The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Woodside’ Category

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.


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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? 


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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

swoopingly through

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Cool cars, Astoria/Woodside edition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gangster! Spotted this late model parked along Newtown Road near its intersection with Northern Blvd. recently. It’s registration sticker says it’s a 1960 Buick Four Door Sedan, and I do believe that it’s actually a 1960 LeSabre.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I dig the way the body styling above the head lamps makes it look angry. When you’re talking about a 1960 Buick, you should be using slang like “dig,” by the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The car wasn’t exactly “cherry,” as it had some body issues and was missing its proper wheel covers and more than a little bit of its chrome, but there’s a body shop on the corner of Northern which often has “cool cars” flowing through its lot so I suspect that this was one of theirs and that it was going to be receiving some love and attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a giant 8 cylinder engine under the hood of this auto, incidentally. If you’ve never driven a 1960’s Buick, I feel sorry for you, as you have no idea what real acceleration feels like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This “cool car,” lords and ladies, caused a humble narrator to say out loud “me want.”

Of course, you’d be dropping half a tank of gas to get from one corner to the next, due to that giant 8 cylinder engine. It’s also from the “unsafe at any speed” era, so it’s likely that bumping into another car while parking might decapitate you, but…

Upcoming Events and Tours

Thursday, June 30, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Elizabeth Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 28, 2016 at 1:00 pm

contracted chill

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Nothing like an adventure, MTA style.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found me leaving HQ just after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had begun its journey across the sky. A humble narrator’s intention was to have been out and about for a couple of hours in the pre dawn part of the day, but one overslept and left the house just as dawn arrived. My eventual destination was in lower Manhattan, and my plan was to be mid span on the Queensboro Bridge when dawn occurred, but as mentioned – I rolled over and kept on sleeping rather than springing out of bed when the alarm sounded at four in the morning. It wasn’t until about 5:30 that I stumbled out into the staggering realities of Astoria.

A brief scuttle across Northern Blvd. and the Sunnyside Yards ensued, and bored with the idea of walking across Queensboro at this point, it was elected that I would catch the most photogenic of all NYC’s Subway lines – the 7 – at 33rd street and cruise into the shadowed corridors of midtown Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “international express” as it’s known, arrived in the station accompanied by announcements that due to construction there was no Manhattan bound service at 33rd street. Having set aside literally five hours for the walk, I figured I’d just play along and see where the MTA wanted to take me.

As a note, with the exception of the F line, on the weekend of the 5th and 6th of March – there was “no way to get there from here” without playing the game laid out by the MTA.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 carried me to the 61st Woodside stop, where Manhattan bound service could be accessed. Off in the distance, at what must have been the 69th street station, there were crews of laborers and what seemed like a crane busily at work. The normal “Manhattan bound” side was entirely subsumed by their activity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 train, with its multitudinous delays and seemingly constant construction, has spawned a bit of activism. My pal Melissa Orlando, and others, formed first a Facebook group called “The 7 Train Blues,” and have since begun the formation of an organization called “Access Queens” with the intention of acting as advocates for the ridership community along this “international express” traveling between Flushing and Manhattan’s west side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of the 7 train, my immediate response is to discuss its immense photogeneity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is virtually impossible to point a camera at the 7 and not get something interesting. Maybe it’s the low lying nature of Western Queens, with the elevated tracks running at rooftop level… can’t say. After running through the MTA’s perverse hoops, a humble narrator found himself in the Shining City, and what was encountered at my destination will be discussed in a post presented next week at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

abnormal horrors

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Salutations and Happy Wednesday, from here in the dimly lit Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found one wandering about in the early evening, along the border betwixt Sunnyside, Woodside, and Astoria. Pictured above, a gas station found at the corner of Northern Blvd. and Woodside Avenue. It’s a Mobil station, as the corporate branding would imply, which historically means that it’s a SOCONY or Standard Oil Company of New York filling station.

SOCONY was based, of course, along my beloved Newtown Creek in Brooklyn. The modern world may be dross, but if you know what you’re looking at, history is writ large across it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was shot from a spot solidly within Astoria, and depicts the iconic credo of the LIC Turn Verein. The Turners were a Duetche organization, who are actually still around but based further east of Queens than formerly, who promulgated the idea that physical and spiritual exercise were inextricably linked. This rather esoteric idea is what’s behind their iconic combination of a dollar sign and a crucifix, as seen above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Woodside Avenue, one is happy to report, is still there. I will check in on and confirm the continuing presence of the ancient lane once the week long rain event that has begun today has reached its conclusion.

On the subject of Tropical Storm, or possibly Hurricane, Joaquin – this weekend’s walking tour of Calvary Cemetery with Atlas Obscura has been rescheduled for the following weekend, specifically for Saturday the tenth of October. It just ain’t going to be too safe to walk around on the saturated ground there, as my long experience with the property informs that the turf will be syrupy and difficult for perambulation. Last thing I ever want to happen on one of my tours is for someone to get hurt, and a slip and fall at Calvary could easily result in a serious injury, what with the vertical slabs of stone sticking up all over the place.

Also, lightning and open fields really aren’t a good combination.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Road’s terminus at Northern Blvd. is where you’ll find the NYCHA Woodside Houses, depicted in the shot above. Hopefully, Mayor Vain de Glorioso isn’t planning on instituting his asinine plan to build condos on the green space and playgrounds of this public housing development, but you never know. He is so tall that his head is literally lost in the clouds, and he walks upon the earth with gigantic feet that progressively crush all that are regressive enough to not get out of his way. When Ragnarok arrives in November of 2017, the Jotun (storm giant) is likely to experience some stormy weather and lightning. Hopefully, an electoral hammer will be thrown and find its mark, which will drive him and his ludicrous ideology back to the frosty shores of Park Slope.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 30, 2015 at 11:00 am

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