The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Court Square’ Category

unused tool

leave a comment »

It’s National Cheese Fondue Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in yesterday’s post – one left Point A (A is for Astoria) for a walk around LIC’s construction zone, ate an egg sandwich, and swiped his Metrocard to vouchsafe a journey to Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen in pursuance of attending a holiday gathering. While awaiting the arrival of the 7 line subway, the hair on the back of my neck went up, and it occurred to me that the thing – which does not breathe or think or live – that persists in the cupola of the Sapphire Megalith – had fixed its three lobed burning eye in my direction. Brrr.

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long, and that inhuman intelligence didn’t have time to send any members of its army of acolytes to investigate, proscribe, or accuse. This will likely surprise regular riders of the 7 – the “not waiting long” part. Nobody will be surprised about the thing which cannot be that exists in the cupola of the Sapphire Megalith of Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Arguably, the 7 is the most photogenic of NYC’s subways. There’s a lot to be said about various examples of the lettered lines – notably the G and F entering and leaving Smith 9th street in Red Hook – but to me, the 7 is the visual champ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even if I’m on the train, I keep flipping the shutter, which causes no end of concern for my fellow riders. It always seems as if my fellow New Yorkers experience difficulty in distinguishing the difference between an assault weapon and a camera, based on the masked expression of apprehension they assume upon spying the thing. Mind you, they’ve all got their smart phones deployed – which sport cameras directly connected to the web – but nobody seems at all concerned about that. Old weird guy in a filthy black raincoat with a DSLR? Clearly terror related, so cancel all National Cheese Fondue Day events just in case. .

Of course, I’m the nervous type, so I’m terrified of everybody else. What’s wrong with you people? Eeek!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 continued along its well worn path, entering the subterrene and the dilapidated Vernon Jackson stop. If you feel like googling “Hunters Point South FEIS,” it’ll take you to a document prepared by NYC’s Dept. of City Planning which discusses the need for the platforms at this stop to be widened and the station to be thoroughly rebuilt in order to handle the burgeoning population of LIC, btw.

NYC City planning ain’t perfect, but you have to be a real dummy not to listen to their advice and shoring up the transportation infrastructure of an area that you intend on adding thousands of people to.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My destination was in Hells Kitchen, over in Manhattan. Given that I was a couple of hours early to attend the Holiday party I was invited to – and I really can’t imagine why ANYONE would want to spend time with one such as myself, as a note – the 7 was ridden all the way to its western terminal stop at the brand spanking new Hudson Yards station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards is the first of the “new style” subway stops which sports a mezzanine that’s one flight of steps up from the tracks. It’s pretty airy in here, but this mezzanine represents a not insignificant investment at the Hudson Yards station. Wonder how much it cost to create a cavern here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards is DEEP, and there’s a couple of sets of industrial meat grinders escalators which carry you up to the surface. The leading lines of the tunnels which the escalators carry you through are fairly vertigo inducing, in my experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually a bit nauseating. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of nauseating, on the Manhattan side of the 7, the western mirror of LIC’s mega projects is underway – the Hudson Yards development project. Funny, how it often seems that the 7 line – from Flushing all the way to LIC in Queens and all the way down 42nd and then to 34th in Manhattan – seems  to be the singular focus of the Real Estate people.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 4, 2017 at 11:00 am

unrelieved insanity

leave a comment »

It’s National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One fine day at the end of December, my calendar informed that a holiday party was on my schedule at seven p.m. in Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen neighborhood. Having few things holding me at home, and desirous of an end to my “bouncing off the four walls” that typifies my response to the Christmas season, I decided to make a day of it. I packed up the camera bag and left Astoria at around two in the afternoon. My path first carried me down the Carridor, or Northern Blvd. if you must, and at the undefended border of the neighborhoods of Astoria and Dutch Kills (31st street) one encountered a gargantua construction project whose goal – I believe – is to deliver yet another badly needed hotel to the Dutch Kills neighborhood.

There’s only about twenty or so of them there now, and god knows we need more, as at least one of them has been converted over to a homeless shelter by the administrative geniuses employed by our beloved Mayor – the Dope from Park Slope, Bill de Blasio.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Construction projects have stolen the sky in Long Island City in recent years. Long shadows are cast, and bizarrely reflected sunlight glares from the mirror box surfaces of the new towers. The glare sometimes illuminates a long shadowed factory block, burning away the mold and nitre of the early 20th century Industrial Age of Queens. The towers eradicate these ancient factories and warehouses which still hosted hundreds of blue collar and industrial jobs, replacing them with residences. It’s all done in the name of providing jobs, I’m told, although after the 24-36 months of construction work is done those jobs move on.

Luckily there’s still a handful of jobs for servile labor – doormen, porters, building superintendents. There would be delivery boys too, if the designers and funders of these towers had remembered that a neighborhood is more than just a collection of apartment buildings, and that you need doctors offices, laundromats, and supermarkets too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens Plaza seems to be quite the focus point for construction activity at the moment, answering the clarion call that all New Yorkers have been singing for generations demanding the opportunity to live here. As mentioned earlier, the only good part of these new structures to me is that they act as sun reflectors during the late afternoon and illuminate the transportation hub that serves as the de facto focusing point for nearly all the Midtown Manhattan bound vehicular traffic of Long Island and the locus point for the screeching steel wheels of the elevated N, W, and 7 Subway lines.

I do wish that the orange construction netting was a permanent feature, of course, as it provided for a nice color contrast with the stolen sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always been fascinated by the elevated Subway architecture hereabouts, which forms – technically speaking -“Queensborough Plaza.” The underground Subway complex, where you’ll find the E, R, and M lines, is called “Queens Plaza.” One of the things that has long puzzled me, however is why there isn’t a free transfer between upstairs and downstairs. If I get off a train at either complex, there are free transfers to the NYCTA Bus lines which Queens Plaza is lousy with, via some sort of magical Metrocard alchemy.

Conversely, MTA doesn’t allow a free transfer from… say, the N line to the R. Instead, you’re told to transfer to the 7 from the N, go to the Court Square stop, and transfer there instead. Not too big a deal, but why?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing under the elevated tracks, and towards the Citi building megalith, one encounters another construction zone. These buildings are further along, many have been open and renting for a while now. I know a couple who live in the “Linc LIC” building at the right of the shot above, and they proclaim great satisfaction with their new home.

Of course, as I’m ever a black spider crawling across clean white linen, one had to inform them of their proximity to half a dozen State Superfund sites, and to the Dutch Kills tributary of the noisome Newtown Creek Federal Superfund site. It seems that the realtors of NYC are under no obligation to inform buyers and renters of these new properties about environmental issues present in their new neighborhood. The realtors would be obliged to disclose if the property was known to be haunted by a ghost, conversely, in accordance with NYS jurisprudence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless of opinion, sense, or a web of infrastructure capable of maintaining this new population – construction continues. Hospital beds – Who needs ’em? Sewer plant upgrades – nobody cares about that. 7 train at capacity already, according to the MTA – haven’t you got something else to worry about, Mitch? Clouds of toxic dust mixing into the air column from construction sites – pfahhh, have you tried the new muffins at Coffeed?

Well you get the idea, and it is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day after all, so why aren’t you out shopping for some? What are ya? Some kind of commie? Go buy something. Maybe an apartment in Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Swinging around onto 23rd street, under the elevated tracks of the 7 line, in an area which I’ve always referred to as “the fedora district” since it’s the sort of place you can picture working guys wearing old school hats – I encountered some politically expressive vandalism on the plywood fencing of what promises to be yet another construction site.

The same writer installed the screed “Trump is your fault” around the corner. Politics and vandalism versus expression notwithstanding, one realized that he had left the house without eating breakfast. After counting out how many pennies I had in my pocket – I went to the ever reliable Court Square diner and ordered a sandwich which I call a “cholesterol bun” – 2 scrambled eggs, with ham and swiss cheese, on a roll.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst quaffing my cholesterol bun and sitting on the sidewalk of Jackson Avenue, the construction site occurring on the site of the former 5Ptz caught my eye. This is the one that burns me, incidentally. Maybe people do want to live in Queens Plaza. Maybe I’m just a recalcitrant preservationist and my knowledge of the intricacies of LIC’s environmental woes and infrastructure deficiencies prejudices the way I perceive all of this construction activity which the avarice of the politically connected Real Estate Shit Flies have created.

Thing is, a significant number of people who are moving in to LIC have been sold on its “vibrant art scene” which doesn’t actually exist. There WAS a vibrant art scene at 5Ptz, but nobody in power raised a finger to save the one thing which drew crowds of “artsy fartsy lookie-loos” to LIC. It’s a a crime what happened to 5ptz, from the literal whitewashing of its walls onwards. What’s rising are two more bland towers overlooking an elevated, busy and quite noisy, subway track.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Disgusted by all the short sightedness, and abundant entropy of LIC – and after the consumption of my yummy cholesterol bun – one entered the MTA “system” and paid my fare for a ride on the most photogenic of NYC’s subway lines. As mentioned at the top of the post, I had a social obligation to keep in Hells Kitchen, and it was time to head into town. LIC will shortly resemble a Hells Kitchen anyway – surviving tenements converted to one family “pied a terre” and surrounded by outré scale luxury towers that host the minimum number of low income housing allowable by law, and suffused by staggering levels of congested vehicular traffic.

My plan was to take the 7 to the western end of the line, in… Manhattan. More on that tomorrow, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

dominant concern

with one comment

I hate Christmas, but I do like puppies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the worst time of year for one such as myself. The forced social encounters at Christmas parties, the darkness, the cold. One gets invited to a few holiday parties, which I agree to go to, then back out of the day of. This is kind of a dick move on my part, it is realized, but in reality I’m trying to spare the party giver that certain shadow which I carry around with me. Nobody actually wants me around their homes during the holidays, just like a kitchen fire. Y’know how a lighthouse looks? The bright beam of light scanning about? Imagine a beam of utter darkness emanating from it instead, that’s me.

During December, I always feel like some demon cursed and quite useless object that spreads an acerbic contagion to whatever it touches, or a tumor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I prefer to work on updating my enemies list during December, looking through my calendar for those who’ve slighted or annoyed me during the preceding year, and begin to develop my plans for exacting vengeance on them. There’s a few people out there who I can already tell you will be having a very difficult time of it in 2017. Bah.

Usually, when I say “bah,” somebody chimes in with “humbug.” I don’t know what a humbug is, but I suspect it’s one of those angry red razor bumps people get from ingrown hairs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s best for all that one remains secure in his hermitage this time of year. The humans all seem happy to be enacting their odd rituals, giving manufactured items to each other in the presence of a tree which they’ve had killed and then brought into the house. Luckily, the seasonal bacchanal ends in a couple of weeks,

Bah.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

suddenly lost

leave a comment »

Getting high in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one of the environmental projects underwritten by GCEF (the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund) opened to the public at Brooklyn’s 520 Kingsland Avenue, alongside that loathsome exemplar of municipal neglect known as the Newtown Creek. In this case, the project is a green roof installed on top of a movie studio, specifically one of the production facilities owned and operated by the Broadway Stages company which is partially housed in a series of formerly industrial locations around Greenpoint and Long Island City. Broadway Stages has been buying up a LOT of property along the Creek in recent years.

Well, I guess the location is still industrial, it’s just a different kind of industry – entertainment rather than petrochemical. At any rate, 520 Kingsland Avenue is a few stories above the flood plain and whilst up there and on site, I got busy with the camera. You’ve seen this point of view before, incidentally – in a 2016 post where I told you about Brooklyn’s invisible flame back in June.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can’t really talk about it quite yet, but let’s just say I’ll be able to take you up there in a couple of weeks on a couple of free tours. I’ll supply the link as soon as it’s public. The green roof at 520 Kingsland was designed with butterflies, of all things, in mind. Saying that it’s a pretty interesting space with neat little walkways weaving through plantings, and there are incredible views of the surrounding industrial zone to check out.

That’s part of Metro Fuel’s truck fleet in the shot above, for the curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The real stunners, amongst the many points of view available from 520 Kingsland Avenue, are the ones in which the shining city of Manhattan provides the backdrop. This sort of urban pornography is possible due to two reasons: one is that the Greenpoint Landing Project is just kicking into gear, so the POV isn’t blocked by forty story residential palaces yet; the other is that the surrounding area is all 19th century landfill which is both low lying and quite flat.

This POV is looking due west from the 520 Kingsland Avenue rooftop, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northwest POV, gazing across the lugubrious Newtown Creek in the direction of Long Island City’s Hunters Point section.

In the distance, you’ll notice the red and white banded smokestacks of the “Big Allis” power plant at 36th avenue in the Ravenswood section. The Citi building megalith, that sapphire dagger jammed in the heart of the place at Jackson Avenue’s intersection with Thomson Avenue, used to be the only large scale building in the area.

 

As an aside, a few years ago some group of urban planners/art fucks from Pratt University proposed Big Allis’s red and white stripes to me as a branding element for the western Queens waterfront. I had to inform them how we residents regarded the presence of an enormous power plant operating along our waterfront that serves Manhattan’s needs, and that it wasn’t exactly a popular symbol, locally speaking.

 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The singularity of the Citi megalith has, of course, changed. The pace of real estate development in the last few years has been frenetic in LIC, as evinced in the shots above and below. Sometimes, in order to really take it all in, you need to leave Queens entirely – just to gain some perspective.

Funnily enough, this is what I usually say about Manhattan – the best part of “the City” is being outside of it and witnessing the shield wall of buildings from without. An inhuman scale landscape like Manhattan’s can’t be properly observed while you’re within the oppressive shadows of its canyon walls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That white truss structure at center of the shot is the Long Island Expressway, which rises over Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary from its beginnings at the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Dutch Kills intersects with the main body of Newtown Creek about 3/4 of a mile back from the East River, and heads inland for the better part of a mile. The LIE traffic up on that truss bridge is flowing 106 feet over the water. The far right hand side of the shot above shows the construction going on at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Queens Plaza, on the former West Chemicals Company site. Moving left, the rest of the construction is occurring along Jackson Avenue at Purves, Dutch Kills Street, and so on.

All of it is high end residential, incidentally, except for that squamous curvy faced one directly to the left of the orange one. That’s an office building which the NYC Dept. of Health has based itself in nearby Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my little adages, which I gleefully relate on my walking tours of the area, is a facet of NYS law – it dictates that if you were about to buy a home which is known to be “haunted by a ghost” by the current owner and or the surrounding community – the haunting needs to be disclosed before closing the sales contract.

If you’re buying a property that used to be a chemical factory, or a copper refinery, or some other heavy industrial pursuit that rendered the site a “brownfield” – you are under no obligation to disclose the environmental history to a buyer, however.

When you meet newer residents of LIC’s Tower Town or Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, and mention a nearby Federal Superfund site defined as “Newtown Creek” – they say “What’s that?”

Upcoming tours and events:


“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

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

 

%d bloggers like this: