The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Statue of Liberty’ Category

forbidden tithing

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Rhapsodic ecstasy, that’s what it’s all about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, a humble narrator needed to get to the financial district in Lower Manhattan and soon found himself in hell’s third circle, which is my pet name for the 59/Lex subway interchange. Hell’s ninth circle, where you’ll find Satan chewing on Judas Iscariot, is the 34th street Herald Square complex – in case you were wondering (that’s why it’s always ninety degrees in there, even during the winter, as it’s literally a portal to hell.) If you’re a Queensican, however, there really is no way to avoid the third circle. My habit is to ignore the wailing desires of those ghastly entities who run the system found below, and not ride the local R line from Astoria all the way to lower Manhattan. Instead, a quick transfer to the Lexington line express is accomplished, which gets me to lower Manhattan in short order. The former journey, using the oft delayed Broadway line local service can take up to an hour, whereas my composited route and transfer only takes about a half hour.

The “A” in MTA is for “adventure,” lords and ladies, so live a little and transfer often. The less time spent in the sweating concrete bunkers below the better, I say. Also, take MTA’s route suggestions for what they are, and be nimble. Dante had Virgil, you’re stuck with me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My preference would have been to take a ferry, but the United Nations General Assembly was underway, and the Coast Guard had interrupted service due to security concerns. Given that I had to go “adventuring” through the circles of Hell, I padded out my time of arrival in Lower Manhattan. My obligation was to do a short talk about Newtown Creek for a group of esthetes and intellectuals, which is a task gladly embraced. Unfortunately, it involved the chore of going into the City.

Since I had arrived about forty five minutes ahead of my scheduled arrival time, a short walk about Battery Park and Castle Clinton ensued. The weather has been absolute junk for what seems like weeks now, but all that atmospheric activity has at least been producing dramatic and enigmatic skies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A quiet weekend is ahead for a humble narrator, during which I hope to be brandishing the camera about. Monday the 1st is an “Infrastructure Creek” walking tour I’ll be conducting for Atlas Obscura (ticketing link below). On Thursday, I have an actual adventure scheduled, which will unfortunately mean that I have to repeat my journey through the Third Circle at something like seven in the morning… but as mentioned – the “A” in MTA is, in fact, for “adventure.”

There’s also a couple of big projects I’m working on at the moment, as a note, which I’ll let y’all know about next month.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2018 at 11:00 am

corridor outside

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Remember, remember…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this day, June 15th in 1904, the General Slocum excursion boat left its dock at Peck Slip in Manhattan at ten in the morning with just over 1,000 people onboard – most of whom were women and children. It caught fire as it moved north on the East River, and reports of smoke below deck reached the wheelhouse as it was passing 97th street in Manhattan. It didn’t take long for the wood hulled boat to catch fire. It was a product of Tammany’s NYC, where safety inspectors could be convinced to overlook violations for a small sum, which is why the life vests were filled with sawdust and powdered cork and the fire hoses onboard were either non existent or rotted. Most of the crew abandoned ship, leaving the passengers to fend for themselves. By the time it grounded at North Brother Island, the official death toll was 1,021. Bodies were washing onshore at Hells Gate for days.

Today is the anniversary of the day that Lassez Faire capitalism and local control of the ferry industry ended in NYC, and why the United States Coast Guard was given broad oversight powers regarding safety onboard vessels in NY Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the Slocum disaster, which scored the largest death toll of any single event in NYC until the September 11th attacks in 2001, the Coast Guard instituted regulations and rules for all shipping in NY Harbor which they enforce with military discipline. It’s why you hear an announcement on every ferry trip telling you where floatation devices can be found onboard, and why private pleasure and fishing vessels in the harbor are often “pulled over” by USCG for safety inspections.

It’s also one of the arguments I make when talking politics, with my friends who identify as “Conservative,” in defense of what they describe as “job killing regulatory oversight.” There is a staggering amount of inefficiency and an abundance of stupid rules in Government, but we also haven’t had anything like a General Slocum disaster in what… 114 years?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the focus point of my historical interests, which can be somewhat summed up as “maritime industrial history of NYC from the colonial to WW2 periods,” there’s a lot of horror stories which I’ve stumbled across. 95% of the environmental issues in NYC were caused by unfettered and unregulated industrial operations which, prior to 1972 and the Federal Clean Water and Clean Air acts, had zero obligation not to dump acid into rivers and streams or pulse metric shit tons of poison into the air. A disaster can occur in any era, but the needless deaths of 1,021 women and children onboard an excursion boat leaving from lower Manhattan to attend a picnic on Long Island? Unthinkable in the modern era.

All that is due to a regulatory regime for the maritime industry which was largely created and coded into law by Republican Party politicians led by Teddy Roosevelt. Dump acid into the water, or spew sulphur compounds into the sky? Also impossible thanks to a Republican named Richard Nixon. Give credit where credit is due, I say. I also question why the politics of the modern day has members of the same political party chipping away at the achievements of their historical forebears who ensured that you could just mindlessly walk onto a ferry without thinking about the General Slocum


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm

frightened them

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The Queens Cobbler survived the cold, and Liberty walks the streets of Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been spotting evidence, once again, that the Queens Cobbler is active and amongst us. A likely serial killer who leaves behind a single shoe as a taunt to both community and law enforcement, the Cobbler has been a subject mentioned so many times at this – your Newtown Pentacle – that the monster has actually tracked me down and left one of his ghoulish trophies on the ornamental fence surrounding Newtown Pentacle HQ last Christmas. One refuses to be cowed.

The boot above was spotted recently on Northern Blvd. nearby 39th avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in the still industrial section of Long Island City, not too far from Van Dam Street, the shoe above was noticed while a humble narrator was scuttling past. It is my belief that someday will a commercial self storage room, or an untenanted storeroom in some old factory, be opened and within will be hundreds and hundreds of single shoes – the mates to the ones which have been documented at this publication over the years. I believe the Cobbler keeps on of their victim’s shoes as a trophy, and discards the other as a taunt.

One would be hard pressed to describe the particular footwear of a missing loved one to the Police, I admit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a completely different note, this fellow has been wandering up and down Broadway here in Astoria throughout tax preparation season. He’s apparently employed by a local shop, whose corporate branding revolves around the Statue of Liberty, that handles financial matters to act as a living signboard and busker to drive potential customers to their door.

I’ve enjoyed a brief conversation with the gentleman, who attests that the costume is actually quite warm and comfortable, which he’s been glad of given the recent cold snap. Everybody has to make a living, I guess.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm

burns best

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Visiting one of the seats of empire, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long have my eyes wished to look upon this place, found in Lower Manhattan at Bowling Green nearby Battery Park, and literally across the street from that charging bull statue which is meant to represent capitalism. You can put up all the bronze monuments you want to capitalism that you’d like to, but nobody – and I mean nobody – can hold a candle to what “the man” built at 26 Broadway nearby “de Waalstraat.” This was the center of the American Imperium, ultimately. If you want to answer the question Americans were asking directly after the attacks of Septmber 11th, 2001 – “Why do they hate us?” – you can start weaving the answer to them right here at 26 Broadway.

As a note, a long time before this 31 story office building’s opening in 1928, 26 Broadway was Alexander Hamilton’s home address.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the entity which inhabited it, the building is an agglutination which solidified and agglutinated over time and was built by many hands.

The original building at 26 Broadway was ten stories tall and went up in 1885. It was expanded in 1895, and then again in 1921 (that construction took 7 years, finishing in 1928) which resulted in its current form. The original structure is contained somewhere within the 1928 version, which was the tallest building in Lower Manhattan when it was finished. 26 Broadway is crowned by a pyramid shaped structure that was once illuminated, meant to act as a beacon for ships entering New York Harbor, and said pyramid was modeled after the Mausoleum of Maussollos in the City of Halicarnassus – part of the 4th century b.c. Achaemenid Empire in modern day Turkey. “Maussollos” is where modernity derives the word mausoleum from, incidentally.

The master of the early modern world had moved his organization here to Bowling Green back in 1885, from Cleveland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We live in an era defined by the fact that he once walked amongst us. We live in an era during which the corporate leader is exalted as a princeps, and ruthless business tactics are celebrated. This was not so when he was born in 1839. In his lifetime, he was viewed as the epitome of American villainy. He is the model for Mr. Burns from the Simpsons cartoon, Mr. Potter from Frank Capra’s “it’s a wonderful life,” and Lex Luthor from the Superman mythos. His empire made him the richest person in recorded history, wealthier than all the kings and queens of England, the Pharoahs of Egypt, and all the Caesars of Rome – put together. Only Augustus Caesar enjoyed personal wealth and power that began to approach his. His instrument – “the organization” as he called it  – controlled better than 90% of American petroleum production, and 26 Broadway was his headquarters.

This is the former home and HQ of the Standard Oil Company, and it’s master was John D. Rockefeller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One normally eschews visiting this section of Manhattan unless it’s absolutely necessary. A meeting I was invited to was being held “nearby Bowling Green,” as I was told. Once I consented to attend, and was then told the address where the gathering would be occurring, a broad smile broke out across my normally sullen and sunken countenance.

Esso, as Standard Oil’s New Jersey arm became known in the early 20th century – it’s Exxon now – was headquartered here until 1946. Greenpoint’s Mobil, the New York operation, was similarly managed out of the Standard Oil Building at 26 Broadway until 1956.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The views from 26 Broadway are exactly what one would expect in terms of being spectacular.

The crowded warrens of the lesser corporate towers fill the streets abundantly, and humanity is fairly removed from the equation, reduced to the status of crawling insects from this perpective. You see a few survivors of the Beaux Arts era from up here – the old Customs House (modern day Museum of the American Indian) pictured in the previous shot, the Cunard building, Castle Clinton over in Battery Park. The most important building in this area, saving the actual Stock Exchange – in terms of American History – is the Standard Oil building.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In his lifetime, John D. Rockefeller was reviled. He was, personally, the “one percent.” A culture which celebrated the self made man nevertheless saw this self made man as a monster, despite his best efforts to demonstrate his humanity and Christian virtues. In his later life, seeking to salvage the family name from infamy, Rockefeller and his sons began a career of philanthropy which familial descendants continue to this day. Standard Oil was notoriously ruthless in the continental territories of the United States, but it’s when you look overseas that the true scope and infamy of their ambitions become clear. The company’s agents, operating in the smoking ruins of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, began troublesome relationships with the Sheiks and Mullahs of the Arabian Penninsula (along with British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell) whose consequences continue to bedevil the American Imperium to this day.

Why hit the World Trade Center? It was the personal project of John D. Rockefeller’s grandson David. Memory is held long in the near east, and revenge is a dish best served cold.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – 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.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 9, 2018 at 11:00 am

surgical instrumentation

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When a young but already humble narrator was but a boy, he lived in an apartment in southeast Brooklyn with a pair of parents who liked to fight and argue about every little thing. There was always a lot of yelling and screaming, as Mom and Pop would square off about the various issues and challenges facing them. Mom was always the superior tactician in these regular verbal battles. The old man was all about volume and anger, often demonstrating his frustration by putting his fist through a wall, whereas the old lady would go for the emotional jugular and work the guilt angle whenever she could. One of her techniques to wind the old man up would be flipping the subject mid fight, which forced him to suddenly wheel around and defend a previously unexposed flank. She would do this several times in rapid fire, which confused the hell out of Dad or whomever she was arguing with as she didn’t reserve her combative psyche for the household, but instead spread the enmity around to whoever was available in the neighborhood or reachable by telephone. 

Mom was kind of a jerk, and often initiated her wars due to personal insecurity and perceived slights which had little basis in reality. In many ways, she ruined her own life with this sort of behavior, alienating everyone around her – including myself, her sibling, and just about everybody she was related to didn’t want to be anywhere near her at the end. Even after she died, all that my family members could talk about was her constant bickering and invective reasoning, which means that she ultimately won her battle to dominate any and all conversation. We were continuing to argue about and with a dead woman. 

Mom was actually a genius on the arguing front, and she would skillfully obfuscate and steer the conversation and arguments she was engaged in away from whatever the original subject was. Her diversions would drive her opponents into blind fury and annoyed frustration. At the end of her tirades, she’d proclaim herself the victimized party, and then begin a multi day process of shaming and guilt towards her “victimizers.” 

Sound familiar? It’s exactly the sort of technique which the current President of the United States uses. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My Mom and Dad are no longer with us (except as regular voices in my inner dialogue) and the wasted family time, which was squandered in this ridiculous melodrama, weighs heavily upon me. So too does the time we are all wasting as a community discussing and arguing about “he who must not be named, for saying his name gives him power.” What would be expected of an American President after a race riot is a repudiation of the KKK and the white power crowd, but by prevaricating about the subject, the President has made his views and feelings a point of debate amongst both the press and people and is diverting attention away from actual events over to himself. His goal, which is to stand at center stage and have the only conversation be about him, has been achieved. He’s keeping our heads spinning with the bi weekly outrages, and in doing so, he dominates all discourse. Can you actually remember the outrages of February or March, or is your head spinning? Have you punched a wall yet? 

Even I’m talking about him right now, and this is hardly the only thing you’re going to read about him today. His strategy, like my Mom’s, is to keep himself as the central character of a shaped narrative and dramaturge. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – none of the words we use for political subjects have any meaning. In the last election, Hillary Clinton was the actual conservative and “he who must not be named” was not a “reformer.” Bill de Blasio is not a “Progressive,” as he has never once used the mid 20th century political term “Progress” in its proper context. None of these political brand marks mean anything anymore, and they were coined more than a century ago by people who meant something entirely different by them than modern usage. We don’t use Whig or Torie anymore, do we? 

You do have to hand it to the Nazi’s and Race Supremacists however, for evolving and adopting the techniques of “Identity Politics” as pioneered in the 1960’s to rebrand themselves and portray their “movement” as being something other than hooliganism and the “mob mentality” which Alexander Hamilton was so concerned about during his Federalist papers period. That’s pretty clever, and my Mom would likely have been impressed by the sheer ballsiness of it, but she was a cruel person who enjoyed other people’s misfortunes and enjoyed winding them up. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

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