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It’s National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One fine day at the end of December, my calendar informed that a holiday party was on my schedule at seven p.m. in Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen neighborhood. Having few things holding me at home, and desirous of an end to my “bouncing off the four walls” that typifies my response to the Christmas season, I decided to make a day of it. I packed up the camera bag and left Astoria at around two in the afternoon. My path first carried me down the Carridor, or Northern Blvd. if you must, and at the undefended border of the neighborhoods of Astoria and Dutch Kills (31st street) one encountered a gargantua construction project whose goal – I believe – is to deliver yet another badly needed hotel to the Dutch Kills neighborhood.

There’s only about twenty or so of them there now, and god knows we need more, as at least one of them has been converted over to a homeless shelter by the administrative geniuses employed by our beloved Mayor – the Dope from Park Slope, Bill de Blasio.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Construction projects have stolen the sky in Long Island City in recent years. Long shadows are cast, and bizarrely reflected sunlight glares from the mirror box surfaces of the new towers. The glare sometimes illuminates a long shadowed factory block, burning away the mold and nitre of the early 20th century Industrial Age of Queens. The towers eradicate these ancient factories and warehouses which still hosted hundreds of blue collar and industrial jobs, replacing them with residences. It’s all done in the name of providing jobs, I’m told, although after the 24-36 months of construction work is done those jobs move on.

Luckily there’s still a handful of jobs for servile labor – doormen, porters, building superintendents. There would be delivery boys too, if the designers and funders of these towers had remembered that a neighborhood is more than just a collection of apartment buildings, and that you need doctors offices, laundromats, and supermarkets too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens Plaza seems to be quite the focus point for construction activity at the moment, answering the clarion call that all New Yorkers have been singing for generations demanding the opportunity to live here. As mentioned earlier, the only good part of these new structures to me is that they act as sun reflectors during the late afternoon and illuminate the transportation hub that serves as the de facto focusing point for nearly all the Midtown Manhattan bound vehicular traffic of Long Island and the locus point for the screeching steel wheels of the elevated N, W, and 7 Subway lines.

I do wish that the orange construction netting was a permanent feature, of course, as it provided for a nice color contrast with the stolen sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always been fascinated by the elevated Subway architecture hereabouts, which forms – technically speaking -“Queensborough Plaza.” The underground Subway complex, where you’ll find the E, R, and M lines, is called “Queens Plaza.” One of the things that has long puzzled me, however is why there isn’t a free transfer between upstairs and downstairs. If I get off a train at either complex, there are free transfers to the NYCTA Bus lines which Queens Plaza is lousy with, via some sort of magical Metrocard alchemy.

Conversely, MTA doesn’t allow a free transfer from… say, the N line to the R. Instead, you’re told to transfer to the 7 from the N, go to the Court Square stop, and transfer there instead. Not too big a deal, but why?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing under the elevated tracks, and towards the Citi building megalith, one encounters another construction zone. These buildings are further along, many have been open and renting for a while now. I know a couple who live in the “Linc LIC” building at the right of the shot above, and they proclaim great satisfaction with their new home.

Of course, as I’m ever a black spider crawling across clean white linen, one had to inform them of their proximity to half a dozen State Superfund sites, and to the Dutch Kills tributary of the noisome Newtown Creek Federal Superfund site. It seems that the realtors of NYC are under no obligation to inform buyers and renters of these new properties about environmental issues present in their new neighborhood. The realtors would be obliged to disclose if the property was known to be haunted by a ghost, conversely, in accordance with NYS jurisprudence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless of opinion, sense, or a web of infrastructure capable of maintaining this new population – construction continues. Hospital beds – Who needs ’em? Sewer plant upgrades – nobody cares about that. 7 train at capacity already, according to the MTA – haven’t you got something else to worry about, Mitch? Clouds of toxic dust mixing into the air column from construction sites – pfahhh, have you tried the new muffins at Coffeed?

Well you get the idea, and it is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day after all, so why aren’t you out shopping for some? What are ya? Some kind of commie? Go buy something. Maybe an apartment in Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Swinging around onto 23rd street, under the elevated tracks of the 7 line, in an area which I’ve always referred to as “the fedora district” since it’s the sort of place you can picture working guys wearing old school hats – I encountered some politically expressive vandalism on the plywood fencing of what promises to be yet another construction site.

The same writer installed the screed “Trump is your fault” around the corner. Politics and vandalism versus expression notwithstanding, one realized that he had left the house without eating breakfast. After counting out how many pennies I had in my pocket – I went to the ever reliable Court Square diner and ordered a sandwich which I call a “cholesterol bun” – 2 scrambled eggs, with ham and swiss cheese, on a roll.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst quaffing my cholesterol bun and sitting on the sidewalk of Jackson Avenue, the construction site occurring on the site of the former 5Ptz caught my eye. This is the one that burns me, incidentally. Maybe people do want to live in Queens Plaza. Maybe I’m just a recalcitrant preservationist and my knowledge of the intricacies of LIC’s environmental woes and infrastructure deficiencies prejudices the way I perceive all of this construction activity which the avarice of the politically connected Real Estate Shit Flies have created.

Thing is, a significant number of people who are moving in to LIC have been sold on its “vibrant art scene” which doesn’t actually exist. There WAS a vibrant art scene at 5Ptz, but nobody in power raised a finger to save the one thing which drew crowds of “artsy fartsy lookie-loos” to LIC. It’s a a crime what happened to 5ptz, from the literal whitewashing of its walls onwards. What’s rising are two more bland towers overlooking an elevated, busy and quite noisy, subway track.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Disgusted by all the short sightedness, and abundant entropy of LIC – and after the consumption of my yummy cholesterol bun – one entered the MTA “system” and paid my fare for a ride on the most photogenic of NYC’s subway lines. As mentioned at the top of the post, I had a social obligation to keep in Hells Kitchen, and it was time to head into town. LIC will shortly resemble a Hells Kitchen anyway – surviving tenements converted to one family “pied a terre” and surrounded by outré scale luxury towers that host the minimum number of low income housing allowable by law, and suffused by staggering levels of congested vehicular traffic.

My plan was to take the 7 to the western end of the line, in… Manhattan. More on that tomorrow, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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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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Banal pedantry, and Western Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst hanging around at my local bar, recently, one has been forced to eat a bunch of crow by the working guys who voted for “he who must not be named.” I don’t say the name of the President Elect, as it lends him power in the manner of a certain Harry Potter villain – as a note. The working guys are generally union members who became convinced that “the Mexicans are taking my job,” and voted accordingly. I have declared a moratorium amongst friend and foe alike, as I cannot spend another minute of my time discussing the 2016 Presidential election, which went on for what seemed like four or five years.

At the moment, I’ve got other fish to fry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Admiration is what I feel towards the “canners” of Queens, for instance. Observationally, I see mostly Latino or Asian folks pursuing this line of profiteering – picking through this bin or that one in pursuance of the deposit money for aluminum can and glass bottle. We native born Citizens generally leave our pocket change in the curbside recycling bags, but our newly arrived neighbors believe – rightly – that the streets of New York City are paved with gold, if you just expend a bit of effort to harvest it.

I wonder if the Catholics have assigned a patron saint for the canners?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While watching the humans in their daily rounds, one of the things which I’m currently observing and finding fascinating are their set of behaviors, social mores, and so on. One comment I can offer is that people spend a lot of extra energy on walking that they don’t need to in pursuance of looking “cool.” Bad shoes, pants falling down, lots of gestural movements that have little or nothing to do with locomotion. Focus, people, focus.

Ultimately, it’s all pretty depressing, but interesting nevertheless.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

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Holiday traditions, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, like every other history geek in Queens, I found myself at Queens Plaza waiting for the MTA’s annual “Holiday Nostalgia Trains” event to start. I missed the first roll through, as I was up fairly late the night before, but got there in time for the second showing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Nostalgia Trains are late model subway cars maintained by the transit museum that are still quite functional. They make a round trip from Queens Plaza to the City’s Second Avenue stop on what’s normally the “F” line.

As an aside, my railfan pals can cogently argue that the subway cars which the modern day F is using could qualify as museum pieces, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, the Nostalgia Trains run several models of car which would be familiar to New Yorkers of the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and so on. Some of these units were online as late as the 1970’s, I’m told. Back in the day (as late as the 1980’s), as it were, the L or Canarsie line had incredibly low ridership by modern standards, so MTA used some of these antiques to service it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One missed last year’s Nostalgia Trains, for a variety of reasons, but after the long holiday weekend – Our Lady of the Pentacle suggested that I get out of the house for a while. I ran into a number of people I know onboard, and met a few new people – including a Subway Historian named Andrew J. Sparburg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MTA is going to be running the Nostalgia Trains every Sunday during December, and the link below offers a bit of nitty gritty about the eight historic examples of their rolling stock, and a schedule of when and where you can board and ride.

from mta.info

Seven of the cars on the “Shoppers Special” are nearly identical except one: No. 1575, which appears much more modern than the rest of the consist. No. 1575 is the prototype for the subway car class that followed the R1/9, with amenities such as fluorescent lights and smaller ceiling fans. Customers can visit the train year-round at the Transit Museum, though it sometimes makes guest appearances for special occasions such as anniversaries and the holidays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does wish that MTA had preserved just one of these historic units in the actual distopian condition which distinguished the NYC Subways during the “bad old days.” Graffiti, mess, etc. It would be great if they hired a professional junkie to pass out on the rattan seats as well. Spray some piss scented air freshener around, hire a couple of thugs to menace the crowds, etc. Poop on the windows… y’know – New Yawk, Fun City.

The problem with museum pieces is often the loving restoration, which belies what their true operational ambience was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I was rather happy that all of the shooting which I’ve been doing in the Subways over the last couple of years seems to have finally paid off. Practice, practice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The nostalgia trains carried us from Queens Plaza to Manhattan, where a short interval was suffered and the reverse trip was begun. I spent much of the first half of the journey catching up with friends and acquaintances, then got busy on the return to Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you’re planning on attending and photographing the trains, I’d recommend bringing along a bright lens (f2.8 or better) and shooting at a fairly high ISO speed. Modern subways are quite a bit better lit than these survivors.

The shot above, if you’re curious – was captured at f3.5, ISO 4000, and a shutter speed of 1/250th. It’s also pretty important, when shooting in the “system,” to adjust your color temperature settings. If you’re on AWB or “auto white balance,” you’re going to be losing a whole lot of the image to an orange cast which will increase image noise. I shoot in raw format, and therefore always adjust the color temperature of the shot during the development process, but these were captured under the menu settings for tungsten light and later adjusted to 3750K.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thanking the merciful creator that I didn’t have to spend much time in Manhattan, the Nostalgia trains soon reentered Queens Plaza, where riders were commanded to debark by the MTA personell. It seems they didn’t want us to see the turnaround track, for some reason.

Funny thing is, the crowd who was in attendance at this event seemed to be at least 50% railfan. Railfans will tell you the kind – and exact model – of the screws used to hold the track in place, when it was installed, and where the rails were forged.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train disappeared into the east bound tunnel, whereupon it executed a reversal along the occluded turnaround track, and then picked up another load of lookie loos for the journey back to Second Avenue.

The Nostalgia trains are running every Sunday until the end of the year.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2016 at 11:30 am

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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

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Well, that sucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is dismayed at the results of yesterday’s election results, and I’m in fact struck dumb by them. I was hoping that the United States wouldn’t succumb to its baser instincts in this election, but I’ve been disappointed before. It always strikes me as odd that working class people across the country continually vote against their own interests – which is what a vote for either one of the major parties ultimately turns out to be.

Saying that, as I’ve opined several thousand times in the last year – the National level stuff is above my pay grade, and that the only thing we can really have any effect on are the local issues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can offer you predictions – based on having lived through several rightist swings in the White House about what the next half decade holds. There will be war, and recession, an unregulated corporatist nirvana, and the very same rural and rust belt people who voted the new administration into power will be the ones most impoverished by its policies.

This is nothing new, of course, and it hasn’t been so since Marius and Sulla.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mistake made by the leftists in this election was in the choice of a technocrat candidate who seemed to be awaiting a popular voter enabled coronation to the Presidency – despite being remarkably unpopular. The national level party bosses repudiated, and destroyed, the chances of the populist wing in their own party structure in the name of ensuring this coronation. As the Book of Revelations says – you are neither hot nor cold, you are lukewarm, and I spit you out.

They ran a 20th century campaign in 2016, and lost.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rural/urban divide is something I’ve been talking about for a long time, incidentally. I’m of the belief that we are headed for a second Civil War in these United States, one that isn’t based around a North and South divide, but instead one that is based around whether you live in a City or a Town.

Cities are internationalist, towns nationalist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Beyond all of that, one is absolutely speechless and sort of terrified. Apoplectic is an appropriate word.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing is, this election came out of NYC.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 9, 2016 at 12:30 pm

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Detestation of the water lizard, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“There’s so many of us” is a choral from a song by the LA Punk band Fear, specifically their “Lets Have a War” anthem.

One is reminded of this ditty continually, and as I often find myself chiding narrowly focused members of the municipal governing class during meetings concerning the Newtown Creek situation – and effect upon the waterway of ongoing population loading of North Brooklyn and Western Queens – you have to think holistically about the “system.” The old adage about a Butterfly fluttering its wings in Borneo triggering a series of random atmospheric reactions which eventually result in an Atlantic hurricane often seems to apply. What’s one more truck? C’mon, it’s one truck…

What apocalyptic effect is just one more apartment house going up in Hunters Point, or Flushing for that matter, going to have? Who cares? That’s Corona, don’t you live in Astoria? Worry about yourself. Mind your own business.

That’s what people say, and I respond “think holistically.” That truck has to cross a bridge and drive down local streets, then it has to reverse out. Every truck trip is two truck trips, and it doesn’t just go through Greenpoint – but Bushwick and or Maspeth too. Maybe even Astoria, if it’s headed for the bridge.

The political districts of Western Queens and North Brooklyn serve to carve up the real estate development scenario and make things seem like the rising residential towers are individual examples of a series of an isolated and unconnected series of projects – not some vast littoral construction site that stretches out for a few miles – along the east river and between the Queensboro and Williamsburg bridges. It’s exciting to see the future taking shape, I guess, in the same way that a kitchen fire is exciting.

There is meant to be no cumulative relationship whatsoever between the Greenpoint Landing and Hunters Point South developments, which are separated by the Newtown Creek and connected via the G line subway. The 7 line crowding in Queens is (politically speaking) a Jimmy Van Bramer issue, the impending L line shutdown in Brooklyn a Steve Levin problem. When the L shuts down, MTA will be adding an additional car to the G and they plan on directing the L passengers to Court Square – where they’ll transfer to the 7.

Then they’re both going to have the same problem, the first of many such issues which the interconnected mega development of the east river coastline of Long Island is going to present.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason I haunt the transit corridors is precisely because that’s where you can discern the size and scope of the enormous build out that’s occurring across the boroughs and Queens in particular.

If you ride the 7, you are well aware that the entire transit corridor is booming with new construction, from its eastern terminus in Flushing right through Roosevelt, Corona, Jackson Heights, Woodside, Sunnsyide, and LIC, to its western terminus in Manhattan at the “Hudson Yards” megaproject. The so called “international express” is packed to the gills with commuters the whole way, even late at night. The City’s answer to mass transit congestion has been the creation of bike lanes. Bike lanes aren’t a bad idea by any means, but they don’t address the issues of how people will “get there from here,” and they leave an awful lot of older and disabled people behind.

You have to think holistically about the route of the 7, and the municipal needs of the people who are intended to inhabit all of these newly minted “deluxe apartments in the sky.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Holistic, as in totality, informs and instructs. Despite the tens of thousands of new neighbors – and to my knowledge – there are no new fire houses, hospitals, or police stations being planned or built along the corridor and route of the 7. We’re getting every last dollar out of the Bowery Bay sewer plant in Astoria, going strong since 1939, but there isn’t a new one in the works to handle the tens of thousands of new toilets being installed in Queens. Neither the Cops, nor DSNY, seem to be staffing up either.

In many ways, we could really benefit from the advice and talents of the late Robert Moses at this stage of the game. Moses thought holistically, and no matter what he built – there was a park attached to it. Did you know that the difference between expressways and parkways is that the latter has wooded shoulders that count as “parks”? That’s one of Moses’s, who was some kind of evil genius. If Superman was real and lived in NYC instead of Metropolis, Moses would have likely been his Lex Luthor.

Or we can extend the bike lanes into the subway stations, as “There’s so many of us.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

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