The Newtown Pentacle

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increasingly rigid

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It’s National Date-Nut Bread Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunters Point is a section of Long Island City. Most modern people refer to it “as” Long Island City, but LIC – as in the “independent municipality of” – includes the neighborhoods of Astoria, Sunnyside, Blissville, Ravenswood, Dutch Kills, and Hunters Point as well. Hunters Point is pretty much defined as the zone sitting between Skillman Avenue to the east, the East River to the west, Queens Plaza to the north, and Newtown Creek to the south. The independent municipality of  LIC’s old borders ran eastwards to what’s now the Kosciuszcko Bridge and Woodside Avenue to the east, Bowery Bay on the north, Newtown Creek on the south, and by the East River to the west.

The Dutch arrived in this peninsular area, sparsely populated by bands of the Lenape, back in the 1640’s. The first European land holder was a Dutch Priest named Dominie Everardus Bogardus, and back then LIC was referred to as “Dominie’s Hoek.” Bogardus, whom the historical record is not kind to, died in a shipwreck in 1647. Hunters Point, as defined above, came into the possession of a Dutch Sea Captain named Peter Praa, and the land stayed in his family until just before the American Revolution. At that time, the deed was in the hands of a Praa descendent named Anna Hunter. That’s why it’s called Hunters Point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anna Hunter had three sons, and in the name of family unity and amity, her will stipulated that the land be sold off to avoid them fighting over the inheritance. By the time of the Civil War, the land had been divided into lots and sold off to a number of different concerns. The village, or town, of Hunters Point was a part of a county municipal organization called “Newtown” whose borders stretched all the way into modern day Nassau County. Newtown was a relict of the Dutch civilization’s “Nieuwtown,” whose function and borders were continued by the British and later the American governments long after the Dutch. The British first called it “Nieuwe Stad,” and at the time of the Revolution it was “Newtown.”

In the early 19th century, NYC was a ship building colossus. Manhattan shoreline properties along the East River were dearly held, and massively expensive to acquire. Ship yards, carpentry shops, iron foundries, coal yards, and rope factories were moving their operations over to Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn and moving steadily north.

Industrial piers began to appear along the busy East River in Hunters Point, and along Newtown Creek. In 1848, the Roman Catholic Church bought the Alsop farm in Blissville in pursuance of creating Calvary Cemetery. Vernon Avenue was created and paved, and a plank road was built connecting to agricultural Blissville. The plank road was named for its destination, at the Borden Dairy Farms in Maspeth, and it was erected out of the swampy lowlands adjoining the Newtown Creek in 1868.

In the 1860’s, railroad tracks were connected to the east river by a company that would soon call itself the Long Island Railroad. Industrialization got its footing in LIC, due to easy access to the railroad AND to the water. Speculators began buying up dismal tidal swamps, filling them in with garbage, dead animals, human waste, and other fill materials. The Borden Plank road was paved and became Borden Avenue.

In 1870, a group of ambitious and notorious politicians, railroad operatives, and robber barons were successful in their bid to secede from agricultural Newtown and the independent municipality of Long Island City was formed.

The first land grab in what we call Queens got underway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over twenty nine years of glorious misrule and an infamously corrupt political environment, LIC grew into the workshop of America. Enormous factories opened, and the waterfront in Hunters Point became a maritime industrial center, with nearly all of the freight traffic carried by the Long Island Railroad moving through it. Sugar factories, steel mills, oil refineries, chemical plants, fat renderers, pickle factories, fertilizer mills, manure yards, dead animal wharves – you name it – it was here. The City of Greater New York consolidated itself in 1898, incorporating LIC into its now familiar five boroughs, all under the guidance of the notorious Tammany Hall leader Richard Croker. Manhattan began to convert its industrial shorelines over to residential districts, and started to export all of its dirty industries to its new holdings in Brooklyn, and to the newly named Queens.

Manhattan began a process which modernity would describe as gentrification, displacing the working class poor and encouraging them to move to newly constructed row housing in the “outer boroughs.” The row housing was constructed by political insiders like Cord Meyer. Mr. Meyer and his fellow real estate speculators like Michael Degnon had inside information from the politicians of Tammany Hall about where the roads and subways would be created and they began to buy up agricultural properties all over the former Newtown. Entire neighborhoods were created, seemingly overnight. Call it Elmhurst? That’s Cord Meyer Sr. you’re echoing.

In 1909, the Queensboro Bridge was opened for business. Hell Gate Bridge opened in 1917. The Sunnyside Yards opened in 1919, made possible by the Pennsylvania Railroad company, which also created the East River tunnels that LIRR and Amtrak use to this day. The subways made gradual appearances in the first, second, and third decades of the twentieth century. Notably, what we call the 7 line – which already had three stops connecting Hunters Point to Manhattan as of 1915 – opened the Corona extension in April of 1917.

The second land grab in Queens got underway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan’s infamous tenement slums began to empty, and the working class hordes of immigrants began to populate into the new residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Hunters Point had a relatively small residential population, which was centered not in the industrial zone but rather in the neighborhoods surrounding it. Sunnyside Gardens was created as an early example of “affordable housing” and as a planned community in the late 1920’s, in response to the multi story apartment houses which began to rise in Dutch Kills and Astoria along the new subway lines. At the same time, Robert Moses had appeared on the scene, along with his Triborough Bridge project.

Mighty Triborough opened in 1936, and the highways that feed into it like the Grand Central Parkway soon followed. The age of the automobile arrived in Queens, which allowed for heavy residential construction in previously rural areas. Forest Hills and Rego Park, Bayside and Douglaston, even Jamaica were now connected to Manhattan. For those who supported Mr. Moses, the routes and off ramps of the new high speed roads were revealed. In 1940, the Long Island Expressway and Queens Midtown Tunnel appeared in Hunters Point, which effectively blighted and cut the ancient community in half.

The third land grab in Queens got underway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the Second World War, things began to change in Hunters Point. New York City began a process of de industrialization that wouldn’t become truly apparent until the middle 1960’s. Heavy industry began migrating to the American south and west, where industrial campuses of collossal size could be constructed. The political establishment of NYC, still married to the industrial labor unions, realized that they had to do something to try and protect their base. In 1961, The Department of City planning (which was controlled by Robert Moses) issued a decree that Hunters Point was now an “M1” zone – the land was reserved exclusively for heavy manufacturing use only.

For the homeowners and residential community in Hunters Point (and in Dutch Kills as well), what that meant was that no bank would advance them credit for a mortgage, or loan them money for renovation projects on existing residential properties. The fly in the ointment this time around, however, was that because of a general decline of manufacturing activity in the entire Northeastern United States the industrial base was seeking to vacate New York City. By the 1970’s, you couldn’t give the land away in Hunters Point. The residential community dwindled, but narrow strips of habitation persisted. The political establishment was heavily involved in “urban renewal” projects, and floods of federal money enabled developers like the Tishmans, Trumps, and Lefraks to build massive commercial and housing projects in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. This is when the big landlords and the politicians first really got to know each other, and the current alliance between big real estate and the political establishment of Manhattan was cemented.

It’s also when, in an attempt to revive a moribund local economy, the City began giving away land to developers. This process really kicked into gear in the 1980’s, under Mayor Koch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1981, NYC City Planning rechristened Hunters Point as a “mixed use district.” The first large scale development that occurred after this was the Citigroup tower, which opened in 1993, a 53 story structure which was built on land formerly occupied by a hospital. In 1995, 2001, and again in 2004, City Planning opened up zoning restrictions on height in LIC – particularly along the Hunters Point waterfront. As restrictions were loosened, and residential corridors were created, there was some construction activity but it was a lot of smoke with very little flame. The New York Times and other cheerleaders for the real estate interests began to refer to Hunters Point as “LIC” and started calling it “the next big thing.” (City planning is currently working on further loosenings of zoning in Hunters Point, and preparing the “LIC Core” rezoning which will make it possible to build high density residential towers as far east as Steinway Street, along Northern Blvd.) The currently underway Hunters Point South development is billed as the largest “affordable” housing project in the United States, but it’s not affordable by many of the current residents of LIC.

The so called “Brooklyn miracle” happened instead. From the post industrial waterfront of Williamsburg all the way south to what is now referred to as “DUMBO,” high density towers rose and created the new “Gold Coast” of Long Island. In the last decade, financial speculators and globalist investors have driven the price of Brooklyn real estate so high that financiers have begun to focus in on Hunters Point and Astoria instead, looking for a “good buy.”

The fourth land grab in Queens is underway, as you read this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of this development has avoided upgrading the municipal infrastructure which the new population would require – cops, fire department, sewerage, hospitals, schools. If you’re walking through one of the glorious new waterfront parks in Hunters Point, and you suddenly grab at your chest, where the FDNY ambulance will take you is either Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, the Mount Sinai hospital on Crescent street in Astoria, or out to Elmhurst hospital. FDNY’s fire fighting apparatus in western Queens was designed for industrial fires, and the 108th precinct is housed in a tiny 19th century building which still has horse stables. The sewer plant servicing this gargantuan residential population was opened by Fiorella LaGuardia in 1936. Our transit needs far outweigh current capability. There are not enough school desks. Don’t get me started on the environmental legacy of all that industry which used to be here. The buildings being erected in the photos in today’s posts are on the site of a former chemical factory in Queens Plaza, for instance.

Simply put, “gentrification” is nothing new in Western Queens and it’s been going on since at least the Civil War. The “G bomb” has already been dropped, and it has gone off. A looming infrastructure crisis is just beginning.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 9th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 8, 2017 at 11:30 am

cylcopean blocks

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not just having the titular cake, nor the eating of it too, ever seems to satiate the lustful aspirations of the Real Estate Industrial Complex here in Long Island City. Population loading – despite intensifying the looming infrastructure crisis surrounding transit, electrical, and water systems – just continues. The backdrop in the shot above represents a not insignificant number of the approximately 13,000 new apartments added to LIC in the last decade. NYC City Planning is about to unveil a new rezoning plan called the “LIC Core” which will change current regulations and make it legally possible for about another 20,000 apartments to be built. Hospital beds? Not so much.

LIC Core, btw, brings the eastward march of these glass shrouded monstrosities to just within throwing distance of Newtown Pentacle HQ. Couple that with the monstrous Sunnyside Yards development proposal, which would bring half the population of Boulder, Colorado into the mix? As a note, while capturing the shot above, my back was turned to the former Paragon Oil building on 49th avenue and 21st street – once known as the Subway Building and or Queens Borough Hall.

Bugs Bunny, who is another Brooklyn kid, said it best. Batman says it well too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whose fault is all of this runaway development – devoid of some overarching governance plan that demands some municipal payback from these Manhattan based developers that sow and reap hereabouts?

NYC’s real estate economy is not exactly set in the 1970’s anymore, as far as there being a excess of undeveloped land which the City had to beg developers to do something with, offering sweetheart deals with reduced taxes and lots changing hands for a dollar. Why does the Real Estate Industrial Complex still get to operate in the manner that they did during the Koch administration? Why can’t we get a Subway station or a few hospital beds out of them? Who is responsible?

The Mayor, City Planning, Councilmember, or the NYC Economic Development Corporation? The Governor, or the Assembly member, or the State Senator? What about the Congressional Representatives, or the Senators? What about the Borough Presidents? Is it all of them, or is the horrible truth actually that there’s nobody steering the wheel at all?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a related note, I’ve been reading up a bit on the Borough Presidents of Queens recently. Interesting group, and reminsescent of early Norman history.

1) First up was the City Consolidation era BP Frederick Bowley, from 1898-91.

2) “Curly Joe” Cassidy was BP from 1902-05, and the sewer situation on the Queens side of Newtown Creek is pretty much his fault. Cassidy was accused of 47 different counts of financial corruption during his terms, 24 of which were proven but he was never brought to trial. In 1912, however, he did a year in Sing Sing prison for trying to sell a seat on the NY Supreme Court.

3) Joseph Bermel ran as reformer against the corruption of Curly Joe’s administration, and was in office from 1906-1908. He effectively resigned as BP by skipping out of the country – on an ocean liner to Rome – during the lunch break on a day in 1908 that he was testifying in court – at his own corruption trial. BP Bermel’s final statement to tthe press was “I have nothing to say except to leave good luck for my friends and enemies alike.” He died in 1921 in Czechoslovakia.

4) Lawrence Gresser was Borough President of Queens from 1908-11, and was removed from office by the Governor of New York State for abusing the BP office’s power, and for being incompetent.

5) Maurice E. Connolly was BP from 1911-28, and is my 2nd favorite political character in Queens history, after BattleAx Gleason. Connolly resigned in 1928, then brought to trial for a sewer construction graft scandal. He was fined, convicted, and did a one year stretch in prison.

6) Bernard M. Patten stepped into the office for seven months in 1928, filling in for Connolly in the same way that David Patterson filled in for Elliot Spitzer as Governor a few years back. This sort of thing is common in the history of the Broough President’s office in Queens.

7) George U. Harvey was the first Republican Borough President, serving from 1929-41. Harvey was deeply involved with a series of Robert Moses’s projects, but the 1939 Worlds Fair is the one most closely associated with him.

8) James A. Burke put the Borough Presidency back in the hands of the Democrats, and he served from 1942-49 when he resigned the office.

9) Maurice A. FitzGerald was Borough President of Queens from 1950-51, and died of a heart attack while on vacation.

10) Joseph F. Mafera served out the remaining four months of FitzGerald’s term in 1951.

11) James A. Lundy was the last Republican Party Borough President, from 1952-57. He was an energy industry captain, and had a long public career ahead of him after leaving office.

12) James J. Crisona was BP in 1958, a members of the Democrat Party which has claimed the office since. Crisona was a real climber, having previously been elected to the NYS Assembly and Senate, he resigned as Borough President in 1958 and assumed a seat on the NY Supreme Court.

13)  John Thomas (Pat) Clancy stepped into the office from 1959-62, resigning to become a Queens County Surrogate Judge.

14) Mario J. Cariello was Borough President from 1963-8, was a former State Assemblyman, and also resigned to take a position on the NYS Supreme Court.

15) Sidney Leviss was BP from 1969-71, before resigning and following his forebears to the NYS Supreme Court.

16) Donald Manes was BP from 1971-86. In 1986 he was under investigation for various charges when he first attempted to commit suicide in his car. He succeeded in killing himself a few months later, after stabbing himself in the heart with a kitchen knife. As a note, during Manes’s term, a City Charter revision occurred which neutered the power and influence of the Borough Presidents in favor of a “strong Mayor.”

17) Claire Shulman took over the office, and served from 1986-2002. The first female BP title goes to her.

18) Helen M. Marshall came next, and was in office from 2002-13.

19) Melinda Katz was voted into office in 2014.


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tentative measures

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It’s National Orange Blossom Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another day, another commute. One’s life is odd, and each day brings its own sort of challenge.

I didn’t have any paying work one recent weekday, so when a Manhattan based anti gentrification activist emailed and asked if he could meet up with me to discuss the DEP and their CSO’s in Greenpoint and LIC… well, how could I say no to something like that? We met at Dorians in LIC, I had a cheeseburger and a cup of black coffee. On the way home, I had to stop off in Sunnyside to see a guy about a thing, so I hopped on the 7 across the street from Dorians at Vernon/Jackson.

As a note, I sometimes use “Vernon Jackson” as an alias.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m trying to come up with a term to replace “gentrification” at the moment, as I don’t think it’s apropo to describe what’s happening in Long Island City and the East River coastline of Brooklyn (et al) in modern times. According to the dictionary people, gentrification is defined as – “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”

That’s not what’s happening in Long Island City. At all.

Gentrification is something that “happened” in East Harlem and the Upper West Side, Bushwick and Williamsburg and Park Slope, but back in the 1990’s. What’s going on now… we don’t have a name for it, yet. Longtime Newtown Pentacle commenter and reader “Cav” has suggested “development rampage.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, let me qualify my statements with this – unlike normal people, I don’t exactly have “feelings.” Rather, and especially when behind the camera, I try to be some sort of extraterrestrial thing recording the antics of you drunken man beasts in a quite separated, sterile, and utterly emotionless manner. When not shooting, I don’t run around waving signs, chanting chants, or spouting sophomoric “poli-sci” nonsense about “the youth” or “verbal activists.” If I need to get something done, or fixed, I “show up” and get involved in the process of fixing it.

I don’t think that what’s in your pockets is somehow mine by natural right, and I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to do or not do with your own property. Like most Americans, I want to be left alone to mind my own business without input from you, the government, or anybody else.

Saying all that, I may not like what you do with your personal property, but just as I would insist regarding my own “stuff” – it’s none of my business what you do. Key word in that statement is “business.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It always pisses off the officialdom types when I refer to “my property” and question them about their stewardship or management thereof. A good political operator working for the Government will respond positively to me when I refer to them as “my employees,” whereas others will sneer at me and adopt a tired expression. When we’re talking about Sunnyside Yards, that’s the very definition of “our collective property,” however. Amtrak and MTA don’t own the yards, the public does, and the two agencies are meant to represent our collective interests. The only part of the yards which are in private hands is on the 43rd street side, and it’s owned by General Motors. With a phone call and a quick Wall Street transaction, I can own some “buy in” of General Motors too.

Ultimately, if it’s government land, WE own it. Maybe… just maybe… before any sort of deck thingamabob is built on our property, there should be a vote about disbursing it for the usage of the real estate industrial complex?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It always makes my fellow riders a bit uncomfortable when they see me pressed up against the window of a subway car, furiously working the shutter button on the camera. This is something I’ve never quite understood. People often react to the presence of a camera in the same manner as if I was carrying a firearm, and God forbid you get a shot with some random person in it who has decided that you’ve just stolen their soul or something. The odd thing about this, to me at least, is that half the train population seem to be taking “selfies” and it’s fairly common for people to use their phones to take shots of every amusing or wry thing they see these days.

Me? I’m just the guy taking pictures out of the dirty windows on the 7 train, trying to make some productive usage of the otherwise wasted time as I travel from Hunters Point – where I met a guy to talk about a thing to Sunnyside – so I can go see another guy about a different thing before heading home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maybe I’ve just gotten used to being photographed and videoed over the last decade, but it really doesn’t grind my gears if someone takes a photo of me – especially if I’m doing something outlandish in public.  It’s something that happens all the time during my tours of Newtown Creek, and I do turn up in newspaper articles periodically, commenting on this event or that so I guess I’m used to it. My understanding of things, law wise, is that if you’re in public you have no basic right to privacy. It’s the pretext which the cops and others use when installing street facing security cameras, and the only “rule” surrounding the photography of the public sphere is that you can get in “libel” trouble for assigning an editorial meaning to an image that isn’t inherent. There’s also a whole set of rules about private property, but that’s a different tale.

Example – you’re coming out of a pharmacy and pop a physician prescribed pill you just purchased, and I present it with a caption saying “well known drug addict Joe Blow popping pills again.” That’s libelous, and bad journalism, as I don’t know for certain what sort of pill it is and whether or not it’s habitually consumed, nor whether or not Joe Blow is an addict. All I actually know is what happened in the 1/500th of a second when the shutter was open.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Deep existential wandering, such as that contained in this post, is also one of the ways a humble narrator passes the time during the random series of subway connections which allow one to maintain his odd lifestyle. The bullet points of this post are “wow, look at all this construction and we have a looming infrastructure crisis on the horizon,” “must come up with a term to replace gentrification,” “what’s up with all these communists wackos suddenly emerging from the woodwork in Western Queens who have been emboldened by Trump’s surprising victory,” “must oppose the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards in every possible way,” “people are staring at me on the train while I’m shooting,” and so on.

What can I tell you, I’m all ‘effed up.

I was also a bit gassy after eating that cheeseburger at Dorians in Hunters Point, and had been suppressing the emergence of a colossal fart for the entire ride on the 7. Here at 40th street, as the next 7 was pulling in, I let it rip. It would have been bad form to do so in the confines of the subway car.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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indelibly inked

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It’s National Rotisserie Chicken Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new green roof at Broadway Stages’ 520 Kingsland Avenue building was recently made available to me for a couple of hours by the folks who installed and created the place – Alive Structures – in pursuance of creating a portfolio of photographs for brochure and website purposes. This is also a Newtown Creek Alliance project btw, and I packed up the “full kit,” including tripod and cable shutter release, in anticipation of getting both “artsy” and “fartsy.” It ain’t that often that I get to do the full set up for “proper” landscape style shots.

As always, I went well beyond my shot list, and figured that I’d show off a little bit in today’s post. That’s the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in the shot above, with the camera looking through the invisible methane flames that the DEP is burning off towards lower Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking across Newtown Creek towards Long Island City – you can see the Long Island Expressway truss bridge rising some 106 feet above its tributary, Dutch Kills, but it’s been completely overshadowed by the titan slabs of mirror glass rising along Jackson Avenue between Court Square and Queens Plaza.

The truss dates back to Robert Moses and 1939, btw, and its height was dictated by the needs of the maritime and industrial powers who used to rule the roost in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards, towards the two Koscisuzcko Bridges (1939 and 2017 models), and over the petroleum tanks of Metro Fuel. The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is just on the other side of these tanks, but occluded by them in this shot. At the extreme left of the photo is the tree line of Calvary Cemetery in Queens’ Blissville section.

Nothing like getting high along Newtown Creek, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who saw me looking particularly sun burnt in middle May, these shots are the reason why. I spent something like two and change hours up on the roof at 520 Kingsland Avenue, mainly waiting for the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself to dip behind the Shining City and make the shot above possible.

If you’d like to take a look at 520 Kinsgland for yourself, NCA and Riverkeeper will be conducting a “community visioning” project there tomorrow between one and four, and then between five and seven I’ll be offering a history lecture and green roof tour of the space… come with? It’s all free, and the RSVP details are in the links below.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30 p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.

Green Drinks Queens LIC, June 5th, 6:00- 9:00 p.m.

Come celebrate UN World Environment Day with Green Drinks: Queens on the LIC Waterfront! This year’s theme is “Connecting People With Nature.”details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

just off

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It’s National Eat What You Want Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Behind sapphire glass, in LIC, lurks a thing. Orbiting its unblinking three lobed eye, this impossible intelligence which cannot exist stares down on the world of men through azure mirrors which cloak its alien presence from all but those acolytes which serve its sinister whims. Pulsating with a fiendish genius and dire intent, this thing lurking in the cupola of the sapphire megalith of Long Island City is patient above all else. Soon, though, its time will be soon…

Glad to get that out of my system… 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have to believe that “NYC TS” stands for NYC Transit System, given that the access cover which the screed adorns is on Jackson Avenue in LIC more or less directly over the G train tunnel. The rondulets on the hatch indicate that there’s likely electrical equipment below. It’s possible that the wiring might be related to the nearby Pulaski Bridge, or to the bank of traffic signals found nearby, but then it would say “DOT” instead of “TS.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If the shots in today’s post appear a bit random, it’s because they are. I’m walking around a new lens this week, the Sigma 18-300 f3.5-6.3 zoom. It’s strictly a daylight lens, given that it’s not “bright” in the aperture department, but so far so good. Sigma has surprisingly handled barrel distortions quite well given the enormous range of the thing, but of course there’s still some present. It would be crazy to think otherwise.

Not abandoning the rest of my kit, mind you, but I just felt a desire to have a bit more versatility in range available on the fly – when I’m out scuttling about the concrete devastations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a week of carrying the thing, the only real complaint I have about it involves the lens’ communications with my camera’s light meter. The camera reports things as being at least a stop off of what the lens actually sees – over or under – and I’ve found that I have to continually check the preview screen while shooting to confirm my exposure. The other sigma lenses in my kit don’t have this issue, but they’re a bit more advanced and specialized (and far more expensive) than this newer one.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

creeping secularism

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It’s National Peach Cobbler Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of those “cool cars” of Queens which was recently spotted, this time on Steinway Street here in raven tressed Astoria. This one was so over the top for usage on the streets of NYC… the mind boggles… but to each his own I always say. If you can afford it, why not? Personally, I’d like to see a bigger set of tires on this pickup, possibly spiked ones, and some sort of roof mounted chain gun – then you’d be ready for the inevitable horde of zombies which we all collectively know are just around the historical corner.

Don’t think that the artillery would help you too much with the vampires in Queens Plaza, but there you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Should a horde of zombies appear in Queens, a humble narrators plan is to shelter with Our Lady of the Pentacle and our little dog Zuzu down in the sweating concrete bunkers and tunnels found below. There’s lots of antechamber rooms that line the tunnels of the subway system which are “off the beaten track,” both literally and figuratively. Water wouldn’t be much of an issue given the fact that most everything down there is dripping, and there’s a whole lot of protein available if you can figure out how to trap the rats. My belief is that, after a couple of weeks, the undead hordes would have moved off in search of sustenance to Brooklyn or New Jersey and it would be somewhat safe for us to return to daylight and Newtown Pentacle HQ. We would need to remain vigilant, of course.

The Real Estate guys would likely see a zombie apocalypse as an opportunity, and as long as the Dope from Park Slope over in City Hall survived, and remained on their payroll, it would be an excellent opportunity for them to institute yet another rezoning and loosen height restrictions on new construction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does not believe that the unknown, inhuman, and impossible thing which dwells in the sapphire megalith would be responsible or endorse the zombies. Were such an impossible and inhuman thing to exist, staring down in covetous fashion upon the world of men with its three lobed burning eye, the thing in the cupola would see no profit in the mastication and depopulation of western Queens.

Its entire existence is dedicated to profit and exploitation, and revenants neither spend or borrow.


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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 13, 2017 at 12:00 pm

other callers

with 2 comments

It’s International Whiskey Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is normal, right? Everybody wanders around in industrial neighborhoods at night taking pictures of highly polluted waterways, right? It’s not just me… right?

At this time of the year – when it’s neither hot nor cold, but instead lukewarm – the Dutch Kills tributary of the inconceivable Newtown Creek always displays a layer of filmy “goo,” which is at its most observable during the interval when the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself has dipped behind New Jersey. Not sure if the “goo” is just road salt and snow pellet residues, nor some sort of oil or grease, some effluent introduced by the multiple sewer outlets on Dutch Kills which are offered by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, or perhaps it’s just the mucoid castings of some hidden water dwelling leviathan.

Me, I lean towards the leviathan theory, because it involves both mucous and a giant monster. Mucous is cool.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had to tend to a bit of business in Greenpoint last week, and since it was decent out – weather wise – decided to walk home to Astoria. It’s a walk that sounds longer than it is, you just need to take advantage of fact that since the street grid here about is divided and subdivided by highways and rail infrastructure which creates a series of triangles – walk the legs of the triangle and not the hypotenuse until it’s advantageous.

Cutting through the streets around Dutch Kills leads me to that advantageous hypotenuse (which would make a great band name, incidentally) which is Skillman Avenue. A century ago, I would have been able to shortcut on Old Dutch Kills Road from there, but all that’s left of that is a stubby block following the rail tracks near Home Depot which the City calls 37th avenue. You have to work with what you’ve got, though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is engaged, at the moment, with drawing up a schedule for this year’s walking and boat tours. A recently announced Newtown Creek Alliance tour – the 100% Toxic All Day Newtown Creekathon on April 9th – filled up in about half a day and I didn’t even have time to let everyone here know before it did. I have a feeling we will be repeating this one sometime in the fall, but there’s a lot of neat stuff coming this summer.

On the tours subject – Working Harbor Committee met the other night, and there are several water tours in the offing with that group of maritime educators and enthusiasts. We, as in Newtown Creek Alliance, are going to be announcing several opportunities to visit the Creek by water and on land shortly. Additionally, I’ve got a couple of things cooking with Atlas Obscura that are mighty cool. I’ll be letting everyone know about these and other excursions as soon as I’ve got all the dates etched in stone.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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