The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Forgotten-NY’ Category

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.

certain forms of sleep

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies are offered for the recent paucity of substantial postings offered, but there’s been a great deal of work to do of late, and seismic events are in the offing.

To begin with:

On Monday, members of the Newtown Creek Alliance (including that scuttling champion of the unadorned, your humble narrator) will be gathering at the titan LaGuardia Community College building M.

Scheduled to squirm beneath the hot lights and public attention, even a conservative gambler would accept a wager presaging that I won’t embarrass or somehow humiliate myself. Such foibles, of course, are intensely humorous to observers- but I’m distantly related to the Howard family of Three Stooges fame so that comes natural I guess.


Revitalizing the Waterways and Waterfronts 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
This panel will exam strategies to improve the city’s water quality and to reclaim the waterfront along Newtown Creek, which has historically been off limits to the community and its residents.

Panelists: Kate Zidar, SWIM coalition; Jim Pynn, DEP Newtwon Creek WPCP; Erik Baard, Founder, Long Island City Community Boathouse and Newtown Pippin Restoration and Celebration

Environmental Politics and Sustainability 11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
This panel will discuss community-based struggles to address the unequal distribution of environmental burdens and benefits in and around Newtown Creek

Panelists: Mike Heimbinder, Founder and Executive Director of HabitatMap; Laura Hoffman, Greenpoint environment activist and Newtown Creek advocate; Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director, Riverkeeper

Newtown Creek Futures 1:00 – 2 p.m.
This panel will address the process by which citizen activists, community groups, students and educators are working to transform this toxic waterway into an ecological treasure.

Panelists: Dr. Sarah Durand, Natural Science Department, LaGuardia Community College; Noah Kaufman, Long Island City Roots; Mitch Waxman, local historian and author of Newtown Creek for the Vulgarly Curious.

Monday, May 9th 10:30 a.m. – 2:00p.m. The Little Theater.
 The event is free and open to the public. Bring your classes.

Click here for directions

– photo by Mitch Waxman


Conspiring with the fiendish intelligence that calls itself Kevin Walsh, certain documents have been and are being produced by your humble narrator which expound upon and support the ground breaking series of walking tours he has conducted in and around New York City since June of 1999. Walsh’s massed acolytes, of late, receive these printed missives within which he transmits and records his wisdom.

Years of Madison Avenue advertising industry drudgery, endless computer training, and a concurrent desktop publishing expertise all allow me the ability to assist that pale enthusiast by first photographing the far flung and esoteric locations specified, and then to quickly produce a quality travelogue. Necessity however, demands that one must travel the great city in the manor of a nipping dog, gathering photographs and lore at the master’s heels and attempting to keep step with his vital pace. Last Friday, for instance, I was in the Bronx.

The next Forgotten-NY “Second Saturday” tour is in Staten Island, on May 14th, 2001.

– photo by Mitch Waxman


It is critical for you to purchase tickets for the Newtown Creek Cruise soon. We’re filling up rapidly and seating is limited. Your humble narrator is acting as chairman for this journey, and spectacular guest speakers are enlisted to be onboard. Click here to order tickets


he May 21st, Newtown Creek Cruise:

Explore Newtown Creek by Boat

Saturday, 21 May, 2011

Pier 17, South Street Seaport. 

Departs 10 am sharp 

Returns 1 pm

Price: $60

Join us for a special water tour with expert narration from historical and environmental guest speakers.

There are limited tickets available on the MV American Princess for a very rare tour of Newtown Creek. Guest narrators will cover points of industrial and historical interest as well as environmental and conservation issues during your three-hour exploration. New York’s forgotten history will be revealed – as well as bright plans for the creeks future.

MV American Princess is a large, comfortable vessel with indoor and outdoor seating. Complimentary soft drinks and a tour brochure are included.

Cruise runs rain or shine

Queries? Contact Tour Chairman Mitch Waxman:

Hosted by Hidden Harbor Tours ® in association with the Newtown Creek Alliance.

Click here to order tickets

Back on the job…

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A reminder is offered today to those interested in spending this Saturday in the company of Mr. Kevin Walsh of to follow this link. A photographers dream, this journey will begin at an ancient train station…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

…move past a gargantuan railhead with sky flung monuments to a prior age of industrial dominance providing a backdrop…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

…and conclude in a pastoral setting on the sunny side of a vast hill. All of this in quite a short distance, with expert narration guaranteed and wry and often pithy observations promised. Your humble narrator will be coming along as well…

For more on the trip, visit this Newtown Pentacle link from a couple of days ago- “Things to do“.

Sorry for the short post, tremendously swamped with detail at the moment, but a major announcement is coming tomorrow.

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