The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Court Square’ Category

rank swamp

with 2 comments

Some people just can’t be satisfied with what they’ve got.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The manifest horror of what’s happened around Queens Plaza and Court Square, real estate development wise, is kind of hard to miss. If you ride the 7 train, or the N/Q lines, I’m sure your jaw routinely drops at the sheer scale of it all. The Citi building megalith – and that impossible, ravenous “thing” which cannot possibly exist in its cupola, whose unblinking three lobed eye gazes greedily down upon the world of men – is nearly occluded by the new construction taking place all around Long Island City. 

The real estate industrial complex seems to have won, and Long Island City is no longer the “next big thing.” Instead, it’s a manifest reality. Thing is, the real estate guys aren’t done yet. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Paragon Oil building on 49th (or Hunters Point) Avenue, once known as the “Subway Building” and or “Queens Borough Hall” was recently purchased by one of the big developers. Rumors and back channel chats with the “powers that be” in Long Island City have revealed that there is a push underway to rezone the industrial corridors along 49th/Hunters Point and Borden Avenues to a “mixed use” designation which will allow the infiltration and conversion of the M1 or “heavy manufacturing zone” over to residential and commercial (office) use. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The enormous Blanchard Building on Borden has also been snapped up by the same company that purchased the Paragon Oil building. Official sources indicate that both structures will be purposed as commercial buildings – office space, in other words. The word on the street that I’ve heard is that the rezoning effort would encompass the area found between the Pulaski Bridge and Greenpoint Avenue, and that the eventual end product would resemble what has occurred along Jackson Avenue and the Hunters Point waterfront. 

This is, of course, all rumor and scuttlebutt. Can you imagine installing a huge population back here, in the LIC cul de sac formed by Newtown Creek and its Dutch Kills tributary? 

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

mapped egress

with one comment

The horror, in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My post last Friday about the 7 line got me thinking about the Subways of Western Queens, which are referred to as “the horror” in conversations with Our Lady of the Pentacle.

It was the 3rd of April, in 1913, that the City of New York purchased the (Steinway) tunnels utilized by what would become known as the 7 line from August Belmont, and in 1915 service started on June 22. They didn’t know it at the time, but those old timey types were creating the most photogenic of all of New York City’s subway lines.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even when it’s underground, such as the busted ass Vernon Jackson stop, the IRT line’s 7 looks good. It’s when it moves into Sunnyside and Woodside that the 7 looks best, of course, but there are few stops in Queens where it doesn’t look pretty cool to this itinerant photographer – notably the stop pictured above and the last one in Flushing are comparatively kind of “meh.”

Everything looks terrible in Manhattan, and nobody would go there if they weren’t paid to do so.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In comparison, the R – which travels on the IND – is the reliable but visually uninteresting line. It didn’t reach Queens until 1920, but back then it only went to Queens Plaza. The modern route, which goes all the way to Forest Hills, was established in 1949 – but back then it was known as the “RR.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The interesting thing about the Court Square station, to me at least, is that – at least these days – it offers a free transfer between the IND and IRT systems. Downstairs, you’ve got the G, M, and E lines, and upstairs the 7. To continue with the arcane Subway knowledge – the G line became active in 1933, but it was known as the GG back then. The E also came online in 1933, and it is one of the Subway lines that never sees the light of day operationally as its entire route is underground.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The M is something of a newcomer to the IND Sixth Avenue tracks, although the line was officially designated as early as 1914. It wasn’t until 2010 that the line was routed into its current path mirroring the R service. It actually pisses me off, M wise, that if I wanted to go to Ridgewood – a mere five miles from Newtown Pentacle HQ on Astoria’s southern border – I would need to endure an hour and change long journey through the Shining City to get there.

Before you inform me – yes – I know all about taking the R to Newtown Grand Avenue and catching the bus – I do it all the time.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

mortal assurances

leave a comment »

Did you feel that? Did a truck just go by?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The geology of Western Queens is fairly fascinating. A humble narrator is interested in all things, and one of them is the very ground beneath his feet. Historically speaking, the zone which modernity calls Queens Plaza and Court Square in Long Island City were wetlands. There is rock down there somewhere, but the “craton” which underlies this section of a very Long Island was deposited by the glacial retreat at an odd angle which slopes downward as you head south. A craton is essentially a giant boulder, and that underground slab of rock which is found in LIC’s neck of the woods is buried beneath layers of naturally occurring clay and sand, and a loosely packed 20-30 foot thick layer of anthropogenic landfill material sits atop it. True geologic bedrock doesn’t appear until you get to Maspeth, where the terminal moraine of Long Island begins.

Municipal landfill began to reduce the wetlands and swamps of LIC beginning in the early 19th century, which buried many of the now lost tributaries of both Newtown and Sunswick Creeks which flowed through these parts. Once, you could sail from Newtown Creek all the way to Northern Blvd. at 31st street, and by once I mean 1881. The desire to stamp out typhus and cholera in LIC, Dutch Kills, and Astoria during the “sanitary era” is part of what provided impetus for the landfill process.

The construction of the Queensboro Bridge and the Sunnyside Yards in the first decade of the 20th century finished the job of reclaiming what was – by all accounts – a pestilential swamp. Modernity has forgotten all about that, just ask the East Side Access guys who accidentally found one of those buried waterways  – a catastrophic discovery which delayed their progress and added billions of dollars onto the cost of the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, I’m not much of anything, let alone an engineer or a geologist. What I am, however, is a guy with a collection of old maps and a series of books which describe what things were like in the area surrounding Jane Street Queens Plaza from the colonial period to the start of the 20th century. The engineers who worked on Sunnyside Yards described some pretty esoteric conditions at the corner of Skillman and Thompson – for instance – including mud that would form 18 feet high waves spontaneously as the tidal action from surrounding waters transmitted through it. The Ravenswood houses are built on a tidal pond/marsh/swamp formed by Sunswick Creek, and the area around the present day LaGuardia Community college was known as the “waste meadows” until Michael Degnon got ahold of them in the 1910’s and filled the wetland swamps in with rock tailings harvested from the subway tunnels which his company was working on.

I’m also a guy who understands that even the stoutest limb will crack if it’s made to bear weight beyond its tolerance. Now, it’s pretty unlikely that a craton, which is a boloid of rock the size of an asteroid that is miles across and thousands of feet thick, would crack. It could sink, however, into the glacial till which it rests upon. This fills me with real concern, given the whole climate change/sea level thing that the Republicans claim isn’t happening. How much crap can you pile in one place before something “gives”?

The firmament is literally shaking in LIC these days, what with all the high rise construction going on, and the truck loads of structural steel and concrete rolling through.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My buddies in construction tell me that once you find solid footing – driving steel and concrete down until it meets that rock craton – you can pretty much build as big as you want. The piles sit on the rock, then you create a concrete slab which provides for a stable surface that spreads weight load out over a large area, and you build. Engineers calculated wind sheer, vibration, soil solidity and a thousand other factors years before the first shovelful of earth was turned. An elaborate bureaucracy of planners and building specialists have scoured the plans, looked for any possible error or issue, and made corrections when warranted. Believe when I tell you, these people won’t allow any single structure to crack the earth open anywhere in NYC.

Saying that, they are all largely looking at projects on an individual basis, and not a holistic whole. What will happen when everything scrapes the sky? Will the ground continue to shake, or will LIC just sink?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

 

negative impact

with 3 comments

Credos, declarations, statements on the street – in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst wandering about, your humble narrator likes to take note of the various missives and graffitos encountered. Most of the graffiti you see are “tags” left behind by “writers” which indicate mainly that they have been there before you. There’s also the “art” types who do renderings and or complex paintings. You’ve also got the gang stuff, which is meant as either provocation or an announcement of territorial preeminence. My favorites are the credos, seeming attempts to liberate the minds of those who read them. Often, these credos are placed in highly visible locations, what the graffiti community would refer to as “a good wall.”

The shot above is from 48th street in Sunnyside, along the LIRR overhead tracks. This particular writer has been quite busy in the recent past.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A similar typographic style and brand of rhetoric has been appearing all over the study area which I call the Newtown Pentacle in recent months. The messaging above is found in Queens Plaza, and my presumption of its authorship is that it’s the same as the missive in the first shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Probably not the same graffiti enthusiast, but this less than monumental declaration was recently witnessed on Jackson Avenue nearby the Court Square subway station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Astoria, nearby Steinway Street’s intersection with Broadway, this messaging appeared one morning in the late autumn. Again, I believe, it’s the work of the person(s) featured in shots 1&2.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at Socrates Sculpture Garden, this polemic was observed on a lamp post during the summer, but you’ll always find a whole lot of “artsy fartsy” graffiti near the institution.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Sunnyside, on 48th street near Skillman, a more permanent sort of scrawl was observed which mirrors the sentiment of the block printed missives found along the LIRR tracks, in Astoria, and Queens Plaza.

It’s not quite as eloquent, but there you are.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

simple swains

with 3 comments

Most photogenic Subway line nomination, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The elevated 7 line has become quite famous for its multitudinous delays, entire weekends wherein service is suspended, and the frustrations of the vast population who count on it as their daily conveyance to and from the Shining City from Queens. One would offer that despite all of this, it looks great, and since appearances are all that really matter under the current administration in City Hall and Albany…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The underground lines just don’t have the same panache as the elevateds, and there are analogs for them in every major human infestation found upon the earth. The subterranean lines are dirty, dark, and the sweating concrete bunkers through which they run are the kingdoms of the rat. The first shot in today’s post emanates from a point in space roughly one hundred or so yards above the one above depicting the E line, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 even looks good from high above, as it turns out of the Hunters Point stop into the open air over the Sunnyside Yard and heads towards Court Square. If the MTA has a “Belle of the Ball,” it’s clearly the 7 – esthetically speaking. There’s a lot to be said about the scenery at Bushwick junction as well, but the 7…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Further east, where the so called international express heads through Sunnyside and Woodside and Jackson Heights high over Roosevelt Avenue – towards its eventual destination in Flushing – the 7 carries itself with a certain bearing and sharply appointed charm. One therefore nominates the 7 as the best looking of NYC’s subways.

Remember, it’s better to look good than to feel good, and that form always trumps function.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

daytime pilgrimmage

leave a comment »

Jackson Avenue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been watching the construction efforts underway at the former West Chemical site adjoining Queens Plaza for a while now. Building condominium towers in Queens Plaza is a questionable proposition, beggaring the question “who would really want to live in Queens Plaza?,” but the bigger one for me is “would you want to live on the former location of a chemical factory?.” I often remark to myself that the reason why the history of Queens is often so tough a nut to crack is the careful obfuscation of its past by the real estate industrial complex so as to preclude casual mention of the fact that so many of the new residential towers rising from Western Queens are in fact built atop such sites.

State and City officialdom call sites like these “brownfields,” which sounds a lot better than “toxic and irreversibly polluted” I guess. Just say “affordable housing” or “green infrastructure” and you’ll feel better about the whole thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brownfield remediation, or “opportunity area,” sounds a heck of a lot better at cocktail parties and let’s face it – lower Manhattan and North Brooklyn cocktail parties tend to grind into uncomfortable territory when you mention the environmental consequence of a century’s worth of industrial use. One would point out that at least the “powers that are” aren’t planning on putting a school on top of the old West Chemical site, but that brings up the uncomfortable subject of the infrastructure required to support a residential population being inserted into a former industrial zone, and the lack thereof, so that’s best avoided as well so as to not make the bond brokers skittish and derail the program.

It will not be conducive, condo sales wise, to mention all of those closed FDNY units or the frankly astounding conditions encountered at the centuried Queensboro or Ravenswood NYCHA projects, nor where the nearest hospital emergency room is located.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The old “chickens coming home to roost” adage will likely be punching Western Queens in the nose some time in the late 2020’s – by my estimate. That’s when our trains will be running at (instead of near) capacity, our lack of school desks and hospital beds will be most apparent, and when the new populations installed in these former industrial corridors begin to organize – politically speaking. One wonders if these new populations will vote in as reliable and “party loyal” a fashion as the current residents do. Will the 20’s roar, or howl, for the Democrats?

The folks who can afford the so called “affordable housing,” rising from these “brownfields,” will they vote for a Democrat party candidate and continue the rule of the “Queens Machine” – or will they support somebody else who is a little more in tune with them socioeconomically? Only time, and a roll of the political dice, will tell.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

slumber, watcher

with 3 comments

What would Superman do?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in the past, the supernatural ideation at whose altar one such as myself leaves the burnt offerings is Superman. No offense meant to those of you who worship more traditional deities, but my god has heat vision and the Romans would have had a darned difficult time driving nails through his hands (except under a Red Sun, of course). My particular exemplar of morality, of course, routinely puts me in particularly thorny ethical territory. When I see the strong preying upon the weak, I am compelled to interfere – despite the fact that no matter how practiced my accusing stare may be, nothing seems to be bursting into flame. Additionally, the whole invulnerability thing would be nice, but your humble narrator is unfortunately on the other side of the scale when it comes to that. Sometimes it seems that a mild breeze is all that it takes to overcome my defenses.

Still, when confronted with moral quanries, I always ask myself “What would Superman do?“.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One discussed a recent event with friends on Facebook just the other day, wherein having accomplished that set of tasks normally set aside for the early morning, I was sitting on the porch here in Astoria with my little dog Zuzu and finishing a second cup of coffee. Suddenly, a tumult arose from the sidewalk. An older couple was arguing, and the male – an excitable Spaniard – was swinging his arms and legs around at the female. From the way that she flinched and assumed defensive postures, it was obvious that the fellow’s pantomine blows often connected, and I began to yell and scream at him to let her be. My tactic was successful, as he turned his rage towards me – inviting me down to join him in the gutter. Since they were seperated, I then instructed the woman to call the Police. She instead started waving her arms around while saying “let it go, let it go.”

What would Superman do?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One strives to be the best version of myself that is possible, which was not always the case. Lazy and selfish pretty much typifies the manner in which I operated until falling ill roughly ten years ago. Lying in a hospital bed for nearly a week, I promised myself, and that fictional deity of mine, that were I to survive the experience that I would be a different man than I was formerly. Every action since has been in pursuance of some sort of redemption. This often forces me to confront the forces of chaos here in Astoria, and in the Metropolis which cradles the ancient village. Where one runs into moral shades of gray, however, is in the reaction of that woman saying “let it go, let it go.” Could I have beaten the tar out of her abusive mate? Yes. Would that have accomplished anything at all? Would it have just made things worse for her? People ask why I refer to the population hereabouts as “the human infestation,” and why I seem so puzzled about their actions. Why not try to rise above, and be the best possible version of yourself? Why give in to your base instincts towards violence and selfishness? I don’t understand.

What would Superman do?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 30, 2015 –
The Skillman Corridor with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,295 other followers

%d bloggers like this: