The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Astoria

maddening suggestions

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Keepin on keepin on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So far so good here at HQ, and the only thing I can report to as involving coughing and wheezing so far involves the seasonal allergies which one has always contended with. Why we plant flowering trees in NYC is something I cannot fathom. Pollen is the age of pandemic is a “poop your pants” situation every time you sneeze or blow the shnoz.

As described in prior posts, one needs to maintain a fairly regular schedule of exercise for health reasons. Accordingly, I’ve been leaving Astoria at opportune times when the streets are entirely unoccupied and then heading towards similarly unoccupied areas in the industrial zones surrounding Newtown Creek. Personal security is something which I’m very, very aware of given the deserted sidewalks and thusly I haven’t been sticking my headphones into my ears as is the normal custom. Situational awareness, I call it. It’s part of what I promise Our Lady of the Pentacle when I’m leaving the house and she opines “Be careful.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad traversing the Harold Interlocking at the Sunnyside Yards is pictured above, a set of tracks which are said to normally be the busiest right of way in the entire country. On this particular walk, one noticed breadstuffs scattered about on the sidewalks, often arranged in cruciform patterns. Could have been something random, and it wasn’t worth taking a picture of frankly, but does anyone know anything about such practices? Desperate and scared people typically embrace ancestral magic and peasant rituals during crises. Many cling to their magic books or scrolls, thinking the imagined power of the words contained therein will protect them from pestilence and misfortune. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood which was partially populated by people with numbers tattooed on their arms, who would have gladly offered to any that queried them that those scrolls didn’t do them one bit of good when the wolves arrived.

This is the hour of the Wolf for our civilization, isn’t it? We’re all locked up inside and some forest monster is scratching at the door in the dead of night. Stay frosty, I always say, and be smart. Your god won’t vouchsafe you, instead fate helps those who help themselves when the wolves are near.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s why I’m continuing to march about, all alone in the night. When it comes time to put everything back together, we are going to need strength – both emotional and physical – to bury the dead and comfort the living. I’m hoping to count myself as part of the latter, but it’s impossible to predict whether or not a plague will take you.

The only thing you can do is lock your doors, and keep that wolf at bay.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

March 31, 2020 at 11:00 am

black smoke

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What a nightmare.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning from a short constitutional walk the other night, a sudden explosion of FDNY activity drew my attention to the corner of Newtown Road and 45th street here in Astoria. A structural fire was consuming one of the older homes in the neighborhood, a wood framed one set back from the property line. It soon became an all hands fire, it seems, and FDNY units from both Woodside and Astoria were present, as was Rescue Unit 4.

I also captured a bit of video on my phone, which can be accessed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighbors were all coming out of their houses to see what was happening, and lots of them were breaking out in tears over the spectacle. I suddenly realized that dozens if not a hundred people were forming a crowd and one beat it out of there quickly in the name of social distancing. Cooties.

I don’t know anyone who lives in that house, thought I, but as it turns out that wasn’t true. Somebody from the outer ring of my social circle did indeed live there and was now homeless. Under normal circumstance, this is plain horrible, and the normal systemic response would involve the Red Cross setting you up in a hotel for a couple of days while the insurance people figure out next steps. Fire insurance will usually pay for temporary lodging until the house is determined to be fixable or a total loss, at which point repairs are made or you have to find a new apartment.

During the current crisis – this is a nightmare scenario.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I posted the video of the fire to a couple of social media platforms, and made sure that City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer was aware of it, since this is not only his district but the neighborhood he grew up in. The next morning, a message was sent to me from a friend informing that the aforementioned “outer ring” acquaintance of ours was in fact now homeless and sleeping on their couch, and I made sure that JVB’s office had their contact information. Apparently, some sort of shelter for the poor fellow was arranged.

Structural fires are one of the things which I am worrying about more and more with all of us trapped inside. Be careful in your kitchens lords and ladies, and with those extension cords, and if you don’t have a fire extinguisher or two in your house – get some.

Also, on this date in 1909, the Queensboro Bridge opened for traffic. That’s your NYC history trivia of the day.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

March 30, 2020 at 11:00 am

empty panel

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The darnedest things, you see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, I’m coming home from the Community Board offices one night after a meeting, and I spot a wrecked car body dangling on the end of a tow truck’s wire. Not the sort of thing you see everyday, thought I, and worthy of a picture or two. Well, to be fair, I do see this sort of thing a lot, but most of you probably don’t.

Transiting to and from that Community Board District office is why there’s been a sudden proliferation of shots from the Industrial Business Zone found along the Grand Central Parkway and Astoria Blvd. of late. It’s no industrial Maspeth, mind you, but there’s a few interesting things to point a camera at hereabouts. If only St. Michael’s Cemetery was open at night, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m sure this is the sort of thing that someone who works for the City is just dying to write a fine for, but y’know – it’s the 108th precinct – and they’ve got bigger fish to fry. NYPD has got to be a scary place to work right now, first responder wise. Along with FDNY they’re literally the front line of the epidemiologist response team, and you’ve got to figure that they’re worried about tracking something back home after the shift ends. When all this is all over, rounds and rounds of drinks are on the rest of us for all of your services in these times of trouble, you coppers and smoke eaters.

Fun times, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The joke which I’ve been trading with friends and family about “social distancing” is that what I normally consider a good time is to wander around a deserted industrial zone by myself, so this is just another day for me. Additionally, as a proud member of Generation X, social isolation and avoiding interaction with other people is imperative and a long denied desire. Don’t stand so close to me, as the old Police song opines.

Cooties.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

March 18, 2020 at 11:00 am

damnable resemblance

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A bit more Triborough, and some thoughts on the current crisis…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ok, here’s the way things are going to go here at the old Newtown Pentacle “for the duration.” I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator. That’s the reality right now, it’s all a craps shoot. As of right now, all of my tours and summer events are on hold until we see the way this shakes out.

Also, if anything truly critical happens which needs to be broadcast, I’ll augment the regular blog schedule with news posts. If you’re in any kind of trouble and need help, here in Astoria or in LIC, contact me here and I’ll try to make the powers that be aware of your situation. This isn’t 911 or anything, but I’ve got a line of communication or two with officialdom that most people don’t have, so consider me as a resource.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speculative logic, as in purely speculative – Epidemiological playbooks for the United States Government can and might take the form of soldiers deployed on our streets. Their mission might and will probably include maintaining law and order (the cops are going to be overwhelmed, and will get sick too), as well as vouchsafing and handling the delivery of essential supplies, and possibly handling mortuary practicalities. Border control between the States might happen too. I’ve already seen some goofy things happening on the streets here in Astoria, including some jack ass beating up his girlfriend in front of my house a couple of nights ago. You REALLY don’t want to be incarcerated right now, so best behavior, all.

The traditional American sophistry says that “we’ll get through this together,” whereas the Coronavirus pandemic utterly negates the concept of “together.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So… I hope you’re all doing what you can to stay safe and healthy. Saying that, an aerosol based virus is a very difficult thing to control and contain. If you encounter a situation where you can be kind as opposed to cruel in the coming weeks, please consider enacting the former behavioral set. Check in on your family and friends, via phone rather than just text, especially those in your circle who suffer from mood disorders and other psychological bad weather. Tell people you love that you love them. Don’t start a witch panic by sharing obvious malarkey on social media.

If Newtown Pentacle stops updating, and a humble narrator is no more, please look in on Our Lady of the Pentacle occasionally and make sure that she has enough milk for her tea.


“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

March 17, 2020 at 11:00 am

universal belief

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Supermoon in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had yet another of the seemingly endless series of community meetings he is obliged to attend occur, and afterwards a friend gave me a lift over to Astoria Park so that I could wave the camera about for an interval. It was that unseasonably warm day we all experienced, and the celestial calendar indicated that a “supermoon” was going to occur. I had already decided, before getting to my location, that I wasn’t going to be trying to record the “astro” shot palaver where you can see all the details on the moon as well as a clear back and foreground, and was instead going to be shooting more of a landscape dealie with a glowing orb lighting up the sky.

To wit, above is the supermoon framed by the Triborough Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “palaver” mentioned above requires multiple exposures which are then combined in a photoshop composite. You expose one shot for the moon, which is actually as bright as the sun to the camera. Then you expose for the sky, and finally for the other elements in the composition. I’ve done this a bunch of times, so I’m quite familiar with the technique. One of the snags you hit with this however, is that despite what the perception of the human eye indicates, the moon is actually traveling at quite a clip through your frame. Depending on where it is in your frame, you’ve got between 2 and 8 seconds to “get it” before it’s movement causes motion blur. Since it’s night time, you need to calculate the other exposures and when compositing the final shot, compensate for the movement of the orb through the shot.

It is possible to “get it in one” of course, but that’s fraught with technical issues as well. I just went for the “ambience” instead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing is, I wasn’t feeling terribly secure as far as my personage when shooting these images. As is the usual case on nice nights, every “Astoria Boy” in the neighborhood was on station along Shore Blvd. There were hundreds, possibly even a thousand, of impulse control challenged post adolescents milling around down there. Their music, played at top volume, was terrible. The clouds of weed smoke rising from their assemblage and drifting across Astoria Park was intoxicating. If you like the “wacky tabacky,” save yourself a few bucks by just sitting downwind from this crowd.

Just to make sure I’m perfectly clear about this most salient of points – their music was computer generated (badly), irredeemable, and unabashedly terrible. Gah.

Teenagers… brrr.


“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

March 16, 2020 at 11:00 am

pencilled notes

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To distraction, it drives me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the dodges often offered by the governmental crowd is the avoidance of specifics when they’re trying to sell you the latest flavor of kool aid they’ve been cooking up in City Hall. To wit, the Green Infrastructure/bioswale/rain garden story which the NYC DEP “sells and tells” is scientifically valid, but they refuse to prove it so by using numbers. In short – the various wastewater treatment plants which NYC owns and operates, there are 14 of them, have a set engineered capacity for how many gallons of wastewater that they can handle. Given that it rains more than it used to, and there’s also a lot more toilets flushing than there used to be, one option for handling the design capacity overage would be to finance and build a series of additional sewer plants. That particular choice would be expensive, both fiscally and politically. Another option is to increase the amount of open soil in the drainage area serviced by the existing 14 so that instead of going into a sewer, rainfall and other precipitation soaks into the ground and soil. Problem there is that the ground in NYC is largely coated in cement and concrete. What’s the answer then? Rain Gardens, right?

You open up some of the soil, as in thousands of acres citywide, and you’ve extended the design capacity and service life of your 14 sewer plants for another couple of decades. Those thousands of acres would be aggregate, of course, tap holes of small size, scattered around the various neighborhoods in strategic spots which would drink up “x” number of gallons of rain.

You add the open spots up, you’ve achieved the vast acreages. Simple, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the building guides used by architects who want to construct things in the megalopolis, a square acre of land in NYC can be expected to accumulate (if memory serves) 22.7 inches of rain per year. Don’t expect one such as myself to accurately calculate the number of gallons that represents, but the idea here is that there is actually a calculable number which can be arrived at. Rain Gardens, which in their current form are about a yard (or meter) long on the short side and about three meters (or yards) on the long side, are engineered structures which Government employees are designing and installing. Government employees – and in particular Civil Engineers – do not “guess” when they’re spending your tax money. There is a calculation somewhere which dictates that “x” number of bioswale/rain gardens equate to “y” number of gallons being diverted from the sewers. DEP has instead constantly told me that they are essentially crossing their fingers and hoping for the best with their “Green Infrastructure” initiative. Even in private meetings, they say this.

That’s when I opine that they are lying to my face, that engineers do not cross their fingers and hope for the best, and I ask them why they are treating this like a state secret. Funnily, I believe that the Green Infrastructure program is fantastic, and represents the sort of lateral thinking which I espouse. Gordian Knot, anyone?

A bit of quick Google fu indicates that a single inch of water covering a square acre would represent roughly 27,154 gallons, and multiplying that amount by 23 gives you roughly 624,548 gallons per square acre. I suck at math, so this is probably off, but “State secret,” right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other than wanting to run the shots that were captured during last Friday’s rain storm, the thing that set me off on this topic was actually where I was going on Friday night. The CB1 Astoria Community Board Environmental Committee – which I’m a member of – invited representatives of an outfit called “Solar One” to come and discuss the requirements and nuances of a new series of local laws that address climate change and carbon emissions here in NYC. When queried about how many theoretical acres of NYC rooftop which the new law required for conversion to solar, and what number of kilowatt hours that acreage would result in as far as harvesting power from passive collection, the answer was “it depends” and that “we haven’t calculated that.” Sound familiar?

Why treat it like a state secret? I’m certainly “for this,” and being evasive with answers is not how you create allies who will help sell this plan to their neighbors.


“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

March 9, 2020 at 1:00 pm

starved monsters

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The darkness of Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Why the Amtrak people have never sprung for a lighting system for the Hell Gate Bridge, I cannot imagine. It’s like owning a luxury car and never washing or polishing it. Might have something to do with not disturbing those battrachian things, that cannot possibly exist, which live on the bottom of the Hell Gate section of the East River. Peter Stuyvesant is rumored to have left behind a message scrawled onto a piece of yellowed parchment, which every Mayor of NYC has received on their first day in office, advising that there are things in NY Harbor which are best left alone. The Lenape knew that it is best not to delve too deep, nor stare too long into the abyssal water hereabouts, lest that which dwells below takes notice.

Do you honestly believe that the United States Army Corps of Engineers set off the greatest explosion in human history here back in 1885, a detonation whose force was only exceeded after the emergence of the Atomic Bomb, merely to aid navigation?

Fools ye be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, it was the promise of a foggy night which drew me to this spot. It’s not exactly industrial Maspeth, Astoria Park and the associated properties surrounding it, so it’s the very definition of off my beaten path as it’s “nice.” I hung around the zone for about an hour or so, occasionally climbing over a fence for a POV as in the shot above.

There wasn’t much movement in the water, but I was prepared to bolt just in case. I’ve heard tell of an orthodox priest named Kiriglou that would spend his evenings along this stretch of Hells Gate back in the early 1980’s. Rumors and stories, myths and legends, that’s what the native Astorians routinely offer in return for a shot of whisky. Supposedly this Kiriglou fellow would toss some kind of charm, attached to a stout cord, into the water and mutter words described to me as a rough sort of Cretan dialect, one which the teller believed to originate in the rugged Sfakia region of that ancient island. Nobody knew if Kiriglou was associated with one of the wholesome Orthodox churches frequented by the local Hellenic community, or was some sort of heretic or ascetic. What happened to him, and what he was doing with that charm, is just another Astoria story.

Ever hear the one about the child molester who lived in the Queens side tower of the Hell Gate Bridge, behind that iron door found under the dedication plaque?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the mists were beginning to precipitate, a humble narrator decided that it was time to begin the journey back to HQ. Before long, a driving rain set up, and one arrived in the Broadway area just in time to avoid a drenching.

Just out of curiosity, have any of you out there got an Astoria Story you’d like to share? Haunted house, lizard man, next door neighbor chanting at the moon on Hallomass? Kids playing bad music loudly? I want to hear it.


“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

March 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

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