The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘NY 11103’ Category

increasing pallor

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I like when the DEP brings the show to me, saves a lot of walking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighborhood is abuzz at the moment, here in Astoria, over a water main replacement project which has been going on for a month and change now. There’s been a tearing and a wrenching, lots and lots of noise and activity involving heavy equipment, and a somewhat random series of notices taped to the front door promising that DEP water service will be temporarily interrupted. My block’s turn for the latter occurred yesterday, and just down the street from HQ, the DEP and their contractors (Tully) finally opened up the hydrants and got busy with the underground stuff. 

I was hanging around the home office yesterday, developing shots from last weekend’s Tugboat Race on the Hudson, but found an interval when it wasn’t raining to grab the tripod and get a few shots of the flowing water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual construction is “up the pipe” from HQ, thank goodness. You should see what the next block over looks like, they’ll be repaving that for months. 

Ever notice the way that significant road work and infrastructure repairs only seem to happen when Election time nears? I’m told by those whom this tsunami of backhoes and construction workers have already washed over that a second wave of Con Edison gas main contractors followed the water people, and there’s been a protracted occupation by the NYC DOT nearby as well – who seem to be grinding down and then resurfacing the roads. The Zero Vision people can’t be far away, but it suddenly makes sense as to why the Department of Buildings forced all the local property owners to replace their sidewalks in the last couple of years. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a bit difficult to actually lock down on actual government sourced numbers on this, as the DEP continually treats its most mundane capabilities and public facing infrastructure as a state secret. 

There’s approximately 109,000 fire hydrants in NYC which are maintained by the NYC DEP for the FDNY’s usage. There’s also an uncountable number of hydrants maintained by other entities both private and public, and notably the NYC Parks Dept. has a large number of them installed on their property which are connected to DEP’s pipes but are Parks’ problem to maintain. DEP’s system uses two basic types of hydrant, the kind pictured above which is an “O’Brien Style Model, Series S,” and the “Dresser 500 Style.” 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason that the hydrant above was left open was to allow the construction crews to bleed out the water flowing through the water main they were replacing. The maximum flow of one these O’Brien models is about 1,000 gallons an hour, I’m told. The water in the hydrants is the same stuff delivered to residences, good old NYC drinking water from the Croton Resovoir system. 

There’s two pipe fittings on the hydrants, one is for normal water hookup by FDNY, the other is for use by their pumper trucks. Since the 1980’s, when DEP shut down the old “High Pressure” network that dated back to the dawn of the 20th century, the hydrants have been installed with a street level flange that intersects them to the main. Prior to this, were a car or truck to back into the hydrant (which was directly connected to the buried pipe) it tended to damage the underground pipe and necessitate a messy and expensive repair job that involved opening the street. The flange connection instead allows the hydrant to get knocked about without the buried main pipe getting damaged. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That 1,000 gallons an hour flow was pouring out all day, or at least from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a couple of coffee breaks and a lunch hour thrown in. Since I had the camera mounted on the tripod anyway, and my block here in Astoria was closed to traffic because of the construction so I could stand in the street without getting squished by trucks, I decided to follow the flow down to the corner where it was all pissing into the drain.

As a note, DEP doesn’t like to use the word “sewer” ever. They call these bits of their system “street drains.” It’s also not “sewage,” it’s wastewater, they say. I’ve been lectured by one of the high muckety mucks over there about this, being told that the word “sewer” or the term “sewer plant” is offensive to modern day “Wastewater Management Engineers.”

I fear that Louie the garbageman is going to want to be called a “solid waste collection executive” or something soon. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gazing into the abyssal “street drain” in the shot above, one wondered how much of this flow was going to the somewhat archaic “Bowery Bay Wastewater treatment Plant” on the forbidden northern shore of Queens and how much of it was traveling down Astoria’s Broadway to 43rd street where an underground intersection is found that feeds directly into the Dutch Kills tributary of my beloved Newtown Creek over in LIC.

Hey, at least it’s clean water flowing into Dutch Kills for a change, a thousand gallons an hour worth. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

another report

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Dinner and a show!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Friday nights, my neighborhood friends and I regularly gather for a “pub night,” at a bar which is found at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway. Now, since I’m all knowing, I can tell you a few things about this particular corner but for the purposes of this post – the NYC DEP has a storm sewer under the street here which leads directly to Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary. That’s important in terms of the totality of things, but what’s also important is that several of the local sanitary water sewer pipes conjoin into a junction at this corner as well.

Apparently, there was a “priority one” repair order sent out to DEP’s maintenance crews, regarding something involving the storm sewer having developed a leak.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our little pub night gatherings involve sitting outside at the sidewalk cafe tables, and as always I have the camera ready and in my hands even when socializing. As the DEP crew got to work, so did I. Here they are noticing me.

Everyone at my table started waving and I started a chant of “DEP, DEP.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unsung, these municipal heroes seemed to enjoy the respect they were being paid as they got busy. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The notoriously impatient drivers of Astoria, who seem to believe that their cars do not have a gear which allows them to reverse, turned the sidewalk into a vehicle lane for a short while. This stopped after a few minutes and presumptively the DEP crew set out cones at the northern corner of the block of 42nd street that they were working on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being the gregarious fellow I’m known for being, I walked across the street and introduced myself. This fellow was busy digging a hole. The head of the operation told me the circumstance of their tasks, which would involve exposing a broken pipe and replacing a section of it.

I congratulated him on the Friday night overtime, wished him luck, and headed back to my gathering across the street as it started raining.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYPD was called in, and towed a car which was perilously close to the job. The tow truck reparked this car around the corner on Broadway, and my friends and I were anxious to see the confused driver find their car somewhere else than where they had parked it, but alas…

At this point, everyone at my table started chanting “NYPD, NYPD.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heavier equipment began to show up and set up shop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the fellow who was digging the hole, and who was now guiding the operator of the excavator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More and more DEP crews kept appearing, carrying supplies and esoteric equipment. From what I could discern, one of them was a mobile welding unit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It turned into quite a party, happening across the street from my regularly scheduled Friday night party. Deciding that I couldn’t miss a minute of this, I ordered food and another drink.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rain really set up in earnest at one point, but I was sitting in a carefully chosen spot under one of the pub’s awnings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You really have to hand it to these folks. As much shade as I throw at DEP’s management during Newtown Creek oriented posts and in person at meetings, I have nothing but respect for the folks that do this essential, difficult, and dirty job on behalf of the rest of us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A section of pipe was removed, another one welded in, and then the street was closed back up. Sated with food, drink, and a free bit of municipal dinner theater – a humble narrator then headed home to my little dog Zuzu.

You just have to love it. I do.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Friday, August 3rd, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

If you want infrastructure, then meet NCA historian Mitch Waxman at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, and in just one a half miles he’ll show you the largest and newest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, six bridges, a Superfund site, three rail yards with trains moving at street grade, a highway that carries 32 million vehicle trips a year 106 feet over water. The highway feeds into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and we’ll end it all at the LIC ferry landing where folks are welcome to grab a drink and enjoy watching the sunset at the East River, as it lowers behind the midtown Manhattan skyline.

Tix and more deatils here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2018 at 11:02 am

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, NY 11103, NYC DEP

Tagged with , ,

never fainted

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I now know it was you, Larry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving HQ the other day, this is the scene which greeted me. Our Lady of the Pentacle spotted this tableau separately. Astoria, Queens is a place full of mystery, but you can’t beat the “block watchers” when you’re playing detective. On Saturday late afternoon/evening, while enjoying a few pints of beer at the “local” with some of the local commentariat, we put our heads together and pieced together the story of a skeleton cat wearing a collar that read “heartbreaker” which appeared in front of my door.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My neighbor Kenny, who is in many ways the adult man that Nelson from the Simpsons (the haw haw kid) would grow up to become, provided many of the individual pieces of the puzzle. He described seeing an affable fellow named Larry emerge from his building with the skeleton cat in hand, who thereupon placed it on the sidewalk with the intention of letting it find a new home.

Another neighbor described the Cat being picked up by ready hands and then abandoned again. It seems to have moved up and down the block a few times before coming to rest in the tree pit in front of HQ, one building lot from its original placement by the aforementioned Larry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heartbreaker apparently made it most of the way up to Newtown Road from the Broadway side of the block before track of it was lost. Having satisfyingly assembled the origin and travels of the thing, discussion of the articulation and manufacture of the skeleton cat ensued. Such are the minor points of interest upon which the neighborhood grinds away, here in Astoria. Whether or not Larry was the original owner of the thing, I cannot say, and speaking for the community – we’ve lost interest and moved on to other topics.

The possibility of having a block party during the late summer months came up, whereupon everyone turned to me in pursuance of getting a permit for said function.


Upcoming Tours and Events

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

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

Tickets and more details
here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

stinking ossuaries

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Scuttling, always scuttling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever I mention the 1980’s to those who grew up in Long Island City and Astoria, a shudder seems to go through them. I’ve always wondered if that shudder has anything to do with why all the trees are in cages.

I’ve asked a few of the lifers, but boiling down the answers offered by them reveals one singular truth, which is simply expressed by describing the Croatian people as being remarkably tight lipped. There’s some gesturing involved in their answers, and sometimes a few words in a language which I can never understand (I’ve tried). Regardless, something motivated several of them to build iron cages for the street trees around here. I’ve learned to just accept things over the years which I’ve dwelt here in Astoria, Queens. 

Such is my lot. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is in a weird place, in terms of his mood. Feeling increasingly obsequious, and often wondering who the old fellow staring back at me from the bathroom mirror is, a humble narrator nevertheless sallies forth. Like the trees here in Astoria, there are iron bars and fences all around me. Often it feels as if one is juggling chain saws, and that one slip up will result in disaster. The whole “angry young man” thing is no longer a valid posture, as I’ve instead found myself cast as a broken old man. Such is the wheel of life, however, and there’s no point in moaning about it.

There are still battles to fight, and wars to win.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of, that’s the Sunnyside Yards (est. 1909) pictured above. The shots in today’s post, from this point onward, were all captured along 43rd street while walking south. 43rd street, once you cross Northern Blvd. from the blessed rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria, used to be called Laurel Hill Blvd. It connected the eastern side of LIC’s Blissville over by Newtown Creek and Calvary Cemetery with Middleburgh, which modernity calls Sunnyside. That was before the Long Island Expressway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and even before Queens Blvd. and the IRT Flushing Line were created in the 20th century.

Referring to old maps of Western Queens requires the usage of three distinct sets of documents, as they’ve (a shadowy cabal, probably) renamed and reoriented the streets so many times in Queens that it’s confusing as all get out figuring out what something used to be called. There’s a few “landmark” lanes which you can use to figure out relative positioning, like Jackson Avenue or Steinway Street, but even then…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

43rd street, as a pathway to Newtown Creek, has been off my radar for the last few years due to the Koscisuzcko Bridge construction project. Just this last winter, the newly rebuilt pedestrian bridge spanning the onramp to the BQE from the LIE was opened. It replaced an older iteration as part of the bridge project, and I’m in the process of reinstalling this pathway as part of my mental map for “where do I want to go today” usage.

The scaffolding in the shot above obscures the Celtic Park apartment complex, so named for a former beer garden and complex of athletic fields which the development is named for. The Celtic Park, as it was known, was designed and situated to take advantage of the huge numbers of Irish Catholic New Yorkers who came to Queens to visit loved ones in the various properties maintained by Calvary Cemetery found nearby in Blissville and Woodside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One improvement which hasn’t occurred, and I plan on getting after the K-Bridge team about it next time I see them, is the approach to the pedestrian and bicycle bridge that joins 43rd street with the stubby three block stretch of Laurel Hill Blvd. found on the south side of the LIE. The trestle seen above carries the Long Island Expressway, and acts as a seldom mentioned approach to the BQE and Koscisuzcko Bridge itself.

It’s fairly terrifying walking along this stretch of sidewalk, with traffic ramping up to highway speeds alongside of you. A series of jersey barriers would cheaply and effectively address the issue. I’m on it, don’t worry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Aforementioned, that’s the extant section of Laurel Hill Blvd. mentioned above. To the west (or right) is Blissville’s Calvary Cemetery, to the east (or left) is the BQE and industrial Maspeth. This is also more or less the legal border which once existed between the independent municipalities of Long Island City and Newtown, prior to the consolidation of the City of Greater New York.

Tomorrow – so, what’s going on with the Kosciuszcko Bridge project?


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lingered tenaciously

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Atmospheric temperature inversions are cool.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may recall, last Friday was unusually warm for a day in January, and a patch of heavy fog fairly permeated the ether. Later in the evening, when the temperature began to drop towards seasonal norms, many would have described weather conditions as rainy but in actuality it was a precipitating mist. A variety of social functions saw one flitting to and fro in the cloud of vapor which occluded human vision and lent a mutiplicity of illuminates full discourse to dissipate and diffuse into its heaving forms.

Paragraphs like the one above are part of the reason that I don’t get invited to many parties, so when I am on a guest list – I go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A soirée in Sunnyside to celebrate a friend’s birthday was attended, and after escorting a third party back to her home, one found himself close enough to home to walk. The City of Greater New York is always at its most photogenic when it’s moist, and given that the temperature was pleasant… why not?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The next time a temperature inversion occurs and misty banks of vapor are observably rolling across the concrete devastations, my intention is to cancel or back out of any and all interpersonal plans. One shall pack up the tripod and camera kit and head over to the Newtown Creek.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 17, 2018 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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2017 at 11:00 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

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