The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Hallets Cove’ Category

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Either go clean your room or go outside and play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll go gather some proper shots of it next week, but as you can see from the shot above the second phase of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge project is coming along nicely. Those two new towers are rising from industrial Maspeth, right at the border with LIC’s Blissville, and are in the footprint of the old K-Bridge which was “energetically felled” last year. I’m going to be asking the K-Bridge team about an official update on the project sometime soon, but probably won’t hear back from them until the fall. Not too much happens in officialdom during the middle and late summer, as people who work for the government usually enjoy a 1950’s style work schedule that includes summer vacations and getting out of work at four or five. This is part of the disconnect between the citizenry and their Government these days. They have no idea about how corporate America operates in modernity, and what life is like for the rest of us.

It’s why they constantly design boxes to fit us all into that seem too small and constraining, just like our friends and family do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hallets Cove in Astoria, pictured above.

Boxes are what others want to build around you, in my experience. Folks want to quantify their friends and family, coworkers and neighbors, defining acceptable behavioral norms and expectations for others. Speaking as somebody who avoids doing this, as it always leads to disappointment and conflict, and personally speaking it can be quite annoying when somebody gets after me about not fitting in one of their “slots.” I’m not a player on anybody’s stage other than my own.

It’s funny how often I get accused of egomaniacal braggadocio. Is it bragging if you’re just stating things that you’ve actually done, and recounting the tales of your adventures? There’s never been a box offered that can actually contain me, and at least for the last decade the life of a humble narrator has been lived in pursuit of “envelope pushing.” What that means is that when I’m asked if I want to do something that makes me uncomfortable, or nervous, I say “yes.” People close to me will often tell me “you can’t,” mainly because it threatens the envelope of expectation they have formed about you. Just do it, and screw what others say, life is short and it’s your life you’re living, not theirs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills, LIC, pictured above.

What I’ve discovered is that whereas I do have physical limits, their boundaries are far beyond anything I believed they were. Board a boat at four in the morning in January? Sure. NYC Parade Marshal? Why not? Testify in Federal Court about Newtown Creek and or Western Queens? OK. Advocate and argue for esoteric points of view with Government officialdom? Sounds good. The box I used to live in a decade ago before all of this madness began?


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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For many reasons, a humble narrator has found himself at Hallets Cove along the Astoria waterfront in recent weeks. Partially, this recent focus was related to a humble narrator being invited to write a guest blog for the NYC Ferry service’s new Astoria stop (check it out here), but didn’t go “super granular” with it in my usual manner. Something I learned while writing my old Brownstoner Queens column was sometimes you need to approach a story, and a more general audience, with a different voice than you normally would (the NYC Ferry is operated by the Hornblower company, under the auspices of the NYC EDC, in case you’re wondering). 

The other reason I’ve been down at Hallets Cove a lot in recent weeks has been to actually use the Ferry to get to and from work, as the MTA has seemingly deduced that nobody in Queens needs to get to and from Manhattan on the weekends. Luckily, my destination for conducting boat tours is Pier 11, which is one of the terminal stops for the ferry, so problem solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The kids of Queens never disappoint, as evinced by these phalluses recently scratched into the sand at Hallets Cove. There’s actually a lot of fine detail to appreciate in these, from the spurts to the hairy sacks. Good show.

As a note, I know of just three sandy beaches along the East River, Hallets Cove being one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The future site of a floating “Eco Dock” as my pals from the Waterfront Alliance call it, one has long been fascinated by the muddy flats underlying a discarded pier found at the entrance to the NYCHA Astoria Houses on what is historically known as Lawrence Point, but which has been rechristened as “Astoria Point” by real estate interests and elected officialdom alike.

This sort of marshy area is immensely important to the ecology of the waters surrounding NYC, as my pals from Riverkeeper will tell you, and you don’t see very much of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a derelict pier overflying those muddy flats, which as mentioned, will be replaced with an eco dock. My understanding is that the pier was installed to support a radio station’s broadcast tower, specifically WLIB, back in 1953. Further, I’m told that the radio station abandoned this location in 1967, and that the structure has been feral ever since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you haven’t tried out the new ferry service leaving from Astoria yet, I recommend it for nothing other than seeing the sights. The route carries you along the east channel of the East River, which transits between the Ravenswood section of Long Island City and Roosevelt Island. You’ve got some pretty incredible stuff along the route, including both the Roosevelt Island Lift bridge and the amazing Queensboro bridge, and the Big Allis power plant is on display as well.

This particular ferry service makes an amended series of stops as compared to the longer tenanted East River route, stopping first at Roosevelt Island, then the northern ferry stop at Hunters Point, 34th street and then Pier 11/Wall Street in Manhattan. Im personally really looking forward to the upcoming Soundview route, opening in 2018, which will go to the southeastern Bronx – which is the unknown country for one such as myself.

Check the Astoria ferry out, what else have you got to do?

Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

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Hanging out at Hallets Cove, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having nothing especially pressing, on a recent and quite cloudy afternoon, a general scuttle was enacted to go out and “see what Queens wants to show me today.” My footsteps carried me to Hallets Cove, where the ancient mouth of Sunswick Creek lies forever buried beneath the folly of progress. One decided to pay some attention to the local fauna, and then find a private spot where the elimination of metabolic waste water might go unobserved by the surrounding human infestation. Such unfortunate consequences of my consciousness residing in a biological organism notwithstanding, the age old question of NYC once again arose and bedeviled.

Why is there no place to pee in New York? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC plans for everything in excruciating detail, and employs armies of academics and consultants to study the citizenry in the name of accuracy and scientific methods. I’ve met people who can tell me how much water I use, trash Our Lady directs me to carry to the curb, and predict my usage of the subway system based on geography and income levels. There are officials who can hazard a pretty good guess about the month and year you are likely to die in, barring accidents. They also have good figures for the probability of accidents.

The one thing which they can’t seem to figure out is the deployment, and maintenance, of a few piss buckets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eastwards of Greece, you start seeing a different form of public toilet than the ones we see in the affluent Western countries – what is known as a squat toilet. The system boils down to a cess pool or sewer connection with a goose neck drain that breaks the surface at a tiled hole in the ground with two raised blocks of concrete on either side. The name “squat toilet” describes how you use it. These are ubiquitous in the East, as they are FAR cheaper to install and maintain than our western porcelain. Over at Barge Park in Greenpoint, a recent “comfort station” cost better than a million bucks.

I’m not asking for “comfort stations.” How about three walls and a hole in the floor to piss in?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC has a “one percent for art” requirement baked into all of its municipal construction projects, which is how the Newtown Creek Nature Walk was funded. May I suggest we create a similar requirement stating that NYC must budget “one percent to acknowledge human biological functions” into future endeavors? Wouldn’t this be better than having to find some retail establishment which will allow you to use their facilities, or pissing against the wall of some innocent party?

Maybe we can cook it into a deal with future commercial and residential developments that they would be required to build and maintain publicly available facilities for elimination of bodily waste as part of the cost of doing business in the City Of Greater New York?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What do I know, though? One such as myself does not claim to possess advanced degrees in Urbanism or City Planning. I mean, everything that such professionals have done over the years has worked out perfectly. Why would actual community need figure into development plans and the march of progress?

I’m probably just full of shit, but the lack of public bathrooms in the City of New York pisses me off.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lots to do next week, meetings and galas, all sorts of situations to feel socially awkward in are coming up. Smart and well positioned opinion will be available for the price of attendance, at Newtown Creek Alliance’s “Spotlight on Citizen Science” on Monday the 25th in Long Island City.


NCA’s February meeting will highlight the wide array of local citizen and student scientists exploring all angles of the creek. The meeting will be structured as a showcase, with quick presentations on each topic, and materials for you to peruse in person. Come mingle with your local citizen scientists.

NCA Spotlight on Citizen Science

February 25, 2013 at 6pm

LaGuardia Community College

E Building, Room E-242

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A different sort of gathering will be happening at The India House Club, when Working Harbor Committee hosts its annual Gala, and this year’s honoree is Lucy Ambrosino. A great party, the Gala gathers the movers and shakers of NY Harbor together, and proceeds from the event help fund the WHC’s education programs and summer boat tours.

That’s Tuesday the 26th.


Lucy Ambrosino is being honored for her ardent commitment to the Port of New York and New Jersey and the working harbor which supports it. An effective and committed consensus builder, Lucy is a strong advocate and enthusiastic participant in all efforts to educate the public about the value of the working harbor.

The award will be presented by Andrew McGovern, President, New Jersey Sandy Hook Pilots at 7:15 p.m.

Tuesday Evening – 26 February 2013

India House Club — Marine Room

One Hanover Square, New York City, NY 10004

6 o’clock — 8:30 o’clock – Business Attire

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A town hall meeting, with the NYS DOT and several local elected leaders, will discuss the upcoming Kosciuszko Bridge project. The meeting is being hosted by OUTRAGE, a community group concerned by the enormous footprint of truck based industry in North Brooklyn.

That’s Wednesday the 27th.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lastly, the unfortunate locale and long neglected and seldom considered municipality called Manhattan will be the setting for a “Long Term Control Plan: Citywide Modeling Workshop.”

Discussions of the recently experienced meteorological phenomena and concurrent flooding is necessitated and accordingly an understanding of the “New Normal” will be offered by the authorities. Ramifications will be explored, existential quandaries expounded upon and considered by representatives of the inestimable NYS DEC and the stalwart NYC DEP.

This one is Thursday the 28th, and I’m sure it will be a civil engineering and urban planning hootenanny.



Thursday, February 28, 2013 at US Customs House, Auditorium, 1 Bowling Green from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is co-hosting a citywide workshop to present and review the modeling processes that will be used to test potential alternatives identified as part of the Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) Program with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). At the workshop, DEP and DEC staff will review the Watershed/Landside and Hydrodynamic/Water Quality models and the proposed baseline assumptions for evaluating the benefits of CSO control alternatives.

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fairly excellent Watercourses blog presents this post on Sunswick Creek, a waterbody which once existed here in Astoria, and still runs to the East River through manmade corridors deep below the modern streets. No, really. Watercourses has been down there and has photos! More importantly, the post also carries two maps from the 1870’s which show the early street plan of Astoria.

You’ll notice, on the 2nd one, a “Ridge St.” and a “Camelia St.”. The road running between them is Broadway, and at its intersection with Vernon Ave. the latter takes a wicked hook and becomes Sunswick Creek XXX (at this moment, it remains obfuscated to me whether this is a street or avenue or road, I think I can hear somebody at Greater Astoria Historic Society sighing right now).

This bit of geographic reckoning, of course, is simplified by saying- “Stevens Est.” = Costco, and that weird mouth of the creek is Socrates Sculpture Garden, and these photos were shot just beyond where that little dock shape is, between the “n” and second “s” in Sunswick. (I also wanted to send a shout out to Watercourses. Well Done!)


– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to certain sources, two aboriginals named Shawestcont and Erramorhar (as witnessed by their cohorts Warchan and Kethcanaparan) sold much of what we know as Astoria (but which they called Sintsinck) to William Hallett (who was similarly accompanied by a company of witnesses and countrymen) on August 1, 1664- which is how the place got its name.

For a more complete view of highlights from Hallets Cove, and Sunswick Creek- check out this Newtown Pentacle post from February of 2010, and the “The Horrors of Hallet’s Cove“ from June of 2009.

The very fact that temperatures have risen once again to the point at which the atmosphere can sustain water in a liquid state, by the way, is a font of joy for your humble narrator- as walking the East River shoreline is once more possible for both man and duck. Which means that a winter’s worth of book research can finally be explored materially.


I’ll be that weirdo in the dirty black raincoat you might spy scuttling along the waterfront…

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 25, 2011 at 3:32 am

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