The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

dread induced

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Better late than never?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the late post, and for the lack of meat on the bone. Back tomorrow with something decidedly more substantial than an abstraction of the superstructure of the Grand Street Bridge over my beloved Creek.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 13, 2019 at 3:17 pm

innocuous solidity

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The “A” in MTA is for “adventure.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On our return trip from the Queens Zoo last weekend, Our Lady of the Pentacle and I took a stab at using the cheapest and fastest way from 111 street in Corona to Broadway in Astoria. In the morning, we were forced to use a cab and plunked out nearly $20 doing so. The alternative was to take the R into Manhattan, and transfer at 42nd street/Grand Central to the 7 line which would then take us to the zoo. Maintenance crews were at work on both lines, and there was neither an east bound option on the R (to Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights where you normally transfer to the 7, or the E and F for that matter) nor a west bound one since the R was bypassing Queensboro Plaza. You had to go into Manhattan. Another alternative I sometimes use, when needing to access the 7 line, is the Q 104 bus which connects Astoria’s Broadway to Queens Blvd. Unfortunately, the 7 line was skipping more than half of its eastwards route as well, which included the stretch from Queens Plaza to Jackson Heights. As mentioned above, the “A” in “MTA” stands for “Adventure.”

Before one of you jokers jumps in with “why not ride a bike, Mitch,” allow me to offer a saying I learned from the Sicilians of Canarsie – Bafongoo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily for us, upon arriving at the 7 line stop at 111th street after our zoo experience, we discovered that the trains heading towards Manhattan were operating in the standard fashion. After weaving our way through the groups of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had arranged themselves around the station, we swiped through “fare control” and joined with the hundreds and hundreds of people waiting for the 7 up on the platform. Seemingly, Corona still hosts a large population of Puerto Ricans, many of whom seemed to be traveling to the Puerto Rican Day Parade over in the City. I presume they were Puerto Rican, given that many of them were wearing clothing adorned with the island’s flag and were also adorned with various garments reading “Boricua” or “Nuyorican.” They might have just been fans of the island and its peoples, who knows. Never assume.

All I can tell you is that it was a pleasure to hear Spanish spoken with the particular rhythms that the Puerto Rican accent brings. Growing up in NYC, most of the Spanish speakers I encountered were Puerto Rican or Dominicans. These days, the entire Spanish speaking world is represented here in NYC, but the dulcet and softer spoken tone of the Mexican and Central American accents seem to be the ones most commonly encountered. Kind of a Boston accent versus a Louisiana one sort of thing, y’know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Alongside basic mathematics, the intellectual weakness I’ve most commonly displayed over the decades has been a consistent inability to speak other languages. I can understand a bit of Spanish, or at least watch an espanol movie or TV show and follow along with most of the dialogue. Often, I can form a simple sentence in my mind ina foreign tongue, but can’t force my mouth to make the words come out correctly. I’ve tried and tried. Yiddish was regularly spoken by my family, but the same issue occurs if I try to speak it. Essentially, I’m doing an imitation of somebody talking yiddish rather than speaking it. Weird, huh?

I’ve got friends, born overseas, from all over the world here in Astoria. They’ll often apologize for not knowing some esoteric English word or turn of phrase and proclaim their stupidity. I remind them that they speak two languages cogently, and oftentimes more than two. That’s a pretty incredible thing, when you think about it. I pronounce “hors d’oeuvres” (those little French snack things) as “whores da ohvoors,” after all.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

corner pivot

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How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, anyway?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may think the delivery truck pictured above represents some sort of madness. This is not madness, this is Sparta…

I’ve been waiting about two years to make that joke, so thanks for indulging a humble narrator in his puerile goals. I notice this particular truck all the time in Astoria, making deliveries of flour and other whatnots to the local bakeries and bagel shops. They’re a local business, Sparta is, operating out of a building opposite Rainey Park on Vernon Blvd. One is resisting the further urge to make a thousand jokes revolving around the movie “300,” write a detailed history of the Laconian Peninsula over in Greece, or describe the many attempts to penetrate the Astoria markets which the Persian Bakery Supply people have been denied over the years by these Spartans.

The Persian Bakery Supply people have said that “if we can get a single bagel shop to use our services, we could take over the entire neighborhood and expand our empire.”

Spartan Bakery Supply always replies to the Persians, laconically, with “if.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the quirky things about Astoria is the habit that early 20th century real estate developers had in creating “courts.” A court, in this context, is an open space designed either for the entryway of a large building or one that exists between two distinct structures, and it provides for light and air circulation in residential units that would otherwise have none. The one pictured above is on Steinway Street between 34th Avenue and Broadway, and the shot was captured during a doctors visit for Zuzu the dog. Just a checkup for my increasingly elderly pup, whereupon she got a fairly clean bill of health. Zuzu is getting old, is a bit plump, and seems to have some sort of issue going on with her back – according to the doc. Since dogs are “all back” that’s a worry, but both the ravages of advancing age and the conqueror worm are inevitable, so there you are.

Personally speaking, I’m feeling the decades more than ever these days. Luckily, Zuzu and I have gone gray at the same time so we match. She looks like a giant possum, though, whereas I’m starting to look like Dr. Zaius from “Planet of the Apes.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Long Island City, where new construction driven by the fiendish avarice of the Real Estate Industrial Complex has finally burst through the barriers long provided by the Pulaski Bridge on one side and the LIRR tracks on the other, this trio of feral predators was observed the other day. I’ve mentioned a few times the novel approach to controlling vermin on industrial properties which I’ve observed in LIC, wherein one omits the expense and consequence of employing an exterminator – with their noxious chemicals – and instead embracing the presence of the omnipresent feral cat. Most of these wild kitties have been sterilized by “TNR” (trap, neuter, release) services. You can tell that because they have had the tip of one their ears clipped.

The “bird people” hate this concept, since the particular speciation which they advocate for are predated by these cats. Personally, I’m willing to take a few dead pigeons in return for not having watered down chemical weaponry like Malathion spritzed all over the place. Using cats to control rats and mice is part of what I mean when opining that smartly using natural mechanisms to control the urban environment is the way forward. There’s unintended consequence, of course.

Remember that Daffy Duck cartoon where Daffy has a mouse in his hotel room? The one where Porky Pig is the manager? Porky first sends a cat up to the room to get rid of the mouse. Then a dog to get rid of the cat, a lion to get rid of the dog, and an elephant to get rid of the lion. How to get rid of the elephant? Send the mouse back in. Someday, before Zuzu and I age off of this planet, I’d like to see herds of wild elephants roaming around LIC. Word has it that Persian Bakery Supply once deployed delivery elephants in their never ending quest to cross the Spartan Bakery Supply lines but it didn’t go well for them.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

natural laws

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Queens Zoo, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in the recent past, I’m now serving as a member of Community Board 1 here in Astoria, and upon receiving an invitation to attend a (borough wide) Community Board members event at the Queens Zoo I leapt at the chance. The bad part of the invite was that I had to be at the zoo in Corona at 8:30 a.m., but the good part was that I got to bring Our Lady of the Pentacle along. Our Lady is a big fan of the petting zoo section of Queens Zoo, where you can purchase little cups of animal treats to filter into the goats and sheep they maintain.

Me? I just like the zoo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As all political events do, this one started with a short speech, and the narration discussed – in particular – 2019 programming changes and initiatives at the Queens Zoo. A few plates of bagels and fruit were available for the CB members to graze through, and we were given free run of the place prior to it opening to the public.

We were encouraged to proselytize our “people” to visit the institution, which is in the Flushing Meadows Corona Park complex and accessed via 111th street in what I’d describe as the south eastern section of Corona. Accomplished, as you have now been proselytized.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s gardening season at the moment in Queens, and especially so at Newtown Pentacle HQ here in Astoria, where Our Lady has been spending a great deal of time on the pursuit. Accordingly, some notice was taken of the various plantings surrounding the animal display areas at Queens Zoo. The plant above caught my notice, which was found nearby an enclosure housing Lynxes. Nice splash of color, thought I.

We got lucky coming home, as MTA was actually running trains that connected to Astoria from Flushing Meadow Corona Park without necessitating a round trip through Manhattan – a rarity in recent years.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 10, 2019 at 1:00 pm

certain tools

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Rounding out the week, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of times this week, I mentioned a looming thunderstorm nearing my position when I was out and about around Newtown Creek last weekend. After fulfilling a couple of promises – one to a film crew for a couple of hour long on camera interview about the history of Newtown Creek, and then to a photographer/activist buddy of mine who asked for me to talk about the Dutch Kills tributary into a microphone – I was heading home along Skillman Avenue when I began to feel cold raindrops colliding with my skin. Rather than walk and risk a soaking, one scuttled over to Queens Plaza and was happily surprised to find that the R train was indeed operating. Even more surprising was that it was making all stops.

This isn’t always a given, these days. One didst swipe, whereupon one rode, and then did arriveth at a street called Steinway. I was just in time, and luckily – for once – the subway moved faster than something else. Specifically, the storm front.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t make it all the way home, however, and ducked into the local bar for a pint to wait out the deluge. Nice thing about my “local,” btw, is that it’s got outside tables that are protected by awnings from precipitants.

It wasn’t icy cold for long, but there’s something nice about enjoying a pint of beer in dry comfort while watching people dart around in the rain. I think you’d call it a “sense of false superiority.” Whatever, I was dry, they were wet. I got to take pictures of a driving rainstorm without having to constantly wipe my lens. Win.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as the storm had begun to vacate the skies over Astoria, here in Queens, the fellow pictured above appeared. Now, I’m generally a supporter of making it safer and better for people riding bikes to share the streets with other vehicles, but I’ve gotten into my fair share of arguments with “the bicycle people” over the years. Too many of that crowd are humorless tightasses and ideologues, and are promulgating a not so carefully disguised political and corporate agenda, and automatically treat people outside their cultic circle as vehement enemies. I don’t like absolutists of any stripe. The world is made of shades of gray, and not black and white contrast.

Now… what drew my attention to this guy on the CitiBike was multifold in nature. I can get past the not “wearing head protection” thing, and that he’s not wearing discernible socks. It’s the “texting while driving” thing that got me to hit the shutter button. Imagine what the bicycle people would say if they saw a truck driver doing this? Gosh. #carnage #murderhappycharacter


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

swiftly followed

with one comment

Picking up after yourself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You know things have gone “over the top” when a humble narrator is the one telling everybody else that it’s time to police the area, grab a broom or a sponge, and start cleaning things up. I’m notoriously uncaring about such matters, other than when hygiene and food safety are involved. You should see my office desk. Saying that, there’s just junk and crap scattered everywhere these days and it’s depressing. It’s also recursive. If you see a lot of garbage lying about, your societal cue to avoid adding to it is cancelled out. Might as well chuck that beverage container into the pile over there, or toss some other discard about. Leave some construction debris, illegally dumped yes, on a street corner in Queens and watch it multiply almost as if by magic.

Remember, in NYC, legality is determined by the proximity of the Police. Things you shouldn’t do according to statute are illegal only when the Cops are around, when they’re not… well… how’s that “war on drugs” going these days? Speed limits for traffic? There any cops around? Ride my bike on the sidewalk and against traffic? You get the idea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The photo above and the one below were captured on the Eastern side of the Newtown Creek last Monday. The after effects of that week long banding of thunderstorms is on display in the one below, showing the garbage pile along the shoreline, deposited into the water column by the “CSO” or Combined Sewer Outfall system. The shot above is from right alongside the Grand Street Bridge, where the NYC DEP has been operating part of their newly installed aeration system. Basically an aquarium bubble wand, the aeration system is designed to increase oxygen levels in the water and promulgate the biologies one would expect and hope for from a local waterbody – fishies, shrimpies, crabbies, birdies, and so on. Anoxic conditions in the water caused by bacterial invasions from the CSO’s have plagued Newtown Creek since the American Civil War. Ship’s Captains used to sail into the Creek to rid their wooden hulls of worms and barnacles, after all.

What the aeration system has done, which I do not believe was anticipated by those who promoted and engineered it – as well as forcing DEP into building the thing (I’m looking at you, Gary from DEC) – is creating a “meringue” of cooking oils, grease, petroleum, and garbage which has formed into a filmy foamy skin on the water’s surface and all along the littoral zone shorelines. This meringue is now choking out anything it manages to coat, which brings us back to the fishies, shrimpies, and crabbies. Best laid plans of mice and men, and Gary from DEC, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is from the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road shoreline, captured on the same day as the one above. Notice how the meringue border is forming an edge with the surface water of Newtown Creek, and the way that the garbage and “floatables” are being constrained by it and pushed against the shoreline? Right in the center of the channel is the aeration system, which causes big belches of bubbles to break the surface. It’s reminiscent of the storytelling from old Godzilla movies in appearance, showing the ocean boiling right where the big G was about to appear from. The kinetics of the water breaking and bubbling up in the center of the channel are designed to increase oxygenation by introducing surface turbulence. What they’re doing, however, is carrying the bottom waters (and likely the Black Mayonnaise sediment bed) up. Theoretically, they’re also introducing bacteria and viruses into the air column. Demonstrably, the currents created by the system are driving the meringue and garbage into the littoral zone along the sides of the channel.

So, why’s that an issue? The shallows and tidal areas are where you’d expect to find shellfish attaching themselves to anything they can. Filter feeders like the oyster or the ribbed mussel can process hundreds of gallons of water a day. They literally eat the organic materials out of the polluted water and piss out clean water. In terms of “energy” and expense spent in cleaning the water up, and counteracting our societal tendencies towards pouring raw sewage into inland waterways like Newtown Creek, seeding the littoral zone with millions of filter feeders is the way to go. Unfortunately, the aeration system is now creating a shoreline blanket of greasy filth which precludes that.

Oysters won’t do squat where plastic bottles are concerned, of course. For that you’d need a platoon of specially trained Raccoons.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 6, 2019 at 1:00 pm

chipped flagstones

leave a comment »

May showers bring June flowers?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bother. Last week, the closest I got to photographing any part of Newtown Creek – due to the daily thunderstorms – was the sort of view you see above, which is to say that I was looking at it through the closed window of a car. I had a relatively light schedule last week, but as opined – god hates me – so any chance I had to find time to go out shooting was abrogated by meteorological instability. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but an unimaginable amount of liquid cascaded down over the City of Greater New York.

NYC possesses what’s known as a “combined sewer system” wherein sanitary sewers (toilet water and other lovely effluents) and storm sewers (street runoff and so on) feed into the same pipe. During dry weather this isn’t an issue, as the NYC DEP’s 14 sewer plants can usually handle the flow. During rain events, a quarter inch of rain, city wide, can add a billion gallons of water into the mix. The DEP is then obliged to release the untreated sewage overflow into area waterways, a practice they’re working hard on avoiding, via “CSO’s” or Combined Sewer Outfalls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s four hundred of these “CSO’s” operated by DEP in NY Harbor, and there’s even more of them on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. As you move into other counties in Upstate New York and on Long Island, even more release points are found. Last time I checked, there were twenty two CSO points found along the bulkheads of Newtown Creek. Pictured above is Dutch Kills, a tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, from last Sunday afternoon shortly before yet another thunderstorm rolled through. The water was a chocolate/coffee brown color this time around, and there were literal tons of floatables – a term used for the garbage and street litter which has been hydraulically swept into the sewer system – moving around on the surface of Dutch Kills in the wind.

To the west, another thunderstorm was building, and the wind was picking up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Give a hoot, don’t pollute” is what Woodsy the Owl used to advise every school kid in the 1970’s, alongside Smokey the Bear reminding us not to start forest fires. Societal priorities shifted towards smoking cessation, avoiding teenager pregnancies, and HIV prevention more recently. We stopped “promoting shame” regarding littering in the 1990’s, as I recall. The City of New York’s streets are dirtier with clutter and unswept garbage than at other point in my lifetime except for the late 1970’s and early 1980’s budget crisis era when cuts to municipal spending reduced the ranks of DSNY personnel. Don’t read that wrong, incidentally, the DSNY is doing its job quite well. The problem is “us.” There’s several generations of native born and immigrant Americans alike who don’t see any particular reason not to just toss their garbage in the street.

I’m pricing out one of those “Game of Thrones” style shame bells. I plan to walk around Queens ringing the thing and proclaiming “SHAME” whenever I see someone toss a plastic bottle at the curb. I know where it’s going to end up, after all. Check out that plastic bag life raft for other plastics floating in the water of Dutch Kills above. Yuck, ya buncha slobs.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 5, 2019 at 2:00 pm

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