The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Roosevelt Avenue’ Category

astute pupils

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into the cold waste…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Multiple layers of insulating clothing were draped off of the slowly rotting corpse which houses a humble narrator, just the other night, and out into the freezing temperatures did I go. As mentioned countless times in the past, one has a particular vulnerability to cold weather, which is at odds with and forms a comorbidity revolving about my aversion to boredom. Accordingly, my plan was to avoid the waterfront this particular evening and spend my time inhabiting the steel shadowed corridor of Roosevelt Avenue and limit my evening constitutional to just over two hours spent in the cold.

Strategically speaking, one needed to acquire imagery for this and other posts, and my tactics involved the usage of the NYCTA system to put myself in a fairly interesting place and then walk back to HQ the “long way round.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ever a stickler for grammatically annoying others, the different meanings of a strategy versus a tactic is something which drives me mad. While browsing a military surplus website, one came upon an offering for two items – a tactical briefcase and a tactical pen. The briefcase was merely a fairly ugly bag constructed from the sort of fabrics commonly found in military items like rucksacks, and the pen was designed and constructed in a manner where it could double as a stabbing weapon. What sort of tactic either of these items represented is beyond me.

A strategy is an overarching plan formulated to achieve a goal – “I shall conquer France, using my portfolio of mad scientist inventions, along multiple fronts in pursuance of causing their Government to collapse while stretching the capabilities of their military out.” A tactic is – “The race of Atomic Supermen I’ve been breeding in the jungles of the Amazon will invade from the Atlantic seaboard,” or “while my volcano cannons bombard their Mediterranean coast, freezes rays will shine on Paris and bury it in ice.” Actions committed are tactical, the overall plan is the strategy, and neither briefcases nor pens could be considered as being strategic nor tactical. Your goal in a game of Chess is to capture the opponent’s King, the strategy involves how you plan to do it, and each piece you move is tactic.

As a note, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about conquering France using science fiction weapons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m also obsessed with the word “Carpenter” at the moment. A carpenter doesn’t “carpent” at work, yet the job indicates that they do. The word entered the English language via Old French (which in turn got it from Roman Latin) around the time that the Normans took over in England. It replaced the Germanic sounding “wright” for the trade, although there are a bunch of distinctions in the carpentry world describing what you would do at work (joiner, cooper, finisher etc.) that also indicate skill levels. An interesting bit of linguistics that I recently got turned on to involves the Normans, actually, and how when they set themselves up as the Old French speaking Lords of the Manor in England the English language began to change. Common people ate mutton (Germanic English) whereas the Normans ate lamb (Old French) for example. In essence, if you’re saying a word in English and the tongue is lifting and hitting the frontal roof of the mouth (lightning, for example) it comes from Old French, and if the tongue is on the bottom of the mouth and bunched up at the back (woodworker) its from the Germanic influenced pre conquest language. I can’t speak too intelligently about this subject, as I’ve just encountered the topic, but it’s a pretty interesting one.

These are the sort of things one ponders (tactic) as I’m trying to stay warm (strategy) whilst wandering the streets of Queens in the January dark.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 16, 2019 at 2:30 pm

only briefly

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With one foot in Queens’s Flushing, and the other in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, this NYC street endlessly fascinates. It’s called Roosevelt Avenue east of 48th street and Queens Blvd., and to the west it’s called Greenpoint Avenue. The elevated IRT Flushing line has been lurking above the street since 1917, meaning that the Roosevelt Avenue section has been shielded from the emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself for a century now.

Funny thing is, as far as I’ve been able to discern, Roosevelt Avenue isn’t all that much older than the elevated tracks. Here’s a NY Times article from 1910 which discusses the great haste undertaken by the newly consolidated City of New York in creating the road. Back then – Roosevelt Avenue was considered a highway, apparently, and it was designed to parallel (and create a secondary path for Queensboro Bridge bound traffic) Jackson Avenue (Northern Blvd.) for its three mile route from Woodside to Flushing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The elevated subway along the street (to Corona, Flushing happened a bit later) opened in April of 1917, but it had only been proposed in 1911. This is one of the many reasons which should keep the managers of the MTA up at night, as a note, for the actual agreement to build the thing didn’t happen for another two years in 1913. Imagine the modern incarnation of the organization being able to get literally anything done, let alone monumental capital construction, in just four years.

Them’s was giants in those days, I tells ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been led to believe that there are a significant number of “quality of life” issues suffered by the folks who frequent Roosevelt Avenue due to the presence of the elevated tracks. Bird droppings, toxic lead paint flaking from the steel, omnipresent heavy vehicle traffic, a suffocating amount of noise. There’s meant to be a significant footprint of the underworld along Roosevelt Avenue as well, and Ive been told tales of all levels of prostitution (street to Madame run apartment Boudoirs), gangsters, and gambling dens.

Funny thing is, all of these things don’t slow things down along the street one little bit. The shops are all occupied, and commercial businesses thrive, even on the third floors of walk up buildings. Compared to other commercial strips in Western Queens – Steinway Street in Astoria comes to mind – every kind of business seems to be booming along Roosevelt Avenue.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

glowing ember

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the shots from my latest adventure are still deep in the developing process, a single shot greets you today, at this – your Newtown Pentacle. Depicting the IRT Flushing Line – or 7 train – approaching the Roosevelt Avenue stop in Jackson Heights, I got this one while on my way to Flushing last week. A humble narrator stands by the oft repeated assertion that the troubled 7 line is the most photogenic of all of NYC’s subway trains.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 20, 2017 at 12:30 pm

purple hills

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It’s Sepandārmazgān, or “Women’s Day,” in Zoroastrian Iran.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A shot of a Taxi Garage on Roosevelt Avenue today, but only a single one – as I still haven’t dug myself out of a hole which I currently find myself in. FYI, a humble narrator is involved in that most harrowing of all projects which an artist of any stripe can venture into – the creation of a portfolio to showcase past work and procure future employment. This is a vast endeavor, ripe with psychological recrimination and personal ennui. It’s also “all consuming,” but I should be done with the meat of it by the end of this week at which point postings of a more substantial sort will be coming your way.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

little polyhedron

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Street photography, literally, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every little facet of Western Queens is endlessly fascinating to one such as myself. The section of Jackson Avenue which was refashioned into Northern Blvd. in the early 20th century (a puzzling nomenclature, as it runs east/west, and both Ditmars and Astoria Blvd. are further north), which I’ve long referred to as the “Carridor” has a distinctive look and feel. On the western end of it, the Real Estate Industrial Complex has finally broken through the barrier presented by the southern end of 31st street and large scale tower production is under way. It won’t be long before the Manhattan skyline views which Western Queens is known for will be completely obfuscated by the glass boxes being hurled at the sky.

Let’s face it, a used car lot has a huge footprint, and the Real Estate shit flies are rapacious when the subject of Sasquatch property lots arises. Thing is, this used car lot strains the Municipal infrastructure a whole let less than a block of apartments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on 43rd street, a longish roadway that leads from Newtown Creek to the south to a northern terminus at Bowery Bay and which transverses Astoria, Sunnyside, and Blissville that used to be called Laurel Hill Blvd., there’s a window on the world of tomorrow which can be observed by looking over the Sunnyside Yards at the western horizon. In Tolkien’s epics, it’s the west that the elves disappeared into. Coincidentally, the same mythology is presented as relating to the Decadent Dutch colonials who fled the “English” through Western New York and New Jersey by the literature of Washington Irving, H.P. Lovecraft, and many others. In Western Queens, the Real Estate Industrial Complex has stolen the western sky, as evinced by the shield wall of luxury apartment buildings rising from the filled in swamps of Long Island City pictured above.

Legend has it that the Dutch will return someday, when we need them most, but we won’t see them coming anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The same shield wall of construction is visible from the eastern side of Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, which rises from the elluvial flood plains of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary nearby Skillman’s intersection with Thomson Avenue. The intersection of two communities is nearby, on a sloping hill which hosts both a “Woodside” and a “Sunnyside.” The Woodside, my reading suggests, was heavily forested with deciduous speciation in its aboriginal state, and the Sunnyside was more of grassland interspersed with coniferous trees that graduated into what would best described as an environment resembling the Louisiana Bayous.

The Sunnyside of the hill sloped down to the swampy lowlands of what’s now Queens Plaza, Dutch Kills (neighborhood), and the Degnon terminal area. This condition, which bred what was contemporaneously described as a “pestilential number of cholera and typhus carrying mosquitoes,” largely persisted in Queens until the early 20th century when the Sunnyside Yards, Degnon Terminal, and Queensboro Bridge construction projects included a fair bit of land reclamation and swamp drainage.

Upcoming tours and events:


“Brooklyn Waterfront – Past & Present” boat tour
with Working Harbor Committee, Thursday, September 15th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“13 Steps around Dutch Kills” walking tour
with Atlas Obscura, Sunday, September 18th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


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


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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