The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Triborough Bridge’ Category

popular opinions

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Darkness and cold, it’s all darkness and cold.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So far this week we’ve established a few things – the physical dimensions of a size 18 EEEEEE male foot, that Astoria’s 31st street used to be call Debevoise Avenue prior to the 20th century, and the convoluted and confusing history of the Astoria line elevated tracks which have defined the street since at least February of 1917 (I have no idea when construction on the “El” began, whether in 1915 or 1916 or whenever) have been explored. My “constitutional” stroll, which is how I refer to a short 90 minute walk “around” the neighborhood, found me turning north on 31st street and heading towards Astoria Blvd. from Broadway.

Along my way, I kept on wondering why it is that for the last century or so seemingly everybody over in Manhattan who has had a bright idea about how to “fix” Queens has been handed de facto Carte Blanche to explore and build their scheme. You don’t find a “Utopia Parkway” in other boroughs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From a city planning perspective, Astoria Blvd. can easily be analogized as a “municipal sacrifice zone.” First, however, I have to state my perception of Astoria itself being composed of three distinct neighborhoods. Two of them are divided by Astoria Blvd., with the commercial strips of 30th Avenue and Broadway defining the southern one, and the commercial strip along Ditmars Blvd. defining the northern one. The remaining section is defined by and found west of Crescent Street. Again, that’s my perception, and unfortunately the Real Estate Industrial Complex is constantly trying to redefine the ancient village with names like “Eastoria,” “Westoria” and so on. Sigh.

In 1922, a group of Queens based planners proposed the creation of a “scenic drive” which would start at Astoria’s East River waterfront, travel along Astoria Blvd., and hug the northern shoreline of the borough all the way east to the Nassau County line. Robert Moses liked that idea, and especially so when he began working on the Triborough Bridge. The first nine miles of the Grand Central Parkway, between Kew Gardens and Glen Oaks, opened in 1933. Moses has to find a way to pay for and build what he called “the missing link,” however. The missing link would connect Long Island’s Nassau County to his bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

July 11th of 1936 is the day that the Triborough Bridge opened for traffic. Moses made a deal with the Federal Public Works Administration allowing him to spend $44 million – that they allocated for the approach roads to the bridge complex – to construct the seven and a half mile long “missing link.” The Grand Central was dug into a trench through Astoria, coming back up to the surface at East Elmhurst, where it runs to Flushing on a shoreline extension into Flushing Bay composed of landfill sand (which Moses brought in from his various beach projects in Rockaway). The parkway has been widened and deepened multiple times in the eight decades since, but the blighting divisions in Astoria have remained constant.

Last time I checked, some 180,000 vehicles a day exit and enter the Triborough Bridge complex via the Grand Central Parkway. As a note, the reason it’s called a “parkway” as opposed to a highway or expressway is because the shoulders of the road are planted. Once upon a time, there were apparently pedestrian pathways in those planted shoulders.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 31, 2019 at 11:00 am

swam curiously

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From Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst wiggling about and adjusting the camera settings to capture the image above, a humble narrator was photographed by the occupants of a passing minivan (which slowed down to do so) on Shore Bouelvard alongside Astoria Park last Sunday. The largish iPhone brandished at me skillfully ignored all the folks engaged in romantic congress in the front seats of their cars, or the small army of marijuana enthusiasts who were similarly situated in the parking lane. Clearly, the iPhone person had uncovered some nefarious activity being committed by a strange old man in a filthy black raincoat, and would be reporting so to the proper authorities. I was waiting for the goon squad to arrive and kick in my front door back at HQ later that night.

Mighty Triborough, and the Hell Gate Bridge, in today’s dark light post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is just something about camera equipment that sets off the accent crowd here in Astoria which I’ll never understand. It’s kosher to wave your phone around wherever you go, but if they see a DSLR, it’s regarded with the same sort of caution and concern that you’d expect for brandishing an assault rifle. Given that the times I’m not carrying a camera are so rare that they are statistically irrelevant, it means that I get stared at a lot.

I’d get stared at a lot even if I wasn’t carrying the camera, as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Children gasp or cry, dogs growl, old ladies clutch at their purses… all things that happen when one such as myself scuttles past. Men puff themselves up and assume aggressive posture, police slow down and observe, security cameras pivot on their swivels. The only living creatures which do not react negatively to me are birds, and one can walk through a flock of them pecking away at the ground with nary a ruffled feather.

A few years ago, whilst wandering about, I snapped a quick photo of the facade of a local Greek church – St. Irene’s. A small mob of old Greek ladies suddenly appeared and literally chased me for about 3/4 of a mile.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I favor atmospherics like fog for these kind of shots, normally, but for structures as massive and far reaching as Triborough and Hell Gate – fog and mist get in the way and obscure too much detail. It’s particularly dark on this section of the East River as well, which causes any sort of artificial lighting to flare due to the contrast.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In my never ending quest to break habits, a rare vertical or portrait format shot from the “House of Moses.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I walked into Astoria Park to get this final shot of Hell Gate. I do wish Amtrak would light this bridge up at night.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 23, 2018 at 11:00 am

risible talisman

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It’s National Blueberry Muffin Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

July 11th, 1936. That’s the day that the Triborough Bridge was dedicated and opened for business. The favorite child of Robert Moses, this was the epicenter of the master builder’s early empire of highways, bridges, and parks. It’s the main room in the “House of Moses,” and the center of a web of concrete and steel that extends for hundreds of miles in all directions. All of Moses’ many roads ultimately lead to the toll booths at Triborough.

The bridge serves as a backdrop in tens of thousands of family photos found in the Astoria section of Queens, but there’s only a handful of living Astorians still left above the ground who can recall a time before there was a Triborough Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Caro, who wrote the definitive biography of Robert Moses, described the bridge as a “traffic machine.” Caro was being critical (as in the bridge generates and amplifies traffic congestion rather than solving it), of course, but I think Moses (who often opined that without high speed roads, the traffic would still be there but moving along local streets instead) would have had an affinity for the term.

There’s an exceptionally brief and easily digestible history of the Triborough Bridge (more accurately the Triborough Bridges and Highways complex) in this 2006 NY Times piece, for the curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Moses is famously and rightly associated with the Triborough, but it was Mayor Jimmy Walker who turned the first ceremonial shovel of dirt in Astoria Park on October 25 in 1929.

The bridge was conceived of, designed by, and it’s construction overseen (during most of construction) by the Chief Engineer of the NYC Department of Plant and Structures, Edward A. Byrne (who is coincidentally the fellow who did the Hunters Point Avenue and Borden Avenue Bridges over the Dutch Kill tributary of, and the vanished Vernon Avenue bridge at, Newtown Creek). Byrne became the first Chief Engineer of Moses’ Triborough Bridge Authority in 1933, but a silly political conflict forced him to resign and retire in 1934.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reliable government source numbers I’ve reviewed, referring back to calendar 2015, inform that the Triborough Bridge hosts about 92,000 vehicle trips a day. That would shake out to something close to 33.6 million vehicle trips per annum.

Maybe “traffic machine” is the right description? 

At any rate, Happy Birthday to Mighty Triborough, from here in Astoria, Queens.


Upcoming Tours and events

13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – July 15th, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m..

The “then and now” of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary in LIC, once known as the “workshop of the United States.” with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

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

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


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

flaming thing

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It’s Tag des Deutschen Apfels (German Apples) day in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bright passage, it’s a not unlikely spot to find a group of cultists dropping a bizarre golden diadem into the water hoping to contact those who might lie below the seething waters. Hells Gate, with its bizarre and blasted subterrene topography, cannot possibly host a race of non human intelligences, can it? That would be crazy.

I mean, is this Queens or Innsmouth?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of alien intelligences with unintelligible plans for the future, the DEP’s MV Red Hook sludge boat slid through the bright passage while one was contemplating what sort of life might inhabit the craggy bottom. Between the strong cross currents of the tide, all the endemic pollution… it boggles.

It’s almost as if the area is being terra formed for a different and quite alien species.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was pleased that a concurrence of maritime and locomotive subject matter occurred as Amtrak’s Acella came rolling by on the Hell Gate bridge at the same time as Buchanan 1 tug slid through the Hells Gate narrows of the East River. When I left the house this day, I rued not having the time to visit Staten Island and the Kill Van Kull – my original intention for the afternoon. What with the sun setting in the late afternoon, it’s kind of difficult to complete that journey from Point A in Astoria while the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is still hanging in the sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to worrying about the ones who cannot possibly exist in the deepest waters of Hells Gate, and their land dwelling acolytes who surreptitiously accompanied the wholesome Hellenes during their 1970’s migration to Astoria, did a humble narrator’s thoughts turn.

There are too many individual and quite minor clues to mention which lend credence to the theory of their presence – odd smells and sounds, brief flashes of unrecognizable shapes seen when walking past closing doors, the popularity of Bosnian cuisine, bizarre chanting. This is an entirely different “thing” than the occluded witch cult operating out of St. Michael’s cemetery, incidentally, but perhaps I’ve already said too much.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sound of chitinous scratching on my second floor garret window will no doubt resume after this posting, and the whispered calls to leave this life behind and to either go into the water or dance with the night ghouls of Nephren Ka across the rooftops and tombstones of western Queens will no doubt follow.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there, beneath the waters of the Bright Passage?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

ascending node

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Christmastoria exemplified is how I describe the shot above.

An early entrant into my Astoria Tumbleweeds category, this tiny holiday tree was properly disposed of, and kind of summed up my mood for the holiday season which has now thankfully passed into memory. Just wasn’t feeling it this year, I wasn’t. Weather, social obligation… a lot of things were happening all through December that just got in the way of solitarily marching around Queens and critiquing things I saw which absolutely nobody asked for – nor cared about – my opinion on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I did manage to get out here and there, stealing an hour or two for myself. These were short walks, mainly, without any specific destination or goal. All in the name of just kicking my feet about and getting a little exercise. It’s an odd thing for me to leave the house and come back with only a couple of images on the camera. That’s mighty Triborough, of course, as seen from the corner of Astoria Blvd. and 31st street one sunny afternoon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, after Christmas came and went, the weather wasn’t too bad – for short intervals – and I decided to get busy.

Getting busy is what I’m all about at the moment, incidentally. Buckle up, the Newtown Pentacle is back in session.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 2, 2017 at 11:00 am

clean shaven

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Getting around town, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wheel of the year is about to turn again, and the particular station we are in – what the Pagan crowd would call “Lughnasadh” – is about to give way to the pleasant temperatures and beneficial quality of light which will begin to lessen when Samhain rolls around at the end of October. The whole pagan wheel of the year thing is directly tied to harvesting various sorts of agricultural crops, of course, but a humble narrator is no farmer. Rather, for me the harvest is about photos.

Pictured above is mighty Triborough, as seen through the windshield of an “automobile” owned by a friend who allowed me to enter her moving mechanical contrivance for an afternoon. These “automobiles” are bothersome contrivances given to toxic exhalations and the consumption of a troublesome form of fuel, but quite handy when one’s desire is to photograph the “House of Moses.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The twisting complications leading away from the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City, are pictured above. These ramps were erected to serve the needs of the automobile, and given that unlike Mighty Triborough – the Queensboro was not erected upon a fairly blank slate – they wind and snake through a shadowy and confusing warren of buildings. The ramps emerge and then disappear behind buildings, seeking out connections to the high speed roads built long after the Queensboro itself was built.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My preferred method for getting around the City is found in the shot above. Given that I live three stops out from the titular center of the megalopolis, it is madness to consider owning one of these “automobiles” for one such as myself. One does miss the freedom offered by these devices, of course, as your humble narrator used to be an enthusiastic motorist in his younger days. Saying that, one does enjoy the challenges offered by mass transit, and the puzzle of getting from A to B when unfamiliar destinations are scheduled to be focused in upon.

Saying that, I cannot fathom why Manhattan’s 34th street Herald Square station is so damned hot.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2016 at 1:05 pm

proferred food

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Boredom, self hatred, and megalomaniacal fantasy – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Possessed of a somewhat solitary and depressive personality type, a humble narrator is often forced to lurch forth onto the streets in search of diversion. These excursions are necessary, lest a psychological tumult be allowed to form behind the eyes and between the ears. Proprioception for one such as myself views the world thusly, with everything below the vault of the skull considered as somehow external – arms, legs, gut, and all the rest are merely there. “I” am found a few inches back from and equidistant to the ocular, nasal, mandibular, and auditory apparatus.

I’m all ‘effed up. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my regular walks involves heading over to the Hells Gate section of the East River in Astoria from Newtown Pentacle HQ, which is found on the south eastern side of the neighborhood nearby its borders with LIC, Sunnyside, and Woodside. It’s a short walk, by my standards, which – there and back again – usually consumes about two hours of my time and provides some much needed physical exercise.

Saying that, I don’t always process this particular perambulatory route as being a particularly productive one from a photographic point of view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My colleague Kevin Walsh from Forgotten-NY often wanders through residential neighborhoods and has a fine time of it, but one such as myself shuns populated places. A humble narrator enjoys the howling winds and concrete devastations, and is drawn to lonely, damned, or deserted places. Give me the abandoned, the derelict, the despoiled, the barren, the broken, the horrible. Oh to dance merrily along the poison shoreline and shattered bulkheads of some flowing gelatinous horror, with the night gaunts…

Of course, one cannot spend all of his time at Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Truth be told, one of the things that draws me time and again to Hells Gate is that it’s the antechamber of the “House of Moses,” where mighty Triborough reigns. One of the true signs of a growing madness is working on a “theory of everything,” and I’m afraid to report that one is indeed going down that road. White laboratory coats, long black vinyl gloves, and a series of goggles are on order at a certain Internet retailer named for a South American river system, and genetic samples of the long deceased Mr. Moses are in the freezer.

My plan is to clone the master builder, and release an army of “Mosei” upon the world. They shall pave over everything and create a thousand lane highway circling the globe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My Moses army will pay no mind to complaints from the citizenry, instead they will crush all opposition. “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” will be their mantra as they pour concrete for a highway whose path goes right through St. Peter’s in Rome on its way to and through Mecca on its way towards China. The Great Wall? Highway arches will be carved through it, but they will fall short of allowing buses to pass beneath them.

Part the Red Sea? The Mosei will turn the Red Sea into a parking lot dwarfing those of Riis Park or Jones Beach.. Enough of this hippie dippie environmentalist fad, let the automobile reign! The Mosei won’t lead a chosen people, instead they’ll choose which people to lead and where they’ll be led to.

Saying that, Amazon claims they’re out of stock on the mad scientist goggles, so my evil plans will just have to sit on the back burner. Someday, I tell you, someday… a real rain will come…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Megalomaniacal fantasy notwithstanding, one still had a rather formidable workload waiting for him back at HQ, so my sojourn to the forbidden northern coast of Queens was abbreviated and my scuttle turned back towards overly familiar vicinities. For some reason, every time I cross 31st street on my way home from Hells Gate, it feels like I’m passing through the gates of Mordor.

It’s probably the perennial shadows, or the smell of sulfur.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Astoria Blvd., just before Steinway Street, this amusing signage was encountered on the door of a laundromat. One of the fun parts of living in a neighborhood renowned for its enormous immigrant population and legendary “diversity” is signage written by people who have less than a passing familiarity with English language grammar. Most of the neighbors just spell things the way that they sound to them, as is evinced above.

I like to believe that only “cos players” can piss therein.

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.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 10, 2016 at 11:00 am

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