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atrocious mannerisms

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It’s National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A short one today, captured whilst wandering through the “House of Moses” in Woodside recently. You’re getting shortchanged on the post today, as I need to spend no small amount of time writing a concise series of comments and observations on the history and cultural significance of the IRT Flushing Line instead, for the celebratory events surrounding the centennial of the Corona Extension, which are tomorrow.

Do normal people ever say things like this?

Upcoming Tours and events

7 Line Centennial Ride, April 21st.

With Access Queens and NYC Transit Museum, Free event, except for subway fare – details here.

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Written by Mitch Waxman

April 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm

unholy centuries

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It’s Rush Limbaugh and Rob Zombie’s birthdays today, and the day that Saint Aelred of Rievaulx died.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering through Woodside one fine day, I happened across this bit of memorial statuary at the corner of 65th place and Laurel Hill Blvd. Technically speaking, I wasn’t in Woodside, this is actually Winfield. The Real Estate shit flies have more or less eradicated that name from current discourse, calling this area “East Woodside,” but it’s Winfield. Winfield was named for Mexican and Civil War General Winfield Scott, if you’re curious, who died in 1866.

The statue commemorates 7 local soldiers lost to combat in the First World War, and was erected and paid for by the people of Winfield.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Originally installed at the corner of Fisk Avenue and Queens Blvd., Robert Moses’s people moved it here when they were building the Brooklyn Queens Expressway back in the 1950’s. It’s bronze, and was sculpted by Italian-American sculptor James S. J. Novelli. Seven feet tall, the statue’s official nomen is “Winfield War Memorial and Victorious America.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The statue has not had an easy time of it over the last century, particularly since 1958 owing to its location at an on ramp for a highway, according to the NYC Parks Dept. who maintain it and whom I gleaned the information for this post from.


Due to its location at 65th Place and Laurel Hill Boulevard adjacent to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Winfield Memorial has suffered various indignities over the years. In 1958, completion of the nearby section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway bisected the community, and orphaned the monument to this park triangle located perilously close to an off-ramp. In 1969 and 1989 the statue was knocked from its perch by vehicles, and on the second occasion the head was severed from the body and reattached. The monument suffered from weathering, frequent attacks of graffiti, and other assaults by vandals; it received an in-house reconditioning in the 1990s by Parks crews.

In 1999 a City Capital contract restored the monument, replaced its damaged granite base with a replica, and the surrounding plaza was upgraded in an attempt to beautify its setting and better protect the sculpture. Unfortunately, in December 2001 the sculpture was again injured in a horrific car accident that dragged the sculpture several hundred feet into the expressway. In 2010-11 Parks’ Citywide Monuments Conservation Program repaired the damages and reinstalled the artwork at its rightful place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Novelli bronze, which is seven feet and four inches tall above the base, seems to be in fairly fine fettle these days. Why not take a walk or ride your bike over to check it out, and contemplate the war to end all wars that happened a century ago. You can also muse about the Powerbroker, just like I do everytime I visit the “House of Moses.”

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 12, 2017 at 11:00 am

terrible keenness

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The southern side of Woodside, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 27th of December in 1657, the Flushing Remonstrance was presented to Peter Stuyvesant, over in the City. That’s your Queens history factoid of the day. I’m going to a holiday party in the City tonight, and I can virtually guarantee that nothing quite so earth shattering as the emergence of the legal precursor of Constitutionally protected religious freedom will emerge from the endeavor. There will likely be soft cheeses, crackers, and wine however.

Life is shit. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, whilst wandering along the fence lines of and through the “House of Moses” in Elmhurst, Winfield, and Woodside the other day I got to thinking about something that bugs me. During political type conversations with various folks in the last couple of years, a common statement has been offered to me which states that the U.S.’s Constitutional Bill of Rights “grants” me this and that (including the notion of the freedom of conscience which was first clarified to Peter Stuyvesant way back in 1657 Queens). If you check the actual language of the thing – it “acknowledges” “certain inalienable human rights.”

“Grant” means that it gives you these rights, and that it can take them back if warranted. That’s “stinking thinking” if you ask me, but what do I know? I’m no law scholar, just some idiot with a camera and an afternoon off, which I spent walking along a highway in Queens. I do know what “inalienable” means, however, and that “acknowledge” is better than “grant.”

Think about it in terms of acknowledging the right you have to live another day without being murdered, versus being granted another murder free day. This is the sort of stuff which keeps me up nights, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anywho, the little path I picked for myself was quite hilly. I followed Laurel Hill Blvd. in Woodside while trailing the BQE on my way back to Astoria from Elmhurst. My pal Kevin Walsh from Forgotten-NY could probably have built around a hundred posts out of the area I wandered through, but as I’ve mentioned in the past – residential neighborhoods ain’t my thing.

I like the wastelands, which is why I was walking along a highway. I picked the hilly path just for the cardio.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are numerous scenarios which I can envision that would explain the shot above. I prefer the one involving modesty, wherein a naked hydrant was somehow offensive and one of the neighbors decided that it needed some dress up.

You don’t ask, in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been looking and looking for the last few months, and finally I’ve spotted another type of manhole or access cover which I haven’t previously recorded. On the whole subject of trade, international deficits, and so on – why aren’t we forging these things in the United States? I’m positive that “made in Pittsburgh” would fit if a smaller font was used.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2016 at 1:00 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

draped bales

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The native art form of Queens, illegal dumping, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often has a humble narrator commented on the panache and style in which the neighbors hereabout dispose of unwanted items. Sure, you’ve got illegal dumping in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and on the islands of Staten and Manhattan, but nowhere else in the City of Greater New York will you find the compositional flare and post modern sensibility of the Queensican who is trying to dispose of an unwanted item in a clandestine manner.

In Queens, people still care about how their middens look – so go ahead and call us old fashioned!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a few items which the redoubtable Department of Sanitation either won’t take due to regulatory rules, or due to improper packaging of the refuse for collection. None of the items in the shot above are proscribed, to my knowledge, but that doesn’t mean a thing to the Woodside artisan who arranged them on a sidewalk beneath the NY Connecting Railroad tracks recently. Here in Queens, freedom of expression is sacrosanct.

Disingenuously, or casually, arranged sidewalk litter?

Not in my back yard, thank you.

Just the other night, as I watched a lady empty her vehicle of what must have been a full case of empty beverage bottles into the street in front of my own domicile, and the utter joy of her explorative compositional process nearly overwhelmed me. Calling down to her – I assured her that we local residents would be happy to take care of her installation, post facto, and thanked her for choosing my block for her canvas.

It’s important to acknowledge the artist as they pursue their work rather than after they’re gone. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is a syncopated flair, a level of deep improvisational thought – a rythmic irony that’s at work in the expression of the native born art form of Queens, as encountered here and there. You don’t just open the door of a contractors van and push debris out in the same manner you would in Brooklyn. I’m Queens… we hold a higher standard, and our illegal dumping was “artisanal” long before Brooklyn appropriated the word.

In many ways, illegal dumping in Queens is reminiscent of 1950’s era Jazz. Think Mingo, and Monk.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 10, 2016 at 11:00 am

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

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