The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘sunnyside’ Category

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 16, 2016 at 2:00 pm

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

tightly nailed

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How do you not read something if you know how to read?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Surrounded as we all are by signage, one often wonders about how, or if, you can tune it all out. If you can read the written word, it’s virtually impossible for the literate brain not to translate graphic messaging as language and process the printed symbols into words and thoughts. Given my notorious affections for the horror genre of literature and film, often has a certain postulate occurred to me – can you transmit a thought virus via the written word as supposed by HP Lovecraft and his dreaded Necronomicon? By thought virus, I’m referring to a “very bad idea” which induces instant madness in the reader – a sort of syllabic poison? As previously and multitudinously stated, I’m all ‘effed up.

“Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nfah Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!” anyone?

Note: Over the years I’ve had a few friends who suffered from various mental illnesses, many of which center around paranoid delusions, and if I noticed them carrying around a tarot deck or some other occult contrivance I would start to worry. Paranoids should avoid any sort of divination and the occult in general, in my opinion, as Gnosticism excaberates their inclination towards visualizing and finding patterns in random events and the usage of a dininatory device tends to confirm the efficacy of their self created beliefs. Such patterns of thought are “very bad ideas” which often lead to fugue states which include inescapable logical traps and racing thoughts, as well as a false perception of enhanced physical abilities – a psychological state which often leads to traumatic medical and pharmaceutical interventions and world weary cops referring to them as an “EDP” or Emotionally Disturbed Person. (I’ve been there for a couple of people’s “enhanced” states and it sucks, they’re having what basically a “brain attack” and there’s naught you can do except stand there and listen while gathering up and hiding sharp implements from around the room.) 

I always wonder – could it have been something I said?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “very bad idea” that’s transmitted by a bit of public signage, like the sort you’ll see when approaching the Brooklyn Queens Expressway from Northern Blvd. for example, would be a pernicious foeman. The vast numbers who witness it – even from blocks away – would all be transformed into homicidal madmen and madladies. We are surrounded by the written word, and any literate person has no choice but to instantaneously read and process what they see.

Imagine, if you will, a screed whose combination of nouns and verbs is capable of instantaneously inducing madness. You blunder in front of the message during your daily round, and the thought virus imparted by the signage shatters the gentile veil of civilization – reducing you into thundering mania – a homicidal lunatic bent on wreaking random and bloody havoc. What if such a phrase was displayed to an audience of thousands in a sports stadium, or at Grand Central Terminal, or in Times Square at rush hour? What if it was sent out over the amber alert system and every cell phone in NYC carried the thought virus? Would it be translatable to Spanish, or Urdu, or Mandarin? It could reach epidemic status within minutes via modern technologies.

“Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread,” anyone?

This would be, of course, some sort of sorcery – but perhaps our modern world just hasn’t found the correct combination of syllables to shatter society’s strongest chord yet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In such a world, where the “very bad idea” had propagated forth and infected the literate – we’d have to rely on the illiterate to find a solution. Perhaps this is what happened during the dark ages, and the Black Death wasn’t bubonic plague but rather a thought virus that nearly consumed all of Europe – leaving behind an illiterate nobility and peasantry to repopulate the devastated countryside? Can this be what happened to Roman civilization in the 3rd century AD?

Ever Their praises, and abundance to the Black Goat of the Woods. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!

How do you ignore the written word if you can read? 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

various stages

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Sangria law is coming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ever since Marco Gutierrez, founder of the group Latinos for Trump, laid out his dire warning that “you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner” I’ve been noticing that there already are – in fact, taco trucks on just about every corner. As with all things stupid, some clever quant out there on the web did a calculation regarding the claim, and it emerged that this would represent the creation of something like 15 million new jobs.

I can get behind this sort of capitalist activity, although most of the taco trucks here in Astoria are kind of gross, and offer a quality of foodstuff that’s mainly aimed at inebriates.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t like the “race stuff” and never have. I don’t like lumping groups of people together under a label, whether it be nationalist in nature, racial, or whatever. I don’t like the term “homeless” for instance, as it creates the impression of some homogenous population who all have the same set of problems. I don’t like the idea of calling a huge number of people who hail from widely disparate “south of the border” locales under the umbrella “Latino” either. Labels dehumanize, and once you’ve dehumanized a group…

Do people actually talk to each other anymore, or do they just make stuff up about strangers?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally speaking, as the grandson of members of one the groups who were reviled when they arrived in this country a century ago – in my case, Jews from the Pale – the whole taco truck thing is cast in a different sort of light. These are people who arrived here with nothing – like the Italians, Irish, and other Europeans who came in the 19th and early 20th centuries – and who have worked and clawed their way into the entrepreneurial space by the sweat of their brow. The “race stuff” precludes some from seeing what’s going on here, but a taco truck on every corner is actually not a good thing – it’s a great thing. These people are your grandparents, reborn.

I look forward to the introduction of Sangria Law into the United States, as it will be a delicious and refreshing reboot. Every twenty five to fifty years, you need to pull the plug on America, refresh its firmware and update its operating system – if I’m reading Thomas Jefferson’s meaning correctly, and using modern idiom, to paraphrase his “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”

Upcoming tours and events:


“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

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm

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

curious explanations

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Neither here nor there, and feeling pretty burnt out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was out and about conducting a tour of Greenpoint’s East River and Newtown Creek coasts when a vast amount of smoke was noticed rising out of Sunnyside last week. Some of the members of my group engaged their portable data terminals to inquire about the plume, and it emerged that there was a warehouse fire underway on 37th street near the corner of Queens Blvd. Having missed the actual conflagration, one did happen to wander past the aftermath the next day and a few shots were gathered.

Oddly enough, FDNY was still on scene, no doubt in cautious anticipation of flare ups in the still hot rubble. Luckily for the fire fellas, the fire took place directly across the street from Gallagher’s gentlemens club, cause y’know, for when you need to use the toilet or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be a show of serious remiss for me to not mention that one of the firefighters on scene was perhaps the largest human being I’ve ever seen. I’m talking pro wrestler big. I’m talking David vs Goliath big, Batman big. Like seven feet tall and pure muscle big, He was taller than De Blasio big.

I’m talking “he claps his hands to put out fires, like the Hulk” big.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By all reports, this was a fairly huge conflagration, and even the biggest fireman in the world wouldn’t be able to do anything but contain and control the blaze. The company based in the one story warehouse style building hereabouts was involved in the cabinetry business, I’m led to believe, and the raw materials stored in the structure were all wood based – which the FDNY would refer to simply as “fuel.” My buddies over at the Sunnyside Post were on scene during the event.

Check out their shots and videos of the raging fire here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can tell you that the day after the fire, the smoot smell of burnt wood still stained the air, but that the businesses next door were open for business. For those of you reading this who live in North Brooklyn, I’m sure you’ve already done the math on what probably happened here, based on experience.

Long story short, the real estate guys have been eying this still industrial stretch of Queens Boulevard for a while now, and their interest in an area usually renders it quite combustible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My prediction for the next decade – based around what I’ve seen in LIC, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint over the last decade and a half – is that the industrial neighborhoods surrounding the Sunnyside Yards are going to be seeing a lot of largish fires occurring. The great thing about immolation is that it’s so costly to repair a burned up structure that the only sensible thing to do is to declare it a total loss and sell the land to a developer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Truly, we are doomed by the ambitions of our lessers and their base short term desires. It’s all so depressing, and it leaves me (and us) totally burned out.

Like a leaf, you.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

imperfect posture

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Just a short, and selfie, one today

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As one scuttles about from place to place, lots of things are observed. Recently, the young lady pictured above was taking advantage of a (fairly) recently installed bike lane on one of the truss bridges crossing the Sunnyside Yards, at 39th street, to capture a series of selfies as she rode along. Vision Zero, or zero vision?

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, May 21st at 3:30 p.m. –
A Return to The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek,
with Atlas Obscura, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm

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