The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘31st street

utmost fortitude

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There’s always something to complain about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has mentioned in the past that a singular virtue of the Governor’s “enhanced stations” project – and construction spending – on the Astoria line elevated subway stops along 31st street has been the abundance of street lighting they have introduced to what was formerly a dark and unfriendly series of street intersections. Also mentioned, repeatedly, is the fact that a humble narrator is still somewhat crippled by a crush injury to the big toe of my left foot, and I’ve been trying to “keep it local” as much as possible for the last few weeks to avoid reinjuring or impeding the healing process in the affected phalange. I plan to be back to full capability in the new year, after all.

Accordingly, the residents of my side of Astoria have begun to adjust to a sight often witnessed by the denizens of several other nearby communities – that of a strange old man wearing a filthy black raincoat and brandishing a camera about wherever municipal infrastructure stands naked and revealed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of complaining, or “freelance unsolicited criticism” as my pal Special Ed once called it, right about now that’s all I’ve got to fill my time. One likes to believe that he has weaponized complaint, and milled it down into a quiver of razor tipped arrows which can be fired – with some precision – at an opponent’s vital bits. Ten years of daily blogging… you get good at grousing, I always say. Nobody cares, though.

That’s the intersection of Broadway and 31st street pictured in today’s post, from three different angles. The first looks westwards, the one above south west, and the one below is looking northwards from a different corner.

On the alternative subject of people in my neighborhood getting used to seeing a humble narrator at work, unlike Maspeth or Greenpoint where the residents go out of their way to avoid human contact, Astorians will just stride right up and ask what I’m doing. Such mendacity is part of the reason that I call Astoria my home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The guy in the food cart with the glowing window seemed rather concerned about my activities, but a quick wave of the hand and his paranoia seemed assuaged. A few people who announced, unheeded, that they didn’t want to be photographed received my usual speech about long exposure shots and that unless they were standing statue still for at least half a minute while in frame there would be little more of them than a ghostly whisper or blurred outline of them in the final shot.

On that subject, I’ve got an idea about how to advance these night shots up a level, and plan on exploring a new set of techniques in the coming weeks. Somebody will end up complaining about that, though.


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Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

December 6, 2019 at 11:00 am

imperfect salts

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Getting my groove on in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured today are the POV’s from 31st street and Astoria Blvd., which is one of the worst street crossings for pedestrians and bicycles in all of Queens. The construction materials are related to the “enhanced station initiative” that Governor Cuomo introduced a few years back, which has been playing out in incremental stages all up and down the 31st street corridor between Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue and the terminal stop of the N and W Astoria lines at Ditmars Blvd. One was admittedly skeptical about this when it was described, but – in my opinion, at least – the newly redesigned stations are pretty good. They supply an abundance of light to what has historically been a dark and somewhat menacing streetscape, and the “upstairs” component is pretty clean visually.

Saying that, the corner pictured above which… y’know… has a train station over it and thusly a lot of pedestrians, is terrifying to navigate on foot and particularly so at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, the high volume traffic problem is due to the Triborough Bridge, which spits thousands of cars a day out onto a two block long stretch of local streets which lead to the entrance ramps for the Grand Central Parkway. Why there aren’t express lanes leading directly to the parkway from the bridge is yet another one of those Queens mysteries nobody can answer. The Grand Central Parkway runs through a trench sunk into Astoria Blvd. which stretches from roughly 33rd street to 47th street, where it eventually joins the same altitude as the surrounding local streets. The trench is due to topography, of course, and both sides of Astoria Blvd. for the more or less 3/4 of a mile between 33rd and 47th are heavily trafficked one lane service roads with a parking lane along a fairly narrow sidewalk.

Why not deck the highway and create a green space/park over it? It would save the State a bunch of money in terms of snow removal, create a planted area in place of highway, contain the particulates of auto exhaust wafting off the Grand Central and into the residential streets surrounding the thing, and would likely eliminate the de facto “us and them” factor between the bifurcated neighborhoods of Astoria (one centering around the commercial strip of Ditmars to north and the southern 30th ave./Broadway zones). We’d drink up a lot of storm water with a green space, and break up the heat island effect – and as I’m often wont to point out – there is no greater magnifier for real estate valuations than the presence of a nearby park. Everybody wins – contractors, labor, drivers, pedestrians, politicians, real estate people, even the actual community itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn’s South Williamsburg, where the BQE runs through a similar trench, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has been talking about something similar for quite a while. They’ve done a bunch of the math for this sort of thing, and it’s not outlandishly expensive as long as conversation about the subject stays away from creating a deck structure that needs to support buildings, only parkland. You’d be able to prefabricate the sections, install them one by one during (relatively) low traffic intervals, and give a section of NYC remarkable for its lack of parklands a new reason for the citizenry to move in and join the party. Also, this would likely end up being a fully union laborer operation, so all the Politicians could wet their beaks at the trough of a happy Building Trade Council. Again – win, win, win.

Why not here in Western Queens? Tell me why this wouldn’t improve things for the people of Astoria?


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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

September 19, 2019 at 11:00 am

burned out

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Hey, what’s with all this Northern Blvd. stuff?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know what is to come. In recent years, the NYC Dept. of City Planning was working on something they called “LIC Core,” a planning document centering around Northern Blvd. between 31st street and Woodside Avenue. My understanding is that the planning document has been abandoned, and that the Real Estate Industrial Complex will just be allowed to do whatever they want under the proviso that a politically viable number of “affordable” apartments are a part of their plan. The whole “affordable” thing, and the arithmetic by which the concept of affordability is determined, is a bugbear of political deception which I don’t want to get into.

As mentioned in the past, I’m now a member of Community Board 1 here in Astoria, and before the summer break, a humble narrator was obliged to vote for or against a couple of these projects. Now, when you’re on a community board – and I seem to be the only person in Queens who adheres to this – it’s meant to be like serving on a jury. The petitioner presents their facts, you make inquiries, and then you vote. In the case of two large projects just a few blocks from my own home, I voted yes. Here’s why…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Close to transit, shopping, and City services? Check. Best use of the land? Well, I don’t think used car lots are the best use of the land within one to two miles of the East River. How densely populated is the area already? Well…. let’s just say that when the kids want to experiment with cannabinoids well outside the purview of their parents or just see how loud their car stereos are, the side streets along Northern Blvd. are where they go, as it’s a ghost town at night after all the car lots and mechanics shutter their doors. People sleep in their cars along these blocks, or on cardboard boxes piled up against the walls.

Just like when you’re on a jury, your CB vote is supposed to be based not on personal prejudices or preconceived notions, rather it’s meant to be guided by the presented facts and informed by your personal knowledge of the area. Saying that, my queries and comments to the various entities seeking to develop residential properties in the neighborhood revolved around topics that longtime Newtown Pentacle readers will find familiar – green roofs, truly public space, stormwater capture, hospital beds, school desks, and transit. Also, what are you going to plug the building into, since our electrical power system hereabouts… frankly… sucks.

Also – since this has come up a few times during the summer when I was talking to the press about unrelated Newtown Creek business – I in no way speak for CB1, and if you want an official opinion of the group on anything, talk to the Chair or call the office and ask for one. I’m still new to the Community Board, and getting to know not just my fellow members but also the procedural norms under which it operates. My plan for the next set of sessions, which begin again in September, is to show up and observe the way things work and then vote my conscience on the various issues presented. What you read here is from my personal POV, and all opinions are my own. If I’m speaking “officially” on behalf of any of the groups which I work with, I’ll state that. Otherwise, it’s just some schmuck with a camera mouthing off again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, and I’m still startled at the number of people who have willingly made their homes in Queens Plaza, living along Northern Blvd. seems like a poor choice. You do have fairly regular bus service, but the closest subway stops (other than the 36th street R/M) are all several blocks to the north – in Astoria proper – along Broadway. I’ve long called this stretch of Northern Blvd. the “Carridor” as it’s a super wide primary automobile and truck route that offers some of the scariest street crossings in all of Queens. Really, Steinway at Northern… brrrr…

At the moment, I’m spending some effort on recording what’s found on the Carridor right now, in order to create some kind of record before it all gets swept away by the forces of modernity and the rapacious hunger of the Real Estate Industrial Complex. The history of NYC is a story of wrenching, and quite sudden, change. Take a picture when something catches your interest, as it might not be there tomorrow.


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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

August 27, 2019 at 11:00 am

contraband nature

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It’s National Jelly Donut Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been on a non stop run across the City of Greater New York for the last six weeks, and my dogs are barking. Haven’t been to Staten Island (except by water, twice) or the Bronx at all, but tomorrow I’m going to Plumb Beach nearby Sheepshead Bay to attend a lecture on Horseshoe Crabs which, as it turns out, is being led by my tenth grade biology teacher. Small world, big City, I guess. The shot above was captured at the Grand Avenue station in Elmhurst, where I’ve been three times in the last six weeks, but was just passing through.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was gathered onboard the new Citywide Ferry Rockaway service, which left from Pier 11 in Manhattan and proceeded to Bay 108 in Rockaway in about fifty minutes with a stop in Sunset Park. I was puzzled as to the end goal destination, across the street from the DEP’s Rockaway waste water treatment plant. B 108 isn’t exactly “Main Street” if you know what I mean, but putting two and two together, I figure that the City probably owns the land there due to the Rockaway Plant’s long tenancy and it was likely the only affordable spot along the Rockaway waterfront where you could install the dock.

Pictured, of course, is a NY Water Taxi rather than a Citywide Ferry boat. The Water Taxi was exiting Erie Basin while performing part of its’ IKEA ferry route.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering around Astoria one recent day, this coal chute cover was encountered and I decided to do a bit of detective work on the address embossed into its legend. The folks at Greater Astoria Historic Society host a page which describes the various name changes that the streets in Astoria have assumed over the years, which provided for some of the hard slog footwork in translating “329 9th Ave., Astoria, L.I.” into the modern day street grid.

What was once known as “Kowenhoven St.” in a city of Newtown called Astoria, which was later renamed as “9th avenue by the independent municipality of Long Island City, became 38th street in the Borough of Queens and a part of the Consolidated City of Greater New York in the early 20th century. The sections of Belcher Hyde Fire Insurance Maps included in today’s post date from 1919, and still carry the LIC era street names and addresses.

– Belcher Hyde map 1919

Broadway is always so named, and Steinway Street was once an avenue but is still named after the local Piano Baron, and 31st avenue used to be called first Jamaica and then Patterson Avenue. 9th street is now 38th street, and if I’m reading the map correctly, the street address (329) of the Atlantic Iron Works would correspond with that of the no longer extant Public School no. 6 (which is a whole other story) and is coterminous with the modern day “Sean’s Place” playground.

– Belcher Hyde map 1919

As a note, the track lines indicated are Trolley, or Streetcar tracks. The arrival of the IND subway line was still a few years away at the stage of the game, and the “cut and cover” work was likely underway but not indicated.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 8, 2017 at 1:00 pm

known specie

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The Forbidden Northern Coast of Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Luyster, or Steinway, Creek in the shot above. The Steinway factory adjoins the waterway on its eastern side and legend has it that the piano manufacturer used to bring in logs of Mahogany and other hard woods from Long Island Sound via the Creek. On the western side, on a former manufactured gas plant’s grounds, is a Con Ed facility which hosts the shuttered Politi Power Plant.

I call the northern coast of Queens forbidden, because it is. A security cordon controls the shoreline pretty much from the East River to Flushing Bay – there’s power plants, sewer plants, Rikers Island, LaGuardia Airport – about five miles of forbidden waterfront which the general public is encouraged to avoid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is the case with my beloved Creek on the somewhat forbidden Southern coast of Queens, the waterfront is largely the property of private companies and governmental agencies. Another similarity to Newtown Creek is pollution, as Luyster Creek is blessed with open sewers like the one illustrated above.

Street gravy runs directly into the water, carrying trash and all sorts of horror along with it. You can actually feel your liver swelling up when standing on this spot, which is directly over the sewer outfall.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You might recall that a group of teenagers died here at Luyster Creek last year, when they drove off of Queens and into the water at a rather high rate of speed. There’s lots of memorial graffiti scribe on all the concrete bits, and somebody erected this cruciform memorial to their memory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the corner of Astoria Blvd. and Steinway Street, this unfortunately named hookah lounge was noticed. The lounge was open for quite a while before “Isis” became associated with beheadings and such, and I kind of feel sorry for the owners who must deal with crap all the time because of the name. Isis was, of course, an Egyptian goddess – and an analogue for what would evolve into the Christian “Mary.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering continued through sunset, around the forbidden north coast, and one found himself in “Astoria, Astoria.” That’s how we refer to this still largely Greek and Italian section found north of Astoria Blvd. over on the southern borders of the neighborhood (Broadway etc.) where Newtown Pentacle HQ is found. The whole section is framed by the concrete arches of the New York Connecting Railroad, which leads to the Hell Gate Bridge over at Astoria Park. Western Queens is all about the rail.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle was with me on this longish walk, and her roadway interfaces – she calls them her feet – were growing tender from the efforts. At 31st street, it was decided to hire a taxi to carry us the short distance back to HQ, where Zuzu the dog anxiously awaited.

On our return, of course, it was time for another walk – but what happened on that one… that’s between me and the dog. Zuzu is notoriously tight lipped (tight flewed, actually) and insists that her activities be kept quiet.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

heard messages

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It’s dark and cold, and I can’t feel my feet any more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another Newtown Creek meeting drew me in recently, this time it was the Newtown Creek CAG. CAG stands for Community Advisory Group, and its role is mandated as part of the Superfund process. The EPA was there to discuss and disseminate some early data, which they stressed as being raw and entirely uninterpreted. This is an important distinction for we non scientists to understand, as they distributed disc copies of these early findings to several of us that asked, since a lot of the terms and subjects discussed by these documents can be a little off putting. The presence of arsenic in 100% of sampled sediment may not be something to worry about, after all, as arsenic is actually in 100% of the apples you’ve eaten over the course of your lifetime- its naturally occurring, just like in roses (my analogy, not EPA’s). It’s the “levels of” and “concentrations of” you need to worry about.

from wikipedia

The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements. Cognitive dissonance is the distressing mental state that people feel when they “find themselves doing things that don’t fit with what they know, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold.” A key assumption is that people want their expectations to meet reality, creating a sense of control. Likewise, another assumption is that a person will avoid situations or information sources that give rise to feelings of uneasiness, or dissonance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The EPA data reports are highly technical, and richly illustrated with thousands of photos describing the process of sediment, atmospheric, and water sampling. Materials collected from Newtown Creek are sent to the laboratories of Federal contractors and other specialists, whereupon arcane tests, dilutions, and dissections are performed upon it. The raw data, which was collected during the last couple of years, presents the need for further investigations (which EPA indicates will be commencing in the coming year). The data is housed on 5 DVD’s and as mentioned- is completely uninterpreted. Your humble narrator has just begun to scratch through it, but so far nothing has jumped out at me, other than a vague sort of dread. You really wouldn’t want to swim in English or Dutch Kills, it would seem, and an amazing variety of worms were found living in the sediment layers- some of whom are not native to NY waters and hail from the overseas.

from wikipedia

Affective forecasting can be divided into four components: predictions about emotional valence (i.e. positive or negative), the specific emotions experienced, their duration, and their intensity. While errors may occur in all four components, research overwhelmingly indicates that the two areas most prone to bias, usually in the form of overestimation, are duration and intensity. Immune neglect is a form of impact bias in response to negative events whereby people fail to predict how much their psychological immune system will hasten their recovery. On average, people are fairly accurate about predicting which emotions they will feel in response to future events. However, some studies indicate that predicting specific emotions in response to more complex social events leads to greater inaccuracy. For example, one study found that while many women who imagine encountering gender harassment predict feelings of anger, in reality, a much higher proportion report feelings of fear. Other research suggests that accuracy in affective forecasting is greater for positive affect than negative affect, suggesting an overall tendency to overreact to perceived negative events.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The CAG is a good group, a sort of congress for those of us whom the Newtown Creek has claimed. The Newtown Creek Alliance is well represented, as is Riverkeeper, NCMC, the local elected officials, corporate and Business Improvement District associations, and the so called “Responsible Parties.”

These “Responsible Parties” are those corporate entities who have entered into an agreement with EPA which names them as culpable for the environmental issues that drew the Federal agency’s notice in the first place, and which binds the various corporations named so into financially and materially supporting the clean up process and its monumental cost. EPA acts independently, but the CAG exists to alert EPA to the unexpected or tangential results of the Superfund process and creates a point of access to its managers. It’s as complicated a set of relationships as you can get, I suppose, the sort of thing a person like me avoids like the plague- but at least I get to be around people.

The meetings are public, you know!

from wikipedia

The term fallacy is often used generally to mean an argument that is problematic for any reason, whether it is formal or informal.

The presence of a formal fallacy in a deductive argument does not imply anything about the argument’s premises or its conclusion. Both may actually be true, or even more probable as a result of the argument, but the deductive argument is still invalid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises in the manner described. By extension, an argument can contain a formal fallacy even if the argument is not a deductive one; for instance an inductive argument that incorrectly applies principles of probability or causality can be said to commit a formal fallacy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Interesting things reveal themselves occasionally. Something which came up last year at a CAG meeting, for instance, was that business owners around the Maspeth Creek area were having a difficult time securing long term credit due to trepeditious inclinations displayed by the banking community toward lending to clients with unknown environmental liabilities. Another was that there’s a strata of discarded metro cards lodged in the sediment. When I get through the stack of discs, I’ll let y’all know what I think I see, but we will all have to wait for the interpretation which will be offered by someone else who is smart enough to actually understand it. Addled, my aging mind can barely comprehend the meaning of these dancing columns of numbers, nor the multitudinously cryptic scatter graphs, and photos of those dark things which slither and flop through the Black Mayonnaise.

from wikipedia

In science, cognition is a group of mental processes that includes the attention of working memory, producing and comprehending language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Various disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy and linguistics all study cognition. However, the term’s usage varies across disciplines; for example, in psychology and cognitive science, “cognition” usually refers to an information processing view of an individual’s psychological functions. It is also used in a branch of social psychology called social cognition to explain attitudes, attribution, and groups dynamics. In cognitive psychology and cognitive engineering, cognition is typically assumed to be information processing in a participant’s or operator’s mind or brain.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 3, 2013 at 7:30 am

Project Firebox 75

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An ongoing catalog of New York’s endangered Fireboxes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On 31st street at 21st avenue in almond eyed Astoria, stands another sentinel of the public good, guarding its turf against accident and incursion as it has for decades. Shine on, fire-bro.

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Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron TODAY, Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 15, 2013 at 12:15 am

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