The Newtown Pentacle

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sordid waylaying

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I don’t like Mondays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s your historical trivia fact of the day, to start – on October 22nd in 1879, Thomas Edison electrified the first carbon filament electric light bulb, which stayed lit for some thirteen and a half hours before burning out. This was the first practical light bulb, and demonstrated the underlying technology which would change everything everywhere for the human race, and solidify Edison as both a historical figure and as a wealthy man. Another one of the technological predicates which those of us born afterwards have taken for granted since, October 22nd is one of those days when everything suddenly changed and the ground rules for “possible” shifted.

The supply chain needed to power the Edison bulb, involving the generation “of” and delivery of electrical current “to,” began as well. Power Plants, ceramics factories, copper mines… the mind boggles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few weeks ago, I got invited to tour NY Harbor with the United States Army Corps of Engineers on their annual harbor inspection, and part of the excursion explored their efforts in Jamaica Bay regarding the maintenance and outright creation of sandy barrier islands designed to provide shoreline resiliency in terms of storms, and wildlife habitat the rest of the time. While rolling through the surf, somebody riding a horse decided to let the great beast wander into the water, which I was lucky enough to get a shot of.

That’s the Belt Parkway in the background, and this had to be somewhere between Canarsie and Howard Beach.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The MTA has been quite busy recently here in Astoria on the weekends. This shot is from Steinway Street, where a bunch of construction workers have been operating some fairly esoteric kit. That’s an electrical cable playing off of the spool above, which was being drawn down into an access shaft and pulled towards a very similar truck and crew which I had spotted a few blocks south of this one. The second truck was pulling a thick yellow rope out of its shaft, so presumptively that rope was affixed to the end of the electrical cable and they were traction pulling the new electrical cable that way.

MTA has stated that there is going to be a terrific amount of this sort of work occurring on the IND lines in Western Queens to prepare for the oncoming L train shut down. If you think that is just going to be a “Brooklyn thing,” you’re wrong. They’re planning on pushing around ten thousand displaced riders through the Court Square station and need to make sure that the E and M lines don’t experience equipment related breakdowns, hence the sudden squall of weekend outages and labor both here, and further “up the stream.”

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 22, 2018 at 1:30 pm

pocket flask

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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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greater remoteness

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in the past at this, your Newtown Pentacle, your humble narrator came of age in the sun drenched neighborhoods of south eastern Brooklyn. Our nearest neighbors in Queens were in Howard Beach, Jamaica, and of course the Rockaway Peninsula villages of Rockaway and Breezy Point. A significant portion of my wastrel youth was spent riding an apollo 3 speed bicycle along the coastlines of Jamaica Bay and it’s various inlets, as I’ve always been drawn to the water by some primeval urge.

Much of this coastline is administered as “Gateway National Park”, which sounds a lot better than “Horsehead Bay” I guess.

from wikipedia

Gateway National Recreation Area is a 26,607-acre (10,767 ha) National Recreation Area in the Port of New York and New Jersey. Scattered over Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, New York and Monmouth County, New Jersey, it provides recreational opportunities that are rare for a dense urban environment, including ocean swimming, bird watching, boating, hiking and camping. Ten million people visit Gateway annually.

Gateway was created by the US Congress in 1972 to preserve and protect scarce and/or unique natural, cultural, and recreational resources with relatively convenient access by a high percentage of the nation’s population. It is owned by the United States government and managed by the National Park Service.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you mention a bridge and Flatbush Avenue together in the same sentence, odds are you mean the East River or Brooklyn Bridge. In the context of those of us who hail from Marine Park, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Canarsie, Flatlands, Sheepshead Bay, or Gerritsen Beach- the bridge on Flatbush Avenue we think of first is the “Marine Parkway- Gil Hodges Bridge”, which we always referred to as the Marine Park Bridge.

Seventy five years ago today- on July 3, 1937- this toll bridge was officially opened for traffic.

from wikipedia

The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge in New York City (originally Marine Parkway Bridge) is a vertical lift bridge that crosses Rockaway Inlet and connects the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, with Marine Parkway to Floyd Bennett Field, Flatbush Avenue, and the Marine Park neighborhood in Brooklyn. Opened on July 3, 1937, it carries four motor traffic lanes, and a footpath on the western edge. Cyclepaths along both sides of the Parkway connect to the Shore Parkway Greenway and to Flatbush Avenue. The operation of this bridge includes the maintenance of the Marine Parkway from the toll plaza to Jacob Riis Park. Though a city-owned and operated bridge, it connects two parts of Gateway National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park System: Floyd Bennett Field and Jacob Riis Park. The bridge is designated as New York State Route 901B, an unsigned reference route.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a great fishing spot under the bridge, due to a deep water channel dug out during the second world war designed to allow wounded shipping to limp into Mill Basin or Sheepshead Bay after crossing the war torn Atlantic. The cold water flow, and perhaps the light filtering down from the bridge, encourages bluefish and snappers to congregate beneath the structure.

Deep familiarity with the area is part of my DNA, and although I seldom get out there these days- seeing this bridge always makes me think of “home”.


The Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge was opened by the Marine Parkway Authority in 1937 to provide access to the Rockaway Peninsula, which previously could be reached only by ferry or by a circuitous route around the eastern end of Jamaica Bay. When it was built, the bridge’s vertical lift span was the longest in the world. The tapering, curled tops of its towers added a whimsical aspect to the bridge’s design.

The Marine Parkway Authority also built the Jacob Riis Parking Field and cooperated with the city’s Department of Parks in the reconstruction and expansion of Jacob Riis Park. After a series of mergers, the Marine Parkway Authority became part of the Triborough Bridge Authority in 1940.

Today, the land at both ends of the bridge is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. On the Brooklyn side is Floyd Bennett Field and a direct connection to the Shore Parkway and Flatbush Avenue. The Queens side in the Rockaways has seen considerable residential and recreational development since the bridge’s construction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to official sourcesAymar Embury II, who was also the architect for MTA’s Triborough and Bronx Whitestone Bridges, was the architect. The Chief Engineers were Madigan-Hyland and Emil H. Praeger, and Robinson & Steinman and Waddell & Hardesty were Consulting Engineers“.

Who knew?

Happy 75th birthday, old friend, and enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks on the western horizon tomorrow night.


The morning of July 3, 1937, marked the grand opening of the new Marine Parkway Memorial Bridge. With the sun shining and the N.Y.P.D. Police Band ready to play, Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, Robert Moses, head of the Marine Parkway Authority and city Parks Commissioner and other officials, were getting ready to embark in a 500-car motorcade to christen the bridge.

There was excitement in the air as the band tuned up from its designated place on the bridge’s elevated lift span and invited guests got into cars on the Brooklyn side of the bridge along Flatbush Avenue for the inaugural ride across the span.

But the first vehicle to cross the bridge did not belong to the mayor or master builder Robert Moses, who helped make the bridge a reality. About 15 minutes before the ceremonies were scheduled to start, the first vehicles to cross the span were three engine companies from Brooklyn; summoned to help put out a five-alarm fire that destroyed two blocks of wooden concession stands along the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk.

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