The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Lower East Side’ Category

hurled consequentially

leave a comment »

No matter where you go, there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“How are ya?” is usually greeted wth “just another day in paradise,” whenever a humble narrator is queried by friends and acquaintances. It’s nice to have a catchphrase, and it took me years to come up with one that didn’t involve verbiage that could be considered a threat, hate crime, or offer a string of profane words randomly strung together. For a while, I liked “gaze upon the dragon and despair” but it’s difficult to pull that one off with the proper theatrics before coffee.

Here in paradise, one has been quite inert due to the weather. That sucks, but the good news is that “the project” has been moving along nicely. Allow me to explain…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“The project” which was slowly chipped away at throughout 2017, is cataloging photos. It all started last winter when I realized that I needed to print up new business cards. I use a printing company called “Moo” for this, and their services allow for variable color fill on one side of the card (photos) and a single BW layout for the other. Essentially, it’s up to twenty shots for the photo side. Thing is, while hunting through something like sixty thousand photos, I realized that it was time to start organizing and separating the wheat from the chaff. That means that I’ve had to comb through the entire archive, just in the name of “doing it right.” I literally finished the process on December 30th, and am in the early stages of arranging shots into categories – harbor, bridges, people etc. Believe it or not, I’ve consciously avoided inclusion of Newtown Creek or NY Harbor oriented shots, as those will be getting their own individual processes. There’s a reason this project has taken so long to get done.

The end of this grueling procedure will be a godsend, and will be spawning several byproducts. I still haven’t printed any new business cards, incidentally, that’ll be the first thing I do. 2018 is going to be something of threshold year I hope, which will lead into the tenth anniversary of this – your Newtown Pentacle – in June of 2019.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I plan on doing in 2018 is creating more video essays like the “A Short History of the Sunnyside Yards” or “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern” ones I’ve offered in the past. I’m also planning on creating a few pamphlet sized publications exploring various subjects, which would be offered for sale as both digital and physical items. Suffice to say that there are other goals for the end product of this project, but that’s still something I’m scribbling down in my notebooks and thinking about.

“Just another day in paradise” might be a worthy title for a photo book about Western Queens, one believes.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Advertisements

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 3, 2018 at 1:00 pm

archaic chirography

with one comment

It’s National Pepper Pot day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I was hanging out with a friend over in the City, and we decided to hit the eastern side of Chinatown for a wee photo walk. This is the Manhattan side definition of “DUMBO,” which is an area still defined by the presence of late 19th century tenement buildings and narrow streets. Chatham Square, the Five Points, and Paradise Alley aren’t too far away, and it’s one of the few spots on the island which haven’t been ruined by the real estate industrial complex in recent decades. Off in the distance, a municipal complex of government buildings and courthouses positively looms.

We were wandering about, my friend and I, and decided to grab some lunch at a Chinese bakery before heading south and east. After a super hot cup of coffee and a couple of roast pork buns (Bao) we fired up the cameras and started marching about in an area which has apparently been called “Two Bridges” since 1955. I think the Two Bridges thing, since I’ve never actually heard it before, is real estate industrial complex propaganda being specifically disseminated by the Extell corporation which happens to be building a 68 story market rate tower nearby. Just a hunch there, by the way.

Saying that, as of 2003 there’s been a Two Bridges Historic District on the national list of such things, so…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This part of Manhattan Island has been occupied for longer than the United States has existed, and was part of the exurbs of the New Amsterdam colony. During the “Gangs of New York” era, Chatham Square was a central market place and meeting point where foodstuffs, farm goods, and often less than salubrious goods and services were offered for sale. The tenement dwellers in this area, who were those “huddled masses” mentioned by the screed on the Statue of Liberty, were largely destitute and lived in conditions which modernity would perceive as squalor. Jakob Riis and other contemporaries described it as squalor, it should be mentioned, so maybe…

from wikipedia

Up until about 1820, the square was used as a large open air market for goods and livestock, mainly horses. By the mid-19th century, it became a center for tattoo parlors, flophouses and saloons, as a seedy section of the old Five Points neighborhood. In the 20th century, after The Great Depression and Prohibition, the area was reformed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I always try to analogize the era of early to mid 19th century New York City to people by reminding them that this was the same age as when Cowboys were riding horses about the west, and that folks in Europe were still fighting each other with swords, spears, and arrows. They had cannons and firearms over in Europe, of course, but these early weapons were pretty clumsy, prone to misfires, and inaccurate. There’s a reason that they used to affix those long bayonets on muskets back then, y’know.

Guns were practically a brand new commodity, with Mr. Remington having begun the democratization of rifle firearms only in 1816. It wasn’t until 1852 that Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson incorporated, becoming the Henry Fords of firearms. In NYC, a pistol was a fairly uncommon and expensive commodity, as I understand things. Rifles and shot guns were more common but still relatively rare amongst the tenement crowd.

It would be far more likely, were you to invent time travel and visit this section of Manhattan in the 1850’s, that you would be beaten to death or fatally stabbed shortly after stepping out of your time machine. They were big on blades back then…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can’t walk through Chinatown and not grab some shots of the foodstuffs being offered for sale on the sidewalks in front of shops. Thing is, these fish may or may not be considered “food” per se. A lot of what’s on sale in this eastern section of Chinatown is actually medicinal in nature, which my ignorant and dross western eyes cannot discern. Have to admit, I’m pretty ignorant about the nuances of the Chinese culture(s)…

from wikipedia

Manhattan’s Chinatown (simplified Chinese: 曼哈顿华埠; traditional Chinese: 曼哈頓華埠; pinyin: Mànhādùn huábù; juytping: Maan6haa1deon6 waa1bou6) is a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, New York City, bordering the Lower East Side to its east, Little Italy to its north, Civic Center to its south, and Tribeca to its west. Chinatown is home to the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I love the fact that there are still junkie squats and homeless camps found in and amongst the streets/alleys of this area. It’s good to know that there are still some parts of Manhattan that have been resistant to the high fructose financial syrup that has decimated the East and West Village, turned the Lower East Side into bro-hipster Disneyland, and rendered the neighborhood around Port Authority into a grotesque.

I miss the old days, when Manhattan was ecstatic and predatory all at the same time…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My friend and I continued south and east, into the boring Battery section. We had a quick refreshment at a local watering hole, used the facilities, and got the hell out of dodge before rush hour started. A quick trip on the 5 line got us to 59/Lex, where a transfer was enacted to the IND R line which carried us beneath the river and back to the almond eyed milieu known as Astoria. As is always the case, a warm feeling erupted in my chest upon returning to Queens.

Might have been indigestion though, from eating those two roast pork buns. Probably should have had just one…


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 29, 2017 at 1:30 pm

deserved imprisonment

leave a comment »

A few shots from the Shining City, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While on the way to Old St. Pat’s for the Irish language mass a week or two ago, a bit of my spare Manhattan time was filled by wandering about. Over in the East Village, one of my favorite bits of historical neon – the Block Drugs sign – was observed and recorded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had taken the 7 from Queens to Manhattan, which deposited me in midtown. I had elected to walk down Park Avenue for one reason or another. One of the reasons was that since Park is a bit wider than most of Manhattan’s north south streets – there would be available light rather than perpetual shadow.

Don’t worry, the Mayor’s new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing rules and zoning changes will soon eliminate any shard of pesky sunlight which might strike the ground.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Always on the lookout for something “iconic,” this early morning lineup of taxis at Grand Central Terminal caught my eye as I scuttled forth from the 7 train’s exit.

Have a good Friday, all. 

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 25, 2016 at 11:20 am

smartly curled

with one comment

A visit to Manhattan, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For reasons that I’d rather not go into, one had several hours to kill recently while immersed in an elevated and overtly emotional state of mind. Wandering around First Avenue and its side streets, between 14th and 23rd street, happenstance carried me to 415 14th street where one may notice that the Church of the Immaculate Conception stands. The address once belonged to a Presbyrterian outfit that called itself “Grace Chapel” but after the construction of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village annihilated the Roman Catholic original “Immaculate Conception” across the street, the Catholics purchased the building and moved in. They’ve been here since 1946, I’m told.

from immaculateconception-nyc.org

In 1914, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company embarked on one of the most successful urban renewal projects in the history of New York City. It created Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town to address a projected housing shortage among returning World War II veterans. The Met, as it was known in those days, bought up block after block of the area between 14th and 23rd Streets, from First Avenue to Avenue C. Included in the purchases were Immaculate Conception Church, its rectory, convent and school buildings.

The Archdiocese of New York then purchased an Episcopal mission settlement, Grace Chapel, on the south side of 14th Street, East of First Avenue. It was renamed “Immaculate Conception.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Lower East Side, along with Harlem, barely resembles the neighborhood I remember from the 1980’s. This particular corner used to be a good place to die, or at least catch a scorching case of death, and there was a bit of a fortress mentality to the area back “in the day.” Junkies, addicts, and the whole crew of loathsome indigents who called the L line Subway station on 14th “HQ” used to pollute the sidewalks hereabouts. It was odd to see the gates to the church open, and a sign promised that there was a cloister back here, so I scuttled onto the property to take a look.

from wikipedia

A cloister (from Latin claustrum, “enclosure”) is an open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries, with open arcades on the inner side, running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle or garth. The attachment of a cloister to a cathedral or church, commonly against a warm southern flank, usually indicates that it is (or once was) part of a monastic foundation, “forming a continuous and solid architectural barrier… that effectively separates the world of the monks from that of the serfs and workmen, whose lives and works went on outside and around the cloister.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, the so called cloister seems to have converted over to a parking lot, so there wasn’t too much to see. There’s also a parochial school back here, and for some reason – unaccompanied middle aged men with cameras seem to set off alarm bells when the subject of school children comes up so I headed back out to 14th street. I did stop into the chapel, but there were bunches of adherents praying in there and I didn’t want to disturb their reverie or violate their privacy by taking photos.

It’s quite lovely in there, however.

from wikipedia

Stranger danger is the danger to children presented by strangers. The phrase stranger danger is intended to sum up the danger associated with adults whom children do not know. The phrase has found widespread usage and many children will hear it (or similar advice) during their childhood lives. Many books, films and public service announcements have been devoted to helping children remember this advice. The concept has been criticized for ignoring the fact that most child abductions and harm result not from strangers, but rather from someone the child knows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the front of the church, there’s a public fountain. There aren’t many of these 19th century artifacts left in Manhattan – I can think of one in the west village and a couple down near the City Hall/Canal Street area that was once known as the Five Points, but it’s a rare thing to spot them anymore. I’m far more surprised that it survived the urban renewal period of the 40’s and 50’s than our current era of gentrification, actually. It’s more than likely that there used to be a common cup chained to the fountain, not unlike the one displayed in a period photo at ephemeralnewyork in the link below.

from ephemeralnewyork

This 1913 photo shows a boy at a public water fountain in Madison Square Park; he’s drinking from a common cup attached to a chain. Of course, no one today would ever drink from the same cup thousands of strangers also put their lips on. But back then, in pre-germ-awareness times, not everyone realized how unsanitary it was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m no metallurgist, but to me the fountain seems to be bronze. There’s a basin and two ornamental fishes, the latter were where the water was dispensed into the former. If you think its difficult finding a place to sit down or use a toilet in 21st century Manhattan, you couldn’t imagine how rough it would have been back in the late 19th century.

Back then, this part of the Shining City was a thriving immigrant neighborhood of tenements and small factories that extended to the East River. The other side of the street, where Stuyvesant Town currently squats, was once a slum called “The Gaslight district.” Amenities like this drinking fountain were acts of charity offered to the affected masses by the well off. On the masonry above it is the legend “Ho, everyone that thirsteth.”

from wikipedia

In 1842, one gas storage tank at East 23rd Street and the river was erected, quickly followed by the construction of other gas tanks, and by the late 19th century, the site of the complex had become known as the Gashouse District because of the many tanks that dominated the streetscapes. The tanks, which sometimes leaked, made the area undesirable, as did the Gas House Gang and other predators who operated in the area. With the construction of the FDR Drive, the area began to improve. By the 1930s, all but four tanks were gone and, while shabby, the area was no more blighted than many parts of the city after the years of the Great Depression; crime in the district had been endemic, however. When Alexander S. Williams was promoted to police captain and assigned to the area, he met the gangs’ violence with equal force of his own, putting together a brute squad that beat up gangsters with clubs. He commented: “There is more law at the end of a policeman’s nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the base of the bronze fountain is a legend offering the birth and death dates for a person named “Fanny Garretson Russell.” I looked around the web for information on this inscription, which you’d think would be well documented due to its presence in Manhattan, but found nothing.

“OK” thought I, and utilizing some of my “find the hidden history of Queens” skills, I got to work-

Fanny was the grand daughter of Charles Handy Russell, of Providence Rhode Island. Russell’s father was a Major in the continental army during the American Revolution, and the family history goes all the way back to the Mayflower on one side and the founding of Woburn, Massachusetts in 1640 on the other.

Charles Handy Russell came to New York in the 1820’s, rising to a position of financial and political prominence. Russell was a railroad man, the President of the Bank of Commerce, dabbled in maritime insurance, was part of the original board of directors in charge of Central Park, and a husband to Caroline Howland. The couple had children: Charles Howland Russell – who was the Private Secretary of the United States Secretary of State during the administration of President Hayes, and Samuel Howland Russell were amongst them.

Samuel, a mining engineer who graduated from Columbia University, married Elizabeth Watts Garretson in June of 1884. Their first daughter was named Fanny, who died on the 23rd of August in 1894. This fountain’s dedication is to her.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

mad and fantastic

leave a comment »

Busy bees, and misanthropy, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The insect above was busily raiding Our Lady of the Pentacle’s herb garden one recent afternoon. Accordingly, I chased it around from blossom to blossom with a camera and flash. Soon, it was chasing me around. Such is my lot. The bee was merely attempting to shoo a representative of NYC’s human infestation away, something for which I can hardly blame it. There’s too many of us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One shouldn’t be surprised at the various indignities and inequities commonly experienced along the daily round, I suppose, given that many of the places I find myself have the word “hell” in their place names. Over in Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen, for instance, this taxi garage was queerly devoid of human habitation. A good start, I guess, but there’s still too many of us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down on the Lower East Side, in an area once known as “Jew town,” this laundromat scene reminded me of certain Edward Hopper paintings. The facility was offering the humans housed therein a chance to remove the soils and bodily excreta which had accreted into their textile garb – using a variety of semi caustic chemicals, detergents, and mechanically agitated hot water. There’s way too many of us, and I fear that what this city could really use is a good plague.

Someday a real rain will come and wash these streets clean…

Sorry for the misanthropy, I get a bit “Travis Bickle” when my back hurts…

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”

photo courtesy wikipedia

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, September 27th, 13 Steps Around Dutch Kills
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, September 28th, The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek
Walking Tour with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm

extended indefinitely

leave a comment »

Manny hatty keeps on forcing me to visit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For someone who actually loathes visiting Manhattan, preferring the ruinations of western Queens and devastations of northern Brooklyn to the Shining City, I do seem to be spending an awful lot of time there of late. Another recent series of events demanded that I visit the Bloody Sixth Ward and Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, so down the hole and into an electrically driven aluminum box of monkey meat did I go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The visit to Old St. Patrick’s was all business, introducing a certain engenue to the Church’s resident historical hierophant. While on site, I snapped a few quick shots, all the while wishing that I had brought my tripod along with me. Unfortunately, the bulky tool is a bit of a carry, and unless I expressly know that I’m going to be utilizing the thing it gets left home. When I’m not on that rattling contraption that hurtles beneath the streets, I’m walking, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While doing some of that walking, on my way back to the underground monkey mover, this absolutely cliche “little italy” shot appeared before me. It looked so incredibly staged, couldn’t help but record it.

Note: A holiday schedule of single images will be presented here next week, although I’m going to be solidly ensconced in Queens as no one will have me. Time for a little break, and to mix things up a bit. You may have noticed that Maritime Sunday hasn’t splashed into port the last couple of weeks- which is mainly due to my inability to get out on the water during the cold months, precluding the gathering of fresh and or interesting content for the feature. It’ll return in the future, when I’m able to get out there again.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

granite portal

with one comment

One step forward, two steps back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once upon a time, this charming section of Manhattan was home to cattle yards, rendering plants, and an enormous industrial sector which ran on coal. It was described as smokey, stinky, and not very pleasant by the Knickerbockracy. By the time of the Civil War, that had all changed, and this area which came to be called Union Square had begun to gentrify. Shedding itself of dirty or noisome industry is something the folks over in the City have absolutely excelled at over the years. These days, the place drowns in sentiment, seems fairly underutilized, and would benefit from some of the thinking and urban planning which guides the burgeoning shorelines of the East River in Brooklyn and Queens. Have you noticed that there are few buildings around Union Square which are under 20 stories?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obligation carried one to the Shining City again just last week, for a lunch meeting this time, and I spied this crew of fellows tearing up a substantial chunk of 18th street. They seemed to be having a great time, using esoteric equipment and enjoying a ribald orgy of demolition. When I was a younger and less humble narrator, around the age of 5, my ambition was to drive a bull dozer. It is good to see that, for some, the dreams of childhood did not suffer the brutal euthanasia which mine have. The City people did not seem to notice the crew, presumptively this scene was just another obstacle for them which impeded rushing about and spending. It’s enough to drive one into the arms of a mixologist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Profoundly unpopular, physically repulsive and societally unacceptable, one such as myself desires nothing more than to be included in things. How one wishes that parties such as the one witnessed in today’s post were the sort of thing for which an invitation might be offered. This looks like so much fun, tearing into the concretized firmament with powerful engines of modern design. Long have I been curious about what might lie below, but such obsessions are denied me, and one can only photograph that which occurs in a brightly lit world illumined by the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself, here in the Shining City.

Upcoming Tours

Saturday- September 28, 2013
Newtown Creek Boat Tour with the Working Harbor Committee- tickets on sale now.

Saturday – October 19, 2013
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale soon.

Sunday- October 20th, 2013
The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek with Brooklyn Brainery- tickets on sale now

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

 

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 25, 2013 at 12:19 pm

%d bloggers like this: