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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

and dauntless

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Things I’ve been lucky enough to see, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That Working Harbor Committee Students tour I mentioned the other day? One of the cool things I got to see while onboard was the FDNY’s Fireboat Three Forty Three doing some kind of exercise. There seemed to be a heck of a security presence, more so than usual, in Lower Manhattan and on the water last week.

They were probably performing security sweeps in preparation for Fleet Week, I imagine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thrilling moment when your train arrives, which signals that the moment when the ordeal of standing on the platform is over, and that the ordeal of riding the train is about to begin. For some reason, the Lexington Avenue tunnels seem to be lit theatrically, which always lends the appearance of the 4 or 5 into 59th Street a certain dramatic flair.

Hey, @MTA – maybe that’s the answer to all your problems – theatrical lighting!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure if the shot above has been presented before, but when you’re talking about lighting, Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights does not disappoint.

Sorry for the short post today, but I’ve got to go get my notes ready for tonight’s Working Harbor “Brooklyn Waterfront: Past and Present” boat tour.

Upcoming Events and Tours

TONIGHT – Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 26, 2016 at 11:30 am

stertorous inflection

with one comment

I like me a good truck photo, I does.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself has never experienced full throttle happiness, as there is always a shadow that looms. I point out the cloud in an otherwise clear sky to the non observant, remind people of the constant presence of existential mortality, and in general – be a sour sort of fellow. This is why it’s preferable for me to spend much of his time alone, and spare others the misery of my company. Soliloquy and a camera are my only companions when wandering about the City of Greater New York, and for one reason or another – I notice and photograph a lot of trucks – all different kinds of trucks.

The ones above are heavy duty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s lots of private carting companies around the Newtown Pentacle, and accordingly, lots of waste transfer stations for them to bring their collections of refuse to. The sort of truck you see above is called a “packer,” but most of us just call it a garbage truck. Spotted in DUKBO, on the Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek, before the Kosciuszko Bridge project got rolling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a thoroughly burned up ex truck and trailer, on used to be Cherry Street in Greenpoint, before the Kosciuszko Bridge project got going. Lots of odd things used to occur in DUKBO, and it was a fantastic place to dump a vehicle – especially in the six months or so before the bridge project got rolling. At the time, I was told by one of my neighborhood informants that the truck ignited up on the BQE and that the FDNY towed it off the highway while still aflame.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queens, over in DUGABO, at the Sims Metal dock. That’s a DSNY packer dropping off its charge of recyclables for the global recycling conglomerate to process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queensican Maspeth, the massive lot of the Ferrara Brothers Concrete company is found, and their distinctive orange and white concrete trucks are lined up and ready for duty. I’ve also remarked to myself about how finely detailed and clean the Ferrara trucks are – their fleet maintenance crews obviously give a lot of love to these machines.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Five Star Carting on Greenpoint Avenue in DUGABO and across the street from the sewer plant in Greenpoint, where one of their “roll on’s” is delivering a bin. The recycling company that the bin was being dropped off at burned down In a spectacular fire a couple of years back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The very best kind of truck, the kind that reduces me to running behind it yelling “fireman, fireman” in the same manner that I did as a child in Brooklyn. The FDNY Hazardous Materials Unit 1 is found up the hill in Maspeth, just off Grand’s intersection with the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tanker truck on Railroad Avenue over on the Blissville side of DUGABO in Queens. Based on the signage adorning its bumper, my bet is that it’s carrying gasoline or heating oil. By tanker standards, this is a fairly low capacity vehicle, and it’s used for “last mile” deliveries to residential and small business customers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can find the big boys of the fuel tanker world back in Brooklyn’s DUKBO, just off Meeker Avenue, where Island Fuel maintains an enormous property. These tankers do commercial work, filling up apartment house oil tanks and supplying gas stations with fuel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Greenpoint, a truck which simply sucks. When things go badly for a tanker truck, or a leak develops in some underground doohickey, you call in a vacuum truck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Northern Boulevard in Queens, at the border of Woodside and Astoria, a truck which is in the process of delivering trucks. Kind of like a mama turtle giving a ride to her babies, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Betts Avenue, at Woodside’s border with Maspeth, you’ll notice a series of trucks fresh off the production line and awaiting adoption parked along the fence lines of Mount Zion cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Maspeth proper, near Grand Avenue’s intersection with Rust Street, a crimson battalion of semi rigs is often observed. The military precision of their formation is worth noting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The worst fate that can befall a truck, I believe, is to end up in the hands of one of NYC’s “lesser” agencies – as is the case with these NYCHA trucks arranged in a midden alongside the Queensboro houses in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A medium sized tanker, this Colony fuel oil truck was making a home heating oil delivery in Astoria. I love the color way, or paint job, that the home heating oil industry lavishes on their rigs. Exquisite business graphics often adorn their fleets, and are worthy of notice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was a kid, my dream was to either drive a dump truck or a bull dozer for a living. For some lucky employee of the Corzo construction company, the latter had become a manifest reality on Astoria’s Broadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The vast majority of NYC’s trucking companies – despite being based in Brooklyn, and Queens, and the Bronx, exist to service Manhattan’s needs. The locus point of the megalopolis, vast numbers of trucks converge on Manhattan at all hours of the day and night, choking their streets and disturbing the slumbering bourgeoise.

Of course, the Manhattan people give nary a thought as to where all these trucks go, and how they transit back and forth to their unsustainable island city.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2015 at 1:30 pm

been decreed

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Scenes from the lugubrious Newtown Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had to go to Greenpoint to talk to a guy about a thing, recently. The guy in question was my colleague from Newtown Creek Alliance, Will Elkins, and the thing was to pick up some flyers he had printed up for the OHNY Plank Road event we conducted last weekend. We met at the North Brooklyn Boat Club location in Greenpoint’s DUPBO (Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp) neighborhood, and soon I found myself catching a ride with him in a medium sized row boat – outfitted with an electric motor – plying the waters of Newtown Creek.

We were heading for the so called “Unnamed Canal” which is analogous to the intersection of Kingsland Avenue and North Henry Street, which sits alongside a relict DSNY marine waste transfer station. That’s where NCA’s “Living Dock” project is underway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the electric engine slowly but surely propelled us along, the FDNY’s “BATT” SAFE Boat (Callsign: WDG3982) appeared behind us. The SAFE Boat platform has been discussed numerous times at this – your Newtown Pentacle – over the years. It utilizes the “weapons platform” concept which has been in vogue in military circles for the last couple of decades, which dictates that you create a single superstructure which can accomplish a variety of basic missions and then customize it to the particular occupation of the user. The NYPD carry towing equipment, the FDNY has water monitors (nozzles that shoot water or foam), and the Coast Guard mounts M60 machine guns to them.

This creates an economy of scale for the procurement of basic replacement parts like screws and engine bits, and creates a large number of trained mechanics who can easily find employment based on their familiarity with the design. The SAFE Boats come in small, medium, and large. The BATT is of the “response boat small” type.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By all appearances, the BATT was on patrol. It’s officially designated as a “Law Enforcement” vessel everywhere that I checked. Above, the BATT is depicted as proceeding eastward along the Newtown Creek, with LIC’s M1 industrial zone and the SimsMetal Newtown Creek Dock as a backdrop. Presumptively, they were on a regular patrol. It’s likely that this unit is based at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, although there are other Marine unit bases to the north where it might hail from.

As a note, I forgot to take the flyers from Mr. Elkins after returning to land and after having walked to Greenpoint from Astoria to get them. This is one of the many reasons that a humble narrator can best be described as an idiot.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 20, 2015 at 12:00 pm

forms strangely

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Fireboat 343, Hudson River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, one is taking a short break – hence the singular image which greets you above. Back soon with new stuff.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

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