The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Hunters Point’ Category

bygone mystery

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It’s National Sausage Pizza Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gentrification… it’s all anyone wants to talk about these days, and it seems like people are just coming out of the woodwork to use the “G” word and pronounce the oncoming doom of NYC. One wonders where they’ve been all these years. All of us out here in the wilds of Brooklyn and Queens have watched first DUMBO, and then Williamsburg, and of late LIC and Greenpoint get hit by the wrecking ball, which is then followed by the erection of banal residential towers without any accompanying infrastructure to accommodate the increased population. For decades, voices in the wilderness have been yelling and screaming about this, and our pals over in the Shining City of Manhattan said “so what”?

Something else I’ve been saying for a decade now is that the Manhattancentric city planning model is the problem. Manhattan is not something you want to point to other than as a cautionary tale.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that the same process is playing out in the East Village and Chelsea, where the ivory towered academics live and hang out, it’s become a crisis. You’ve got “not from here” interlopers showing up in Queens and sounding the alarm bells about a fire whereas those of who live here are ankle deep in ash. They inform us that we are not “real” community activists, and that they have the answer to all of our problems without any understanding of how things work. The tactics employed by these outsiders are provocative, and deadly to relationships between government and community which have been painfully and slowly built by generations past and maintained by those in the present.

Are these relationships effective? Is there nothing that can be done to resist the population loading and exploitation of Western Queens by the speculative financiers of Lower Manhattan? Are these outsiders correct in believing that 1960’s era protest techniques will do anything but cause the government people to circle their wagons? Would they be here at all if cherished Manhattan neighborhoods weren’t now in the sights of the financiers of the Real Estate Industrial Complex?

Are the financiers mustache twirling villains colluding with Tammany style politicians?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reality (census and tax base wise) states that the vast majority of residential buildings in NYC fall under the category of family owned small businesses, once you move away from the City’s core (think 5 subway stops from Manhattan). If you were to draw a bell curve depicting the rising rents in NYC and compare it to a) inflation, b) fuel costs, c) water taxes you’d find a disturbing concurrence in the shape of those curves. Our homeless situation is due largely to the fact that the City and State no longer supplies the levels of supplemental rent assistance to low income families which they used to, a program which I believe was suspended back in 2010, but I may be wrong on the date for that one. As the wrecking balls along the East River have demolished the industrial and warehousing sectors, low income New Yorkers have been forced to take service sector jobs which neither pay as well nor offer any sort of job security.

This is something which the folks who throw the “G” word around miss – jobs and job creation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For nearly a decade now, a humble narrator has been deriding the “statements that sound good at cocktail parties” thrown about by elected officialdom and real estate industrial complex employees alike. The REIC folks will offer that their construction activity creates mass employment, and that despite the tax abatements like 421a they enjoy, their projects are a nexus of job creation activity that includes the entire supply chain of their projects – concrete, steel, etc. This is actually true, but given that construction of a new building does not continue forever, it means that all of their contributions to the tax base tend to end after a period of 36-60 months after the demolition crew came in and knocked down the old factory or warehouse which provided career long employment. After that, the warehouse which employed thirty people is replaced by a residential building that has a porter, manager, and a super. It’s also common practice for the development corporation to transfer the property to a management corporation, whereupon all the agreements made by the former do not have to be honored by the latter.

Speaking from a historical perspective, NYC is defined by constant change, construction, and tumult – and going back to Astor – Real Estate has always been one of the major economic forces in our municipality since the earliest days. Believe it or not, the influence of the financial industry on Wall Street is a relatively recent thing. Used to be that industrial activity, shipping, and real estate were the dominant financial contributors to NYC’s health and wealth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it before, and I fear I’ll be saying it for the rest of my life – infrastructure is the skeleton on which our municipal flesh hangs. Without, we’d be a bag of mostly water flopping around in the sun.

The very quality of our lives depends on the transit, water, sewerage, and electrical grids. Hospital beds, school desks, fire stations, police capabilities. All the social welfare agencies, old age homes and elderly rent control programs like SCRIE, are essential. I’ve had high ranking City officialdom use the metaphor for running the show as being “like working on the engine of a locomotive while moving at 1,000 mph, towards a cliff.” You need to tinker around enough to improve the system as you go – but shutting it down, going off the cliff, or applying the brakes to it are unthinkable options.

Thing is, infrastructure costs a lot of money, and involves a lot of labor. People who labor have, by definition, jobs. People who have jobs can afford to pay rent to the hundreds of thousands of residential small business property owners in NYC, which creates a tax base. Don’t know why I have to spell this out, but the “G” people don’t seem to understand it. Maybe it’s because academics and poli-sci majors at say… Hunter… don’t take economics classes and focus on their music instead. Dunno. Sometimes you gotta see the forest beyond the trees.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2017 at 1:00 pm

outspread under

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It’s National Watermelon day, in these United States

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A sense of place is one of the things that I always keep in mind when I’m out shooting around Newtown Creek. Without a glimmer of the skyline, in particular a recognizable silhouette like the Empire State Building, it’s impossible to say if you’re looking at NYC or just some post industrial landscape anywhere in the great American rust belt.

Saying all that, you’ve got to be careful about how much of the frame is filled by iconic architecture like Empire State as the people who own the building zealously defend a theoretical copyright on images in which it appears. If the shot above was to appear in an advertisement, for instance, a fee would need to be negotiated with the building’s management for usage of its image. The Empire State Building is like Brad Pitt or Beyoncé.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been thinking about the ownership of reproduction rights over something that you can’t help but have occupy a certain proportion of shots captured whilst out in public. Back when I was a full time advertising retoucher, one of the most ridiculous assignments I received was to remove any and all identifiable “brands” from a series of stock photos. These photos were going to published in a direct mail offering for a large credit card company serviced by the agency, and the client didn’t want to negotiate with the various brand owners for usage. Therefore, one spent a week or so retouching every logo and identifiable brand image out of shots of Times Square, the Ginza strip, and Picadilly Circus.

The results were bizarre, and looked like something from the second act of a zombie movie, but the client was happy and I got paid… so… victory. I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, since I’ve stepped behind the camera over the last decade or so, a point is made to frame my shots in such a manner as to necessitate as little retouching out of logos and brand marks as possible. As I always say to the creative types – check with the retoucher before the shoot if you want to save yourself a bunch of money.


Upcoming Tours and events

We’re cancelling Saturday the 5th’s Insalubrious Valley tour due to a forecast of scattered thunderstorms with lightning expected.

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

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

double steps

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It’s both National Pig Day, AND it’s concurrently National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To start, one is not entirely sure why it is that our culture ever abandoned the paper grocery bag in favor of the plastic ones, but I have my suspicions that something inhuman was involved with the decision.

I remember the transition… when the paper grocery bag was used as the core and a plastic bag as the outer shell… sometime during the late 1980’s. Paper bags, which made for a fine series of secondary uses such as school book covers and drawing paper, were phased out entirely by the 1990’s. Today, we can’t get rid of the things. Given the nature of the recycling industry, which is always desperately seeking new customers for paper pulp and the like, wouldn’t it make a bit of sense for our elected officials to embrace the return of biodegradable paper bags made from recycled cardboard and paper? Wouldn’t that enrich their constituents and donors in the waste handling industry, nourish the recycling economy, and help end the plague of flyaway plastic carrier bags? This used to be an industry absolutely owned top to bottom by the Orthodox Jews of Brooklyn, incidentally, rather than foreign plastics factories. The old brown paper bags would just melt away in the rain, you may recall, whereas the somewhat immortal plastic ones have become wind blown nuisances.

I’m talking to you Simcha Felder, or @NYSenatorFelder, if you like. I’m watching you, since you were opposed to doing away with the plastic ones, as to what your solution is to this problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of watching – that all knowing thing which cannot possibly exist in the cupola of LIC’s Sapphire Megalith, which stares down upon the world of men through its three lobed burning eye, has been on my mind of late. It does not breathe, nor sleep. “Too big to fail” is how occultists might refer to it, but all that one can say confidentially about it cannot be repeated in open parlance for fear of angering its global army of mortal acolytes. Anarchists and regulators have attempted to control or destroy it over the two and change centuries after the thing first revealed itself in 1812, but it is beyond the power of mortal man to do anything but annoy the thing in the megalith.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are occult constructs which might attempt to explain it. Its material origins lie with the Astor family, but the modern incarnation is strictly the work of the Rockefellers. There comes a moment in an Oligarch’s life when they ask “is this all there is?” and the path to perfidy opens before them. Just as Dr. Dee found his place beside the throne of England, and Cagliostro found himself in elevated positions in both Papal Rome and Versailles, the idyll of the wealthy often leads to occultism and the harnessing of “things” better left unknown.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, the Sapphire Megalith of Long Island City encompasses 54 stories. Four of those floors are below the ground, 50 above. Rumor has it that there are unacknowleged levels which extend below the ground, so is it “as above, so below”? The Jewish Pentateuch (or Torah) is divided into 54 weekly sections. There are 54 volumes in the the Buddhist Tripitaka, and the word wisdom appears some 54 times in the New Testament of the Christians. In the I Ching, the number 54 is indicated via the Kwei Mei hexagram, indicating that (under the conditions which it denotes) any action undertaken will be evil, and in no way advantageous.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The inhuman thing which lurks within the cupola of the Sapphire Megalith of Long Island City would have no time for any of this mortal occultist claptrap, of course, if it actually existed.


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suddenly lost

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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

shivered that

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Cool cars, Hunters Point edition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While marching up LIC’s 54th avenue recently, one encountered a fairly atypical vehicle parked in front of the WNBC building. A humble narrator knows little about the world of car racing – never been a NASCAR or stock racing guy – but this Ford Mustang was highly modified and covered in sponsor logos. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The hood scoop, in particular, had logos from several major car brands adorning it. The good news is that there were also chromium skulls on the dashboard, as you can sort of make out in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You absolutely never know what you’re going to encounter when walking the streets surrounding the fabulous Newtown Creek, which is the central artery of the Newtown Pentacle.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 16, 2016 at 11:00 am

foul emanation

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The best thing about Manhattan is seeing it from somewhere else.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of Saturdays ago, one found himself at Hunters Point in anticipation of the so called “Manhattanhenge” event. Largely rained out and occluded by stormy weather on the actual date of the astronomical curiousity, it nevertheless provided me with the excuse to tote the tripod and camera down to the east river and do some long exposure shots of the shining city.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was actually a day early for the “full monty” of Manhattanhenge, but that didn’t really bother me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rest of Memorial Day weekend was filled in with social obligation, and this was my only opportunity to hang around the water for a spell. Back tomorrow with something a bit more substantial than some pretty pictures.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

mapped egress

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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

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