officials can find a way to compel the worst company in America to do something about the hopeless tangle of wires which sway from the utility poles here in Astoria.

I like the idea of that, for aesthetic reasons alone. I’d also like to see some sort of penalty applied to Spectrum’s management which would also create a huge block of overtime pay for the men and women of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 to earn and collect, from the worst company in America.

Rewiring Astoria would cost Spectrum millions, I suspect.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 2, 2017 at 12:00 pm

ghostly side

with one comment

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one enjoyed a pleasant evening on a boat tour offered by the Open House NY outfit which explored the City of Greater New York’s solid waste disposal system. The boat was one of Circleline’s smaller vessels (Circleline Queens) and the speakers were Sanitation historian Robin Nagle, SimsMetal’s Tom Outerbridge (who is also a board member at Newtown Creek Alliance), and some fellow from the Department of Sanitation whose name I didn’t catch. It was coincidentally the date of the summer solstice, the light was fantastic (from a photography POV), and it was the longest day of the year.

It certainly felt like the longest day of the year once the boat docked at west 42nd street, and the time came to make the journey back to Astoria, on the landward side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s no secret that I believe Manhattan, particularly the west side of midtown, to be a cautionary tale for urban planners. Some see midtown west, with its recent construction of gigantic residential towers and the nearby Hudson Yards project, as a modern day success story. The urban renewal engineers of the Bloomberg era captured a gritty section of the City which both housed and employed those at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum – a problematic population, from the municipal point of view, who consumed far too much in the way of City services – and converted it over to a neighborhood of “pied a terre” and upper middle and management class dormitories.

They forgot, as is the usual case these days, to think overly about transit and supermarkets and places people can gather without permits or permission. In my eye, they made a bad situation worse, in a neighborhood west of the Port Authority bus terminal. What are you going to do though, Manhattan is ruined and has been for twenty years. The junkies are still here, but instead of being able to return to some tenement squat at the end of the day, today they’re just living on the crowded streets and sleeping in the waterfront parks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is what the ridership numbers on the Queensbound E line look like at about 9:30 at night, and you should see what sort of crowding occurs on this line at rush hour. Just a few years ago, at a similar interval, the train population would have been not even half of what you see in the shot above. Why the crowding?

Simply put, not many actual New Yorkers can afford to pay the three to four thousand dollars a month in rent which a one bedroom in this hellish midtown area will cost. The Real Estate Industrial Complex’s dreams of avarice have caused a migration from this so called center out to the so called outer boroughs. It seems that they either never checked with the MTA about ridership capacity, or didn’t bother to care.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For one such as myself, who is lucky enough to live in Astoria, the E is merely a link in the chain of my commute. Once upon a time, my habit was to find a seat on a local train back to Queens and use the time to read, draw in my sketchbook, listen to an audiobook, or just blankly stare off into space.

Since the entire concept of finding a seat on the R in Manhattan is now a fantasy, even late into the evening, in recent years one has decided to instead be clever about using the Subway system and be nimble in terms of enacting as many transfers as I can in pursuance of escaping the inhuman canyons of the Shining City and returning to the human scaled locale known as Astoria. Accordingly, I find myself on the platform at Queens Plaza quite a bit these days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the work day, until 9:45 p.m. actually, you have a double chance of getting a local here – the R or M lines. MTA, in their infinite wisdom, cuts M service off at 9:45, effectively halving local service in Queens. This tucks nicely within the statement of what I believe to be the borough motto of “welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself,” which multiple elected officials have personally asked me to stop propagating. I believe however, that I’ve discovered part of the disconnect between elected officialdom, real estate industrial complex, and transit.

During conversation with the NYC EDC regarding their Sunnyside Yards proposal, the EDC folks pointed out that the project boundaries are served by “8 subway lines.” They know this because they checked a subway map. They didn’t realize that, because they all live in Battery Park City or South Brooklyn, that in reality it’s only three lines (R, part time M, 7 lines) which can accessed by just three stations (36th street, 33rd/Lawson, 40th Lowery) which can be reasonably walked to from the center of their proposed project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The stretch of Steinway Street pictured above, between 34th avenue and Broadway, sits atop an R/M local station. This would, according to the EDC, be one of the stops servicing what would be roughly half the population of Boulder, Colorado who would be living atop the Sunnyside Yards deck. Again, since they only know this part of Queens from the maps they spread out on polished mahogany desks in the air conditioned offices of lower Manhattan, they don’t realize that the walk from Steinway/39th street at the north eastern side of the proposed deck is nearly a half mile away and would necessitate a hazardous street crossing of Northern Blvd.

Simply put, they want to turn western Queens into the west side of Manhattan. Density is over rated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria is one of the last working class/lower middle class neighborhoods left in the urban core of NYC. Perhaps EDC might want to leave us alone to live our lives the way we wish to, in a human scale neighborhood where the neighbors actually know each other by name. Maybe they’d like to establish a residence nearby and rotate their planning staff into and out of it on a biannual basis so that they could understand what would be lost here.

Perhaps, we should preserve Western Queens as a museum piece of the actual “progressive era.”


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm

potential menace

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It’s National Pecan Sandy Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After that crazy set of storms that blew threw Astoria earlier this week, an odd orange glow permeated the sky. I got shots of the double rainbow too, of course, but since everyone else in NYC had their phones out and Instagrammed it – what’s the point? I was far more interested in the stage lighting offered by nature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was also out on a boat in NY Harbor this week, specifically on the solstice, and the sky that presented on the longest day of 2017 did not disappoint. That shot is looking towards New Jersey, from the waters just off Red Hook.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in LIC, one was surmounting the Pulaski Bridge when a LIRR train began making its way towards the Hunters Point Avenue station. This is one of LIC’s great natural spectacles, for one such as myself.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

collective deliberation

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It’s National Onion Ring Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few odds and ends greet you today, lords and ladies. Pictured above is my beloved Newtown Creek, as seen from a bulkhead in Greenpoint. That barge is being filled with aggregate soil material by the Allocco recycling operation on Kingsland Avenue. Aggregates are an interesting side of the recycling industry, wherein excavated soil is sieved and graded according to particle size (gravel, sand etc.) and then sold in bulk for industrial “fill,” or packaged and sold at consumer hardware stores in fifty pound bags. It diverts the stuff from ending up in landfills. Who knew?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was on his way out one fine afternoon, and caught this meteorological sight. A curtain of rain was trailing a storm cloud, on an otherwise sunny day, as the cell headed eastwards. For some reason, I’m fascinated by this sort of thing, but I also routinely throw rocks at the moon when it rises outside of my cave.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The weather down in the rotting concrete bunkers and tunnels of the Subway system never ceases to amaze me. Given that it’s a series of shaft ways open on both ends and which are open to the air at nearly every station, and have de facto pistons moving through them at somewhat regular intervals, how and why is it that the atmospherics in subway stations always seem to lag twenty four to forty eight hours behind the surface? Also, why is it also so damned hot at 34th street/Herald Square?

I avoid that station like the freaking plague because of the heat.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2017 at 11:00 am

troublesome phrase

with 5 comments

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The humans are quarrelsome and troubling creatures in my opinion, given to irrational ideas. Worship of imaginary sky fathers is just one of these ideations which annoy me, and if you follow current events, the practice causes no small amount of trouble. If there is a “god,” my perception and description of it would be that of an extra dimensional and utterly alien being who deigns to sit in judgement over the natives of this planet which is given to random fits of pique that are expressed as extreme weather events. Personally, a humble narrator doesn’t cling to the idea that some “thing” in the sky is watching over me, other than the omnipresent mechanisms launched by certain global military super powers. To each his own, I guess, but I for one am fairly tired of having my lack of neolithic era superstitions seen as some sort of moral turpitude. One goes out of his way to not impose my beliefs upon others in violent or aggressive ways, which seems to be at odds with those who “believe.” If “faith” is so fragile that you need to murder others to prove it, or shun those who follow a different path – exactly what kind of God are you worshipping? Best to get yourself a better God then the one you’ve got, one who will give you what you want or need – I’d suggest Dagon, Cthulhu, or Lucifer in that case. You’d probably have the best run with Lucifer, if the lifestyle of the Rolling Stones or Jimmy Page are any sort of indication. At any rate, I don’t care what you think or believe, unless it affects me or you start trying to proselytize about it. I never inject my personal opinions about this sort of thing on the true believers, but they are always trying to do the opposite and evangelize me. That’s rude, in my version of morality.

Somehow, this little polemic was conjured up in my mind by the image of that horned pickup in the shot above, a cool car spotted on the streets of Astoria, Queens recently while a humble narrator was enjoying a pint of beer with friends at the local pub. The horned God, in the belief systems of Eurasia, is traditionally the foeman of the sky father. Jung and others described this imagery in terms of the “denied herd leader or gelded bull,” and it emerged during the early days of farming – as did Beer, oddly enough.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While my fellow Astorians and I spent a couple of enjoyable Sunday afternoon hours quaffing beer and discussing the events of the day, another Astoria Hullabaloo sprung up when a Consolidated Edison crew arrived and began to cordon off the corner of 42nd street at Broadway. They were installing electrical equipment into a street vault. The Con Ed guys were busy, but quite an affable group and they bemoaned the fact that they had to work and couldn’t join in with our festivities. I wonder which God they’d worship if we lived in pagan times?

The Saint of Electrical Workers (text lifted from Wikipedia) is probably “Saint Eligius (also Eloy or Loye) (French: Éloi) (c. 588 – 1 December 660) is the patron saint of goldsmiths, other metalworkers, and coin collectors. He is also the patron saint of veterinarians, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), a corps of the British Army, but he is best known for being the patron saint of horses and those who work with them.” There’s also a traditional Catholic association of electrical workers with Santa Lucia, but she’s more generally connected to artillery men as the lightning bolt in her story actually killed someone. Additionally, St. Elmo is often associated with electrical workers, and there’s a whole contingent of saints competing for the affections of those who work up on utility poles.

Santa Veronica is the patron saint of Photographers, incidentally. Also, from Wikipedia – “According to Church tradition, Veronica was moved with pity when she saw Jesus carrying his cross to Golgotha and gave him her veil that he might wipe his forehead. Jesus accepted the offering, held it to his face, and then handed it back to her—the image of his face miraculously impressed upon it. This piece of cloth became known as the Veil of Veronica.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rabbit holes are an existential hazard for me, so…

The Patron Saint of the United States in the Roman Catholic tradition is Mary, in her guise as “Our Lady of the immaculate conception.” Saint Patrick is in charge of the Archdiocese of New York, in case you were wondering. The diocese of Brooklyn (and Queens, thank you), is part of the ecclesial parish of the larger Archdiocese, so presumptively they’ve got St. Pat too. Helps to explain why you see so few “actual” snakes slithering around, but puzzles as to why there are so many of the two legged variety hereabouts.

Not too sure about the other big churches and faiths, and I don’t want to start a research paper on this, so we’ll just end that thought.

Wonder what the patron deity of NYC would be, if we followed the model of the old Greek city states. Mammon, probably. Thoughts? Post ’em in the comments section.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 7, 2017 at 11:00 am

hewn roughly

with 2 comments

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It actually isn’t your imagination, the quality of subway service has definitively declined in recent months. There has been a concurrent decline in LIRR service, and I understand the Metro North ridership isn’t too happy either. I did a bit of research, and discovered the likely reason why. It seems that Fernando Ferrer is now the acting chairman of the MTA. Yep, Mr. Ferrer, who was appointed to be the Borough President of the Bronx (back then he called himself “Freddy”) after his predecessor went to jail for corruption and personally presided over that Borough’s period of absolute cultural and societal apogee – from 1987-2001 – is temporarily in charge of things at MTA. Explains everything, huh?

I know. If you went to the Monster.com site or were reviewing LinkedIn job listings for “Chairman of the MTA,” it would be strange if the resume requirements didn’t ask for “identity politician, failed mayoral candidate, disastrous Borough President, or Loyal Political Party Apparatchnik who never held a real job before entering politics right out of college.” If you think Bill de Blasio is lousy, read up on Ferrer. De Blasio actually stole the whole “tale of two cities” line from Ferrer’s 2001 mayoral campaign, which indicates to you how few of the ideas the current Mayor offers are actually his own.

Perhaps, the resume requirements for MTA chairman (temporary, acting, or otherwise) should include – in addition to knowing how to use Excel and Outlook – some experience in running a commuter rail service and or a largish fleet of buses rather than being a loyal if ineffective and ideologically based machine politician. Just saying.

Ferrer, Mark Green… these guys are like some sort of recurring political infection which flares up occasionally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been walking past this access cover in Astoria for nearly ten years, and never noticed it before last week. It indicates that some of the oldest municipal “tackle” is found below, related to the water supply system. I wrote about a similar hatch cover encountered over in Williamsburg back in January of this year, but you generally don’t see hatches of this type in Queens. That’s because LIC (and Newtown) had their own water supply companies which were separate from the Croton system at the time of City consolidation in 1898, and is why you commonly observe access covers adorned with “LIC” in western Queens rather than ones with the Catskill tag.

Whatever pipe is found down there – and who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden down there – it’s controlled by the modern day DEP today, but it’s still a bit odd that I’ve never noticed this particular cover before.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in the City, at Governeurs Lane’s terminus nearby the ferry terminal at Pier 11, this food cart was spotted. Can’t tell you why, but it just grabbed my eye. That’s the FDR drive up above, which would normally lead me into a whole “thing” about this being the “house of Robert Moses” but after ranting about Freddy Ferrer, I’m a bit wobbly.

See y’all tonight at Green Drinks Queens, at the Riverview Restaurant in LIC, details are below. Come with?


Upcoming Tours and events

Green Drinks Queens LIC, June 5th, 6:00- 9:00 p.m.

Come celebrate UN World Environment Day with Green Drinks: Queens on the LIC Waterfront! This year’s theme is “Connecting People With Nature.”details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

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