The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Blissville’ Category

accursed sorceror

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It’s National Butterscotch Pudding Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My route on the Calvary Cemetery walk I conducted a couple of weeks ago enters the Cemetery on the Review Avenue side, by the old Penny Bridge. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, my habit is to walk out the route of a walking tour a couple of days prior to committing it, so one headed over to First Calvary in the name of doing just that.

I had badly misjudged my clothing choices, in terms of dressing for the weather when leaving the house, as it had gotten quite warm and humid as I was walking from Astoria to Blissville and one was clothed for fall rather than summer. Not wanting to walk down the sun choked sidewalk on Review Avenue in such uncomfortable clime, I instead entered the polyandrion via the Greenpoint Avenue gates and cut across the property in the direction of the Penny Bridge entrance – hoping that the cover of the tree canopies would provide some surcease from the radiations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself. This sojourn provided me with few trees unfortunately. An interval in a distaff section of the place that I seldom visit occurred instead. As always, the needs of the camera outweigh the needs of the man, so I toughed it out and suffered through the heat. As an aside, my headphones were in my ears, and I was participating in a group call with the environmental community of Newtown Creek and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency regarding the ongoing superfund process. For those of you reading this who were on the call, this is what I was doing while we were talking.

The shot above looks out at the intersection of Greenpoint Avenue/Review Avenue/Vandam Street at the off ramp of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, shot from the heights of Calvary’s walls, for the vulgarly curious.

I always have an ulterior motive, it seems, or at the very least – I’m a champion level multitasker.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My ulterior motive this particular day involved gathering a few last shots of the 1939 Koscisuzcko Bridge, whose final destruction is imminent. Any day now, it’s going to be “energetically demolished” with explosive charges. I’m not spilling any beans when I say it was meant to be this Sunday – the 24th (the commander of the 94th precinct in Greenpoint took care of that one), but that date has now been moved back once again. It’s not for me to say when the date is, but it won’t be long now, I may or may not have been told.

The path carried me along the high masonry wall of First Calvary, and along the southern border of the place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along said path, I encountered this tree. Like all the trees which throw their roots down into the loam at Calvary, I can assure you that it’s fed by a morbid nutrition. The rather thorough cocooning of its branches and leaves though, filled me with an existential dread of the sort only condemned men would know.

I’m all ‘effed up. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There seemed to be some of sort of insect civilization at work within the webbing. If the old adage that “you are what you eat” holds true, the reality of this hidden hive lurking in a tree rooted in the nitre choked soil of Calvary Cemetery – found in a place called Blissville along the fabulous Newtown Creek – one would not like to inquire too deeply into the life cycles of these organisms.

Conversely, I want to know EVERYTHING about the little buggers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One took a wide berth around this tree, lest its inhabitants center their interest upon a humble narrator.

You can’t be too careful, I always say, around the tomb legions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path continued along the high masonry wall of First Calvary, towards the Penny Bridge gates and the Alsop Cemetery, which was ancient when the Dutch lost regency of this land to the British. By this point, my error in judgement regarding garment choices and weather were dragging my energy down, it should mention. As my grandmother would have said – I was all f’shvitzed. Fatigue related to heat began to set in, and only one expression of resigned horror was able to escape my lips.

Oy, it’s so humid

Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm

enough rumors

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My habit, when conducting a walking tour on any given Saturday or Sunday, is to rewalk the route a couple of days in advance of the actual event. The reason for this is twofold – first to scout any new or emergent obstacles along the path, second to reacquaint myself with all the little details. In the case of First Calvary Cemetery, which I conducted a tour of just last week, it’s about getting all the sight lines lined up. Everybody who comes to Calvary with me on one of these walks always comments about how I “find the needles in the haystack” so easily. Short answer is that I do, in fact, know the place like the back of my hand. Long answer is that I was just there a day or two ago and walked out the route to ensure that I don’t end up looking like a dope searching for the grave of Esther Ennis (the very first interment, which is marked by a tiny foot stone) in front of a group of people.

Accordingly, a couple of days before the tour, I trekked over to Blissville from Astoria to take a walk amongst the tomb legions. As always, the camera was dangling at my side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a 24/7 line up of traffic on Greenpoint Avenue where drivers wait at a traffic light to enter the onramp for the Long Island Expressway, and of late two enterprising fellows have been working the lineup. The gentleman on the left is selling bottles of water and other consumable items to the passing motorists, whilst the fellow in the middle of the street is holding up a cardboard sign proclaiming his destitution and adjuring them to donate charitable contributions to help him weather an existential crisis.

There’s some kind of parable at work in the comparison between their two approaches at survival. Boot straps versus appealing to guilty compassion, that sort of thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever approach any of us have evolved at survival, however, is ultimately pointless and doomed to failure.

All roads lead to Calvary, as they used to say back in Manhattan’s Five Points during the 19th century “Gangs of New York” era. If you think about it, that’s kind of a relief. Whenever my pal Mattie the Vampire back here in Astoria discusses Constantinople, he gets a sad look in his watery yellow eyes, and I get the sense that immortality – or at least Mattie’s version of it – ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 18, 2017 at 11:00 am

beaten man

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It’s National Coffee Ice Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering around Long Island City with the camera is kind of “my thing.” Ordinarily, I’ve got one of my H.P. Lovecraft audiobooks blaring away in my headphones. More often than not, there’s some destination at Newtown Creek I’m heading for, as I was when these shots were gathered. On this particular day, I front loaded some “wander” time into the equation which allowed me to take a rather circuitous route to my eventual destination over in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section.

I also wanted to “check in” on an area which I’ve not visited in the last few months to see if anything novel was happening. This area would be best described as the “angle” between Sunnyside and Blissville along Van Dam Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s three moments in the history of LIC’s Van Dam Street to take note of. One occurred in 1909 when the Queensboro Bridge began to feed vehicular traffic into “Queens Plaza,” another was in 1914 when the newly consolidated City of Greater New York funded a project to raise the grade of Van Dam street several feet in elevation, and the other was in 1940 when the Long Island Expressway opened. The 1917 appearance of the IRT Flushing Line subway service on what was Thomson Venue but was soon renamed “Queens Blvd.,” is also kind of important (this was about 1921, I’m told).

Van Dam is angled against the street grid of the Blissville section of LIC, but its generally north/south path leads to Greenpoint and North Brooklyn from its start at Queens Blvd. Apparently, there used to be trolley service on Van Dam, which was a part of the Steinway Line. The street is named for the Van Dam family, which was quite prominent in both City and the future State back in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of them, Rip Van Dam, was the governor of the British owned New York colony from 1731-2.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Moses didn’t start the Queens Midtown Tunnel or Long Island Expressway projects, but by the time they both opened for business in August of 1940 they were firmly a part of his empire. It took four years to build the tunnel itself, and the high speed road that snakes into it runs eastwards for some seventy one miles. As you can see from the shots above and below, not much thought was paid into what would happen to the runoff from the highway.

It just splatters down onto LIC and into the sewer grate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is nothing unusual, and I’ve been informed by the powers that be that not one of NYC’s many bridges, tunnels, or highways is directly connected to a sewer plant – even the brand new Koscisuzcko. Rather, they all just feed into storm sewers, which then release into area waterways. The world is a joyful place, for one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This section of the Long Island Expressway, officially known as the Queens Midtown Expressway, carries an average of 80,000 vehicle trips a day to and from the Queens Midtown Tunnel. That’s 29.2 million vehicle trips annually.


Upcoming Tours and events

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


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

spittle flecked

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It’s National Banana Split Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting the Penny Bridge area of my beloved Newtown Creek and looking westwards across Greenpoint towards Manhattan. I’ll be conducting a walking tour of Dutch Kills in LIC tomorrow, link and details below, if you’d like to come along. Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day to take a short walk along a long creek.


Upcoming Tours and events

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2017 at 1:46 pm

military order

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last bit of Kosciuszcko Bridge oriented coverage in today’s post, and then we’ll get back to the whole Sunset Park thing next week. As you may have heard, last week the band of warriors who had vowed to defend the old bridge with Wolves and Fire gathered on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek in the Blissville section of Long Island City.

You bet that I made it a point of attending this one, and there’s part of the horde pictured above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was only one wolf. Actually, she was a shepherd/husky mix named Wendy and one of the sweetest critters I’ve ever met, but… wolf!

The chief of the warriors is pictured above as well, a fellow named Brian, who was also a fairly sweet critter. There was no fire, but it was a fairly hot day on Saturday the 22nd, so the last thing we needed were torches.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These “Kosrahki” began their march to the bridge, brandishing weaponry and bristling with hostile intent for the NYS DOT, and the “false bridge” which they described as a brightly lit harlot and pretender.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Warlord Brian read a prepared speech, commanding the new bridge to fall into the Newtown Creek. It disobeyed his orders, as a note, which caused a hostile reaction from the group.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quoting from their Facebook page:

“Join a band of dedicated warriors as we gather our strength and battle against the invasive Bridge-bringers who are our sworn enemies. All you faithful supporters of the TRUE KOSCIUSZKO BRIDGE know that the TIME OF FIRE is upon us, and we must bring pain to our enemies and their allies.

Join us as we form a circle of sword wielding human warriors and their wolf warrior brethren and sistren. Together between the strength of WOLF AND IRON we shall bring defeat to our enemies, and the true KOSCIUSZKO BRIDGE shall stand for another day, and the imposter FALSE BRIDGE shall fall into the seas of Newtown for all eternity.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Frustrated, the group headed over to the Bantry Bay bar on Greenpoint Avenue, to drown their sorrows in grog after the campaign.


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 narrating, and discussing 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

July 28, 2017 at 11:00 am

long tenancy 

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A break from the travelogue of last week’s journey to Sunset Park, and an archive image of the Kosciuszcko Bridge is offered today. One found himself spending better than twelve hours yesterday in Greenpoint documenting the removal of the central truss and is accordingly a bit crispy around the edges this morning. There’s an entire post in the works on the removal of the central truss, but for today, a single shot is offered. I’ll be back at the Creek today to get shots of it being barged out.


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

wide remark

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It’s National Cheese Souflee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So far, I’ve never tired of seeing the old Koscisuzcko Bridge from the roadway of the new one, but then again its only been around three weeks that the thing has been open. One is curious as to the reactions all of y’all have had at the sight of the new span, how it’s been working out for you so far, all that sort of thing. I’m on the Stakeholders Advisory Committee, so if there’s something specific or pithy you’d want me to bring to officialdom, let me know and I’ll pass it on to the powers that be.

Today’s first two shots were captured from behind the windshield of a car, in case you’re wondering. What I was doing in an automobile, of all things, is something which I’ll tell you about in a future post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The driver of the car I was in is one of my neighbors from back here in Astoria, if you’re curious, but I had engaged his services in the context of his being a professional and TLC licensed driver. Again, I’ll tell you why I needed a ride at a later date. Our path didn’t just include a crossing of the Koscisuzcko Bridge, but also involved a trip into the City as well. That’s the Roosevelt Island Tram hurtling over the Queensboro Bridge, pictured above. Very exciting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weeks ago, I conducted a Newtown Creek tour for a group of European college students, and my pals at Sims Metal Management were gracious enough to allow the group to visit the Newtown Creek Pier facility maintained by the recycling company. Sims has a contract with DSNY to handle the “MGP” or “metal, plastic, glass” recyclable trash we put out on the curb, and they were engaged in the process of collecting it from the white packer trucks maintained by the agency for the task. The stuff ultimately gets barged out to another Sims facility, where it’s sorted.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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