The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Queens’ Category

calloused outlook

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A few shots from the Degnon Terminal, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Modernity knows the complex of cyclopean factory buildings along Thomson Avenue in Long Island City as the campus of LaGuardia Community College. If – like me – you can see through time to earlier ages, you know that Thomson Avenue was named for the guy who used to own the Neptune Water Meter company over on Jackson Avenue, a recently demolished building which in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries was the home of 5ptz. You’d know that until the start of the 20th century, this area was a pestilential mosquito breeding swamp known as the waste meadows, and that it wasn’t until the Pennsylvania Railroad decided to site their Sunnyside Yard nearby that the swamp was drained and filled in.

The waste meadows were owned by the estate of a former Governor of New York State named Roscoe P. Flowers, and their acreage was bought up by the Degnon Terminal Realty company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Michael Degnon was a contractor who could accomplish the impossible during the age of “progress” in the newly consolidated City of Greater New York. He came to prominence installing the masonry cladding of the Williamsburg Bridge and finishing the subway tunnels which August Belmont and William Steinway had started. The rock “spoils” which were produced when mining the subway tunnels connecting Queens and Manhattan were brought here to LIC, raising the land to a high and dry condition. Degnon began to sell his land off to large industrial concerns, and constructed their factories for them. His Degnon Terminal offered a “terminal railway” which allowed for shipping connections to maritime barge and cargo ships at Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, as well as direct connections to the Long Island Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad trackages on the LIRR’s Lower Montauk and Main Line. Additionally, connections to the New York Connecting Railroad and the Hell Gate bridge were possible as well. Degnon is buried in First Calvary Cemetery if you’d like to leave him some flowers.

As the Queens Chamber of Commerce called it contemporaneously, Queens was the “Borough of Homes and Industry” a hundred years ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just this last week, a meeting of the “Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group” was held at one of CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College buildings in the former Degnon Terminal, and as is my habit – the camera was deployed before and after the meeting. The shot above looks north in the direction of the Sunnyside Yard and you can just see the arch of the Hell Gate Bridge on the horizon. That yellow streak is the IRT Flushing Line – or 7 train – moving through the shot while the shutter was open for about fifteen seconds.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

silent laboratory

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A few more shots from industrial Maspeth, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a section of Maspeth which one refers to as the “crane district,” which is distinct from the hammock district. Actually, there no hammock district, just cranes. Whenever I’m waving the camera around at the sort of thing pictured above, I set it to a fairly narrow aperture and slightly overexpose the shot. The goal is to get a super saturated set of colors and to have every screw, lug, and rivet render in sharp relief. For those of you who have asked, that’s the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. The former is when you say “hey look at that” and the latter involves a visualized goal and thought process about how to achieve what you want the final product to look like.

Ultimately, I wanted the crane truck to look a bit like a kids die cast metal toy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is a stunning amount of litter in industrial Maspeth. A lot of it is quite dangerous, as in the case of the tempered glass windows I encountered that someone had the good sense to shatter when they were abandoning them. Illegal dumping is a city wide phenomena, but it seems that the industrial zones are particularly good places to abandon unwanted items. The comedy of it all is that Maspeth is the destination point for a significant amount of commercial and municipal waste by statute, and the folks handling said cargo are pretty responsible as far as how they handle the stuff.

Saying that, there’s shattered and powderized glass everywhere you look around these parts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m hardly a saint in this category, but a humble narrator is the sort of fellow who pockets his personal waste products while moving around the great urban hive, carrying them until a proper receptacle is discovered. You don’t have to look too long, in my experience, before a municipal waste basket or a dumpster will appear. Others, it seems, are less patient than a humble narrator.

I mean, you’ve just drank a half gallon of milk, why not just pitch the empty container to the curb?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is one of the many, many municipal solid waste trailers parked in the industrial zone around Newtown Creek (and elsewhere, if you’re anywhere near a sewer plant, you’ll see or scent them) that stink of sewer solids, which the (now) NYC Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection tells me I’m imagining. This particular one has been parked here in industrial Maspeth so long that the steel legs of the thing have begun to bend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All winter, I was commenting to myself (and I think I even mentioned it here, at your Newtown Pentacle, not long ago) that the abundance of “dead things” normally encountered around the Newtown Creek’s watershed districts had leveled off. That trend has reversed in recent weeks, with an abundance of dead birds encountered on area streets.

Newtown Creek is kind of “death prone.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s the sort of stuff you encounter in the crane district of industrial Maspeth, back tomorrow with something entirely different.

Also, check out the tour offers below, they’re both being offered at special low rates. Greenpoint and the 520 Kingsland Green Roof this Friday, and a Skillman Avenue walk with Access Queens on Saturday the 30th.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

muttered formulae

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Deadman’s curve and the Pratt Oil Works, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, one would not be seen marching along the LIRR tracks in Blissville, but I had my reasons. It was a Sunday afternoon, anyway, meaning that the chances of there being any rail traffic at all on the Lower Montauk would be slim to none so I decided that it would be a good time to throw the dice and hope that I wouldn’t get squished by a passing locomotive. There’s plenty of places to dive out of the way, if I were able to discern an approaching train, but that’s kind of the issue – trains move pretty quickly and the physics of how sound moves around the air dam created by the engine as it’s moving seriously reduce the “early warning” time. Saying all that, I didn’t get squished, but do not recommend you chance it yourself. It is illegal trespass, after all.

Me, I was scoping out the latest wrinkle in the environmental story around the fabled Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I went to a meeting a couple of weeks ago at the NYS DEC offices in Long Island City, which discussed the “Pratt Oil Works Site” or as I’ve been referring to it for several years – “The Queens County Oil Works of Charles Pratt” or alternatively “The Blissville Seep.” ExxonMobil has taken responsibility for the site, which ultimately used to belong to its corporate parent Standard Oil, and has (under DEC guidance) begun the process of siphoning “product” out of the ground. Said product, the ExxonMobil folks said, is distinct from the liquid product which has been oozing from the Creek side bulkheads into the water. The modern day owner of the site is largely the Waste Management company, which operates a waste transfer station along Railroad Avenue that handles DSNY collections and loads up the Garbage Train. Said garbage train provides framing in the shot above. The Queens County Oil Works was in operation from 1842-1949, whereupon the property was subdivided and sold off. ExxonMobil representatives described the materials their contractor Roux will siphoning out of the ground as “Lube Oil and wax” and the petroleum product oozing into the Creek as “LNAPL” or Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid. LNAPL is lighter than water and floats on top of ground water.

ExxonMobil’s contractors, Roux Associates, who handle the Greenpoint Oil Spill for them directly across the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, has been activated to handle the Blissville situation. Roux has installed 62 wells on the property, 42 of which are recovery wells and the other 20 are monitoring wells. Waste Management, separately, has several issues they’re dealing with on the site, including a high level of acidity in the soil and the presence of toxic chemicals – specifically Toluene and Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds. Waste Management will be aerosolizing these chemicals, meaning that they will be using a process called “SPARGing” which will release them into the open air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

ExxonMobil representatives were cagey about the quantity of “product” in the ground, even after I confronted them about specifics. Saying that, I’m certain they know exactly what’s down there, as engineers who have installed 62 wells don’t just do so randomly and hope for the best. Waste Management claimed that their timeline for remediation of both the soil ph conditions and the presence of “chemicals of concern” would be four to eight years, whereas the ExxonMobil folks said it’s an open process and wouldn’t commit to a timeline.

Oddly enough, a review of the combined project’s boundaries corresponds neatly to the property lines of the former Queens County Oil works. Luckily for Blissville, here in Queens, subterranean oil deposits respect above ground political and property lines. If you are technically minded, or just curious enough to “get it straight from the horse’s mouth,” follow this link for the NYS DEC fact sheet.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

abstract malingering

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A sudden explosion of cast off gloves, observed, makes one wonder if the Queens Cobbler has been joined by a new fiend whom I’ve been referring to as the “Queens Gaunter.” The name “Gaunter” is derived from a fairly archaic English, incidentally, and it’s from the same root of the word which “Gauntlet” comes from. In the Industrial Age, the name of the profession became the rather plain “glove maker” in the case of male oriented hand coverings, whereas lady gloves were prepared by milliners. That’s a work glove pictured above, which is unisex, and it was found in Maspeth. Perhaps the “Maspeth Milliner” rather than “Queens Gaunter,” with the latter having a bit more of a salubrious “roll off the tongue” should be used for this recently discovered companion to the Queens Cobbler? You can record your preferences in the comments, Queensicans.

One doubts that this red handed glove is in anyway related to the Ulster based “Red Hand Commandos” of West Belfast, incidentally, but you never know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down at my beloved Newtown Creek the other day, one grew fascinated by these derelict piles along the former Phelps Dodge property’s waterfront. One whipped out the tripod, lowered the camera’s ISO and narrowed the lens’s aperture to its absolute in pursuance of “slowing the shot down.” This is the exact moment when I decided that I have to buy an ND filter next time I’m at “beards and hats” over in the city, incidentally. I really, really wanted to turn the water into a milky smear with perfectly glassine reflectivity here.

These piles supported a heavy pier which had rail tracks on it, once. Most of the property which Phelps Dodge used to operate on is fill. There’s a congressional act, whose name escapes me at this writing, which allows for corporate entities to buy underwater property along industrial waterways like Newtown Creek as long as they “improve” it by filling it in. This process was usually accomplished by building heavy timber box frames that were then submerged and loaded up with whatever material the industrial concern wished to use. In the case of Phelps, it was industrial slag from their copper refining operation mixed with rock and soil.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Industrial Maspeth, which one has repeatedly described as being his “happy place,” seldom disappoints the wandering mendicant and itinerant shutterbug. Encountered at the Kosciuszcko Bridge construction site, this array of spent coffee cups embedded in the chain link of a hurricane fence entranced me.

Next week, I’ll update y’all on the progress that the NYS DOT is making on phase 2 of the bridge project, so there’s something to live for.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

sounding concurrency

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Long Island City, all right!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A late evening walk recently found me scuttling down Skillman Avenue in the direction of “proper” Long Island City, with the intention of gathering a few night shots. That’s the bike lane which the Bicycle Fanatics have designated as being the only possible way to vouchsafe entry to the Queensboro Bridge, and eliminate the lakes of cyclist blood which they describe as flowing freely in the streets due to the presence of automobiles. Their fix for this is to put as many bicycles in the path of as many automobiles as you can find, which in the case of Queens is Queens Plaza.

I found out why the Bicycle Fanatics don’t like the Northern Blvd. route that I’ve suggested a few times… turns out Northern is a NYS controlled road and their lapdog Mayor can’t grandstand there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The red light district of LIC isn’t so called for the usual reasons – involving ladies of the evening and the flesh trade. Instead… well… there’s a bunch of red lights installed on the construction sheds.

I’m sure that the red lights indicate something, as there’s regular white lights installed as well. If you’re in the subway, whenever you see a blue light, that means you’ve found a stairway leading to an exit of one kind or another installed along the tunnels. Always remember, a way out is also a way in, which is something that can come in handy in case of an illegal Space Alien invasion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unpredictability seems to have been the watchword of late here in Queens when the subject turns to the weather. It had been a fairly lovely evening when I started out, but a storm was going to herald the arrival of another temperature inversion and the first “spritz” of rain was beginning to appear in the air. One last tripod setup on Jackson Avenue, focused in on the Court Square station and the Sapphire Megalith of Long Island City was made serendipitous by the sudden passage of a NYCTA Bus through the frame.

Luckily, it got stuck at the light during one of the long exposure images which I was collecting all evening.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2018 at 11:00 am

blind courage

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Luggage, shoe, gloves – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since I am a vast physical coward, and feckless quisling, the normalized habit of a humble narrator is to avoid the horror of meeting another’s gaze by staring down at the pavement while scuttling along his path. This helps one pretend that others are not pointing, laughing, or otherwise reacting in shocked horror as he waxes and wanes through their visual field. The plus is that I seldom miss the discarded items which others strew across the public way. Most modern New Yorkers seem to leave a debris field of manufactured items behind in their wake, much like a torpedo stricken merchant ship would as it steams inexorably forward into the open sea with a crew of dead and dying men onboard.

The suitcase pictured above… what redolent cargo might it have hidden? The fetus of an albino Gorilla? A fortune in narcotics? A few pairs of dirty socks and a t-shirt? Never will I know, having been too wracked with terror to investigate any further than by recording its presence photographically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On 31st Avenue at Crescent Street in Astoria, just a few days after encountering the portentous luggage, evidence of the latest outrage by the Queens Cobbler was observed. A likely serial killer whose ghoulish delight is leaving behind a singular shoe as a taunt to law enforcement and wholesome community members alike, the Queens Cobbler has been mentioned many times at this – your Newtown Pentacle. Last Christmas, the monster signaled that he or she knew where my home address was – as described in this post. This isn’t the first time that I’ve found a child’s shoe, as a note.

I fear you no more than every other living human being, Cobbler, which is absolutely and completely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough, I’ve been seeing a lot of gloves lately, positioned neatly on the sidewalks upon which they were evulsed.

You don’t suppose that there’s a Queens Gaunter running about as well?


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 31, 2018 at 11:00 am

hellish import

with one comment

Ridgewood, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking a short break this week, and you’ll be greeted with single shots when visiting this – your Newtown Pentacle. Trust that I’m out and about gathering new tales to tell and photographs to display.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Queens, Ridgewood

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