The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Queens Plaza’ Category

peculiar kind

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Back in session, your Newtown Pentacle is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oh, the humanity and the carnage! Happy Rosh Hashanah to all of you heathens out there, and a short holiday post arrives in your inboxes today. I’ve had quite a last week, and think I may have managed to piss off everybody encountered. It’s what I do, I guess.

Currently, there’s a large group of bicycle enthusiasts angry at me for describing their tactic of waiting for somebody to get killed and then rallying for more bike lanes while acting like buzzards circling a highway and looking for more roadkill. They’re nice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Taxi people also don’t like me. I personally don’t care that their dying industry has been disrupted by better versions of “for hire” cars. I’ve never had an Uber or Lyft driver refuse to go to Queens, or say they won’t take me to industrial Maspeth from Astoria, and even though I’m sure that the venture capitalists running both of these services are eaters of roasted baby flesh in their off time – when I need a ride on a rainy night, I don’t find myself standing in the middle of nowhere as cab after cab rejects a street hail so that they can get back to Manhattan or the airports.

Google up who owns the majority of the medallions issued by TLC, and you’ll discover a less than salubrious bunch of millionaires whose exploitation of their work force would curl the mustache hair of any 19th century robber baron.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The government people are annoyed by me as well, for the constant pointing out of their shortcomings.

Hey, you don’t run a blog about NYC without the intention of complaining, right?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

always inclusive

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Summer Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always puzzled by this sort of sight, when a piece of heavy construction equipment rolls by on area streets. A buddy of mine in construction once opined that some heavy equipment handlers, who are apparently the construction workers you’ll see who wear  brown helmets with a bunch of stickers on them, aren’t allowed to leave the vehicle alone on the job site. They are obliged to use it for transportation from site to site, and even use it if they’re just picking up lunch somewhere. That doesn’t sound right to me, but I only wear a hard hat occasionally and when it’s required for visiting a work site I’m photographing, but the heavy equipment I’m rolling with is a camera.

Still, screw your bike lanes, “I wants me one of dose tings” pictured above. If I couldn’t find parking, I’d be able to dig a hole for it to live in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next week promises to be more of the same, weather wise, and my schedule is lightly packed. Perhaps I’ll spend some time down in the sweating concrete bunkers of the MTA and raise the suspicions of bored police officers again by photographing trains. I don’t know, I make things up as I go along. One has to be open to serendipity when you’re staring at the world through a camera’s diopter. One has to go the City a couple of times in the coming week to accomplish a few errands, so I might try to find some time to hit the zoo or a museum while I’m in town.

Been meaning to wander around lower Manhattan at night again anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my errands is to get a discounted camera maintenance and sensor cleaning session over at Beards and Hats on Sunday, which will eliminate some pesky dust motes that have resisted all my efforts at removal. You can only discern these occlusions in long exposure and tight aperture shots, which are exactly the direction that my proverbial muse is currently pointing at.

It’s always something.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm

carved overmantel

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Who wouldn’t want to live in Queens Plaza, that’s the question.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Probably the most unwelcoming place on the planet, an area which is frankly antithetical to human life, Queens Plaza has nevertheless become a hub of residential development in recent years. You’ve got the 24/7 vehicle traffic spilling angry motorists on and off of the Queensboro Bridge, a complex of elevated subway lines above (the steel rafters are infested with vampires, but that’s a whole other story) and a complex of underground subway lines below. The sidewalks have become nonexistent due to the exigent needs of the construction industry, and there are thousands upon thousands of residential units opening within the new and quite banal glass boxes that soar twenty and thirty stories above the traffic choked streets.

The political class in Western Queens loved all of this “growth” as it meant campaign donations from banks and real estate interests flowed freely into their reelection accounts, and then they also got to talk about “affordable” housing as if it was actually “affordable” while insisting that the real estate people hand out a token number of plum development jobs to friendly construction unions.  This caused even more campaign donations to manifest from cultic eidolons like the Working Families Party and the trade unions. Since the Democrats of Queens generally run unopposed by other parties, the cash they didn’t have to spend during the elections then allowed them to use these campaign donations as slush funds to curry favor with, and financially support, weaker candidates in districts that enjoy actual elections. The whole time, these elected officials referred to themselves in glowing terms as “progressives,” which is a term that they don’t seem to have ever looked up in a dictionary.

There are no food markets, bodegas, coffee shops, parking lots, nearby schools, or hospitals on the construction schedule… but there’s lots of noisy traffic if that’s your bag… Just imagine if you had an emergency and you needed to wait for an ambulance to navigate through rush hour traffic at Queens Plaza. You won’t see a lot of municipal investment here in Queens Plaza or LIC as a whole, except for tax abatements and City subsidies encouraging the growth of more tower apartment buildings, as the political class is averse to being perceived as having “increased government spending.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bought and sold politicians of Western Queens are in a tizzy at the moment. First Marge Markey, then Liz Crowley – and even Joe Crowley – have been seen applying for benefits at the unemployment office. They’re the first.

Comical just desserts have been served by the electorate to the “growth at any cost” crowd, as election results for Boss Crowley’s downfall have shown that he lost to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez not because of some demographic change amongst the burgeoning Latino population or the “I want to help POC” crowd who wanted “one of their own,” rather it was the overwhelmingly wealthy Caucasian and Asian gentrifier crowd that are moving into the tower buildings in places like Queens Plaza and Court Square who booted him out. Markey and Liz Crowley lost their jobs because they sided with City Hall against their own communities.

The body politic is changing in Queens, and for those politicians who used to count on incumbent victories due to low voter turnout and the affections of the party faithful, a chill is in the air. As I’ve often said to these elected officials “how do you know that these rich people from the Midwest are Democrats?” “Aren’t you concerned that you’re unintentionally shifting the electorate to the right, since the demographics and politics of the moneyed people who can afford $3,000 for a studio apartment are very, very different than those of the people you’re claiming to represent?”

They don’t teach that in politics school, apparently.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing is, a humble narrator watches all of this dispassionately. He rages against the sophists and the connected, is rude to the mid level representatives of “the powers that be,” and enjoys popping the egomaniacal balloons arrayed at political events. Ultimately, it’s all wasted effort.

The reality of things is that while all of this extra inventory of apartments has been created over the last twenty years, rent has gone up all over the City and that homelessness is now approaching levels not seen since the Hooverville’s of the Great Depression. Job creation and sustainability is not on the syllabus offered by these so called progressives, except for themselves and their staffs. These progressives close hospitals and nursing homes rather than open them, allowing their donors in the real estate industrial complex to then convert the structures to bespoke luxury condos with some token “affordable” component which no NYPD or even Teachers Union employee could afford to live in. 

Growth, unchecked, is called Cancer.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 24, 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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2018 at 11:00 am

any interment

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The pockets of my filthy black raincoat were filled with garlic bulbs, as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one has found his urges constantly frustrated of late by inclement clime, and when a brief window of atmospheric opportunity opened the other night I grabbed the “night kit” and ran towards the East River coastline of Queens. One spent a couple of hours haunting the area directly surrounding the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City, plucking photons out of the air as it were, in pursuit of several long exposure images.

Pictured above, looking west from the staircase that once led up, through a now permanently locked steel door, to the trolley station which found on the southern side of the Queensboro Bridge. On the northerly side, there used to be a vehicle elevator which allowed egress to Welfare or Roosevelt Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were from the end of the endeavor, and a humble narrator was scuttling inexorably towards the IND Queens Plaza subway station a few blocks eastwards. It was beginning to rain, after all, but at the time of these captures it was still more of a precipitating mist than it was rain. Accordingly, a point was made to setup the camera in spots where either overhead infrastructure provided cover, or in the case of the shot above – in the “rain shadow” of a large building.

While the shutter is open, one makes it a point of scanning his vicinity for potential threats. In the case of Queens Plaza and the stretches of arterial streets overflown by the elevated subway tracks, that includes looking up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the time of night which these shots were captured, the legions of vampires which dwell in the overhead steel are likely blocks and blocks away on Vernon Avenue. They siege the NY Blood Center on a nightly basis, it is said. Go ahead, ask the NYPD or the Blood Center people about the Queens Plaza vampires… they’ll probably tell you there’s no such thing.

I’d offer that if you’re visiting the area nocturnally, you might want to wear a turtleneck sweater, or, be like me and fill your coat pockets with garlic bulbs. As a note, I cooked the garlic off the next day on a low flame with some olive oil and onions, using them as a base for a very tasty pot of spaghetti sauce. The trick with garlic is to cook it at a low heat setting to keep it sweet, high heat makes it turn bitter. A pinch of salt, a few chopped up tomatoes, and some pepper flakes and you’re good to go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to the existential terror, though, back in Queens Plaza. That’s the 7 train up there, exiting Queensboro Plaza’s IRT station tracks and heading towards Court Square and eventually Manhattan. This is one of the spots, by the way, where the screeching of the tracks is impossible to escape, and even with headphones in my ears playing music I was painfully aware of its passing. The heavy traffic… the sound of Subway wheels screaming… why anyone would want to live in Queens Plaza is just something I’ve never been able to fathom. To each his own, I guess you can learn to ignore everything if your try…

Except Vampires, you can’t ignore Vampires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One ascribes, or at least aspires, to the philosophical ground espoused by the late Dr. King to judge people by the content of their minds rather than the color of their skin. This point of view collapses, however, when the skin is bluish gray and mottled with black and green splotches. Clothing and hair covered in congealed scabs? Glowing red eyes? Translucent teeth and long broken fingernails? I hate you on sight and will use every power at my command to destroy you, which includes nailing you to a nighted wall which will be shortly be lit by the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself as it rises in the eastern sky. Of course, from my perspective, the eastern sky is over Jackson Heights, but there you are.

Brrr… Vampires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My reveries came to an end as the precipitating mist began to become actual droplets of water hurtling down from on high, as evinced by the shot above. One packed things up, as it were, and made my way to the underground Subway system which hosts the line which travels towards Newtown Pentacle HQ here in Astoria.

Don’t get me started about what lives in the sweating concrete bunkers found below.

After all… who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

aspirant traits

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Where it all started, and fear of Vampires, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Pentacle’s first posting was back in 2009. One had been obsessively photographing Western Queens and the Newtown Creek waterfront for a couple of years at that point, but as I had somehow blundered into becoming a Parade Marshall for the Queensboro Bridge’s Centennial back in 2009, I figured it would be a good idea to have something to “show” if the occasion popped up. A lot has happened since then, of course, but one does like to return to where this weird journey of mine started periodically. Saying that, I didn’t know about the vampires back in 2009.

Given that the intervals between periods of windy rain and precipitating mist for the last few weeks have been few and far between, when the weather forecast has indicated that I’d be able to pry the lens cap off without fear of the glass becoming instantly spotted with rain drops for a couple of hours, I’ve taken it. The other night, I walked down the East River coast from Astoria, through Ravenswood, and then back upland to Queens Plaza following the great bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a lonely spot for a pedestrian here under the Queensboro. The Queensbridge houses are on the north side of the bridge, on the south there’s a couple of boutique hotels and a rapidly shrinking industrial zone. To the ultimate south is Tower Town at Hunters Point with its logarithmically expanding population. Other than a few cars passing through, however, a humble narrator was all by himself, just the way he likes it.

It was windier than I’d have liked it to be, which caused me no end of tripod trouble at the water’s edge, but once I started moving eastwards towards Queens Plaza, the wind factor dropped off a bit and I was able to do my thing without the camera shuddering when a gust blew through. The price I’m paying for the dramatic lessening of weight in my fancy new carbon fiber tripod is one involving stability, since it only weighs about two pounds. The three and change extra pounds associated with my aluminum tripod compensated for windy atmospheres, but I’d often have an aching back afterwards from shlepping the thing around for miles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was shooting the photo above, and looking out for the Vampires who dwell in the steel of the bridge and that of the subway elevated tracks feeding into Queens Plaza, I was basically standing in one of the angled box girders which meet the ground. As I had a good thirty seconds to wait while the shutter was open, I put my ear to the girder and spent a few seconds listening to the harmonics of the Queensboro Bridge.

Each one of the great bridges of New York City generates its own unique sound or harmonic, which is generally beyond the range of human hearing unless you press your head against the steel and allow the vibratory frequency to transfer to the skull and thereby the inner ear.

The chorus of the great bridges, I am certain, can only be described as being the music of the spheres.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 19, 2018 at 1:30 pm

obscure trembling

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There may be vampires there, but how can you avoid Queens Plaza?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Two of the proposals which Access Queens, a transit advocacy group which I’ve been working with for the last couple of years, has offered to the MTA to ameliorate the chaos which the forthcoming L train shutdown will bring to Queens when the masses of infinite Brooklyn are steered towards Long Island City are: a) extend the G line one stop from Court Square to the IND Queens Plaza station and b) allow a free “walking transfer” between the IRT Queensboro Plaza station upstairs (N, W, 7) to the IND station below (E, R, M).

In the case of the G extension, it would simply undo one stop’s worth of the cutbacks in service which the MTA created back in 2008 and allow Queensicans the opportunity to not have to use the particularly narrow and crowded platforms of the former 23rd Ely stop on the IND tracks at Court Square.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By MTA’s own numbers, which must always be taken with a grain of salt, the 7 line is at capacity by the time it rolls out of Woodside. The E and M lines are fairly close to the number of passengers one can expect to fit on board, and the R line is extremely crowded as well. When the L train shuts down for repairs of the Canarsie tunnel, MTA’s announced intentions are to add another car to the G and pulse the L’s cross river ridership into Court Square, where they’re meant to transfer to – you guessed it, the 7, E, or M lines. Court Square is a “Frankenstein” station, cobbled together from the IRT above and the IND below to satisfy the needs of real estate interests in LIC. The escalators and elevators in the station seldom operate reliably, and there’s a chaotic scene at work there during the busy times as masses of people move through corridors connecting the lines that can be as long as two city blocks.

Were the option to transfer at a station purpose built for massive crowds of people moving through it, aka the IND tracks at Queens Plaza with their wide platforms, the situation would be somewhat manageable. At Court Square, it’s the proverbial ten pound load being crammed into an already full five pound box.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I first moved to Astoria about fifteen years ago, I was startled to discover that there was no mechanism in place to facilitate a transfer between the upstairs IRT and downstairs IND platforms. Given that in Manhattan the N and W lines share trackage with the R… well, I guess that logic often has little to do with the way that MTA operates.

One is continually surprised that MTA (the A is for adventure, you know) still operates the NYCTA system as if it were the age of the dual contracts, and that after a half decade of absolute control over both the A and B divisions of the Subway they maintain the distinction. One would imagine, if private capital was involved, that after fifty years there would be greater interoperability at least in terms of fare control – let alone maintaining two seperate fleets of rolling stock to accommodate a few inches of variance in platform depth.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 29, 2018 at 11:30 am

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