The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

hoarsely explained

with one comment

Checking in on the Kosciuszko Bridge project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor has found me wandering around the fencelines of the Kosciuszko Bridge project site again, and causing their security guys all sorts of worry. As always and as a rule, one does not trespass, preferring instead the peripheries.

The second phase of the construction project began shortly after clearing the rubble left behind by the “energetic felling” of the 1939 era Kosciuszko Bridge, and this is the first post of 2019 that delves deeply into the subject.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The overpasses carrying the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over the streets of Maspeth are nearing completion, and the crews from NYS DOT’s contractor – Granite – seem to be heavily involved with installation of various sorts of pipe. Some of these pipes will presumptively carry water down and away from the roadway, while others will be conduits for electrical cabling, or at least that’s what it looks like to this layman’s eyes.

There’s still all sorts of disruption to the local street traffic occurring here on the border between LIC’s Blissville and Industrial Maspeth. That’s the intersection of Laurel Hill Blvd. and 54th avenue, for the morbidly curious amongst you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszcko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Here’s a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’s some night shots from early July of 2017. A series of posts focused in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

More recently, in late September of 2017, a final series of shots of the old bridge were captured in this post. Acquisition of a souvenir chunk of steel from the 1939 bridge was described in this post, and a video of the “energetic felling” of the approaches on October 1st was offered in this one. Still shots and views of the aftermath from the waters of Newtown Creek from later in the day on Oct. 1 are found in this posting, and the aftermath of the demolition as seen from Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section in this post from October 5th. This post from December of 2017 closed out an event filled year in DUKBO, and a visit to the site at night is described in this March of 2018 post. Another progress report was offered in June of 2018. A nocturnal visit occurred in December of 2018, and here’s a short post from January of 2019.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on 43rd street, the first phase of the project which has been carrying traffic since April of 2017 is visible, with the two new concrete towers of the second phase also in sight. The first phase towers (which are in Brooklyn) are the ones that are garishly lit with cartoonish LED lighting, and the unlit ones are the second phase which are anchored into Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

43rd street remains a barren industrial path, populated by heavy trucking, warehousing, welding supply, and crane companies. Set into a severe incline, 43rd street crosses Maspeth’s 56th road (which is called Review Avenue on the LIC side of the Bridge project) and continues southward towards the former premises of the Phelps Dodge company towards Newtown Creek. There’s an “at grade” rail crossing at its end, and a street called 57th avenue which is occasionally referred to as “Galasso Place.”

There’s a huge FedEx shipping hub down there, and the Restaurant Depot company, both of which sit on former Phelps Dodge properties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A main thoroughfare for industrial traffic, 56th road is one of those fairly terrifying street crossings you find around Newtown Creek which was definitely designed with little thought to pedestrians. As is my habit in areas like this, and particularly at night, a high visibility “safety vest” is pulled over the shoulders of my filthy black raincoat.

Given the amount of night shooting I’ve been doing over the last year, that vest has become a standard part of my camera bag kit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking through the fences at the heart of the project, southwards towards Brooklyn, from Review Avenue/56th road.

Intentionally, I went down to the site on a Sunday night when no work was going on so as to not get in the way. While you were watching the Super Bowl, I was shooting this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the waterfront of Newtown Creek, looking westwards towards Manhattan, whose skyline you can just see peeking out behind Blissville’s Calvary Cemetery. The Brooklyn side is on the left, is nearby the tail or northern end of Meeker Avenue. I call both areas “DUKBO” or Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards from Review Avenue in LIC’s Blissville section, along the Lower Montauk tracks of the Long Island Rail Road. According to people in the know whom I’ve asked, the new bridge is due to open in either Q2 or early Q3 of this year. It all depends on the severity of winter weather.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Advertisements

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 6, 2019 at 12:15 pm

gathered here

with 3 comments

Mitch Waxman, working for YOU!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pathway which will allow access to the bike and pedestrian lane of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is pictured above, a terrifying “last mile” section which is owned by the City. This is the approach at “Queens Midtown Expressway” or “Borden Avenue” (depending on whose map it is) which you get to via a southward journey along 43rd street in Sunnyside. It’s also the onramp for the BQE, and there’s nothing separating you from traffic other than a three inch curb. If you’re wondering, this is actually a fairly well used foot path between industrial Maspeth and South Sunnyside – so it’s not just me.

Why do I go this particular way? I’ll show you at the end of the post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Inviting, ain’t it?

A humble narrator is ringing the alarm bells here for a fairly simple reason, the Kosciuszcko Bridge construction project is meant to be opening the second and final half of the project up to traffic (of all kinds) by the end of the summer, at the latest. The City, which is supposed to have been redesigning this section of things (they own it), hasn’t been shown to have started any risible progress yet. Supposedly NYC DOT has a design, but where is it? Shovels in the ground, boys?

I’d be happy with a bunch of jersey barriers, truth be told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For years, literally years, I’ve been keeping an eye on this one.

I cannot tell you how many times in Western Queens that I’ve had the sudden realization that the sidewalk I was scuttling on led onto a highway. One time, after leaving St. Michael’s cemetery, the section of Astoria Blvd. I was walking along suddenly became the shoulder lane of the Grand Central Parkway as the sidewalk just ended.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This path leads to a pedestrian bridge, one that the K Bridge project has recently constructed as a replacement for a far older but similar lane. Friends who grew up on the southern flank of Sunnyside tell me that this path was well familiar to them growing up, and that the road and sidewalk conditions found in the shot above date back to their earliest recollection.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just last week, I was walking through here and spotted the condition above. Hadn’t been through in about a month, so it’s possible this collapsed in sewer grate had been lying in wait for an errant tire to enter it for weeks.

Here’s the “working for you part.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First things first, you document it. That’s me and the camera in the shadow on the left. Second, you report it.

Now, here’s the thing… I often have trouble making 311 or 911 operators understand that Queens has hyphenated addresses. Also, it took several paragraphs of text and a few photos to describe the location and condition of this place to you, my quite savvy and well traveled Lords and Ladies of the Pentacle. Additionally, this was a dangerous situation and I feared somebody could be seriously hurt if their tire entered the hole.

Prior experience with road condition and damaged sewer hatch reporting (yep, lots and lots of prior experience) has taught me that it can take weeks for the City to dispatch somebody to do repairs. They’ll send the cops out to throw down a traffic cone, but otherwise – weeks. I’m “Mitch Waxman” however, so a quick scan of the contact list on my phone allowed me to contact the K Bridge team’s Community Liason’s office, who in turn alerted the NYC DEP, whose sewer it is. DEP dispatched an emergency squad within the hour and they had the thing all fixed and repaired by the next morning. On the repair front, I let my pals at Jimmy Van Bramer’s office know about all the goings on and how great I thought it was how the K Bridge team and DEP handled the situation. That was also in the name of “reporting it” since JVB’s office keeps a list of complaints and problems in his District and since this one wouldn’t come to them via 311 or 911, there you are.

Nobody gets hurt. Street boo boo all better now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other side of the “last mile” path, there is a permanently installed concrete separation between you and the onramp of the BQE. Where it slopes down and ends is the demarcation point of NYC and NYS’s property lines, or so I’m told. Want to guess why they’re there?

Yeah, that was me, suggesting it to the Engineering Team at K Bridge sometime back in 2012 or 2013.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal “Special” Ed once described his ideal job title as “freelance unsolicited criticism,” which would take the form of waking into a bank and decrying the arrangement of the padded ropes leading to the tellers, whereupon he would then hand them a bill for his services. I don’t charge, but I fear that I’m living out Ed’s dream. Ed used to live downstairs from me in an apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, one which was packed with high school and college friends. We lived a life disturbingly reminiscent of “Seinfeld,” I’m afraid. Ed had nothing in his refrigerator save for a single glass of water and a spoon, and stored his clothing in the kitchen cabinets. I miss Ed.

Pictured above is the K Bridge from that pedestrian ramp dealie which carries you over the onramps to it from the LIE onto Laurel Hill Blvd. at the border of Maspeth and Blissville, and between the Kosciuszcko Bridge and First Calvary Cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is why I go this particular way. The view.

Just imagine what treasures await, when the ped and bike path is open. That’s presuming you don’t get squished by traffic on your way here, and end up in there.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

repellant whispers

with 4 comments

File under #thingstheydidnttellAmazon

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit behind schedule today, so a single shot greets you, one of my very favorite tree in Long Island City. This pup acts as plastic bag catcher.

Back tomorrow with a bit more meat on the bone for ya, Lords and Ladies.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 4, 2019 at 11:00 am

spreading crypts

with 2 comments

The other way!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the newly reopened Broadway stop on the Astoria line N/W elevated. I spent all week describing a walk heading northwards along 31st street towards Astoria Blvd., so I decided to do one today describing the walk southwards from Broadway towards Northern Blvd., just in the name of completeness. The station has been rebuilt and reimagined, as one of the new “Enhanced Stations,” by Governor Cuomo, who does and does not run the MTA with an iron fist. It’s the Dark Prince of Albany who decides on when and if he’s in charge, so ask him if today is one of those days.

The enhanced stations bring some amenities to the table like station wifi and new security cameras, and Broadway in particular has seen a new exit only stair way (no fare control) installed which really has been a game changer in terms of expediting exiting of the facility. The big change, most noticeable from the street, has been the amount of new lighting systems installed, which has really altered the “feel” of the corner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of the 31st street corridor lives in perennial and centuried shadow, and even during the day, it’s dark. The street lamps are generally miniatures, with smaller than normal luminaire heads sitting on midget sized poles directly over the parking lane except at the intersections. There’s no lighting system in the middle of the street, suspended from the trackage, which lends an ominous “noir” to 31st street.

Personally speaking, given my proclivity towards darkness and skillful street camouflage born of living in 1980’s NYC, such lack of ambience holds no terror. Were I a lady or looked like I had money in my pockets, however, I’d likely be clutching my pearls while walking down this street given the lack of street life and darkness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lighting schemes of the new stations spurt ambience all over the place. That’s the 36th avenue stop in the shot above, if you’re curious. It’s one of the “angles between neighborhoods” spots here in Western Queens, with LIC’s Dutch Kills and Ravenswood neighborhoods found to the south and west of 31st street and the “Astoria/Not Astoria” triangular shaped neighborhood between 34th avenue and Northern Blvd. to the east and slightly north. It’s also one of those interesting spots in Queens where you’ve got a soft geographic boundary between two wildly different ethnic populations, mostly Pakistani and extremely religious Muslims to the west and Brazilians to the east. There’s lots of other people mixed in there, of course, but dominant population groupings are what makes a neighborhood distinctive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The remnants of “mixed use” industrial zoning can be observed on the dark parts of 31st street as you proceed south, but these buildings and businesses are doomed by the aspirations of the affordable housing crowd and the Real Estate Industrial Complex. It’s already started, there’s more than a few of these old warehouse and factory buildings which have been demolished to make way for cookie cutter glass box residential buildings. In the distance, you can see the high rise residential buildings of Queens Plaza and “next big thing LIC” rising alongside the boundaries of the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearing 39th avenue, where another of the enhanced stations is nearing completion, and the luminance of said station making a real difference in the “feel” of the street. Across the street from where this shot was taken is a Coptic Christian church and pastorate house which serves a mostly Egyptian community, or so I’m told. A large group of apparnetly Egyptian men were gathered in front of a new Dunkin Donuts on the corner of 39th, drinking take away coffee in paper cups and smoking cigarettes while debating something in their native tongue.

It was growing colder by the minute, and I decided it was time to start winding up my “constitutional” and head back home to Broadway in the 40’s via Northern Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Progress? One still wonders about the lack of street life, storefront businesses, and ambient light on 31st street. It’s a traffic thoroughfare ultimately – 31st street – connecting Queens Plaza with the Grand Central Parkway and Triborough Bridge in its 20th century incarnation. There are, in fact, homes and businesses along its route, but personally I wouldn’t want to live along it. One thing I haven’t mentioned, whether in this series of posts or the ones from a couple of weeks ago describing Roosevelt Avenue and the streets of the Flushing Line corridor, is noise. Train noise, specifically.

Famously, I’m always listening to something on my headphones while out on my little jaunts, and when the train is passing overhead the noise overwhelms the speakers which are plugged directly into my ears. Can’t imagine what it’s like living next to those tracks, it must be hellacious.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 1, 2019 at 11:00 am

popular opinions

with 2 comments

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 31, 2019 at 11:00 am

ritual nature

with 5 comments

Walking up 31st street, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always wondered about the usage of “up” and “down” when referring to local destinations, since such determinations should logically be circumstance based. Saying that, I know people who say “up on Ditmars” that actually live there and everyone in Astoria refers to Queens Plaza and Long Island City as “down there.” It’s weird. Additionally, you ever notice that most people will say “I HAVE to go into the City” versus “I WANT to go into the City”? Manhattan is the place for “have to” I guess. If you live in Astoria, and you “have to” you either need to go down to Broadway for the R/M subway, or over to 31st street for the N/W elevated.

As mentioned yesterday, 31st street in Astoria used to be Debevoise Avenue prior to the consolidation of the City of Greater New York, during and before the time that Astoria itself was part of an independent municipality called Long Island City which existed from 1870 to 1899. Before 1870, Astoria was officially a “village.” Shortly after NYC consolidation, and the opening of the Queensboro Bridge in 1909, the aforementioned subways started snaking out of Manhattan and off the bridge into Queens, and later on through underground and underwater tunnels. It’s hard to imagine today, but a century ago, Astoria was considered to be a suburb.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First off, the government did not build or design the entire subway system. This is a really complicated subject, btw, and I’d recommend talking to the actual historical experts at the NYC Transit Museum about it if you’re interested.

NYC underwrote and facilitated a lot of the system, but the subways were built largely by two private companies – the IRT or “Inter Borough Rapid Transit Company” (which had already merged with and devoured the BRT or Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company) and the BMT or “Brooklyn Manahattan Transit Corporation.” There was also an IND or “Independent City-Owned Rapid Transit Railroad,” which was – in fact – a governmental entity. IRT (MTA “A” division) and BMT (MTA “B” division) built lines have different car widths and specifications, meaning that even today – more than a hundred years later – you can’t run one Division’s train set through another’s station due to the width of the cars and platforms. Same sort of thing is true for LIRR and Metro North, believe it or not.

The BMT Astoria line tracks were originally part of the IRT system, just like the Flushing or 7 line. Both use a platform at the Queensboro Bridge, but they split up after that station to work their different routes. The Astoria line opened on the 1st of February in 1917, and its station specifications were built to IRT (Inter Borough Rapid Transit Company) standards. In 1920, the 60th street tunnel opened, which allowed BMT (Brooklyn Manahattan Transit Company) trains to reach Queensboro, where you could transfer to the local bound IRT Astoria line trains. In 1923, BMT had figured out how to run their rolling stock as shuttles through IRT stations on the Flushing Line, but that didn’t last too long. In 1940, both BMT and IRT were bought by NYC from their shareholders and merged with IND into one entity owned outright by the City of New York. About 1949, as far as I’ve been able to figure it, the platforms on the Astoria line were altered to allow the wider BMT train sets to operate along it, and the Flushing line became IRT only. The Astoria line ended up becoming the northern terminus of the BMT’s Brighton/Broadway local service with the equivalent of the modern day N and W lines running up 31st street to the terminal stop at Ditmars Blvd.

Whew!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note, I have assiduously avoided writing about the Dual Contracts era for nearly a decade now. Finally trapped myself into talking about it, so mark your calendars.

One thing which always occurs to me when walking up 31st street is the relative lack of street level retail activity along it. There’s shops and all that sure, but you don’t see the sort of thriving commercial activity which you do along Roosevelt Avenue under the 7 line. I’ve always wondered why.

More tomorrow.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 30, 2019 at 11:00 am

vague hints

with 4 comments

Astoria, will thy wonders never cease?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, a brief respite from the stinging cold occurred and I stumbled out of HQ into the looming dusk. My ideation involved no destination, rather it was just a desire to give my internally lubricated parts a chance to operate. There’s so much sitting and hiding from the cold this time of year that a man of my age finds himself stiffening up without a regular scuttle. During warmer climes, I’m out and about all the time, but this is the time of year for which I build a pile of books to consume and address long standing projects. That means that when I do start moving around again, it hurts, and there’s sounds traveling along my skeleton which I do not like. Stretching my leg the other day created a resonance that sounded like hitting the strings of a Cello with a sack of oysters.

You’re about to see the big project I’ve been consumed by for the last few months at the start of Februrary, incidentally, which is what a lot of this sitting in front of my desk has revolved around. It’s the start of a whole chain of “stuff” which I’ve been working on, which will be revealed over the coming months.

My path carried me down Astoria’s Broadway, and at the corner of 35th street, my eye was caught by the signage of Dave Shoes. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this subject in the past, but I’m fascinated by the offerings of this small business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of quick research revealed that a man’s foot requiring a “size 18” shoe can be expected to display a heel to “big” toe length of thirteen and five sixteenth inches, and that a six “E” shoe width translates out to a foot of some six and one eighth inches across. That’s a pretty big foot. Apparently the average American male can be expected to wear a “size ten” and “d” or “m” width shoe.

I’ve experienced a certain foible of human biology which younger readers probably haven’t, as of yet. That’s the tendency of the human foot to spread out and its arch to become more shallow as you grow older. In High School and early college, already fully grown, I wore a size nine and one half shoe. By the time I was thirty, a size ten was required. These days, an eleven is what I buy at the shoe shops. Presuming I somehow make it through another twenty years, my shoes will likely look like swimmer’s fins with my toes extending several feet out in front of me, and it’s likely I won’t be scuttling but instead flopping along the bulkheads like a seal by then. I’ll probably be a much better swimmer, so there’s a silver lining. Saying all that, barring some cartoonish interaction with a steam roller, I doubt I’ll ever be shopping for a size 18 6E shoe.

A humble narrator will likely need to forgo the usage of escalators in this dire future.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Modernity is so boring. 31st street? Really? Can’t we just go back to Debovoise Avenue, which is what 31st used to be called in Astoria’s 19th century? I’ll admit that the old system, when 31st avenue was Jamaica Avenue and 30th was Grand Avenue, was a bit confusing to outsiders but at least Astoria was safer in case of an invasion. The north/south streets and east/west avenues and using numbers instead of names are some times called the Philadelphia plan. The “Commissioners Plan” rules the roost in Manhattan, where the streets are east/west and the avenues north/west, as a note. Post NYC Consolidation, the new powers that be in City Hall created the modern day street grid of Queens by renaming all of the hodge podge street names offered by all the independent towns, cities, and villages that predict dated 1898.

That’s why you’ll encounter those corners where time and space bend in on themselves like 31st avenue at 31st street.

More tomorrow. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 29, 2019 at 11:00 am

%d bloggers like this: