The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Northern Blvd.’ Category

burned out

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Hey, what’s with all this Northern Blvd. stuff?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know what is to come. In recent years, the NYC Dept. of City Planning was working on something they called “LIC Core,” a planning document centering around Northern Blvd. between 31st street and Woodside Avenue. My understanding is that the planning document has been abandoned, and that the Real Estate Industrial Complex will just be allowed to do whatever they want under the proviso that a politically viable number of “affordable” apartments are a part of their plan. The whole “affordable” thing, and the arithmetic by which the concept of affordability is determined, is a bugbear of political deception which I don’t want to get into.

As mentioned in the past, I’m now a member of Community Board 1 here in Astoria, and before the summer break, a humble narrator was obliged to vote for or against a couple of these projects. Now, when you’re on a community board – and I seem to be the only person in Queens who adheres to this – it’s meant to be like serving on a jury. The petitioner presents their facts, you make inquiries, and then you vote. In the case of two large projects just a few blocks from my own home, I voted yes. Here’s why…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Close to transit, shopping, and City services? Check. Best use of the land? Well, I don’t think used car lots are the best use of the land within one to two miles of the East River. How densely populated is the area already? Well…. let’s just say that when the kids want to experiment with cannabinoids well outside the purview of their parents or just see how loud their car stereos are, the side streets along Northern Blvd. are where they go, as it’s a ghost town at night after all the car lots and mechanics shutter their doors. People sleep in their cars along these blocks, or on cardboard boxes piled up against the walls.

Just like when you’re on a jury, your CB vote is supposed to be based not on personal prejudices or preconceived notions, rather it’s meant to be guided by the presented facts and informed by your personal knowledge of the area. Saying that, my queries and comments to the various entities seeking to develop residential properties in the neighborhood revolved around topics that longtime Newtown Pentacle readers will find familiar – green roofs, truly public space, stormwater capture, hospital beds, school desks, and transit. Also, what are you going to plug the building into, since our electrical power system hereabouts… frankly… sucks.

Also – since this has come up a few times during the summer when I was talking to the press about unrelated Newtown Creek business – I in no way speak for CB1, and if you want an official opinion of the group on anything, talk to the Chair or call the office and ask for one. I’m still new to the Community Board, and getting to know not just my fellow members but also the procedural norms under which it operates. My plan for the next set of sessions, which begin again in September, is to show up and observe the way things work and then vote my conscience on the various issues presented. What you read here is from my personal POV, and all opinions are my own. If I’m speaking “officially” on behalf of any of the groups which I work with, I’ll state that. Otherwise, it’s just some schmuck with a camera mouthing off again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, and I’m still startled at the number of people who have willingly made their homes in Queens Plaza, living along Northern Blvd. seems like a poor choice. You do have fairly regular bus service, but the closest subway stops (other than the 36th street R/M) are all several blocks to the north – in Astoria proper – along Broadway. I’ve long called this stretch of Northern Blvd. the “Carridor” as it’s a super wide primary automobile and truck route that offers some of the scariest street crossings in all of Queens. Really, Steinway at Northern… brrrr…

At the moment, I’m spending some effort on recording what’s found on the Carridor right now, in order to create some kind of record before it all gets swept away by the forces of modernity and the rapacious hunger of the Real Estate Industrial Complex. The history of NYC is a story of wrenching, and quite sudden, change. Take a picture when something catches your interest, as it might not be there tomorrow.


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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

August 27, 2019 at 11:00 am

hastily filling

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Back in session.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has enjoyed his self allotted time off, if you’re the curious type. Given the tropical clime and frequent rainstorms, the last two weeks haven’t exactly been a wonderland of joy, but evening hours when the temperatures were a bit more tolerable were exploited. During these nocturnal scuttlings around the various neighborhoods I keep an eye on, it was decided to severely limit the amount of “kit” one carried and utilized in my pursuits.

The normal “everyday carry” of heavy zoomable lenses, tripod, and all the other crap I normally drag around was left at HQ. Leaving the house, all I had on me were two prime lenses – a 24mm pancake lens and the 50mm “nifty fifty.” For camera support, I was carrying a gizmo called an “ultra pod,” which is a metal plate with a tripod head on it and four latex furniture caster feet. Beyond that, all I had on me was an air blower and a couple of lens cloths, a flash light, and a cable release. The camera bag weighed more than what was inside it. Perfect for roaming around on sultry August evenings, here in the Borough of Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the worst things you can tell any kind of artist is “do whatever you feel like.” Limitations are important, as that’s where challenge lies. The tyranny of the blank page has demolished the aspirations of many, whereas forcing oneself to write or draw or photograph within set limits is an invitation to “get creative.”

The cool thing about the ultrapod and the tiny and extremely light lenses I was using was that this setup forced me to slow down a bit and really put some thought into where the camera was placed, rather than just zooming in on a subject. Additionally, it put me back into the mental space I used to operate in back when I first got serious about shooting and was using a Canon G10 mounted on a magnetic tripod. My camera has been sitting on top of fireboxes, on the sidewalk, windowsills – you name it – for the last couple of weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, the one thing I was constantly wishing for during this particular two week long exercise was a more modern camera body with one of those neato keen flip out screens. Composing the shot above found a humble narrator lying prone and belly down onto the pavement on the corner of 38th street and Northern Blvd., which was kind of gross.

The Canon 7D is a champion camera body – tough, resistant to the constant physical and emotional abuse I inflict on it, and quite the omnivore as far as the number of common tasks it can handle ably. Saying that, I’m quite attracted to the new Canon mirrorless R series cameras, but everyone I know recommends getting a Sony A7 series with a third party adaptor for my lenses instead. This is all intellectual, of course, as a humble narrator doesn’t have two pennies to rub together. I’d need several hundred thousand rubbable pennies for a new camera.


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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

August 26, 2019 at 1:00 pm

piled coffins

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Queens Cobbler knows no shame, as evinced by the baby booty pictured above, which the probable serial killer left behind as a ghastly trophy and taunt on Northern Blvd. Babies, Cobbler?

Today’s post carries a few images I captured while doing something else or heading towards a location where I was intending to do some shooting. “Catch as catch can” shots like these fall under my category of “snapshots” rather than the ones I consider “photographs.” What’s the difference? “Intentionality” would be my answer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To wit, that’s a fairly nice shot from the Celtic Park section of Sunnyside depicting the Empire State building rising on the horizon. I didn’t set out to get the shot, rather I was walking over to the Kosciuszcko Bridge to get some “photographs” and while crossing the street this image just jumped out at me. I’m not downplaying serendipity, and being ready for captures on the fly, but you could have just as easily gotten this shot with your phone as I did with the dslr I always have dangling off of me.

I’ve always got the camera ready to fire, as a note. Always.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay section, this butterfly suddenly appeared. How can the itinerant photographer not capture its splendor?

I’ll be conducting a tour on the NYC Ferry Soundview line tomorrow morning, link is below. Come with? Looks like it’s going to be a perfect summer day. Back Monday with something completely different at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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Upcoming Tours and Events


Saturday, August 10, 10 a.m. 12.00 p.m.

Exploring the East River, From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
 here.


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

August 9, 2019 at 1:00 pm

various inhabitants

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Hooray, it’s Monday!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few odds and ends in today’s post, as a humble narrator is fairly hurting for new stuff to show you. The weather and a few  “have to’s” had forced my butt to remain static at HQ last week, and the camera has received little to no exercise outside of the normal rounds here in Astoria. Additionally, something went awry with my left leg in the ankle zone so I spent half of last week with a disturbing bit of “owie” going on. Often I’ll describe my physical woes as being due to the presence of the “pain squirrel” which alights on different branches of my body randomly, in much the same way as the Norse myths describe the squirrel Ratatoskr running about on the world tree Yggdrasil. Ratatoskr would chew on various branches of Yggdrasil, which caused earthquakes and volcanic activity to manifest. The pain squirrel, instead, causes one to merely exclaim “what the hell did I do to myself now?”

The older you get, the more hypochondriacal you get. Eventually, you get to the point where the impact of sunlight on your skin is felt, and hurts. Pictured above is a gas station on Northern Blvd. in LIC. Have you noticed that the real estate people have been devouring gas stations recently, along with supermarkets? Anything with a big enough footprint, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is in the process of becoming diurnal again, after long months of activity in the dark of night. Transitioning between the two results in a feeling akin to jet lag, with drowsy intervals occurring in the afternoon. Given that one has more or less been surrendering to the embrace of Morpheus just before sunrise for a few months, this rather jarring process will likely take all week. I’m not abandoning the night shooting, not by a long shot, but a biological need to experience the rise and fall of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself in the wan winter sky is upon me.

Don’t want to start growing a patch of mushrooms on my back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, I haven’t caused any real trouble for a bit, and there’s probably battles I should be fighting.

It’s also marginally warmer during the days, I seem to recall.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 11, 2019 at 11:30 am

nothing unprecedented

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Just another day in paradise, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sculptor who designed the plastic pink lawn flamingo was Donald Featherstone, a task he accomplished in 1957 for a company he ended up running until his retirement in 2000 A.D., called Union Products Inc. I had a dream once where Featherstone’s Flamingoes were chasing me and fell out of bed. Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, is quite rare and only regularly affects about 4% of adult humans. Sleepwalking episodes typically last anywhere from thirty seconds to thirty minutes, and there are sleepwalkers who have actually left their homes for a sleep drive in their cars while dreaming. There are sleep eaters, and sleep “shtuppers” who engage in sexual coitus (sexsomnia) while totally asleep. There are several legal proceedings in which a sleepwalker has actually murdered someone, wherein the somnambulist was pronounced not guilty. That’s a slippery slope.

As a child, I became convinced that quicksand, which is a fascinating soil condition caused by a particular ratio of sand and water that forms a “shear thinning non Newtownian fluid” was something you needed to be prepared for as an adult. Stress the sand/water mix – say by stepping on it – and the sand and liquid will seperate and you’ll sink right in. The physics of it all are fascinating, and removing yourself from the quicksand is difficult and complicated. Trying to just pull yourself straight out would require titanic amounts of force. Your best bet, I’m told, is to slowly work your self into a position where you’re facing the sky and your limbs are spread out as far as you can manage (which is the same advice offered for those caught in avalanches of snow). Then you sort of wiggle and wriggle your body towards the solid ground direction that you came from. Contrary to popular belief, due to the relative material density of the quicksand and of your body, you likely won’t sink in past your waste even if you do panic and struggle. Those who die in quicksand do so due to hypothermia and or the arrival of carnivores. I don’t know if Flamingoes qualify as carnivores, and don’t want to find out.

As a note, quicksand has not turned out to be the ubiquitous problem when “adulting” that I thought it would be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s likely that you’ve experienced, when laying down to sleep, feeling your arms or legs suddenly twitch or jerk for no reason. That’s called a hypnic or “myoclonic jerk” by sleep specialists. It’s pretty normal, but the league of doctors aren’t of a single mind as to causation for the phenomena. On the other side of things, that period of 15-30 minutes when you first wake up and are experiencing both cognitive difficulty and motor skill impairment is called “Sleep Inertia.” Part of ir is caused by the presence of a certain chemical, and you’ve got a series of receptor cells in your brain for this chemical  called “Adenosine,” which is abundant in the noodle when you’re sleep deprived – which most of us are. Caffeine is a blocker for these Adenosine receptors, and that’s why if you haven’t had enough sleep a “cuppa Joe” will help snap you out of the sleep inertia. Saying that, it’s still pretty normal to be a bit groggy when you wake up, since your body has been in an anabolic state and busy cleaning up the mess you made of it the day before. The natural process of waking up involves a spike in cortisol levels in your blood, wherein the adrenal glands can manufacture an average of more than fifty percent more cortisol than when asleep. Ultimately, Cortisol levels are the difference between “morning people” and “evening people,” which is thought to be related to individual “cortisol awakening response.”

A humble narrator has always been the latter, a “night owl” as it’s called. I’ve never been a Flamingo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The section of the East River pictured above varies in depth from about twenty five to fifty one feet, which you can visualize by thinking about submerging a series of buildings which range from two to five stories. If the Empire State Building ever found itself sitting in the middle of the East River, and hey… climate change, amiright?… it would still rise some ninety seven to one hundred stories into the sky. A couple of years ago, somebody asked me to do a boat tour of shipwrecks in New York Harbor, but it seems that wrecks are cleared out in an expeditious fashion as they’d otherwise be a hazard to navigation and commerce. So, I believe, are flamingoes.

Hope you enjoyed today’s completely random trivia, back on Monday with something completely different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 8, 2019 at 11:00 am

averring that

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Lurking, in fear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, I was a bit restless and in need of some exercise, so a short scuttle ensued. As I was making my way, a group of adolescents was noticed walking on the other side of the street which induced a state of panic in me. Was this a wolf pack? Juvenile delinquents? An amoral band of street gypsies, or urban privateers? Junior stick up men? Cowering behind a cast off cardboard box, I noticed that a few new holes had appeared in the fencelines at the Sunnyside Yards and one decided to pass the behind the box time spent hiding from the teenagers by sticking my lens through these new chain link apertures.

Teenagers are scary. I was cold, and I think there might have been wolves – or ghost wolves – following me. Ghost wolves are scarier than either teenagers or regular wolves because… y’know… ghosts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards from the 39th street or Harold Avenue viaduct, towards the balloon track at Sunnyside Yards. No ghosts are apparent in this shot, but that’s no guarantee that there wasn’t some spectral tomb legion staring back up at me from the oily mud below. I’ve repeatedly asked my landlord if anybody has ever died in my apartment, but he’s always pretended that he didn’t hear the query. It would explain some of the hot water issues enjoyed at HQ in Astoria, were there a few extra invisible people showering at inconvenient times in the other units, but I really have no way of knowing.

Supposedly, there’s about seven million people in NYC these days. Historically speaking, there’s got to be at least a quarter billion ghosts roaming around the five boroughs, maybe even half a billion. That’s a lot of ghosts. I wonder how many of the living seven million are teenagers, though, as that’s the population I really worry about. Ghosts have impulse control, teenagers don’t. Teenagers are the absolute worst.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ghost wolves are scary to contemplate, but what about ghost teenagers? I knew a few people who died in High School and college through a variety of mishaps – mainly car accidents or drug overdoses, or some combination thereof. How many people have checked out at the corner of Northern Blvd. and Steinway over the centuries? Ok, it’s only been Northern Blvd. for about eighty years and Steinway for just over a hundred and change, yes, so let’s just call it the intersection of Jackson and Harold Avenues? Ok?

Ghosts.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2019 at 1:00 pm

deeply worried

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Scuttling, always scuttling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Don’t worry, a humble narrator won’t be waxing all philosophic or talking about camera settings in today’s post. Instead, a few odds and ends collected or encountered when wandering home from industrial Mapseth last weekend at night are on offer. If you’re wondering, yes I was wearing my reflective construction vest over the filthy black raincoat. As is my habit, main streets are avoided, as I prefer to wander along the fencelines of cemeteries and abandoned factories. These lanes less travelled, however, are often badly lit and act as high speed byways for errant vehicles. Best to stay visible.

Also, for some reason, when I’m wearing the vest, nobody asks me why – or of what – I’m taking pictures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Carridor, or Northern Blvd. if you must, hosts a large number of used car dealerships. You often get to see a semi truck tagged with southern state plates hauling a delivery of cars here at night, and witness the frenetic unloading of vehicles which will be marked up and put on sale at the lots.

By me, it always makes for interesting photos, filed under “you don’t see that every day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I suppose this scene is technically found in Woodside, although ai normally associate this zone with Maspeth. It’s actually Borden Avenue down below the elevated Long Island Expressway, which runs between Second and Third Calvary Cemeteries.

A visually interesting and lonely spot, and another one of the dimly lit corridors found in the Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 25, 2018 at 11:00 am

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