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It’s global Rare Disease Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can you hear it yet? I mean the thunder. It’s hard to hear, I know, over the sound of the drums and bagpipes.

The NYC EDC recently released their feasibility study for the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards, and as a humble narrator predicted some 24 months ago – they believe it to be “doable.” The scale of the project, as described in the two documents they’ve released – one a twenty page “executive summary,” and the second a whopping two hundred and change page “full report” – is brobigdagnian. In essence, they propose building the Death Star along Northern Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One will be writing and speaking about this proposal extensively over the next few months. Study of the document is part of what was occupying my thoughts during the last couple of weeks when archive shots were being presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle. I’d recommend that you read the longer “product” rather than the executive summary, if you’re interested in existential issues which threaten to overwrite the way of life enjoyed by those of who live in southern Astoria, Dutch Kills, LIC, Sunnyside, and Woodside in the name of building luxury housing. The project, rolled out in the name of “affordability” actually discusses the fact that rents in the neighborhoods surrounding the Sunnyside Yards would go up instead of remaining static. Isn’t reducing scarcity the whole point of bringing new stock into the real estate market?

I will offer compliments to the EDC team, as this is a very well put together and thought out plan. Saying that, adding 14-24,000 apartments (70% Luxury/market and 30% “affordable”) with 5,300 parking spots and building 19 schools up on the deck isn’t going to address many of the issues familiar to Western Queens. The height of the deck is staggering – between three to seven stories over street grade along Northern Blvd. and nearly eleven stories along 43rd street in Sunnyside Gardens. The towers built on top of the deck would be another matter, and if a series of sixty story buildings are planned (they are), EDC would count the height of those stories starting at the deck – so a sixty story apartment house would in fact be seventy one stories were it built on the eastern side of the project (43rd street).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can you hear it yet? The thunder, I mean? I can tell you that they are going to be hearing it in the air conditioned offices of lower Manhattan, where this land grab was conceptualized by Michael Bloomberg’s right hand man Dan Doctoroff and then proposed by a feckless quisling, and unpopular populist – the Mayor of NYC, whom the children of Queens know as the Dope from Park Slope – Bill de Blasio. That vainglorious opportunist… don’t get me started on this throwback to the failures of the Dinkins administration, this fraudulent national aspirant, progressive in name only, his clueless and tone deaf Manhattancentric policies that are bought and sold by the Real Estate industry, or the echo chamber of vast personal and political hubris which he operates within.

Can they hear the thunder? Something wicked this way comes, they must be telling themselves, over in Manhattan. The bedroom communities of Western Queens have been awoken.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 28, 2017 at 1:00 pm

awestruck party

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It’s Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, in the states of California and Virginia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Throw your hands in the air, like you just don’t care.

That’s what most of the residents of Queens do when the subject of Newtown Creek comes up. That’s Brooklyn’s problem, not ours. Then I tell them about how the decisions affecting Queens are being made by the “transplant hipsters of Brooklyn” whom they revile, and that whereas Brooklyn is going to be getting new parks and other municipal goodies out of this Superfund thing… Queens is largely being left out of the equation. That riles the north shore peeps up a bit, but they still don’t get involved. Since the people of Queens are disinterested, so is elected officialdom.

Fish, or cut bait. If neither, then get out of the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always chalked it up to topography. If you’re in East Williamsburg, or Greenpoint, Newtown Creek is part of your life whenever you open your window. The Brooklyn, or south side, of the Newtown Creek hosts residential properties which are literally across the street from the bulkheads. The Queens, or north side, communities generally have a buffer zone of industrial buildings and highways separating them from the water. Newtown Creek is a half mile from residential Sunnyside.

In Queens, they complain about truck traffic, hipsters, and gentrification.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We are at a critical juncture, Newtown Creek wise. The science from all parties involved in the cleanup is beginning to be compiled. The DEP, in particular, is about to lock itself into a quarter century long program of construction and strategic maneuvering. Around a year or so from now, the oil and gas people will be doing the same and committing to a strategic course.

Ultimately, EPA will be doing the same thing and deciding on their course of action, but given the current political crisis in the Federal Government there is no real day to day guarantee that there will be an Environmental Protection Agency which resembles the current one.

What do clean and accessible waterways mean to President Trump and Steve Bannon?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is going to be a meeting, the latest of many, of the Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group (CAG) on the first of February. If the shot above looks good to you, and you’d like to see more of the same – don’t come. If you care about not having a billion and a half gallons of raw sewage a year spilling onto mounds of poisonous and century old industrial waste, do come. Pipe up, we need voices and perspectives from outside the echo chamber.

Details on the meeting – time, place, etc. – can be accessed at this link. We could use some Queensican bodies in the room.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post were gathered on the eastern side of the Newtown Creek, in Ridgewood and Maspeth. The environmental conditions in these industrial buffer zones are off the charts bad. You don’t have to look far to find dead birds, rats, all sorts of unlucky critters who innocently wandered in here. It wasn’t the Creek that killed them, it was the hundreds of heavy trucks.

As a note to Maspeth and Ridgewood residents – this is where the trucking you complain about comes from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a vision of what the future can hold for generations unborn that we have all been working for and towards. An industrial canal which also welcomes recreational boaters. An industrial canal which was the most significant job creation engine NYC has ever seen and which can be so again. A mixed use waterway in which business and the ecology operate hand in hand.

Ever heard of the “Maspeth heat island effect”? It’s the reason why your energy bills are so high during the summer, and it’s caused by the complete lack of green space in these industrial neighborhoods, which causes temperatures hereabouts to be ten or more degrees warmer during the summer than in surrounding communities. Is that Brooklyn’s problem? What about the trucks, or the garbage trains?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This post is meant to scold, and compel. Get involved, whatever your point of view is. The political elites of our City will not care unless you care.


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long quay

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It’s Australia Day, in the Commonwealth of Australia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m likely the only person in Astoria, Queens who exclaims “Hey, that’s the DEP” when he hears a random series of clinks and metallic groans coming from outside. I’m also likely to be the only person who grabs his camera and gets in on the action. It was the eleventh of January, a Wednesday, when it all started – a brand new Astoria Hullabaloo, and the first one of 2017, too. It was unseasonably warm that day in Astoria, and sunny.

Me? My names Mitch. I’m a shmuck with a camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Astoria’s Broadway in the shot above, in the 40’s. It’s a shopping strip, with tracks of the NYC Subway’s IND Queens Blvd. line running beneath it. The subway stations hereabouts opened on the 19th of August in 1933, and were paid for (in part) by money sent from the Federal Work Projects Administration during the New Deal. The modern day, as in 21st century, designation for the lines that pass by underneath are the “R” and “M.” In the recent past, the “V” and “G” lines used to service these stations as well.

The tracks have to be a good thirty to forty feet down below the roadway and housed in a cut and cover tunnel. The intervening void between the tracks and the asphalt hosts a heterogenous collection of wires, electrical equipment, concrete vaults, and lots of pipes. The pipes are why the DEP were on scene, but more on that in a moment.

Personally, I had to exit the area to attend a meeting, but later when I got home…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on the corner of Broadway and 45th street, here in Astoria, water was observed bubbling and spurting out of the street. A completely different DEP crew had shown up and they were settling down into the task of digging their way into the asphalt. They had all sorts of lovely equipment with them, which normally makes me jealous. What didn’t make me jealous was the fact that the temperature had dropped and there was now a slow drizzle of rain falling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was also positively ecstatic that a jackhammer was being used just one block from my house, at night, but what are you going to do? Water main breaks have to be addressed.

BTW, whereas I’m actually quite adversarial with the people in the fancy suits that run the DEP (Newtown Creek makes you mean), I’ve got nothing but praise for the “dirty fingernail” folks who do the actual hard work which keeps NYC both wet and dry. Never met a DEP worker I didn’t like, in fact. I’ve met a few Commissioners and other brass who I’d like to feed head first into a pit of zombies, but the workers are generally “A-OK.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Thursday the 12th of January, one had a bit of a busy day. A few errands in the neighborhood were accomplished before I had to go and take a picture of something for someone, and I noticed that several fire hydrants had been fully opened and were discharging into the gutter. This aroused no end of curiousity and amusement on the part of the neighbors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fun part was watching people who had their noses deeply buried in their phones suddenly realize that they had walked into several inches of water running towards the sewer grates.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m surmising here, but what I think was going on was that the DEP crew needed to empty the water in the affected pipe over on 45th street and did so by opening the fire hydrant.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Good news is that the streets around here have never been cleaner than they were on the morning of Thursday, January 12th.

When the Department of Sanitation, which I believe was originally styled as the Dept. of Street Cleaning at its creation on May 30,1881 (but didn’t do a very good job of it until Col. Waring took over in 1894), this was actually how they did their thing. Those old school sanitation workers with the brushes and pails that had wheels? Yep, they’d open Manhattan’s hydrants up and use their brooms to move all the trash either towards the sewers or down to the rivers, which were and are essentially the same thing. They started calling it the Department of Sanitation in 1929, if you’re curious.

This is about NYC DEP, though, a municipal agency which was created in 1983 out of multiple City agencies that governed water supply and sewerage, amongst other things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One sped off to my aforementioned appointment, pointed my camera at the intended target, and then headed back to Astoria later that afternoon. Hoping to see more of the Hullabaloo, one walked up 45th street towards Broadway and found that the DEP crews were still hard at work on solving the case of the Astoria Water Pipe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Upon arriving at the corner, one discovered that they had dug quite a hole, having brought in lots more labor and some heavy equipment. They had encountered a snag apparently, discovering that whoever had installed the damaged pipe (which could have been anytime between about 1875 and now, actually) had done so in an incorrect fashion.

They had to dig their way into the concrete barrel vault of the sewer in order to repair the leaking water main.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was one heck of a prodigious hole, however, and I complimented the foreman on his crew’s efforts. Funny thing was that he asked me who I was after noticing the camera hanging by my side, and seemed to recognize my name. That was sort of weird.

I asked if I could get a couple of shots of the hole, and he offered no objection.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They were all gone the morning of Friday the 13th, the street was patched with fresh asphalt, and garbage was again building up in middens along the curbs – normal, in other words – for Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yet another Hullabaloo, here in the ancient village.

One gathered up my little dog Zuzu for her constitutional stroll, and as we wandered down the pavement, I was wondering “Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there,” while Zuzu the dog grew apprehensive as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself began to drop away. She sniffed something on the air she did not like.

It was Friday the 13th eve, after all.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

nitrous cellar

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It’s National Whipped Cream Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards is the biggest construction project going on in Manhattan at the moment. Literally creating a new neighborhood out of a decked over rail yard, this project is what inspired the Dope from Park Slope – Mayor de Blasio – to call for the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards back in Queens. Were the Mayor savvy about… well, anything other than seemingly spending his time staring in the bathroom mirror and telling himself that he’s a progressive rather than the neoliberal that he actually is… construction and engineering, he’d realize that the conditions at Hudson Yards are conducive to such an endeavor and those in Queens are not.

The Big Little Mayor doesn’t realize that the tracks at Sunnyside Yards crisscross each other and are unevenly spaced, and that the ones at Hudson Yards are regular and parallel. Parallel allows you to insert steel columns between them, whereas crisscross doesn’t. There’s also logistical issues with creating a deck supported by those columns which is roughly one or two square blocks as opposed to an 183 square acre one. Also, Manhattan has hospital beds to spare, Penn Station and Herald Square are nearby, and they don’t have to worry about where their sewage will go (Newtown Creek WWTP, in Greenpoint, if you’re curious). There will be a surfeit of places to shop for food, but there’s always Fresh Direct (located along the Newtown Creek in LIC, if you’re curious).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The comparison between Hudson Yards and Sunnyside Yards is apt, in my mind at least, just in case you think I’m being obtuse or provocative. This is the other end of the Pennsylavnia Railroad’s urban rail system which the company installed in NYC during the early 20th century. The same buildout which saw the East River and Hudson River tunnels constructed, and that built the original Penn Station, built the Sunnyside Yards. The passenger trains you’ll notice spending their day in between rush hours at Sunnyside Yards are the same ones later visible at Hudson Yards. Sunnyside Yard is a “coach yard” which indicates it was designed for storage of rolling stock in between peak hours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the schedule at Penn demands, the trains which you see above at Hudson Yard are called into the tunnels underlying the west side of midtown Manhattan and brought over to the tracks where they’ll take on their customers and head for Eastern Long Island. For all of my lifetime, the Hudson Yards represented a giant hole in the west side of Manhattan. The Bloomberg administration initiated this investment and construction process, in accordance with the vow Michael Bloomberg made to “change the skyline of Manhattan” when he took office. I’m actually all for this one, but I don’t live here so my opinion really doesn’t matter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The idea behind this project is a “game changer” for what has come to be referred to as “midtown west” by the powers that be. I’ve heard idle chatter about the Javitz Center being replaced sometime in the near future, and certain ideas which seem to make sense on that subject include building a grand hotel on the footprint of the Javitz which rises to skyscraper heights, and which would include a mutiple story convention center at its footprint/base that isn’t a craphole (the Javitz Center is absolutely and undoubtedly a failed institution, a cesspool of municpal corruption, and absolutely a craphole with leaky Windows that doesn’t just lose money for the City and State – it hemorrhages it).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is looking north along the newly constructed buildings and deck. As far as I’m privy to, the deck isn’t meant to cover the still visible section of the train yard, but I might be wrong about that. The Real Estate Shit Flies are more than ambitious, credit is easily available to them, and borrowing it is at a historic level of cheap right now.

The only thing that holds back modern engineering is money.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was beginning to enter that daily arc which carries its emanations behind New Jersey, but I was still uncomfortably early for my assignation in Hells Kitchen. Regardless, as Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor admonished constantly in the Superman 2 film – “North, Ms. Tessmacher, north!”.

Crossing the West Side Highway, or West Street if you must – one last look at the Hudson Yards mega project was called for, and I began scuttling along the river side of the street. One was fairly sure that I’d taken my last photo, but boy was I wrong – as you’ll discover tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note – the shots in today’s post were captured from the latest section of the High Line, in case you want to go check out progress on the Hudson Yards mega project for yourself.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

dread aperture

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There’s so many of us, at least for a couple of hours each day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling down Skillman Avenue and approaching Queens Plaza, one was reminded of a conversation recently enjoyed with a locally deployed NYPD Commander about the unique nature of this area. For a couple of hours, each morning and evening, this is theoretically one of the most densely populated places on the planet, but the individual members of this population blob are seldom in the neighborhood for longer than a few minutes and they are in vehicular motion (however stunted) the whole time.

To put it simply, the multitudes moving through western Queens during the rush hours, on their way to work or home to other places – traveling by car, bus, subway, railroad, bicycle, or autogyro perhaps – create a statistically irrelevant but nonetheless astounding jump in the “persons per square foot” or population density of LIC. Thing is, lots of people elected to suffer a long commute when they moved to Eastern Queens, or Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Lots of time to read, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Statistical relevance is part of how planning decisions are made. It big math – “quant” stuff, actually, and beyond my understanding. The theory behind the relevance of statistical information is summed up by that quote from Josef Stalin that a single death is a tragedy whereas a million deaths are a statistic. A lot of policy decisions revolve around, or at least they’re supposed to, the greatest good for the greatest number.

“Greatest number” inherently means that someone gets left out, which translates as “not statistically relevant.” Planning of public works in recent decades has strived to expand and include traditionally marginalized groups, most notably folks with health related mobility issues – thanks to the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of public spaces and City buildings out there were formally denied to people in wheelchairs, since the era in which most of these public buildings were erected, the disabled population wasn’t considered as being “statistically relevant.”

Access to mass, affordable, and reliable transit – which parallels what’s available to “abled” people – still remains a problem, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Statistical relevance, I’m informed, is a big part of the algorithm under which the 311 service of NYC was designed to operate. One person from Blissville complaining to 311 about a cat in a tree is low priority and statistically irrelevant, but the City will send somebody out when they can. Twenty people from the same block call 311 about the cat? Help is on the way a lot faster, as the problem is now far more mathematically relevant and the City will send out Superman to investigate and mitigate.

Make me wonder what would happen if everybody who was commuting through Queens Plaza on any given day suddenly called 311 to complain about something.

Then again, I wonder why it is that everyone doesn’t vote on Election Day.


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engulfed in

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Stealing the Sky, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one was headed for Queens Plaza and accordingly marched down Jackson Avenue. The startling rapidity of construction going on in the area claws at my sanity, as in nearly half a century spent in NYC, I’ve never met anyone who said “Man, I really want to live in Queens Plaza.” Queens Plaza? Really?

The shot above is from about a week ago, specifically the morning of the 19th of November in 2016.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from June of 2015, and represents approximately the same point of view as the one above – although I was a little further west on Jackson Avenue than I was in the 2016 shot, and the N train is crossing the POV. LIC is one of the few spots in NYC these days where you can produce a “now and then” shot that only covers a 17 month interval.

Woof!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The two furthest buildings are going up on the site of the former West Chemical factory, which is classified as a NYS Brownfield Opportunity Area – meaning there’s a bunch of “yuck” in the ground left over from the age of industry. According to various sources, this construction you’re looking at – in Queens Plaza – will bring something like 1,800 apartments online in the next couple of years, and represents more than a million square feet of development. That’s a lot of toilets flushing into the decrepit Bowery Bay sewer plant, which overflows into Newtown Creek.

Stealing the sky, indeed.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

abominations and blasphemies

with 2 comments

Fight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze upon the Newtown Creek. Currently an EPA Superfund site. Is it going to be one for long? Will there be an EPA this time next year? Would this be a good place, instead, to site a black and gold casino? I’ve been considering the Trump victory, and its implications. I’ve been reading a bunch of stuff written by people like myself, who thought the Presidential Election would be a logical slam dunk in favor of the more qualified candidate. All of us “lefties” have had to admit that we were wrong in our assumptions that our fellow Americans would actually vote in their own economic and cultural interest.

C’Est la Vie. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Early thoughts on the “new normal” involve trying to take advantage of it, which is the American Way. Should Mr. Trump make good on his promise to build a wall across the narrow part of the North American Continent, rebar and Portland Cement futures look like they’ll be a promising investment. Also, I’m planning on finding out who the leading players in immigration law are, and whether or not they are publicly traded companies.

It’s the EPA thing that we’re all talking about on the Creek, I would mention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s going to be a very interesting few years, I think.

Mainly, because the Republican Congress is likely going to eat the new President for lunch. Those are shark infested waters down in the District. Let’s face it though, all that Donald Trump actually wants to do stand in front of the cameras while cutting the ribbon on all the “bridges to nowhere” and crony projects they’re going to be building.

The game just continues. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, and as I’ve often opined – National Politics is way above my pay grade. I’ve got other, more decidedly local problems to worry about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been on a Newtown Creek vacation for the last month, and it’s time for me to get back on the job.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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