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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For many reasons, a humble narrator has found himself at Hallets Cove along the Astoria waterfront in recent weeks. Partially, this recent focus was related to a humble narrator being invited to write a guest blog for the NYC Ferry service’s new Astoria stop (check it out here), but didn’t go “super granular” with it in my usual manner. Something I learned while writing my old Brownstoner Queens column was sometimes you need to approach a story, and a more general audience, with a different voice than you normally would (the NYC Ferry is operated by the Hornblower company, under the auspices of the NYC EDC, in case you’re wondering). 

The other reason I’ve been down at Hallets Cove a lot in recent weeks has been to actually use the Ferry to get to and from work, as the MTA has seemingly deduced that nobody in Queens needs to get to and from Manhattan on the weekends. Luckily, my destination for conducting boat tours is Pier 11, which is one of the terminal stops for the ferry, so problem solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The kids of Queens never disappoint, as evinced by these phalluses recently scratched into the sand at Hallets Cove. There’s actually a lot of fine detail to appreciate in these, from the spurts to the hairy sacks. Good show.

As a note, I know of just three sandy beaches along the East River, Hallets Cove being one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The future site of a floating “Eco Dock” as my pals from the Waterfront Alliance call it, one has long been fascinated by the muddy flats underlying a discarded pier found at the entrance to the NYCHA Astoria Houses on what is historically known as Lawrence Point, but which has been rechristened as “Astoria Point” by real estate interests and elected officialdom alike.

This sort of marshy area is immensely important to the ecology of the waters surrounding NYC, as my pals from Riverkeeper will tell you, and you don’t see very much of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a derelict pier overflying those muddy flats, which as mentioned, will be replaced with an eco dock. My understanding is that the pier was installed to support a radio station’s broadcast tower, specifically WLIB, back in 1953. Further, I’m told that the radio station abandoned this location in 1967, and that the structure has been feral ever since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you haven’t tried out the new ferry service leaving from Astoria yet, I recommend it for nothing other than seeing the sights. The route carries you along the east channel of the East River, which transits between the Ravenswood section of Long Island City and Roosevelt Island. You’ve got some pretty incredible stuff along the route, including both the Roosevelt Island Lift bridge and the amazing Queensboro bridge, and the Big Allis power plant is on display as well.

This particular ferry service makes an amended series of stops as compared to the longer tenanted East River route, stopping first at Roosevelt Island, then the northern ferry stop at Hunters Point, 34th street and then Pier 11/Wall Street in Manhattan. Im personally really looking forward to the upcoming Soundview route, opening in 2018, which will go to the southeastern Bronx – which is the unknown country for one such as myself.

Check the Astoria ferry out, what else have you got to do?


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

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It’s National Hot Cross Bun Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, our Lady of the Pentacle and myself headed down to the East River waterfront in pursuance of getting a few shots of the tribute in lights, an annual display commemorating the September 11th attacks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A NYC Ferry rolled through the shot while my shutter was wide open, and the happy accident presented above occurred.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Never forget. Never Surrender.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 11, 2017 at 1:00 pm

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one enjoyed a pleasant evening on a boat tour offered by the Open House NY outfit which explored the City of Greater New York’s solid waste disposal system. The boat was one of Circleline’s smaller vessels (Circleline Queens) and the speakers were Sanitation historian Robin Nagle, SimsMetal’s Tom Outerbridge (who is also a board member at Newtown Creek Alliance), and some fellow from the Department of Sanitation whose name I didn’t catch. It was coincidentally the date of the summer solstice, the light was fantastic (from a photography POV), and it was the longest day of the year.

It certainly felt like the longest day of the year once the boat docked at west 42nd street, and the time came to make the journey back to Astoria, on the landward side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s no secret that I believe Manhattan, particularly the west side of midtown, to be a cautionary tale for urban planners. Some see midtown west, with its recent construction of gigantic residential towers and the nearby Hudson Yards project, as a modern day success story. The urban renewal engineers of the Bloomberg era captured a gritty section of the City which both housed and employed those at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum – a problematic population, from the municipal point of view, who consumed far too much in the way of City services – and converted it over to a neighborhood of “pied a terre” and upper middle and management class dormitories.

They forgot, as is the usual case these days, to think overly about transit and supermarkets and places people can gather without permits or permission. In my eye, they made a bad situation worse, in a neighborhood west of the Port Authority bus terminal. What are you going to do though, Manhattan is ruined and has been for twenty years. The junkies are still here, but instead of being able to return to some tenement squat at the end of the day, today they’re just living on the crowded streets and sleeping in the waterfront parks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is what the ridership numbers on the Queensbound E line look like at about 9:30 at night, and you should see what sort of crowding occurs on this line at rush hour. Just a few years ago, at a similar interval, the train population would have been not even half of what you see in the shot above. Why the crowding?

Simply put, not many actual New Yorkers can afford to pay the three to four thousand dollars a month in rent which a one bedroom in this hellish midtown area will cost. The Real Estate Industrial Complex’s dreams of avarice have caused a migration from this so called center out to the so called outer boroughs. It seems that they either never checked with the MTA about ridership capacity, or didn’t bother to care.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For one such as myself, who is lucky enough to live in Astoria, the E is merely a link in the chain of my commute. Once upon a time, my habit was to find a seat on a local train back to Queens and use the time to read, draw in my sketchbook, listen to an audiobook, or just blankly stare off into space.

Since the entire concept of finding a seat on the R in Manhattan is now a fantasy, even late into the evening, in recent years one has decided to instead be clever about using the Subway system and be nimble in terms of enacting as many transfers as I can in pursuance of escaping the inhuman canyons of the Shining City and returning to the human scaled locale known as Astoria. Accordingly, I find myself on the platform at Queens Plaza quite a bit these days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the work day, until 9:45 p.m. actually, you have a double chance of getting a local here – the R or M lines. MTA, in their infinite wisdom, cuts M service off at 9:45, effectively halving local service in Queens. This tucks nicely within the statement of what I believe to be the borough motto of “welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself,” which multiple elected officials have personally asked me to stop propagating. I believe however, that I’ve discovered part of the disconnect between elected officialdom, real estate industrial complex, and transit.

During conversation with the NYC EDC regarding their Sunnyside Yards proposal, the EDC folks pointed out that the project boundaries are served by “8 subway lines.” They know this because they checked a subway map. They didn’t realize that, because they all live in Battery Park City or South Brooklyn, that in reality it’s only three lines (R, part time M, 7 lines) which can accessed by just three stations (36th street, 33rd/Lawson, 40th Lowery) which can be reasonably walked to from the center of their proposed project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The stretch of Steinway Street pictured above, between 34th avenue and Broadway, sits atop an R/M local station. This would, according to the EDC, be one of the stops servicing what would be roughly half the population of Boulder, Colorado who would be living atop the Sunnyside Yards deck. Again, since they only know this part of Queens from the maps they spread out on polished mahogany desks in the air conditioned offices of lower Manhattan, they don’t realize that the walk from Steinway/39th street at the north eastern side of the proposed deck is nearly a half mile away and would necessitate a hazardous street crossing of Northern Blvd.

Simply put, they want to turn western Queens into the west side of Manhattan. Density is over rated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria is one of the last working class/lower middle class neighborhoods left in the urban core of NYC. Perhaps EDC might want to leave us alone to live our lives the way we wish to, in a human scale neighborhood where the neighbors actually know each other by name. Maybe they’d like to establish a residence nearby and rotate their planning staff into and out of it on a biannual basis so that they could understand what would be lost here.

Perhaps, we should preserve Western Queens as a museum piece of the actual “progressive era.”


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm

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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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I want to believe…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The world would be so much more interesting if all the nutty and paranoid stuff was true. How I do wish that the Queen of England was actually a human alien hybrid, that Kennedy was killed by the CIA and a cabal of militarists, that Area 51 was anything except for a place where exotic fighter jets and stealth aircraft are tested. “Chem trails,” “banksters,” and the rest of the fantasy scenarios are all built around an elaborate mythology that paints the government of the United States as some great machine which operates with impunity and precision.

Have you actually interacted with the government? Try it out, and that should sunder all notions of the “hidden hand.” These people can barely tie their shoes, cannot keep a secret, and are more concerned with getting approval for overtime than they would be in conspiring with alien overlords (unless they were hiring). If anything, officialdom would start applying for grant monies to form committees to study the alien overlords.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last week or so, I’ve been telling people I meet that “Holy Crap, just the other night, Obama himself kicked in my door looking for guns to take.” The general reaction has been either “well, at least he did something” or “it took him long enough.” I don’t have any guns – I’m more of a blunt force trauma guy – but the point I’m trying to make is that the whole notion of this sort of conspiracy is sophomoric.

Try arranging a lunch date for five people to meet up at the same time and place, purposely excluding someone inside your social circle. The excluded person WILL find out about it, and loudly proclaim their resentment. Magnify that out to any topic associated with conspiratorial secrecy and do the math.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always believed that the reason people cling to conspiratorial fantasy is the utter banality of real life. Perhaps it’s the nihilist philosophy that I cling to, which renders everything I experience as shades of cold gray. If you were a member of some cabal, there would have to be some sort of bank account associated with it to cover costs and handle payroll. There would be paperwork which someone would have to administer, and an excel spreadsheet generated to track the project.

Even Mafiosos and ISIS keep paper records. Nixon did, and that’s what did him in. Ollie North did. Bill de Blasio does. There’s no such thing as a secret if somebody other than you knows about it.

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 23, 2016 at 12:00 pm

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Holiday pretty pictures, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Arguably one of my best shots, ever. A weather phenomenon known as “Mammacular Clouds” occurred in NYC one day around sunset, and luckily I was in the right place at the right time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Weather is a photographers nemesis most of the time. It’s too hot, or raining, or too cold. One night, while onboard a boat in NY Harbor, the weather actually worked in my favor as a storm front was blowing past the Freedom Tower.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was actually lovely weather the day this portrait shot of the Empire State Building was captured, and I happened to be in Queens’s Calvary Cemetery at yet another “right place” and “right time.”

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

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Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion to Gowanus Bay saw our vessel plying the Buttermilk Channel section of the East River, which is found between Red Hook and Governors Island. The legend about how this section of the river ended up being called Buttermilk Channel states that back in colonial times, it was so shallow at low tide that Red Hook farmers would herd cattle over to the island for safe keeping and free grazing. Dredging projects in the industrial era lowered the depth hereabouts, creating a shipping channel.

As our vessel moved along, a big orange boat called the Staten Island Ferry entered into Buttermilk, which is pretty unusual. Incidentally, despite its size, the Ferry is a boat. If it could launch a boat, it would be a ship, but since it can’t, it’s a boat. Life boats don’t count, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was actually a dredging project that caused the anomaly. New York Harbor is an estuary situated between a giant conveyor belt for silt and soil called the Hudson River and the estuarial waters of Jamaica Bay and Long Island Sound. The back and forth tidal action of the East River, coupled with the titanic flow of the Hudson, causes the harbor floor to build up constantly and channel maintenance is an expensive but necessary activity ordained and financed by the ports people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as we were leaving Buttermilk Channel on our way to Erie Basin and Gowanus Bay, the NYPD Harbor Patrol came splashing by, offering themselves up with an iconic backdrop.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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