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Back in lower Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dover Street in Lower Manhattan is the stuff of historical legend. It starts its western path abruptly at South Street, and to the north is the tangled steel of the FDR Drive ramps and the always victorious Brooklyn Bridge. There are buildings on Dover which date back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The interesting thing is that they’re not churches, or government buildings, instead they’re shops with homes above.

As a note, when the British controlled Manhattan before and during the Revolutionary War, everything in the shot above was pretty much the East River. It’s all landfill, from the modern shoreline west to Front Street, which is coincidentally the corner this shot was captured on, meaning I was standing on the historic shoreline of the island. This is the northern extent of the South Street Seaport Historic District, and Peck Slip is about a block away. Governor Al Smith grew up in this neighborhood in the late 19th century, back when it was still a port, and Tammany ruled it all.

Al Smith is buried is buried in LIC’s Calvary Cemetery along the Newtown Creek.

Small world.

from wikipedia

The South Street Seaport is a historic area in the New York City borough of Manhattan, centered where Fulton Street meets the East River, and adjacent to the Financial District. The Seaport is a designated historic district, and is distinct from the neighboring Financial District. It is part of Manhattan Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, and is bounded by the Financial District to the west, southwest, and north; the East River to the southeast; and Two Bridges to the northeast.

It features some of the oldest architecture in downtown Manhattan, and includes the largest concentration of restored early 19th-century commercial buildings in the city. This includes renovated original mercantile buildings, renovated sailing ships, the former Fulton Fish Market, and modern tourist malls featuring food, shopping, and nightlife, with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Water Street at Dover is where you’ll find a solid claimant to the title of oldest bar in NYC. It’s the Bridge Cafe, which I’m told is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy damages. The original shell and frame of the building went up in 1794, and was altered steadily until the 1880’s when it assumed its present form. Bridge Cafe has a nice history of the building at their site. Doesn’t mention the great fire of 1835, but there you go.

Just down the block, Kit Burn’s “Sportsman Hall” at 273 Water Street was a saloon where you could watch bare knuckled humans boxing, or bet on the canine and rodentine combatants that were fighting in the 250 seat (400 standing) octagonal rat pit Kit maintained in the basement. The Sportsman Hall was housed in what’s considered to be the third oldest building in Manhattan (1773), which is now called the Joseph Rose House and Shop. Kit Burns and his competitors in the rat pit game are a big part of the reason that the ASPCA was formed back in 1866. Kit died in 1870, and is buried in LIC’s Calvary Cemetery along the Newtown Creek.

Small world.

from wikipedia

Born Christopher Keyburn in New York City on February 23, 1831, Burns joined the Dead Rabbits as a young man and, by the late 1840s, co-led the organization with Tommy Hadden. Both men started their own businesses in the Bowery with Burns opening his Sportsmen’s Hall on Water Street. His establishment was widely known for holding illegal bare-knuckle boxing prize fights as well as featuring such entertainment as the infamous “rat pit” where blood sports such as rat and dogfighting took place. In these events, large gray wharf rats were captured and set against dogs. These dogs, mostly terriers, were sometimes starved for several days beforehand and set against each other as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too far away, over on Canal and Lafayette, is what was once known as the Bruce Building – 254-260 Canal Street. George Bruce was a rather successful printer when he started to build his NYC headquarters back in 1856. The Bruce Building was converted over to office space back in the late 1980’s, but what makes it really special are the iron works which dress the walls. They’re the (1850) patented work of James Bogardus, according to prevailing opinions. Bogardus was the guy who pioneered the cast iron facades commonly seen on Victorian era buildings in NYC and elsewhere.

James Bogardus is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, but he was a descendent of Dominie Everardus Bogardus, who died in a ship wreck in 1647. Dominie Bogardus was granted a piece of property by the Dutch colonial government across the river from Manhattan, a point of rocky land surrounded by swamps and salt marshes, which came to be called “Dominie’s Hoek.” It adjoined a fertile waterbody still called the Mispat, but which we know today as the Newtown Creek. The LIC saloon “Dominie’s Hook” is named after him. In 1825, the Hunter Family acquired the Hook, and its been called Hunters Point ever since.

Small world.

from wikipedia

The Reverend Everardus Bogardus (1607-1647) was the dominie of the New Netherlands, and was the second minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, the oldest established church in present-day New York, which was then located on Pearl Street (Manhattan) at its first location built in 1633, the year of his arrival. Bogardus was, in fact, the second clergyman in all of the New Netherlands. (The slightly obscure early history of the Dutch colony meant that he was often considered the first clergyman.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

greater wildness

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Vertigo, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, one had attended a photo industry trade show at the Javitz Center. As this was the first time that circumstance had carried me to the newish Hudson Yards stop on the IRT Flushing line – conventionally referred to as the “7” – I decided to take a few minutes and record a few images.

There you go. Back to Manhattan. Sigh…

from wikipedia

The name “Manhattan” derives from the word Manna-hata, as written in the 1609 logbook of Robert Juet, an officer on Henry Hudson’s yacht Halve Maen (Half Moon). A 1610 map depicts the name as Manna-hata, twice, on both the west and east sides of the Mauritius River (later named the Hudson River). The word “Manhattan” has been translated as “island of many hills” from the Lenape language. The United States Postal Service prefers that mail addressed to Manhattan use “New York, NY” rather than “Manhattan, NY”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing that kept on striking me about visiting the new station was a sensation of vertigo. Normally, one is possessed of a sound and reliable bit of plumbing in the inner ear, but there was just something about the setup of the incredibly steep escalators which distinguish the new station that induced me to feel as if I was about to fall and tumble.

Given the sort of things I know about escalators, which are – functionally speaking – indistinguishable from industrial meat grinders, this was a real concern for one such as myself.

from wikipedia

Escalators, like moving walkways, are often powered by constant-speed alternating current motors[citation needed] and move at approximately 0.3–0.6 metres (1–2 ft) per second. The typical angle of inclination of an escalator to the horizontal floor level is 30 degrees with a standard rise up to about 18 metres (60 ft). Modern escalators have single-piece aluminum or stainless steel steps that move on a system of tracks in a continuous loop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps it’s the angle at which they’ve been set at. The Hudson Yards station platforms are found fairly deep in the ground, by NYC Subway standards. Comparable but still examples of the depth would be the 7’s Grand Central platform, or the 59th street and 3rd exit on the IND lines. Looking up rather than down, it felt a bit like the Smith/9th street stop on the F and G lines. Mr. Walsh from Forgotten-NY assures me that the deepest station in the system is in upper Manhattan, and I have few occasions to oppose his opinions so I’ll take his word on it, but Hudson Yards is deep.

from wikipedia

In January 2005, the New York City Council approved the rezoning of about 60 blocks from 28th to 43rd Streets, including the eastern portion of the West Side Yard. This did not include the western portion. In June 2005, the proposed West Side Stadium, to be built over the western portion for the New York City bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, was defeated. Soon after, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) thought of ways to redevelop the 26 acres (11 ha) yards. In conjunction with the government of New York City, the MTA issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 12,000,000 square feet (1,100,000 m2) of mixed-use space. The space was to be built on platforms over the rail yards, which would still be in use.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a mezzanine level where you’ll find the turnstiles, which is where the set of escalators in the shots above bring you. The mezzanine is fairly pleasing, design wise. There’s a whole bunch of arcing shapes moving against each other, tiled floors, and other “architect” looking features that are pretty pleasing to the eye. Or, to mine at least.

from wikipedia

The new construction, part of the city’s and the MTA’s master plan for the Far West Side, extended the IRT Flushing Line west from Times Square to Eleventh Avenue, then south to 34th Street. Although the West Side Stadium plan was rejected by city and state planning agencies, the 7 Subway Extension plan received approval to move ahead, as New York political leaders wanted to see the warehouse district west of Eighth Avenue and north of 34th Street redeveloped as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, and subway service was to be an essential part of that effort. The extension also serves the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which was expanded in 2008–2014 and is located a block away from the station entrances.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big kahuna of the escalators, and the ones which caused me to begin to experience vertigo, are the ones which carry you down to the platforms themselves.

from wikipedia

Vertigo is when a person feels as if they or the objects around them are moving when they are not. Often it feels like a spinning or swaying movement. This may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, or difficulties walking. It is typically worsened when the head is moved. Vertigo is the most common type of dizziness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is looking back up at where the previous photo was captured, and just the act of turning myself around forced my non camera arm to reflexively reach for some kind of support.

from wikipedia

The MTA completed excavation of a 150-foot (46 m) long cavern in June 2009. The cavern was dug below the bus entrance ramp to the lower level of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and formed part of the eastern end of the new extension and connected it to the Times Square station. At the same time, tunnels were being dug northward from the machine shaft at 26th Street; soft ground at 27th and 28th Street required 300 feet (91 m) of ground to be frozen so that the tunnel-boring machines could easily dig through the soil. On December 21, 2009, it was announced that a tunnel-boring machine broke through the 34th Street station cavern wall. Both tunnel-boring machines were scheduled to finish the required tunneling in the spring of 2010.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think it’s the “leading lines” which did it. There’s a real “THX 1138” vibe to this station, which seems to be part of a modern design aesthetic MTA is following. I’ve been to the Second Avenue Subway construction site and the new stations about to come on line are visually quite similar to the Hudson Yards stop.

from wikipedia

THX 1138 (pronounced “T-H-X Eleven Thirty-Eight”) is a 1971 science fiction film directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut. The film was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch. It stars Donald Pleasence and Robert Duvall and depicts a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled through android police officers and mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotion, including outlawed sexual desire.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down at the bottom, there’s another vaulted tunnel which terminates at yet another barrel vault, which is where the two tracks for the 7 train are found. This is a terminal stop, of course, so there must a turnaround track somewhere down there but I’ll be godamned if I knew where it was. Felt like like I was halfway to hell if truth be told. Dizzy, I got nervous, my chest grew tight, and it was oddly warm on the platform itself – given its depth.

Then again, Manhattan generally makes me experience both agita and angina, and often reminds me of hell.

from wikipedia

The main entrance, located at the southeast corner of the intersection of 34th Street and Hudson Boulevard, has a turtle shell-shaped glass canopy above it that allows light to shine on the upper mezzanine. The elevator is located south of 34th Street in Hudson Park, while the escalator entrance is located further east, closer to the boulevard. The ventilation building will be built over by developers at a future date. The second entrance, which will contain escalator entrances is at the southwest corner of 35th Street and Hudson Boulevard East. At both of the exits, the staircases and four escalators each go down 40 feet (12 m) to a fare control area, then another 80 feet (24 m) to the common lower mezzanine; the main entrance was completed by summer 2014, while the secondary entrance is still under construction and will be completed by 2016.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

haggard and ghastly

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Eldridge Street Synagogue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, a humble narrator was invited to a “thank you” event for the Open House NY weekend site hosts (we produced a Newtown Creek Alliance event at the 520 Kingsland Avenue Green Roof this year). The event was set for six o’clock in what is now Manhattan’s Chinatown, at the 1887 vintage Eldridge Street Synagogue, a 19th century institution which had fallen into disrepair during the middle 20th century, but which has been restored and converted over for use as a museum.

from eldridgestreet.org

The Eldridge Street Synagogue opened its doors at 12 Eldridge Street on September 4, 1887, just in time for the Jewish High Holidays. Hundreds of newly arrived immigrants from Russia and Poland gathered here to pray, socialize and build a community. It was the first time in America that Jews of Eastern Europe had built a synagogue from the ground up.

Dozens of Stars of David decorate the Eldridge Street Synagogue’s façade. Here in America, Jews could worship openly and freely. The synagogue was a proud declaration of newly- found religious freedom for the synagogue’s immigrant founders. The synagogue was also emblematic of their economic aspirations. With its soaring 50-foot ceiling and exuberant Moorish-style interior, Eldridge Street provided an inspiring contrast to the crowded tenements, factories and shops of the Lower East Side.

For fifty years, the synagogue flourished. Men and women came in their finery, and mounted policemen patrolled the crowds. The congregation hired world-renowned cantors and in 1918 hired Rabbi Aharon Yudelovitch, the first in a series of famed Talmudists and speakers. Thousands participated in religious services in the building’s heyday, from its opening through the 1920s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself enjoys being in the company of other historically minded folks, it should be mentioned, but I’ve always found the people I meet at these sort of gatherings to be somewhat stuffy types who take themselves quite seriously, and that my particular and inescapable sense of humor is neither appreciated nor expected by them. Accordingly, a minimal amount of time is devoted to “socializing” with the “Manhattan people.”

Instead, I wander around and take photos.

also from eldridgestreet.org

“It was as though the synagogue was held up by strings from heaven,” said Roberta Brandes Gratz, founder of the Museum at Eldridge Street, of her first impression of the synagogue in the early 1980s. Pigeons roosted in the balconies and benches were covered with dust. Gratz and others rallied to save the building. They formed the non-sectarian Eldridge Street Project, pre-cursor to the Museum at Eldridge Street. The synagogue was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996 and more than $20 million was raised to restore it to its original grandeur.

The Museum completed the Eldridge Street Synagogue restoration in December 2007, the synagogue’s 120th anniversary. The restoration received nearly every major preservation honor, including the prestigious National Trust for Historic Preservation 2008 Preservation Award. The crowning piece of the Museum’s restoration is a magnificent new stained-glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans.

Today the Eldridge Street Synagogue is home to the Museum at Eldridge Street, which welcomes people from around the world for tours, school programs, concerts, lectures, festivals and other cultural events. The building also continues to be home to Kahal Adath Jeshurun. This small Orthodox congregation has never missed a Saturday or holiday service in the more than 120 years since the synagogue first opened.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The overall architectural impression received from visiting the Eldridge Street Synagogue was that a significant Moorish and or Galician influence was evident in its design. I’ve seen ruins of synagogues in Southern Europe, built during the days of the Ottomans, which this structure reminded me of – but nothing of the size nor as ornate as the one on Eldridge Street. That’s America for you, I guess.

from wikipedia

The Eldridge Street Synagogue is one of the first synagogues erected in the United States by Eastern European Jews (Ashkenazis). One of the founders was Rabbi Eliahu the Blessed (Borok), formerly the Head Rabbi of St. Petersburg, Russia. It opened at 12 Eldridge Street in New York’s Lower East Side in 1887 serving Congregation Kahal Adath Jeshurun. The building was designed by the architects Peter and Francis William Herter, (but unrelated to the Herter Brothers cabinet-makers). The brothers subsequently received many commissions in the Lower East Side and incorporated elements from the synagogue, such as the stars of David, in their buildings, mainly tenements. When completed, the synagogue was reviewed in the local press. Writers marveled at the imposing Moorish Revival building, with its 70-foot-high vaulted ceiling, magnificent stained-glass rose windows, elaborate brass fixtures and hand-stenciled walls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Star of David is everywhere you look on the front of the building, an elder sign meant to act as both a ward and an announcement that “we are here.” Chatting with one of my cousins about this location afterwards, I kept on coming back to the sort of “Sheols” which the Waxman clan frequented in Brooklyn. There are three forms of modern Judaism in the United States – Reformed, Conservative, and Orthodox. I grew up in the former variant, and our ritual centers could best be analogized to Christian churches as being plain and unadorned in the manner of Lutheran or Presbyrterian temples. Eldridge Street was an Orthodox center, and they liked to pour it on in the sort of manner for which the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches are known for. The modern day Orthodox are fundamentalists, and eschew this sort of “glitz.”

from nytimes.com

By 1910, according to the historian Hasia R. Diner, the neighborhood contained half a million Jews; by contrast, Vienna, one of the largest Jewish centers in Europe, had a Jewish population of 175,000, and Chicago, about 100,000. This neighborhood had one of the largest Jewish populations of any city in the world — and surely one of the poorest. Most of the area’s 60-some synagogues were humble gathering places named after the Eastern European towns and shtetls from which their worshipers had fled, resembling the social clubs that develop among many immigrant communities.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you know anything about Jewish mysticism, which the Orthodox are well known practitioners of, you’ll spot instances of Kabbalist motif all over Eldridge Street. The Sephiroth and other occult concepts are omnipresent, and really seem to be governing the designs laid down by architects Peter and Francis William Herter.

from njit.edu

This synagogue was built in part to assert the importance of this Orthodox congregation in opposition to the more liberal German Jewish population which bad preceded them. The feeling was that German Jews had become to Americanized and assimilated and had, therefore, given up many of their traditional Jewish practices in favor of the more liberal reform movement. The construction of Eldridge Street Synagogue was a statement on the part of its congregation that one does not need to abandon strict Judaism to su~ in America. The opulence and ornament of the synagogue compare to German Jewish/Reform synagogues of the same period. The architect of the building was the German firm of Herter Brothers, which went on to build numerous Lower East Side tenement buildings. This was not the first synagogue for this congregation, which was housed in earlier buildings prior to raising the capital for the construction of their own building.

Eldridge Street Synagogue is located on the block bounded by Eldridge Street on the west, Canal Street on the north, Allen Street on the east and Division Street on the south. The immediate neighborhood is a sheltered enclave, set off from the surrounding bustle in part by the Manhattan Bridge, which sits just above it. The building fills most of its lot, which is approximately 60 feet wide by 87 feet deep, but is set apart from its neighbors by narrow areaways. This block is part of the densely packed Lower East Side which is a neighborhood known for role as a point of first contact for immigrants throughout the last two centuries, a role that continues to this day. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eldridge Street, btw, is named for a soldier named Lieutenant Joseph C. Eldridge of the 13th U.S. Infantry, who died during the war of 1812. Eldridge was butchered by the Ottawa, in a fashion horrific enough that the British actually petitioned that American prisoners taken by the Ottawa be rendered to the King’s army in exchange for a substantial bounty. Chief Blackbird told the British that money meant nothing to his people, and refused.

from warof1812chronicles.blogspot.com

One of the essays in “THE WAR OF 1812: Writings from America’s Second War of Independence” told of “The Death Of Joseph C. Eldridge…,” a lieutenant with the 13th U.S. Infantry, who was ambushed by Chief Blackbird and other Ottawa warriors. The Ottawas, from Michigan, “joined the British army during the siege of Fort George,” and that is the vicinity where was killed. An investigation conducted by Colonel William Claus, of Canada’s Indian Department, ensued at the request of the Fort George commander after it was reported that Eldridge was tortured and killed in captivity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The second floor of Eldridge Street Synagogue is where the ladies would have been seated, but since it’s a museum now, I was allowed to go up there and get my shots. That’s a Bimah, in the shot above, incidentally.

from nyc-architecture.com

READER’S PLATFORM (Bimah) — The table upon which the Torah scroll is read. The location, in the center of the sanctuary, follows the older European tradition. The central location is to insure that all can hear the reading of the Torah, and refers to the location of the sacrificial altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. In many American synagogues the bimah is placed in the front of the congregation near the Ark. In Sephardic synagogues the bimah is generally located in the rear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my tripod with me on this excursion, but I did find a couple of spots where I could rest the camera for a minute. This allowed me to drop the ISO down to 100, and narrow the aperture for a greater depth of field and infinity focus. Next time I come back to Eldridge Street, I’m bringing the tripod.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

creaking or thumping

with 2 comments

The old part of town, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor, specifically the Open House NY weekend event, resulted in one getting invited to a “site hosts” reception over in lower Manhattan last week. I’ll show you where that took place tomorrow, but as always, half the fun of going anywhere is the trip itself. The event invitation was for six in the evening, but since I didn’t have much else to do that afternoon it was decided to “make a day of it” and go wandering with the camera. After laying out food and water for the dog, I left Astoria and began my meandering path, one which ultimately found me in LIC boarding an East River Ferry bound for Pier 11/Wall Street that deposited me in the financial district. That’s the “House of Moses” flying around the Brooklyn Bidge, right at the corner of Dover and South Street, in the shot above.

My destination was on the east side of Chinatown, a section of Manhattan which offers a series of particularly interesting artifacts dating back to the early 19th century that somehow survived the “urban renewal” and “slum clearance” era of the middle 20th century. You can spot all three historic types of tenements in this neighborhood “pre,” “old,” and “new” law structures. It’s also a bustling section – crowded, messy, and full of different cultures bumping up against each other.

from wikipedia

Originally named East River Drive, FDR Drive was later renamed after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The roadway was designed by Robert Moses. He faced the difficulties of building a parkway/boulevard combination along the East River while minimizing disruptions to residents. The section from 125th Street to 92nd Street is the original 1934 construction, while sections from 92nd Street down to Battery Park (with the exception of a section from 42nd to 49th streets) were built as a boulevard, an arterial highway running at street level. Future reconstruction designs from 1948 to 1966 converted FDR Drive into the full parkway that is in use today.

The section of highway from 23rd Street to 34th Street was built on wartime rubble dumped by cargo ships returning from Bristol, England, during World War II. The German Luftwaffe bombed Bristol heavily. After delivering war supplies to the British, the ships’ crews loaded rubble onto the ships for ballast, then sailed back to New York, where construction crews made use of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can take the boy away from his beloved Newtown Creek, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still fascinated by sewers. This non standard drain was spotted just to the southeast of the footings of the Manhattan Bridge. It was maybe 16 inches across, and clearly an artifact of the early city. My moles inside the modern day DEP tell me that the sewers in Chinatown are amongst the worst ones for them to maintain. Partially this is due to the density of the local population and their particular propensity for dumping greasy materials into the street drains, but it’s mainly due to the age of the local system and the limitations of 19th century engineering. I seem to recall that this was shot along Monroe Street, possibly at the corner of Market, but I didn’t jot down where I found it at the time.

Supposedly, there’s a few sewers down in these parts that are lined with lumber rather than concrete. Famously, the DEP was doing repairs on a water main at Beekman Street (and on Chambers) a few years back and they happened on colonial era water pipes that were constructed of hollowed out wooden logs.

from nyc.gov

Log water pipe discoveries are not without precedent. Archaeologists expect to find historical infrastructure such as water and sewer pipes, wells, cisterns and foundations in locations where early New Yorkers lived and worked. In fact, reports of wood water pipe discoveries south of Chambers Street date back at least 100 years. The unique thing about the Beekman Street discovery is that the wood pipes were discovered nearly intact – one pipe is missing its tapered end. What’s even more remarkable is that the pipes were still connected when they were found and form a contiguous section of New York City’s first water distribution infrastructure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

86 Madison Street caught my eye while I was wandering about. Luckily, it also drew the scholarly attention of a person from the University of Delaware named Zachary J. Violette back in 2012, who produced an interesting dissertation comparing the tenements of NYC and Boston – check it out here.

from sites.udel.edu

Alexander Stake tenement, 86 Madison Street, New York, 1889. Alexander Finkle, architect. A heavily-ornamented New York tenement, this immigrant-built and designed building shows the use of belt courses, pilasters and window support elaboration. The ornate stamped-metal cornice bears the name “Lincoln”, a reference to the president and a typical invocation of power through the use of ornament.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the facade work, the date of its manufacture, and a hundred other little details obvious to those of us who have learned how to “read” the City, the Lincoln building and its neighbors are “Old Law” tenements. As to the demographics of these parts, this neighborhood was predominantly Catholic (German and Irish, mainly) and a little bit Jewish (according to Jakob Riis – “Jewtown,” or the “Ghetto,” or as my grandmother called it – “The Shtetl”) was mainly on the east side of Delancey Street back in 1889 when these tenement buildings went up. The Chinese began to arrive in NYC in great numbers during the 1870’s, but their original “zone” of occupation was closer to Doyers Street, near Chatham Square, on the west side of the Bowery. When the Germans and Irish began to evacuate this area east of Bowery, the Chinese moved in.

from wikipedia

Old Law Tenements are tenements built in New York City after the Tenement House Act of 1879 and before the New York State Tenement House Act (“New Law”) of 1901. The 1879 law required that every inhabitable room have a window opening to plain air, a requirement that was met by including air shafts between adjacent buildings. Old Law Tenements are commonly called “dumbbell tenements” after the shape of the building footprint: the air shaft gives each tenement the narrow-waisted shape of a dumbbell, wide facing the street and backyard, narrowed in between to create the air corridor. They were built in great numbers to accommodate waves of immigrating Europeans. The early 21st century side streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side are still lined with numerous dumbbell structures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My intended destination still awaited me, but I was having a pretty nice time wandering around Chinatown. Hungry, there was a particular meal, available in these parts, which I sought out.

Now, this is one of those stories… When my Dad used to force me to work with him on one of his Saturday jobs – he was a house painter who would pick up extra cash on the weekends – it would often be in Manhattan. We’d stop off at a Chinese bakery on the west side of Chinatown at the corner of Walker and Mulberry to get a box of “pork buns” and a couple of those ultra strong and ultra hot cups of black coffee commonly offered by such establishments. Whenever I eat this particular meal, I always think of the old man.

The “pork buns” are called “Bao” and whereas Chinese bakeries do indeed produce sweet cakes like the more familiar western ones do, they also manufacture incredibly flavorful and savory fare as well. There’s all sorts of variants on these, some are steamed, some filled with custard or dried pork, but a personal preference for the baked ones with the savory roast pork inside is offered. I procured a couple of the baked Roast Pork “Bao” and a cup of that super hot coffee, and then proceeded to sit down on a tenement stoop for a quick dinner before heading off to my eventual destination – which will be described in tomorrow’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

shapeless nemesis

with one comment

It’s all a plot, I tell you, nothing is accidental and the whole world is “on purpose.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Feeling particularly powerless, depressed, and isolated of late – the only solution for one such as myself is to kick his feet about and scuttle around. Persecution and possible prosecution of a humble narrator is always in the forefront of my mind, as it were, so it’s best to just keep moving. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid the “tells” that my movements have been anticipated by some shadowy cabal of possible occultists, if you know how to read the streets. One also grows a bit dizzy when spinning around on his heels to check if any enemies might be coming up from behind.

It’s best to remain vigilant, always. Look at the signage on the food cart above… who ever heard of a halal chili dog? Gotcha, shadowy cabal, you’re not as smart as me – I can spot you people at fifty paces.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here in Astoria, I noticed back in the first and second weeks of September that a bright beam of light was emanating into the sky from lower Manhattan. There’s a cover story for this propagated by the government, but I know what’s really going on and so will you when a race of extraterrestrial lizards arrives in flying saucers. Of more immediate concern to me is my so called neighbor, which presents itself as an elderly woman who hordes cats. I know what its really up to, and I’m betting those aren’t really cats either.

There’s always one of her so called cats in her window, pretending to be asleep.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Don’t ask me to tell you what’s really going on in Astoria’s St. Michael’s Cemetery. The answer, and its occult implications involving an extra dimensional race of non human intelligences who were the former and are the future wardens of the Earth, could spark off a new dark age and return mankind to the status of shivering cave dwellers and ape like savagery were their presence here known generally. It is best that in these places where they walk about in the dark of night, these elder things, that they do so alone and that the only evidence of their travels are piles of swept aside granite.

It is also best for the rest of you to argue about verbal manners and behavioral mores, and leave the occult reality of things to ones like myself who can actually handle the truth that lies beyond your gaze. There is no “safe space” when “they” are discussed, as our specie are as ants to them. On the earth, only that thing with the three lobed burning eye which dwells in in the cupola of LIC’s sapphire megalith can spy them, and even then only dimly.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 26, 2016 at 11:00 am

oddly sunburned

with one comment

Lost in the bowels of the subterrene, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Innocently enough, while on my way to a photo industrial complex exposition at the Javits Center that I was lured to by the promise of a small payment for participating in a focus group, a major crisis suddenly came rushing up and seized a hold of a humble narrator. One was busy staring at his shoes and pondering how my life had brought me to this pass, when the realization that I was the only person on the 7 train crashed like an ocean wave across the fragile shoreline of the psyche. The sudden manifestation of a thousand nightmares was upon me.

An inflation of my self esteem began to roar like a cataract between the ears and behind the eyes, coupled with a sensation that was both spiritually distracting and which generated uncountable bad and unprofitable ideas – all at once in a rushing torrent of intent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My self importance was deflated by the solitude, as I had no one to impress – with a nervous rattling off of some historical minutiae about the Flushing line IRT’s history. What am I without my narcissism? My eyes were pinned wide open in a wild stare, and became uncomfortably dry, as I seemed to have stopped blinking. After a quick check of pulse rate and a crack of my knuckles against the plastic seat to confirm that I was in fact awake and not lying in bed – unconscious and hallucinating – it was decided that this was in fact the waking world. Knowing that nobody back home in Queens would believe me about being alone on the 7 line, my trusty camera was deployed and evidence collected of this momentous event – that I, I of all people, was utterly alone on the subway.

Surely, this would be the sort of thing that would draw the interest of all…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bouncing from side to side of the light rail car, which was positively hurtling through the stinking concrete bunkers beneath the megalopolis, suddenly paranoia blossomed in my mind when I realized that in the next carriage there was another singular occupant like myself. Perhaps the focus group at the photo expo was nonexistent? Was this some sort of exquisite trap laid out for an elite group? I sensed the presence of the hidden hand, the shadowed elite, the supranormal, at work. Nothing is random, everything has meaning – I read that on a greeting card for sale in a gas station convenience shop once…

My thoughts raced, and flights of ideation began to assail.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train ground to a halt, with an electronic recording announcing that the delay in forward movement was because there was traffic in front of us. I wondered if my counterpart in the next car realized, as I did, that this was some sort of trick. Anything can happen when you’re alone and without witnesses. That’s why, like the band TLC advised back during the 1990’s – I don’t go chasing waterfalls and stick to the hills and valleys I’m used to.

It was my hope that when the skeletal remains of myself, and the other, were eventually found at either terminal stop – Flushing or Hudson Yards – that the images on my camera card would be recoverable and offer some sort of explanation to Our Lady of the Pentacle as to my fate.

Of course, then the train started moving again and I found my way to the Javits Center, but this was a close one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back at home, one found nothing but difficulty in attempting to sleep. There were machines moving around in the sky, some of them carrying Policemen. I set up the camera and watched…

Who can guess, all there is, buried down there – or moving around through the aether, up there?

As a note, the next morning, my facial skinvelope exhibited the dermatological effects characterized by exposure to the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself. I have no explanation to offer.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

oblong apartment

with 2 comments

Getting high over the East River, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seemed like every time I turned around last week, I had to go to Manhattan for one reason or another. I’ll tell you about the reason that I was at the Waldorf Astoria next week, but I was done with that sliver of my life by around 5:45, and the thought of boarding a rush hour train was anathema. Besides, after the chicken fried bacon incident, I had a serious desire to get some exercise… a lot of exercise.

Walking home to Astoria from midtown, rather than using the subway, I soon logically found myself at the Queensboro Bridge, which I haven’t perambulated across in several months for some reason. Queensboro is a fairly decent bit of “cardio” exercise, incidentally, due to the long sloping ascent to its high point over the river at mid span.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a VERY well used pedestrian and bicycle path on the north side of the bridge, one that I used to find myself walking quite often back during 2009 when I was working with the NYC Bridge Centennial committee, which organized the parades and events celebrating the hundred year anniversary of the East River bridges (also, one over the Harlem River, and the Borden and Hunters Point Avenue bridges over the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queensboro is beautiful. Period. It’s one of my favorite sites to photograph in the entire city, and I never get bored of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I like Queensboro in the late afternoon during fall and spring, as the quality and angles of the light – and the dramatic contrast it creates – are just lovely. Brooklyn Bridge gets all the tourists, and attention, but I’ll take Queensboro any day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pedestrian and bicycle path crests at mid span, and the wide open vistas encountered are breath taking. If you haven’t had this experience for yourself, why not get off the couch and check it out? I refuse to repeat anything from Great Gatsby, Paul Simon, or a Spiderman movie.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Queens shoreline, that’s the Big Allis power plant in the Ravenswood section.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even the NYCHA housing at the western side of Queens Plaza look pretty sweet from up here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking back from the pedestrian walkway towards Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pedestrian and bicycle walkway lands in Queens at Queens Plaza, nearby Crescent street.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

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