The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Red Hook’ Category

sallies abroad

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No matter where you go, there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spends a great deal of his time gazing in wonder and astonishment at the City of Greater New York, and no place moreso than Astoria here in the Borough of Queens. When I mention Astoria to people who live in other boroughs, they immediately go to the “Greek” thing, but whereas we still have a substantial Hellenic population hereabouts it ain’t the 1970’s no more. In my observation, there really isn’t a single dominant group in Astoria anymore, unless you start lumping folks together into “racial” groupings like “Latino” or “Black” or “Asian” or “European.” It’s a fairly unsophisticated way to look at people, in my opinion, using this sort of categorizing. One such as myself prefers to see people as individuals rather than as part of a cultural or socioeconomic super group, but I am famously not enamored with identity politics.

I guess it’s human nature to try and stick strangers into a tribal box, and define them by where they’re from. For the identity politics crowd, this means that they’re constantly surprised when assumptions about some stranger’s politics or lifestyle don’t turn out to be true. Identity politics are ultimately “nationalism” when you get down to it, just on a different side of the aisle from what you’d normally associate with the term. I find it dehumanizing when somebody categorizes me as “Jewish” or “a Yank,” and try not to do it myself. As I tell people constantly, it’s “way down the list” when I’m describing someone whom they like to noodle with or where their family is from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Breaking into ever smaller groups seems to be the fashion at the moment, however, and folks do it to themselves. This sort  of fragmentation works beautifully for the political establishment, and allows them to target either the “one legged transgender Peruvians” or “three eyed second generation Lebanese home owners” vote during election season. Are you a white small business owner who fears clear blue skies since you have been selling umbrellas since 1987 on Steinway Street? A woman of color who receives too much mail? A non binary gender neutral hog butcher disturbed about the new LED street lamps? Like riding bikes? How about a shepherd in traditionally male dominated field who has become separated from one of your charges?

Don’t worry Little Bo Peep, I’ve proposed legislation in the Assembly to place a non GMO fed and cruelty free chicken specifically in your pot. Me, I’m a “big tent” kind of guy. What have we got in common, and why is it so hard to resist it when a politician insists on using our divisions to distract and work us?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bah. Old man shakes fist at cloud, right? 

Kids these days.


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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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

fled through

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Break time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A single image greets you this morning, as will be the case through the Thanksgiving holiday.

A humble narrator requires a break periodically, to recharge and reinvent. Worry not, however, for pithy commentary and puckish intent returns on the Monday following Thanksgiving – the first of December.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

approaching egress

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A day late and a dollar short, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for today’s late and rather insubstantial update, depicting a life preserver frozen to the shoreline of Red Hook’s Erie Basin, which is somewhat metaphorical. Looking forward to the warmer weather this weekend, and your humble narrator will be everywhere along the Newtown Creek in the next few days, camera in hand.

Additionally, next week, I’ll be announcing the 2014 Newtown Creek walking tour schedule as it currently stands.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 7, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Brooklyn, Red Hook

Tagged with , ,

mentality and resource

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A humble narrator will be live in meatspace at Brooklyn Brainery tonight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured is the view from the Smith 9th street station in South Brooklyn, looking down upon the fabulous Gowanus. Business has been calling me down this way all through the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. For the moment, at least, it appears that I’m going to be a regular visitor, so a bit of curiosity about the locale has been blooming in that withered carbuncle which beats within my chest. In no way do I plan on developing the intimacy with this superfund site that one enjoys with Newtown Creek, but there are things to see down here, I tell you. A point of listening to H.P. Lovecraft’s “Horror at Red Hook” is made, and a preference will be stated for the Audiorealms produced (and Wayne June narrated) reading of the unabridged text.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think that this is the Hamilton Avenue Bridge in an open position which we’re seeing here, but I might be wrong. Most of my experience with this part of Brooklyn involved driving over it, via the Gowanus Expressway, on my way from the Flatlands Canarsie area to either the Battery Tunnel or one of the East River bridges. I’m not looking for one of you, lords and ladies, to fill me in. It is a curse knowing too much, and the joy of discovering something new – at least to me – has become something of a rarity these days. I’m saving the entire Bronx for future usage, for instance. I did wait around for awhile to see what sort of maritime traffic had called for the opening, but nothing appeared.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my back burner projects, the kind that never really gets started and is seldom finished, has been to track down “Lovecraft in Brooklyn.” The fellow lived here for an interval, which by all reports he did not enjoy.

The building which “Cool Air” was set in still stands on 14th street in Manhattan, and was observed in the appropriately named post “Cool Air.”

The Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church, which Mr. Lovecraft reportedly vandalized, was visited in the post “frightful pull.” I’ve even located the Suydam family tomb in Greenwood Cemetery, burial place of an antagonist from “The Horror at Red Hook itself.”

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 27, 2014 at 9:30 am

leading corridor

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What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in posts last week, a couple of trips to coastal Brooklyn popped onto my schedule. In the case of today’s post, I was in South Brooklyn at the angle found twixt Red Hook and Cobble Hill, and crossing the street beneath the extremely drippy Gowanus Expressway.

from wikipedia

After the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, I-278 continues into Brooklyn on the Gowanus Expressway. Immediately after the bridge, the freeway comes to an eastbound exit and westbound entrance for the Belt Parkway. After this, a full interchange serves 92nd Street at which point I-278 becomes a single-level six-lane freeway. Along this road, one of the eastbound lanes serves as a high-occupancy vehicle lane. The Gowanus Expressway continues northeast into urban residential neighborhoods and reaches an eastbound interchange at Fort Hamilton Parkway and a westbound interchange at 86th Street. Turning more to the north, I-278 comes to a partial interchange at 65th Street, with an exit eastbound and entrance westbound. The road curves northwest at this point and comes to a directional interchange providing access to 3rd Avenue and the Belt Parkway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A confession, seldom do I actually pay attention to the minute details when photographing an area with which I’m not overly familiar. Instead, I go for the big shot, and use my lens at its widest angles. In the street, I have a lot to worry about – traffic, criminal underclasses and malign manifestations of the street culture, and so on. Often, when I’m at my desk and examining the shot qualitatively (focus and exposure rather than composition and esthetics etc.), something will jump out at me. Notice the blue van, which I didn’t until I was back at HQ.

from nyc.gov

…standing on a street, walkway of a bridge, sidewalk, or other pedestrian passageway while using a handheld device and not otherwise asserting exclusive use by any means, including physical or verbal, is not activity that requires a permit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, there I stood, dirty black raincoat flapping about in the slipstream of truck and traffic and waving the camera about during a red light interval. Obviously, this registered in the mind of the driver of the blue van as suspicious activity, and he began to photograph me right back. The panopticon at work, lords and ladies, he saw something. Wonder if he said something?

from securetransit.org

Whether you’re following your regular commute route or on your way to a movie or meet up with friends, public transit is a key part of your day. You know public transit, and no one can spot something suspicious or out of place better than you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 1984 scenario offered by Orwell has only come partially true in 2014. The State is indeed watching, and listening. Unfortunately, its usually “Little Brother” (as Cory Doctorow coined it) who is watching. This is all good though, as what is good for the goose is literally good for the gander, and the Brooklyn way is to keep an eye on the neighborhood. On this day, under the Gowanus Expressway, there were at least two surveillance devices active and pointing at each other. Mine and his. Mine was bigger.

from wikipedia

Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the enigmatic dictator of Oceania, a totalitarian state taken to its utmost logical consequence – where the ruling Party wields total power for its own sake over the inhabitants.

In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase “Big Brother is watching you”, which is the core “truth” of the propaganda system in this state.

Since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the term “Big Brother” has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 27, 2014 at 8:36 am

constantly feeling

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A walkabout in Red Hook, by the Gowanus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An assignment carried me out to the ancient harbor of South Brooklyn, Red Hook. After my business was concluded, a walkabout was conducted. Nothing “formal,” as I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just poking around a bit while walking back to the train. Can’t have my beloved Creek think I’m cheating on her, especially not with her sister of the superfund.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Gowanus Canal, of which I know little. That’s something I say all the time, and I’m being a bit disingenuous. By the standards of the average person, I know a lot about Gowanus, but not enough to satisfactorily describe it. Recently, I attended a lecture by Joseph Alexiou, and that young man knows about the Gowanus.

The structure pictured above was formerly a grain terminal, by the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, much of the story here at Gowanus is the same as it is on Newtown Creek. Oil companies and chemical factories and manufactured gas plants and centuries of industrial activity, coupled with the City running open sewers directly into the water. Abandon all hope, ye huddled masses.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 23, 2014 at 7:30 am

Greenwood Cemetery, October 28th, 2010

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– photos by Mitch Waxman

A trip to Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, seeking AND FINDING the spot where Robert Suydam lays with his bride. You have no idea how much it freaks a humble narrator out when the realization that H.P. Lovecraft’s stories aren’t altogether fictional sets in.

from dagonbytes.com – H.P. Lovecraft’s Horror at Red Hook

Robert Suydam sleeps beside his bride in Greenwood Cemetery. No funeral was held over the strangely released bones, and relatives are grateful for the swift oblivion which overtook the case as a whole. The scholar’s connexion with the Red Hook horrors, indeed, was never emblazoned by legal proof; since his death forestalled the inquiry he would otherwise have faced. His own end is not much mentioned, and the Suydams hope that posterity may recall him only as a gentle recluse who dabbled in harmless magic and folklore.

As for Red Hook – it is always the same. Suydam came and went; a terror gathered and faded; but the evil spirit of darkness and squalor broods on amongst the mongrels in the old brick houses, and prowling bands still parade on unknown errands past windows where lights and twisted faces unaccountably appear and disappear. Age-old horror is a hydra with a thousand heads, and the cults of darkness are rooted in blasphemies deeper than the well of Democritus, The soul of the beast is omnipresent and triumphant, and Red Hook’s legions of blear-eyed, pockmarked youths still chant and curse and howl as they file from abyss to abyss, none knows whence or whither, pushed on by blind laws of biology which they may never understand. As of old, more people enter Red Hook than leave it on the landward side, and there are already rumours of new canals running underground to certain centres of traffic in liquor and less mentionable things.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm

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