The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘31st street

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

Project Firebox 74

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An ongoing catalog of New York’s endangered Fireboxes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Under the El on 31st street at 28th road in raven tressed Astoria, stands a firebox which has never long known quiet. It could tell stories, but they’d largely be in Greek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron 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 8, 2013 at 12:15 am

smoking gulf

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ask anyone who lives here and they’ll tell you- Astoria Queens rules.

It’s one of the last places in New York City that actually still looks like New York City, and people who live here are generally idiosyncratic and gregarious types who enjoy life’s simpler pleasures wholeheartedly. The ancient village has its problems- of course, too much traffic, a disturbing amount of public inebriation, and when “it hits the fan” around here- things quickly tend to get messy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our streets seem to be collapsing, our sewers back up routinely, everything costs too much, and the new neighbors are noisy. The kids have no respect for the older folks, and litter in a casual manner. The deli guys let bums drink in the back yards of their storefronts, and the social contract which dictates that one should find an appropriate commode for the elimination of bodily wastes seems to have been forgotten. We still haven’t forgotten about the “Great Astoria Blackout of 2006” or the week we spent in the dark while a proverbial “Emperor Nero” fiddled away in City Hall and claimed nothing was wrong.

City services are applied haphazardly (at best) here, except in the case of handing out fines to homeowners and businesses- something handled by the authorities in a fashion best described by the aphorism of “Russian Efficiency”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A background hum- caused by highways and rail yards and millions of air conditioners, automobile engines, and oscillating fan blades- colors the air. There is always some sort of yelling, invariably in some foreign tongue, within earshot. Alternatively- kids are playing and squealing with delight, old ladies shuck beans on their stoops, and old men gather in loose groups to complain about the Mets and Rangers or brag about their grandkids.

Everywhere, one might find sidewalk cafes and tavernas glistening with vibrant crowds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Indecent development by the real estate industrial complex crowds in on the older building stock, disillusioning long time residents and inflaming the passions of preservationists, but what are you going to do about it? People have a right to do what they want with their own property, and the Astoria way is to mind your own business, unless something directly affects you. The interesting thing about Astoria, as well, is that the whole “race thing” isn’t so much of an issue here. The kids in the neighborhood don’t run in ethnic packs like they do in other parts of the city, it’s more a block by block sort of thing. Brazilian, Irish, Italian, Greek, Korean, Egyptian, whatever- they’re all just “one of the boys” from this avenue or that block or those buildings. Doesn’t matter- as they’re all spoiled rotten, don’t know how good they’ve got it, won’t amount to anything, had it too easy, and all the other things that the old ladies say while making a “tsk tsk” sound.

This is what one might see on the streets, what it’s like to actually live here, and this posting is a response to something someone said to me a couple of weeks ago while I was over in the city- the actual quotation was: “Astoria, I love it there, it’s so diverse”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What does that mean? Every description I’ve ever heard of Astoria starts with the “diverse” thing, which connotes that the standard for the rest of the world is rigid social segregation along racial and ethnic lines, and that Astoria is some sort of gulag for foreigners who haven’t figured out that they should shop for clothes at JC Penny at the mall on Queens Blvd. and learn to lose the accent. Additionally, on the “diversometer”, do we score higher than Flushing or Ridgewood or Greenpoint?

If one more Manhattanite asks me if I’ve ever been to a) Elias’s Corner, b) the Bohemian Hall, or c) the Museum of the Moving Image- a humble narrator might just go screaming off into the night.

Anyway, Astoria Queens rules.

You got a problem with that?

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 31, 2012 at 12:15 am

weeds and creepers

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One would imagine multiple generations inhabited this place, celebrating dozens of birthdays and decorating scores of Christmas Trees. It’s only been a decade or so that I’ve been consciously watching this moose of a house sit abandoned, its windows gathering evidence on the actions of small boys, and it’s yard producing thousands of feral cats. There are several of these large homes sitting shuttered in a cluster on 31st Street and 37th avenue here at the borders of Astoria and Dutch Kills, so one would assume that the amalgamated combination of them will form the footprint of some ambitious real estate project in the future.

This house, this “shunned house”, just breaks my heart.

from allmediany.com

Astoria’s “Ghost House” at 31-01 37th Ave.

Ok, so this one is not a haunting—the house is just out of every scary movie, ever. Abandoned for decades, this eerie house has fallen into disrepair, with its siding removed and what little paint is left chipped into oblivion, making it the perfect setting for ghost stories. It’s even said to be on a toxic site! While no one is known to have died in the place, it is a mystery why the owner doesn’t want to sell it…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amongst the few friends your humble narrator has managed to acquire, one or two are Astoria natives who feel similarly about this house, but shrug their shoulders while pointing out sagging wooden beams and bulging walls. Speaking with certain authority, a sturdy Croat who has some familiarity with the arts of home construction and carpentry opined to me that it would be cost a small fortune to restore the place just to “livable status” let alone to restore lost glories. He suggests harvesting anything “made of old wood” within that has value, followed by a tear down and new construction.

A year or two ago, the roof was removed at this “shunned house”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m hardly the first person to mention this house, of course (it’s even been featured briefly in other posts here at Newtown Pentacle). Scouting-NY and Forgotten-NY have featured the enigmatic wooden structure before. Area wags speculate on its fate, and tell me that the abandonment of the structure might be as long as two decades.

Anybody out there have information on the place, and is it, as Scout suggests, a “ghost house” or has it merely been shunned?

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 26, 2012 at 3:53 am

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