The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Queens Boulevard’ Category

sounds beneath

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Ok, I haven’t done this sort of post for awhile, so away we go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ask anyone who knows me in real life, and they’ll tell you that the following post is just like hanging out with old Mitch, and that it’s absolutely exhausting listening to the constant drone of me talking about Queens… That’s the Q60 rolling down Queens Blvd. on a recent rainy night.

Queens Blvd. is 7.5 miles long, starts at Queens Plaza nearby the Queensboro Bridge, and was created by merging two older roadways – Thomson Avenue and Hoffman Avenue – in the early 20th century shortly after NYC consolidation. In the 1920’s and again in the 1930’s the boulevard was widened and by the 1940’s there was serious talk of turning into it an arterial highway by – guess who… Robert Moses… but that obviously never ended up happening.

The IRT Flushing Line subway stops on Queens Blvd. opened in 1917. A trolley line (owned by the Manhattan and Queens Traction Company) that used to run off the Queensboro bridge and up Queens Blvd. since 1913 was made redundant by the elevated train service, but the streetcar staggered along for a bit. It took until 1937 for that trolley to go the way of all things, whereupon a private bus company – called the Green Bus Company – recreated the trolley’s “Queens Boulevard” route in 1943 using automotive buses. MTA took over the route in 2006, renaming it as the Q60 bus line. Like the old trolley and Green Bus, the Q60 service starts over in Manhattan on Second Avenue and then crosses over Queensboro into LIC, with its terminal stops occurring all the way out in Jamaica, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same rainy night, but a different byway – this time it’s Greenpoint Avenue in Sunnyside.

Diagonally situated against the street grid of most of the communities in Queens which it runs through, both Roosevelt and Greenpoint Avenues were created out a colonial era pathway that ultimately connected the waterfront communities of Greenpoint (East River) in Brooklyn with Flushing (Flushing Bay and Long Island Sound), using a centuried crossing at the Newtown Creek. Prior to Neziah Bliss building the first real bridge carrying Greenpoint Avenue over Newtown Creek in 1850 (the Blissville Bridge), you’d pay for a toll crossing on a flat bottom barge pulled across the waterway by donkey or mule powered ropes. In modern times, you just use the 1987 vintage Greenpoint Avenue Bridge and cross for free. Modernity defines the Roosevelt Avenue leg of this main drag, which travels though Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Corona, Willets Point, and ultimately Flushing as the “7 train corridor.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same night, but many many hours later.

I’m always shooting, even when – as in the case of the shot above – I’m wasted drunk. I had attended a friend’s birthday party and overdid it with my consumption of gin martinis. The shot above, and a couple of others which I frankly don’t remember taking, jogged my memory the next morning of how and when I ended up back at HQ in Astoria. It was still raining when I left the party in the wee hours, and still raining when I woke up.

NYC receives an average precipitation of just over 45 inches of water per square acre (as in a 45″ tall flood of water which is one acre long on each of its 4 sides) – and despite my perceptions – 2018 was a fairly normal year for rain with some 46.78 inches of precipitant having been observed by those who record such matters. 2017 was a record breaker, which saw some 60.78 inches of precipitant falling on NYC. I say precipitant, as a significant amount of that water takes the form of snow. 2019 is shaping up as a record breaker as well, so far in January we’ve received a whopping 3.54 inches of rain. That’s apparently nearly 1/13th of all of last year just in the first three weeks of January, but I’m notoriously a mathematical moron, so if that arithmetic seems wrong you’re probably right.

More tomorrow.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 28, 2019 at 1:00 pm

common tongues

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The angle between…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a long time, I’ve been using the term “angle” to describe those spots which form the borders of neighborhoods in Western Queens, which are actually historic remnants of the pre consolidated City of Greater New York. One of them is found where the steel of the elevated IRT Flushing line sweeps off of Queens Blvd. and instead overflies Roosevelt Avenue. This is the former border of Long Island City’ Middleburgh (alternatively LIC Heights) and the town of Woodside, and is today the border of the neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Woodside. Recent endeavor found a humble narrator negotiating his way home well after midnight, and just as it was starting to rain.

What sucked was that I didn’t have an umbrella.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I posted the shot above to a couple of my social media accounts, so sorry if you’re seeing it twice, but I stand by the text that accompanied it declaring that NYC looks best when it’s wet. Given my lack of an umbrella, and the startling amount of electronic devices affixed to my person, some care was exercised in my path down Queens Blvd. in the pursuit of not becoming soaked by the sudden downpour. There’s two ways to do this – one is to walk so fast that you’re actually dodging raindrops (which is illogical and doesn’t actually work), and the other is to utilize the “rain shadow” offered by the built environment. It had been around eight hours since my last meal at this particular moment, and given that I wasn’t going to be hitting the sack until the wee hours of the morning, the only option available at the particular time involved a fast food chain. Lemmee tell ya, Lords and Ladies, the denizens of the City who inhabit fast food restaurants after midnight in Sunnyside are an interesting demographic.

My high fat and calorie hamburger consumed (have you noticed what the fast food people consider a “small” coke is these days?), and with the rain actually having intensified, I decided to hire a taxi for the short jaunt across the Sunnsyide Yards and back to HQ in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having grown up in a solidly blue collar section of Brooklyn, my first instinct is always to support the working people rather than big corporations. That’s how I found myself standing in a bus shelter and trying to hail a cab. For the last couple of years, I’ve had a taxi app – Lyft – on my phone which I’ve been using for the occasional cab ride. I like it because the cab comes to me, and given the weird places and transit deserts like industrial Maspeth that I spend my time you’re not going to have many opportunities for street hails so Lyft is my go to for those sorts of spots. Queens Blvd. and 40th street, however? Use a yellow or green cab, one will be by in a minute or two. That’s what I thought, and when a yellow cab pulled up and rejected any other destination but Manhattan, I was reminded why I don’t care about the dying medallion cab industry nor its asshole drivers. Yellow cab drivers in particular would seem to prefer it if they just rolled down the window for you to throw money into the front seat before they spit at you and drive away.

I fired up the Lyft app and was home in about ten minutes.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 15, 2019 at 1:30 pm

disclosures which

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Happy Monday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, this weekend’s nocturnal walk occurred on Saturday night, which was a bit windy for my taste but I’m trying to be out and about as much as possible before proper winter sets in so there you are. Pictured above is Steinway Street, here in Astoria, where i considered getting on the subway in pursuance of getting to LIC but decided it wasn’t worth the risk of daring fate by entering the system. Instead, I scuttled along one of my usual routes, and whilst walking pondered a few things.

Amazon, Queens, life. One of the things I decided to do was put out an open request to you, lords and ladies, in the hope of attaining a point of view for the camera which I’m desirous of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrestrial is how I’d describe the images I usually capture. The point of view is generally somewhere between ground level and roughly 64 inches from it (that’s how tall my tripod is). That “big project” I’ve been working on is nearly finished, but I’m still missing something, and that’s a nocturnal aerial shot of Newtown Creek. Ideally, I’d love to set up and capture the image from the Empire State Building over in the City, but they don’t exactly encourage that sort of thing on the observation deck unless you’ve got TV Network money to convince them into letting you do so. The last time I was up there, I got a bunch of daytime shots like this one, just so you understand what I need to tie a bow around this project of mine and put it to bed.

If you’re reading this in Manhattan, and live or work between 18th and 34th streets, with visual access to the East River and Newtown Creek… I’d love to try and talk you into letting me set up the gear and record your POV. I’d only need around thirty minutes, on a clear night, well after dark which is about six p.m. or later this time of year. Contact me here (link is to my email address “newtownpentacle@yahoo.com” if it sets off any security alerts, there’s nothing “unkosher” in it) if this sounds like fun. I’ll pay you back with some sort of cool thing or other.

The “full view” of the Creek from on high is what I’m looking for, but if you’re living on an upper floor in one of the new buildings in LIC or Greenpoint and can see Newtown Creek from your windows or roof, that would work as well. Pictured above, as a note, is Skillman Avenue alongside the Sunnyside Yards. Those new bike lanes are barely being used for their intended purpose, but they do make a nice safe spot to take pictures from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the meantime, I’m scratching along in the grit and grime on the streets of Western Queens.

The shot above was captured at the intersection where Queensboro Bridge traffic from Queens Plaza emerges from under the steel of the elevated IRT Flushing line #7 tracks, and travels on one of the five vehicle bridges spanning the trackage of the Sunnyside Yards. Just to the south is Thomson Avenue, which provides another connection for LIC traffic across the Sunnyside Yards via another viaduct, and westwards towards the Court Square section of Hunters Point, and Jackson Avenue. A busy and complicated intersection, this is also where Van Dam Street begins, carrying automotive traffic south towards the Blissville section of LIC and the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge (which overflies the tracks of the Long Island Railroad) after crossing under the Long Island Expressway at Borden Avenue.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

sound oversight

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Too much time on your hands isn’t a good thing, find something to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a humble narrator’s beard has grown whiter and whiter over the years, there’s a few things one has gleaned from experience. My cohort of friends includes people of most ages, races, religions, and types – and with the younger members of this tribal group, I cannot help but share adages of the mistakes that I’ve made in the past and present, and ones which I plan to make in the future. The way I figure it, when you finally have life down to a science at some point, you get cancer or dementia and then become a science experiment. Between now, and then – when inevitability knocks on the door – you might as well stay busy, and keep on screwing up so that the reaper maintains his distance.

Additionally – you really, really need to be a better friend to yourself and get enough sleep. A doctor friend of mine once opined that it takes the liver and kidneys about seven hours to turn over your blood supply and clean out all the toxic juices that accumulate in it while you’re awake. Don’t know if she was just trying to scare me, but it’s been working out pretty good for me ever since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has often opined that he’d like to visit a hospital about once a year, get split open like a hog, and then get the works hosed down with a warm solution of detergents. You’d do this with your car’s engine, as a point, if you lived in a place with unpaved roads. The Docs use a fancy word for this – Lavage. Conventionally, this sort of invasive rinsing out is typically only done with cancer patients who have just undergone surgery, and instead of using a garden hose and water the Docs use chemotherapy compounds. The idea behind the chemo Lavage is to kill off any errant cells which they might have missed while chopping and slicing. I’m just interested in getting the skinvelope rinsed out.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be sticking to me on the inside?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

American hypochondriacism and fatalist thinking is fascinating to me. Every little pain must be related to, or be a revelation of, cancer. I’m guilty of it myself, and have sometimes found myself staring in the mirror at three in the morning with saucer sized eyes thinking “this is it, here we go.” Over the years, I’ve developed a minor but quite common orthopedic condition in my left foot, specifically in my big left toe, directly related to all the walking. An easily inflamed ligament leading from the foot to the toe knuckle flares up occasionally, causing minor discomfort. The condition is called “turf toe,” and it’s caused by pushing off into a step by putting my weight on that particular toe, inflaming a certain tendon or ligament. I convinced myself that I had developed foot cancer after a few google searches.

As a note, foot cancer is one of the most unlikely things you can contract. You actually have a better chance of getting hit by lightning, if you work outside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular political moment that we are all living in really shouldn’t have taken anybody by surprise. Nazis, white power people… they’ve been here all along, lurking at the edges. Back in the ’80’s, there was a fellow named Tom Metzger who ran an outfit called “WAR,” which stood for “White Aryan Resistance.” WAR’s themology involved the recruitment of skinheads and rednecks, who were told to either let their hair grow out or to take a shave. Adherents were advanced money to secure college degrees and encouraged to join the workforces of both public and private entities and wait for their time to come. A lot of the kids of my generation who joined WAR are now at senior levels in the Police, Political, and Corporate worlds. That was Tom Metzger’s plan.

Erosion of trust in Government and other organs of cultural stability were accomplished through popular entertainment. The X-Files opined that “The Truth is out there,” painting the staid FBI and CIA as some sort of shadowy counter government secretly running the entire show and colluding with extraterrestrials. “Who killed Kennedy?” is a question that is more valuable than the answer ever could be. “The TV News guys are in on it, and the news is all fakery and cover stories.” Nothing is real, all is false, and in chaotic times the proletariat will always put its faith in strongmen who purport to represent the values and mores of generations past.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve advised my young friends, so too has wisdom been shared with those old enough to know better. A little mystery hanging about one’s shoulders is a good thing, but for those involved in public life an absence of information offered is an opportunity for blanks to be filled in erroneously. I can opine about battle and conflict, but suffice to say I don’t think you should ever telegraph what you’re going to do or say next, and instead recommend that you just make things start happening after a prior gentlemanly final warning. Raining blows down upon an enemy is a great way to balance your chi, after all. There’s nothing like grinding someone to dust and listening to the lamentations of their women.

I have never understood the male posturing that occurs before a physical conflict, as a note. “I’m gonna kick your skedooch, mothaflowah” and all that is redundant. Just stick your finger in the other guys eye or kick him in the crotch, pummel him until he’s tender or oozing, empty a garbage can or piss on him, and then get out of dodge before the cops show up… that’s the Brooklyn way. The sports guys call it “explosivity.” Movie fights and boxing matches see mutiple exchanges of blows, real fights last 2-4 minutes, tops. It’s always best to try and talk it out or walk away, as a note, but life ain’t about “should be,” it’s all “have to.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An oft repeated refrain invokes “not giving a fuck.” My advice to all is to give lots of fucks. It’s your life, take some agency over it. This is a real problem I’ve noticed with the generations coming up behind me. My politically conservative friends attribute this to “participation trophies,” which is something I don’t understand the obsession they have for. Politically liberal friends describe the generations coming up as “woke,” which is a term I don’t fully comprehend. Either way, the people I know in their early and late twenties and mid thirties are an extremely reticent group. They like to take political stands, decry the societal system that made them, and wallow or embrace their sorrows. None of them talk about superseding their limitations or conquering obstacles, rising above, or succeeding “in spite of.”

My take on these kids – they’re kids to me – is that these are the people who saw 911 playing out on TV when they were ten or eleven years old, and have come of age during what I have come to call “The Great Unraveling.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

childish eyes

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Opposites can repulse or attract, no matter what Paula Abdul said.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Laboriously explained over the last few weeks of night shooting, the tripod technique one has been exploiting involves using small apertures, low ISO camera sensitivity, and long exposures to gather images. It’s rather the opposite of my normal shooting procedure. Out for a scuttle one recent afternoon, a humble narrator decided that since it was incredibly bright out he’d do the opposite of that normal procedure for daylight shots – wide open aperture photos with a shallow depth of field.

That’s the Harold Interlocking pictured above, at the Sunnyside Yards. A night shot from the same vantage point was offered in last Friday’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that I was pointing the camera into a scene full of reflective surfaces which the sun was setting behind, and the aperture was set to f1.8, I had to reduce sensor sensitivity down to ISO 100 and use a shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second to control the light. 1/8000th is as fast as my shutter will flip, I would mention. That’s fast enough to freeze a bee’s wings mid flap, or to render an in flight helicopter blade static.

It’s kind of thing with me… when it’s not a shot “I have to get,” I like to experiment and see what the capabilities of the capture device are at their extremes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wandered around a bit with this particular set of settings, which is something else I force myself to do periodically. There are days where I leave my camera bag and zoom lenses at home and go out for a stroll with just a 50mm lens attached and the camera settings locked. The “nifty fifty” as its called, offers an aperture range between f1.8 to f22, with its only real limitation being that it’s a prime lens and fixed to its singular focal range. That means I need to either get close or go further away from a subject.

There’s a reason for this, which is to keep on my toes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Limiting yourself can sometimes force you to get a bit more creative, or just deep dive into the inner workings of the camera. The shot above won’t be finding its way into National Geographic, for instance, but it was a fine balancing act challenge – exposure wise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Be back tomorrow with something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

aged man

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A few more late night shots from Western Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In all actuality, these shots aren’t from all that late at night, instead they’re from the latter half of the rush hour period. One was meant to be attending an “after work” meeting which was subsequently cancelled. It was – nevertheless – satisfyingly dark out, and since I had my “kit” with me I started shooting. Pictured above, the 7 and the N elevated subway lines are moving across the shot and leaving behind naught but illuminated streaks. In the background of the shot are some of the new towers which have been built to answer that clarion call which all native New Yorkers have been making for a century, which is the desire to live in Queens Plaza. I can’t recall how many times I begged my parents for us to move to Queens Plaza as a child.

Can you believe that we’ve been denied the right to live in Queens Plaza all this time? Thank god for DeBlasio, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that my scheduled meeting was cancelled, which was meant to include a friend and colleague who lives in Sunnyside, an impromptu social engagement manifested itself and I jumped onto the 7 line to the former Middleburgh and met her at one of the many fine eating and drinking establishments found in that neighborhood. On my way, I decided to dare fate and the MTA’s rules concerning the usage of camera support equipment on their property to capture the shot above, which looks westwards along Queens Boulevard. The long exposure shot rendered both Subway and vehicular traffic as rivers of energetic light pulsing out of the shining city.

I can recommend the fish tacos at the Sidetracks bar and restaurant, as it turns out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After escorting my friend back to her domicile, a humble narrator hoofed it back to Astoria via 43rd street alongside the fence lines of the titanic Sunnnyside Yards. I snapped the kit into action a couple of times along the way, wherever a fence was open and a salubrious point of view was available.

The shot above depicts the new construction around Queens Plaza – some of which are the same structures seen in the first shot of today’s post – as seen from a distance of one hundred and eighty three acres away.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

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.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

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