The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Court Square’ Category

inquire what

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Things they didn’t tell Amazon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only definitive statement that you can make is about something that’s already happened, which is why I spend a lot of my time thinking about the past in pursuit of informing my journey through the present and into the future. Since the Mayor and Governor seem to have found common ground on the subject of Amazon coming to LIC, and announced their intentions to offer the company a kings ransom in tax breaks and other incentives to base their second HQ here in Long Island City, on a huge campus located adjacent to the so called Anable Basin, a lot of people have inquired as to my positions and thoughts on the matter. Dire implication of pending doom, or a bright future?

Let’s get to it then. The shot above looks down 44th drive, towards the East River and Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above is a fire insurance map section of Anable Basin’s (labeled “canal”) neighborhood in 1919, depicting the land use of one century ago. If you click it, the link will carry you over to Flickr, where a larger incarnation of the thing can be zoomed into for deeper perusal. The Standard Oil properties above were an operation called DeVoe, which I understand to have primarily been a canning and packaging facility for petroleum products and chemical byproducts that were refined at Standard’s several refineries to the east and south, and notably those along the nearby Newtown Creek.

The shots below depict scenes more recent, 2009 specifically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back when I first started wandering around LIC with a camera, I really didn’t understand the things I was looking at nor the complicated web of connections and tangents that were directly in front of me. Often I would gain a moment of insight, saying “that looks like it might be important to get some shots of,” as is the case with these now decade old shots. At the time, the land on the southern side of Anable Basin was an open field of post industrial rubble and construction equipment, fenced in with gated entrances that displayed signs saying “NYS DEC Brownfield Remediation site.” It took better than two years, and millions of dollars (and a bit of epic legal trickery) before environmental officialdom could sign off on Rockrose Development’s plans for the site.

The shots above and below are from December 6th in 2009, and were presented in a Newtown Pentacle post describing the Brownfield Remediation project on the southern side of Anable Basin which the following text was a part of:

9.5 acres, and owned by Rockrose Development (which has recently transformed itself into another corporate entity), this is the future home of four residential towers. As of April 2008, some 80,000 tons of contaminants had been removed from the site at a cost of $31 million. Standard Oil sited an oil refinery here in the 1860’s, and the soil is contaminated with Benzene, Petroleum Distillates, and volatile organic chemicals whose detected presence – in trace amounts- would cause the regular NYFD to evacuate and call in their HAZMAT teams.

Additionally, generations worth of untreated sewage and industrial pollution swirl and mix with the water table of the East River in the deeply cold gravels and blackened mud beneath the place. Sources also reveal that the “clean fill” being used to replace the contaminated substrates that were removed in the remediation process emanate from the tunnel being bored out from under the East River by the “East Side Access” project.

Additionally, the photo directly below is from a bit earlier in 2009, June 29 to be specific, and depicts the dozens and dozens of steel drums that contaminated material which had been removed from the ground in the first pass was stored in onsite.

If you live in that large residential tower in LIC that’s found at 45-45 Center Blvd, well… guess what?

They didn’t mention this, or any of the other inconvenient environmental truths about LIC, to you before you moved in? They’re probably not revealing it to Amazon or their employees either.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north at the corner of 44th drive and 11th street, there’s a light industrial zone that has somehow survived having the real estate folks picking away at it over the last couple of decades. It’s been nibbled in at the edges, which I’d define as being 23rd street to the east, the Queensboro Bridge to the north, East River to the west, and 44th drive to the south. It’s an area composed of truck based warehouse businesses, light manufacturing, food preparation, construction contractors. 11th street’s southern end terminates in the onramp to the Pualski Bridge, the gateway to North Brooklyn.

Amazon’s presence will make this area “the next big thing,” development wise, and its presence will definitely heat up the already red hot real estate market of North Brooklyn as well as the similarly fevered one here in Queens. Don’t be surprised if this industrial zone is remade into Manhattan style office buildings and hotels. Also, don’t be surprised if nearby civic groups welcome it, in return for crumbs from Amazon’s table, and the hotels become homeless shelters after a year or two.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s 44th Drive’s intersection with Vernon Blvd. which will all be part of the Amazon campus. Don’t ask how many feet of water were sloshing about here during Hurricane Sandy, or about the complaints often offered to the City DEP by residents about sewage backups that occur during ordinary storms. Certainly, don’t tell Amazon about it.

Until quite recently the goal of the Real Estate Industrial Complex, as led by the NYC EDC, was to develop this intersection as high density residential, and to give the government owned land away to a developer for the price of a handshake. Don’t worry about the developer, they’re the ones that are going to build the Amazon campus. They also got a sweetheart deal on a property adjoining Newtown Creek where they’ll be allowed to erect four twenty story tower apartment buildings. Win, win!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The huge NYC owned building at the corner of Vernon Blvd. and 44th drive is officially a NYC Dept. of Education facility. Currently, it houses some 1,000 plus employees of the Office of Pupil Transportation (the School Bus people, who are coincidentally having their $1.2 Billion operation investigated by the FBI under charges of rampant corruption), the Division of School Facilities (responsible for construction of new schools and maintenance of existing structures), and the Office of Food & Nutrition Services (School Lunch people, who feed around 1.1 million students a day).

Now, if you’re someone like me (which is unlikely), when you look at 44-36 Vernon Blvd., you don’t see the Department of Education building, instead you see a late 1930’s Work Projects Administration built City of New York Department of Purchase and Bureau of Stores warehouse. Construction began in 1938, if you’re the curious type. I am.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing west down 44th drive, you encounter a lonely and sort of scary street. While these shots were being captured, there was one automobile being utilized as a boudoir, and in another there was a group of teenagers who were experimenting with cannibinoids. A few workers sidled past me and shot “the hairy eyeball” in my direction.

This section of 44th drive, found between Vernon Blvd. and the East River, is a little scary at night but no different than many of the streets you find in the peninsular sections of Hunters Point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunters Point is the actual name of this area, not Long Island City. Long Island City, as it were, encompassed a vast area which included parts of Middleburgh or LIC Heights (modern day Sunnyside), all of Astoria, Blissville, Hunters Point, Dutch Kills, and Ravenswood. If you live west of Woodside Avenue or 51st street and your zip code starts with a “111,” you live in the former municipality of Long Island City, which was absorbed into the City of Greater New York along with the rest of Queens back in 1898. Referred to at the time by citizens of what became the outer boroughs as “The Great Mistake,” Manhattan’s interests have been primal ever since.

Ravenswood, as a note, is the neighborhood on the other side of the Queensboro Bridge as you move northwards along Vernon Blvd., and Astoria starts somewhere between 35th and 34th avenues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Roughly analogous to 5th street, the DOE building has a huge parking lot for its employees which will also become a part of the Amazon campus. This view looks north, through the open gates of the facility towards an empty property. Said property had a building on it which was demolished in anticipation of real estate development, but funding for the project fell through and it was allowed to grow wild with self planted vegetation.

The foundation of the former building filled in with rain and flood water, and the site is colloquially referred to as “Lake Vernon.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south along 5th street, which is hardly a street and more of an access drive that’s one block long, is the intersection with 45th avenue (labeled as “Division Street” in the map at the top of the post). The area is defined by a large NYC DOT yard, one devoted to roadway resurfacing and asphalt spreading operations. When manufacturing declined as an economic sector in NYC during the 1960’s and 70’s a lot of formerly valuable waterfront property owners ended up either in bankruptcy or unable to pay their taxes, and the City ended up foreclosing on or just taking over their abandoned properties. In order to bring some sort of economic life to these depressed post industrial zones, and free up more valuable land in Manhattan, NYC began to base its’ service fleets in these centrally located areas.

Starting in the 1990’s, these waterfront lots and parcels began to be considered valuable again, but the City couldn’t afford to relocate them elsewhere as real estate valuation had risen. All over the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts, you’ll find facilities like this DOT yard or the DOE building across the street. The so called “movement” to replace the jails complex on Rikers Island has nothing to do with “mercy” or “justice,” and everything to do with resiting municipal facilities operated by DEP, DSNY, NYPD, FDNY, and so on from valuable parcels in hot real estate zones.

You can’t build tower apartments on Rikers, it’s near an airport and very far from mass transit other than buses.

You can build one and two story garages and warehouses for City owned vehicle and equipment fleets, though, ones which will be safe from prying eyes at the end of a causeway bridge in East Elmhurst.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing towards the waterfront, you encounter a recreational pier with seating and benches, after passing by the entrance to an “eating and drinking” establishment called the Anable Basin Sailing Bar and Grill. It’s seems to be a pretty popular destination during the summer, that bar and grill. Anable Basin itself is on its southern flank, which is bordered by that benzene laden construction site and the tower building built atop it on the other side of the canal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking at the waterfront properties, from that recreational pier, which the Amazon Campus will be observed from by residents of Manhattan’s Upper East Side and visitors to Roosevelt Island’s Four Freedoms Park. The building at the right of the shot is one which our Mayor would likely celebrate the demolition of – the Waters Edge restaurant. The former owner of the restaurant testified to Federal Prosecutors about rampant political corruption at City Hall, and directly about his “pay for play” interactions and transactions with the Mayor himself.

Mayor De Blasio seems to have escaped charges “by the hair of his chiny chin chin” by exploiting the technicalities of election law. Read about it here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the East River and looking south towards the NYC Ferry LIC north dock near the Pepsi sign, the aforementioned brownfield cleanup area, Anable Basin, and the LED countdown clock ticking away the remaining number of days that we still need to call Donald Trump “President.”

One of the many decisions undertaken by the Trump Administration which I disagree with was the firing of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was in the process of investigating and tightening the prosecutorial noose – which jailed Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos – on our Mayor and on our Governor as well. Bill De Blasio and Andrew Cuomo actually owe their reputations and freedom to Donald Trump firing Bharara, which would be an ironic fact at any other time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north along the East River coastline past Water’s Edge, Lake Vernon, a large Con Edison training facility, and the gas powered electric generation turbines found nearby the Queensboro Bridge and just south of the Queensbridge NYCHA houses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above looks up 44th drive, towards the Sapphire Megalith of Long Island City, and the Court Square area. It’s literally the other direction of the first shot in this long post.

The megalith, which has been occupied by Citi Group since it opened some 26 years ago, will be the temporary home of Amazon’s HQ2 until construction on the LIC campus winds up sometime in the middle 2020’s.

So? What do I think about Amazon coming to LIC? I still haven’t formed an intelligent opinion or gleaned any nuance, but now I can intelligently say what used to be and is here, and why. Now, you can say that too. What do you think about this subject? What else hasn’t Amazon been told by the snake pit of New York politics?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2018 at 11:00 am

intervening hours

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Friday has come at last, whew.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I mentioned yesterday, my stated desire to get high in LIC received a few answers, and one of them presented an opportunity to access the roof decks at one of the titanic new residential towers in the Queens Plaza area. One was offered a fairly limited period of time in which to get busy with the clicking and whirring, as my friend’s generosity was limited by him having preexisting plans for later in the evening.

Pictured above is the zone found around and about the Court Square section, with the Sapphire Megalith at center.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking southeast towards Brooklyn, that’s the Kosciuszcko Bridge and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway at the top of the shot, and the dark mound just in front of it is Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville section. The bright line is the Long Island Expressway, and in the foreground is the Degnon Terminal nearby the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

This is how City Planners see things, I suspect. Neat little blocks and distanced “zones” devoid of the complications or existential realities of humanity. Personally, I spend so much time scratching around in the filthy substrate and granular truths of these places, this point of view is like an alien reality to me. Saying that, even all the way up here, there are construction cranes visible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking west and slightly northwards towards Manhattan and the Queensboro Bridge, the Queensbridge NYCHA houses are filling the right hand side of the image and looking for all the world like charcoal briquettes on a BBQ.

Have a nice holiday weekend, lords and ladies, and I’ll be back Monday with something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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momentus talk

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Thanks…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all an indigestion free night.

Shocking news arrived last night, when news of the death of State Senator Jose Peralta at age 47 arrived in my inbox. Sen. Peralta was a really nice guy, and 47 is way too young for anyone to check out. Condolences are offered to his family.

Pictured above is the view that the Amazon folks will be enjoying as they work late into the night in LIC. More on that next week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My clarion cry to “get high in LIC” was answered by my pal Joe, who lives in one of the tower buildings that have recently risen in the Queens Plaza area. Pictured above is a birds eye view of the same Queensboro Bridge pictured in the first shot, and the intertwining arterial roadways that feed into the span. Unfortunately, the Newtown Creek aerial POV I’m hungry for wasn’t available from this vantage point, but there you are.

A couple of others who live a bit further to the south have responded to my request, and I’m hoping to get the shots I want this weekend. Cross your fingers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same point of view, which is close to sixty stories above Queens, but is a bit more zoomed in. Tomorrow, I’ll show you some more of what I saw from up on high.

Happy Thanksgiving, lords and ladies.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm

horribly disturbed

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Don’t get fooled again… yeah…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All anyone I talk to can talk about in Western Queens, at the moment, is the fall of Boss Crowley. “It’s a great day for Democracy” is what one elected official who often stood defiant in front of the Congressmen told me the other day. Shock waves are the best way to describe the sensation, as political hopefuls and operatives that had “paid it forward” into the Queens Machine realign themselves and attempt to figure out where the new center of gravity is. I can tell you who the big winner in all this derring do is, and it’s not Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (whom I’ve met, and she does live up to the hype).

The big winner of the Crowley primary is Bill De Blasio. Allow me to explain my perceptions on this…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Boss Crowley was in league with several of the other borough honchos, notably the Democrat clubs and Civic organizations in the Bronx and Queens. The former boss of North Brooklyn, Vito Lopez, notably went down in flames a few years ago. Brooklyn’s centers of political power moved south to Borough Hall and to South, and Eastern Brooklyn. Staten Island is its own political entity, and power over there is centered around the Republican rather than Democratic Party. Manhattan is fairly weak, in terms of organization and turning out the votes, I’m told. What that all means has little to do with the public face of Government that you see on TV and read about – rather “power” is about who gets to be made a Judge, or County Clerk, or even the Speakers of the New York State Assembly and NYC Council and by whom. “You can have Corey Johnson or Carl Heastie, but I get to name who executes Estate Law in Queens, and name two Deputy Commisioners to Sanitation,” or elevate some promising new player from a connected family to become an assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn.” Ever wonder what the connection between David Patterson, Elliot Spitzer, and Anthony Weiner is? They were all protégés of Senator Chuck Schumer, and all were methodically brought down by public sex scandals. Who “outed” them? Good question, and I’ve always wondered if it involved a certain ex-President setting up shop in Harlem, and a former First Lady becoming a Senator. The answer doesn’t actually matter, what matters is that room at the top of the ash heap was made by clearing dead wood from somebody else’s vertical silo of political patronage. With Boss Crowley moved out of the picture, there’s now a vacuum of high level power in Queens, and the Bronx has been demoted as they’ve lost a powerful partner. Brooklyn’s political clubs are now elevated in position and importance, and so are Staten Island’s. A struggle for political primacy in Queens is beginning, and there’s only one unifying “Boss” left for NYC’s elites to gather around and trade horses.

That’s the Mayor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator, of course, has no skin in this game. Other kids collected baseball cards, I collected politician cards which had all their legislative stats on the back. I’ll trade you a rookie Donald Manes for a mint 2014 Gregory Meeks, nobody has ever said except me. The next election to watch the hijinks for is Gubernatorial in nature, as the Dark Prince of Albany uses all of his art and craft to crush a challenger rising from his southern left flank, with said challenger a firm ally and agent of the Mayor. Additionally, the “lefties” of Queens have already begun realigning their allegiances with City Hall. The “read” must be that since Ocasio Cortez was to the left of Crowley, the best way to realign themselves would be in that direction. They’re missing the truth, which is that just like Hillary Clinton, Joe Crowley ran a crappy (primary) campaign and failed as a Candidate. The Mayor is already capitalizing on this, as is the south Brooklyn political establishment that he’s the representative of. Thing is, he’s a fake “leftie,” and is in fact a neoliberal corporatist and “Gentrifier in Chief” who seeks to maintain the system exactly as it is right now (as he is at the top of said system), just with higher graduated income taxes on about two percent of the total population to pay for his unending expansion of government (20% in six years!) and to continue his spending spree. The Mayor has actually been a godsend for one particular group, whom upstate Republicans present as a boogie man to their constituencies while raising funds.

Meanwhile, as the left continues to eat its own arm, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

All of this is just one idiot’s opinion, take it for what it’s worth.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 29, 2018 at 1:00 pm

buzzing polyhedron

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It’s National Vanilla Custard Day, in these United States. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One insists on a couple of cups of coffee in the morning, accompanied by a bit of quiet time to read the papers. I’m not one of the artisanal coffee people, as a note, as I favor the supermarket brand Folgers. I’ll actually sacrifice an hour of sleep and wake up at 4:30 in the morning to get my morning coffee time in on days when I have to leave the house early to catch a boat or something. Once upon a time, when I was a full time advertising fellow, you’d see me riding the train in the morning with one of those travel mug things, but in recent years I’ve realized that doing that sort of thing is just servicing the need for morning caffeine rather than servicing the need for some “me” and composing my thoughts time. 

This whole morning coffee ritual is critical to my day long happiness, and something I enjoy. Now, it’s up to the Internet commentariat to tell me that I’m deluding myself, and being some kind of asshole, because that’s the world in which we now live. Mind your own business, and don’t tell me what to think or do. Look in a mirror instead, and work yourself over instead. I don’t have time, nor do I want, to argue semantics. My day is busy enough by the time I finish that coffee. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I’ve finished my coffee, I usually get down to business. There’s always shots to develop, calls to make, posts to write, schedules to keep, checks and payments from clients I need to chase down. There’s “deliverables” which I need to get out to those clients, attention to pay to the dog, trouble I need to start involving the Newtown Creek or any of the hundreds of little existential things I care about here in Queens. I’m also sort of obligated to do the social media thing a few times a day, promoting this or that event or trying to call attention to some of those aforementioned “Queens things” I care about. 

Occasionally, over the course of the day, I’ll check in on the various video games I have in my iPad and play a round or two for diversion (at the moment, that means “Boom Beach” and “Star Wars Commander”)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometimes I’ll knock off in the late afternoon and head over to the local pub for a pint or two of beer and chat with the neighbors to find out what they’re thinking and what they care about, and then head home to get dinner ready. Post meal, I’ll hang out with Our Lady of the Pentacle for a bit, and then I try to stick to a schedule of reading some dry text related to the history of NYC for a couple of hours. By this point, I’m dying for another cup of coffee, but resist the urge since it means that I’ll be up all night while buzzing on caffeine. I’ll usually hit the work again before drifting off to bed since – as mentioned – there’s always more of it to do. 

That’s a day in the life, for a humble narrator. What’s your life like? What do you do? Who do you spend your time with? Where do you go? Why do you go there? 


Upcoming Tours and events

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

heavy rumblings

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this day, in 3,114 B.C.E., the Mayans began their “long count” calendar. Today’s also the day, in 480 B.C.E., that Leonidas and his 300 Spartans finally succumbed at Greece’s Thermopylae to the human wave attacks of the Persian armies of Xerxes. In 1929, Babe Ruth became the first baseball player to achieve 500 career home runs, and in 1972 the United States exited its last combat units from Viet Nam. Today is the day that industrialist Andrew Carnegie died in 1919, the painter Jackson Pollock also kicked the bucket in 1956, and we also lost comedian Robin Williams on this day in 2014. In 1992, the Mall of America opened for business, and in 1965 the Watts riots kicked into gear in Los Angeles.

 Me? I don’t have too much to do today, but it’s going to be a fairly busy weekend. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m planning on checking out the “Queens Anti-Gentrification” march on Saturday afternoon in LIC. What I’ve read about, and offered by, this group doesn’t exactly jibe with reality as I know it, but I figure if somebody is willing to stick their neck out and offer their views and opinions in public you owe it to them to at least listen to what they have to say. So far, I haven’t been a fan of their tactics either, but there you are. After that, I’m hopping on a ferry to Pier 11 in Manhattan, where I’ll be boarding a boat with the Working Harbor Committee. I’ll be sharing the microphone with Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours and we will be talking about the Brooklyn Waterfront’s (Newtown Creek to Sunset Park) “Past, Present, and Future.”

Come with?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll be up early on Sunday to conduct the “Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek” walking tour for Newtown Creek Alliance. This is one of my favorite excursions to conduct, and it tells the story of the oil and energy industries in North Brooklyn from the 1850’s all the way to the present. It also moves through one of the most god awful areas NYC has ever created, so how’s that for a selling point? 

See you Sunday?.


Upcoming Tours and events

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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