The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Tower Town’ Category

complete vacation

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Happy Tuesday, Lords and Ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of friends answered my request to get “high in LIC” in the last week. Last week, on Thanksgiving and the Black Friday following it, views from my pal’s roof deck high above the Queens Plaza/Court Square area were on offer. On Sunday last, another friend allowed me onto his roof deck over in Hunters Point. The birds eye shots from Sunday will be presented in tomorrow’s post, for the most part.

While I was in the neighborhood, I did a little bit of wandering about, and had a very odd experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is one of the birds eye shots, from about twelve stories over Long Island City, looking towards East River past the Queens Landing section of Hunters Point Park South.

Shortly after recording this shot, I bid my host “adieu” and made my way down towards the street. Heading off towards Newtown Creek to the south was my goal. Upon reaching the corner, a sudden panicked call of “please help me, sir, please help me” rang out. An unusually tall blonde woman, my impression was that she was Russian (or some similar flavor of “Slavic”), approached and beseeched me to escort her back to her apartment house as she was terrified of a “driver” who “said all these things, horrible things, things…” She was brandishing her phone, which was on speaker with a man she said was her father. Fully aware that I might have wandered into the jaws of an old street grift called “cat fishing,” one nevertheless guided the lady back towards her building whereupon she disappeared within. Strange encounter with a quite hysterical person, but I got to feel like I helped some stranger out of a jam she was in, so “win.”

Life on the streets of NYC for an itinerant photographer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wasn’t at all nervous about having to possibly “handle” a Russian hooligan if indeed I was being catfished (modern context notwithstanding, this is the one where a lady gains the attention of a man, whereupon she appeals to him to help her in a variety of circumstantial but always urgent situations, counting on his gallantry, who then leads him to usually male confederates who beat the tar out of the fellow whereupon the gang splits whatever loot he’s carrying) I was apoplectic about the masses of unsupervised teenagers gathered about the well lit East River waterfront.

Brrr, teenagers.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

dread aperture

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There’s so many of us, at least for a couple of hours each day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling down Skillman Avenue and approaching Queens Plaza, one was reminded of a conversation recently enjoyed with a locally deployed NYPD Commander about the unique nature of this area. For a couple of hours, each morning and evening, this is theoretically one of the most densely populated places on the planet, but the individual members of this population blob are seldom in the neighborhood for longer than a few minutes and they are in vehicular motion (however stunted) the whole time.

To put it simply, the multitudes moving through western Queens during the rush hours, on their way to work or home to other places – traveling by car, bus, subway, railroad, bicycle, or autogyro perhaps – create a statistically irrelevant but nonetheless astounding jump in the “persons per square foot” or population density of LIC. Thing is, lots of people elected to suffer a long commute when they moved to Eastern Queens, or Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Lots of time to read, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Statistical relevance is part of how planning decisions are made. It big math – “quant” stuff, actually, and beyond my understanding. The theory behind the relevance of statistical information is summed up by that quote from Josef Stalin that a single death is a tragedy whereas a million deaths are a statistic. A lot of policy decisions revolve around, or at least they’re supposed to, the greatest good for the greatest number.

“Greatest number” inherently means that someone gets left out, which translates as “not statistically relevant.” Planning of public works in recent decades has strived to expand and include traditionally marginalized groups, most notably folks with health related mobility issues – thanks to the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of public spaces and City buildings out there were formally denied to people in wheelchairs, since the era in which most of these public buildings were erected, the disabled population wasn’t considered as being “statistically relevant.”

Access to mass, affordable, and reliable transit – which parallels what’s available to “abled” people – still remains a problem, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Statistical relevance, I’m informed, is a big part of the algorithm under which the 311 service of NYC was designed to operate. One person from Blissville complaining to 311 about a cat in a tree is low priority and statistically irrelevant, but the City will send somebody out when they can. Twenty people from the same block call 311 about the cat? Help is on the way a lot faster, as the problem is now far more mathematically relevant and the City will send out Superman to investigate and mitigate.

Make me wonder what would happen if everybody who was commuting through Queens Plaza on any given day suddenly called 311 to complain about something.

Then again, I wonder why it is that everyone doesn’t vote on Election Day.


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fear him

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Remember, remember the fourteenth of September.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One word before I delve into the usual narrative here – I was attacked by friggin Grasshoppers while in pursuit of some of the images in today’s post. Grasshoppers, as in a biblical plague like swarm of giant bugs flying at me with murder on their minds – a gang of grasshoppers in friggin Long Island City.

It occurs, since these shots were largely collected on the 11th of September, that there are certain calendrical markers which loom large in the collective mind. Unfortunately, these events tend to reflect recent history, whereas other moments which were once considered to be of maximum importance are forgotten. September 11th will be remembered for the events of 2001, of course, but what about September the 14th?

On this day in 326 A.D., Emperor Constantine the Great’s mom Helena (Helena was the Augusta Imperatrix) is said to have recovered a piece of the True Cross in Palestine, as well as finding the site of the burning bush and a few other odds and ends. She’s a Saint now, the Augusta Imperatrix.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even on the day of the attacks, I mentioned to the little gaggle of refugees who had gathered at my home office in Upper Manhattan that it would be just a matter of two to three decades before Sept. 11th became a legal holiday of national remembrance like Labor Day. Within five to six decades, it would lose its significance, like Labor Day or Veterans Day have. Future generations would figure their vacations around the week between Labor Day and what will likely be called Remembrance Day, and there would be sales at retailers. It’s crass, but that’s the American way.

In 1741, George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” was completed on this day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was out wandering around on the 11th in Long Island City, it was somewhat forefront in my mind that I wanted to get an uncommon shot of the Freedom Tower from Newtown Creek, which is why I was wandering around in spots which are normally avoided due to fear of arrest for trespassing. The shot above overlooks the DB Cabin railroad bridge and the mouth of Dutch Kills, incidentally.

In 1812, an antichrist named Napoleon marched the Grand Armée of France into the City of Moscow on September 14th.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have to admit – I was actually enjoying the day, and the solitude, for once. I love conducting my Newtown Creek tours on the weekends, bringing people to the crazy places I know around the Creek and reciting the historical trivia, but it does get in the way of me doing “my thing” with the camera. Having a Sunday off for once, the headphones were stuck into my ears and I spent several happy hours listening to my collection of HP Lovecraft audio books. In particular – the Horror at Red Hook, The Outsider, The Thing on the Doorstep, and The Shunned House were in rotation last week. Pictured above is the Cabin M rail bridge over Dutch Kills.

In 1901, President William McKinley died. The President was shot by an anarchist on Sept. 6th, and it was gangrene that ended up doing him in. McKinley’s Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, succeeded him.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was while I was crouched down to get the shot above that the Grasshoppers grew angry at me, and hundreds of chitin clad bullets suddenly erupted from the brush. While I was flailing about in the buzzing crowd, a cramp developed in my left arm and one of my “spells” came upon me. I must’ve been laying on the tracks crying for a good half hour, cursing the fact that I hadn’t decided on studio photography rather than urban landscape. The horror…

On Sept. 14th in 1959, a Soviet built probe called “Luna 2” crashed into the moon, making it the first man made object to reach the satellite.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scarred by the insect attack, I decided “enough” and headed for home back in Astoria. I was hungry, desired an alcoholic beverage to steel myself after the grasshopper incident, and was working out how to exact my revenge on the horde of exoskeletal bastards who had harrassed me. Astoria? Only primates, dogs, cats, and rats live in Astoria. Ok, we’ve got possums and raccoons too, but you catch my drift. We ain’t got grasshoppers.

In 1715, the French monk Dom Pérignon died on September 14th, and in 1836 – so did Aaron Burr. In the United States, September 14th is “National Eat a Hoagie day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Be back tomorrow with some other drivel and a bunch of pix.

If you’re not doing anything after work tomorrow, I’ll be narrating on the Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour for the Working Harbor Committee, along with Capt. Maggie Flanagan of Waterfront Alliance. Come with? We’re boarding at Wall Street/Pier 11 at 5:30 and the weather is meant to be bloody brilliant. Link below for tix.

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.


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perhaps retreat

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In LIC, the night time is the right time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason that I found myself on Hunters Point Avenue in LIC at around 11 p.m. with both Our Lady of the Pentacle and our little dog Zuzu is immaterial. Suffice to say that the whole family was present in the concrete devastations last weekend, and that as we were making our way back to a world less inchoate, called Astoria, Queens was putting on a bit of a show for us down in LIC. The 7 train was rising from the rotting concrete of its subterranean corridors, and riding noisily on the elevated tracks which overfly the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As longtime readers will attest, one of my projects for the last couple of years has been to master the art of low light photography sans the use of a camera support like a tripod or portable illumination like flash or battery lights. Tripod shots are awful at capturing a fast moving shot anyway, as the long exposure technique employed with that methodology produces motion blur. There’s something to be said for that, of course, but preparation and set up of the equipment removes all spontaneity from the shot and Queens comes at you “a mile a minute.” In pursuit of this technical goal, I’ve been shooting down in the Subway’s underground system and have developed certain “go to” ratios of exposure and ISO which have proven somewhat reliable in capturing fast moving shiny things as they pass through dark environments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Employment of these techniques in the night time streets of NYC are now underway, and all of the shots in today’s post were captured while Our Lady of the Pentacle and Zuzu patiently waited for me to conclude my incessant recording of the extant world surrounding us.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

Project Firebox 100

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An ongoing catalog of New York’s endangered Fireboxes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scarlet still stands in Hunters Point, although the neighborhood is unrecognizable.

Pepsi is long gone, as are National Sugar, the LIRR Power House, and the Daily News- but a noble firebox still stands at the ready. Here, in the capital of “wiping away the old New York” and “changing the skyline forever,” there is at least a single pole star of continuity. Rock on firebox, rock on.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 14, 2013 at 7:30 am

antediluvian plateau

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing through Long Island City’s “Tower Town” on the way to the East River Ferry, your humble narrator made a point of shooting some “in progress” shots of ongoing construction. The building at the right of the shot above is going to be a school, and construction on the Hunters Point South project seems to be moving along as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last that I heard, there is still an awful lot of plumbing going on. Part of the project, an enormous residential development, will demand the presence of gas mains and water (sanitary, potable supply, and waste water retention and management) infrastructure. From what I’ve been able to observe, this seems to be most of what’s going on here at the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One cannot help but feel remorse at the loss of the rail to barge infrastructure and facilities that once operated here, and the loss of such amenities in this more environmentally sensitive modern age.

Of course, now that the East River coastline of Manhattan has been fully converted to residential and recreational usage- where would the rail and barge driven agricultural and manufactured products of Long Island have to go?

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 5, 2012 at 12:15 am

Project Firebox 37

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Found in Long Island City, at the border between Tower Town and the forthcoming Hunters Point South development, is this survivor of earlier times. Strung loosely to a temporary lamp post, it sits just outside of a certain ancient building which has incalculably survived both the 20th century and the tidal forces of real estate speculation. This structure held the private offices of a certain and quite notorious figure, a man who was known simply as Paddy to those who knew him. The firebox isn’t talking, but a humble narrator will in future postings at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 24, 2012 at 12:15 am

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