The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Flatbush’ Category

venous dissections

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Beginning, middle, end.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I always like to remind people that there’s a bridge on both sides of Flatbush Avenue. You’ve got Leo Moiseff’s showstopper on the north side spanning the East River – the Manhattan Bridge – but everybody always forgets about the one on the south side – the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. Given that the latter was a particular “feature” in the old neighborhood, as it allowed us Brooklyn hooligans access to Queensican Riis Park and the Rockaways, since it spends its time spanning Jamaica Bay.

I tell everybody I’m from Canarsie, because that’s a place most people have heard of in southeast Brooklyn. Technically speaking that’s true, I went to high school on the western fringe of Canarsie, but where my parents put down roots was actually an “angle” between neighborhoods called Futurama. Yes, Futurama.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Flatbush is the Brooklyn neighborhood everybody has heard – or hoid – of. Pictured above is the graveyard of the Dutch Reformed Church, which HP Lovecraft vandalized, at Church and Flatbush Avenues. In the background is Erasmus High School. To the south and east of this spot in Flatbush is Flatlands. If you made a left or eastbound turn on Flatlands Avenue, you’d have Crown Heights to the north (or left) until you got to Ralph Avenue. At Ralph, looking to the south (or right) you’d find the neighborhoods of Futurama, Georgetown, Old Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, and Mill Basin. Once you cross Ralph Avenue and continue eastwards on Flatlands Avenue, you’re in Canarsie until you get to Pennsylvania Avenue near Starret City and then you’re in East New York.

Futurama was a housing development built in the late 1950’s on landfill surrounding Paerdegat Basin and Jamaica Bay, as are the neighborhoods of Georgetown and (new) Mill Basin. The particular spot which my parents chose to settle was equally distant from the terminal stop of the L line at Rockaway Parkway and the terminal stops of the 5 and 2 Lines at Brooklyn College. It was a good two to two and a half mile walk in either direction for the subway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The southern end of Brooklyn, and of Flatbush Avenue, is at the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. It’s a vertical lift span installed over the water at the behest of Robert Moses back in July of 1937. When it opened, it was the largest specimen of this sort of bridge on the planet. Just over the bridge on the Queens side is Breezey Point and Riis Park.

As mentioned, there’s two bridges on Flatbush Avenue.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 16, 2018 at 11:00 am

warnings and prophecies

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2011’s Greatest Hits:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In January of 2011, while walking along in knee deep snow, your humble narrator happened across this enigmatic and somehow familiar item sitting in a drift at the NYC S.E.M./Signals Street Light Yard of the DOT at 37th avenue near the Sunnyside and Astoria border. It looked familiar to me, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was until sharp eyed reader TJ Connick suggested that this might be the long missing Light Stanchion which once adorned the Queensboro Bridge’s Manhattan landing.

These two posts: “an odd impulse“, and “wisdom of crowds” discuss the discovery and identification in some detail.

Some good news about this iconic piece of Queens history will be forthcoming, but I’ve been asked to keep it quiet for the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In February of 2011, “Vapour Soaked” presented a startling concurrence of comparitive detail for the discerning viewer, when the shot above was presented in contrast with a 1920’s shot from The Newtown Creek industrial district of New York City By Merchants’ Association of New York. Industrial Bureau, 1921″, (courtesy Google Books).

Admittedly, not quite as earth shaking as January’s news, but cool nevertheless. I really like these “now and then” shots, expect more of the same to come your way in the future.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In March of 2011, “first, Calvary” discussed the epic (for me) quest to find a proverbial “needle in a haystack” within First Calvary Cemetery- the grave of its very first interment, an Irish woman named Esther Ennis who died in 1848. I have spent an enormous amount of time searching for this spot, where Dagger John Hughes first consecrated the soil of Newtown.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In April of 2011, the world lost one of its best people and my official “partner in crime”, Bernard Ente.

He was ill for awhile, but asked me to keep the severity of things quiet. He passed in the beginning of April, and one of the last requests he made of me (along with “taking care” of certain people) was to continue what he had started along the Newtown Creek and all around NY Harbor.

This was when I had to step forward, up my game, and attempt to fill a pair of gargantuan boots. Frankly, I’m not even half of who he was, but I’m trying. That’s when I officially stepped forward and began introducing myself as a representative of Newtown Creek Alliance, and joined the Working Harbor Committee– two organizations which Bernie was committed to. I’m still trying to wrap my head around his loss.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In May of 2011, while attempting to come to terms with my new roles in both organizations, it was decided that a fitting tribute to our fallen comrade would be the continuance of his annual “Newtown Creek Cruises” and the date of May 21 was set for the event. An incredible learning experience, the success of the voyage would not have been possible without the tutelage of WHC’s John Doswell and Meg Black, NCA’s Katie Schmid, or especially the aid of “Our Lady of the Pentacle” and the Newtown Pentacle’s stalwart far eastern correspondent: Armstrong.

Funny moments from during this period included the question “Whom do you call to get a drawbridge in NYC to open for you?”.

During this time, I also became involved with Forgotten-NY’s Kevin Walsh and Greater Astoria Historical Society’s Richard Melnick and their ambitious schedule of historical tours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In June of 2011, the earliest Newtown Creek Chemical Factory which I’ve been able to find in the historical record, so far, was explored in the post “lined with sorrow“- describing “the Bushwick Chemical Works of M. Kalbfleisch & Sons”.

Additionally, my “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” was presented to a sold out and standing room only crowd at the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

This was also the beginning of a period which has persisted all year- in which my efforts of behalf of the various organizations and political causes which I’m advocating for had reduced my output to a mere 15 or fewer postings a month.

All attempts are underway to remedy this situation in 2012, and apologies are offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In July of 2011, another Newtown Creek boat tour was conducted, this time for the Metropolitan Water Alliance’s “City of Water Day”. The “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” was also performed at the Admiral’s House for a packed room.

Additionally, my so called “Grand Walk” was presented in six postings. This was an attempt to follow a 19th century journey from the Bloody Sixth Ward, Manhattan’s notorious Five Points District, to Calvary Cemetery in Queens. Once, this would have been a straightforward endeavor involving minimal connections of Trolley and Ferry, but today one just has to walk. These were certainly not terribly popular posts, but are noteworthy for the hidden and occluded horde of forgotten New York history which they carry.

From the last of these posts, titled “suitable apparatus“- “As the redolent cargo of my camera card revealed- this “Grand Walk”, a panic induced marathon which carried your humble narrator across the East River from St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan into Williamsburg and up Grand Street to Maspeth and the baroque intrigues of the Newtown Creek– wound down into it’s final steps on Laurel Hill Blvd.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In August of 2011, “the dark moor” presented intriguing aerial views of the Newtown Creek Watershed, and “sinister exultation” shared the incredible sight of an Amtrak train on fire at the Hunters Point Avenue station in Long Island City. “revel and chaff” explored the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in LIC’s Zone A, and an extraordinary small boat journey around Dutch Kills was detailed in: “ponderous and forbidding“, “ethereal character“, “pillars and niches“, and “another aperture“.

This was an incredible month.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In September of 2011, a posting called “uncommented masonry” offered this declaration:

” By 1915, there approximately 40,000 automotive trucks plying the streets of New York City.

What’s surprising is that 25% of them were electric.

Lords and ladies of Newtown, I present to you the last mortal remains of the General Electric Vehicle Company, 30-28 Starr Avenue, Long Island City– manufacturer of a substantial number of those electrical trucks.”

I’m particularly fond of this post, as this was a wholly forgotten moment of Newtown Creek and industrial history which I was able to reveal. Organically born, it was discovered in the course of other research, and I believed at the time that it was going to be the biggest story that I would present all year about Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In October of 2011, a trio of Newtown Creek Tours (two public and one for educators) were accomplished. The public tours were full to capacity, as were the Open House New York tours I conducted on the 15th and 16th of that Month. Also, the Metropolitan Water Alliance invited me to photograph their “Parade of Boats” on October 11th, and I got the shot below of the FDNY Fireboat 343.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In November of 2011, a visit to Lovecraft Country in Brooklyn was described in “frightful pull“, and “vague stones and symbols” came pretty close to answering certain mysteries associated with the sky flung Miller Building found at the foot of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A December 2011 post titled “An Oil spill… in Queens” broke the news that petroleum products are seeping out of the bulkheads of Newtown Creek, this time along the Northern shoreline, which lies in the Queens neighborhood of Blissville.

Rest assured that your Newtown Pentacle is on top of the story of “the Blissville Oil Spill”, lords and ladies of Newtown, and will bring you breaking news as it develops in 2012.

frightful pull

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the hot part of the summer of 2011, Kevin Walsh was planning one of his Second Saturday tours, and as your humble narrator had agreed to assemble the tour booklet for the outing- I was along for the ride, which is how I ended up in in Brooklyn (the “lands of my boit”). My mom used to refer to this intersection of Flatbush and Church Avenues at “flatboosh and choich” when I was a kid, spoke in hushed tones about “the shawpping dat uzed to be dere”, and my dad avoided it like the plague because of the traffic.

The highlight of my trip to Brooklyn that day was that I was going to Lovecraft Country.

Here’s what Mr. Kevin Walsh of forgotten-ny said about the place

Flatbush Dutch Reformed has had three incarnations: a wood structure built on orders from Governor General Peter Stuyvesant in 1654, a stone building in 1699, and the current one built from Manhattan schist dating to 1798. The churchyard goes back to the church’s very beginnings and contains stones inscribed in both English and Dutch. Among the many stained glass windows are a few by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The tower contains a clock and bell that are dated 1796, plus a 10-bell chime that was cast by the Meneely Foundry of Troy, N.Y., and installed in 1913.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who are not enormous nerds, H.P. Lovecraft was a writer who lived in Brooklyn for awhile, but he always longed for his New England homeland. Weird Fiction was his bag, and his work survived him. H.P was a dedicated long distance walker, and an amateur historian who made the best of his time in New York visiting significant and historically interesting sites all over the City.

“Lovecraft Country” is a fan term for the fictional locations and mythic locales described so vividly by the author, and refers to coastal Massachusetts more often than not. In Brooklyn though, things are real, and so is “Lovecraft Country”.

from wikipedia

Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church Complex, also referred to more simply as the Flatbush Reformed Church, is a historic Dutch Reformed church (now a member of the Reformed Church in America) at 890 Flatbush Avenue and 2101-2103 Kenmore Terrace in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. The complex consists of the church, church house, parsonage, and cemetery. The congregation was founded in 1654. The 2 1⁄2-story stone church building was constructed in 1796 and features a stone tower with stone belfry. The stained glass windows are by Tiffany studios and commemorate the descendants of many early settlers of Flatbush. The church house is a 2 1⁄2-story red brick and limestone building. The parsonage is a 2 1⁄2-story wood-frame house moved to its present site in 1918. The cemetery is the last resting place of most of the members of the early Dutch families of Flatbush. The earliest legible grave marker dates to 1754.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While exploring the place for myself, as Kevin (and Newtown Pentacle’s Far Eastern Correspondent Armstrong) was dying from heat exhaustion and taking cover in the shade of a venerable oak, one thing that gained my attention were the names on the stones. Suydam, Martense… These are character names from some of Lovecraft’s stories. Lovecraft saw evil in New York City, and was terrified by the tight quarters and crowded streets which distinguished the immigrant era. (He was of course, kind of a racist, very much a product of his time- don’t forget how common such tribalism was, and how novel and new the non ethnocentric and very all inclusive “progressive politique and so called meritocracy” is).

Kevin and Armstrong both guzzled water, but I was not parched and required only further explorations.

H.P. Lovecraft said

My coming to New York had been a mistake; for whereas I had looked for poignant wonder and inspiration in the teeming labyrinths of ancient streets that twist endlessly from forgotten courts and squares and waterfronts to courts and squares and waterfronts equally forgotten, and in the Cyclopean modern towers and pinnacles that rise blackly Babylonian under waning moons, I had found instead only a sense of horror and oppression which threatened to master, paralyse, and annihilate me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the places which comes up again and again in his writings is this very churchyard, apparently it left quite the impression upon Lovecraft, and inspired his story “The Hound”. He confessed to desecrating this graveyard, incidentally, which is strictly against Newtown Pentacle policy.

This is also why I don’t guzzle water while in graveyards, as such quaffing will inevitably result in the need for urination, which might lead to desecration.

(First Calvary in Queens has two well maintained and world class public lavatories at the entrance gates, btw.)

H.P. Lovecraft was actually here in 1922

On September 16, 1922, Lovecraft toured the Flatbush Reformed Church in Brooklyn with his friend Rheinhart Kleiner, writing about the visit in a letter:

Around the old pile is a hoary churchyard, with internments dating from around 1730 to the middle of the nineteenth century…. From one of the crumbling gravestones–dated 1747–I chipped a small piece to carry away. It lies before me as I write–and ought to suggest some sort of horror-story. I must place it beneath my pillow as I sleep… who can say what thing might not come out of the centuried earth to exact vengeance for his desecrated tomb? And should it come, who can say what it might not resemble?[

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This particular parcel of “Lovecraft Country” has an awful lot of New York City history associated with it, Peter Stuyvesant and the “Degenerate Dutch” and all that. Road extensions of a toll road called Flatbush Avenue past a watch tower… Frankly, the sort of “historian history” which your humble narrator always bolloxes up. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Rob Schweiger, Brooklyn’s borough historian, and he can offer a far more cogent history of this place than I can. So can the oft mentioned Kevin Walsh.

I can tell you a lot about Newtown Creek and it’s locale, but this part of colonial Brooklyn ain’t my bag.

from “the Lurking Fear”, courtesy hplovecraft.com

No one outside the backwoods had believed these varying and conflicting stories, with their incoherent, extravagant descriptions of the half-glimpsed fiend; yet not a farmer or villager doubted that the Martense mansion was ghoulishly haunted. Local history forbade such a doubt, although no ghostly evidence was ever found by such investigators as had visited the building after some especially vivid tale of the squatters. Grandmothers told strange myths of the Martense spectre; myths concerning the Martense family itself, its queer hereditary dissimilarity of eyes, its long, unnatural annals, and the murder which had cursed it

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t know why I’m always drawn to cemetery trees, a humble narrator will confess, but there’s always something about these vegetable growths fed by an obvious and morbid nutrition. An ominous portent, a spooky resonance, a dissonant note. For some reason, my perception leads me to see shapes in their whorls and crags, shapes which form into recognizable “things”- much like searching for the shape of a dragon in cloud formations.

The scientifically minded call it Pareidolia.

from “The Horror at Red Hook”, courtesy hplovecraft.com

Suydam was a lettered recluse of ancient Dutch family, possessed originally of barely independent means, and inhabiting the spacious but ill-preserved mansion which his grandfather had built in Flatbush when that village was little more than a pleasant group of colonial cottages surrounding the steepled and ivy-clad Reformed Church with its iron-railed yard of Netherlandish gravestones.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t think I get enough sleep, that’s what it is. It renders me highly suggestible, and perhaps I should drink some more water, and follow Mr. Walsh’s example when visiting “Lovecraft Country“.

from wikipedia

Oneirophrenia is a hallucinatory, dream-like state caused by several conditions such as prolonged sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, or drugs (such as ibogaine). From the Greek words “ὄνειρο” (oneiro, “dream”) and “φρενός” (phrenos, “mind”). It has some of the characteristics of simple schizophrenia, such as a confusional state and clouding of consciousness, but without presenting the dissociative symptoms which are typical of this disorder.
Persons affected by oneirophrenia have a feeling of dream-like unreality which, in its extreme form, may progress to delusions and hallucinations. Therefore, it is considered a schizophrenia-like acute form of psychosis which remits in about 60% of cases within a period of two years. It is estimated that 50% or more of schizophrenic patients present oneirophrenia at least once.

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