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sunniest room

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Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The CoronAmerican shut down has gone on for so long now that the graffiti crowd have been able to throw themselves a real party here in Long Island City. Even the construction equipment of LIC, idled, is getting scribbled and tagged on.

That’s a CASE 590 Super N Backhoe Loader, by the way. According to the manufacturer’s product description: “Want an 8-ton excavator that can go 25 mph? Try out the Tier 4 Final 590 Super N backhoe loader. The backhoe delivers breakout of nearly 16,000 lb. as well as a digging depth of up to 20 feet and a lifting capacity of more than 4,100 lb. The heavy-duty loader gets it done with breakout forces of nearly 13,700 lb. and with the responsive PowerDrive transmission, you have more speed and performance at your control.” Personally, I want and need all of these options.

Not sure what a new one costs, but google informs that you can pick up a used CASE model 590 Super N for about $25,000. That’s actually a lot less than I’d have imagined. If you have the cheddar just laying around, why not pick one up and get to work?

Oh… right. Remain indoors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I do enjoy a good hole.

The new discovered aperture in the fenceline of the Sunnyside Yards has become a regular stop for a humble narrator on his nocturnal scuttles. That’s some Amtrak rolling stock, idling and waiting for some theoretical rush hour which recedes further into the future every day. Remain indoors.

Before any of you Libertarians, Bible Thumpers, LaRouchites, supply siders, Tea Partiers, or bleach drinkers accuse me of changing my tune on the Corona crisis… I’m as frustrated as everyone else is right now, but reality is unfortunately not magical. This isn’t a conspiracy, it’s a public health emergency. The kind which has historically scythed through the human population about once every hundred years or so. If we don’t joke about it, we will all go crazy.

Joke wise – did you hear about the guy who got hurt playing peek a boo with his kid? He ended up in the ICU. Get it? ICU!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One continues to walk the deserted streets of Queens in the middle of the night, a wandering mendicant in a filthy black raincoat. One will continue to scuttle along the concrete devastations, peering through fences with wild staring eyes while attempting to understand the world. Somewhere in the darkness, there must be some sort of Rosetta Stone.

Back tomorrow with something else, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 11th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

time subsided

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Well, still here…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week’s schedule of rain put a real crimp in a humble narrator’s wanderings, and the end of the week warmup here in Astoria was accompanied by an explosion of people getting out and about, which was followed by a ludicrous amount of NYPD activity… so advantage was not taken of Saturday evening as I decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Apparently, two morons over by the nearby Woodside NYCHA campus decided to settle scores and shoot each other on Saturday night, which were Chief amongst the logical decisions made by the community at large. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to be in a hospital right now?

NYPD was seemingly busier last Saturday than they’ve been in a couple of months, and one observed the neighborhood manifesting its particular annoyances as if there wasn’t a plague. Observed: Curbside liaisons for amorous adolescents, sidewalk somnambulism for the liquor enthusiasts, the revving of engines and gunning of the gas pedal for the fast and furious crowd, lots of casual littering. For some reason, people are now drinking in their parked cars, and discarding the liquor and wine bottles along the curbs. One particularly annoying lady has been sitting in her running car in front of HQ, drinking and smoking while on the phone (said phone is plugged into her car sound system, of course) for 11-12 hour long conversations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given all of the time spent here at HQ, one has been using the “controlled environment” to sharpen up some of his skills. The shut down has affected the amount of atmospheric and light pollution here in the ancient village of Astoria significantly, and given my night owl life style I’ve been marveling at the number of visible stars in our skies. Clicking on the image above will take you to Flickr and the larger sized iterations of it, wherein you’ll see something approaching constellations, visible from Astoria Queens and less than 5 miles from Manhattan.

Astrophotography is its own “thing” and not something I’ve ever really had the patience, opportunity, or inclination to experiment with. The plague cleared skies and all of this time on my hands has allowed for all three cautions to be abandoned. Of course, saying all that, it seemed to rain or was overcast 6 out of 7 nights last week. This isn’t “proper” Astro, of course, just a stab at exploring the technique.

It really feels like we’re settled into the trough of “the event” right now, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been happily surprised by the creation and sudden appearance of a new hole in the fences around the Sunnyside Yards, something which has occurred in recent weeks. Whomever is in charge of fence holes at Amtrak had recently sealed up three of my old “go to’s” and a humble narrator has been feeling bereft. One is always in search of a good hole, especially one large enough to allow access to a camera lens.

Holes. Now, more than ever. Also, it’s May 4th, so may the Force be with you.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 4th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

nocturnal prowler

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Rippity dippity doo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always been a fan of Skillman Avenue for one reason or another, and one of the “dad jokes” which I inflict on people walking with me along it, when we reach 39th street, is that “it’s all downhill from here.” Skillman follows a ridge which overlooks the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards. Between 39th street and it’s terminus at Hunters Point Avenue in Long Island City, Skillman Avenue runs through what’s largely an industrial zone but there’s a couple of exceptions along the way – notably LaGuardia Community College down at the bottom of the hill.

The views are pretty epic for a scuttling photographer, and especially so during this interminable quarantine. One tends to walk down and record it often.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sandwiched between Northern Blvd. and Skillman Avenue are the Sunnyside Yards. Pictured are a bunch of Amtrak trains just seething in the middle of the massive coach yard, whose main function is actually what you’re looking at. Providing storage for trains between periods of peak demand in Manhattan and beyond is what the Pennsylvania Railroad built the facility to do a century ago. On the Skillman or southern side of the Sunnyside Yard, you’ll find tracks used by the Long Island Railroad for commuter service, which travel through the busiest rail junction in North America – the Harold Interlocking. 39th street used to be called Harold Avenue, incidentally, which is where the name for the junction comes from. This shot isn’t from Harold, rather it’s from Honeywell Street – or at least the truss bridge over the tracks that’s so called.

Seriously, I know where almost every hole in the fencing of Sunnyside Yards is at this point. I’ve had Government people ask me how I managed to get inside the rail yard for some of the shots you’ve seen here over the years. They don’t believe me about the fence holes, and I won’t tell them where they are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Northern Blvd. side of the yards, and again at Harold or 39th street, is pictured above. Northern Blvd., or as I call it during normal times, the “Carridor.”

To make things even more complicated as far as street names here in Queens, 39th street transmogrifies into Steinway Street once you cross Northern. Why is this?

Because modern day Northern Blvd. was once a municipal border between the Village of Astoria and Middleburg/Sunnyside once. Robert Moses always did his best work in the areas that were neither “here nor there” found along legal borders between municipal entities. When he widened Jackson Avenue and turned it into Northern Blvd. during the early 20th century, these were “the sticks.” Population centers, as they stood back then, were far away on both sides of the 183 square acre Sunnyside Yards – which itself was opened in 1910.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, April 6th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 16, 2020 at 11:00 am

agriculturally challenged

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Does anyone ever say “thank god, it’s Tuesday”?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Banal and sad is how I’d describe the current state of the Steinway Street commercial corridor here in Astoria, where the most interesting destination restaurants are often food trucks. Online, and in person, conversations about the subject lament the modern state of this old commercial strip.

Block after block of empty storefronts, sidewalk gathering places for lawless inebriates, law and order issues, blight. High commercial rents are usually blamed, or Amazon, or the “new people” who don’t shop locally and order everything online. High traffic volumes, a dearth of street parking, are also offered as causal factors for the current state of the street. Funny thing is, there are plenty of shops on Steinway which are doing extremely well, serving the needs and wants of the “new people.” I’m suspicious of all this, and wonder if some game is afoot. The answer offered to any problem these days is to demolish the current building stock and erect new structures, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The best example of this going on in the neighborhood, in my eyes, revolves around the not too far in the future expulsion of the used car and automotive businesses along Northern Blvd., in favor of building more and more “affordable” housing on the large footprint property lots these entities currently occupy. Why we aren’t talking about converting these spaces over to some sort of retail or other commercial function is beyond me. I’ve long believed that what Astoria, and LIC in general, needs is to cease being a referential dormitory community dependent on Manhattan and to plan/develop purposely as an exurb “city” instead.

The problems facing Steinway Street’s commercial establishments are hardly unique in modern day NYC, but the solution isn’t going to be offered by “anchor tenants” like Taco Bell or Chipotle. Steinway Street is not some midwestern shopping mall. Look to Roosevelt/Corona or Flushing for solutions to the retail crisis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given my recent trials, it’s kind of a rare thing for me to present either a shot of the Sunnyside Yards or a photo captured while the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was twisting about in the sky, but there you are. One happened to be returning from a protest event offered by a cabal of leftist groups decrying the Sunnyside Yards proposal last week, and on my merry way back home I couldn’t help but crack out a couple of exposures at one of the facilities many fence holes, most of which are in my mental catalog.

Back tomorrow with something else, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 3, 2019 at 1:15 pm

unmentionable allies

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It’s National Cheese Pizza Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the adage goes, when one gazes into the proverbial abyss, there’s always something staring out of it at you. In the case of the Sunnyside Yards here in Queens, that’s usually a bored Amtrak cop whose eyes have glazed over in front of a bank of monitors connected to security cameras.

Me? I know where every hole in the fencelines can be found, and which one of my lenses will fit through it. In the case of the shot above, the hole is around twenty five millimeters, and I haven’t got anything in my kit that can be inserted through the hole. Luckily, there’s a lot of holes in the fence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One attempted to use the downtime last week in a productive fashion, wandering about whenever the weather permitted. Saying that, I didn’t get too much done – on purpose – in order to vouchsafe a bit of time to just sit and think. I did have a couple of things to do that interrupted my reveries, however.

I was asked by Councilmember Van Bramer’s office if I would write a response to an “Op Ed” by the Queens Anti Gentrification Project” aimed at Jimmy and offered at the citylimits site. QAGP seems to have taken some umbrage at my response and published this post at their own site addressed towards me. I’ve known Jimmy Van Bramer for a while now, his Mom lives a couple of blocks away from me here in Astoria, and I emphatically support his reelection campaign. Jimmy has been, and I’m sure will continue to be – an effective advocate for his district.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One shall be responding in my usual manner – next week – to the QAGP folks, but allow me this:

As I’ve said in the past, “gentrification” is not an apropo term for what’s happening in LIC (or North Brooklyn). The proposal to deck over the Sunnyside Yards, the rezoning of the LIC industrial districts and consequent residential tower construction by monied interests based and interested only in short term benefits to Manhattan offered by this build out, the complete blindness towards the municipal infrastructure costs associated with this process… we haven’t got a word for it yet.

This POV will be crystallized in a post offered next week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does stand ready to be accused of being a shill, again.

When I first “stepped out” in public and began discussing Newtown Creek and the environmental issues affecting our community the accusations were waiting for me. New York City Planning asked me “who do you think you are”? One well known activist openly described my efforts at building awareness of these issues as a shell game initiated by the real estate developers, whom I was obviously a clandestine agent of. My willingness to converse with and try to find common ground between the community and the historical corporate polluters of Newtown Creek – ExxonMobil and the like – saw me accused of being an agent of the petrochemical industry sent amongst the environmental community to sow chaos. When I became involved with transit issues, more recently, accusations of being a Democratic Party operative emerged. The kayakers, the bicycle people… don’t get me started.

I wish my life was that interesting, and that the monies people presume I’m receiving for my activities were actually in my possession. Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself barely scratch by, just like everyone else these days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking as the first person in Queens to throw down the gauntlet to City Hall regarding the Sunnyside Yards mega development, and one of the principal flies in the ointment of the people planning it, one finds all of these accusations amusing. Ask the NYC DEP if I’m in their employ, or ExxonMobil, or any of the other entities who’ve I set my focus on over the years. I’m quite popular with the MTA establishment at Jay Street as well, and as far as the BQX goes… let’s just say that when I walk into a meeting room the staffers from EDC collect up in a quiet corner and discuss how to handle the fact that I’ve shown up.

My resume and activist credentials which have defined my life over the last ten years have not been gained by throwing around a bunch of meaningless slogans. Instead it’s been “showing up” to nighttime meetings with bland officials at a sewer plant during snow storms in January, and sweating in the July heat to build consensus and constituency amongst my fellow citizens. I’ve put my name on everything I’ve done, as well. When I’ve been wrong, the first person to bring it up has been “yours, truly.”

This is real life, not some intellectual game, and a looming infrastructure crisis is about to hurt us all.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 9th, 7 p.m. – 9 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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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 5, 2017 at 11:30 am

leaden jars

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Failure is often the only option, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been on a holy tear of late on the real estate development and gentrification situation here in Western Queens. I’ve been pissing off a bunch of people I know in government by doing so, and have received the usual “who do you think you are?” accusations and chides. My standard response is “I’m a citizen, and how dare you act like some sort of landed gentry towards me when ultimately all you’ve got is a government job.” It was common sense when I was growing up that taking a government job (as opposed to working for a corporation) was all about the security and pension benefits. What you didn’t get in terms of annual salary today, you’d get back in the long term during retirement. In my neighborhood – DSNY was considered a good career bet, as well as becoming a teacher, as they had the strongest Unions with the best “bennys.” My pal “Special Ed”‘s dad told us all that we should seriously consider becoming court bailiffs.

Of course, that’s my “working class” outlook at work, and back then the gub’mint wasn’t the pathway one took in pursuance of eventually securing a high paid corporate consultancy job.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something happened during the Bloomberg era, however. “Gubmint” jobs suddenly accrued a new status and the suits from corporate America began to talk about “service.” They took the pay cut, accepted a position at this agency or that, and began applying the rules of business to government policy. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are pretty clever folks and the amount of brain (and Rolodex) power they brought with them to lower Manhattan is impressive. Problem being, they have an inherently profit based modus operandi due to their experiences in the “real world.” The “Gubmint” ain’t supposed to turn a profit.

Thing is, most of these “Gubmint” people aren’t from “here,” and they seem to regard New York City with a thinly veiled disgust.

For example – remember when Dan Doctoroff described the Sunnyside Yards as “a scar” he saw from his office window in Manhattan a couple of years ago? Mr. Doctoroff was born in Newark, but grew up in Birmingham, Michigan and then attended Harvard University. A suburb of Detroit, the demographics of Birmingham are 96% Caucasian (according to the 2000 census), and a mere 1.6% of the population of Birmingham lives below the poverty line. The median income for a household in that city in 2000 was $80,861, and the median income for a family was $110,627. Not exactly East New York, or the South Bronx, or Astoria. Mr. Doctoroff is famously Michael Bloomberg’s right hand man and the fellow who ran Bloomberg LLC while his boss was Mayor, and is accordingly quite affluent. He’s the very definition of the “one percent” and a leading member of the “elite.” I don’t imagine Mr. Doctoroff goes fishing in his penny jar for bagel money when it’s the Thursday before payday, has never had to “borrow from Peter to pay Paul,” or lived in financial fear that the City DOB might impoverish him with an unexpected order to repair or replace his concrete sidewalk.

In other words, what in hell does Dan Doctoroff know about life in working class Queens?

Doctoroff and his cohorts created the term “affordable housing” which the current Mayor has made his own. The question often asked is “affordable by who”? The Citizens Budget Commission boiled that down in this post from last year. The upshot of it is that in order to create this so called “affordable” apartment stock, which is unaffordable to the low income people it’s meant to serve, the rent on “market” rate apartments actually has to go up to cover the cost. This redistribution of wealth hits the middle and working class on two fronts – higher monthly rents, and the application of their tax dollars to subsidize the real estate development which reluctantly includes the so called “affordable” units.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personal experience from having actually grown up in NYC suggests that whomever the politicians and planners set out to “help” end up getting hurt.

Having grown up in what would be considered a “low income” family under modern terms, we members of the Waxman clan migrated to the outer edges of the City (Brooklyn’s Canarsie section) where housing was found that we could afford. That’s where relative affluence and dire poverty comingled, and created a culture. This was possible due to a preexisting infrastructure of subways and highways that allowed egress to and from the commercial center in Manhattan, but there were still plenty of jobs to be had locally. Manufacturing, commercial, shops. If you played your cards right, you could earn a living and never once have to go into the City. That’s changed, and the ongoing loss of this manufacturing and commercial side of the working class economy is excaberated by this affordable housing craze which perceives any large footprint lot as being a potential development site.

If a building went up in the 1970’s or 80’s, which included low income housing, that had a separate entrance or “poor door” there would have been bloody riots.

The reason for that is the City planners and “Gubmint” officialdom were mostly native New Yorkers who lived in and were loyal to the neighborhoods they oversaw, and who understood that “it’s not all about Manhattan.” Doctoroff and his acolytes see the City as the solution and not the problem. The looming infrastructure crisis this rapid development is causing will impoverish the City. A century ago, when the newly consolidated City of Greater New York was being similarly developed – the politicians built the subways and sewers first, then they sold off or awarded the adjoining properties at bargain prices to their cronies like Cord Meyer and Fred Trump.

The infrastructure investments made between 1898 and 1940 allowed NYC to grow beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Unfortunately, these days we are doing the opposite, and allowing the buildings to be erected first. The bill for all of the municipal machinery will come after the population loading is finished.


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circumstance which

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Feasibility, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’re reading this, in the filth choked furnace rooms and dark satanic mills of the NYCEDC, acolytes of the Real Estate Industrial Complex are working feverishly on the feasibility plan for the decking of the Sunnyside Yards. Syncopated, hammers are smashing out imperfections in the armor plating of their unholy works. Armies are at work, happily consuming the roughly two million dollars which have been allocated to their studies. At the end of the process, hordes of their making will emerge from the EDC’s subterranean vaults, proclaiming that a new order has been achieved, and all of New York’s problems will be solved by the fruits of their labor.

Housing will be made affordable, transit and other municipal services will be abundant and available, and the children of Queens will be assured a bright future. A great darkness will be conquered, and prosperity will spread through the land. In their keeps and towers will wizards and oligarchs rejoice, for Queens will be saved by those for whom the warren of lower Manhattan is a paradise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The grand obfuscation, of course, will arrive when the Mayor’s office announces that the feasibility study of the EDC has made recommendations that City Hall must follow. The inheritors of Tammany will omit the fact that the NYCEDC, or New York City Economic Development Corporation, is not some independent or autochthonous entity. Pretense that the board of the EDC is not composed entirely of political appointees from the Mayoral and Gubernatorial mansions, or that it’s ranking staffers are not in fact just awaiting their turn at either electoral or corporate fortune, will be offered.

Not mentioned either will be the fact that the current so called “Progressive” Mayor of New York City has merely adopted the policies and projects of a predecessor whom his fringe coalition demonized, and that the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards was and is the personal passion of Michael Bloomberg’s “aide de camp” Daniel Doctoroff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The coming of the darkness, an era when Sunnsyide will be referred to as “Shadowside” nears. One has been vocal about the opinion that sometime during the 21st century, at least some portion of the gargantuan rail yard found here in Western Queens will likely be decked over. The despoiled bureaucrats of Lower Manhattan have indicated to me, and others, that the decking will likely happen in three stages – a sort of creeping metastases which will begin with the section between LIC’s 21st street and Queens Plaza. This is the narrowest part of the Sunnyside Yards, incidentally, a part of the project which will be cheaper to accomplish than the sections abutting Northern Blvd. and Sunnyside.

During this last Summer, a meeting with the crew of loathsome sentience who are conducting the study began with a humble narrator slamming a box of donuts down on the table in front of them. I stated “when somebody comes to my house, I serve cake.” They did not know what to make of this, nor the unremitting hostility with which they were greeted. At one point during the meeting, I asked a high ranking member of the team to stop smiling, as it was freaking me out and there is absolutely nothing worth smiling about regarding this existential threat to the health and well being of Queens.

To their minds, the decking of the Sunnyside Yards represents a solution. To those of us who live in, and love, Western Queens – they are the coming of darkness and destruction, a barbarian horde sent to loot our communities and whose mission is to steal the sky and blot out the sun itself.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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