The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Queens Plaza’ Category

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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 29, 2018 at 11:30 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

avoided acquaintenances

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Taking chances, with the Vampires of Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in past postings, the “thing” which I’m currently into is taking photos at night. On Tuesday last, one attended a meeting of the estimable Hunters Point Civic group in LIC, and joined with some friends for a few drinks afterwards. A humble narrator had brought along a tripod and a few other pieces of required gear for low light and long exposure work, and after bidding adieu to the lords and ladies of Tower Town headed off in the general direction of Astoria.

It was well after midnight, which is the interval during which the vampires known to inhabit the overhead steel rafters of the elevated subways and bridge off ramps of the Court Square and Queens Plaza zones are off making their nightly attempt on the Blood Center over on Vernon, so I liked my odds of not being exsanguinated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These sort of shots sound a lot simpler to produce than they actually are. The biggest issue one encounters in this sort of pursuit has nothing to do with the photography angle, actually, it’s the management and “carry” of all the various bits and bobs. The lens I use for this sort of shot is inappropriate for general low light usage, so first there’s a changing of the glass. The tripod I have is pretty manageable, but is still a heavy and clumsy thing that needs to be unfolded and deployed. There’s also a wired cable release that needs to be attached to the camera, which can be quite “fumbly.”

You also have to factor in the fact that – for some of the people inhabiting Queens – spotting somebody carrying a camera around seems to have the same effect on them as witnessing somebody carrying an assault rifle. As a note, in at least one instance, the street pictured above is the cinematic setting in which Bruce Wayne’s parents were shot and killed, giving birth to the Batman of Gotham.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For years, one has been working on whittling down the “night kit.” I’ve got two versions of it which I carry, one which is designed around handheld and high ISO shots. That involves so called “bright lenses” which have wide apertures. The vast majority of night shots I produce use this particular toolkit, but the image quality in those shots is degraded due to the noise and grain inherent to the approach. Saying that, if I want to “freeze” motion, that’s the way to go.

The shots in today’s post were produced using a “dark lens” (and the forementioned tripod) which was set to fairly narrow apertures and the lowest ISO settings which my device offers. The exposures are in the 20-30 second range, with field adjustments for lighting temperature and other factors dialed in on a case by case basis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I like about the long exposure stuff is the way that it captures a longer interval of time than the traditional fractional slivers of reality afforded by daylight. When the exposure is 1/1000th of a second, you can freeze the motion of a bird’s wing or capture the dripping of water. You also run into a portraiture problem, however, and need to be concerned with the capture of “micro expressions.” Shoot at a fast shutter speed and you’ll soon learn that people don’t necessarily blink their eyes in tandem and often make odd shapes with their mouths when speaking.

Long exposure work smooths all that out, but also introduces its own set of quirks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The red and white streaks, even the ghostly afterimage of the automobile at the right hand side of the shot above, are typical of the pursuit. For the thirty seconds or so that the cameras shutter was open, vehicles and all sorts of moving objects pass in front of the lens, leaving behind spectral trails. Those thirty seconds are also hellacious for the humble narrator standing behind the setup, as a note, as he twists his neck around constantly scanning for approaching threats.

You’ve got all of these angry drivers whizzing around, vampires stalking from above, and drunken humans stumbling about staring at their little rectangles of glowing glass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Like the sea, Queens is eternal and we are just the latest people passing through it” or “all is transitory,” you can ascribe whatever high falutin artsy fartsy phraseology to the shots in today’s post that you’d like to for all I care. In a gallery space you’d need to talk “art,” which usually means the usage of that sort of language. To me, everything is just a challenge.

This section of Jackson Avenue, leading out of Queens Plaza towards the transmogrification point where it becomes Northern Blvd. is the worst part of the Vampire infestation, as a note. You want to be very careful around this darkest section of the “Carridor,” lest you be snatched up and inculcated into the pallid horde.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing that I’d mention are the bits of gear which haven’t been described. It was literally freezing, temperature wise, when these shots were captured, and it was well after midnight. One was insulated in the normal fashion with a hooded fleece sweatshirt, buttoned up filthy black raincoat, and gloves. Even with these precautions, it was freaking cold. Luckily, my tripod has a couple of foam grips on it, but handling it drained the blood from my fingers on every setup.

Given the vast physical repulsion people generally manifest in response to me, I wasn’t carrying a rape whistle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

all opposition

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When you’re in a dark place, that’s what you should embrace.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent opportunity resulted in one needing to head over to Greenpoint for a reading by my friend Geoff Cobb from his new book about the Havemeyers of North Brooklyn – “The Rise and Fall of the Sugar King.” Owing to all of my recent sloth, when tying up all the layers of clothing to my sclerotic body, discovery of an uncomfortable level of tightness in the waistband of my pants acted as a chide and it was decided to walk rather than catch the train to Greenpoint from Astoria.

My path would take me past to that particular spot where Jackson Avenue transmogrifies into Northen Blvd. That’s one block north east of the historic pathway of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, which still flows below the street in masonry sewerage tunnels, and as we all know – running water acts as a barrier for vampires. That’s whey we don’t have any Nosferatu in Astoria (we are fairly lousy with a specie of hirsute Greek goblin called the Kalikantzaros around these parts, as well as the Strigoi of the South Slavs, but that’s another story). I only know one vampire in Astoria, and his name is Matty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the actual corner that Dutch Kills once ran to, and as late as the American Civil War, the United States Coast Guard listed this area as being navigable. From this spot on, my eyes kept darting up into the rafters of the elevated subway tracks overhead, scanning the ebon clad steel for morbid habitations.

Legend has it that a few of these Vampires attempted to form a hip hop group back in the 90’s. “NWV” was thought to be highly derivative, however, and few people bought their debut singles “Straight outta Queens Plaza” or “Look in mah eyes.” Members of the trio are reported to be part of the nightly assaults on the fortress like NY Blood Center on Vernon Avenue in LIC. In general, the population of the vampires are said to be fairly representative of the surrounding human population, with a recent influx of Asian and Latino members, but there are a few ancients amongst them who can only speak in an archaic form of the Dutch Language. The demographics are cloudy.

Thing is, once you’re a Vampire, that’s all that you are evermore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Losing sight of the worth inherent, or causally dismissing, the stories of addicts, inebriates, or madmen is a bad habit of our modern times. Several members of the aforementioned classes have reported to me that the vampires hidden in the steel above wrap ropes around their waists, securing one end of the line high above. They spiral down from perches above on the ad hoc cables, snatching at the unwary on the sidewalks below, and then both vampire and victim are quickly pulled up by an undead cohort of fellow sanguinarians still in the rafters. One junkie told it me it looked to him like a yo yo made out of people.

I’m not kidding, lords and ladies, stay alert along the stretch of Jackson Avenue between Queens Plaza and 31st street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This fellow pictured above, innocently waiting for the arrival of a bus which will never arrive, something those of us who live in Queens inherently know. He’s fresh meat to those who dwell above, he’s an easy meal, a free dinner. One has always wondered about the complicity of municipal officialdom in the presence of these cullers of the human herd in this area.

Every wonder why there aren’t any street lights focused on the pedestrian lane hereabouts? Take out your rectangular glass computational device in this spot, and see if its GPS can accurately define your position. Where did all the street signs go?

Who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden up there?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heading west/south west along Jackson Avenue, and into a dystopian vision of the Real Estate Industrial Complex’s that men once called Queens Plaza, one wonders how the new population of tower dwellers will fare against the undead. When the Vampires begin to climb and skitter along the mirror glass of the new towers like bloated ticks, seeking the finely curated blood of the affluent, will acknowledgment of the presence of these ancestral monsters finally be acknowledged?

As a side note, is it racially prejudicial to hate and loathe Vampires? Are they part of the whole “diversity thing”?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, once you pass through the crucible of Queens Plaza – having survived the predatory legion above and the vehicular traffic below – you’re pretty much ok. It’s about as safe in LIC as most places in NYC, y’know… except for the endemic environmental pollution, noise, heavy traffic, and roving bands of teenagers.

One scuttled off to Greenpoint, to the reading of Geoff Cobb’s new Sugar King book.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

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