The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Queens’ Category

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

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

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

heavy spring

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It’s National Liver and Onions Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is deep within a web of “have to’s,” “wish I hadn’t’s,” and “should have done better’s” at the moment. All of this coincides with a fiendishly tight schedule of “things to do.” Luckily, after Friday, my burdens will ease up a bit. In the meanwhile, it feels like I’ve drank too much coffee too quickly.

As a note, as you’re reading this, I’ve been onboard a boat with the Waterfront Alliance and attending their annual harbor conference for a good couple of hours. Odds are pretty good that I’ve annoyed the Mayor and several other elected officials by now with stupid questions, asnine observations, and generally sarcastic comments. It’s what I do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was wandering though Sunnyside the other day, this bagged bear was spotted and it’s probably the saddest thing I’ve seen in a while. My thoughts as I was shooting it were along the lines of “well, I guess somebody’s childhood just ended” and “wow, that’s just weird looking.”

I also considered the idea of grabbing the thing and finding it a home at a clothing bin or in front of a church, as it was in fairly pristine shape, but I’m a big softie when it comes to stuffed toys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I found it odd that the bear was in a recycling bag, incidentally. Who recycles a stuffed toy?

Curious. 


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 10, 2017 at 11:00 am

short pursuit

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Zuzu the dog is pictured above, and she has been growing ever more “crotchety” as she’s grown older. She does not like it when one leaves her alone in the house, no matter the cause. Notice the amount of smoke she’s blowing at me there, and she was giving me the side or horse eye while I was calling her inside from her perch on the porch. I had to go, as there was some business I needed to attend to during the evening over in LIC, and I also wanted to get some shooting time in as well. Zuzu, however, was having none of that.

Promising her that we would go for a walk when I got back home, she nevertheless angrily slunk past me, and then dove right into the bath tub. This is how she signals her displeasure, my dog. She has become a canine Jewish mother, my dog.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path carried me first through the Dutch Kills neighborhood and into Queens Plaza, which is in the middle of a dystopian construction boom, on my way to Hunters Point. Nightmares in sapphire glass, these titan things just keep on going up. The real estate shit flies may have stolen the sky, but at least we can still see the reflections of it in the mirror facades of the residential slabs they’ve thrown at it. They don’t need to build supermarkets or anything like that around here, since FreshDirect is nearby, found along the Newtown Creek.

Soon, every midwestern trustfundafarian’s dream of living on the site of a former chemical factory in Queens Plaza can be realized. Progress is achieved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was walking down 29th st. in Dutch Kills, this interesting bit of street furniture was observed. It was right in front of the Flux Factory, so it’s entirely possible that this was “art.” Saying that, in my experience, when you leave a toilet on the street, somebody will use it for the purpose it intended for whether or not it’s hooked up to plumbing.

Also – gentlemen, please remember to leave the seat down for the ladies.


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 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

revenue sloop

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It’s National Coconut Cream Pie day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a story about yet another Astoria Hullabaloo, this one involving the NYC DEP. Back in the third week of March, whilst walking Zuzu the dog along her normal sniffing route, one noticed liquid bubbling up out of a manhole – or access cover – on 44th street midway between Broadway and 34th Avenue here in Astoria. Back then, it was a slow flowing trickle of water – maybe five gallons an hour.

A week later, on the 29th of March I had the dog out again for her outing, after noticing that the flow of water had increased significantly, I finally shrugged my shoulders and accepted the fact that since no one else was going to do anything about this situation before the street exploded in a geyser – I called 311 and reported the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first week of April arrived and after querying the neighbors about whether or not anyone had shown up to investigate, one was not surprised that – in fact – no one from the NYC DEP had shown up at all. Don’t forget that the borough motto is “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.”

If it’s water related, DEP is the agency that handles investigation and repair, in terms of the City process. Procedurally – if it’s their pipe, they send out a city crew or contractor to fix it, if not – they figure out whose pipe it is and write an order for the property owner. This is pretty straight forward. Ultimately, you don’t fool around with any of the four primal elements, whether it be fire, water, air, or stone.

The first week of April is when I called Councilmember Van Bramer’s office and apprised his staff of the situation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DEP said that “they were aware of the leak and keeping an eye on it.” By the second week of April, the water flowing down 44th street had gained in volume and flow, and was fast becoming a stream. Wind blown trash began to catch in the curbside puddles and rivulets, and was being carried towards the corner of Broadway by the water.

There it was carried into the catch basin and into the sewer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other access covers along the path of the water, like this electrical one, were inundated and in some cases completely underwater. During the second week of April, I called Councimember Van Bramer’s office again to inquire if they had heard any news about the leak. They were under the impression that DEP was working on it.

Note – The NY&QEL&PCo screed on the hatch cover stands for “New York and Queens Electric Light and Power Company” (incorporated 1901, absorbed by Edison in 1913), which is one of the 170 smaller gas and electric corporations that were “consolidated” into the CONED conglomerate during the 20th century.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While all of this back and forth was going on, the leak grew larger and larger.

A now constant flow of water, roughly equivalent to letting a garden hose endlessly empty into the street, was moving north on 44th street from the bubbling manhole cover at mid block. At this point, I had made contact with someone I know at DEP and made the upper management of the agency aware of the situation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a fairly modern Consolidated Edison transformer pit access cover in the shot above, which was under a couple of inches of flowing water for most of the month of April. Remember last summer, when I told you about the transformer explosion and fire on my corner? If you’re asking yourself “why does he care about this stuff,” that’s why.

The first week of May is when I hit my breaking point with this situation, as I watched my friends who run the bodega across the street from HQ get a ticket from a Sanitation Cop, who was fining them for the water swept garbage that this flowing stream continuously transported in front of their shop and into the sewer catch basin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the second week of April, some of the neighborhood fellas on the block had put out chairs and set up a hookah, saying that they had decided to sit by the water.

That’s the source of the leak, another NY&QEL&PCo access cover found mid block on 44th street, in a photo shot on May 2nd.

It had been bubbling like this for about five weeks at this point and the flow was still increasing daily. I called Councilmember Van Bramer’s office again, his staff was frankly stunned that the situation was still ongoing, and I also informed them of the unfairness of the ticket received by my buddies at the bodega.

Team JVB jumped into serious action at this point. Seriously, when it comes to quality of life issues, Team JVB is best of breed and sets a standard which the rest of the City should be envious of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I specifically asked them to conspicuously use my name with DEP, and to say “yes, that Mitch Waxman, the one from Newtown Creek.” Now to be clear, Councilmember Van Bramer certainly does not need any help in being taken seriously, but when the subject of the DEP comes up… I’m sort of the fly in their ointment, along the Newtown Creek, and there’s precious few of the “bigwigs” who haven’t suffered my wrath… so I knew that when the Commissioner’s office saw my name attached…

I don’t play nice with people who lie to me on a regular basis. They know I can be mean spirited, routinely ask pointed questions, and will not just accept their pronouncements at face value.

water main

video by Mitch Waxman

An atypical video (for Newtown Pentacle) is offered above, depicting the bubbling water sometime around the end of April.

On Friday, May 5th, DEP investigators finally responded to the gathering storm and determined that the leak was not coming from a city owned pipe, rather it was a residential connection that was leaking due to a tree root infiltrating it. The home owner who owns the pipe is now on the hook for not just the repairs, but also paying for the thousands of gallons of water which were released (last I checked, that’s $1.36 per 100 gallons). An uncalculable amount of garbage and street trash was also swept into the sewer system. The bodega guys are appealing the sanitation ticket. Team Van Bramer could have been spending their time on more useful things. I had other things to do as well.

Perhaps, just perhaps, if the DEP had inspected and assessed the situation back in March in response to the initial 311 call – this whole chain of events could have been avoided.

Just another Astoria Hullabaloo, I guess.


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 8, 2017 at 11:00 am

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