The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Pickman’ Category

subaqueous civilization 

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The camera was desperate for an adventure last week, so a humble narrator acquiesced and took it out on the water for the Working Harbor Committee‘s Education tour. The Education tour is a private event, a boat trip which is conducted for school groups that culminates a program of classroom instruction on the subject of the harbor of New York and New Jersey. There’s a lot of great jobs at the Port, and for some reason most New Yorkers don’t consider it an option when they’re looking for work.

It ain’t just longshoremen or sailor type stuff either, as Ed Kelly from the Maritime Association and Andrew Genn from the NYC EDC explained to the hundred or so high school students who were onboard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, one had to cross through the cursed earth of Manhattan to get to the WHC boat at Pier 11, which is roughly in line with Governeur Lane down in the financial district. This was in the midst of that sudden three day heat wave last week, so rather than walk in to town from Astoria or take the Ferry from LIC (my preference for such excursions) I just jumped on the subway. Why it takes so long to get from “a to b” these days is a complete mystery to me, as the trip ultimately resolves down to around 8 miles.

The good news is that on the way home, I used the Citywide ferry service to return to the blessed and heavy metals rich soil of Queens. I’m planning on hitting the new Rockaway Route soon, btw, as soon as my schedule allows it. It has been a very, very busy month of May for a humble narrator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the new Citywide Ferry service, I still haven’t ridden on one of the new Hornblower model ferries. The one that met me for the trip home was an older but super reliable NY Waterways version, the model which has been servicing the East River route for several years now. While the boat was making its regular stops, I spotted this little push boat tug towing a barge which had a crane set upon it. Couldn’t resist popping out a few shots of the thing.

The camera slept well that night, after having gotten some exercise and a bit of a workout on the water.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 7 p.m.

An hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

thermal valence

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It’s National Vanilla Pudding Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had a just few available minutes last week for perambulation, which I decided to spend wandering around Astoria. It has been a rather busy period for me, with lots and lots of events which saw me either standing in front of cameras instead of behind them (where I belong), or in meetings discussing sobering issues related to either Newtown Creek or the increasingly dire transit situation here in Western Queens. Looming infrastructure crisis notwithstanding, the interests of the real estate industry continue to dominate discourse hereabouts, as you may discern from the shot above.

This is the scene as witnessed across the street from Hallets Cove, where Astoria itself was created – in the dim colonial era past – and where a new series of residential towers will soon rise, thanks to the provocation of a group of politically relevant Manhattan based investors who have decided to tie napkins around their necks and feast at the trough. This is somehow apropo, as the name of “Astoria” was conceived in an vainglorious attempt to garner the favor and investment of Mr. John Jacob Astor – who was himself an 18th century real estate tycoon. Some things never change.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dead things abound in the Newtown Pentacle, skeletonized and worm infested. Metaphorical totems of the community members who can afford housing hereabouts whom are being displaced in the name of creating affordable housing, that’s my high brow and faux intellectual comment on these omnipresent corpses. Of course, who needs to listen to some shmuck with a camera’s opinions about a dead pigeon when there’s money to be made.

The question I always ask the planners, engineers, and developers when they wheel out their grand plans and PowerPoint presentations to Queens, in order to hash off a check box requiring a community presentation is “Where do you live?”. All they know of us, our community, and the local situation is what they know from maps that are spread out on the varnished cabinetry tabletops which are found in the air conditioned offices of lower Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having worked in advertising for many years, one can tell you that there’s certain lines of “copy” which I’ve dreamt of setting. “Please Do Not Climb on the Goats” is one of those lines, and this bit of hilarious signage was observed at the Socrates Sculpture Garden Park on Vernon Blvd. nearby its intersection with Broadway.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 7 p.m.

An hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 22, 2017 at 11:40 am

oblique realizations

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It’s National Chicken Nuggets Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, obligation found one heading into accursed Manhattan.

As is my habit, I stare at the sidewalk whilst walking through the Shining City lest its gaudy lures and attractions infect or tempt me. Of course, given my predilection and interest involving manhole – or access – covers, this habit often pays out certain dividends for the wandering and historically minded mendicant.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted along the Hudson River just north of Houston Street, a fairly old (as indicated by its shape) access cover for the Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Company. It’s an electrical one, as indicated by the hatch marks.

Part of the modern day Consolidated Edison company, Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Company was organized in 1885 with the intention of moving overhead carrier wires off of utility poles and then burying them in subterranean conduits which wiggle about beneath the streets. I would presume that Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Company was brought into the larger CONED conglomerate back in 1913, along with a bunch of other smaller companies and systems, but that’s just an educated guess.

from caselaw.findlaw.com

In the year 1884, the legislature of the state of New York required that ‘all telegraph, telephonic, and electric light wires’ in certain cities-New York and Brooklyn-should be placed under the surface of the streets (Laws of 1884, chap. 534). Under the authority of a statute passed in the next year (Laws of 1885, chap. 499, amended by Laws of 1886, chap. 503), the board of commissioners of electric subways adopted a plan by which the city of New York should enter into a contract with a company to construct the necessary subways, etc., which other companies operating electrical wires should be compelled to use, paying therefor a reasonable rent. Under contracts made accordingly and ratified by the legislature ( Laws of 1887, chap. 716), subways, etc., were constructed by the Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in the Greenwich Village section, this similarly ancient sewer hatch was observed, bearing the screed of “Borough of Manhattan – Bureau of Sewers.” Now, here’s how you “do some of the math” on these things: “Borough” indicates that it dates back to no earlier than 1898 when the consolidated City of Greater New York introduced the concept of the five boroughs to the world. My guess would be that this hatch was placed sometime between 1898 and 1910. You’ll also notice that the identifying system seen on the more modern manholes covers is absent, which would require hexagons as part of the design to indicate its purpose as a wastewater pipe. 

As I’ve said before – Federal Roadway regulations state a preference for State and Local governments to either replace an access cover with an exact copy from the original foundry, or just leave the old one in place. This means, since most of these things were put in place before the World Wars of the early 20th century, there are iron or steel discs adorning the “via publica” which can tell the tale of Municipal organization, consolidation, dissolution, and indeed gentrification which are scattered about and barely noticed by most.

A precursor agency of the modern day DEP was the Borough of Manhattan – Bureau of Sewers. The DEP was formed in 1983 during a City Charter revision, incidentally, consolidating several independent bureaucracies into one massive agency that handles the delivery of potable water to the City, the operations and maintenance of the storm water and sanitary sewers, and a bunch of stuff that doesn’t involve getting wet – like noise complaints, air issues, chemical spills, all those sorts of things.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

wide remark

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It’s National Cheese Souflee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So far, I’ve never tired of seeing the old Koscisuzcko Bridge from the roadway of the new one, but then again its only been around three weeks that the thing has been open. One is curious as to the reactions all of y’all have had at the sight of the new span, how it’s been working out for you so far, all that sort of thing. I’m on the Stakeholders Advisory Committee, so if there’s something specific or pithy you’d want me to bring to officialdom, let me know and I’ll pass it on to the powers that be.

Today’s first two shots were captured from behind the windshield of a car, in case you’re wondering. What I was doing in an automobile, of all things, is something which I’ll tell you about in a future post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The driver of the car I was in is one of my neighbors from back here in Astoria, if you’re curious, but I had engaged his services in the context of his being a professional and TLC licensed driver. Again, I’ll tell you why I needed a ride at a later date. Our path didn’t just include a crossing of the Koscisuzcko Bridge, but also involved a trip into the City as well. That’s the Roosevelt Island Tram hurtling over the Queensboro Bridge, pictured above. Very exciting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weeks ago, I conducted a Newtown Creek tour for a group of European college students, and my pals at Sims Metal Management were gracious enough to allow the group to visit the Newtown Creek Pier facility maintained by the recycling company. Sims has a contract with DSNY to handle the “MGP” or “metal, plastic, glass” recyclable trash we put out on the curb, and they were engaged in the process of collecting it from the white packer trucks maintained by the agency for the task. The stuff ultimately gets barged out to another Sims facility, where it’s sorted.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

local matters

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been keeping an eye on the panel truck pictured above, which often parks on 43rd street alongside the Sunnyside Yards, which has been covered in increasingly literate graffiti over the last year. One was taken aback by the appearance of “The Federalist Papers” on it recently. It is my belief that Alexander Hamilton very well might have risen from the grave and picked up a can of krylon. Burr will likely be next to rise and begin a graffiti campaign. 

It would just like Hamilton (or Madison for that matter) to rise from the grave, just in the name of proving a point and pointing out how far we’ve strayed. Freaking Publius. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the sixth of June, a hilariously scheduled meeting with the NYC EDC is being hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce at the Bulova Center which will concern itself with the latter entity’s Sunnyside Yards decking proposal and feasibility study. A humble narrator will be waking up with the sun to be able to attend, and for those of you who care about things which Queens residents think about as being good for Queens, versus those things which Manhattan real estate interests think of as being good for Queens – I’d hope to see you there, at eight o’clock in the morning, on a Tuesday, in East Elmhurst. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The LA punk band Fear don’t exactly have “hits” as far as the pop music standard goes, but one of their catchier ditties is “New York’s Alright.” The choral segment of the late 70’s arrangement involves a growling rendition of the song’s title followed by “if you like saxophones.” Just last week when I was moving through the West 4th street station over in the City, on my way to the Waterfront Alliance annual conference, some fellow across the platform was honking out the Fear song on his sax. There were probably less than ten people in the station who recognized the song, or the irony.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

parenthetical ideation

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s no secret that we live in an age of real estate mega development, and that the skyline of NYC has been undergoing massive changes which we haven’t seen the like of since the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Unfortunately, so much of what is being built is uninspiring, and banal. Glass rectangles designed to maximize profit which offer no sense of wonder, inspiration, or esthetic joy. 

The exception to this modern rule is actually found in Manhattan, where what I consider to be the most interesting new building in NYC is found. It’s on West 57th street at the Hudson River – Bjarke Ingels’ W57. Check out this article at the Atlantic for all the details on it. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been watching this one go up from the water for a couple of years now, and it’s made me think a bit. I’m in a constant argument with both friends and enemies over rhetorical tone and grammar when it comes to political terminology. “Gentrification” is a bugbear word for me, especially when it refers to LIC or Greenpoint. What’s going on there isn’t gentrification – we haven’t coined a name for what’s happening along the East River coast of Long Island, yet. 

What happened in East Harlem and Park Slope in the 90’s – that was “gentrification.” Similarly, there’s no such thing as a “liberal” or a “conservative” or a “progressive” anymore, our culture is just stuck in a grammatical paradigm which was coined by an earlier generation (one which refuses to retire, much like the so called establishment it sought to replace in the 60’s)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Where NYC architects went wrong was the embrace of inhuman and emotionless architecture like the so called “international style,” which imparted a soulless and somewhat fascist countenance to the city. Ask a native New Yorker, and we will always point to the Chrysler, Empire State, and Woolworth buildings as the ones to embrace. Soulful and inspiring, these sorts of mega structures are loved and welcomed by communities rather than reviled. 

Hopefully, W57 will offer a lesson and act as a harbinger to the real estate shit flies out there. It’s not some “NIMBY” sentiment which activates community protests against their projects, rather it’s about avoiding the building of yet another banal glass rectangle whose singular purpose is “stealing the sky.” 


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

just off

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It’s National Eat What You Want Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Behind sapphire glass, in LIC, lurks a thing. Orbiting its unblinking three lobed eye, this impossible intelligence which cannot exist stares down on the world of men through azure mirrors which cloak its alien presence from all but those acolytes which serve its sinister whims. Pulsating with a fiendish genius and dire intent, this thing lurking in the cupola of the sapphire megalith of Long Island City is patient above all else. Soon, though, its time will be soon…

Glad to get that out of my system… 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have to believe that “NYC TS” stands for NYC Transit System, given that the access cover which the screed adorns is on Jackson Avenue in LIC more or less directly over the G train tunnel. The rondulets on the hatch indicate that there’s likely electrical equipment below. It’s possible that the wiring might be related to the nearby Pulaski Bridge, or to the bank of traffic signals found nearby, but then it would say “DOT” instead of “TS.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If the shots in today’s post appear a bit random, it’s because they are. I’m walking around a new lens this week, the Sigma 18-300 f3.5-6.3 zoom. It’s strictly a daylight lens, given that it’s not “bright” in the aperture department, but so far so good. Sigma has surprisingly handled barrel distortions quite well given the enormous range of the thing, but of course there’s still some present. It would be crazy to think otherwise.

Not abandoning the rest of my kit, mind you, but I just felt a desire to have a bit more versatility in range available on the fly – when I’m out scuttling about the concrete devastations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a week of carrying the thing, the only real complaint I have about it involves the lens’ communications with my camera’s light meter. The camera reports things as being at least a stop off of what the lens actually sees – over or under – and I’ve found that I have to continually check the preview screen while shooting to confirm my exposure. The other sigma lenses in my kit don’t have this issue, but they’re a bit more advanced and specialized (and far more expensive) than this newer one.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

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