The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Queens Plaza’ Category

certain amount

leave a comment »

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2016 at 11:30 am

engulfed in

with 4 comments

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

maximum diameter

with 2 comments

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 9, 2016 at 12:30 pm

wholly beneath

with 2 comments

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.”


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

stench and anguish

with 5 comments

Queens Plaza, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrifying is how I usually describe the rate of real estate development around Queens Plaza, but I do have to admit that all the high visibility construction materials, which are orange, that currently surround the transit hub really do add a bit of color to an otherwise dour locale. Ten years ago, the only colors you associated with Queens Plaza were soot green, soot gray, and just plain soot. There were also little piles of blood here and there, but… y’know.

I’m sure the residential towers in the shot above, rising on the site of a former chemical factory, will end up being encased in the same sort of pale blue glass that all the other recent arrivals sport, but it would be great if we could permanently adopt some colors from the other side of the color spectrum around these parts – just to liven things up and provide some contrast with the increasingly occluded sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As part of the “affordable housing” bonanza being led by the Big Little Mayor these days, I’ve been brainstorming for ways that I can get in on the feeding frenzy. Having no desire to alienate parkland or build a luxury tower on a former playground in a NYCHA housing project, this has forced me to get creative.

Sleeper cars on the subways! That’s my idea. Imagine tooling around the City in your own personal car, like some sort of modern day Artemis Gordon and James West. Sleeper cars on the Subway would defeat “NIMBY” sentiments for homeless shelters as well, as the shelter wouldn’t reside in any one neighborhood for long (except in the case of the Franklin Avenue Shuttle).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NIMBY thing, as thrown around by the Real Estate shit flies and their acolytes, bugs me.

The way it’s used by these oligarchs is contextually meant to throw a recidivist cast on local activists who oppose the wholesale destruction of their communities by external forces seeking to squeeze every bit of bank they can from functioning neighborhoods. The subtext is that the people who presently reside in Queens are atavist or racist, or anti “progress,” and must be done away with.

Since this “progress” is the seeming goal of real estate oligarchs like Donald J. Trump – replacing working class residents with higher end tenants while claiming their developments will address historical wrongs – as the new populations can be exploited in deeper ways than the old ones due to the size of their wallets – the NIMBY accusation against opponents plays quite well in the press who want to please their principal advertising customers. If “NIMBY” doesn’t work, however, then the real estate lobby moves on to “racist.” Tell me, are rich people now an ethnic bloc? If race figures into luxury real estate development, what are the demographics of the moneyed class who are the anticipated tenants of these towers, and that of those who are displaced by them? I also point out to our overwhelmingly single party political system that these new residents won’t necessarily be members of the Democratic Party, which will kind of mess up your franchise and that iron grip on political power you currently enjoy.

The higher end tenants moving into these towers will not have a back yard to complain about anyway, as they’ll be living on top of a former chemical factory in Queens Plaza. Does Janovic or Home Depot offer interior design supplies in shades of “soot”?

Upcoming tours and events:


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

oblong apartment

with 2 comments

Getting high over the East River, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seemed like every time I turned around last week, I had to go to Manhattan for one reason or another. I’ll tell you about the reason that I was at the Waldorf Astoria next week, but I was done with that sliver of my life by around 5:45, and the thought of boarding a rush hour train was anathema. Besides, after the chicken fried bacon incident, I had a serious desire to get some exercise… a lot of exercise.

Walking home to Astoria from midtown, rather than using the subway, I soon logically found myself at the Queensboro Bridge, which I haven’t perambulated across in several months for some reason. Queensboro is a fairly decent bit of “cardio” exercise, incidentally, due to the long sloping ascent to its high point over the river at mid span.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a VERY well used pedestrian and bicycle path on the north side of the bridge, one that I used to find myself walking quite often back during 2009 when I was working with the NYC Bridge Centennial committee, which organized the parades and events celebrating the hundred year anniversary of the East River bridges (also, one over the Harlem River, and the Borden and Hunters Point Avenue bridges over the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queensboro is beautiful. Period. It’s one of my favorite sites to photograph in the entire city, and I never get bored of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I like Queensboro in the late afternoon during fall and spring, as the quality and angles of the light – and the dramatic contrast it creates – are just lovely. Brooklyn Bridge gets all the tourists, and attention, but I’ll take Queensboro any day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pedestrian and bicycle path crests at mid span, and the wide open vistas encountered are breath taking. If you haven’t had this experience for yourself, why not get off the couch and check it out? I refuse to repeat anything from Great Gatsby, Paul Simon, or a Spiderman movie.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Queens shoreline, that’s the Big Allis power plant in the Ravenswood section.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even the NYCHA housing at the western side of Queens Plaza look pretty sweet from up here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking back from the pedestrian walkway towards Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pedestrian and bicycle walkway lands in Queens at Queens Plaza, nearby Crescent street.

Upcoming tours and events:


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

suddenly lost

leave a comment »

Getting high in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one of the environmental projects underwritten by GCEF (the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund) opened to the public at Brooklyn’s 520 Kingsland Avenue, alongside that loathsome exemplar of municipal neglect known as the Newtown Creek. In this case, the project is a green roof installed on top of a movie studio, specifically one of the production facilities owned and operated by the Broadway Stages company which is partially housed in a series of formerly industrial locations around Greenpoint and Long Island City. Broadway Stages has been buying up a LOT of property along the Creek in recent years.

Well, I guess the location is still industrial, it’s just a different kind of industry – entertainment rather than petrochemical. At any rate, 520 Kingsland Avenue is a few stories above the flood plain and whilst up there and on site, I got busy with the camera. You’ve seen this point of view before, incidentally – in a 2016 post where I told you about Brooklyn’s invisible flame back in June.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can’t really talk about it quite yet, but let’s just say I’ll be able to take you up there in a couple of weeks on a couple of free tours. I’ll supply the link as soon as it’s public. The green roof at 520 Kingsland was designed with butterflies, of all things, in mind. Saying that it’s a pretty interesting space with neat little walkways weaving through plantings, and there are incredible views of the surrounding industrial zone to check out.

That’s part of Metro Fuel’s truck fleet in the shot above, for the curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The real stunners, amongst the many points of view available from 520 Kingsland Avenue, are the ones in which the shining city of Manhattan provides the backdrop. This sort of urban pornography is possible due to two reasons: one is that the Greenpoint Landing Project is just kicking into gear, so the POV isn’t blocked by forty story residential palaces yet; the other is that the surrounding area is all 19th century landfill which is both low lying and quite flat.

This POV is looking due west from the 520 Kingsland Avenue rooftop, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northwest POV, gazing across the lugubrious Newtown Creek in the direction of Long Island City’s Hunters Point section.

In the distance, you’ll notice the red and white banded smokestacks of the “Big Allis” power plant at 36th avenue in the Ravenswood section. The Citi building megalith, that sapphire dagger jammed in the heart of the place at Jackson Avenue’s intersection with Thomson Avenue, used to be the only large scale building in the area.

 

As an aside, a few years ago some group of urban planners/art fucks from Pratt University proposed Big Allis’s red and white stripes to me as a branding element for the western Queens waterfront. I had to inform them how we residents regarded the presence of an enormous power plant operating along our waterfront that serves Manhattan’s needs, and that it wasn’t exactly a popular symbol, locally speaking.

 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The singularity of the Citi megalith has, of course, changed. The pace of real estate development in the last few years has been frenetic in LIC, as evinced in the shots above and below. Sometimes, in order to really take it all in, you need to leave Queens entirely – just to gain some perspective.

Funnily enough, this is what I usually say about Manhattan – the best part of “the City” is being outside of it and witnessing the shield wall of buildings from without. An inhuman scale landscape like Manhattan’s can’t be properly observed while you’re within the oppressive shadows of its canyon walls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That white truss structure at center of the shot is the Long Island Expressway, which rises over Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary from its beginnings at the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Dutch Kills intersects with the main body of Newtown Creek about 3/4 of a mile back from the East River, and heads inland for the better part of a mile. The LIE traffic up on that truss bridge is flowing 106 feet over the water. The far right hand side of the shot above shows the construction going on at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Queens Plaza, on the former West Chemicals Company site. Moving left, the rest of the construction is occurring along Jackson Avenue at Purves, Dutch Kills Street, and so on.

All of it is high end residential, incidentally, except for that squamous curvy faced one directly to the left of the orange one. That’s an office building which the NYC Dept. of Health has based itself in nearby Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my little adages, which I gleefully relate on my walking tours of the area, is a facet of NYS law – it dictates that if you were about to buy a home which is known to be “haunted by a ghost” by the current owner and or the surrounding community – the haunting needs to be disclosed before closing the sales contract.

If you’re buying a property that used to be a chemical factory, or a copper refinery, or some other heavy industrial pursuit that rendered the site a “brownfield” – you are under no obligation to disclose the environmental history to a buyer, however.

When you meet newer residents of LIC’s Tower Town or Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, and mention a nearby Federal Superfund site defined as “Newtown Creek” – they say “What’s that?”

Upcoming tours and events:


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

%d bloggers like this: