The Newtown Pentacle

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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

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

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

mute clue

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one seems to have been hanging around in Astoria quite a bit recently. The long walks from the ancient village which a humble narrator is known for undertaking, carrying one from Astoria in North West Queens to all sorts of distant locales, require a bit of time to undertake and a variety of factors have limited the open windows of time needed to commit them. Fear not, for vast overland crossings through the concrete devastations are being planned and will be embarked upon shortly, whereupon description of said events will be presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Just in the name of getting some exercise, for myself and the camera alike, I’ve been perambulating about in a roughly two mile circle from HQ for the last few weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The world is a scary place. It’s full of wildly unpredictable people, some of whom just might be a part of some sadist doomsday cult who seek the world’s end. Others are just stupid, and you can see it on their faces when they try to think about something. The other day on the train, I sat there watching some woman visibly thinking. Her brow beedled, she silently mouthed words, and was apparently either rehearsing or reviewing an argument she either had lost or will lose when she has it. Occasionally, she would pull out her phone and fire off a text missive, which was angrily stabbed out with her digitus tertius or “curse” finger. Lip reading informs that she was upset at somebody she knew who had said hello to her “ex.” She kept on mouthing the word “ratchet.”

She had her two kids watching the display, one of whom was licking the subway seat. There really is no hope.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria is decidedly carnivorous, as a rule. Don’t get me wrong, “we gots our vegans ’round here’s,” but most of the people you meet in the neighborhood talk about some kind of meat when you ask “what’s for dinner?” I know I do, but when I came across this display of half pig in a butcher shop window, one became entranced by its gruesome spectacle and the illusion of some monstrous face screaming in terror.

Pareidolia (/pærɪˈdoʊliə/ parr-i-DOH-lee-ə) is what it’s called when your brain perceives facial structures in inanimate objects. According to studies of the psychological phenomena, if you’re like me and you see “faces” in a LOT of inanimate objects and every cloud reminds you of some esoteric critter, it’s sympomatic of a highly neurotic personality type. Me, neurotic?

Who knew? 


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 13, 2017 at 11:00 am

mental complexity

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My daily walk for the last few weeks, due to certain constraints on schedule and other obligations, has been decidedly local in nature and a humble narrator has seldom found himself less than an hour from HQ before its time to turn around and head back. As I enjoy the distinct pleasure of living on the southern side of Astoria, Queens – this isn’t that big a burden. Lurking, in fear – after all – around Western Queens is one of my favorite activities.

There’s always something interesting happening here in the ancient village.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Steinway Street’s intersection with 34th avenue, there’s a mid sized construction job going on. A former one story furniture store is being converted over to a multi story residential dealie. The iron workers have been busy at this corner all summer, doing their thing, and a whole crew of local lords and ladies have been observed entering and leaving the job site in their bright yellow vests since last winter.

I know that to some calloused eyes this is “gentrification” occurring, but it’s hard to argue against creating both a bunch of construction jobs and some new housing units that are so close to the 34th avenue side of the Steinway Street stop on the R and M lines. Y’know, no form of housing is “affordable” unless you’ve got an opportunity for gainful employment and the chance to earn a living from it. That is, unless your idea of “affordable” involves the redistribution of earned wealth from someone else’s pocket into yours.

Just saying. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this particular day, a crane was delivering steel beams and the union guys were crawling all over the skeleton of the new building. I can tell that they’re Union, as you’ll notice all of the safety equipment they’ve got on display. If this was a non Union job, these cats would be sporting baseball hats instead of hard hats, and the safety harnesses they’re wearing would be absent or made of duct tape.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They seemed to know their business, these fellows (I think they’re fellows at least, as I wasn’t close enough to discern sex), and after snapping out a few shots I moved on. My half way point destination for the afternoon walk was set to be Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside, where an easterly turn would be undertaken towards Roosevelt Avenue and a return back to Astoria’s Broadway in the 40’s would be accomplished via Woodside Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking south down Steinway Street, where it transmogrifies into 39th street at Northern Blvd., one encountered this little assemblage of compound signage. It somehow fit my mood, and current worldview.

You people scare the hell out of me. 


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 12, 2017 at 1:00 pm

true conditions

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this day, in 70 AD, the Romans sacked Jerusalem. In 1776, the very first submarine attack on a warship occurred in New York Harbor when the Turtle attached a time bomb to the hull of HMS Eagle. In 1860, Garibaldi entered Naples and began the process of creating the modern day Nation of Italy. In 1921, the first Miss America pageant was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Over in San Francisco back in 1927, inventor Philo Farnsworth demonstrated the first television signal. Benjamin, the last of the thylacines, died alone in a Tasmanian zoo in 1936. In 1940, the Nazis began the London Blitz, and in 1978 Rock and Roll drummer Keith Moon kicked the bucket.

The cool car pictured above was spotted in Greenpoint, incidentally. I was out one night conducting a walking tour of Newtown Creek and happened across it. The graffiti is what drew me in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After conducting the walking tour, one set upon his path back towards the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria, but had to pass through the concrete devastations of Hunters Point and Queens Plaza in order to do so. It was a nice night, and I decided upon walking home. On my way, I passed by the Queens Midtown Tunnel and captured this shot.

The funny bit – to me at least – about the current efforts by the State of New York to elimate toll booths in favor of electronic tolling is that no one thought about what happens on the Manhattan side of the tunnel. I’ve been noticing massive traffic backups on the Long Island Expressway since they instituted the new system, which was meant to ease traffic and smooth the commute for the 80,000 or so daily vehicle trips through the tunnel. The toll booths had the effect of causing traffic to pulse through the toll plaza four or five at a time, but now the traffic just snakes into it. The head of the snake emerges into the City and is met by traffic lights on second avenue. Those traffic lights are now the de facto governors of how fast traffic can flow through the tunnel, and on the 71 miles of the Long Island Expressway found to the east of it.

The military guys and gals have a word for this sort of thing – it’s “FUBAR.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Astoria, it was preternaturally dark when I arrived home, but this sort of thing doesn’t bother my little dog Zuzu. She operates by smell and sound, my dog, and as we engaged in her evening saunter and as she performed her investigative sniffing, I was growing increasingly apprehensive for some reason.

My pineal gland was twitching with latent horror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As we swung back around onto Broadway and made our way back towards HQ, a large group of teenaged men were riding their bicycles down the block in a pack. According to a report I saw on the local CBS TV news, events such as this are to be viewed in a menacing light and feared. I found it menacing simply because they’re all teenagers. Darned kids, with their bicycles and the hip hop, engaging in group activities without first obtaining police permits or parental approval. Chaos!

There should be a curfew for anyone under the age of thirty, I tell ya. Damn kids.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bicycles such as the ones pictured above are a fairly modern invention, but some scholars attribute the first bike design to a sketch by one of DaVinci’s students in 1534. The first verified appearance of bicycles was in the 19th century, specifically in 1817 Germany with the “dandy horse.” These were “running machines” which were operated sans pedals or chains. The velocipede era saw the addition of pedals to the front wheel, but it wasn’t until 1863 that a french engineer came up with what we’d recognize instantly as a bike – with pedals and a chain driven rotary crank. What you’re looking at in the shot above are 21st century variants of what was introduced as the “safety bicycle” back in 1885. John Dunlop introduced the pneumatic tire in 1888. In 1889, the diamond shaped frame of the modern bike was introduced, in a model that also folded. The modern multi geared bike, which included a “Derailleur” mechanism on the chain, came on the scene at the start of the 20th century. Everything since has simply been refinement of the design.

Teenagers, however, have always been dangerous and unpredictable. Curfew!


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 9th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 7, 2017 at 1:00 pm

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