The Newtown Pentacle

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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.


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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.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 5, 2019 at 2:30 pm

concise malfeasances

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Finishing up the Soundview ferry trip.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYC Ferry Soundview line trip I’ve been describing all week, which started at Pier 11/Wall Street and then proceeded northwards along the East River to stops at first 34th, and then 90th street, before heading into the narrows at Hells Gate and Bowery Bay. The route actually gets you fairly close to two of the most difficult to reach islands in NY Harbor, the Brothers (North and South). Setting foot on either island is forbidden, as they’re both bird sanctuaries. Saying that, I’ve been on South Brother in the past, having gone there with the NY Audubon Society. North Brother is pictured above, and it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to get to, despite the legendary number of ticks and other hazards which its meant to provide a home to.

North Brother is about 20 acres in size, and is owned and operated by the NYC Parks Dept.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That building is the mortal remain of Riverside Hospital, which relocated itself from Welfare Roosevelt Island in 1885. Riverside specialized in quarantine illnesses like smallpox and tuberculosis, and it’s where Typhoid Mary was imprisoned for over twenty years. Mary, whose real name was Mary Mallon, died on North Brother in 1938. In 1904, North Brother was where the General Slocum disaster came to an end, with the boat beaching onto its shores and where the bodies of over 1,000 of the disasters victims washed up. Riverside continued on through the middle to late 20th century, during the 1950’s and early 60’s, it was an adolescent addiction hospital. Corrupt management and changing circumstances saw the City shutter the facility in the early 1960’s, and the buildings were abandoned to the elements.

Until 1964, North Brother was formally part of first Long Island City (after 1870) and then Queens County (after 1898), but after the Parks Dept. took formal control of the island in 2001 and both islands became part of Bronx county in 2007.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are some pretty staggering views of the whole “soup bowl” as I call it, from the NYC Ferry’s Soundview line. Definitely worth your $2.75 fare, I would argue. Here’s a tip – download the NYC Ferry app to your phone and buy the ticket that way. The ticket stays active for 90 minutes, meaning that if – like me – you’re not planning on debarking the boat and just plan on riding it back and forth for lookie loo, you can do so on one fare.

Back on Monday with something completely different at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


“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 1, 2019 at 2:00 pm

alienists were

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Dag, I really got my $2.75 worth out of this ferry ride, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing my maiden voyage on the NYC Ferry’s new Soundview route, the boat left its (Manhattan) East 90th street dock and proceeded towards Hells Gate. This is a spot I often visit, but always from the landward side in Queens. Living in Astoria, a frequent destination when I’m out for a constitutional walk is Shore Road, which adjoins Astoria Park and provides commanding views of two bridges which I’m rather enamored with – the Triborough and Hell Gate. The former is just one part of a complex of automotive bridges built under the guidance of Robert Moses which opened in 1936. The latter is a rail bridge (OK, technically it’s a complex of bridges too) which opened in 1917, designed by Hornbostel and Lindenthal, and constructed by Carnegie’s American Bridge Company for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Hells Gate is formerly the most treacherous section of the East River, due to whirlpools and strong currents which wrecked hundreds of ships during colonial and early republic times. Its name is an anglicization of the old Dutch “Hellegaat” which refers to “a bright passage.” The hazardous conditions in this section of the East River were caused by the topography of the riverbed beneath the water, a situation which was dealt with by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in several stages during the 19th century. The USACE efforts culminated with an 1885 detonation of mined explosives that broke up the riverbed, an explosion which was the largest intentional detonation in all of human history until the Hiroshima atomic bombing in 1945 (debate about certain WW1 military actions does exist on this topic, btw.)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the Ferry moved northward towards its destination at the northern side of the Bowery Bay section of the river, we passed by the “Astoria Energy” power plant located on the forbidden northern shore of Queens. That nomen is one of my own little inventions, indicating the frustration a humble narrator often expresses when discussing the coastlines of the Borough. There’s a solid wall of “not allowed” secure sites along the shoreline, which is ultimately prosaic and appropriate, but still frustrating. You’ve got the power plant, then a sewer plant, then Rikers Island, and then LaGuardia Airport. The first time you might be able to get close enough to even see the water is at Flushing Bay.

Fingers crossed for an East Elmhurst or Flushing Ferry line, anyone?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve seen this POV a few times over the years, but it’s still pretty uncommon for me. That’s Randalls/Wards Island on the right, which used to be seperate islands until Mr. Moses made them one landmass as part of the Triborough project. Hells Gate and Triborough’s East River span are at center, and the former Politti Power Plant (which the Astoria Energy outfit now uses as its campus) are on the left.

More tomorrow, at your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 27, 2019 at 2:00 pm

possible cure

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On the boat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, I took a ride on the new Soundview line of the NYC Ferry recently in pursuance of scouting out a tour which I’m going to conduct along its route. Soundview is a long ride by the standards of the new Ferry system, some 46 minutes. It takes you north from Pier 11 Wall Street along the eastern shoreline of Manhattan with stops at 34th street and then at 90th street. Its path carries you along the rather familiar sights of the great bridges section of the East River (Brooklyn to Queensborough) and then proceeds into the River’s west channel between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan.

Pictured above is a tug towing an empty fuel barge southwards along the waterway. How do I know it’s empty? Look at how high the barge is riding in the water… that’s how.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The west channel of the East River is preferred for the passage of larger ships and maritime industrial traffic for a couple of reasons, most notably the absence of height restrictions due to the Roosevelt Island Bridge and the “no wake” zone around the Big Allis power plant in Queens’ Ravenswood section. The Soundview ferry uses this channel to proceed northwards, passing by notable Upper East Side landmarks like Rockefeller University in the East 60’s.

That’s another huge articulated tug and fuel barge in the shot above, operated by the Reinauer company. Articulated means that there are cabling connections which allow the Captain of the tug to operate the two entities as a single vessel. There is also a large cutout notch in the bow of the barge which the tug nestles into.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last stop in Manhattan is at East 90th street, whereupon the ferry route heads across the East River to the east channel, and heads into Hells Gate. Those of you with a historical mindset might already have an inkling of what this tour will be talking about, but let’s just say that a little bit more than a century ago on a nice morning in mid June, a large group of people boarded a boat just north of Wall Street at Peck Slip, and more or less followed this route. Things did not go as planned for them, and bad things happened. Very, very bad things.

More tomorrow, at your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm

horrors abroad

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Hallets Cove is spooky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here in Astoria, everything you see in the built up modern neighborhood historically grew out of Hallets Cove. This is one of the oldest “zones” in Western Queens, as far as the footprints of European Civivlization go. It’s kind of a back water overseen by the NYC Parks Dept. these days, sitting next door to the Socrates Sculpture Garden park found to the south and the NYCHA Astoria Houses are to the north. Just across the water from Hallets Cove – to the west – is Roosevelt Island, and beyond that is found the Shining City of Manhattan.

I walked over there the other night, with the intention of putting some newly acquired gear through its paces to gauge performance. Nothing too special, the gear. A novel sort of camera support and a new 24mm lens, both acquired during the discount period surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting thing I can report to you is that if you’re a seabird, Hallets Cove seems to be a preferential spot to sleep. There were dozens of ducks, geese, and gulls floating about, or hanging out in the intertidal zone, and sleeping. As you may notice in the shot above, there was also a quite awake Egret marching about. There’s about thirty seconds of accumulated light sucked up in the photo, which is why the Egret seems to be leading a conga line of Egrets.

Well, it’s interesting to me at least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hallets Cove is kind of spooky at night, especially when you leave the pavement and get down onto the sand. As mentioned in an earlier post, there’s only five sandy beaches on the East River that I know about.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 14, 2018 at 2:00 pm

expressed policy

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Arrrrgh!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been chasing a shot for quite a bit of time now, one which has eluded me with all the skill of a Bigfoot. I’ve gotten high in LIC looking for it, spent a lot of shoe leather wandering around Newtown Creek in a safety vest at night, and have even spent time in the Shining City during the quest. Frustrating is this particular pursuit, as although I’ve captured some nice imagery, “the shot” still remains elusive.

Above, looking eastwards from Manhattan at the notorious Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a matter of perspective, you see. I need to attain some altitude in order to get the right POV, a high rooftop or windowed enclosure in the east 20’s of Manhattan which will allow me to capture the Newtown Creek in some detail and provide a 3/4 down view of the waterway. Empire State Building would be perfect, but there’s all sorts of rules involved with shooting from up there (at night) which negate  that possibility. They ban the use of camera supports like tripods or stands up on the observation decks (which is reasonable, I suppose), but unfortunate for the shot I need to pull off would involve all sorts of “kit.”

I’ve asked everyone I know if they know anyone at the Empire State Building, which has received a consistently negative reply. I’m sure I can talk the ESB people into letting me have literally ten minutes up there with my setup if I had the chance, but…

Arrggggghhhh!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I will, somehow, get that shot.

Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. So, again, I’m putting out a clarion cry… If you are reading this and have access to a high vantage point on the extreme east side of Manhattan anywhere between 14th and 34th street (preferrably around 23rd street) and would be willing to let me roll by with camera and tripod on a clear night – I will be in your way for a maximum of fifteen minutes. Contact me at newtownpentacle@yahoo.com if so.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

contradictory reports

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I haven’t seen daylight for a while now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself hanging in the sky seems to no longer be a prerequisite for a humble narrator to get busy, huh? Darkness has always been my preference, as a note, which is why one greedily clutched at opportunities to work night shifts in the salt mines of the advertising industry over the years.

I’m not a morning person. I am a mourning person, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, my infinitely winding pathway towards dissolution and an unhappy ending found one wandering along the coastline of the shining city of Manhattan with camera in hand recently. It was quite a chilly night, and the filthy black raincoat was fastened tightly against atmospheric entropy. I’ve always been a believer that he’ll isn’t hot, instead it’s freezing cold, and that there are probably cynical efforts underway to build “affordable housing” underway all across the landscape of the Fimbulvetr.

According to Crains, Gehenna is the next up and coming neighborhood in Brooklyn, and there are serious real estate opportunities for the early investor. Follow the artists, they say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Williamsburg Bridge as seen from Corlears Hook, looking towards the realized dreams of avarice over in Brooklyn. I could not help but muse, as the camera did its work, how visiting this spot during the 1980’s at night would have been an akin to visiting a war zone and a serious risk to life and limb. The cops would have just been shaking their heads while staring at your shattered form, wondering why somebody would have been stupid enough to think they wouldn’t get jumped coming here at night with a camera. Alphabet City, that’s what it was called, the extreme east side of the City between Delancey and 14th streets.

As we used to say: Avenue A? Ay, you’ll be ok. B? Better be careful. C? Can’t go there. Avenue D? The “D” is for dead.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm

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