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Another Astoria Hullabaloo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I was walking home to Astoria with the goal of reuniting with Our Lady of the Pentacle and Zuzu the dog before they both fell asleep. I was returning from a meeting over in Sunnyside, and imagine my surprise as I encountered the Woodside Warriors on 34th avenue. Housed on 51st street, the 49th Battalion of the FDNY is composed of Engine 325 and Tower Ladder 163. The firefighters had taken over the corner of 45th street and 34th avenue.

Couldn’t possibly tell you what was going on, they were too busy for me to ask. Didn’t smell smoke, nor did I see arcing flashes of electricity, and it was just the FDNY response units on scene – no Ambulances or Police were there.

from wikipedia

There are currently six different types of fire companies in the New York Fire Department which all operate distinct types of apparatus: 198 Engine Companies, 143 Ladder (or Truck) Companies, 5 Rescue Companies, 7 Squad Companies, 3 Marine (or Fireboat) Companies, and the Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) Company. In addition to these six types of fire companies, there are numerous other specialized units that are operated by the Special Operations Command (S.O.C.), the Haz-Mat. Division, and the Marine Division. Each fire company has a specific role at the scene of an emergency.

Each type of fire company utilizes a certain type of fire apparatus, colloquially known as “rigs”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ladder 163 extended itself up to the roof level of the apartment building that FDNY was focusing on, but after spending a couple of minutes shining lights around up there, they retracted the basket back down to the truck. Notably, the Engine 325 folks didn’t connect their hoses up to the hydrants.

I have no clue what was going on, hence – I call it a hullabaloo.

from wikipedia

FDNY Ladder Companies (also known as Truck Companies) are tasked with search and rescue, forcible entry, and ventilation at the scene of a fire. A Ladder Company can operate three types of Ladder Trucks: an Aerial Ladder Truck, equipped with a 100′ aerial ladder mounted at the rear of the apparatus; a Tower Ladder Truck, equipped with either a 75′ or 95′ telescoping boom and bucket mounted in the center of the apparatus; a Tractor Drawn Aerial Ladder Truck, or Tiller/Tractor Trailer, equipped with a 100′ aerial ladder. A Ladder Company carries various forcible entry, ventilation, and rescue tools to deal with an assortment of fires and emergencies, including motor vehicle accidents.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since nothing seemed to be going on, as far as the likelihood of the FDNY doing “batman” type stuff – which is fun to photograph – I continued back on my way home. Zuzu the dog needed walking, and that’s my job. The pup and I wandered about for a bit. She seemed a bit on edge, my dog, the sort of mood she gets into when the silhouette of a bicycle chained to a fence presents itself. The game was afoot, signaled the dog. Then she peed.

from wikipedia

Most of the Engine Companies in FDNY’s fleet are Seagrave Commander II’s and Seagrave Marauder II’s and include 500 gallon water tanks and either 1,000 or 2,000 gallon per minute pumps. The 2,000 gpm pumps are primarily located in the high-rise districts and are considered high pressure pumpers. With the loss of apparatus which occurred as a result of the September 11 attacks, FDNY began to use engines made by other companies including Ferrara, KME and E-One. The FDNY is making the move from a fixed cab to a “Split-Tilt” cab, so the Seagrave Marauder II Pumper will fill the FDNY’s new order for 69 new pumpers. In 2014, FDNY went to KME for an order of 97 pumpers over the next few years. The new KME pumpers feature the split tilt cab and are also high pressure pumpers. As of January 2015, All future pumper orders will be ordered from KME. Seagrave will no longer make the split tilt cab, high pressure pumpers for the FDNY.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The next day, on the self same corner that the FDNY were doing their thing, Zuzu discovered the scene above. The dog was upset that the Squirrel, which seemed to be reaching for its last cigarette, didn’t react when she barked at it. I wondered, and more than wondered…

Then, Zuzu the dog peed again. Short attention span, my dog.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

muffled conversation

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There was quite a hullabaloo, here in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One received a text from a neighbor on the night of October 30th that there had been a vehicle collision involving the local gendarmes here in Astoria, so I grabbed the camera and headed down to take a look at what happened.

The NYPD unit involved was from the local precinct, the 114,  and they had collided – at speed- with a civilian vehicle at the intersection of 45th street here on Broadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that I’m a “yenta” and the whole neighborhood knows it, the neighbors began relating the story to me.

Apparently, the NYPD unit was in one of those big hurries that they periodically display, the kind when they don’t have their sirens or lights on. My understanding is that this is procedure when they’re trying to catch someone surreptitiously by sneaking up on them, or they’re enroute to assist another officer who is in a dicey situation.

Observationally, when Cops blow a light just cause they want to, they perform what could be best described as a rolling stop while doing so. They can also park pretty much anywhere they want to, and I see both as perks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the local Greeks informed me that he had witnessed the incident. The cops were moving through a red light at the corner of 45th street and Broadway at a considerable velocity when they contacted the front end of a sedan which was proceeding at speed through the green light. They tore the front end of the civilian car up, but neither car’s occupants were seriously hurt. That’s what the Greek guy said.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the bumper of the sedan, which was being operated by a fairly young guy who had two passengers with him. They were instructed to park around the corner, and seemed – to me at least – as quite anxious. On Broadway itself, there were multiple NYPD people investigating the event. There were ambulances, looking loo civilians like me, and the usual emergency crew that the City’s got.

Of course the three kids were anxious, how would you feel if you had just rammed a cop car?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I ran into a couple of officers from the 114 a couple of days later (long story) and inquired as to the condition and health of their comrades. They informed that the two officers in the unit were fine, but had taken a couple of days off to recuperate nevertheless. No word on the three kids, however.

My personal belief is that all five participants in the accident probably had to go shopping for new underwear.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

last straw

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Always surprising – Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle has been quite busy in her professional life of late, and she rang me up recently as she was leaving her offices to suggest that we visit our local Astoria pub to grab a late dinner. As the bride working late is a fairly normal occurrence, we shortly settled in at some familiar outdoor seating at our “local,” ordered ourselves a couple of pints and plates of food. While discussing our day, I noticed a truck full of port-a-potties speeding down Broadway, and splashing the “via publica” with those blue chemicals that are found in the portable commode’s septic tanks.

Lovely, thought I. After paying the bill, we went home and while sitting outside on our porch with my sleepy dog (named Zuzu), certain odd sounds woke up and drew the attentions of that ever vigilant canine guardian of the domestic portico. These emanations were coming from an alley separating my building from the next one to the north. Said alley contains my neighbor Mario’s collection of safety cones as well as a collection of junk which my landlord is holding on to until an opportune moment for bulk disposal presents itself.

From the dog’s reaction to these sounds, I figured “rat.” Maybe “cat.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

However, after having peered over the veritable edge of my leased domain and gazing into the alley with the aid of one of my trusty flashlights… It was then that I went inside and fetched my camera.

It seems that there is now an Opossum living in the aperture between the two buildings, which is something that one of my neighbors – a sturdy Croatian – finds quite amusing. I believe it’s a “Virginia Opossum,” specifically, but I’m from Brooklyn so at the time I was referring to it as a “some kinda friggin thing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Opossums are fairly harmless critters, apparently, despite packing some fifty teeth and a nifty set of claws. I freaked the thing out, not with the flashlight mind you, but with the sound of my camera shutter flipping. This friggin thing didn’t want to leave the alley after hearing the shutter sound and hunkered down. I had grown bored with it by this point, so I decided to do some Opossum research at two in the morning. They’re Marsupials, I’ve learned. I also learned that if you cook one, it’s best to serve these friggin things with sweet potatoes. They are virtually immune to rabies, and highly resistant to snake venom. Y’know – Possum research.

That’s the sort of thing that normal people do at two in the morning, right?

As an aside, since these photos were taken – another Possum was spotted just about a block away (Zuzu scared that one too) and another, distinctly juvenile version, of these friggin things was observed hanging out on my porch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a defense move that Opossum’s do, “playing possum” as its called. They simulate that they’re a rotting corpse by stiffening up, curling back their lips and foaming at the mouth, and these friggin things release a foul smelling liquid that they secrete from their butt glands which smells like putrefaction. The particular Astoria Opossum in the shot above decided to forgoe the stiffening and foaming, and instead went directly for the corpse smell.

Zuzu was fit to be tied over that.

The juvenile one I spotted a couple of days later did the whole stiffen up thing, complete with the curled up lips, especially when the dog charged at it. Friggin thing.

Zuzu completely bought the corpse act though. The dog danced around like she had just found the last dodo, so I shuttled her back inside before she decided to eat or hurt the friggin thing, and I gave her a dog cookie to commemorate her victory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the years, many sorts of critters seem to have have turned up on my porch. Birds of all sorts – including a seagull and a nest of sparrows, raccoons, rats, mice, squirrels, and just about every kind of insect you can think of from digger wasps to centipedes. Now we’ve got a possum. This is all above the ground, of course.

Makes me wonder, and more than wonder, what else there may be lurking around in the underworld of sewer and subway tunnels under Astoria. There has been a foul wind exhaling from the sewer grates of late, and DEP workers have been observed operating heavy equipment at access holes all along the avenue.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden down there?

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2016 at 11:00 am

practical use

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Reading is fundamental.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, when my phone rings, it’s seldom a call I want to receive. Luckily, when the chime sounded the other day and the caller ID said “Jimmy Van Bramer,” it actually was a call I wanted to get.

It wasn’t “the man” himself, rather it was one of his staff members ringing me up, letting me know that they were going to be doing a press event just down the road from Newtown Pentacle HQ at the Broadway Branch of the Queens Library.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The point of the event was to announce that JVB and the council had secured several million dollars of funding for the libraries of Queens, which are VERY well used, to stay open six days a week as opposed to five.

As you can see, Jimmy Van Bramer brought a few of his colleagues out to the neighborhood, including the Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along with the Speaker, which is a singularly great title to have IMHO, Andy L. King of the Bronx – who is chair of the Council Subcommittee on Libraries – was present, as were the heads of the three systems – Dennis Walcott of the Queens library, Linda E. Johnson of Brooklyn system, and Tony Marx of the New York organization.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a gaggle of press there as well, from local and citywide news sites and papers and stations. As is my usual habit, I left the “press pit” to get some shots of the third estate as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

JVB’s neighboring Councilman, Costa Constantinides of Astoria, was also present as (previously mentioned) were the heads of the three library systems of the City (New York Public, Brooklyn, Queens) which will all receive funding to stay open for the extra day every week. The Council people present made a point of saying that this new funding will be permanent, but we’ll have to see if that one plays out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Queens library, which I seldom use – it should be mentioned, as I’m an “internet” guy – is well embraced by the neighbors hereabouts. Many, many people I see on the train are reading library books.

It’s great to see that it’s actually going to be open six days a week now.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

small item

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Thunderstorm action, and the Boss of The Tacos, in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You might recall that on the afternoon of Thursday, the 14th of July, a crazy powerful thunderstorm washed through the City. It happened that one was out and about, running errands, and as always I had my camera with me when the skies grew dark. What was weird about this storm was that it presented a nearly vertical line, and that to the east – skies were blue and the sun shining.

This created some VERY interesting lighting effects. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The whole neighborhood here in Astoria knew that there was a deluge coming, and everybody was scurrying around trying to accomplish one last thing before sheltering from the coming storm. Personally, knowing that I’d never get back to HQ before the rain hit, a quick visit to my local bar allowed me a bit of cover and had the corollary benefit of allowing a pint of beer to be poured in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rain blew in along a wall shaped vector, and the air was suddenly filled with what had to be hundreds of thousands of gallons of water in a few seconds. As is typical of thunderstorms, however, the event only lasted for around twenty minutes or so. That’s about how long it took me to quaff my pint of beer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As there is no better moment, air quality wise, in NYC than the half hour or so following a storm like this, I decided to order a second pint and settle alongside a familiar table outside. That’s when this enigmatic food truck rolled by, which was emblazoned with a screed reading “The Boss of The Tacos.”

There is a reason, after all, that I carry a camera with me everywhere I go. Astoria Queens rules.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details

Cancelled due to extreme weather, will be rescheduled.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

explosive circumstance

with 3 comments

Who can guess, all there is… BOOOOOMF… Holy Crap!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My plan for today’s post was originally going to involve fireworks, of the 4th of July variety. Wednesday night at about Midnight, however, my corner suddenly exploded. It seems that the patch job Consoldiated Edison performed in Astoria after the Great Astoria Blackout of 2006 is beginning to get a bit long in the tooth.

After a blast of bluish flame, yellow brown smoke and orange fire began to shoot out of the manhole.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in another post earlier this week, I’m the one who – when he “sees something,” then “says something” so I called 911 with one hand while reaching for my DSLR camera with the other.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This all happened right around midnight, and at about five minutes past, the next block – specifically 44th street between Broadway and 34th avenue – went dark. Even the street lights went out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In NYC, when an emergency strikes, you want God on your side. When the FDNY gets there, God can move on to other things – as they can handle most things. Several FDNY units arrived, and set up a cordon around the burning transformer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fire guys began knocking on doors and inspecting basements for carbon dioxide build ups, and there were a bunch of them sticking probes into the sewers and unaffected manholes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Safety tape went up just as NYPD arrived, who took charge of redirecting traffic from FDNY and began answering questions from the residents of the affected block. Before you ask, I wasn’t affected, which was very lucky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After about an hour and a half, a Con Ed Emergency truck arrived with two guys in it. They began to assess things and the fire guys started getting ready to leave the scene. The manhole was still smoldering, but it was only emanating a trickle of white vapor by now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Con Ed guys opened the street, and then more of them began to arrive.

When I woke up Thursday morning, there was an army of them at work down there, rewiring and rekajiggering. There was also a giant pile of media trucks. WABC was here, so was NY1, and Channel 11 too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is actually the sort of thing which was intended for today, but… as I often say…

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

Upcoming Events and Tours

Tuesday, July 12, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. –
LICHenge, with Atlas Obscura and the
Hunters Point Park Conservancy. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

tried every

with one comment

I mentioned this over the weekend to my Facebook peeps, now it’s your turn…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An old friend of mine recently hit a bit of a health crisis. Surgery ensued, and she’s having a bit of trouble with the purely existential part of her life during recovery – food shopping, laundry, the lifting and carrying sort of stuff. Our Lady of the Pentacle and I volunteered to help her out, and last Saturday our plan involved an afternoon trip to Hunters Point to help out with “whatever.” Before you ask: a) my old friend doesn’t live in one of the new buildings (it’s one of those century old and quite rickety walk up jobs on Jackson where she has lived for literally decades), and b) there was no connection between Court Square and the IND station at Queens Plaza due to maintenance work so we took the R from Astoria and hoofed it the rest of the way.

That’s not the story, though, that’s just the setup.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, this was Fourth of July weekend, of course. The news was abuzz with the news that NYPD was operating a full scale and City wide security operation, and that Hunters Point in particular was going to be focused on due to the gathering at the waterfront to watch the fireworks. I call it the Homeland Security Kabuki show, for various reasons. Pretty standard stuff, in the age of the Terror Wars.

What wasn’t standard was the steel cylinder, which appeared to be some sort of garbage can, sitting on the 46th street subway platform. Having “seen something” a humble narrator thereupon went over to the MTA Station Agent housed in the booth and let her know that the incongruous item was there. She indicated that the authorities would be alerted, and I boarded the incoming R train having “said something.”

As a note, when I arrived at Queens Plaza, I walked over to the NYPD office at the end of the platform and informed the on duty officer of the situation – and also showed him the picture positioned above. He seemed concerned about it.

I was thanked and told that it would be investigated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the 114th precinct being what it is, when Our Lady of the Pentacle and I returned to the 46th street station some three and change hours later… the curious cylinder was still there and clearly unmolested or investigated. That’s when I posted about my experience, and made sure that our local Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was tagged in my missive. He let me know that he had contacted the precinct and that it would be dealt with. In my neighborhood, JVB is the motive force of all things, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, the council member has a unique ability to twist the dials and move the levers of the municipal machinery.

The thing about Queens which drives me absolutely mad is why it is that when someone “sees something” and “says something,” you still need a high government official to cajole the freaking cops into doing their damn jobs. As far as the MTA station agent goes, she probably didn’t have the union certifications for dialing the phone.

I think it’s the International Brotherhood of Button Pushers, Local 5, who does that. You also need three Union carpenters on duty, but you always need three carpenters for some reason.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Tuesday, July 12, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. –
LICHenge, with Atlas Obscura and the
Hunters Point Park Conservancy. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

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