The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Steinway Street’ Category

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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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.


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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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

displayed during

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It’s National Peanut Butter day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Occasion carried me towards Brooklyn recently, at a chronological interval during which the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had already dipped behind the mysteries of New Jersey. Accordingly, I packed up my “night kit” and headed south from “Point A” in Astoria and down to the flood plains of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

My night kit, as previously mentioned, are my two Sigma zoom lenses – the 50-100 f1.8, and 18-35 f1.8, as well as a trusty Canon “nifty fifty” 50mm f1.8 prime lens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path was simply scouted. Heading south along Steinway and across the “Carridor” of Northen Blvd., west on Skillman and then south to the Pulaski Bridge, across Newtown Creek, then west on Greenpoint’s Franklin Avenue, and then south to my destination on Williamsburg’s north side near Berry street.

This somewhat photogenic route resulted in the crossing of wonders and landmarks like the Sunnyside Yards, the Skillman Avenue Corridor, and the legendary Newtown Creek. I could have just taken the train, but then you don’t get to see the wonders of Western Queens and North Brooklyn on your way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t help but utilize one of the many “holes in the fence” at Sunnyside Yards which I’ve mapped and catalogued over the years ,and grabbing some shots of a passing rush hour Long Island Railroad unit heading towards Woodside and points further to the east. Gotta love the interlockings, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One turned right (or west) onto the Skillman Avenue corridor, and the incredible horizon of rampant gentrification it displays. In pre industrial times, just a block or two away, you’d have been able to visit a “pest house” where suffers of contagious diseases were quarantined and left to die by their loved ones.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Skillman Avenue took me to Queens Plaza, where one crossed under the tracks of the 7 Line and across one of the worst pedestrian intersections in all of NYC. Drivers here exhibit the same sort of behavior as stampeding cattle in this spot, moving from the feedlot to the abattoir.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In my opinion, should the large scale decking of the Sunnyside Yards, as proposed by our Mayor – the Dope from Park Slope – happens, it will encompass the area pictured above will be first, an acreage which spans the area between Thomson Avenue and Queens Plaza. There’s a triangular section found at Jackson Avenue and 21st street which will happen initially, but that will merely be an air raid siren signaling the coming of the Luftwaffe over London. This is where the blitzkrieg will happen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once the “Subway Building,” which housed both the offices of the Borough President of Queens and those of master builder Michael Degnon, the Paragon Oil building is being converted from a documents storage building over to office space as you read this. This seems to be “stage 2” of the LIC buildout, the construction and conversion of former industrial buildings over to commercial – rather than residential – usage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Subway Building overlooks the Hunters Point Avenue stop of the LIRR, and sits astride the Hunters Point stop of the IRT Flushing – or “7” – line. The LIRR station is criminally underused by the MTA, IMHO.


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evil expectancy

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Manic paranoia, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, whilst bringing a check to the bank for deposit, one overheard two gentlemen of the street comparing notes. The younger of the two informed his colleague that the Bush family were in fact reptiles, but he wasn’t sure if they descended from us or if we descended from them. His colleague asked if their reptilian heritage related back to their habit of drinking human blood. The former indicated he did not know.

You can’t make this stuff up, I tell you. What if they’re right? What if it’s all true?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my Croatian neighbors told me that you can catch cancer in the manner of a cold. My own mother was convinced that electricity could arc out from the wall outlets, and required the usage of little plastic plugs for otherwise unused power orifices. The world is a scary place, presumably.

I’m scared, and of pretty much everything and everyone. There’s a threat rich environment to be had on every street corner, and the only thing missing from NYC are jets of flame erupting from random spots in the sidewalk. What if an air conditioner fell on you from some eighth floor window? What if it was pushed by some acolyte of those blood drinking reptilians? That little blur of movement in the corner of the room around the baseboards? That could be a mouse, but it could also be something far worse, although it’s likely a mouse – which is disturbing enough, actually.

What lives, or exists, between the walls of all the apartments is not something you want to think about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The world is a scary place, full of existential horror and banal traps. The little plastic or metal tips on shoe laces are called aglets, and their purpose is sinister. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton patrol the landscape at night seizing people’s precious guns. HAARP is listening, but who is listening to HAARP? FEMA is building vast concentration camps nearby the airports – prison camps for political dissidents.

Heh… why do you think the City wants to replace Riker’s Island, really? Humanitarian concerns? Heh, how naive are you anyway? Heh.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2016 at 11:00 am

noisome herd

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There really is no hope for the future, is there?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor saw a humble narrator headed eastwards towards the ancient hillocks of Maspeth from Astoria, and since time was short, a bit of the old mass transit was called for. My plan involved getting to Elmhurst by train and grabbing a Q53 bus at Queens Blvd. which would carry me up the surprisingly steep slope that 69th street is set into to my eventual destination nearby Borden Avenue and the LIE. Accordingly, one found himself at the estimable Steinway Street stop of the R and M lines.

This particular subway station is one of two I frequent, the other being 46th street. Both are in somewhat deleterious condition, as least as far as the passenger visible areas are concerned, but are fairly serviceable. A bit of steam, bleach, and elbow grease could work wonders for these facilities but… well… the borough motto is… after all… Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a lot of fingers you can accusingly point at our commonly held municipal employees, particularly the ones who work for the NYCTA division of the MTA. The transit system is the last true home of trade unionist sentiment, and often it seems that if a fire was to break out down in the sweating concrete bunkers that the trains move through, it would be allowed to spread if no representative of “Fire Alarm Pullers Local 103” were present.

Fair enough, I guess, as the Union guys and gals who work down here are battling against the Doctor Doom of faceless bureaucracy on a daily basis. Nobody beats the MTA for what the military would call “fold up fucktard” policies, or at least that’s what I’ve been told by people who work for them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The situation, however, pictured above isn’t the fault of either Union Labor nor Albany Wonk. This one is on us. There’s observably been a growing issue with litter citywide, wherein entire generations of New Yorkers seem to have been able to get all the way from Kindergarden to College without once being exposed to the concept that you shouldn’t just abandon your trash wherever you feel like it. The concept of finding a proper receptacle for trash is alien to most, it would seem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Never mind the eclectic collection of beverage containers and bits of paper, who tosses a soccer ball into a Subway pit? If a train’s leading edge caught this ball in Astoria…

Seriously, what is wrong with you people, would you do this at home?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not to be a scold, but here’s the way it’s supposed to work:

If you have generated trash during your daily rounds – say, a water bottle or crumpled up piece of foil from a sandwich or something – you are meant to hold on to it until you spot a proper receptacle. Said receptacle is called a “garbage can.” A group of Municpal employees will ostensibly come by at somewhat regular intervals to empty these cans. What you don’t do is a) just drop it, b) throw it onto the Subway tracks.

I swear, what this City needs is a good plague.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 3rd, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 22, 2015 at 11:17 am

drifting sand

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Sigh… the Steinway Mansion, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of controversies I generally stay away from, the Steinway Mansion is one.

My plate is full, frankly. I’ve got Sunnyside Yards, Newtown Creek, and a good stretch of the East River to worry about – which virtually no one else pays any attention to. The Steinway Mansion is found on the forbidden north coast of Queens, in an off putting industrial zone which isn’t exactly a visually stunning spot.

Frequent Newtown Pentacle commenter George the Atheist has been paying close attention to the controversial sale and development of the Steinway Mansion property, as has the Greater Astoria Historic Society. As I said, my plate is full, but last week I decided to scuttle over and take a gander at what’s going on.

If this mansion was in Brooklyn, or Manhattan, it would have long ago been landmarked and protected – but as you know the borough motto is “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighborhood surrounding the former home of William Steinway, who is the actual father of Astoria (William Hallett and or Stephen Halsey usually get the credit, but Steinway created the modern shape of things in the same way that Neziah Bliss did in Greenpoint), is less than inspirational but it is highly useful. The good news is that this section hosts a blue collar “M1” zone that employs thousands, but its mills and warehouses are mostly products of the 20th century – which means not terribly interesting to look at, and ugly as sin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mansion itself survives simply because it was used as a private home, but the fellow who owned it died of a heart attack during a snow storm while waiting for EMT’s to cross unplowed streets – which is where I refer you back to the borough motto offered in the first paragraph of this post.

His family offered the property for sale, which was snapped up by some developer. Said developer carved up the expansive properties surrounding the mansion, and is erecting a series of sure to be hideous warehouse buildings upon it. My understanding is that the mansion itself will survive, but it’s going to be hemmed in and shadowed by said warehouses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Steinway Mansion is, as mentioned, found on the forbidden north coast of Queens.

The NYC DEP maintains the 1939 vintage Bowery Bay sewage treatment plant there, and there’s a host of industrial businesses and energy infrastructure in the area. About a half mile east, the Rikers Island bridge is found, which offers access to the massive jail complex maintained by the City of New York.

Berrian’s Island used to be out in the bay – a bit to the north and east – but the water between it and Astoria was landfilled in and connected. That’s why the street intersection which serves as Steinway Street’s terminus is shared with a road called Berrian Boulevard, a street which I think used to be called “Winthrop.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The north side of Steinway and Berrian is home to a power plant, called Astoria Energy. It’s still under construction, and will use a combination of oil and natural gas turbines to generate electricity. The elected officials of Astoria take great pride in the fact that they were able to close the fabulously filthy Pollitti (thx Gary) Poletti Power Plant over on the East River side of the neighborhood, but seldom mention that they bent over backwards to allow Astoria Energy to come into being.

Welcome to Queens. Now, go fuck yourself.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

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