The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Queens Boulevard’ Category

curious explanations

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Neither here nor there, and feeling pretty burnt out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was out and about conducting a tour of Greenpoint’s East River and Newtown Creek coasts when a vast amount of smoke was noticed rising out of Sunnyside last week. Some of the members of my group engaged their portable data terminals to inquire about the plume, and it emerged that there was a warehouse fire underway on 37th street near the corner of Queens Blvd. Having missed the actual conflagration, one did happen to wander past the aftermath the next day and a few shots were gathered.

Oddly enough, FDNY was still on scene, no doubt in cautious anticipation of flare ups in the still hot rubble. Luckily for the fire fellas, the fire took place directly across the street from Gallagher’s gentlemens club, cause y’know, for when you need to use the toilet or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be a show of serious remiss for me to not mention that one of the firefighters on scene was perhaps the largest human being I’ve ever seen. I’m talking pro wrestler big. I’m talking David vs Goliath big, Batman big. Like seven feet tall and pure muscle big, He was taller than De Blasio big.

I’m talking “he claps his hands to put out fires, like the Hulk” big.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By all reports, this was a fairly huge conflagration, and even the biggest fireman in the world wouldn’t be able to do anything but contain and control the blaze. The company based in the one story warehouse style building hereabouts was involved in the cabinetry business, I’m led to believe, and the raw materials stored in the structure were all wood based – which the FDNY would refer to simply as “fuel.” My buddies over at the Sunnyside Post were on scene during the event.

Check out their shots and videos of the raging fire here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can tell you that the day after the fire, the smoot smell of burnt wood still stained the air, but that the businesses next door were open for business. For those of you reading this who live in North Brooklyn, I’m sure you’ve already done the math on what probably happened here, based on experience.

Long story short, the real estate guys have been eying this still industrial stretch of Queens Boulevard for a while now, and their interest in an area usually renders it quite combustible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My prediction for the next decade – based around what I’ve seen in LIC, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint over the last decade and a half – is that the industrial neighborhoods surrounding the Sunnyside Yards are going to be seeing a lot of largish fires occurring. The great thing about immolation is that it’s so costly to repair a burned up structure that the only sensible thing to do is to declare it a total loss and sell the land to a developer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Truly, we are doomed by the ambitions of our lessers and their base short term desires. It’s all so depressing, and it leaves me (and us) totally burned out.

Like a leaf, you.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

unpleasant person

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No matter where I go, there I am.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been particularly verbose and vitriolic this week about subjects substantial, which indicates to those who know me that the proverbial process best described in “Brooklynese” as “gettin my shits togetha” has been underway for the last several weeks. The walking tours season has begun, and I’m planning a series of excursions for the year with Mai Armstrong and the various organizations we work with. Cross your fingers and thank the stars – as boat trips, walking tours, and all kinds of cool stuff are being planned. The Atlas Obscura tour listed below has already sold out, I’m afraid, but I’ve got a few pretty cool irons in the fire right now.

While we’re waiting to finalize things, Mai and I decided we might do a walk through Calvary Cemetery with a smaller than usual group, next weekend – probably Saturday. More on this one Monday, and I’ll have a link ready for those of you who might want to come along.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a few iconic Queens spots which will be hitting centennial anniversaries pretty soon, and I’m trying to figure out a few ways to commemorate that. Again, these things are on the stove’s back burners and simmering right now. A bizarre part of my thought processes, one which always befuddled and confused those unlucky enough to know me, is that I can take a project and tuck it away in my subconscious for processing while my waking mind concentrates on and handles other stuff like walking and laundry. Sometimes these simmering bits are utterly forgotten until I look through one of my notebooks and then – boom – it boils over and unfolds into something conscious and actionable.

Unfortunately, this “unfolding” often happens at 2:30 in the morning, which finds me huddled over the computer scratching away at a project as the sun is coming up. Lack of sleep is why my eyes often look and feel like they’ve been boiled.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Photography wise, there’s a few new locations and opportunities I’m interested in pursuing this summer, and many ongoing spots that I need to exert some real effort into continuing to document. Within the next two weeks, one plans to roam through the predominance of the municipality of Long Island City’s former borders, and do so with camera in hand. There’s night shots I want, places I’ve never been that I intend on visiting, and nothing – NOTHING – is going to stop me from getting to Aquarium in Coney Island this year. I’ve got boats to catch, trains to find…

It should all be a lot of fun, but it’s all still kind of depressing at the same time.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

April 16th, Obscura Day 2016
“Creek to Creek Industrial Greenpoint Walking Tour” with Mitch Waxman and Geoff Cobb.
Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman and Greenpoint historian and author Geoff Cobb for a three-hour exploration of the coastline of Greenpoint. Click here for more info and ticketing.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

contracted chill

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Nothing like an adventure, MTA style.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found me leaving HQ just after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had begun its journey across the sky. A humble narrator’s intention was to have been out and about for a couple of hours in the pre dawn part of the day, but one overslept and left the house just as dawn arrived. My eventual destination was in lower Manhattan, and my plan was to be mid span on the Queensboro Bridge when dawn occurred, but as mentioned – I rolled over and kept on sleeping rather than springing out of bed when the alarm sounded at four in the morning. It wasn’t until about 5:30 that I stumbled out into the staggering realities of Astoria.

A brief scuttle across Northern Blvd. and the Sunnyside Yards ensued, and bored with the idea of walking across Queensboro at this point, it was elected that I would catch the most photogenic of all NYC’s Subway lines – the 7 – at 33rd street and cruise into the shadowed corridors of midtown Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “international express” as it’s known, arrived in the station accompanied by announcements that due to construction there was no Manhattan bound service at 33rd street. Having set aside literally five hours for the walk, I figured I’d just play along and see where the MTA wanted to take me.

As a note, with the exception of the F line, on the weekend of the 5th and 6th of March – there was “no way to get there from here” without playing the game laid out by the MTA.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 carried me to the 61st Woodside stop, where Manhattan bound service could be accessed. Off in the distance, at what must have been the 69th street station, there were crews of laborers and what seemed like a crane busily at work. The normal “Manhattan bound” side was entirely subsumed by their activity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 train, with its multitudinous delays and seemingly constant construction, has spawned a bit of activism. My pal Melissa Orlando, and others, formed first a Facebook group called “The 7 Train Blues,” and have since begun the formation of an organization called “Access Queens” with the intention of acting as advocates for the ridership community along this “international express” traveling between Flushing and Manhattan’s west side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of the 7 train, my immediate response is to discuss its immense photogeneity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is virtually impossible to point a camera at the 7 and not get something interesting. Maybe it’s the low lying nature of Western Queens, with the elevated tracks running at rooftop level… can’t say. After running through the MTA’s perverse hoops, a humble narrator found himself in the Shining City, and what was encountered at my destination will be discussed in a post presented next week at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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mendicant parlors

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Happy Saint Patrick’s, y’all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pup pictured above was spotted at the annual St. Pat’s Day for All parade in Sunnyside on Saturday the 6th. Truth be told, 50% of the reason I attend and shoot this parade is for the dogs dressed up in holiday regalia.

What follows is a series of random shots which have been recently collected, which don’t seem to fit into other posts, but which I like for one reason or another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the pithy jokes I like to repeat to disinterested people is: “When I say I’m a street photographer, I mean that I literally photograph the street,” as evinced by the shot of Northern Blvd. presented above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Northern Blvd., that ongoing constriction project at 47th street, which is installing a new ventilation room for the F line subway, had some supplies arranged in an accidentally artful pattern when I was passing by a couple of weeks back. The construction guys here in Queens compose masterpieces of geometric composition when they’re plunking their junk down, the sort of thing which any art student might labor over for days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Early one recent morning, a humble narrator noticed that the Queens Cobbler seems to have reactivated and resumed their activities. The single shoe phenomena continues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also from an early morning, I found myself crossing the Boulevard of Death as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself rose in the eastern sky.

This was shot at about six or seven in the morning, and this year my plans include a lot of pre dawn and early morning shooting.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

used in

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Spectacle on the Boulevard of Death, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had a bit of Newtown Creek related business to take care of, and found myself visiting the offices of a certain City Councilman last week to discuss the matter. As always, the exchange was amiable and after accomplishing the delivery of my missive to the office, I found myself wandering down Queens Boulevard in pursuit of a return to Newtown Pentacle HQ. My phone rang, and I wandered onto the median of the so called “Boulevard of Death” to discuss a friend’s upcoming Birthday celebration when a caterwaul sounded from the east bound lanes at the corner of Locust – or 44th street if you must.

An “accidental” had occurred. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seemed that some unlucky fellow, who was riding a bicycle and got struck by an automobile, was laid out on the Boulevard. Luckily, passerby were already calling 911 and guiding the always heavy traffic around the scene. There was also a USPS employee on scene, who was talking to the 911 operator, and since the NYS DMV has always told me – emphatically – that postal traffic has the right of way in all things traffic related, I felt like it was being sorted and did not require my intervention as the Feds were on it.

So, I stood there taking pictures. We all have a role to play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bicyclist, who seemed stunned when I came upon the scene, suddenly began to writhe about. The car’s driver and passenger managed the victim’s bicycle while the aforementioned postal employee and a member of the gathering crowd of gawkers chided the poor fellow to “not move” and “stay down.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless, he sat up, but seemed thunderstruck (or at least Mazda struck). Off to the north, in the direction of Skillman Avenue, sirens began to ring out – no doubt in response to the multiple 911 calls coming in from the gathering crowd of “lookie loo’s.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Woodside Warriors, Engine 325, arrived. As mentioned in the past, my reaction to the arrival of FDNY units is “everything is going to be all right now.” Accordingly, I put the lens cap on my camera and started back on my path towards Astoria. Such is life in Western Queens, and the traffic corridor of Long Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle, when I was relating the tale above to her, asked me if I did anything to help. She immediately regretted asking, as I went through a whole set of “photographer” morality plays with her. It’s an odd thing, actually. My moral dilemmas about recording an event versus participating in it are rather tame.

Look at the war photographers for the true soul searching about whether or not you should stand there taking pictures or intervene while someone is bleeding out.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

swirling away

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The whole 7 train thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t live along this particular subway line, the 7, but many of my friends in Sunnyside and Jackson Heights are finding themselves driven to a state absolute despair by its recent troubles. Over at my Brownstoner column, a report on the subway situation was offered, and a description of a recent rally held by NYC Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer protesting the increasingly unreliable service was described here. On Facebook, a group page called #7trainblues has sprung up, where affected riders can express their ennui.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long time Sunnyside residents tell me that they used to enjoy a 20 minute commute into Manhattan, a journey which can now take up to 45 minutes on a good day. In all fairness, the MTA’s outdoor lines were all hit rather hard by the recent spate of arctic weather in February, but the 7 train’s average “on time” rate is a few percentage points below that of the rest of the system – according to experts with whom I’ve consulted. Factor in an astounding 22 weeks of weekend track work and signal system upgrades – which turns service off completely, and you can understand the amount of pique which is growing in the neighborhood towards the MTA.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are certain things which Government employees do not understand about the private sector, as it is outside of their personal experience. Nobody gets out of work at five p.m. anymore in corporate America, as municipal employees still do. Nobody in the private sector can say “I don’t work weekends” or “sorry that’s a holiday” or “that’s not my job” anymore, and we haven’t been able to do so since the late 90’s. Recently, I found myself on the R at 9 p.m. on a Sunday, and it was standing room only. Similarly crowded conditions are observed at all hours of the day, and rush hour has become something of a cautionary tale told by Queensicans to their children.

The proletariat has responded to the municipal call to abandon the automobile and use mass transit instead, it would be nice if the MTA wasn’t making us regret that decision on a regular basis.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

bleak plateau

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In the Cold Wastes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sporadic intervals during which one has been “out and about” in February have been infrequent, but somewhat entertaining. Just last weekend, when a short period of warmth occurred, the ice pack retreated and released several examples of Queens’s native art form – illegal dumping – for inspection. Above, a series of flash frozen berries and a small bottle of perhaps wine was observed in Sunnyside reemerging into the open air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The streets have been noticeably quiet around Astoria’s Steinway Street, which is normally a tumult of the old vibrant diversity and the caterwaul of honking automotive horns. It’s an “Astoria thing” incidentally, honking your car’s horn. Should another driver dare to slow down to let a passenger exit the vehicle, the custom hereabouts is to activate the horn and keep it operating until the offending vehicle clears a path for you. “How dare you slow me down, incrementally” seems to be the thought process at work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another unusually inactive point of view at Queens Blvd., nearby Aviation High School. The Boulevard of Death normally teems with traffic heading east and west, and it is somewhat disconcerting to see it abandoned by all but a few autos and the Q32 bus. Did everyone else get invited to a party that I wasn’t invited to? Such is the lot of a humble narrator, always a bride’s main, never the bride.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 5, 2015 at 12:04 pm

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