The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Northern Blvd.’ Category

unctuous haggling

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Banal pedantry, Northern Blvd., and the carriers of cars – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering about in the dark along the Carridor, or Northern Blvd. as most people call it, one was recently contemplating his place in the world and the meaning of everything. Given that any long hard look in the mirror only depresses a humble narrator, I tend to avoid turning my famously incisive vision upon myself for fear of what I may see in a pane of silvered glass. I’ve taken to wandering about in the dark these days, suffering the lapsing of the lonely hours one must endure before the beckoning of the grave becomes irresistible, and in darkness so as to spare others a chance meeting with one so aberrant.

How’s that for holiday season depression? Pretty good, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This section of the Northern Blvd. Carridor is distinguished by gargantuan used car lots, and the biggest one is owned and operated by Major Auto World. There’s a couple of smaller players, but if you’re between 43rd and 47th streets and spot a car lot, the odds are that the auto retailer is owned or franchised by Major.

The good news is that unlike Northern Astoria or Maspeth, no mob of torch wielding peasants has ever chased me around these parts. A monster does have feelings, y’know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One became fascinated watching the dark of night show as multiple car carriers disgorged their cargo to the various car lots for display and eventual sale. Car Carriers are endlessly engaging and curious vehicles to me, although the ones I’m truly occupied by are the ones that carry trucks to the car lots. The whole idea of a truck which carries trucks appeals to me, but – after all – I am an idiot.

At any rate, the ones spotted recently at the Carridor were carrying cars, not trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The amazing part of all of this action on Northern Blvd. – to me – was the haphazard manner in which it was conducted. Spending as much time as I do around union guys – my neighbor Mario sets up safety cones when we BBQ – it is startling to see the car carriers unloaded right into the middle of oncoming traffic with nothing more than the truck’s hazard lights to indicate to oncoming traffic that a sticky situation is about to be entered.

What do I know, however? It’s all banal, isn’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The trucker unloading this car carrier rig noticed me taking pictures and shot me what would have been called – in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn – as the “hairy eyeball.” Not really caring too much, and hoping for some sort of antagonist provocation to break through the numb pedantry of my daily round, I kept shooting.

Nothing happened, though, and it was decided that my existential boredom hadn’t peaked yet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last shot, captured whilst scuttling away to the west.

The whole “night photography thing” continues to excite me, as you may have noticed. A couple of new “digital darkroom” tricks I’ve worked out and have begun to institute in pursuance of conquering the digital “noise” inherent in lowlight shots are also proving highly interesting.

Saying that, I’m still not exactly in love with my results, but I’m starting to get close to where I want to go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To wit, this shot from Greenpoint, which is the sort of “range of human vision” effect that I’m pursuing.

Something to do in the dark, I guess. It’s all pretty depressing, though.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

little polyhedron

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Street photography, literally, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every little facet of Western Queens is endlessly fascinating to one such as myself. The section of Jackson Avenue which was refashioned into Northern Blvd. in the early 20th century (a puzzling nomenclature, as it runs east/west, and both Ditmars and Astoria Blvd. are further north), which I’ve long referred to as the “Carridor” has a distinctive look and feel. On the western end of it, the Real Estate Industrial Complex has finally broken through the barrier presented by the southern end of 31st street and large scale tower production is under way. It won’t be long before the Manhattan skyline views which Western Queens is known for will be completely obfuscated by the glass boxes being hurled at the sky.

Let’s face it, a used car lot has a huge footprint, and the Real Estate shit flies are rapacious when the subject of Sasquatch property lots arises. Thing is, this used car lot strains the Municipal infrastructure a whole let less than a block of apartments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on 43rd street, a longish roadway that leads from Newtown Creek to the south to a northern terminus at Bowery Bay and which transverses Astoria, Sunnyside, and Blissville that used to be called Laurel Hill Blvd., there’s a window on the world of tomorrow which can be observed by looking over the Sunnyside Yards at the western horizon. In Tolkien’s epics, it’s the west that the elves disappeared into. Coincidentally, the same mythology is presented as relating to the Decadent Dutch colonials who fled the “English” through Western New York and New Jersey by the literature of Washington Irving, H.P. Lovecraft, and many others. In Western Queens, the Real Estate Industrial Complex has stolen the western sky, as evinced by the shield wall of luxury apartment buildings rising from the filled in swamps of Long Island City pictured above.

Legend has it that the Dutch will return someday, when we need them most, but we won’t see them coming anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The same shield wall of construction is visible from the eastern side of Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, which rises from the elluvial flood plains of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary nearby Skillman’s intersection with Thomson Avenue. The intersection of two communities is nearby, on a sloping hill which hosts both a “Woodside” and a “Sunnyside.” The Woodside, my reading suggests, was heavily forested with deciduous speciation in its aboriginal state, and the Sunnyside was more of grassland interspersed with coniferous trees that graduated into what would best described as an environment resembling the Louisiana Bayous.

The Sunnyside of the hill sloped down to the swampy lowlands of what’s now Queens Plaza, Dutch Kills (neighborhood), and the Degnon terminal area. This condition, which bred what was contemporaneously described as a “pestilential number of cholera and typhus carrying mosquitoes,” largely persisted in Queens until the early 20th century when the Sunnyside Yards, Degnon Terminal, and Queensboro Bridge construction projects included a fair bit of land reclamation and swamp drainage.

Upcoming tours and events:


“Brooklyn Waterfront – Past & Present” boat tour
with Working Harbor Committee, Thursday, September 15th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“13 Steps around Dutch Kills” walking tour
with Atlas Obscura, Sunday, September 18th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


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swoopingly through

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Cool cars, Astoria/Woodside edition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gangster! Spotted this late model parked along Newtown Road near its intersection with Northern Blvd. recently. It’s registration sticker says it’s a 1960 Buick Four Door Sedan, and I do believe that it’s actually a 1960 LeSabre.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I dig the way the body styling above the head lamps makes it look angry. When you’re talking about a 1960 Buick, you should be using slang like “dig,” by the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The car wasn’t exactly “cherry,” as it had some body issues and was missing its proper wheel covers and more than a little bit of its chrome, but there’s a body shop on the corner of Northern which often has “cool cars” flowing through its lot so I suspect that this was one of theirs and that it was going to be receiving some love and attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a giant 8 cylinder engine under the hood of this auto, incidentally. If you’ve never driven a 1960’s Buick, I feel sorry for you, as you have no idea what real acceleration feels like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This “cool car,” lords and ladies, caused a humble narrator to say out loud “me want.”

Of course, you’d be dropping half a tank of gas to get from one corner to the next, due to that giant 8 cylinder engine. It’s also from the “unsafe at any speed” era, so it’s likely that bumping into another car while parking might decapitate you, but…

Upcoming Events and Tours

Thursday, June 30, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Elizabeth Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 28, 2016 at 1:00 pm

repellant mannerisms

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No more meetings, supposition instead, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last few days, you’ve been informed about my various causes and committees, and some of the “inside baseball” on the Newtown Creek story has been offered. There’s more I could tell you, and will in the fullness of time. I’ve got a whole world of weird minglings with the “powers that be” which I can relate, but a lot of these encounters are in situations where some discretion is expected from all parties and I don’t want to act like a jerk and tattle everything I’ve been told about this and that.

One thing which I’ve been annoying the powerful about is the Mayor’s proposed street car system – the BQX. When I bring it up, the powers and potentates of the permanent government exhibit a momentary flash of wild panic, and they then start assuring me that it’s an entirely reasonable proposal, all the while forcing that horrible crocodile grin of the professional politician across their mugs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve got the route of this BQX thing figured out, incidentally. It’s an Einsteinian thought experiment, this, and entirely out of my own brain – none of the officials I know will say anything other than “we’re looking at a number of options” even in informal settings. My impression is that the Mayor just dropped this on officialdom and didn’t really check with anyone to see if the BQX was feasible before announcing it, but that’s strictly an impression. The route I list below is based on my personal knowledge gained from thousands of hours walking the western shore of Long Island, coupled with literally hundreds of water born observations.

At the northern side – it’ll start at the former Politti Power Plant by Astoria Park, travel down Shore Road to the corner of Astoria Park South, and then ride on a causeway built into the water, on its way to the Astoria Point development. It’ll roll around the periphery of the peninsula which Astoria Point will share with NYCHA’s Astoria Houses and then come back to shore at Hallets Cove near Socrates Sculpture Garden. It then heads south along Vernon to LIC, turning west at 46th avenue to meet and make a left on Center Blvd. just after Anable Basin. From there, it continues down to second street and a new drawbridge over Newtown Creek, which meets up with West Street in Greenpoint. South along West to Kent and Williamsburg, then around Wallabout Creek to Kent’s intersection with Flushing Avenue. The BQX then tracks south down Flushing Avenue and around the Navy Yard.

I’ll get to Vinegar Hill and DUMBO in a minute.

Let’s just skip ahead to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where Furman Street would carry BQX south to Columbia and then it would track under the Gowanus Expressway through Red Hook and all the way to Industry City in Sunset Park. I think it would be passing over a retrofitted Hamilton Avenue Bridge spanning over the Gowanus Canal.

Hamilton carries the BQX trackway to Third Avenue and – VOILA – you’re at Industry City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fly in the BQX ointment, as I see it, is precisely that Vinegar Hill section and the area which my dad used to refer to as “Downtown Brooklyn” where the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges converge with Subway lines, highways, a complex of courts, housing projects, government buildings, the rich people in Brooklyn Heights who are easily annoyed and politically relevant, and – literally – the highest real estate valuations which can be found upon the planet along Brooklyn’s Gold Coast.

I have no idea how you’d thread the streetcar needle through that area, and most of the important people (whom you’d be surprised I even know, let alone enjoy congenial relationships with – I still can’t believe some of the folks I get to interact with) I’ve asked how no idea how to do it either. I’ve been told by engineer friends in the construction business that it would be easier to build the two new bridges over Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal for this project, simultaneously, than it will be to acquire or afford enough space in “Downtown Brooklyn” for the BQX.

It’s funny, I have no real opinion on this project. I’m neither for, nor against, as I explain to these members of the permanent government whom I condemn to this conversation. I just think it’s kind of an interesting thought experiment, and when the conversation runs its course – alternatively suggest select bus service which could use the route described above, and you wouldn’t have to build any new bridges or buy up parts of DUMBO to accomplish the goal of the thing and achieve a right of way.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

April 16th, Obscura Day 2016
“Creek to Creek Industrial Greenpoint Walking Tour” with Mitch Waxman and Geoff Cobb.
Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman and Greenpoint historian and author Geoff Cobb for a three-hour exploration of the coastline of Greenpoint. Click here for more info and ticketing.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

mendicant parlors

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Happy Saint Patrick’s, y’all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pup pictured above was spotted at the annual St. Pat’s Day for All parade in Sunnyside on Saturday the 6th. Truth be told, 50% of the reason I attend and shoot this parade is for the dogs dressed up in holiday regalia.

What follows is a series of random shots which have been recently collected, which don’t seem to fit into other posts, but which I like for one reason or another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the pithy jokes I like to repeat to disinterested people is: “When I say I’m a street photographer, I mean that I literally photograph the street,” as evinced by the shot of Northern Blvd. presented above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Northern Blvd., that ongoing constriction project at 47th street, which is installing a new ventilation room for the F line subway, had some supplies arranged in an accidentally artful pattern when I was passing by a couple of weeks back. The construction guys here in Queens compose masterpieces of geometric composition when they’re plunking their junk down, the sort of thing which any art student might labor over for days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Early one recent morning, a humble narrator noticed that the Queens Cobbler seems to have reactivated and resumed their activities. The single shoe phenomena continues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also from an early morning, I found myself crossing the Boulevard of Death as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself rose in the eastern sky.

This was shot at about six or seven in the morning, and this year my plans include a lot of pre dawn and early morning shooting.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

overtones of

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Another random series of shots, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Greenpoint, a line of empty taxis parked on Provost Street, across the street from the sewer plant.

It’s actually meant to be pronounced as “Provoost” despite being spelled as “Provost.” The Provosts were one of the original five families of Greenpoint, along with the Bennets, Calyers, Praas, and Messeroles. These five Dutch families dominated Greenpoint politically for nearly two centuries, owned most of the land, and only began to recede into history when Neziah Bliss married into the Messerole clan. Bliss laid out the modern street grid, erected the first bridges over Bushwick and Newtown Creeks, and is the father of the modern community.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The IND R train entering into Queens Plaza. Queens Plaza’s IND service opened for business on August 19th in 1933, but back then there was only express service between Manhattan and Queens. It wasn’t until 1955 when the 60th street tunnel opened that the Queens local trains began to travel back and forth into the Shining City. I work on getting this shot every time I’m there, and you have to time it just right to catch an arc flash that the train sets off as it comes to the station tracks grade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s amazing how many manhole cover types there are, a subject which has been discussed endlessly at this – your Newtown Pentacle. The story of municipal consolidation can be read in the screeds embossed onto these iron discs, and the one pictured above was once the property of the “Bureau of Water and Sewers” which is now part of the NYC DEP and can be observed at the border of Sunnyside and Blissville in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a “Brooklyn Department of City Works” access cover, which was found back in Greenpoint. DCW is also now a part of the consolidated DEP.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Queens, on the “carridor” of Northern Blvd., a puzzling bit of signage has emerged on one of the enormous advertising bill boards found on the corner of 38th street. The easterly facing side says “Stay Calm” with a screed reading “-Peter.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The westerly facing side says “Don’t Panic,” and also has the “-Peter” signature. Dictionary definitions are superimposed on the block print messaging, this one bears the definition of courage. I’ve looked around for what these signs are meant to be selling or saying, but haven’t been able to find out much. If anybody knows what’s up with these messages, please share in the comments.

Either way, they are reminiscent of the sort of things Rowdy Roddy Piper observed in the John Carpenter film “They Live.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A gorgeous bit of hand painted signage adorns the back of a NYCHA emergency truck back in Greenpoint, and is pictured above.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 10, 2016 at 11:00 am

babbling over

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National Feasting week is upon us, eat long and hard, lords and ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the magical Chrysler Building, surrounding by the dross modernity of Manhattan. One of the few shots captured in the City after a recent crossing the Queensboro Bridge, which was detailed in recent posts. Odds are that few, or any, of you reading this post will actually be in New York for the holiday weekend – so Newtown Pentacle will be going into its traditional holding pattern for the next few days.

Don’t worry, I’ll still be publishing, but it’s just going to some pretty pictures for a few days, without much meat on the bone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, your humble narrator will be in town.

Holiday weekends such as Thanksgiving are a fantastic time to avoid family and friends for me, and to wander aimlessly about in the concrete devastations of the nearly deserted industrial quarters of the Newtown Creek. There’s quite a few irons in the fire, however, and one fairly earth shattering project in LIC which I’m extremely excited about which I’ll fill y’all in on when you settle back into your desk chairs on Monday next.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suffice to say that it involves a defunct railroad trackway, LIC, and the MTA itself. I’d tell you more, but that would technically be “spoilers.”

Have a happy and a healthy one, lords and ladies.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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