The Newtown Pentacle

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protean ideations

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Tuesday, sis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s installment, a pleasure seeking narrator found his way onto the Staten Island Ferry to slake his desire for fresh air, sunshine, and something interesting to photograph. Seldom does the big orange boat disappoint.

Upon my arrival on the southernmost extant of the municipal archipelago, the one named for a historic Dutch legislative body, a brief walk carried me down to the waterfront. One was able to observe “the show” offered by the working vessels of NYC’s maritime economy and actuate the camera’s shutter with wild abandon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tugs in today’s post are property fo the McAllister Towing operation.

The “colorway” or paint job which the various towing companies decorate their vessels with help to identify them at a distance, a necessity inherited from the days before wireless radio communications were possible or feasible. Today, each one of these tugs operating in NY Harbor are virtually small radio stations with onboard electronics packages that include multiple band radios and even transponders which report the GPS tracked position of them to the United States Coast Guard. That broadcast data is also reported by several public facing websites, which allow you to anticipate where and when a boat will be passing by.

I don’t do that, though. Serendipity is the sugar syrup of my days and nights.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After spending about an hour hanging around the …Staten Island… waterfront, I checked the time and realized that I’d want to reverse course and head back to Astoria sooner than later. Accordingly, one entered the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at St. George and boarded the big orange boat.

While the crew was preparing to debark the pier, a Staten Island bound ferry was coming in to dock. It was one of the gigantic and fairly modern Molinari class boats, specifically the Guy V. Molinari. The boat is named for the scion of modern day political bossdom and the founder of the First Family of Staten Island politics, former Borough President Guy Molinari.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, October 5th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

October 6, 2020 at 11:00 am

defied conjecture

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Monday, bro.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A pleasant afternoon was achieved, again, when a humble narrator took to the water. One scuttled over to the NYC Ferry Dock here in Astoria, whereupon an uneventful and not too terribly photogenic journey southwards along the East River was accomplished. Upon arrival in Lower Manhattan, further perambulation carried one to the Staten Island Ferry terminal whereupon the giant orange boat was boarded. The southern terminus of the pentateuch archipelago of NYC was now in reach, and all told I was only out $2.75.

Along the way, the Vane Bros. Patuxent Tug was spotted towing a fuel barge on an extremely long line, as it passed by the Statue of Liberty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The smarter gulls – obviously the ones from Brooklyn – land on the Staten Island ferry deck and hitch a ride, whilst the more athletic or less intelligent ones fly into and work the slipstream of the big orange boats as they ply betwixt Manhattan and… Staten Island…

Long practiced, this particular round trip excursion of mine is one of the few remaining activities that I actually enjoy. My preference is to stand on the stern of the ferry, as the bow end is typically crowded with tourists. No tourists right now, of course, but old habits die hard. Habit is also how I almost missed taking the third shot in today’s post. Also, technically, speaking the SI Ferries do have a bow and a stern, but their design sort of obfuscates that fact.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the ferry I was riding was one of the smaller/older ones which have huge bay windows on their central cabin decks. It also seems that, due to the pandemic, the ferry crews are running the service with these bay windows flung wide open to provide ventilation. What that meant for this wandering photographer was the shot above, depicting one of the massive Molinari class Staten Island Ferries sitting at dock and awaiting duty. You normally would have to struggle to find an unoccluded view of this particular wonder, so hooray for COVID.

See, you find the good in the bad. That’s called optimism, and it’s the NYC way.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, October 5th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

October 5, 2020 at 11:00 am

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

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