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What’s expected?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the first phase of the Hudson Yards project pictured above. What’s expected of one such as myself would be to condemn, criticize, or condemn the place. Yes? Ok then.

Here’s my three “C’s.” I personally find the design of Hudson Yards to be quite off, given its total embrace of 75 years old urban planning chestnuts like “superblocks” and “towers in a park.” Hudson Yards ignores its surrounding neighborhoods contextually, offers a harsh and unfriendly pedestrian space, and is guilty of architectural banality. No thought seems to have been given on the subject of its relationship to the position of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself’s journey through the sky, as the reflective tower facades cause harsh light to broadcast and strobe about from on high. Even sunglasses won’t help when walking westwards on 32nd or 33rd streets in the morning, or eastwards from the Hudson coast of Manhattan in the afternoon/evening.

Walking through the “zone,” I was keenly aware of how unwelcoming the place seemed, displaying emotional sterility while trying too hard to be “artsy.” Every design attempt at being “playful or whimsical” reminded me of a crass and cheaply rendered version of Disneyworld. Rust, peeling paint, and cracked cement is already visible on and around the “Bloomberg Building” for instance.

Homogeneity is what the City Planners like, and in Hudson Yards their vision is writ large. These folks hate the heterogenous chaos of cities, preferring the neat appearance of shopping mall gallerias. Long story short, I’m not a fan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other hand, gazing upon these shots, which were gathered up on the High Line, I have to remind myself what used to be here – which was a whole lot of stuff nobody wants. Long corridors of graffiti covered concrete walls vouchsafing the rail yards below, open air drug dealing, and more prostitutes than you could shake a stick at (pun intended). This was a “dead” section in busy midtown Manhattan, incongruously sandwiched in by neighborhoods that didn’t end two to three blocks short of the Hudson. The long eastward trek from the Javitz Center for convention goers back to the subways and Penn Station, the automobile commuter focused street design… the west side in the 30’s was never a destination you’d want to tell your mom you were heading towards.

Is this incarnation better? Worse? Only time will tell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I can tell you, after walking the camera through and reviewing the photos gathered, is that every single minute I’ve spent opposing the Sunnyside Yards proposals here in Queens has been time well spent. The fancy pants crowd which is in favor of the gargantuan endeavor of decking the Sunnyside Yards doesn’t really understand what it would entail. They haven’t fully digested the reality of the construction or come to the understanding that to justify the colossal $22 billion estimated cost of the deck, you cannot build small or even medium – you have to build big. That’s an economic reality.

Look at that shot above, and imagine you’re standing in Queens Plaza. Now you’re starting to realize what’s what and why we have to keep this from happening in Queens.


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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 2, 2020 at 1:00 pm

mortal relics

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One does like to see people looking busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Friday odds and ends, as usual, at your Newtown Pentacle. The shots in today’s post are from the end of a recent scuttle in Manhattan, the details of which I’ll describe next week, and were captured just after sunrise in the nascent “Hudson Yards” area. There’s still quite a bit of construction going on, with hundreds of trade union laborers milling about in orange and yellow vests, involved in all sorts of tumult.

Red light district? Well, yes, Hudson Yards used to be. Back in the 80’s, this part of Manhattan was notorious for the legions of prostitutes clustered about, offering last minute stress relief and carnal succor to suburban bound commuters and business traveler alike. That was before “Giuliani Time.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, a completely different and arguably more wholesome profession – Iron Working – was on display while I walked around the Hudson Yards build out. This is one of the jobs I stare at with awe and trepidation, as I would be grasped by terror and shaking with acrophobic tremors were I to find myself in the spot that fellow with the wrench is in. Yeah, he’s got a harness on, but sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hudson Yards dealie isn’t the only thing going on in the west 30’s of Manhattan, as the Governor also has the Penn Station/Farley Post Office project going as well. One hopes that the final throes of this construction spasm sees the Javitz Center demolished and replaced. I’ve always thought Javitz to be a waste of space, it’s a “sick” building, and its lack of direct proximity to hotels negates it’s role as a convention destination.

Scratch it from the soil, then replace it with another glass tower hotel who’s first ten floors are dedicated to “functions.” The current structure isn’t “the best use of the land” is what they’d tell us in LIC or Astoria if they powers that be wanted to replace a warehouse or factory with condos.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2019 at 1:00 pm

certain conflicts

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Uhhhhhnnnnnnk, Manhattan… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had reason to visit that island hive of villainy and runaway political ambitions called Manhattan a few weeks ago, and found myself climbing to the concretized street level of that accursed complex via the stairs leading out of that badly ventilated subterrene concrete bunker which the children of NYC refer to simply as the “34th street/Herald Square” subway station.

Emerging from the hellish heat of that cavern lurking squamously beneath the streets, one was suddenly beset by throngs of disturbingly heterogenous tourists aimlessly clinging to those shadows provided by the high flung towers, blotting out the sky, which was a scene somehow inhuman and banal simultaneously. These creatures bounced and bumped into each other, careening between the merchant carts selling noxious smelling foodstuffs of uncertain origin, locomoting in a manner betraying that using their own feet was a somewhat alien concept.

On the filth caked pavement lay inebriates, madmen, and addicts – the latter proudly displaying their gangrenous abcesses in pursuance of soliciting currency, from both the native born and quite pitiless passerby, and foreign born tourist. The air itself was contaminated with vehicle exhaust, an abundant cacophony of stink was emanating from mounds of rotting garbage, and the greasy puddles swirled sickly along the curbs. All was pestilential.

Nearby the intersection of 34th street and 8th avenue, the fellow above was observed sitting in the ruinations offered by the omnipresent real estate industrial complex. The Manhattan people have become concerned in recent years about “gentrification,” since now it’s happening to them. I really, really hate going into the City these days, that’s what I guess I’m trying to say, but since I was already there I decided to visit Dyre Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m told that Dyer Avenue was named for General George Rathborne Dyer, a chairman of the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who died in 1934 while the Lincoln Tunnel was under construction (the tunnel was finished in 1937). Although I’ve noticed the street hundreds if not thousands of times, never have I decided to walk its truncated length.

After conducting a transaction with the camera shop people on the next corner, a humble narrator decided to put that right, on his way back to the train which would carry me to the rolling hills of Astoria, back in Queens. The less time spent in Manhattan the better, I say, so I try to get a lot done whenever I’m stuck going there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dyer Avenue diverges northwards off of W 34th street between 9th and 10th avenue, and continues along to W42nd street. Along the way, you’ll find a complicated series of entrance and exit schemes for the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I suppose you could describe it as passing through Hells Kitchen, although I usually associate that cognomen with a neighborhood found in the west 40’s. 

NYC City Planning, the NYC EDC, and the Related Companies would appreciate it if we all just referred to the zone surrounding 34th street and Dyre Avenue as “Hudson Yards,” but they’re heavily invested in calling it that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Manhattan is the problem, not the solution,” that’s what I tell all the people who work for the entities mentioned in the last paragraph who would prefer you to refer to this section as Hudson Yards, and nowhere is my statement better proven than in this area.

Inhuman streetscape given over entirely to the exigencies of the automobile? Check! A complete lack of trees? Check! A sterile post industrial streetscape with zero ground level retail activity or areas for residents or workers to congregate? Check! Pedestrian safety an afterthought? Check!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a comical little “green space” on Dyer, found between W 35th and W 36th, with a few potted treelings. What makes it “green space” is that the City has painted the concrete traffic island’s paving stones green.

Better than nothing, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

High overhead, the gleaming vainglory of the Hudson Yards mega project looms.

Want to know what Sunnyside Yards would do to Queens? What sort of buildings make it financially justifiable to build a deck over a rail yard? Take a walk around the west side in the 30’s, that’ll show you the solution which the Mayor has been searching to find a problem for. That’s the “Manhattan solution” for the puzzle of Western Queens, incidentally.

What Queens people think about Sunnyside Yards and all of this mega development is incidental. It’s the people who gave you Dyer Avenue – their opinions matter, not yours. They live in Manhattan.

So, what are you going to do about that?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

malignly silent

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Hudson Yards vs. Sunnyside Yards, what’s the difference?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week I was invited to speak to a group of architecture students about the Sunnyside Yards. Part of the presentation involved discussion of the Hudson Yards project over in Manhattan, and how it can provide a model for development of the Sunnyside Yard. This is a false equivalency being offered by the powers that be, for a variety of reasons. The first and foremost thing to mention is that the Hudson Yards sit over an outcropping of Manhattan Schist and Gneiss, which provides for a stable underpinning for mega towers. Foundations are somewhat important, my engineer friends tell me, and the Sunnyside Yards sits on a compacted pile of clay and sand which until quite recently (1909) was a swamp.

Actual rock underpinnings on the northwestern side of a certain Long Island are absent west of Maspeth. If you find yourself in Maspeth, look west at what would appear to be a soup bowl, formed by elluvial deposits left behind by post glacial flooding. The piles which the mega developments of Long Island City sit upon are thus more numerous, and driven far deeper, than those in Manhattan which is technically a ridge of igneous rock. Soil conditions can be “engineered around” of course, since – theoretically speaking – if you possess enough money and technical acumen, you could build a ladder to the Moon if you wanted to. It’s just not practical to build a ladder to the moon, but since when does practical consideration get in the way of our Mayor’s political calculus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards was a challenge to the construction and engineering crowd, but a staightforward one inasmuch as the trackage leading out of Penn Station is arranged in parallels as you’ll notice in the shot above. What that means, from a decking perspective, is that you can set out the beams and columns needed to support the above ground structure at regular intervals and you’re essentially constructing a grandiose table or bench supported by multiple legs. The main problem they experienced was how to coordinate the movement of equipment in the cramped quarters of Manhattan.

Sunnyside Yards is defined by a convoluted series of intertwined rights of way which criss cross each other. Some of them, like the “balloon,” or turnaround, track travel over sweeping arches to switches which feed into either tunnels or holding tracks. You’ve even got the busiest railway switch in the entire country in there, the Harold Interlocking. Sunnyside Yards is complicated, and is already the eastern focal point of the largest capital project in the United States – the long delayed and vastly over budget East Side Access project which will allow Long Island Railroad access to Grand Central Terminal via LIC.

Why is it so over budget and so delayed, you ask? Because the MTA didn’t take into account the presence of buried waterways around and in the Sunnyside Yards (which was a big part of the Pennsyvania Railroad’s construction efforts a century ago), which any Queens historian can tell you are the buried remnants of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, and which once flowed to modern day Jackson Avenue and 29th street. Why do you think that section of LIC was called “Dutch Kills,” since it wasn’t named that for shits and giggles?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The parallel nature of the tracks at Hudson Yards allowed for the usage of an esoteric bit of kit called a Beam Launcher, pictured above. The Beam Launcher facilitated the placement of the deck’s supporting beams onto concrete foundation from above, literally lowering them into place from above. The big yellow thing above is the Beam Launcher, which was about 3/4 the length of a Manhattan block. Steel beams were unloaded from trucks, which in some cases were loaded up from barges, brought to the job site, and then manipulated into position. 

The beam launcher dealie is described in some detail, in this post from 2014.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 25, 2018 at 11:00 am

nitrous cellar

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It’s National Whipped Cream Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards is the biggest construction project going on in Manhattan at the moment. Literally creating a new neighborhood out of a decked over rail yard, this project is what inspired the Dope from Park Slope – Mayor de Blasio – to call for the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards back in Queens. Were the Mayor savvy about… well, anything other than seemingly spending his time staring in the bathroom mirror and telling himself that he’s a progressive rather than the neoliberal that he actually is… construction and engineering, he’d realize that the conditions at Hudson Yards are conducive to such an endeavor and those in Queens are not.

The Big Little Mayor doesn’t realize that the tracks at Sunnyside Yards crisscross each other and are unevenly spaced, and that the ones at Hudson Yards are regular and parallel. Parallel allows you to insert steel columns between them, whereas crisscross doesn’t. There’s also logistical issues with creating a deck supported by those columns which is roughly one or two square blocks as opposed to an 183 square acre one. Also, Manhattan has hospital beds to spare, Penn Station and Herald Square are nearby, and they don’t have to worry about where their sewage will go (Newtown Creek WWTP, in Greenpoint, if you’re curious). There will be a surfeit of places to shop for food, but there’s always Fresh Direct (located along the Newtown Creek in LIC, if you’re curious).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The comparison between Hudson Yards and Sunnyside Yards is apt, in my mind at least, just in case you think I’m being obtuse or provocative. This is the other end of the Pennsylavnia Railroad’s urban rail system which the company installed in NYC during the early 20th century. The same buildout which saw the East River and Hudson River tunnels constructed, and that built the original Penn Station, built the Sunnyside Yards. The passenger trains you’ll notice spending their day in between rush hours at Sunnyside Yards are the same ones later visible at Hudson Yards. Sunnyside Yard is a “coach yard” which indicates it was designed for storage of rolling stock in between peak hours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the schedule at Penn demands, the trains which you see above at Hudson Yard are called into the tunnels underlying the west side of midtown Manhattan and brought over to the tracks where they’ll take on their customers and head for Eastern Long Island. For all of my lifetime, the Hudson Yards represented a giant hole in the west side of Manhattan. The Bloomberg administration initiated this investment and construction process, in accordance with the vow Michael Bloomberg made to “change the skyline of Manhattan” when he took office. I’m actually all for this one, but I don’t live here so my opinion really doesn’t matter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The idea behind this project is a “game changer” for what has come to be referred to as “midtown west” by the powers that be. I’ve heard idle chatter about the Javitz Center being replaced sometime in the near future, and certain ideas which seem to make sense on that subject include building a grand hotel on the footprint of the Javitz which rises to skyscraper heights, and which would include a mutiple story convention center at its footprint/base that isn’t a craphole (the Javitz Center is absolutely and undoubtedly a failed institution, a cesspool of municpal corruption, and absolutely a craphole with leaky Windows that doesn’t just lose money for the City and State – it hemorrhages it).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is looking north along the newly constructed buildings and deck. As far as I’m privy to, the deck isn’t meant to cover the still visible section of the train yard, but I might be wrong about that. The Real Estate Shit Flies are more than ambitious, credit is easily available to them, and borrowing it is at a historic level of cheap right now.

The only thing that holds back modern engineering is money.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was beginning to enter that daily arc which carries its emanations behind New Jersey, but I was still uncomfortably early for my assignation in Hells Kitchen. Regardless, as Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor admonished constantly in the Superman 2 film – “North, Ms. Tessmacher, north!”.

Crossing the West Side Highway, or West Street if you must – one last look at the Hudson Yards mega project was called for, and I began scuttling along the river side of the street. One was fairly sure that I’d taken my last photo, but boy was I wrong – as you’ll discover tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note – the shots in today’s post were captured from the latest section of the High Line, in case you want to go check out progress on the Hudson Yards mega project for yourself.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

unused tool

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It’s National Cheese Fondue Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in yesterday’s post – one left Point A (A is for Astoria) for a walk around LIC’s construction zone, ate an egg sandwich, and swiped his Metrocard to vouchsafe a journey to Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen in pursuance of attending a holiday gathering. While awaiting the arrival of the 7 line subway, the hair on the back of my neck went up, and it occurred to me that the thing – which does not breathe or think or live – that persists in the cupola of the Sapphire Megalith – had fixed its three lobed burning eye in my direction. Brrr.

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long, and that inhuman intelligence didn’t have time to send any members of its army of acolytes to investigate, proscribe, or accuse. This will likely surprise regular riders of the 7 – the “not waiting long” part. Nobody will be surprised about the thing which cannot be that exists in the cupola of the Sapphire Megalith of Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Arguably, the 7 is the most photogenic of NYC’s subways. There’s a lot to be said about various examples of the lettered lines – notably the G and F entering and leaving Smith 9th street in Red Hook – but to me, the 7 is the visual champ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even if I’m on the train, I keep flipping the shutter, which causes no end of concern for my fellow riders. It always seems as if my fellow New Yorkers experience difficulty in distinguishing the difference between an assault weapon and a camera, based on the masked expression of apprehension they assume upon spying the thing. Mind you, they’ve all got their smart phones deployed – which sport cameras directly connected to the web – but nobody seems at all concerned about that. Old weird guy in a filthy black raincoat with a DSLR? Clearly terror related, so cancel all National Cheese Fondue Day events just in case. .

Of course, I’m the nervous type, so I’m terrified of everybody else. What’s wrong with you people? Eeek!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 continued along its well worn path, entering the subterrene and the dilapidated Vernon Jackson stop. If you feel like googling “Hunters Point South FEIS,” it’ll take you to a document prepared by NYC’s Dept. of City Planning which discusses the need for the platforms at this stop to be widened and the station to be thoroughly rebuilt in order to handle the burgeoning population of LIC, btw.

NYC City planning ain’t perfect, but you have to be a real dummy not to listen to their advice and shoring up the transportation infrastructure of an area that you intend on adding thousands of people to.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My destination was in Hells Kitchen, over in Manhattan. Given that I was a couple of hours early to attend the Holiday party I was invited to – and I really can’t imagine why ANYONE would want to spend time with one such as myself, as a note – the 7 was ridden all the way to its western terminal stop at the brand spanking new Hudson Yards station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards is the first of the “new style” subway stops which sports a mezzanine that’s one flight of steps up from the tracks. It’s pretty airy in here, but this mezzanine represents a not insignificant investment at the Hudson Yards station. Wonder how much it cost to create a cavern here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards is DEEP, and there’s a couple of sets of industrial meat grinders escalators which carry you up to the surface. The leading lines of the tunnels which the escalators carry you through are fairly vertigo inducing, in my experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually a bit nauseating. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of nauseating, on the Manhattan side of the 7, the western mirror of LIC’s mega projects is underway – the Hudson Yards development project. Funny, how it often seems that the 7 line – from Flushing all the way to LIC in Queens and all the way down 42nd and then to 34th in Manhattan – seems  to be the singular focus of the Real Estate people.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 4, 2017 at 11:00 am

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