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Archive for the ‘Queens Plaza’ Category

accordingly determined

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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.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2016 at 11:30 am

heavy features

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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?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2016 at 1:00 pm

repellant mannerisms

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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.

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April 16th, Obscura Day 2016
“Creek to Creek Industrial Greenpoint Walking Tour” with Mitch Waxman and Geoff Cobb.
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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

mortal assurances

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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?

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found unfastened

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It used to be called Jane Street, y’know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent occasion found one perambulating from Astoria to Hunters Point. My eventual assignation was scheduled for the early evening (or late afternoon if you sleep in) and a decision to walk a less than efficient route was undertaken. A crooked hypotenuse is what I’d call the route chosen for transversing the somewhat triangular area, which would carry me into a couple of places I haven’t walked through in about a year. A year in LIC is long enough for square blocks of the place to have been demolished and for hundreds of feet of glass tower raised from the rubble, and since it was a nice day – off I went.

The DSNY earth mover was seen on Vernon Blvd., and for some odd reason, presenting these shots to you in a timeline inverse to their actual capture works better. Go figure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queensboro never disappoints. The Terracotta House restoration seems to finally be just about finished and a cursory inspection suggests that a pretty nice job of it has been done. For those of you not in the know about the New York Terra Cotta company, nor the sole remaining remnant of their presence in LIC, click here for a fairly old Newtown Pentacle post on the subject – from 2009.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent an awful amount of time in this area back in 2009, during the centennial celebrations of the great bridge. I was a parade marshall for the event, the first time I’d ever done something like that. I’ve become an old hand at conducting tours and being in public at this point, but back then everything was shiny and new.

If I knew then what I know now… I tell ya…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It won’t be long before Queensboro is hemmed in on all sides by towers and condominiums, and the glorious light of a winter afternoon will be occluded in the same manner as the East River Bridges in Brooklyn. For those of you who have never wandered around this area, it is highly recommended, but watch your back.

You are generally pretty safe around these parts, but if things go bad it happens pretty fast and the consequences can be awful. You mainly have to worry about traffic, but there are also inslaubrious characters hanging about here and there. Just keep moving, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The north side of the bridge had already been overshadowed by a series of new high rise construction projects. The tower you see in the shot above is over in the shining city of Manhattan across the river, a residential luxury tower which vaingloriously surpasses the height of the Empire State Building – called 432 Park Avenue.

As mentioned at the top of the post, the Queensboro bridge landing in Queens Plaza was once LIC’s Jane Street.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 24, 2016 at 11:00 am

is where

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Is there anyplace smellier than the IND station at Queens Plaza?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stumbling home through the dark recently, a humble narrator found himself at Queens Plaza, waiting for the R or M to arrive and carry his stinking carcass back to Astoria. “It seems that I’ve been dead for quite a while, judging by the smell,” thought I. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t the standard “eau d’ jew” which accompanies the end of a period of physical exertion and exercise which I was discerning, rather it was some other reeking horror that was permeating the Subway Platform.

At the end of the platform, or at least the side where the last Queens bound subway car arrives, that I found the source of an odor which I can only describe as Satan’s diarrhea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that the syringe had already separated itself from this bubbling spring of buboes breeding Queens juice, but the smell of it…

Now remember, I’m the Newtown Creek guy. I hang around Sewer Plants, and open drains which carry liquids whose coloration ranges from olive green to cadmium yellow, and am possessed by fond memories of walking amongst the settling and aeration pits of the DEP. When I say an odor is nose hair curling, will wither away plastic, and describe something as having smelled like the dysentery of the Devil itself – pay attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can guess where this water is coming from, but it would only be a guess. The underground IND Subways in Long Island City are essentially concrete bath tubs which were set into a wetland that was already despoiled by sewage and industrial pollution by the time LIC incorporated in 1870. The subways didn’t come along until the 20th century, of course, but the waterways that flowed through Queens Plaza are still very much present.

One of them was the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek itself, which flowed across what’s now the Sunnyside Yards and was navigable all the way back to 40th avenue at the corner of Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue. Just ask the East Side Access guys, they drilled right into it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Commuters in Queens who transfer at Queens Plaza, and at the 21st street G station, will tell you about seeing green water spilling out from behind the tile walls and gag a bit trying to describe the smell. In the case of 21st, it’s a different tributary of Newtown Creek – contained into a sewer tunnel – called Jack’s Creek. If you see, or smell the phenomena at Queens Plaza – my bet is that it’s Dutch Kills.

Can I prove this? No. Call it a hunch, or an educated guess by a guy who spends his time on the shorelines of Dutch Kills’s extant path who can recognize its particular pungency from a half mile away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

yellow paw

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A few randoms, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An assertion which has been offered on several occasions… it’s actually more an observation or opinion, actually… is that the 7 line of the NYCTA division of the MTA is the most photogenic of NYC’s subways – particularly that stretch that emanates off the Queensboro Bridge heading towards Sunnyside and Woodside. There’s all kinds of delays, crowding, and an angry mob has and continues to form from Queensicans suffering the “7 Train Blues” but for a purely visual bit of candy – the 7 just can’t be beat.

I also enjoy photographing the G, particularly at the elevated Smith 9th street stop in far off Red Hook, but the 7 is tops.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Carridor, or Northern Blvd. as it is conventionally known, is also one of my favorite spots to wave the camera around – particularly at twilight. Pictured above is a car lot that occupies a triangular property nearby 43rd street. The particulars of Northern Boulevard’s mapping, which sees it sweep around the curvilinear borders of the Sunnyside Yards, creates several oddly shaped properties. There are few rectilinear or squared off lots along its run from 31st street to Woodside Avenue. As it enters Jackson Heights, the road assumes a more conventional path as it moves through Roosevelt and Corona on its way to Flushing.

I’ve walked all of Northern Blvd. between 31st and Citifield, where pedestrian sidewalks disappear nearby the intersection with Ditmars and Astoria Blvd., and can tell you that the section adjoining Astoria, Sunnyside, and Woodside are my favorites – the happy hunting grounds, as it were.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been fascinated throughout the summer by a certain Brownfield remediation project underway in Queens Plaza, incidentally. Sometime soon, you will be greeted by post detailing the operations underway at the former West/CN Chemical factory and the efforts being made to raise residential towers on the site. Personally, I would not want to a) live in Queens Plaza, b) live on the site of a chemical factory which was erected on a swamp, c) live within throwing distance of the tens of thousands of automobiles which exit the Queensboro or traverse Jackson Avenue, or d) live within direct ear shot of the 7, N, Q elevated tracks. I wouldn’t mind capturing shots of these trains from the windows of one of these towers, I would add, but wouldn’t want to live there.

I’ll happily take my little spot here in Astoria, although it is never quiet here either.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 21, 2015 at 1:36 pm

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