The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘NY 11101’ Category

accordingly determined

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Queens Plaza, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wowzers. It’s no secret that I’m concerned about the “population loading” of Western Queens which has been and is currently underway. From an urbanist point of view, there’s really no reason “why” you shouldn’t cram as many people onto every square inch of city center as you can, and Queens Plaza is – in fact – pretty close to the center of all things. Just ask the powers that be, they’ll rattle off how many subway and bus lines there are, and throw in the East River Ferry as well. They won’t mention hospitals, or the fact that LIC can’t seem to build enough schools to meet its current demands, nor the costs of expanded Police, Fire, and Sanitation units.

What are you gonna do, fight City Hall?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There seems to be a burst of construction activity going on at the moment over on Jackson Avenue between Court Square and Queens Plaza – these shots are from late on a Saturday morning about a week ago, incidentally. The construction guys had closed down Jackson to one lane, as they were moving in a tower crane and other equipment. To say that traffic was snarled…

Actually, automotive traffic is another thing that the powers that be generally neglect to mention when discussing this very modern corridor of some brave new world which is being built down here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The buildings at the far end of the shot above are closer to Court Square and the Citigroup Megalith, which has suddenly begun to seem a lot less out of place or wildly out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood. My guess is that all of the people who will be moving in here soon are meant to take the 7 train to work.

The 7 express is, of course and by the MTA’s own admission, at capacity as of right now. The riders of the 7 routinely describe overcrowded conditions, and complaints about having to allow several Manhattan bound trains to pass before they can even find a spot to squeeze into have been heard from as far away as Sunnyside and Jackson Heights.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To me, it stands to reason that the next waves of development should consider the creation of exurb commercial centers, outside of Manhattan. That would allow for job locations to radiate away from the titular center of the City, to the east and north. An office complex in Jamaica, or maybe Forest Hills? They’re served by several train lines as well. This Manhattancentric development model is really going to end up hurting us, but what do I know? I just live here.

Pretty soon, there’s going to be a gigantic number of people in Long Island City, all flushing their toilets at the same time every morning. Guess where all that sewage is going to end up? The 1939 vintage Bowery Bay sewage treatment plant in Astoria, that’s where. If there’s too much of the smelly stuff in the pipes under the street, like when it’s raining, it’ll go into Newtown Creek.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Thursday, June 30, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Elizabeth Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2016 at 11:30 am

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

iron gray

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More meeting reportage, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, I joined up with another community group – Access Queens – an organization which got its start as a Facebook group called the “7 Train Blues.” I’ve been invited onto the steering committee of Access Queens, which seeks to improve communications between the communities found along the “international express” and the MTA, and to advocate for the riding public. All the history projects I’d been working on in 2014 involving the Sunnyside Yards, and Queens rail in general, has gotten me pretty interested in the Subways. 

A recent meeting – on Tuesday, the fifth of April, in fact – was organized by Access Queens in conjunction with Councilmember Van Bramer’s office over at the Sunnyside Community Services facility on 39th street, and the MTA sent out a group of its officers for an “Ask the MTA” session wherein the ridership of the aforementioned IRT Flushing Line could express their frustrations and interact with the agency.

Since I’m the new kid on the block, I kept to the sidelines and took pictures rather than running my mouth for a change. Access Queens had a seat at the table with MTA, in the person of one the group’s leaders – Sunnyside’s Melissa Orlando – and believe you me, I don’t have to say a word when Melissa is present – she’s the real deal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting facet to this effort, one that I found particularly novel and kind of fascinating, was that both Van Bramer and Orlando were advancing questions to the transit officials which were being live posted on Twitter and on the 7 Train Blues Facebook group. MTA assured all present, and those in other realms, that their “CBTC” switching conversion work was on schedule. Completion of the project would ultimately allow them to increase the hourly frequency of trains on the already “at capacity” line. Overcrowding on platform and train alike were described by the petitioners from the community. There was also a shed load of media in the room. 

A recurring theme emerging from the community was that given the ridiculous amount of real estate mega development occurring all along the Queens side of the 7 – Flushing Commons, Willets Point, and Hunters Point were mentioned in particular – NYC’s infrastructure is being badly strained and pushed to the breaking point.

One of the more interesting things that emerged from the community comments was a request to synchronize the timing of the bus system to coincide with the 7 train delays so as to avoid the “wagon train” phenomena of one full then two empty buses all traveling together. A sight commonly observed by Queensicans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator, of course, seldom has the “7 Train Blues” given that one dwells upon the IND R line along Broadway in Astoria rather than the IRT 7 along Queens Blvd. and Roosevelt Avenue. The case has been made, however, that when the 7 is delayed, the masses of Flushing, Roosevelt, and Corona use the IND lines (R, M, E, F) instead of the IRT one. This results in quite a situation during morning commutes, and dangerous overcrowding. This is a borough wide phenomena, and is forecast to get worse before it gets better as the population continues to expand along the already overbuilt transit corridors. 

Guess that the folks on my side of Northern Blvd. have the “R train blues.”

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

April 16th, Obscura Day 2016

“Creek to Creek Industrial Greenpoint Walking Tour” with Mitch Waxman and Geoff Cobb.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman and Greenpoint historian and author Geoff Cobb for a three-hour exploration of the coastline of Greenpoint. Click here for more info and ticketing. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 12, 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

if awakening

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It’s going to be a fun year, lords and ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is false. 

Every nuanced point of view, rhetorical platform, and political stance is plainly bullshit. Nothing is true, and the entire world refuses to admit it, for the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. Conspiracists abound, and they just might be right – for there are, in fact, elite cabals who “rig the game.” We citizens are little more than the pigs at the stock yards of 19th century Chicago, whom workers attached to a mechanical wheel whose sole function was to dismember and commercialize every molecule of their bodies.

All roads lead to Calvary, and are paved not with good intentions, but suffering and humiliation instead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is true. 

The greatest City, of the greatest country, that the world has ever seen – the Megalopolis of the Proletarian mass – wherein “arebeit” truly does “macht frei.” If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Things are nearly perfect, and the system just needs a few conservatively applied tweaks to assure that all within its borders can live as they choose to. The strong will aid the weak, and through labor and sweat – all may partake in this glorious and great Metropolitan cornucopia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is false. 

Living corpses are rejected from common consideration and abandoned to the frozen pavement, disincorporated and dissolute, awaiting only their eventual cremation. Incarceration and persecution is their lot, and deservedly so, for their iniquities. Shunned groups willingly subdivide themselves into ever smaller fractions, which accomplishes the work of political and corporate bosses. Swineherds in blue uniforms push and cajole the offending castes away from the notice of the gentry, lest delicate sensibilities be offended by their presence.

Every hour of every day, the noose is tightened.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is true. 

Struggle and valiant effort provides one with a ladder to climb out of the gutter and neither luck nor familial heritage has nothing to do with success in the Metropolis. Gotham is naught but the survival of the fittest writ large in concrete and steel, and the trees who root themselves most soundly are those who will rise the highest. Even for the lesser specimens, the forest floor holds naught but untold riches waiting for those clever enough to recognize and reap the fecund value of compost.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is false. 

Charlatans and confidence operations stand in shadowed doorways, waiting to hook some rube and roll through their pockets. Even the pillars of law and government are set up to remove as much of the filthy lucre from the working man’s pockets as they can get away with. Nobody cares what happens to you, and won’t offer a helping hand out of fear of having the spotlight of the super predators turn upon them. Better to shelter away from others, for engagement only means new troubles will be added to the list, and thicken the skin.

Scar tissue tends to be numbed to external sensation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is true. 

Gaze upon the works of man, the great bridges, and the towers which do – in fact – scrape against the clouds. The electric glow, the sounds of a society which never stops moving, and a fascinating polyglot culture which offers music, and flavors, and smells which can be found everywhere and nowhere else on an entire planet. A direct line of descent, from Ur to Rome to Constantinople to Paris to London to Manhattan can be drawn, tracing the evolution of mankind from troglodyte ape, to human, to New Yorker.

Surely – this place is where the progress of civilization has, logically, been striving for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has made one resolution for this new year – it’s time to get serious, and to stop pretending that I’m just some kind of tourist in this horrible dichotomy which I’ve lived in for nearly half a century. Iconoclast tendencies will be given full reign, as will the black diamond of hatred in my heart be allowed to bloom. Time’s nearly up, and I’m tired of fooling around with liars and idiots.

All is false, all is true. 

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

daytime pilgrimmage

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Jackson Avenue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

ought to be

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Photo enforced indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A point is made to document the demolition/construction process at the former 5ptz/Neptune Meter site along Jackson Avenue in LIC. Whenever one is scuttling past, the camera ends up getting stuck into some gap in the construction fencing and progress on the site is recorded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One feels a certain responsibility to do so, as everyone else stopped paying attention when the graffiti art museum was torn down, but since a buried tributary of Newtown Creek flows throughout the ground here, I consider it to be part of my turf. There’s a good amount of poison in the ground, I’m told, but don’t worry – it’s been designated a “Brownfield Reclamation Site” by the State and City so obviously the soil here will be returned to natural splendor by the cleanup process. Either that or they’ll just pile a bunch of clean dirt onto the surface to achieve the sixty inches of clean fill required by the State environmental people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One would point out that in other Brownfield Reclamation Sites, you’d notice monitoring wells and pumping equipment at work. You might observe a temporary structure that looks like a giant tent being erected to protect the surrounding neighborhood from the process. There would be fellows wearing protective gear. At 5ptz, they seem to just be digging holes and placing steel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Jobs, jobs, jobs, I guess. Progress on the March and all that.

On a historical note – did you know that the Title 1 slum clearance projects of the 1950’s and 60’s actually expanded the slums? That more people lost their homes than gained new ones? That the rent for the apartment complexes which would eventually become NYCHA housing were more expensive than the so called slum tenements which they replaced? That shattering the communities and neighborhoods of pre war NYC actually contributed mightily to the conditions of crime and poverty which bedeviled the City throughout the late 20th century and continue to this day?

“Progress,” and the ghost of Robert Moses, are still with us. When you hear the Mayor say “affordable housing” – think “slum clearance” instead.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 11th, 2015
BROOKLYN Waterfront Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

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