The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘sunnyside’ Category

sound oversight

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Too much time on your hands isn’t a good thing, find something to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a humble narrator’s beard has grown whiter and whiter over the years, there’s a few things one has gleaned from experience. My cohort of friends includes people of most ages, races, religions, and types – and with the younger members of this tribal group, I cannot help but share adages of the mistakes that I’ve made in the past and present, and ones which I plan to make in the future. The way I figure it, when you finally have life down to a science at some point, you get cancer or dementia and then become a science experiment. Between now, and then – when inevitability knocks on the door – you might as well stay busy, and keep on screwing up so that the reaper maintains his distance.

Additionally – you really, really need to be a better friend to yourself and get enough sleep. A doctor friend of mine once opined that it takes the liver and kidneys about seven hours to turn over your blood supply and clean out all the toxic juices that accumulate in it while you’re awake. Don’t know if she was just trying to scare me, but it’s been working out pretty good for me ever since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has often opined that he’d like to visit a hospital about once a year, get split open like a hog, and then get the works hosed down with a warm solution of detergents. You’d do this with your car’s engine, as a point, if you lived in a place with unpaved roads. The Docs use a fancy word for this – Lavage. Conventionally, this sort of invasive rinsing out is typically only done with cancer patients who have just undergone surgery, and instead of using a garden hose and water the Docs use chemotherapy compounds. The idea behind the chemo Lavage is to kill off any errant cells which they might have missed while chopping and slicing. I’m just interested in getting the skinvelope rinsed out.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be sticking to me on the inside?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

American hypochondriacism and fatalist thinking is fascinating to me. Every little pain must be related to, or be a revelation of, cancer. I’m guilty of it myself, and have sometimes found myself staring in the mirror at three in the morning with saucer sized eyes thinking “this is it, here we go.” Over the years, I’ve developed a minor but quite common orthopedic condition in my left foot, specifically in my big left toe, directly related to all the walking. An easily inflamed ligament leading from the foot to the toe knuckle flares up occasionally, causing minor discomfort. The condition is called “turf toe,” and it’s caused by pushing off into a step by putting my weight on that particular toe, inflaming a certain tendon or ligament. I convinced myself that I had developed foot cancer after a few google searches.

As a note, foot cancer is one of the most unlikely things you can contract. You actually have a better chance of getting hit by lightning, if you work outside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular political moment that we are all living in really shouldn’t have taken anybody by surprise. Nazis, white power people… they’ve been here all along, lurking at the edges. Back in the ’80’s, there was a fellow named Tom Metzger who ran an outfit called “WAR,” which stood for “White Aryan Resistance.” WAR’s themology involved the recruitment of skinheads and rednecks, who were told to either let their hair grow out or to take a shave. Adherents were advanced money to secure college degrees and encouraged to join the workforces of both public and private entities and wait for their time to come. A lot of the kids of my generation who joined WAR are now at senior levels in the Police, Political, and Corporate worlds. That was Tom Metzger’s plan.

Erosion of trust in Government and other organs of cultural stability were accomplished through popular entertainment. The X-Files opined that “The Truth is out there,” painting the staid FBI and CIA as some sort of shadowy counter government secretly running the entire show and colluding with extraterrestrials. “Who killed Kennedy?” is a question that is more valuable than the answer ever could be. “The TV News guys are in on it, and the news is all fakery and cover stories.” Nothing is real, all is false, and in chaotic times the proletariat will always put its faith in strongmen who purport to represent the values and mores of generations past.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve advised my young friends, so too has wisdom been shared with those old enough to know better. A little mystery hanging about one’s shoulders is a good thing, but for those involved in public life an absence of information offered is an opportunity for blanks to be filled in erroneously. I can opine about battle and conflict, but suffice to say I don’t think you should ever telegraph what you’re going to do or say next, and instead recommend that you just make things start happening after a prior gentlemanly final warning. Raining blows down upon an enemy is a great way to balance your chi, after all. There’s nothing like grinding someone to dust and listening to the lamentations of their women.

I have never understood the male posturing that occurs before a physical conflict, as a note. “I’m gonna kick your skedooch, mothaflowah” and all that is redundant. Just stick your finger in the other guys eye or kick him in the crotch, pummel him until he’s tender or oozing, empty a garbage can or piss on him, and then get out of dodge before the cops show up… that’s the Brooklyn way. The sports guys call it “explosivity.” Movie fights and boxing matches see mutiple exchanges of blows, real fights last 2-4 minutes, tops. It’s always best to try and talk it out or walk away, as a note, but life ain’t about “should be,” it’s all “have to.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An oft repeated refrain invokes “not giving a fuck.” My advice to all is to give lots of fucks. It’s your life, take some agency over it. This is a real problem I’ve noticed with the generations coming up behind me. My politically conservative friends attribute this to “participation trophies,” which is something I don’t understand the obsession they have for. Politically liberal friends describe the generations coming up as “woke,” which is a term I don’t fully comprehend. Either way, the people I know in their early and late twenties and mid thirties are an extremely reticent group. They like to take political stands, decry the societal system that made them, and wallow or embrace their sorrows. None of them talk about superseding their limitations or conquering obstacles, rising above, or succeeding “in spite of.”

My take on these kids – they’re kids to me – is that these are the people who saw 911 playing out on TV when they were ten or eleven years old, and have come of age during what I have come to call “The Great Unraveling.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

aroused about

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A storm’s a coming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Depressing, that’s how I usually describe it. Shortly after taking this photo in the Court Square/Queens Plaza area of Long Island City, where the sidewalk was actually blocked off by this enormous midden of residential tower garbage, I sat in one of the high priced cafes installed into one of those residential towers (the kind that offers fare best described as a single perfect tomato served on a big white artisinal plate) and listened to a group of activists telling me that all this real estate development was just peachy and that they’d like to see more of it. My spiel about opposing the Sunnyside Yards fell on fairly deaf ears, and I inquired about how long the folks I was chatting with had lived here in LIC. The answer was pretty much encapsulated by De Blasio’s term in office, and I realized that these folks hadn’t been here for a transit strike, or a blackout, or had the Mayor turn a hotel on their block into a homeless shelter yet. Give it time folks, and remember the Borough Motto – “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.” 

They didn’t mind the fact that they were living on the site of a 19th century chemical factory, and in fact didn’t care.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another sit down with a group whom I would describe as “hard left” was also somewhat dismaying, as their plan for the future involved collapsing one of the legs of the economic stool which the City’s economy stands upon. I’ve said this a million times, it seems, but one is not “anti-development” as macro economic forces such as our current building boom need to be managed, and the job of government is to manage and eke concessions or “buy-in’s” from the real estate industrial complex which both current and future populations will need. Transit improvements, green infrastructure, medical facilities, supermarkets and laundromats, school space, street level urban furniture like benches and garbage cans. Instead, our government still operates as if it’s the 1970’s and they need to beg developers to begin projects in NYC. The Real Estate people are awash in the “LLC” money that often malign foreigners are laundering through our local economy, so let’s demand that they share the wealth just a little bit and design some ameliorations of the City’s many needs into their towers – that’s what I say. It’s called “good old fashioned graft” in case anyone has forgotten that term. Why isn’t there still any place to take a piss, amidst all this new construction?

Is Long Island City going to function as a “city,” or is it instead just destined to be a dormitory for Manhattan’s job base. Why aren’t we talking about office space and commercial construction here? As the old adage offers – if you build it, they will come. That’s how Queens was originally developed a hundred years ago – they built the Subways, and the people came.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking these not so mean streets as I do, I can tell you that vast stretches of Queens are unfriendly, forbidding, and barren of any of the things you’d expect to find in Brooklyn or Manhattan. We’re starved for hospital beds, school desks, street trees. Our commercial strips are bare as far as street benches and everything else you’d expect to find in the “fastest growing community” in the northeastern United States, and Queens has less park land acreage per person than anywhere else in NYC except for Greenpoint in Brooklyn and the South Bronx. 

While all of this is going on, or not going on, everybody continues to snipe and gripe and fight over an ever smaller piece of the pie. They’re fighting battles that they’ve already lost, which seems to be the Queensican way.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

palpably diabolic

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Being stressed out is a crutch, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was scuttling along on a recent afternoon, marveling at the wonders of Queens. My day’s photographic targets having been captured, and fully entranced by one of my favorite HP Lovecraft audiobooks (The Horror at Red Hook, read by Wayne June), the path I was on had been chosen to get me home to Astoria from Newtown Creek as quickly as possible via 39th street in Sunnyside. There’s bunches of lovely residences along this stretch, but my visual instinct is generally unexcited by homes and gardens. Nevertheless, the camera is always ready to click and whirr should something interesting pop up.

I am, it should be mentioned, fascinated by the concrete clad topography of Western Queens. The “lay of the land” as it were. There’s all sorts of elluvial hillocks and ridges hidden beneath all the asphalt and brick, and when you walk these streets a lot, you can easily discern where water once flowed or pooled prior to the massive land reclamation and drainage projects of the early 20th century. These projects, and the concombinant political corruption involved with the execution of them, ended the careers of several of the early Borough Presidents of Queens in court.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

File the shot above under “you don’t see that every day,” and even for a humble narrator who has become jaded by the wonders of municipal industry, it isn’t every day that you see a heavy tow truck clad in FDNY trade dress towing an ambulance. I’m sure that the combination was ultimately heading for Maspeth, where the Fire Department maintains a couple of vehicle maintenance facilities.

After capturing the shot, I offered the driver a friendly wave of the hand. He smiled and waved back. Only employees of the FDNY seem to do this, amongst all the City agencies. Cops and Sanitation workers just kind of glare at me. I figure anything that a City employee is driving is partially owned by me anyway, so click and whirr.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from a different afternoon, the day that the Bicycle Fanatics came to Sunnyside to stage a protest. I took a bunch of shots of their “human protected bike lane” hooey, but do not wish to inflate their egos or cause any further than necessary. Accordingly, the crepuscular rays dancing about the Sapphire megalith and the ominous mestastase of the LIC skyline are presented instead.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm

spent potential

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Are those drums I hear?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Western Queens is under assault by the powers that be in Manhattan. Blissville gets a homeless shelter population which outnumbers actual residents by more than two to one? Check. The LIC Core rezoning is on the way, which will extend the residential towers of Hunters Point and Queens Plaza all the way up Northern Blvd. to Steinway Street? Check. Traffic on the highways – namely the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, Long Island Expressway, Grand Central Parkway – higher than ever? Check.

Did anyone in Queens ever ask for any of this, or is it just the dream of people who work in Lower Manhattan office buildings and at Columbia University?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Do we receive literal mountains of garbage and recyclables curbside collected by DSNY on a daily basis? Check. Do the truck fleets of both DSNY and private carters transverse our residential neighborhoods on a daily basis? Check. Do we host power plants, and sewage plants, and waste transfer stations? Check. Is our transit system failing? Check. Did the Manhattan people export Fed Ex Ground and other truck based businesses to Western Queens the last time they decided to deck over a rail yard at Hudson Yards in the City?

Check. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYC EDC is moving forward with their quixotic plan to deck over the Sunnyside Yards, lords and ladies.

EDC has told me in the past that bringing construction materials in by rail is not an option, to a rail yard, which means it will be trucked in. Is that through Manhattan via George Washington and then Triborough Bridges? Midtown Tunnel? They do not intend on building new hospital beds, nor expanding fire and police service, or new transit stops and lines while installing half the population of Boulder, Colorado into our neighborhoods.

Have I mentioned that Sunnyside Yards has been added to the list of “PRP’s” or Potentially Responsible Parties in the Newtown Creek Superfund? Check.


Upcoming Tours and Events

May 12th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.


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childish eyes

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Opposites can repulse or attract, no matter what Paula Abdul said.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Laboriously explained over the last few weeks of night shooting, the tripod technique one has been exploiting involves using small apertures, low ISO camera sensitivity, and long exposures to gather images. It’s rather the opposite of my normal shooting procedure. Out for a scuttle one recent afternoon, a humble narrator decided that since it was incredibly bright out he’d do the opposite of that normal procedure for daylight shots – wide open aperture photos with a shallow depth of field.

That’s the Harold Interlocking pictured above, at the Sunnyside Yards. A night shot from the same vantage point was offered in last Friday’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that I was pointing the camera into a scene full of reflective surfaces which the sun was setting behind, and the aperture was set to f1.8, I had to reduce sensor sensitivity down to ISO 100 and use a shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second to control the light. 1/8000th is as fast as my shutter will flip, I would mention. That’s fast enough to freeze a bee’s wings mid flap, or to render an in flight helicopter blade static.

It’s kind of thing with me… when it’s not a shot “I have to get,” I like to experiment and see what the capabilities of the capture device are at their extremes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wandered around a bit with this particular set of settings, which is something else I force myself to do periodically. There are days where I leave my camera bag and zoom lenses at home and go out for a stroll with just a 50mm lens attached and the camera settings locked. The “nifty fifty” as its called, offers an aperture range between f1.8 to f22, with its only real limitation being that it’s a prime lens and fixed to its singular focal range. That means I need to either get close or go further away from a subject.

There’s a reason for this, which is to keep on my toes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Limiting yourself can sometimes force you to get a bit more creative, or just deep dive into the inner workings of the camera. The shot above won’t be finding its way into National Geographic, for instance, but it was a fine balancing act challenge – exposure wise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Be back tomorrow with something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

after action

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It’s National Have a Bagel Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Encountered at the corner of Hunters Point Avenue and 36th street, which is at the “angle” between the Blissville and Sunnyside sections of LIC here in Queens, this formerly cool car appears to have suffered through some sort of catastrophic event. You’ll notice that there’s more than few odd things about this scene. My reckoning, at least, is that I can’t imagine that this immolation of an expensive auto was desired by its owner – but who knows?

Kids these days. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was a fairly thorough fire, by all appearances, but one that was quite selective in terms of what it consumed. Little green cards with NYPD logos on them were visible on the heap, instructing “Do Not Tow” and proclaiming the wreck as being “evidence.” The vehicle is of the Mercedes sedan type, or at least it was. This puppy is likely going to be seen somewhere along Newtown Creek in the coming weeks, squished into a pile of castoff vehicles at one scrap yard or another.

Anybody out there missing a black Mercedes sedan?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That had to be some sort of super hot fire, in my eyes, to have melted away the engine bonnet.

Apparently, though, that’s what happened. In some ways, it visually reminds one of that mysterious phenomena called “spontaneous human combustion.” That’s the one where a body is found that’s been partially burned all the way to ash but the flames were super selective, leaving behind a hand or foot that is otherwise unharmed, and with little damage to furniture or wall hangings in proximity to high temperature combustion. To get human flesh to ash, crematoriums create fiery environments that are 1,400 to 1,800 degrees fahrenheit. How can something anywhere even close to an environment of that temperature not get scorched?

I mean… this blaze was hot enough to melt the engine hood, parts of the engine, and the entire interior cabin – but the tires are perfectly intact? Weird.

Steel melts at 2,750 degrees fahrenheit, I’m told.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 4, 2017 at 11:00 am

cryptic formulae

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It’s National Bavarian Cream Pie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Pentacle in back in session.

Aimless, a wandering mendicant found himself recently at a juncture. It’s always been my practice to follow instinct when out on a photowalk, but during those times when my schedule is tightly packed, the efficiency of a given route often trumps the voice of that little birdy that instructs one to turn left or right. Binary logic trees tumble forth from out of these choices – if I go left it takes me towards… – if I go right, I’m heading for… – and so on. Recent interludes have allowed one the temporal freedom to acknowledge and follow the advice of the voices in my head, which is how I ended up on the 7 train one recent afternoon.

This section of the glorious IRT Flushing – or 7 line – was built in a few distinct stages, here in Queens. It wasn’t until 1928 that the line reached its modern terminal destination in Flushing. The stops between LIC and the City (Grand Central Station in Manhattan, Hunters Point Avenue, Court Square, Vernon Jackson, and Queensboro Plaza) having opened in 1915. The second section to open was the QB Plaza to 103rd st./Alburtis Avenue section, and that happened on the 21st of April in 1917. I helped organize the centennial event for that anniversary, btw, with Access Queens and the NY Transit Museum.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A productive habit one has acquired over the years, while researching and writing about the garlands of municipal wonder stitched large across the geographies of the Newtown Pentacle, is to take note of historic anniversaries recorded in the historical record and then to set up a calendar item on my phone which repeats annually. After all this time, I seem to have developed the beginnings of an “On this day in NYC history…” database. So much of what we think of as “nyc” was built or created in the 1900-1940 era, one predicts that attending centennial celebrations are about to become quite a common experience.

I’ve been lucky enough to be at the center of several of these sorts of events over the years. I worked on the Queensboro Bridge and Madison Avenue Bridge centennials, was a parade marshall for the Manhattan and Hunters Point Avenue Bridge events, and as mentioned – helped organize the Access Queens IRT Flushing Line Corona Extension event.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Digressions aside, my impulse to climb up the stairs to and purchase a ride on the 7 train towards Queens Plaza allowed a visual vantage point to photograph the Sunnyside Yards, which is always a plus. Often, when riding elevated lines, I’ll pick out the cleanest window on the side of the subway which is shadowed by the sun and set the camera to an infernally fast shutter speed and narrow aperture (with commensurate compensation for ISO, of course) for a “spray and pray” series of shots recording whatever is passed by. Adoption of a weird physical posture is called for, during which one’s body is used as little more than a shock absorber and camera support. The particular one used by a humble narrator usually results in more than a little discomfort in the lower back and the beginnings of a cramp in my right foot.

Most of what you get are throwaway shots, incidentally, but with digital photography you’ve got no reason not to experiment constantly except when available card memory is short or battery life is limited.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a few shots in today’s post, notably the first and last, which were “experimental” in terms of using a newly acquired bit of kit. In recent years, work on developing the skill set, and collecting the “bright” lenses, to negate the necessitude of using camera supports like tripods has been undertaken. One has been somewhat successful in this endeavor, so a minor investment at a recent camera show resulted in the acquisition of a truly transportable tripod. This sturdy gizmo barely qualifies as a “tabletop” unit, but it weighs virtually nothing and can be carried around in a coat pocket. Despite its dimunition; the unit has a ball head, supports the weight of my standard carry around lenses, and sets up rather quickly.

As mentioned above – the Newtown Pentacle is, indeed, back in session.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 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

November 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

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