The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Maspeth’ Category

silent laboratory

leave a comment »

A few more shots from industrial Maspeth, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a section of Maspeth which one refers to as the “crane district,” which is distinct from the hammock district. Actually, there no hammock district, just cranes. Whenever I’m waving the camera around at the sort of thing pictured above, I set it to a fairly narrow aperture and slightly overexpose the shot. The goal is to get a super saturated set of colors and to have every screw, lug, and rivet render in sharp relief. For those of you who have asked, that’s the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. The former is when you say “hey look at that” and the latter involves a visualized goal and thought process about how to achieve what you want the final product to look like.

Ultimately, I wanted the crane truck to look a bit like a kids die cast metal toy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is a stunning amount of litter in industrial Maspeth. A lot of it is quite dangerous, as in the case of the tempered glass windows I encountered that someone had the good sense to shatter when they were abandoning them. Illegal dumping is a city wide phenomena, but it seems that the industrial zones are particularly good places to abandon unwanted items. The comedy of it all is that Maspeth is the destination point for a significant amount of commercial and municipal waste by statute, and the folks handling said cargo are pretty responsible as far as how they handle the stuff.

Saying that, there’s shattered and powderized glass everywhere you look around these parts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m hardly a saint in this category, but a humble narrator is the sort of fellow who pockets his personal waste products while moving around the great urban hive, carrying them until a proper receptacle is discovered. You don’t have to look too long, in my experience, before a municipal waste basket or a dumpster will appear. Others, it seems, are less patient than a humble narrator.

I mean, you’ve just drank a half gallon of milk, why not just pitch the empty container to the curb?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is one of the many, many municipal solid waste trailers parked in the industrial zone around Newtown Creek (and elsewhere, if you’re anywhere near a sewer plant, you’ll see or scent them) that stink of sewer solids, which the (now) NYC Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection tells me I’m imagining. This particular one has been parked here in industrial Maspeth so long that the steel legs of the thing have begun to bend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All winter, I was commenting to myself (and I think I even mentioned it here, at your Newtown Pentacle, not long ago) that the abundance of “dead things” normally encountered around the Newtown Creek’s watershed districts had leveled off. That trend has reversed in recent weeks, with an abundance of dead birds encountered on area streets.

Newtown Creek is kind of “death prone.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s the sort of stuff you encounter in the crane district of industrial Maspeth, back tomorrow with something entirely different.

Also, check out the tour offers below, they’re both being offered at special low rates. Greenpoint and the 520 Kingsland Green Roof this Friday, and a Skillman Avenue walk with Access Queens on Saturday the 30th.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Advertisements

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

stinking ossuaries

with 2 comments

Scuttling, always scuttling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever I mention the 1980’s to those who grew up in Long Island City and Astoria, a shudder seems to go through them. I’ve always wondered if that shudder has anything to do with why all the trees are in cages.

I’ve asked a few of the lifers, but boiling down the answers offered by them reveals one singular truth, which is simply expressed by describing the Croatian people as being remarkably tight lipped. There’s some gesturing involved in their answers, and sometimes a few words in a language which I can never understand (I’ve tried). Regardless, something motivated several of them to build iron cages for the street trees around here. I’ve learned to just accept things over the years which I’ve dwelt here in Astoria, Queens. 

Such is my lot. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is in a weird place, in terms of his mood. Feeling increasingly obsequious, and often wondering who the old fellow staring back at me from the bathroom mirror is, a humble narrator nevertheless sallies forth. Like the trees here in Astoria, there are iron bars and fences all around me. Often it feels as if one is juggling chain saws, and that one slip up will result in disaster. The whole “angry young man” thing is no longer a valid posture, as I’ve instead found myself cast as a broken old man. Such is the wheel of life, however, and there’s no point in moaning about it.

There are still battles to fight, and wars to win.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of, that’s the Sunnyside Yards (est. 1909) pictured above. The shots in today’s post, from this point onward, were all captured along 43rd street while walking south. 43rd street, once you cross Northern Blvd. from the blessed rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria, used to be called Laurel Hill Blvd. It connected the eastern side of LIC’s Blissville over by Newtown Creek and Calvary Cemetery with Middleburgh, which modernity calls Sunnyside. That was before the Long Island Expressway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and even before Queens Blvd. and the IRT Flushing Line were created in the 20th century.

Referring to old maps of Western Queens requires the usage of three distinct sets of documents, as they’ve (a shadowy cabal, probably) renamed and reoriented the streets so many times in Queens that it’s confusing as all get out figuring out what something used to be called. There’s a few “landmark” lanes which you can use to figure out relative positioning, like Jackson Avenue or Steinway Street, but even then…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

43rd street, as a pathway to Newtown Creek, has been off my radar for the last few years due to the Koscisuzcko Bridge construction project. Just this last winter, the newly rebuilt pedestrian bridge spanning the onramp to the BQE from the LIE was opened. It replaced an older iteration as part of the bridge project, and I’m in the process of reinstalling this pathway as part of my mental map for “where do I want to go today” usage.

The scaffolding in the shot above obscures the Celtic Park apartment complex, so named for a former beer garden and complex of athletic fields which the development is named for. The Celtic Park, as it was known, was designed and situated to take advantage of the huge numbers of Irish Catholic New Yorkers who came to Queens to visit loved ones in the various properties maintained by Calvary Cemetery found nearby in Blissville and Woodside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One improvement which hasn’t occurred, and I plan on getting after the K-Bridge team about it next time I see them, is the approach to the pedestrian and bicycle bridge that joins 43rd street with the stubby three block stretch of Laurel Hill Blvd. found on the south side of the LIE. The trestle seen above carries the Long Island Expressway, and acts as a seldom mentioned approach to the BQE and Koscisuzcko Bridge itself.

It’s fairly terrifying walking along this stretch of sidewalk, with traffic ramping up to highway speeds alongside of you. A series of jersey barriers would cheaply and effectively address the issue. I’m on it, don’t worry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Aforementioned, that’s the extant section of Laurel Hill Blvd. mentioned above. To the west (or right) is Blissville’s Calvary Cemetery, to the east (or left) is the BQE and industrial Maspeth. This is also more or less the legal border which once existed between the independent municipalities of Long Island City and Newtown, prior to the consolidation of the City of Greater New York.

Tomorrow – so, what’s going on with the Kosciuszcko Bridge project?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

abstract malingering

with one comment

Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A sudden explosion of cast off gloves, observed, makes one wonder if the Queens Cobbler has been joined by a new fiend whom I’ve been referring to as the “Queens Gaunter.” The name “Gaunter” is derived from a fairly archaic English, incidentally, and it’s from the same root of the word which “Gauntlet” comes from. In the Industrial Age, the name of the profession became the rather plain “glove maker” in the case of male oriented hand coverings, whereas lady gloves were prepared by milliners. That’s a work glove pictured above, which is unisex, and it was found in Maspeth. Perhaps the “Maspeth Milliner” rather than “Queens Gaunter,” with the latter having a bit more of a salubrious “roll off the tongue” should be used for this recently discovered companion to the Queens Cobbler? You can record your preferences in the comments, Queensicans.

One doubts that this red handed glove is in anyway related to the Ulster based “Red Hand Commandos” of West Belfast, incidentally, but you never know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down at my beloved Newtown Creek the other day, one grew fascinated by these derelict piles along the former Phelps Dodge property’s waterfront. One whipped out the tripod, lowered the camera’s ISO and narrowed the lens’s aperture to its absolute in pursuance of “slowing the shot down.” This is the exact moment when I decided that I have to buy an ND filter next time I’m at “beards and hats” over in the city, incidentally. I really, really wanted to turn the water into a milky smear with perfectly glassine reflectivity here.

These piles supported a heavy pier which had rail tracks on it, once. Most of the property which Phelps Dodge used to operate on is fill. There’s a congressional act, whose name escapes me at this writing, which allows for corporate entities to buy underwater property along industrial waterways like Newtown Creek as long as they “improve” it by filling it in. This process was usually accomplished by building heavy timber box frames that were then submerged and loaded up with whatever material the industrial concern wished to use. In the case of Phelps, it was industrial slag from their copper refining operation mixed with rock and soil.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Industrial Maspeth, which one has repeatedly described as being his “happy place,” seldom disappoints the wandering mendicant and itinerant shutterbug. Encountered at the Kosciuszcko Bridge construction site, this array of spent coffee cups embedded in the chain link of a hurricane fence entranced me.

Next week, I’ll update y’all on the progress that the NYS DOT is making on phase 2 of the bridge project, so there’s something to live for.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

hyper glycemic

with 4 comments

Get off my lawn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oh, industrial Maspeth… the only place these days where a humble narrator can find any peace. Unfortunately, the Real Estate Industrial Complex has noticed the place in recent months, and there’s been series of flurried exchanges of industrial properties taking place thereabouts which have involved eye watering amounts of cash. This is never a good sign for an industrial neighborhood, and it means that City Hall’s officiates must be receiving visits from their paymasters in the banking and bond industries of Manhattan. I’ve always believed industrial Maspeth to be “proofed” against artisanal anything, except for a beat down, but a humble narrator is getting a bit worried about my happy place. When the REIC shit flies begin to gather, it never ends well for any neighborhood.

All the poisons in the mud will hatch out eventually, I presume.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Coca Cola plant on Borden has been bought by Home Depot, I’m told. Additionally, Fed-Ex and UPS continue to acquire properties in the area. A warehouse on the corner of Grand and Rust just changed hands for forty two million buckaroos. Magnification of truck and auto traffic is therefore on the menu for this already busy area and the neighborhoods surrounding it. Nobody is talking about protected bike lanes in industrial Maspeth, yet, as the particular group of busy bodies who push that agenda seem to be currently focused on Sunnyside.

I would offer that there are places in industrial Maspeth where you won’t find sidewalks, and others where the sidewalks are de facto parking lots for semi trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A conversation yesterday with a friend who works in officialdom occurred, which was focused on the first of two Blissville homeless shelter protests (yesterday was at Gracie Mansion, today’s will be at City Hall at noon. I’ll be there, and wearing a suit!) and eventually drifted over to definitions of political terminologies. The term “progressive” came up, which is a particular bugbear for a humble narrator. A lot of modern politicos use that one to describe themselves and their stance. I remind them that “progress” was the watchword used by Robert Moses when he was justifying the sacrifices of local communities who needed to get out of the way of his highways. New Yorkers who lived in the age of “progress” saw whole neighborhoods disappear in the name of urban renewal, or slum clearance, and Moses had no ethical problem with digging up graveyards to make way for his roads in its name. Today’s “progressives” call themselves that because the word “liberal” has been so thoroughly and successfully demonized by the other side of the national political argument that it’s become political suicide to describe yourself as such. Their take is that the tax burden should be increased on the well off to aid the less lucky. That isn’t progress, that’s socialism, and under that philosophic approach to things the revenues collected by the state in the name of helping the poor usually end up getting spent on the expansion of the government bureaucracy which administers the process. This was the ultimate failing of the New Deal, which allowed people like Robert Moses to run amok in places like industrial Maspeth. It also gave rise to Barry Goldwater, Reagan, and the modern day conservative movement. Institutional memory is entirely absent in the modern world, I tell you.

I favor the Eleanor Roosevelt definition of progressivism – “We all do better when we’re all doing better.” I interpret that to mean that by setting the stage for all tiers of the economic spectrum to succeed, the “raft” is lifted for all.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

luring skylines

with one comment

Only the lonely…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Girt in filthy black outer wear, with camera dangling, recent endeavor found a humble narrator scuttling in the general direction of Bushwick from Astoria. Crossing the Newtown Creek at just the right spot is critical, as the various street grids of the ancient communities which surround it are often at odds with each other and can be described as dangerously heterogenous. Walk over the wrong bridge and you could have easily added a half hour to the journey.

In the case of walking from Astoria to Bushwick, the best path to follow is actually one through Sunnyside, Woodside, and Maspeth. You want to aim yourself at the Grand Street Bridge, where you’ll get a nice view of the Koscisuzcko Bridge if you get there at the right time of day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Using knowledge of the old municipal grids which signified the borders of the independent towns and villages, one threw himself inexorably south and east. Crossing the former Thomson Avenue, now called Queens Blvd., nearby its intersection with Greenpoint/Roosevelt Avenue vouchsafed me passage out of the street pattern of the Middleburgh section of Long Island City now known as Sunnyside. The natural turn one would make at this point is about ten blocks eastwards at 58th street nearby the so called “Big Six” buildings, which is less than pedestrian friendly and visually “meh.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Instead, one cut through the funereal properties of the Roman Catholic Church called “Second Calvary Cemetery,” a path which guaranteed one a bit of quietude and solace. One always feels at home amongst the tomb legions, for their condemnations and judgment are always silent. There are four Calvary Cemeteries, by the way, which share common supervision under an organization called “the Trustees of Old St. Patrick’s cathedral.” The local manager – over the groundskeepers, interments, office, and all other existential issues is provided by a fellow named Joe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is the case with many cemeteries in Queens, a highway bisects the property. In this case, it’s the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and although the local street below it has no street signs or other demarcations – it’s Laurel Hill Blvd. The Calvary’s on the southern extent of the highway are Calvary #’s three and four. You end up on 58th street anyway, at the end of this street, where a southern or right turn is exacted. You’re still in Woodside at this point, incidentally.

The sidewalks stop about halfway between 58th street’s two corners, and it’s a long block between the BQE and the Long Island Expressway, I tell ya, and there ain’t no sidewalks for most of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along 58th, on the east side of the street, is Mount Zion cemetery. Third Calvary is across the road, on the west side. Mount Zion is a Jewish cemetery, and was primarily set up for folks who lived on the crowded Lower East side of lower Manhattan. This graveyard uses every possible square inch of space for interments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was on 58th street, along the wrought iron gates of Mount Zion Cemetery, that the latest trophy of the Queens Cobbler was observed. The Queens Cobbler is – of course – a local serial killer who leaves behind single shoes as ghastly trophies of his or her nefarious activities.

One couldn’t linger though, as a particular form of psychological torment was awaiting me in Bushwick and I didn’t want to be late.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 6, 2018 at 2:30 pm

small village

leave a comment »

Literally in a dark place, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, over the weekend one was trekking through Industrial Maspeth. After catching up with a couple of old friends in Ridgewood later in the day, one began scuttling back to Astoria well after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had disappeared behind New Jersey. There’s only one efficient way to get “here” from “there” on foot, but luckily the walk is figuratively and literally all downhill from Ridgewood. My path carried me back into the hoary shadows of Industrial Maspeth, my happy place.

By the way, if you want to do something daring and scary – try to cross the intersection of Metropolitan and Flushing Avenues at night… brrr…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One always feels vulnerable in this place, even when the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself still hangs wanly in the sky. There’s always someone – or something – watching as I scuttle by. Paranoid wonderings pollute the thoughts of one such as myself in these times. Delusional visions of getting grabbed and dragged, shuttled off to some storage vault or basement room and left to expire by some nefarious character, abound in the area between the ears and behind the eyes. There’s also sharp pieces of metal protruding from the pavement in random spots which you need to watch out for, as well as some of the watery eyed derelicts who establish temporary camps at the edges of habitability.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden around here?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eerie and deserted by its diurnal army of laborers, industrial Maspeth nevertheless still serves as a thoroughfare for vehicular traffic preparing to exchange the streets of Queens for those of North Brooklyn, but in this lawless no man’s land of nighted warehouses they seldom offer anything other than a reluctant acknowledgement to traffic law. They eschew lane ordinances, roll through stop signs at speed, and can be observed laughing hysterically while blowing through traffic signals and ignoring intersectional regulations while traveling at cyclonic velocities.

The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume, which wouldn’t be forgotten.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are homes hereabouts, wholesome structures populated by those both stout and stubborn, and families whose multigenerational presence at the edges of Industrial Maspeth defy the impressions gathered by one such as myself. With the filthy black raincoat flapping about behind me, the arrangement of my sweatshirt hood and raised coat collar combinine with a usually shaved pate, and one lends no other impression to a casual viewer than that of a corpulent and aged vulture hybrid scuttling by in the dark. Essentially, who am I to cast the first stone? I’m some weirdo who likes wandering around in the dark with a camera while imagining that monsters, and witches, and a serial killer are chasing after me.

The reason that I love this area so much is its distinct lack of reflective surfaces, wherein true horror is revealed.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 23, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Maspeth, newtown creek

Tagged with , , ,

trips for

leave a comment »

Twirling, ever twirling, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The venerable Grand Street Bridge is pictured above, as seen from the northern fork of the East Branch tributary of Newtown Creek. The East Branch doesn’t seem like much of a tributary today, terminating as it does in a supermarket parking lot (for the north fork) and at an open sewer on Metropolitan Avenue (the southern fork). Once upon a time…

As a note, one of my colleagues recently informed me that a high ranking DEP official complained to him about our common use of the term “open sewer,” and opined that modern day wastewater engineers feel that the term demeans their trade and is offensive. One point eight billion gallons of untreated sewage being released annually into Newtown Creek offends me, let alone the totality of NYC’s entire wastewater output in the harbor. Engineer that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Trekking through industrial Maspeth for the first time in a few weeks, obvious indications that the Queens Cobbler has been busy in the first month of 2018 were apparent. For those of you new to the story, a theorized serial killer is active in the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek who leaves beyond trophies of their kills on area streets. The trophy is always a single shoe, seemingly cast aside in the tidal surges of garbage and litter which abound in these parts.

Western Queens is full of dark secrets. The vampires of Queens Plaza, the thing unearthed beneath Burger Jorissen’s grist mill during the construction of the Sunnsyide Yards… Curly Joe knew the score.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the particular day these shots were captured, industrial Maspeth was busy defrosting itself. The sidewalks became slippery again as formerly gelatinous petroleum products that are regularly spilled hereabouts regained their liquid state, due to the higher atmospheric temperatures, and that odd combination of smells which the area is known for began to nebulously recombine forming a mephitic olfactory profile. The smell of fine marijuanas, roasting on open fires, was omnipresent as well, but it was late afternoon on a Saturday. If a man works hard, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of stress relief after the work day has ended, right?

It ain’t Jack Frost nipping at your nose in Industrial Maspeth, its hydrogen sulfide.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving inexorably south east, a humble narrator again encountered the calling card of the Queens Cobbler, displayed pretty as you please on those concretized devastations which form the flood plane for all the existential horror found in these parts. One does not allow himself to forget the rumors handed down to me by the Slavic centenarians of Maspeth, which hint at certain events in the early 1950’s that drew the attention and a deployment of certain United States Marine Corps specialized units.

As the story goes, something colossal rose from the Newtown Creek after nightfall, an abominable and mutated reptilian thing said to be capable of swallowing a horse in one gulp. Federal authorities conspired with the office of the Queens Borough President (Maurice A. FitzGerald) to keep things quiet until the Marines arrived, saying that there had been a gas leak and an explosion which required a temporary evacuation of residents and laborers. That’s how the BP explained away the artillery fire, saying it was just a gas leak. Hang around in the bars of Maspeth, or at the Clinton Diner, and you might hear a different telling of what went down at the United Enameling and Stamping Co. property on that summer night in 1950. Some that you’d ask, and certainly every Government official, will deny such an event ever happened.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried in the mud and sediments of the Newtown Creek?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the biggest hazard to the mammalian way of life along the Newtown Creek in Industrial Maspeth isn’t actually the possible presence of a serial killer who leaves single shoes in his wake, rumors of a giant mutated turtle called Creeky, the probable witch cult who cast off numerous artifacts in area cemeteries, or the endemic environmental pollution and ongoing release of billions of gallons of untreated sewage into the waterway every time it rains. It’s the trucks.

Pictured above is a fairly indestructible safety cone, whose purpose is the visual indication of “no go” areas for drivers, smashed flat and torn asunder by truck tires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Later that same day… over in Ridgewood.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

%d bloggers like this: