The Newtown Pentacle

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boyhood antiquarianism

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East side, west side, all around the town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A third arm would come in handy when shooting in the rain, as managing both umbrella and camera is a bit of a chore. I’ve spent my life waiting for a “disruptive new take” on umbrellas, but the current generation of engineers seems obsessed with reinventing key chains instead. The giant golf umbrella I’m currently using is huge and sturdy, and came into my possession as a bit of branded “shwag” manufactured by some non profit group. It’s a bit of a carry though, and has a tendency to catch the wind due to its immense circus tent like size. Have we reached “peak umbrella” or is there a revolution in handheld rain shelter on the horizon? I’m talking to you, Elon Musk.

Often, a humble narrator finds himself dreaming about an umbrella that is deployed along the spine and straight up out of my backpack, which would leave both of my arms free for other tasks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with umbrellas ultimately come down to their tendency to catch the wind, so the perfect solution to shooting in the rain would involve the deployment of some Star Trek or Dune style personal shielding of the electromagnetic type. You’d just need a gizmo that could pump out a massive amount of electromagnetic radiation and another that formed a magnetic bottle around yourself. Of course, this would destroy your personal electronics, likely disrupt the bio electrical functioning of the body, induce instant cancer in both you and everybody within a few hundred yards, but you’d be dry and the lens wouldn’t be spotted with rain drops.

On a related note – a general consensus, arrived at by the squad of morons and malcontents whom I spend my time with, states that googling any health concern you might be experiencing returns a result that it’s likely some type of cancer. Also, the cancer isn’t regular cancer, it’s super cancer. That’s the kind of cancer where the tumor rips itself free of your body and then prowls around in search of new victims, usually puppies and young children. The Super Cancers can attach themselves to infrastructure, throwing out whip like tentacles that snatch birds out of the air mid flight and plucking fish from the sea. Funnily enough, the only known method for killing Super Cancer, which is bullet and fire resistant, is Monsanto’s Roundup Weed Killer. Go figure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Engineers are depressingly grounded in the laws of the physical universe, I find. One discovered this several years ago when I was espousing the use of heat guns in place of shovels for wintertime sidewalk snow and ice clearance. Despite my brilliant moment of transcendent realization, all that my engineer friends could talk about were the laws of energy conservation, Isaace Newtwon, and that the amount of energy required to melt ice in subzero temperatures would be incalculable. Next thing you know, they were telling me that my other dream of creating my own race of Atomic Supermen by exposing tank dwelling fetuses to gamma rays would just result in filling an intensive care ward with handicapped children afflicted by Super Cancer were they to be birthed. Pfah.

Shit on my parade? Go design a better umbrella, kid.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 3, 2019 at 2:30 pm

disclosures which

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Happy Monday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, this weekend’s nocturnal walk occurred on Saturday night, which was a bit windy for my taste but I’m trying to be out and about as much as possible before proper winter sets in so there you are. Pictured above is Steinway Street, here in Astoria, where i considered getting on the subway in pursuance of getting to LIC but decided it wasn’t worth the risk of daring fate by entering the system. Instead, I scuttled along one of my usual routes, and whilst walking pondered a few things.

Amazon, Queens, life. One of the things I decided to do was put out an open request to you, lords and ladies, in the hope of attaining a point of view for the camera which I’m desirous of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrestrial is how I’d describe the images I usually capture. The point of view is generally somewhere between ground level and roughly 64 inches from it (that’s how tall my tripod is). That “big project” I’ve been working on is nearly finished, but I’m still missing something, and that’s a nocturnal aerial shot of Newtown Creek. Ideally, I’d love to set up and capture the image from the Empire State Building over in the City, but they don’t exactly encourage that sort of thing on the observation deck unless you’ve got TV Network money to convince them into letting you do so. The last time I was up there, I got a bunch of daytime shots like this one, just so you understand what I need to tie a bow around this project of mine and put it to bed.

If you’re reading this in Manhattan, and live or work between 18th and 34th streets, with visual access to the East River and Newtown Creek… I’d love to try and talk you into letting me set up the gear and record your POV. I’d only need around thirty minutes, on a clear night, well after dark which is about six p.m. or later this time of year. Contact me here (link is to my email address “newtownpentacle@yahoo.com” if it sets off any security alerts, there’s nothing “unkosher” in it) if this sounds like fun. I’ll pay you back with some sort of cool thing or other.

The “full view” of the Creek from on high is what I’m looking for, but if you’re living on an upper floor in one of the new buildings in LIC or Greenpoint and can see Newtown Creek from your windows or roof, that would work as well. Pictured above, as a note, is Skillman Avenue alongside the Sunnyside Yards. Those new bike lanes are barely being used for their intended purpose, but they do make a nice safe spot to take pictures from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the meantime, I’m scratching along in the grit and grime on the streets of Western Queens.

The shot above was captured at the intersection where Queensboro Bridge traffic from Queens Plaza emerges from under the steel of the elevated IRT Flushing line #7 tracks, and travels on one of the five vehicle bridges spanning the trackage of the Sunnyside Yards. Just to the south is Thomson Avenue, which provides another connection for LIC traffic across the Sunnyside Yards via another viaduct, and westwards towards the Court Square section of Hunters Point, and Jackson Avenue. A busy and complicated intersection, this is also where Van Dam Street begins, carrying automotive traffic south towards the Blissville section of LIC and the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge (which overflies the tracks of the Long Island Railroad) after crossing under the Long Island Expressway at Borden Avenue.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

almost snatched

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Project Queens is a work in progress, and always has been.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It often seems as if everyplace I find my heels clicking upon the sidewalks of Western Queens is a construction zone. This one got my attention the other day when I noticed a shaft of sunlight while riding a train, somewhere between the 46th Street and Steinway Street stops on the venerable R line tracks. After returning to the ancient village from points west and south, a brief investigatory wander revealed it to be a crew from the MTA construction division hard at work on Astoria’s Broadway. I walked up on the end of this process, but it seemed that they had cut a hole in the street in order to deliver bundles of lumber and other heavy materials to the sweating concrete bunkers below the street.

I know, that sounds ridiculous, cutting a hole in the street. Why go to such lengths and expense, inconveniencing an entire neighborhood, when you could just use a work train to transport materials to the job site… but… I did say “MTA” didn’t I?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can you imagine the sort of existential horror that would ensue if the current Mayor of NYC’s mad plan to deck over the Sunnyside Yards happened? Often have I contemplated the nightmare scenario of materials laden heavy trucks criss crossing through Woodside, Astoria, Dutch Kills, Hunters Point, and Sunnyside while carrying tonnages of construction equipment and materials. The noise alone…

It would be less instructive, IMHO, if they were to just extend the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek a couple of blocks to the north and bring it all in via a maritime shipping channel. That is, in a scenario in which this Queens killing abomination actually happens, of course.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst marching about on Skillman Avenue nearby Queens Plaza, a work train crew was spotted on the overhead tracks. Presumptively, these folks were working on the long overdue CBTC signals project on the 7 line. This project, which seems like its been going on for decades (it has been) and must be millions over budget (it is) will allow the estimable scions of the MTA the opportunity to run one extra train per hour on the 7 line. Will the perfidy displayed by Jay Street ever end?

One of the military industrial complex concepts, which I wish the MTA would adopt in planning and spending, is the “resource to kill ratio.” In layman’s terms, that call that “bang for the buck.” You don’t use a million dollar missile to kill a guy on a camel, essentially. You use a sniper instead.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

hip pocket

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the late post today, flickr was having some sort of issue this morning and one was unable to access the library. A single shot was coming your way anyway, so no biggie. See you tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 26, 2017 at 2:35 pm

displayed during

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It’s National Peanut Butter day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Occasion carried me towards Brooklyn recently, at a chronological interval during which the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had already dipped behind the mysteries of New Jersey. Accordingly, I packed up my “night kit” and headed south from “Point A” in Astoria and down to the flood plains of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

My night kit, as previously mentioned, are my two Sigma zoom lenses – the 50-100 f1.8, and 18-35 f1.8, as well as a trusty Canon “nifty fifty” 50mm f1.8 prime lens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path was simply scouted. Heading south along Steinway and across the “Carridor” of Northen Blvd., west on Skillman and then south to the Pulaski Bridge, across Newtown Creek, then west on Greenpoint’s Franklin Avenue, and then south to my destination on Williamsburg’s north side near Berry street.

This somewhat photogenic route resulted in the crossing of wonders and landmarks like the Sunnyside Yards, the Skillman Avenue Corridor, and the legendary Newtown Creek. I could have just taken the train, but then you don’t get to see the wonders of Western Queens and North Brooklyn on your way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t help but utilize one of the many “holes in the fence” at Sunnyside Yards which I’ve mapped and catalogued over the years ,and grabbing some shots of a passing rush hour Long Island Railroad unit heading towards Woodside and points further to the east. Gotta love the interlockings, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One turned right (or west) onto the Skillman Avenue corridor, and the incredible horizon of rampant gentrification it displays. In pre industrial times, just a block or two away, you’d have been able to visit a “pest house” where suffers of contagious diseases were quarantined and left to die by their loved ones.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Skillman Avenue took me to Queens Plaza, where one crossed under the tracks of the 7 Line and across one of the worst pedestrian intersections in all of NYC. Drivers here exhibit the same sort of behavior as stampeding cattle in this spot, moving from the feedlot to the abattoir.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In my opinion, should the large scale decking of the Sunnyside Yards, as proposed by our Mayor – the Dope from Park Slope – happens, it will encompass the area pictured above will be first, an acreage which spans the area between Thomson Avenue and Queens Plaza. There’s a triangular section found at Jackson Avenue and 21st street which will happen initially, but that will merely be an air raid siren signaling the coming of the Luftwaffe over London. This is where the blitzkrieg will happen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once the “Subway Building,” which housed both the offices of the Borough President of Queens and those of master builder Michael Degnon, the Paragon Oil building is being converted from a documents storage building over to office space as you read this. This seems to be “stage 2” of the LIC buildout, the construction and conversion of former industrial buildings over to commercial – rather than residential – usage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Subway Building overlooks the Hunters Point Avenue stop of the LIRR, and sits astride the Hunters Point stop of the IRT Flushing – or “7” – line. The LIRR station is criminally underused by the MTA, IMHO.


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hitherto baffled

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Santa Claus, Sunnyside, the Turks, and FDNY Ladder 163 – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Celebrating the forthcoming Saturnalia, on a stretch of Sunnyside’s Skillman Avenue, the community received a visit from Santa on Saturday the third of December. There was a street fair sort of thing, and all the local small businesses welcomed the arrival of both Father Christmas and the shoppers who followed him. The whole thing was orchestrated and underwritten by the office of Jimmy Van Bramer, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and I think there were other donors but didn’t pick up on who they were. 

The owners of Flynn’s, Quaint and Claret, and the Dog & Duck all slept happily that night – I’m sure – after watching their establishments grow absolutely full to the gills with merry making community based customers who were lured over to Skillman Avenue for the event.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even the Turks, who aren’t exactly Christmas people, got in on the show. They were grilling kebabs – or whatever the Mediterranean grilled meat on a stick standard is called in Anatolia – on a smoky BBQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was asked to come and photograph the event by my friends in the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and did my standard “thing” at public events when behind the camera. Part of my “thing” is this – always take pictures of kids, dogs and the food.

I moved back and forth between 51st street and 43rd street on Skillman Avenue, which was closed to traffic due to the pending arrival of Santa and the concurrent lighting of a tree at that little church on the corner of 48th. I will admit that this sort of event photography ain’t exactly exciting for me – I mean… it’s not like something visually “exciting” is going to happen at a parade or street fair.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On one of my passes, the smoky Turkish BBQ pictured above had disappeared. The smoke liberally painting the air was now billowing up from their sidewalk basement gates, and FDNY had arrived on the scene.

As mentioned in the past, I was the Brooklyn kid who ran down the street yelling “Firemen, Firemen” whenever an engine or ladder truck screamed past. Nothing has changed for me, despite the passing of multiple decades.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A minor blaze had broken out in the basement of the Turkiyem Market, it seems.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ladder 163 was called to the scene, along with their partner unit Engine 325 – both are stationed at the same firehouse and they call themselves the “Woodside Warriors.” The two units were discussed a couple of weeks ago, in this post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that this was a street fair, ultimately, the normal crowd control stuff they do didn’t apply and this was a rare opportunity to get in close and observe while FDNY did its thing. Saying that, I wasn’t “that” close as I was using that new zoom lens of mine – the Sigma 50-100mm f1.8. I also swapped in another Sigma lens occasionally, which was an 18-35mm f1.8. Periodically I fired off the flash for a bit of extra light, but I’m trying not to use camera mounted flashes these days.

These two Sigma lenses are now the core glass in my “NYC night kit,” btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The FDNY folks firehoses (monitors?) were charged up with hydrant water, but from what I surmised, the initial wave of personnel who went into the basement had managed to quell things using hand operated extinguishers. I suspect that they probably squirted a bit of water around down there anyway in the name of conquering any “hot spots,” or areas which might reignite.

BTW, I question “monitors” above as that’s what you’d call a fire suppression hose and nozzle on a boat. If any of “youse guys” are on the job, let me know what you call a fire hose in the comments. The comedic potential of the preceding sentence is acknowledged, but keep it clean – this is a family blog.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was all terribly exciting. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crisis was averted, and Sunnyside got back to the holiday season. Jimmy Van Bramer lit a Christmas tree at the church, kids sang holiday ditties, and eventually Santa showed up despite being around 25 minutes late. It seems that Santa got stuck in highway traffic, which amplifies the message on a bit of common knowledge held by all New Yorkers.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, beats the Van Wyck. Not even Santa.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

blasphemous disturbance

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Evil lurks, in darkness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has long decried the presence of a horde of vampires in Queens Plaza, where they spend their days hiding in the steel of the elevated subways. The presence of the Baltic Strigoi and the Cretan Kalikantzaros in Astoria, the Liches and the syncretic wizardry of South America observed at St. Michael’s Cemetery, the Egyptian Djinn of Steinway Street, those curious Celtic creatures lurking in the post industrial subterrene voids of Blissville, and the unmentionable Dibbuks of the Chabad in Williamsburg have all been discussed in the past. These are all immigrant imps, however, carried to Brooklyn and Queens by the European masses. Supernatural immigrants from old world to new.

Occluded, however, are the belief systems of the original inhabitants of western Long Island.

from wikipedia

Kishelemukong is the creator god, not involved in the daily affairs of the Lenape. Instead, he directed the manitowak, the life-spirits of all living things, which were created by Kishelemukong. The manitowak were venerated in ceremonies, rituals, dreams, visions, games and ohtas (see below), as well as through the interventions of the Metinuwak, who were healers, spiritual and emotional guides, and religious leaders; they could communicate with the manitowak.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Living, as we do, in a time when the 19th and 20th cultures of Brooklyn and Queens are being dismantled and burned away in the crucible of “development,” one has been ruminating of late about the aboriginal cultures which were similarly dismantled by the Manhattan people during earlier eras. The “Lenapehoking” pre conquest era has captured my interest, but I’m dismayed at the primary source materials which I’ve been able to lay my hands on. Unfountuntely, much of the early source material on the subject I’ve scanned propagates the mythology of the “Noble Savage” and what Kipling called “The White Man’s Burden.”

Problem is that almost everything I’ve been able to find on the Lenape – and their various cultural splinters around New York Harbor – was written by the very same people who decimated and conquered them. It’s a bit like reading a Nazi history of the Second World War, or a British history of their empire in the Raj. I’m looking for some guidance on the subject, books to read, scholars to query. I’ve already reached out through my social network to modern day members of the surviving Lenape nation, but that’s a set of relationships I’m just beginning to develop. Any suggestions on “what to read” would be greatly appreciated, if you happen to be clever about the subject, and I’d ask you to share links and suggestions “with the group” by dropping links into the comments link below.

from wikipedia

A noble savage is a literary stock character who embodies the concept of an idealized indigene, outsider, or “other” who has not been “corrupted” by civilization, and therefore symbolizes humanity’s innate goodness. In English, the phrase first appeared in the 17th century in John Dryden’s heroic play The Conquest of Granada (1672), wherein it was used in reference to newly created man. “Savage” at that time could mean “wild beast” as well as “wild man”. The phrase later became identified with the idealized picture of “nature’s gentleman”, which was an aspect of 18th-century sentimentalism.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This line of inquiry was initiated for me by an argument I found myself in with an academic ignoramus who decided to describe the Lenape to an audience of students not too long ago. Her version of the Native Americans of New York Harbor was a composite of Hollywood representations of the Cree and Lakota cultures, which included teepees and solar worship.

I am quite familiar with the Native cultures of northern and central Mexico, as a note. The Mexica – or Aztec – imperial culture of Lake Texcoco is something which I’ve studied in great depth for instance. I can actually offer quotations of Aztec poetry, speak intelligently about their economy and agricultural systems, and have a more than passing knowledge of the complexity of their religious traditions. If the Mexica Triple Alliance Empire – Aztec is a Spanish word – had another hundred years to develop, the Europeans would have encountered an analogue of Cesarean Rome when they landed at Vera Cruz, and the story of the North American continent would have turned out VERY different than it did.

Wisdom of crowds time, lords and ladies – what and who should I be reading?

from wikipedia

The Lenape (/ləˈnɑːpɛ/) are a Native American tribe and First Nations band government. They are also called Delaware Indians and their historical territory included present day New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania along the Delaware River watershed, western Long Island, and the Lower Hudson Valley.

Most Lenape were pushed out of their homeland during the 18th century by expanding European colonies, exacerbated by losses from intertribal conflicts. Lenape communities were weakened by newly introduced diseases, mainly smallpox, and violent conflict with Europeans. Iroquois people occasionally fought the Lenape. Surviving Lenape moved west into the upper Ohio River basin. The American Revolutionary War and United States’ independence pushed them farther west. In the 1860s, the United States government sent most Lenape remaining in the eastern United States to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma and surrounding territory) under the Indian removal policy. In the 21st century, most Lenape now reside in the US state of Oklahoma, with some communities living also in Wisconsin, Ontario (Canada) and in their traditional homelands.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 16, 2016 at 2:00 pm

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