The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Steinway Street’ Category

dark nether

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They brought the show to me!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator spends a great deal of time and effort trying to find something interesting to take pictures of. Often, upon stumbling across an interesting scene, one has to think fast about how to manipulate the camera in unfamiliar settings. Imagine then, my happiness when the most familiar of settings – the stretch of Broadway here in Astoria that I live along – was suddenly plastered with orange signs proclaiming that a road paving operation was nigh.

The shots in the embedded YouTube video above were gathered over the course of a few nights. Terrifically dusty and noisy, the first night saw a road milling contractor at work scratching away the asphalt roadbed of Broadway. On two subsequent evenings, workers of the NYC DOT arrived with a lot of heavy equipment to lay down a new asphalt roadbed. They were pretty noisy as well, and then there’s that delicious hot asphalt smell…

No sound on the slideshow video above, so no need to listen for something. Not yet, anyway. Hint, hint.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Upcoming Tours and Events


Thursday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Greenpoint Walking Tour w NYCH20

Explore Greenpoint’s post industrial landscape and waterfront with Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman.

Click here for ticketing and more information.


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 19, 2019 at 11:00 am

corner pivot

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How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, anyway?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may think the delivery truck pictured above represents some sort of madness. This is not madness, this is Sparta…

I’ve been waiting about two years to make that joke, so thanks for indulging a humble narrator in his puerile goals. I notice this particular truck all the time in Astoria, making deliveries of flour and other whatnots to the local bakeries and bagel shops. They’re a local business, Sparta is, operating out of a building opposite Rainey Park on Vernon Blvd. One is resisting the further urge to make a thousand jokes revolving around the movie “300,” write a detailed history of the Laconian Peninsula over in Greece, or describe the many attempts to penetrate the Astoria markets which the Persian Bakery Supply people have been denied over the years by these Spartans.

The Persian Bakery Supply people have said that “if we can get a single bagel shop to use our services, we could take over the entire neighborhood and expand our empire.”

Spartan Bakery Supply always replies to the Persians, laconically, with “if.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the quirky things about Astoria is the habit that early 20th century real estate developers had in creating “courts.” A court, in this context, is an open space designed either for the entryway of a large building or one that exists between two distinct structures, and it provides for light and air circulation in residential units that would otherwise have none. The one pictured above is on Steinway Street between 34th Avenue and Broadway, and the shot was captured during a doctors visit for Zuzu the dog. Just a checkup for my increasingly elderly pup, whereupon she got a fairly clean bill of health. Zuzu is getting old, is a bit plump, and seems to have some sort of issue going on with her back – according to the doc. Since dogs are “all back” that’s a worry, but both the ravages of advancing age and the conqueror worm are inevitable, so there you are.

Personally speaking, I’m feeling the decades more than ever these days. Luckily, Zuzu and I have gone gray at the same time so we match. She looks like a giant possum, though, whereas I’m starting to look like Dr. Zaius from “Planet of the Apes.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Long Island City, where new construction driven by the fiendish avarice of the Real Estate Industrial Complex has finally burst through the barriers long provided by the Pulaski Bridge on one side and the LIRR tracks on the other, this trio of feral predators was observed the other day. I’ve mentioned a few times the novel approach to controlling vermin on industrial properties which I’ve observed in LIC, wherein one omits the expense and consequence of employing an exterminator – with their noxious chemicals – and instead embracing the presence of the omnipresent feral cat. Most of these wild kitties have been sterilized by “TNR” (trap, neuter, release) services. You can tell that because they have had the tip of one their ears clipped.

The “bird people” hate this concept, since the particular speciation which they advocate for are predated by these cats. Personally, I’m willing to take a few dead pigeons in return for not having watered down chemical weaponry like Malathion spritzed all over the place. Using cats to control rats and mice is part of what I mean when opining that smartly using natural mechanisms to control the urban environment is the way forward. There’s unintended consequence, of course.

Remember that Daffy Duck cartoon where Daffy has a mouse in his hotel room? The one where Porky Pig is the manager? Porky first sends a cat up to the room to get rid of the mouse. Then a dog to get rid of the cat, a lion to get rid of the dog, and an elephant to get rid of the lion. How to get rid of the elephant? Send the mouse back in. Someday, before Zuzu and I age off of this planet, I’d like to see herds of wild elephants roaming around LIC. Word has it that Persian Bakery Supply once deployed delivery elephants in their never ending quest to cross the Spartan Bakery Supply lines but it didn’t go well for them.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

mere nerves

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One in the chamber, safety off, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

How I love watching the humans dance. The jockeying for position, the desire to be recognized and loved by their “betters”… their sincere belief that you can reason with the unreasonable and make lemonade when life gives you lemons. Trying to make the best of a bad situation? Seeking to find common ground with somebody who wants to kill or replace you? Is the knife at your throat clean at least?

Maybe there’s still too much Brooklyn in me, but when someone tries to hurt me I hurt them first, and in a way that they will remember. Maybe there’s too much inheritance in me from the side of my family descended from the Jews of Russia, but when the Cossacks arrive you can either make them disappear and send riderless horses back to the barracks or they will make you disappear. They were sent to harm you, and no amount of talking to the Cossacks will bring them over to your side. They will cut your head off and play polo with it in the village square, then rape your mother. You mean nothing to Cossacks, employed as they are by a foreign despot, and they will make a game out of destroying you and yours for their own advantage in the eyes of their god king.

When the Cossacks come and announce they want to deck over the Sunnyside Yards, you fight them. End of parable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is continually dismayed by those who dismiss the memories of the last hundred encounters with the Cossacks, thinking that since there’s a new Tsar on the throne that this time things will go differently. Mounted Calvary soldiers sent by a despotic regime to visit distant peasant villages seldom arrive bearing either gifts or good news. Neither do real estate industrial complex employed governmental development teams have the best interests of long established communities in mind when they announce the desire to construct mega projects.

As a note, the Sunnyside Yards people have been walking this project around in Manhattan. A group of architecture students I met, who were taking a theoretical stab at the project, included a kid from China who commented to me that “this project would be so easy to do in Beijing, since you wouldn’t have to worry about community sentiment or input.”

Cossacks. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have you noticed how much the city planners seem to hate cities?

They abhor the chaos, the organic growth, the unpredictability of it all. They want to create shopping mall corridors instead of streets, lined with neat panes of glass. They are Cossacks, who pine for depostism.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 5, 2019 at 2:30 pm

sordid waylaying

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I don’t like Mondays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 22, 2018 at 1:30 pm

induced hypoplasia

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Odds and ends, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, when one refers to “street furniture,” the term applies to lamp posts, fire hydrants, benches, or any of the other bolted to the sidewalk bits of kit that the City of Greater New York installs here and there. In Western Queens, and especially in any of the neighborhoods which were once part of the independent municipality called “Long Island City,” street furniture is a cast off chair or couch which has been abandoned on the curb. The one above has been resident at the corner of Steinway Street and “terty fourt avensues” for a while now.

As a note, I have a personal preference for fabric covered furniture rather than items which are clad in plastics or animal skins. During the summer months, you end up “sticking” to them and getting up from such an accoutrement can be quite uncomfortable. For any of you reading this who have been planning on buying a living room set, my advice has been offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Sunnyside Yards scene above was captured from the vantage offered by one of the many, many fence holes which one such as myself maintains a catalog of. This is late in the afternoon, when a significant number of train sets are being stored at the coach yard. New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and the Long Island Railroad store rolling stock here in LIC in between the rush hours. When the “busy time” arrives, these train sets will begin to either start rolling through the tunnels to Manhattan or head eastwards towards Woodside and Jamaica to fulfill their purpose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It laughs at us, the thing which dwells in the cupola of the sapphire megalith of Long Island City. Looking down at the pedantic world of men through its three lobed burning eye, this inhuman thing which does not breathe nor sleep but instead only hungers has been hanging in the sky above LIC since 1992, when this great dagger was driven into the heart of Queens.

As above, so below. Rumor has it that some fifty stories below the poison mud and concrete devastations of Long Island City is where you’ll find the actual forges and fiery engines of gentrification, stoked and tended to by this impossible entity’s armies of acolytes.


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small pit

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I don’t actually do that much shooting in Astoria, for some reason.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning home to my section of Astoria (Broadway in the 40’s) on the southern extant of the neighborhood is easily accomplished. Steinway Street allows for a quick walk, although I could have easily hopped on the Q101 bus and gotten to HQ even quicker. Saying that, it’s only about ten fairly long blocks from 19th Avenue to Broadway, so why not walk?

Not going to see anything interesting from a vehicle, and I won’t be getting any photos if I’m on the bus, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The northern end of Steinway Street is exactly the sort of desolate industrial zone which I normally inhabit. You’ll notice the RV and the sleeper van on the corner of 19th avenue, I imagine. In recent years, more and more of these sorts of vehicles have been turning up in my shots. The sleeper van actually had a generator on a hitch which was running. There’s folks living in them.

I know someone who lives in an RV which you might notice around the Newtown Creek. This person is saving for retirement by not paying rent, despite enjoying a high paying Union job at a major utility company. Not bad, as that’s some gordian knot style lateral thinking right there. Somewhat illegal, of course, but let’s face it – things are illegal in NYC only if there a cop around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Residential Astoria is not my “cup of tea” to photograph, but I decided to break my rules for once and did a few tripod setups on my way home. In general, I don’t wave the camera around at residences unless they are something extraordinary or there’s some historical tale that revolves around the building.

Also, it makes the neighbors antsy and the last thing I want is to have to talk to anyone while I’m focused on shooting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Astoria Blvd., and the gateway to “Little Egypt.” The area is so called because of the huge concentration of middle eastern restaurants, peoples, and a large Mosque which can be found just south of the corner.

The shot is captured from one of vehicle/pedestrian bridges which spans the Grand Central Parkway which Robert Moses jammed through Astoria “back in the day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Grand Central feeds to and from the Triborough Bridge in a trench which Moses’s engineers cut into Astoria, forever severing the north and south sides of the neighborhood. Lifers in the neighborhood will refer to the area north of the highway as “y’know, Ditmars” or “Astoria, Astoria Bro.” To the south, they’d say “tertieth avensues” or “Broadway” to describe the zone your domicile is found in. There is some debate about “terty fourt avensues” being Long Island City or Astoria , a status which might be debated fiercely by Mumbly Joe, Mattie the vampire, or Glazier Chris at the local saloon.

I prefer the neat borders offered by Woodside Avenue to the east, and Northern Blvd. to the south to define this particular edge of the neighborhood. Things get a bit wiggly along the border with the Dutch Kills section of LIC, but it’s generally agreed that their border with Astoria is defined by Crescent Street and 36th avenue. Don’t dare mention Ravenswood to Mumbly Joe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal, Greenpoint historian Geoff Cobb, makes a joke when he speaks in public that he’s lived in Greenpoint for thirty years so he’s just now not being considered a newcomer by the lifers. Same logic applies to Astoria, and even though I’ve lived here for fifteen years, the lifers will tell me I’m “fresh off the boat.”

As a note to long time residents of Astoria, my aunt Yetta has recently passed on at 99 years of age. You will likely remember Yetta as the owner of the “Three R’s” card shop on 30th avenue nearby the train at 31st street, a storefront which was next door to the butcher. Her actual name was Ethel, but the Greeks hereabouts back in the 70’s had trouble with that and renamed her Yetta – which stuck.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Blissville Stories Film Screening –
with Newtown Creek Alliance. Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222.
Click here for trailer.

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

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

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