The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Queensboro Bridge’ Category

terror withheld

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PSA: August 23 is the “Night of the Living Dead.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On 45th street, here in Astoria, a water main replacement project has been playing out. That’s the Tully company at work above, contractors for the NYC DEP, doing the work of trenching and replacing old pipe. There’s been a LOT of roadwork and utility construction work happening in the neighborhood for the last couple of years – replacing gas mains leading to either LaGuardia Airport or Astoria Energy on the forbidden northern shore, Vision Zero oriented work on street corners along 31st street, sewer line repairs along several of the avenues.

It’s never quiet for long around these parts, I tell’s ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s been an unusual amount of Police activity as well, here in the 114 pct. Just a couple of weeks ago, the neighborhood along Broadway in the 40’s and 30’s was all abuzz about the Machete Man Bandit, for instance. There there was the Peeping Tomás near by 36th street, and that crazy murder suicide near Hallets Cove which was all over the news.

Even Los Burrachos, the railroad bums that gather nearby the paint shop on 42nd street, have been startled by the sudden appearance of dozens of new homeless inebriates – whom even they look down on. Many have been given nicknames like “Shit his Pants, and American Flag shirt, guy” (which distinguishes this particular fellow from “shit his pants guy”) or “Krustie McGee” and “Surprisingly fat for a homeless guy Guy.” We’ve also suddenly amassed a group of retirement age junkies who have decided to base themselves around the Broadway Branch of the Queens Library and are charismatic but ultimately tragic characters.

Before you ask, these folks are generally what the pros would call “services resistant,” and I reached out to Jimmy Van Bramer about them, and the councilman sent out a DHS counseling crew whom they pretty much ignored. They’re not homeless because of a run of bad luck. Drunks, junkies, bums, street urchins – this is their life and they’re the ones living it, not you. Best you can do by them is to call 911 when you find them passed out on the sidewalk, so they can go sleep it off in a supervised bed, get a shower, and eat a meal on the City at Elmhurst Hospital.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Omnipresent is the thing in the sapphire megalith of Long Island City, gazing down upon the world of men through its unblinking and three lobed burning eye. This thing, which cannot possibly exist, covets. Through its global armies of often unsuspecting acolytes, this thing which does not nor cannot breathe or feel gnaws into the flesh of the world and feeds passively. From the cupola of that sapphire dagger, dug deeply into the heart of Queens, the thing watches men and their folly. It enjoys itself, and plans to someday reveal to mankind new ways for us to revel, and feed, and enjoy ourselves in its manner. 

That last paragraph was just for me, as a note. It’s my birthday, and I’ll cry if I want to.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


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Summer Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always puzzled by this sort of sight, when a piece of heavy construction equipment rolls by on area streets. A buddy of mine in construction once opined that some heavy equipment handlers, who are apparently the construction workers you’ll see who wear  brown helmets with a bunch of stickers on them, aren’t allowed to leave the vehicle alone on the job site. They are obliged to use it for transportation from site to site, and even use it if they’re just picking up lunch somewhere. That doesn’t sound right to me, but I only wear a hard hat occasionally and when it’s required for visiting a work site I’m photographing, but the heavy equipment I’m rolling with is a camera.

Still, screw your bike lanes, “I wants me one of dose tings” pictured above. If I couldn’t find parking, I’d be able to dig a hole for it to live in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next week promises to be more of the same, weather wise, and my schedule is lightly packed. Perhaps I’ll spend some time down in the sweating concrete bunkers of the MTA and raise the suspicions of bored police officers again by photographing trains. I don’t know, I make things up as I go along. One has to be open to serendipity when you’re staring at the world through a camera’s diopter. One has to go the City a couple of times in the coming week to accomplish a few errands, so I might try to find some time to hit the zoo or a museum while I’m in town.

Been meaning to wander around lower Manhattan at night again anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my errands is to get a discounted camera maintenance and sensor cleaning session over at Beards and Hats on Sunday, which will eliminate some pesky dust motes that have resisted all my efforts at removal. You can only discern these occlusions in long exposure and tight aperture shots, which are exactly the direction that my proverbial muse is currently pointing at.

It’s always something.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm

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

sinister matters

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It’s National Ambrosia Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting the most photogenic of NYC’s Subway lines entering the Queensboro Plaza station in LIC.

Tomorrow night, at Jackson’s Eatery Bar in LIC (which sits atop the Vernon Jackson stop of the 7 line at 10-37 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101), Newtown Creek Alliance’s holiday party will occur between 6 and 8:30 p.m. Come with?

 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 12, 2017 at 12:45 pm

reconised from

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It’s National French Toast Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was on my way to the ferry one recent morning, but had to make a quick stop nearby Queens Plaza. Lotsa running around, me. The light bouncing around in Queens Plaza caught my eye, however.

That’s the Rosenwasser Bros. factory at the right hand side of the shot, all illuminated by one of the shiny mirror box condo towers being built in Queens Plaza. It’s Orchard street, by the way, corner of Jackson Avenue. The Rosenwassers were magnates in the rag trade who started out – like many Jewish garment tycoons – in the shirtwaist industry of Lower Manhattan. Running what 21st century eyes would process as a sweatshop, they accumulated enough money to set up a large industrial combine in Queens shortly after the Queensboro bridge opened in 1909, and enjoyed several military as well as civilian contracts. By 1913, they were an established and well known Queensican company run by its President, Morris Rosenwasser, which offered baseball cleats (sold under Babe Ruth branding) and scouting equipment to retailers.

At its height in 1918, the Rosenwasser Company employed some 2,500 people. During the First World War, the firm enjoyed several valuable contracts with the Federal Government. The factory in Queens Plaza turned out an average of 6,000 pairs of shoes a day, 15,000 pairs of leggings, and an undetermined number of canvas gas masks, rucksacks, and other commodities for the war department. A so called “open shop,” the Rosenwassers were prime movers in a case (Rosenwasser Bros. Inc. v. Pepper et al, NYS Supreme Court October 1918) which defined the rights and limitations of organized labor during wartime for a generation.

Who knew?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Welfare Island Bridge opened, officially, on May 18, 1955. We know it as the Roosevelt Island Bridge.

Like the nearby Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, which was erected in the same era, Frederick H. Zurmuhlen of the Dept. of Public Works oversaw the design and construction of the Welfare Island Bridge. One of the unsung men who built the modern city, Zurmuhlen served under three mayors and one Robert Moses.

The Welfare Island Bridge, known to modernity as the Roosevelt Island Bridge, has recently undergone a refurbishment and makeover. Much was made of the cosmetic improvements to the span, but the reality of the investment was a determination that in case of a seismic event – which the City of New York is long overdue for – the Bridge would suffer catastrophic damage. A massive earthquake is one of the unspoken horrors which the City government had been quietly planning for during the twelve year tenure of Michael Bloomberg, something which that Mayor’s office would be applauded for were it more widely known. A tip of the hat goes out to the municipal engineers and planners for both their discretion and the secretive work which they had been performing. Of course, that sort of thing went out the window when the Dope From Park Slope showed up.

As far as the current Mayor… he’s busy trying to build “affordable” waterfront housing that starts at $3,700 for a one bedroom. A highly technical description of NYC’s earthquake risk factors, as prepared and offered in 1998 by the NY State DOT, can be accessed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were captured from the NYC Ferry’s Astoria line, which is one of the few things that I consider the current Mayor as having done well in his first term. Of course, I can tell you that I’d been hearing about this expansion of the East River Ferry service in harbor circles for years, and can quietly point you at certain employees of the NYCEDC who handed the current Mayor a finished plan for him to put his name on the day he got into office, but regardless – if you haven’t ridden the new ferry from Astoria yet, what are you waiting for? You paid for it, you might as well use it. The experience is pretty cool, and it’s only $2.75.

Pictured above is a section of the Big Allis power plant, with the sapphire megalith of LIC peeking through some of its works. Big Allis supplies about 16% of NYC’s electricity, and was the first million kilowatt generating facility in the entire country. Built at the behest of Consolidated Edison, Big Allis (aka Ravenswood Number Three) first went online in 1965. Upon activation, the
dynamos of Big Allis were reduced to slag by the heat issuing from within its massive, natural gas driven turbines. Six months later, a rebuilt system managed to withstand a full hour and twenty seven minutes of these cosmic forces before it too went out of commission for a further four months. The problem was diagnosed by experts and teams of engineers being caused by a malfunctioning bearing which was producing concatenation and vibrations.

Did you know that Big Allis was originally meant to be a nuclear plant?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Queensboro Bridge, pictured above, looking back along the shoreline of Queens at the border of Hunters Point and Ravenswood. The borders between these areas are always hazy, and are often the subject of debate amongst those with an appreciation for times past and things forgotten. I’ve coined the term “angle” to describe these blended neighborhoods; Blissville and West Maspeth, Woodside and Sunnyside, Astoria and Elmhurst etc. In the case of Blissville and Maspeth, the Koscisuzcko Bridge sits on the exact border between the two… but where does Woodside start and Sunnyside end? Even worse, where does Winfield fit into the puzzle? Angles, I tell you, angles.

At least along the East River, things are fairly simple – Astoria, Ravenswood, Hunters Point – from north to south.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You’ve got a lot of “sub zones” as well in those East River neighborhoods in Queens, the Astoria Ferry Line leaves from Lawrence or Astoria Point at Hallets Cove, and the “north side” ferry dock pictured in LIC above is found alongside future superfund site Anable Basin. A hundred years ago, the area where all of those shiny new residential towers pictured above sit in modernity was once the property of the Standard Oil Company and hosted a pretty large parcel of petroleum oriented equipment, chemical and paint factories, and one or two large oil canning operations.

There was also the Ward and Co. Oil and Lard mill back there, which is one of those late 19th and early 20th century industrial operations whose occupation and business… well… common usage would describe it as “Dickensian.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s always difficult to do justice to the East River.

The bridges, the history… it’s a maritime corridor in which so much happened that it’s often hard to believe. In many ways, it’s where American capitalism “figured itself out.” In the 18th and early 19th centuries, it’s where the slave ships were built over on the Manhattan side. It’s where the financial powers which would become “Wall Street” began issuing the credit documents and bills of laiding recognized by the European colonial powers, where the first modern steel hulled and steam powered ships were built, and where profiting from the “five black arts” were perfected and practiced.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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meager funds

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There does not seem to be a verifiable national food holiday for Oct. 9th, although one checked source suggests that it’s National Moldy Cheese Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator, for one, is sick of this summer stuff at this point. One realizes, as my pal Chrissy Remein from Riverkeeper pointed out to me recently, that this global warming thing is getting pretty apparent by this point and that this is the “new normal,” but regardless – I’m tired of the shvitz. I shouldn’t have to leave the house in October dressed as I would be for a July afternoon, and as another friend of mine would opine – “get home with total swamp ass.”

Pictured above is the scene as observed just west of Queens Plaza late on last Saturday afternoon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I conducted an LIC tour on Saturday, during which the weather was – as mentioned, “shvitzy and swamp ass” – but as is my habit I arrived at the meetup spot a bit early. Vast clouds of haze were rising from the vicinity of the Queens Midtown Tunnel and so a humble narrator investigated. It would seem that road work crews were installing a new coat of asphalt to east bound toll plaza, which accounted for the misty haze as VOC (volatile organic compound) tainted steam rose from trucks of a superheated industrial waste product (produced by the petroleum industry) which we as a culture mix with concrete and liberally spread about on vehicular roadways.

Those are the work crews pictured above, in DUPBO – Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The preceding Friday was equally as uncomfortable to be moving through the Newtown Creek industrial zone, with its affection of the so called “Maspeth Heat Island” effect. This environmental condition, named for the area of industrial Maspeth just east of LIC but is similarly experienced along the banks of the entire Newtown Creek, sees ambient temperatures rise 5-15 degrees higher than in surrounding neighborhoods due to the complete absence of vegetation and abundance of concrete. The concrete and masonry walls of factory buildings, sidewalks, and roads all bake in the radiation of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself and store up energy, becoming radiant sources of heat. It feels a bit like walking about in a kiln, or oven, even on days when the Mercury never rises out of the 70’s. Forget about the sensation encountered when the atmosphere is already in the 90’s early in the morning.

That’s the Hunters Point Yard of the Long Island Railroad pictured above, which is similarly in DUPBO.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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