The Newtown Pentacle

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collective deliberation

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It’s National Onion Ring Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few odds and ends greet you today, lords and ladies. Pictured above is my beloved Newtown Creek, as seen from a bulkhead in Greenpoint. That barge is being filled with aggregate soil material by the Allocco recycling operation on Kingsland Avenue. Aggregates are an interesting side of the recycling industry, wherein excavated soil is sieved and graded according to particle size (gravel, sand etc.) and then sold in bulk for industrial “fill,” or packaged and sold at consumer hardware stores in fifty pound bags. It diverts the stuff from ending up in landfills. Who knew?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was on his way out one fine afternoon, and caught this meteorological sight. A curtain of rain was trailing a storm cloud, on an otherwise sunny day, as the cell headed eastwards. For some reason, I’m fascinated by this sort of thing, but I also routinely throw rocks at the moon when it rises outside of my cave.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The weather down in the rotting concrete bunkers and tunnels of the Subway system never ceases to amaze me. Given that it’s a series of shaft ways open on both ends and which are open to the air at nearly every station, and have de facto pistons moving through them at somewhat regular intervals, how and why is it that the atmospherics in subway stations always seem to lag twenty four to forty eight hours behind the surface? Also, why is it also so damned hot at 34th street/Herald Square?

I avoid that station like the freaking plague because of the heat.


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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2017 at 11:00 am

pocket flask

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It’s International Lemon Drizzle Cake Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My understanding is that there are isolated settlements, and pockets, of humanity which would be found to the north, west, and south of New York City but that just might be an old wives tale. Imagine… someplace which is not NYC… it boggles the mind. Do these semi mythological people wear skins and hunt with clubs? Are they the descendants of the Dutch who moved away when the English civilization took regency of our archipelago so long ago? Someday, one must mount an expedition and explore the dark continent found to the west, but for now… one is busy attempting to access a lead clad iron vault hidden away beneath the Steinway Branch Library at Broadway here in Astoria, wherein the Queens library system is rumored to store its collection of blasphemy riddled occult literature.

The Queens Library won’t admit, and will tacitly deny in fact, that a stout vault containing tomes of forbidden occult lore exists in Astoria, but you can’t fool a humble narrator… such wonders do exist, as does the dire information they contain. Why do you think the Greeks and Copts travelled from the orient and settled here? Grow up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Word has it that Dutch Sea Captain Peter Praa brought certain “artifacts” back from the southern Pacific island of Ponape, which he buried in discrete locations around a land grant he acquired from the Dutch East India people which once belonged to Dominie Everardus Bogardus. This land was later inherited by Praa’s great grandaughter Anna Hunter. Hunters Point in LIC, as we know it in modern times, is constantly riven by the crews of laborers who are scratching into the mud and rock found here. The cover story offered by officialdom is that these laborers are merely construction workers employed by the Real Estate Industrial Complex, but don’t believe what you’re told. They’re searching for Praa’s treasure, and their employers seek possession of those occluded secrets carried back to the west which the Dutch thought best left buried and forgotten.

Just because a tale is fantastic, unbelievable, or inconceivably byzantine doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Secrets and lies, secrets and lies. There are sections of the Newtown Creek about which even the otherwise overly transparent officials overseeing the Superfund proceedings will not opine. When questions arise about these isolated spots, they grow pale and elusive, avoiding your gaze and changing the subject quickly. What have they found in the muck and mire, in certain stretches of the waterway, particularly on the Brooklyn side, where the pirate Blackbeard is said to have buried a cache of stolen booty? The 19th century tales told by the toll bridge attendants of the Penny Bridge? The man like things with frog heads which they reported as loping out of the water in the dead of night and howling at the moon? Myths and old wives tales, if you believe the powers that be.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


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contraband nature

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It’s National Jelly Donut Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been on a non stop run across the City of Greater New York for the last six weeks, and my dogs are barking. Haven’t been to Staten Island (except by water, twice) or the Bronx at all, but tomorrow I’m going to Plumb Beach nearby Sheepshead Bay to attend a lecture on Horseshoe Crabs which, as it turns out, is being led by my tenth grade biology teacher. Small world, big City, I guess. The shot above was captured at the Grand Avenue station in Elmhurst, where I’ve been three times in the last six weeks, but was just passing through.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was gathered onboard the new Citywide Ferry Rockaway service, which left from Pier 11 in Manhattan and proceeded to Bay 108 in Rockaway in about fifty minutes with a stop in Sunset Park. I was puzzled as to the end goal destination, across the street from the DEP’s Rockaway waste water treatment plant. B 108 isn’t exactly “Main Street” if you know what I mean, but putting two and two together, I figure that the City probably owns the land there due to the Rockaway Plant’s long tenancy and it was likely the only affordable spot along the Rockaway waterfront where you could install the dock.

Pictured, of course, is a NY Water Taxi rather than a Citywide Ferry boat. The Water Taxi was exiting Erie Basin while performing part of its’ IKEA ferry route.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering around Astoria one recent day, this coal chute cover was encountered and I decided to do a bit of detective work on the address embossed into its legend. The folks at Greater Astoria Historic Society host a page which describes the various name changes that the streets in Astoria have assumed over the years, which provided for some of the hard slog footwork in translating “329 9th Ave., Astoria, L.I.” into the modern day street grid.

What was once known as “Kowenhoven St.” in a city of Newtown called Astoria, which was later renamed as “9th avenue by the independent municipality of Long Island City, became 38th street in the Borough of Queens and a part of the Consolidated City of Greater New York in the early 20th century. The sections of Belcher Hyde Fire Insurance Maps included in today’s post date from 1919, and still carry the LIC era street names and addresses.

– Belcher Hyde map 1919

Broadway is always so named, and Steinway Street was once an avenue but is still named after the local Piano Baron, and 31st avenue used to be called first Jamaica and then Patterson Avenue. 9th street is now 38th street, and if I’m reading the map correctly, the street address (329) of the Atlantic Iron Works would correspond with that of the no longer extant Public School no. 6 (which is a whole other story) and is coterminous with the modern day “Sean’s Place” playground.

– Belcher Hyde map 1919

As a note, the track lines indicated are Trolley, or Streetcar tracks. The arrival of the IND subway line was still a few years away at the stage of the game, and the “cut and cover” work was likely underway but not indicated.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 8, 2017 at 1:00 pm

troublesome phrase

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It’s National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The humans are quarrelsome and troubling creatures in my opinion, given to irrational ideas. Worship of imaginary sky fathers is just one of these ideations which annoy me, and if you follow current events, the practice causes no small amount of trouble. If there is a “god,” my perception and description of it would be that of an extra dimensional and utterly alien being who deigns to sit in judgement over the natives of this planet which is given to random fits of pique that are expressed as extreme weather events. Personally, a humble narrator doesn’t cling to the idea that some “thing” in the sky is watching over me, other than the omnipresent mechanisms launched by certain global military super powers. To each his own, I guess, but I for one am fairly tired of having my lack of neolithic era superstitions seen as some sort of moral turpitude. One goes out of his way to not impose my beliefs upon others in violent or aggressive ways, which seems to be at odds with those who “believe.” If “faith” is so fragile that you need to murder others to prove it, or shun those who follow a different path – exactly what kind of God are you worshipping? Best to get yourself a better God then the one you’ve got, one who will give you what you want or need – I’d suggest Dagon, Cthulhu, or Lucifer in that case. You’d probably have the best run with Lucifer, if the lifestyle of the Rolling Stones or Jimmy Page are any sort of indication. At any rate, I don’t care what you think or believe, unless it affects me or you start trying to proselytize about it. I never inject my personal opinions about this sort of thing on the true believers, but they are always trying to do the opposite and evangelize me. That’s rude, in my version of morality.

Somehow, this little polemic was conjured up in my mind by the image of that horned pickup in the shot above, a cool car spotted on the streets of Astoria, Queens recently while a humble narrator was enjoying a pint of beer with friends at the local pub. The horned God, in the belief systems of Eurasia, is traditionally the foeman of the sky father. Jung and others described this imagery in terms of the “denied herd leader or gelded bull,” and it emerged during the early days of farming – as did Beer, oddly enough.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While my fellow Astorians and I spent a couple of enjoyable Sunday afternoon hours quaffing beer and discussing the events of the day, another Astoria Hullabaloo sprung up when a Consolidated Edison crew arrived and began to cordon off the corner of 42nd street at Broadway. They were installing electrical equipment into a street vault. The Con Ed guys were busy, but quite an affable group and they bemoaned the fact that they had to work and couldn’t join in with our festivities. I wonder which God they’d worship if we lived in pagan times?

The Saint of Electrical Workers (text lifted from Wikipedia) is probably “Saint Eligius (also Eloy or Loye) (French: Éloi) (c. 588 – 1 December 660) is the patron saint of goldsmiths, other metalworkers, and coin collectors. He is also the patron saint of veterinarians, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), a corps of the British Army, but he is best known for being the patron saint of horses and those who work with them.” There’s also a traditional Catholic association of electrical workers with Santa Lucia, but she’s more generally connected to artillery men as the lightning bolt in her story actually killed someone. Additionally, St. Elmo is often associated with electrical workers, and there’s a whole contingent of saints competing for the affections of those who work up on utility poles.

Santa Veronica is the patron saint of Photographers, incidentally. Also, from Wikipedia – “According to Church tradition, Veronica was moved with pity when she saw Jesus carrying his cross to Golgotha and gave him her veil that he might wipe his forehead. Jesus accepted the offering, held it to his face, and then handed it back to her—the image of his face miraculously impressed upon it. This piece of cloth became known as the Veil of Veronica.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rabbit holes are an existential hazard for me, so…

The Patron Saint of the United States in the Roman Catholic tradition is Mary, in her guise as “Our Lady of the immaculate conception.” Saint Patrick is in charge of the Archdiocese of New York, in case you were wondering. The diocese of Brooklyn (and Queens, thank you), is part of the ecclesial parish of the larger Archdiocese, so presumptively they’ve got St. Pat too. Helps to explain why you see so few “actual” snakes slithering around, but puzzles as to why there are so many of the two legged variety hereabouts.

Not too sure about the other big churches and faiths, and I don’t want to start a research paper on this, so we’ll just end that thought.

Wonder what the patron deity of NYC would be, if we followed the model of the old Greek city states. Mammon, probably. Thoughts? Post ’em in the comments section.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 7, 2017 at 11:00 am

hewn roughly

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It actually isn’t your imagination, the quality of subway service has definitively declined in recent months. There has been a concurrent decline in LIRR service, and I understand the Metro North ridership isn’t too happy either. I did a bit of research, and discovered the likely reason why. It seems that Fernando Ferrer is now the acting chairman of the MTA. Yep, Mr. Ferrer, who was appointed to be the Borough President of the Bronx (back then he called himself “Freddy”) after his predecessor went to jail for corruption and personally presided over that Borough’s period of absolute cultural and societal apogee – from 1987-2001 – is temporarily in charge of things at MTA. Explains everything, huh?

I know. If you went to the Monster.com site or were reviewing LinkedIn job listings for “Chairman of the MTA,” it would be strange if the resume requirements didn’t ask for “identity politician, failed mayoral candidate, disastrous Borough President, or Loyal Political Party Apparatchnik who never held a real job before entering politics right out of college.” If you think Bill de Blasio is lousy, read up on Ferrer. De Blasio actually stole the whole “tale of two cities” line from Ferrer’s 2001 mayoral campaign, which indicates to you how few of the ideas the current Mayor offers are actually his own.

Perhaps, the resume requirements for MTA chairman (temporary, acting, or otherwise) should include – in addition to knowing how to use Excel and Outlook – some experience in running a commuter rail service and or a largish fleet of buses rather than being a loyal if ineffective and ideologically based machine politician. Just saying.

Ferrer, Mark Green… these guys are like some sort of recurring political infection which flares up occasionally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been walking past this access cover in Astoria for nearly ten years, and never noticed it before last week. It indicates that some of the oldest municipal “tackle” is found below, related to the water supply system. I wrote about a similar hatch cover encountered over in Williamsburg back in January of this year, but you generally don’t see hatches of this type in Queens. That’s because LIC (and Newtown) had their own water supply companies which were separate from the Croton system at the time of City consolidation in 1898, and is why you commonly observe access covers adorned with “LIC” in western Queens rather than ones with the Catskill tag.

Whatever pipe is found down there – and who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden down there – it’s controlled by the modern day DEP today, but it’s still a bit odd that I’ve never noticed this particular cover before.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in the City, at Governeurs Lane’s terminus nearby the ferry terminal at Pier 11, this food cart was spotted. Can’t tell you why, but it just grabbed my eye. That’s the FDR drive up above, which would normally lead me into a whole “thing” about this being the “house of Robert Moses” but after ranting about Freddy Ferrer, I’m a bit wobbly.

See y’all tonight at Green Drinks Queens, at the Riverview Restaurant in LIC, details are below. Come with?


Upcoming Tours and events

Green Drinks Queens LIC, June 5th, 6:00- 9:00 p.m.

Come celebrate UN World Environment Day with Green Drinks: Queens on the LIC Waterfront! This year’s theme is “Connecting People With Nature.”details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

unknown caller

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is fairly crispy around the edges, and in a state best described as “too little butter scraped over too much bread.” The ridiculous schedule I’ve been keeping throughout the months of April and May is beginning to wear me down a bit, and I’ve got literally thousands of photos to process and deliver to various entities. Busy is good, admittedly, but “man alive” do I need a day or two off.

Pictured above is one of the Cormorant breeding/habitat stands which are observable beneath the Bayonne Bridge, at the intersection of the Kill Van Kull and Newark Bay

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, it’s the dog who suffers. Poor Zuzu the dog didn’t get out for her slow motion walk last night until after midnight. She’s a bit pissed off at me, my dog. Saying that, she was quite engaged with the late night sniffing, probably because every other dog in the neighborhood had already taken care of business and every tree pit was redolent with their scents and “pee mail.”

Pictured above, the spring blossoms of a tree you might observe on the corner of 45th street and 34th avenue in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s entirely likely that, as we descend into the madness of a holiday weekend, you’re going to be greeted with single image posts tomorrow, Friday, and Monday, so apologies are offered. My services have been engaged by one of the local newspapers to photograph the Maspeth Memorial Day parade on Sunday, incidentally, so if you’re there and you see some weird looking old guy with a camera and a Newtown Creek Alliance hat, say hi.

Pictured above, a double entendre laden bit of signage from Third Avenue in Manhattan. If you don’t know the street slang meaning of “Toss my salad” I’d suggest you google it, as this is a family blog.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm

subaqueous civilization 

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The camera was desperate for an adventure last week, so a humble narrator acquiesced and took it out on the water for the Working Harbor Committee‘s Education tour. The Education tour is a private event, a boat trip which is conducted for school groups that culminates a program of classroom instruction on the subject of the harbor of New York and New Jersey. There’s a lot of great jobs at the Port, and for some reason most New Yorkers don’t consider it an option when they’re looking for work.

It ain’t just longshoremen or sailor type stuff either, as Ed Kelly from the Maritime Association and Andrew Genn from the NYC EDC explained to the hundred or so high school students who were onboard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, one had to cross through the cursed earth of Manhattan to get to the WHC boat at Pier 11, which is roughly in line with Governeur Lane down in the financial district. This was in the midst of that sudden three day heat wave last week, so rather than walk in to town from Astoria or take the Ferry from LIC (my preference for such excursions) I just jumped on the subway. Why it takes so long to get from “a to b” these days is a complete mystery to me, as the trip ultimately resolves down to around 8 miles.

The good news is that on the way home, I used the Citywide ferry service to return to the blessed and heavy metals rich soil of Queens. I’m planning on hitting the new Rockaway Route soon, btw, as soon as my schedule allows it. It has been a very, very busy month of May for a humble narrator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the new Citywide Ferry service, I still haven’t ridden on one of the new Hornblower model ferries. The one that met me for the trip home was an older but super reliable NY Waterways version, the model which has been servicing the East River route for several years now. While the boat was making its regular stops, I spotted this little push boat tug towing a barge which had a crane set upon it. Couldn’t resist popping out a few shots of the thing.

The camera slept well that night, after having gotten some exercise and a bit of a workout on the water.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 7 p.m.

An hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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