The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘FDNY’ Category

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It’s National Prime Rib Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent afternoon found one wandering about the waterfront in LIC whereupon FDNY’s Tiller Ladder 175 truck was encountered. For those of you not in the know, Tiller Ladders are those “old school” fire trucks with a driver at both ends. This one was Ladder 175, which normally spends its time over in East New York, but based on the patches worn by the FDNY guys driving it, I’d say that Ladder 175 was in the possession of the Fleet Services unit that day.

Fleet Services have several properties in Maspeth and in Greenpoint, all within spitting distance of the fabulous Newtown Creek, and you can often spot interesting equipment awaiting mechanical or esthetic attention.

from wikipedia

In the United States, a tiller truck, also known as a tractor-drawn aerial, tiller ladder, or hook-and-ladder truck, is a specialized turntable ladder mounted on a semi-trailer truck. Unlike a commercial semi, the trailer and tractor are permanently combined and special tools are required to separate them. It has two drivers, with separate steering wheels for front and rear wheels.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As opined many times in the past, a historically minded fellow is a fool if he tries to fill in the blanks when the subject is the FDNY. Every firehouse has an active duty resident historian who can tell you EVERYTHING about the units therein and the pre consolidation history of the individual firehouse, and there are legions of retired firefighters who know literally EVERYTHING about the department in excruciating detail. When the City created itself in 1898, all fire units in Brooklyn and Queens saw their unit numbers raised by “100,” so… if there was a Brooklyn Fire Department ladder unit back then it would have been “Ladder 75.”

Saying that, I don’t know if East New York was part of the BFD, or if it was an independent operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The design and purpose of the tiller models is built around turning the ladder unit around narrow street corners, which is accomplished through the use of the double steering mechanisms. The trucks are also quite a bit longer than the tower ladder units, which extend and telescope their ladders from a turntable. This means that the tiller trucks can carry more equipment and muster more firefighters than more traditional units.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the rear operators cabin, with steering wheel and other controls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As they drove away, I yelled out “are ya lost?” and “east New York is that way” while gesturing to the southeast.

You literally never know what you’re going to encounter in LIC, so it’s best to carry a camera, just in case.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

hushed conversation

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lots of odds and ends today. A supposition which opines that I live on the most exciting corner in Astoria continues to play out, as evinced by a deployment of the ever reliable FDNY the other night. It seems that one of the neighbors discerned the olfactory evidence of combustion emerging from a storefront occupied by the local bagel shepherds, which was a report which the FDNY responded to with a fairly large deployment. The fellows on the big red trucks soon determined that this was a false alarm, and it all ended up being just another Astoria hullabaloo. 

My suspicions that I live on the most interesting corner in Astoria will soon bear a different kind of fruit, however, as the trickle of water which I reported to 311 as bubbling out of a manhole cover on the next block – about two weeks ago – has now grown into a small flowing stream. Never quiet – here in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hypothetically – due to having had to sign a non disclosure agreement with the State of New York today, one cannot tell you where I am this morning or what I am doing. I am precluded from sharing photographs or discussing my visit to some mysterious location where my camera has been brought to today until some indeterminate time in the future when the embargo on such collected material has been rescinded by NYS officials. There are no specific penalties described for violating this embargo (which is odd), nor was it originally offered with an “expiry” date, which is fairly standard for such situations (an open ended NDA contract for such matters isn’t strictly “kosher” legally, anyway, and there’s also that whole first amendment thing which NYS doesn’t get to suspend). Saying that, a humble narrator made a big stink about the imposition of an open ended image embargo with certain hypothetical people whose offices would be found in some theoretical minor City – which would be found around two hundred miles to the north of the de facto Capitol of New York State at the other end of the Hudson River – and eventually I will be able to describe in some excruciating detail where I went this morning and what I saw at some later date whenever they decide it’s no longer a state secret. 

The photo of the two Kosciuszcko Bridges seen above is merely a decorative addition to this post – filler, if you will – and does not in any way indicate where I am, or what I may be walking upon or over as you’re reading this. The shot was gathered a week ago in Greenpoint, on April 9th, for the legally minded and prosecutorially inclined amongst you. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the bagel shop which drew the attentions of the FDNY to Astoria one recent night, while waiting for the bagel shepherds to construct a sandwich for me one recent afternoon, one was standing outside in the rain and glowering at passerby when I noticed these two pigeons working a flooded tree pit for bits of food and drinking from the puddles. Our normal flock of pigeons, who live in Astoria in fairly considerable numbers, have lately been harassed by a sudden explosion of super aggressive sparrows. This flock of avian bullies has been chasing the pigeons about, and driving them from their ledges. The Sparrows, on the other hand, have recently begun to be harassed by a bunch of Ravens. The multitudinous Sparrows will be loudly chirping when a single “caw” is sounded, which shuts them all up. Down below, the street cats watch, and wait. Luckily, after the bagel shepherds completed the construction of my sandwich, I was able to remove myself from this internecine urban warfare and return to the tranquil safety of HQ where my little dog Zuzu polices the behavior and habits of all the lower life forms. 

Gang warfare, of the feathered variety, affects us all. It’s best to have an elderly dog around to keep things straight.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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It’s UNESCO World Radio Day, in the member states of the United Nations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Owing to other obligations and piss poor weather conditions for the last couple of weeks, one hasn’t got anything new to show you for this week. Accordingly, it has been decided to instead present a few archive shots of the various branches of NYC government which make life liveable for us here in “Home Sweet Hell.”

Today, the focus is on the FDNY – the redoubtable Fire Department of New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The men and women of this municipal service are amongst the most visible manifestations of our collective willpower and substantial tax base, here in the five boroughs. It’s hard not to notice the sirens and flashing lights when they show up, either to quench a fire or to pick up some unfortunate soul who requires a speedy trip to the hospital. FDNY runs, regulates, and operates the EMT ambulance service in addition to their other more obvious duties involving fire prevention and the extinguishing of blazes they couldn’t prevent. They also govern the safety rules concerning public gatherings like stadium games, clubs, and concerts with a small army of inspectors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY has a spectacular Marine division, which in addition to many smaller vessels – includes the thoroughly modern and science fiction like “Three Forty Three” and “Firefighter 2” fire boats. Pictured above is the Three Forty Three, doing parade duty on the Hudson River.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 13, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in FDNY, Fireboat 343

Tagged with , , ,

hitherto baffled

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Santa Claus, Sunnyside, the Turks, and FDNY Ladder 163 – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Celebrating the forthcoming Saturnalia, on a stretch of Sunnyside’s Skillman Avenue, the community received a visit from Santa on Saturday the third of December. There was a street fair sort of thing, and all the local small businesses welcomed the arrival of both Father Christmas and the shoppers who followed him. The whole thing was orchestrated and underwritten by the office of Jimmy Van Bramer, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and I think there were other donors but didn’t pick up on who they were. 

The owners of Flynn’s, Quaint and Claret, and the Dog & Duck all slept happily that night – I’m sure – after watching their establishments grow absolutely full to the gills with merry making community based customers who were lured over to Skillman Avenue for the event.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even the Turks, who aren’t exactly Christmas people, got in on the show. They were grilling kebabs – or whatever the Mediterranean grilled meat on a stick standard is called in Anatolia – on a smoky BBQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was asked to come and photograph the event by my friends in the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and did my standard “thing” at public events when behind the camera. Part of my “thing” is this – always take pictures of kids, dogs and the food.

I moved back and forth between 51st street and 43rd street on Skillman Avenue, which was closed to traffic due to the pending arrival of Santa and the concurrent lighting of a tree at that little church on the corner of 48th. I will admit that this sort of event photography ain’t exactly exciting for me – I mean… it’s not like something visually “exciting” is going to happen at a parade or street fair.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On one of my passes, the smoky Turkish BBQ pictured above had disappeared. The smoke liberally painting the air was now billowing up from their sidewalk basement gates, and FDNY had arrived on the scene.

As mentioned in the past, I was the Brooklyn kid who ran down the street yelling “Firemen, Firemen” whenever an engine or ladder truck screamed past. Nothing has changed for me, despite the passing of multiple decades.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A minor blaze had broken out in the basement of the Turkiyem Market, it seems.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ladder 163 was called to the scene, along with their partner unit Engine 325 – both are stationed at the same firehouse and they call themselves the “Woodside Warriors.” The two units were discussed a couple of weeks ago, in this post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that this was a street fair, ultimately, the normal crowd control stuff they do didn’t apply and this was a rare opportunity to get in close and observe while FDNY did its thing. Saying that, I wasn’t “that” close as I was using that new zoom lens of mine – the Sigma 50-100mm f1.8. I also swapped in another Sigma lens occasionally, which was an 18-35mm f1.8. Periodically I fired off the flash for a bit of extra light, but I’m trying not to use camera mounted flashes these days.

These two Sigma lenses are now the core glass in my “NYC night kit,” btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The FDNY folks firehoses (monitors?) were charged up with hydrant water, but from what I surmised, the initial wave of personnel who went into the basement had managed to quell things using hand operated extinguishers. I suspect that they probably squirted a bit of water around down there anyway in the name of conquering any “hot spots,” or areas which might reignite.

BTW, I question “monitors” above as that’s what you’d call a fire suppression hose and nozzle on a boat. If any of “youse guys” are on the job, let me know what you call a fire hose in the comments. The comedic potential of the preceding sentence is acknowledged, but keep it clean – this is a family blog.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was all terribly exciting. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crisis was averted, and Sunnyside got back to the holiday season. Jimmy Van Bramer lit a Christmas tree at the church, kids sang holiday ditties, and eventually Santa showed up despite being around 25 minutes late. It seems that Santa got stuck in highway traffic, which amplifies the message on a bit of common knowledge held by all New Yorkers.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, beats the Van Wyck. Not even Santa.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

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Another Astoria Hullabaloo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I was walking home to Astoria with the goal of reuniting with Our Lady of the Pentacle and Zuzu the dog before they both fell asleep. I was returning from a meeting over in Sunnyside, and imagine my surprise as I encountered the Woodside Warriors on 34th avenue. Housed on 51st street, the 49th Battalion of the FDNY is composed of Engine 325 and Tower Ladder 163. The firefighters had taken over the corner of 45th street and 34th avenue.

Couldn’t possibly tell you what was going on, they were too busy for me to ask. Didn’t smell smoke, nor did I see arcing flashes of electricity, and it was just the FDNY response units on scene – no Ambulances or Police were there.

from wikipedia

There are currently six different types of fire companies in the New York Fire Department which all operate distinct types of apparatus: 198 Engine Companies, 143 Ladder (or Truck) Companies, 5 Rescue Companies, 7 Squad Companies, 3 Marine (or Fireboat) Companies, and the Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) Company. In addition to these six types of fire companies, there are numerous other specialized units that are operated by the Special Operations Command (S.O.C.), the Haz-Mat. Division, and the Marine Division. Each fire company has a specific role at the scene of an emergency.

Each type of fire company utilizes a certain type of fire apparatus, colloquially known as “rigs”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ladder 163 extended itself up to the roof level of the apartment building that FDNY was focusing on, but after spending a couple of minutes shining lights around up there, they retracted the basket back down to the truck. Notably, the Engine 325 folks didn’t connect their hoses up to the hydrants.

I have no clue what was going on, hence – I call it a hullabaloo.

from wikipedia

FDNY Ladder Companies (also known as Truck Companies) are tasked with search and rescue, forcible entry, and ventilation at the scene of a fire. A Ladder Company can operate three types of Ladder Trucks: an Aerial Ladder Truck, equipped with a 100′ aerial ladder mounted at the rear of the apparatus; a Tower Ladder Truck, equipped with either a 75′ or 95′ telescoping boom and bucket mounted in the center of the apparatus; a Tractor Drawn Aerial Ladder Truck, or Tiller/Tractor Trailer, equipped with a 100′ aerial ladder. A Ladder Company carries various forcible entry, ventilation, and rescue tools to deal with an assortment of fires and emergencies, including motor vehicle accidents.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since nothing seemed to be going on, as far as the likelihood of the FDNY doing “batman” type stuff – which is fun to photograph – I continued back on my way home. Zuzu the dog needed walking, and that’s my job. The pup and I wandered about for a bit. She seemed a bit on edge, my dog, the sort of mood she gets into when the silhouette of a bicycle chained to a fence presents itself. The game was afoot, signaled the dog. Then she peed.

from wikipedia

Most of the Engine Companies in FDNY’s fleet are Seagrave Commander II’s and Seagrave Marauder II’s and include 500 gallon water tanks and either 1,000 or 2,000 gallon per minute pumps. The 2,000 gpm pumps are primarily located in the high-rise districts and are considered high pressure pumpers. With the loss of apparatus which occurred as a result of the September 11 attacks, FDNY began to use engines made by other companies including Ferrara, KME and E-One. The FDNY is making the move from a fixed cab to a “Split-Tilt” cab, so the Seagrave Marauder II Pumper will fill the FDNY’s new order for 69 new pumpers. In 2014, FDNY went to KME for an order of 97 pumpers over the next few years. The new KME pumpers feature the split tilt cab and are also high pressure pumpers. As of January 2015, All future pumper orders will be ordered from KME. Seagrave will no longer make the split tilt cab, high pressure pumpers for the FDNY.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The next day, on the self same corner that the FDNY were doing their thing, Zuzu discovered the scene above. The dog was upset that the Squirrel, which seemed to be reaching for its last cigarette, didn’t react when she barked at it. I wondered, and more than wondered…

Then, Zuzu the dog peed again. Short attention span, my dog.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

secrets never

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Wandering, always wandering.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One fine and recent day, my steps carried me all over Western Queens. Well, not ALL over. I wasn’t in Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, or the forbidden Northern Shore in Astoria. I was in LIC and Sunnyside, however. There was quite a hullabaloo over on 43rd Avenue, and a massive FDNY deployment which was responding to an apartment fire in one of the multi unit building you’ll observe in the section in the 40’s.

I can’t help it, when I see FDNY going to work, I run down the street like a 5 year old yelling “Firemen, Firemen” at the top of my lungs.Imagine my surprise when I discovered that one of these Firefighters was actually a Firelady.

I have to get with the times and stop using gender specific pronouns lest I be sent for corrective therapy at a reeducation campus by the (self described) militias of progressive social justice warriors who lurk online and monitor the Internet for language violations and who police microagressive offenses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Borden Avenue corridor of LIC in the shot above, which is currently the focal point of the speculative Real Estate shit flies. Everywhere I go, people tell me that the interested shit flies want to convert this M1 heavy manufacturing zone over to commercial zoning, which would allow for the creation of office buildings in the corridor between the Pulaski Bridge and Greenpoint Avenue.

I have to say, this actually isn’t a terrible idea. What LIC needs right now is not more apartment and residential stock, rather it needs places for people to work and a commercial corridor which would certainly have a lower environmental impact on Newtown Creek and its tributary Dutch Kills which is local to this area. The former is to the left (or south) side of the shot, just past Fresh Direct and the other warehouse businesses, and the latter is behind the POV of the shot above.

My only request for this conversion would be that the shit flies encourage the MTA to reactivate the Long Island Railroad station found on the other side of the Pualski Bridge for passenger service, which would not make the commercial tenants of the corridor dependent on the Vernon Jackson stop of the 7 train – which is around a half mile away and already quite crowded due to the residential buildout of the East River waterfront and the area surrounding Court Square and Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing I have repeatedly noticed in recent months is the startling number of people you find in industrial LIC these days. When this, your Newtown Pentacle, was started up back in 2009 LIC was a ghost town on the weekends. The sense of devastating loneliness and isolation from the surrounding city is what drew me here in the first place, and it’s bizarre to see people wandering around in my happy hunting grounds.

Who are all these people in my safe space?

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 21, 2016 at 11:00 am

explosive circumstance

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Who can guess, all there is… BOOOOOMF… Holy Crap!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My plan for today’s post was originally going to involve fireworks, of the 4th of July variety. Wednesday night at about Midnight, however, my corner suddenly exploded. It seems that the patch job Consoldiated Edison performed in Astoria after the Great Astoria Blackout of 2006 is beginning to get a bit long in the tooth.

After a blast of bluish flame, yellow brown smoke and orange fire began to shoot out of the manhole.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in another post earlier this week, I’m the one who – when he “sees something,” then “says something” so I called 911 with one hand while reaching for my DSLR camera with the other.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This all happened right around midnight, and at about five minutes past, the next block – specifically 44th street between Broadway and 34th avenue – went dark. Even the street lights went out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In NYC, when an emergency strikes, you want God on your side. When the FDNY gets there, God can move on to other things – as they can handle most things. Several FDNY units arrived, and set up a cordon around the burning transformer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fire guys began knocking on doors and inspecting basements for carbon dioxide build ups, and there were a bunch of them sticking probes into the sewers and unaffected manholes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Safety tape went up just as NYPD arrived, who took charge of redirecting traffic from FDNY and began answering questions from the residents of the affected block. Before you ask, I wasn’t affected, which was very lucky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After about an hour and a half, a Con Ed Emergency truck arrived with two guys in it. They began to assess things and the fire guys started getting ready to leave the scene. The manhole was still smoldering, but it was only emanating a trickle of white vapor by now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Con Ed guys opened the street, and then more of them began to arrive.

When I woke up Thursday morning, there was an army of them at work down there, rewiring and rekajiggering. There was also a giant pile of media trucks. WABC was here, so was NY1, and Channel 11 too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is actually the sort of thing which was intended for today, but… as I often say…

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

Upcoming Events and Tours

Tuesday, July 12, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. –
LICHenge, with Atlas Obscura and the
Hunters Point Park Conservancy. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

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