The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Queens Plaza’ Category

so special

with 3 comments

A busy week arrives.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been somewhat less than fully engaged with my normal round for the last couple of weeks, simply in the name of enjoying the last couple of weeks of August. Uncharacteristic of me, periodic downtime is nevertheless a “necessary.” One believes that all true wisdom can be gleaned from 1970’s “prog rock” lyrics and as the band “Yes” proferred in their anthem “Roundabout” – don’t surround your self with yourself, move on back to square.

Ruts can be depressing, as are the daily demands of the world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This week, I’ve got a fairly major Newtown Creek event going on (not a public event, unfortunately) which has been increasingly all consuming, that will play out on Wednesday evening. Suffice to say, it takes place on a boat, and that one has been tremulously watching the quite changeable weather reports that have accompanied the path of Hurricane Hermine up the eastern seaboard.

As soon as the event has passed, which will be after Wednesday evening, I’ve got a few new offerings for the general public as far as walking tours and so on that I’ll tell y’all about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The aquatic excursion will be a Newtown Creek event, onboard and co hosted by the Fireboat John J. Harvey, which I’ve been describing to invitees as a “Community Conversation about Newtown Creek with the Newtown Creek Community.” The event will bring together community representatives, business leaders, environmentalists, and government employees with the goal of discussing the future. I’m proud too say that one of the goals of the trip – to engage neighborhood people and organizations from the eastern section of the Creek (Maspeth, East Williamsburg, Bushwick) seems to have been accomplished. The event has been underwritten – in the name of full disclosure – by Connective Strategies and the Newtown Creek Group, who represent the “potentially responsible parties” named in the Superfund declaration.

Cross your fingers, as this should be a rather productive conversation. We are nearing the interval in which the post superfund future of Newtown Creek will be decided upon, and it’s one of my goals to ensure that everybody’s voice and concerns be addressed. As I’ve told multiple people – there’s a path which I think is the right one, but it’s not up to me to tell Maspeth what it needs. That’s what City Hall does, and unlike the Mayor I happen to believe in Democracy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As an aside, the probable serial killer whom I’ve christened the “Queens Cobbler” seems to have returned to the area, and resumed their nefarious work – as evidenced by a sudden dearth of “single shoe” occurrences.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

rational position

with one comment

I really need a vacation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the fun involved with buying a new lens is testing it out. Doesn’t matter how good or bad the device is, there’s “sweet spots” and contradictory failings which the itinerant wanderer needs to be familiar with if the thing is part of the daily carry. The B&H folks have a fairly generous return and exchange policy, and in my experience, the window in which you can hand them back the lens is a crucial interval for the investment. Accordingly, one has been shooting everything, and everywhere.

I can tell you this, the sigma 50-100 is one hell of a portrait lens, but I’ve had unequal results in certain circumstances. My effort at the moment is to discover where and when those failings occur, rendering them predictable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the places this lens absolutely sings is in the dark. The shot above is “wide open” and was captured while I was waiting for the train at 59th street recently. I’ve been saying it for a while, but the subway system is an absolutely fantastic photography workshop. Worst case scenario lighting, with a reflective subject moving at speed through darkness.

I don’t often “open the hood” on the process I use to produce shots for Newtown Pentacle, but since a bunch of you asked after yesterday’s post…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots above were captured at f2.2, with the lens dialed out to 94mm at ISO 5000. I’ve got a few other “bright lenses” but the sigma 50-100 really does a beautiful job drinking in the lurid shimmerings of pale light, and it literally outshines the other specimens in my “dark” kit. You can discern the lens’s aperture blades in the hot spots surrounding the R train’s headlights, incidentally.

Shots like these subway images are dependent, in my experience on shooting posture. There are US Army sniper rifle manuals out there which discuss shooting postures, and the body posture process which riflemen use to steady and focus their fire on targets is quite appropriate for the capture of light through a lens, IMHO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From a different commute, the shot above was captured at Queens Plaza, and also depicts an R line train entering the station. There’s a bright, almost cartoony quality to the way that sigma’s “art” series lenses renders primary colors which required some adjusting on the saturation slider when I was working on the shot in Photoshop’s “camera raw” window.

For those not in the know, RAW format is essentially an uncompressed digital negative which allows a great deal of fine tuning to the captured shot as the file contains ALL of the information which the sensor saw, whereas JPEG is an image which is compressed and all the decisions have been made for you by the camera. Those decisions include color temperature, depth of shadows/highlights and so on. Every RAW shot can therefore receive a bit of a tweak, and I always shoot in that format.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I engage in when testing a lens is trying to push it to fail. Architectural detail does not work well with a wide open lens, due to the shallow depth of field. Even an infinity focus will produce unacceptable “bokeh” in this context, or at least it’s unacceptable to my eye. I want to see every rivet.

Saying that, the two shots of the Manhattan Bridge in today’s post were shot at f2.2 on a sunny afternoon.

I think I’m going to keep this lens. 

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm

frightened messengers

with one comment

Massing, massing, massive – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a few days ago, one found himself walking towards Hunters Point via the Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue route which I refer to as “the Carridor.” I was heading for a public safety meeting, regarding the East River parks in Hunters Point, and as is my habit – the opportunity to stretch my legs and get a bit of exercise was seized.

Whenever I’ve taken this walk over the last couple of years, one thought seems to predominate as I cast my gaze around – “they’ve stolen the sky.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sky has been stolen, or horse traded away, by the Real Estate people in collusion with the short term thinkers who populate City Hall – of course – but ultimately, who did they steal it from? Did anyone used to own the sky in Western Queens?

Definitively, somebody does own the sky now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The area around Queens Plaza and Court Square, in particular, has become a shadowed warren of glassy towers.

At the public safety meeting in Hunters Point, which was called due to a disturbing allegation of a rape occurring in Gantry Plaza State Park, the residents of the new buildings surrounding the waterfront had a chance to speak and offer their complaints about this and that.

Most of their comments boiled down to “I’ve lived here for twenty minutes, and this isn’t what the realtor told me it would be like.” Nobody told them that the Borough Motto was “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself” it seems.

The tower people mainly offered quality of life complaints to the panel at the front of the room which included Jimmy Van Bramer and representatives of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy as well as the various branches of law enforcement who have jurisdiction over the parks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can barely spot the Citi Megalith anymore, which once stood as a lone sentinel.

The impossible thing which cannot possibly exist that lurks in its cupola… with its unblinking three lobed burning eye… no longer has an unoccluded view of the world below.

Upcoming Events and Tours

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

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

accordingly determined

with 4 comments

Queens Plaza, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wowzers. It’s no secret that I’m concerned about the “population loading” of Western Queens which has been and is currently underway. From an urbanist point of view, there’s really no reason “why” you shouldn’t cram as many people onto every square inch of city center as you can, and Queens Plaza is – in fact – pretty close to the center of all things. Just ask the powers that be, they’ll rattle off how many subway and bus lines there are, and throw in the East River Ferry as well. They won’t mention hospitals, or the fact that LIC can’t seem to build enough schools to meet its current demands, nor the costs of expanded Police, Fire, and Sanitation units.

What are you gonna do, fight City Hall?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There seems to be a burst of construction activity going on at the moment over on Jackson Avenue between Court Square and Queens Plaza – these shots are from late on a Saturday morning about a week ago, incidentally. The construction guys had closed down Jackson to one lane, as they were moving in a tower crane and other equipment. To say that traffic was snarled…

Actually, automotive traffic is another thing that the powers that be generally neglect to mention when discussing this very modern corridor of some brave new world which is being built down here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The buildings at the far end of the shot above are closer to Court Square and the Citigroup Megalith, which has suddenly begun to seem a lot less out of place or wildly out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood. My guess is that all of the people who will be moving in here soon are meant to take the 7 train to work.

The 7 express is, of course and by the MTA’s own admission, at capacity as of right now. The riders of the 7 routinely describe overcrowded conditions, and complaints about having to allow several Manhattan bound trains to pass before they can even find a spot to squeeze into have been heard from as far away as Sunnyside and Jackson Heights.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To me, it stands to reason that the next waves of development should consider the creation of exurb commercial centers, outside of Manhattan. That would allow for job locations to radiate away from the titular center of the City, to the east and north. An office complex in Jamaica, or maybe Forest Hills? They’re served by several train lines as well. This Manhattancentric development model is really going to end up hurting us, but what do I know? I just live here.

Pretty soon, there’s going to be a gigantic number of people in Long Island City, all flushing their toilets at the same time every morning. Guess where all that sewage is going to end up? The 1939 vintage Bowery Bay sewage treatment plant in Astoria, that’s where. If there’s too much of the smelly stuff in the pipes under the street, like when it’s raining, it’ll go into Newtown Creek.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Thursday, June 30, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Elizabeth Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2016 at 11:30 am

heavy features

leave a comment »

A few shots from NYC’s most photogenic subway line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, a post was offered at this – your Newtown Pentacle – describing the 99th anniversary of the opening of the IRT Flushing Line’s Corona Extension. That’s the 11 stops between Queensboro Plaza and what’s now called 103rd Corona Plaza on the 7. My intention for that post was to show you every station, which I did in fact visit and shoot… but you know me… a week late and a dollar short.

Speaking of, I’m running a bit late today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Large groupings of photos – in the case of the 7 line shots, I came home with something close to a thousand individual captures which have been boiled down to around 200 – create a sort of roadblock for me. They need to be treated as one continuous shoot during the developing process (I shoot in RAW format, so every shot gets a little love and attention). Procedurally, it works like this – an initial pass to cull out over and underexposed or just junk shots, followed by key wording and then cropping. At the end of the procedural stuff I finally get to do the “developing” stage which is the photoshop equivalent of what you film people used to do in the dark room when pulling prints. Once that’s done I can finally start spawning the final incarnations of the things you see, and upload them to the web for dissemination.

When you’re starting with a thousand individual images, this ends up taking a lot of time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I ended up riding the 7 for several hours last week, between Willets Point and Queensboro Plaza. To me, at least, it was worth the effort.

Speaking of transit, tonight at 6:30 at Riccardos by the Bridge in Astoria, there’s a meeting to plan a centennial celebration for the Hell Gate Bridge which I intend on attending. Come with?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2016 at 1:00 pm

repellant mannerisms

leave a comment »

No more meetings, supposition instead, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last few days, you’ve been informed about my various causes and committees, and some of the “inside baseball” on the Newtown Creek story has been offered. There’s more I could tell you, and will in the fullness of time. I’ve got a whole world of weird minglings with the “powers that be” which I can relate, but a lot of these encounters are in situations where some discretion is expected from all parties and I don’t want to act like a jerk and tattle everything I’ve been told about this and that.

One thing which I’ve been annoying the powerful about is the Mayor’s proposed street car system – the BQX. When I bring it up, the powers and potentates of the permanent government exhibit a momentary flash of wild panic, and they then start assuring me that it’s an entirely reasonable proposal, all the while forcing that horrible crocodile grin of the professional politician across their mugs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve got the route of this BQX thing figured out, incidentally. It’s an Einsteinian thought experiment, this, and entirely out of my own brain – none of the officials I know will say anything other than “we’re looking at a number of options” even in informal settings. My impression is that the Mayor just dropped this on officialdom and didn’t really check with anyone to see if the BQX was feasible before announcing it, but that’s strictly an impression. The route I list below is based on my personal knowledge gained from thousands of hours walking the western shore of Long Island, coupled with literally hundreds of water born observations.

At the northern side – it’ll start at the former Politti Power Plant by Astoria Park, travel down Shore Road to the corner of Astoria Park South, and then ride on a causeway built into the water, on its way to the Astoria Point development. It’ll roll around the periphery of the peninsula which Astoria Point will share with NYCHA’s Astoria Houses and then come back to shore at Hallets Cove near Socrates Sculpture Garden. It then heads south along Vernon to LIC, turning west at 46th avenue to meet and make a left on Center Blvd. just after Anable Basin. From there, it continues down to second street and a new drawbridge over Newtown Creek, which meets up with West Street in Greenpoint. South along West to Kent and Williamsburg, then around Wallabout Creek to Kent’s intersection with Flushing Avenue. The BQX then tracks south down Flushing Avenue and around the Navy Yard.

I’ll get to Vinegar Hill and DUMBO in a minute.

Let’s just skip ahead to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where Furman Street would carry BQX south to Columbia and then it would track under the Gowanus Expressway through Red Hook and all the way to Industry City in Sunset Park. I think it would be passing over a retrofitted Hamilton Avenue Bridge spanning over the Gowanus Canal.

Hamilton carries the BQX trackway to Third Avenue and – VOILA – you’re at Industry City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fly in the BQX ointment, as I see it, is precisely that Vinegar Hill section and the area which my dad used to refer to as “Downtown Brooklyn” where the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges converge with Subway lines, highways, a complex of courts, housing projects, government buildings, the rich people in Brooklyn Heights who are easily annoyed and politically relevant, and – literally – the highest real estate valuations which can be found upon the planet along Brooklyn’s Gold Coast.

I have no idea how you’d thread the streetcar needle through that area, and most of the important people (whom you’d be surprised I even know, let alone enjoy congenial relationships with – I still can’t believe some of the folks I get to interact with) I’ve asked how no idea how to do it either. I’ve been told by engineer friends in the construction business that it would be easier to build the two new bridges over Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal for this project, simultaneously, than it will be to acquire or afford enough space in “Downtown Brooklyn” for the BQX.

It’s funny, I have no real opinion on this project. I’m neither for, nor against, as I explain to these members of the permanent government whom I condemn to this conversation. I just think it’s kind of an interesting thought experiment, and when the conversation runs its course – alternatively suggest select bus service which could use the route described above, and you wouldn’t have to build any new bridges or buy up parts of DUMBO to accomplish the goal of the thing and achieve a right of way.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

mortal assurances

leave a comment »

Did you feel that? Did a truck just go by?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The geology of Western Queens is fairly fascinating. A humble narrator is interested in all things, and one of them is the very ground beneath his feet. Historically speaking, the zone which modernity calls Queens Plaza and Court Square in Long Island City were wetlands. There is rock down there somewhere, but the “craton” which underlies this section of a very Long Island was deposited by the glacial retreat at an odd angle which slopes downward as you head south. A craton is essentially a giant boulder, and that underground slab of rock which is found in LIC’s neck of the woods is buried beneath layers of naturally occurring clay and sand, and a loosely packed 20-30 foot thick layer of anthropogenic landfill material sits atop it. True geologic bedrock doesn’t appear until you get to Maspeth, where the terminal moraine of Long Island begins.

Municipal landfill began to reduce the wetlands and swamps of LIC beginning in the early 19th century, which buried many of the now lost tributaries of both Newtown and Sunswick Creeks which flowed through these parts. Once, you could sail from Newtown Creek all the way to Northern Blvd. at 31st street, and by once I mean 1881. The desire to stamp out typhus and cholera in LIC, Dutch Kills, and Astoria during the “sanitary era” is part of what provided impetus for the landfill process.

The construction of the Queensboro Bridge and the Sunnyside Yards in the first decade of the 20th century finished the job of reclaiming what was – by all accounts – a pestilential swamp. Modernity has forgotten all about that, just ask the East Side Access guys who accidentally found one of those buried waterways  – a catastrophic discovery which delayed their progress and added billions of dollars onto the cost of the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, I’m not much of anything, let alone an engineer or a geologist. What I am, however, is a guy with a collection of old maps and a series of books which describe what things were like in the area surrounding Jane Street Queens Plaza from the colonial period to the start of the 20th century. The engineers who worked on Sunnyside Yards described some pretty esoteric conditions at the corner of Skillman and Thompson – for instance – including mud that would form 18 feet high waves spontaneously as the tidal action from surrounding waters transmitted through it. The Ravenswood houses are built on a tidal pond/marsh/swamp formed by Sunswick Creek, and the area around the present day LaGuardia Community college was known as the “waste meadows” until Michael Degnon got ahold of them in the 1910’s and filled the wetland swamps in with rock tailings harvested from the subway tunnels which his company was working on.

I’m also a guy who understands that even the stoutest limb will crack if it’s made to bear weight beyond its tolerance. Now, it’s pretty unlikely that a craton, which is a boloid of rock the size of an asteroid that is miles across and thousands of feet thick, would crack. It could sink, however, into the glacial till which it rests upon. This fills me with real concern, given the whole climate change/sea level thing that the Republicans claim isn’t happening. How much crap can you pile in one place before something “gives”?

The firmament is literally shaking in LIC these days, what with all the high rise construction going on, and the truck loads of structural steel and concrete rolling through.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My buddies in construction tell me that once you find solid footing – driving steel and concrete down until it meets that rock craton – you can pretty much build as big as you want. The piles sit on the rock, then you create a concrete slab which provides for a stable surface that spreads weight load out over a large area, and you build. Engineers calculated wind sheer, vibration, soil solidity and a thousand other factors years before the first shovelful of earth was turned. An elaborate bureaucracy of planners and building specialists have scoured the plans, looked for any possible error or issue, and made corrections when warranted. Believe when I tell you, these people won’t allow any single structure to crack the earth open anywhere in NYC.

Saying that, they are all largely looking at projects on an individual basis, and not a holistic whole. What will happen when everything scrapes the sky? Will the ground continue to shake, or will LIC just sink?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

 

%d bloggers like this: