The Newtown Pentacle

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Mitch Waxman, working for YOU!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pathway which will allow access to the bike and pedestrian lane of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is pictured above, a terrifying “last mile” section which is owned by the City. This is the approach at “Queens Midtown Expressway” or “Borden Avenue” (depending on whose map it is) which you get to via a southward journey along 43rd street in Sunnyside. It’s also the onramp for the BQE, and there’s nothing separating you from traffic other than a three inch curb. If you’re wondering, this is actually a fairly well used foot path between industrial Maspeth and South Sunnyside – so it’s not just me.

Why do I go this particular way? I’ll show you at the end of the post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Inviting, ain’t it?

A humble narrator is ringing the alarm bells here for a fairly simple reason, the Kosciuszcko Bridge construction project is meant to be opening the second and final half of the project up to traffic (of all kinds) by the end of the summer, at the latest. The City, which is supposed to have been redesigning this section of things (they own it), hasn’t been shown to have started any risible progress yet. Supposedly NYC DOT has a design, but where is it? Shovels in the ground, boys?

I’d be happy with a bunch of jersey barriers, truth be told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For years, literally years, I’ve been keeping an eye on this one.

I cannot tell you how many times in Western Queens that I’ve had the sudden realization that the sidewalk I was scuttling on led onto a highway. One time, after leaving St. Michael’s cemetery, the section of Astoria Blvd. I was walking along suddenly became the shoulder lane of the Grand Central Parkway as the sidewalk just ended.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This path leads to a pedestrian bridge, one that the K Bridge project has recently constructed as a replacement for a far older but similar lane. Friends who grew up on the southern flank of Sunnyside tell me that this path was well familiar to them growing up, and that the road and sidewalk conditions found in the shot above date back to their earliest recollection.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just last week, I was walking through here and spotted the condition above. Hadn’t been through in about a month, so it’s possible this collapsed in sewer grate had been lying in wait for an errant tire to enter it for weeks.

Here’s the “working for you part.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First things first, you document it. That’s me and the camera in the shadow on the left. Second, you report it.

Now, here’s the thing… I often have trouble making 311 or 911 operators understand that Queens has hyphenated addresses. Also, it took several paragraphs of text and a few photos to describe the location and condition of this place to you, my quite savvy and well traveled Lords and Ladies of the Pentacle. Additionally, this was a dangerous situation and I feared somebody could be seriously hurt if their tire entered the hole.

Prior experience with road condition and damaged sewer hatch reporting (yep, lots and lots of prior experience) has taught me that it can take weeks for the City to dispatch somebody to do repairs. They’ll send the cops out to throw down a traffic cone, but otherwise – weeks. I’m “Mitch Waxman” however, so a quick scan of the contact list on my phone allowed me to contact the K Bridge team’s Community Liason’s office, who in turn alerted the NYC DEP, whose sewer it is. DEP dispatched an emergency squad within the hour and they had the thing all fixed and repaired by the next morning. On the repair front, I let my pals at Jimmy Van Bramer’s office know about all the goings on and how great I thought it was how the K Bridge team and DEP handled the situation. That was also in the name of “reporting it” since JVB’s office keeps a list of complaints and problems in his District and since this one wouldn’t come to them via 311 or 911, there you are.

Nobody gets hurt. Street boo boo all better now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other side of the “last mile” path, there is a permanently installed concrete separation between you and the onramp of the BQE. Where it slopes down and ends is the demarcation point of NYC and NYS’s property lines, or so I’m told. Want to guess why they’re there?

Yeah, that was me, suggesting it to the Engineering Team at K Bridge sometime back in 2012 or 2013.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal “Special” Ed once described his ideal job title as “freelance unsolicited criticism,” which would take the form of waking into a bank and decrying the arrangement of the padded ropes leading to the tellers, whereupon he would then hand them a bill for his services. I don’t charge, but I fear that I’m living out Ed’s dream. Ed used to live downstairs from me in an apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, one which was packed with high school and college friends. We lived a life disturbingly reminiscent of “Seinfeld,” I’m afraid. Ed had nothing in his refrigerator save for a single glass of water and a spoon, and stored his clothing in the kitchen cabinets. I miss Ed.

Pictured above is the K Bridge from that pedestrian ramp dealie which carries you over the onramps to it from the LIE onto Laurel Hill Blvd. at the border of Maspeth and Blissville, and between the Kosciuszcko Bridge and First Calvary Cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is why I go this particular way. The view.

Just imagine what treasures await, when the ped and bike path is open. That’s presuming you don’t get squished by traffic on your way here, and end up in there.

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DUKBO, in today’s all ‘effed up post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, no, I didn’t get any shots of the Astoria Borealis. I was too busy running around HQ and unplugging all my gear. Not my first Con Ed rodeo here in Astoria, and experience has expensively taught me to unplug the gear when weird electrical things are occurring. Now, back to…

Laurel Hill Blvd. used to be the legal border between Maspeth and Long Island City, and in those halcyon days before NYC consolidation, nobody used the term “Queens.” They sort of made that one up in 1898, the Tammany boys did. This “angle” between neighborhoods is often visited by a humble narrator, and given the deserted and lonely condition of the place it’s where one such as myself belongs. I shouldn’t be around people, preferring as I do the darkness found amongst these places of abandonment, broken pavement, and poisoned soil.

At this particular moment, still reeling from all the smiling and comraderie of the holiday season, one is not unlike a regularly beaten animal – vicious and ready to bite.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst hanging about the fencelines of a cemetery at night, as one does, I was busy mentally considering my “book of rules,” specifically the section that discusses the verbalization or offering of threats. My “book of rules” is a codified series of truisms which I’ve created or collected for myself over the years. Every man should have a code, I believe. Mine includes “say what you do and do what you say,” amongst others, but in the case of the “threats” subsection of the larger “aggressive behavior” chapter heading I’ve been thinking about adding a few things lately. There’s a couple I’ve picked up from others like Nietzche’s “regret is like chewing on a stone and has the same result” or Shaka Zulu’s “never leave an enemy alive or he will rise again to strike at your throat.” Mainly, these revisions to the code revolve around, and advise, specificity. There’s a whole section on “That’s how they getcha” which advises against ordering pasta as a main course in restaurants, but that’s a different story.

On the threat front, it’s far more effective – in my experience – to offer “I’m going to take your eyes” or “I’m going to break your arm, the left one, above the elbow” than more generalized statements revolving around the kicking or punching of the various sections of an enemy’s anatomy. Also, “I’m going to end you” is just way, way too vague.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I’m out at night taking photos of junkyards and construction sites, one is attempting to use every watt of brain energy he’s got, which isn’t much so I have to ration. In addition to watching out for the approach of vehicular traffic or malign examples of the local population, and avoiding obstacles or pitfalls in my path, as I’m composing photos and operating the camera, there’s generally an audiobook or podcast playing through my headphones. In another layer of thought, I’m engaging in an inner dialogue which focuses on times I’ve been wronged without redress (the shot above involved reliving the time in Third Grade that Karen Yee told the teacher that I’d kicked her on the stairs while our class was going down to assembly. I was innocent then, and now, and Karen Yee can burn in the hell of liars). Yet another layer is constantly revising the codification of the “Book of Rules” which, as mentioned above, revolve around several topics. “Don’t eat shellfish at the start of a vacation,” for instance.

Also, I had to pee.

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My beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting thing about night time tripod based photos, which take fairly long intervals to capture, is that you become quite familiar with traffic patterns on area bridges. One was out fairly late on a Sunday night recently, shooting from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and attempting to execute the shot above in between traffic light signal rotations. Finding a twenty five second interval, even forty minutes after midnight on a Sunday night, in which a heavy truck or MTA Bus is not crossing the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge and causing it to shake, vibrate, or heave… is a challenge.

There were about six shots on my camera card previous to the one above which were ruined by the sudden appearance of a speeding garbage truck, bus, or oil delivery semi and their somewhat seismic effect on the bridge. Such is life, I suppose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Things were a bit quieter back on Greenpoint’s Apollo Street, the titular epicenter and official discovery point of the Greenpoint Oil Spill. Once upon a time, this was the dividing point between two of Standard Oil’s refinery facilities (both of which later became a part of Mobil), but today it’s just a wasted little street end defined by a former BP Amoco and now Kinder Morgan petroleum distribution tank farm. The eastern side of the street is owned by the Manhattan/Empire Beverage Distribution company, a warehouse based operation that accomplishes the holy task of stocking NYC’s bars and liquor stores with product.

I’ve never met the Empire Beverage people, but I’d personally like to thank them for facilitating my life long love of degeneracy and for several besotted episodes of happiness that have punctuated my otherwise miserable existence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, at night, the sections of the Newtown Creek industrial zone where you’d expect things to be buzzing 24 hours a day are rather quite peaceful. It’s basically you and hundreds of feral kitties back here. There are weird moving shadows you’ll spot out of the corner of your eye snaking along the rooftops, which are often accompanied by a chittering sound that I do not like, but the less said about that the better.

There are some things you do not want to say too much, or know anything about, quite frankly.

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Hello, sweetie, it’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent afternoon’s excursion to South Brooklyn and the Bush Terminal area in Sunset Park saw a humble narrator sitting in the passenger seat of my pal Val’s car as we inched through heavy traffic on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Val is a photographer as well, and as we were riding along she revealed that her car had a sunroof. Out came the camera as we approached the ongoing construction site of the Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement.

We were driving, of course, on the completed first phase of the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a weird perspective on this particular spot, where not two years ago I was standing around with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams waiting for an inspection tour of the project to start. We were all done up in hard hats and orange vests. A little over a year ago, this is pretty much the spot I was shooting from when Governor Cuomo cut the ribbon for the thing. My memory bank includes several bizarre experiences, it should be mentioned.

Walking on the BQE with a Congresswoman, Borough President, or the Governor is one. Another is walking through a subway tunnel with MTA brass, and others include walking on the roadways of the Queensboro and Manhattan bridges for extended stretches. Really, the last decade has been odd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Traffic was moving, albeit slowly, and while moving along I continued with the “spray and technique” system of image capture. That’s when you set your exposure and point the camera in the general direction of something and start depressing the shutter release button over and over in a somewhat blind fashion. I’m kind of sorta looking through the diopter, but the camera isn’t pressed against my face in the normal fashion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, one of my little quirks involves saying hello to Newtown Creek whenever I’m passing over it in a car, something close friends and our Lady of the Pentacle are quite used to. Val chuckled a bit while operating the vehicle as I intoned “hello, sweetie, it’s me. I’ll see you later, as I’m going to visit your sister Gowanus today.”

Hey, if you got as little love as Newtown Creek does, you’d appreciate it if somebody took notice of you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There she is!

I cannot describe how much I’m looking forward to the photo opportunities that the completed K-Bridge project will offer, as the pedestrian and bike lanes will be pretty much be offering this paricticular view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We crossed over the Creek and into infinite Brooklyn, where we hit a continuing traffic jam that lasted all the way to Sunset Park. More on what me and my pal Val saw in South Brooklyn next week, as this, your Newtown Pentacle.

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Why does everybody keep on asking me how to dispose of a human body?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s one of those questions that seems to come up in connection with Newtown Creek, for some reason, and random folks will jokingly ask a humble narrator about it at least once a week. On Tuesday, which was spent first at the Waterfront Alliance Conference on a boat in Manhattan (I was asked twice) and then speaking about the BQX project at Hunters Point Civic Association (asked once) one had to offer the same answer three times. A) The Waste Transfer people (garbage or recycling) would definitely notice it and call the cops as modern day environmental laws demand strict governance of what’s in the garbage they handle, B) if you stuck a corpse in the waters of Newtown Creek it would just stay there and be discovered – which would also result in the cops getting involved at which point “the jig is up.” In fact, not just its tributary waterways but the entire East River is a terrible choice for this sort of thing. If you threw a volleyball into the East River at Hunters Point, you’d be able to see it get pulled back and forth by the tide for days, transiting between the Williamsburg Bridge and Roosevelt Island. Eventually, it would get pulled towards Hell Gate, where it end up snagging onto the shoreline somewhere in either northern Queens or the Southern Bronx.

Hudson River or Jamaica Bay, that’s the ticket for human remains.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the old neighborhood in Brooklyn, there were several members of a well known and self organizing fraternity of Italian gentlemen present who occasionally had the need to dispose of former associates. Infamous, there was a “crew” run by a guy named Roy which operated out of a bar called the Gemini Lounge on Flatbush Avenue (just off Kings Highway) and handled such matters for a certain high ranking fellow named John that lived in Howard Beach and conducted his business at the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan. This crew’s specific line of work involved automobile theft, but they were also – allegedly – tasked with enforcing organizational discipline for the citywide organization.

Their methodology, as described in court documents, involved the usage of power tools in pursuance of dismemberment. The “pieces” were then packaged into discrete paper bags and tossed out automobile windows on the east bound Belt Parkway, or hidden in the flow of residential garbage headed to the Fountain Avenue landfill, with the idea that either the crabs would take care of the evidence for them or that the parts would be hidden in the tonnages of trash poured into pits. I can tell you that back in the 1980’s, it was not an entirely uncommon thing for “parts” to be found abandoned in the shoreline sand lots found between Fountain and Emmon Avenues in this stretch of Brooklyn. I used to ride my Apollo 3 speed bike around in this area, after school, and can report that Jamaica Bay seems to have been a choice spot for all sorts of disposal activities.

Of course, this is the era when medical waste such as used hypodermic needles still regularly washed up in the tide, so “organics” were the least of your worries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hudson River is the aqueous equivalent of an express train, with a fearsome current that roars towards the narrows and open ocean. Nefarious types I’ve known over the years have always indicated that their choice of “spots” for intact waterborne disposals involved a nocturnal trip to the south eastern shore of Staten Island. This is all hearsay, of course, as a humble narrator has always been too much of a “wuss” to ever involve himself with such affairs. Additionally, coming from a neighborhood which was renowned for both the benefits and negatives of the presence of these self organizing fraternities of Italian Gentlemen, the best advice I can offer to anyone is to walk out of the room when they start discussing such matters. You can’t “unknow” something, and once you’ve heard it you’re a potential witness against the speaker and could very well end up being eaten by the crabs in Jamaica Bay.

The Newtown Creek is where amateurs like serial killer Joel Rifkin would attempt to dispose of a body, making the job of the NYPD an easy one.

Three times on Tuesday, I had to repeat the screed above. Three times.

Upcoming Tours and Events

May 12th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

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May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.

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