The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Astoria

likewise almost

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A quick stroll through Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A statement offered by older New Yorkers which has always driven a humble narrator absolutely nuts is “It was different back then, you could leave your door unlocked and not have to worry.” Beyond the logical fallacy of having a door that locks and not securing it, I always inquire to the utterer what their calendrical age is and what – precisely – era they’re referring to as “back then.” When my parents used to say it, they were talking about the Great Depression and WW2 era. Somebody who’s about 70 said it to me the other night, and the era they were referring to was the 1970’s and 80’s.

Bull hockey. Nobody in 1970’s or 80’s New York City left their door unlocked. That’s when people were installing iron bars over their windows, entry doors gained steel plating, and junkies owned the streets. That’s when parked cars had signs in them saying “no radio” in an attempt to forestall windows getting smashed, and you were constantly looking over your shoulder. There were also vicious packs of roving feral dogs, which sounds like something I’m making up, but there were.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My particular style of accoutrement evolved during this time. “Look like you haven’t got two pennies to rub together,” “keep your wallet and money in separate pockets,” “keep moving.” The whole punk rock esthetic which a lot of shops will sell you this days at a significant markup evolved out of simple economics and practicality. “Army and Navy” stores were everywhere and you could get a flannel shirt for pennies as they were stylistically out of step with the polyester and shoulder pads crowd. Combat boots were a logical prophylactic, given that the entire city was covered in shattered bottle glass prior to the days of deposit and return recycling. Home sweet hell, that’s what I used to call it. Everybody carried a blade, but the City offered so many opportunities for ad hoc improvisation when it came to self defense they were seldom brandished. Metal garbage can lids were really, really versatile.

It bugs me, when I’m talking to people who weren’t there, that pine for those days. The reason that the rent was low was that no one wanted to live on the lower east side or Soho unless they had to. Also, rent as a percentage of income is critical. You may have been able to find a huge flat in some tenement for “only” $500 a month, but in the 1980’s minimum wage was $3.35 an hour.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The aphorism of “you could leave your doors unlocked” was always sort of tinged with racism, as well, at least to my ears. As offered, it pined for an early age when “the neighborhood” was composed of monolithic ethnic blocs – Greek, Italian, Jewish – whatever. The presumption of the statement was that since “redlining” had been abolished, which was a real estate industrial complex/government segregationist policy that resulted in those ethnic blocs by saying that “blacks live here” and “jews live there,” you knew and would interact with neighbors whom you could trust. High levels of street crime and the culture of that era which saw families curl up in front of the television put an end to that.

Bah. I hate false mythologies. I also hate it when somebody just twenty years older than me begins referring to the absolute low point of 20th century NYC as something wonderful. It sucked back then. NYC sucks now, but for different reasons. Read Jakob Riis and you’ll learn how it sucked in the 19th century.

Lock your doors.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 18, 2019 at 12:31 pm

disordered condition

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Don’t like it, but I have to leave Queens occasionally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had to go into the City to visit the accountant the other day, one of the few ties I still have to my old neighborhood in Manhattan. For over a decade a humble narrator was centered in a small apartment with very cheap rent on the corner of West 100th street and Broadway, a white walled box which served my needs when I was working as a corporate drone in the advertising salt mines. NYC was just getting started on its current vector back then, when a series of NBC sitcoms presented Manhattan as a viable or desirable option for midwesterners to consider. Come to the City, where you’ll have “Friends” and meet quirky characters like “Kramer” or get lucky and have some “Sex in the City.” I blame “Seinfeld” for kicking off this whole gentrification business.

I’ve always been fascinated by media portrayals of New York City, and the pop cultural interpretations thereof. Beginning in the 1960’s, Hollywood began telling you that this was a place you didn’t want to be. Fun City indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A mostly forgotten but well done Police procedural series offered in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was called “Naked City.” It’s tag line was “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Heavy handed on the social justice storylines, Naked City nevertheless is the prototype for later procedurals like “Law and Order” and like that long running production, was shot on location all over NYC. If you can find it, check out a few episodes and pay attention to the background landscape details. Shot during the era of urban renewal and slum clearance, Robert Moses’s various initiatives can be seen in the backgrounds, with the foreground filled by soon to famous actors playing their first major roles. There’s one with Al Pacino in it, who’s climax occurs with the raw steel of the United Nations building visible in Manhattan’s former “Blood Alley” section.

Fascinating window into the past, televised fiction can be. At the rate which NYC constantly demolishes and rebuilds itself, you have to take anything you can get in terms of what once was, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My beloved Creek is picture above, from the pigeon poop encrusted stairways of the Pulaski Bridge in LIC. Speaking of “demolishing and rebuilding itself,” let’s just say that I have seen the plans for what’s coming next, and that the area between LIC’s 2nd Street and the Pulaski/Borden Avenue and Newtown Creek (including the LIRR station) is – indeed – next. You’ll hear about it soon, I believe.

Get your pics now, lords and ladies. Tick tock.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 17, 2019 at 1:30 pm

ancient morbidities

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Scuttling, always scuttling…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s been so weird being out and about during the daylight hours, I tell ya. After several months of being absolutely nocturnal, my recent switchover to a diurnal existence has really been messing with my head. People? Freaking people? Gah.

What can I tell you, a humble narrator has always “done what you’ve got to do” and right now that involves early to bed and early to rise. I have no illusions about healthy, wealthy, and I’ve long ago stopped kidding myself about wise. Unfortunately, most of the stuff I’ve had to do in the last couple of weeks hasn’t been particularly interesting from a visual perspective, unless you’d find groups of people in a room talking about ultra mundane existential issues affecting Western Queens and Newtown Creek interesting. Luckily, a break from that sort of activity is upon me, and next week looks like it might end up being a good one for some adventure and what I would consider excitement.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a used car lot of couple of blocks from my house whose fencelines are suffused with street facing banners and flags. The fence is also topped off with rolls of razor wire, which is how the flag above, like all of its fellows, has ended up in the condition they’re in. There’s a visual metaphor at work here, something about how paranoia about security tends to literally shred the American flag, but I’m not smart enough to phrase it properly. Also, the fetishization of the flag by corporate America should be commented upon as well, but there you are.

Shame, that, but it makes for a nice photo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been experiencing something not unlike jet lag during this transition from nocturnal to diurnal living, which renders my experiences in a dream like manner. It’s also been difficult to form “granular” memories for the last week or so. I can tell you where I was and who I talked to, but what was said and done is more of a general impression than the highly specific dramaturge I can usually offer.

Long story short – dedicated bus lanes shared by bikes, vocational scholarships, green and solar roof tax incentives for industrial businesses, gray water harvesting in parks, commercial storefront composting programs, etc.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

appropriated identity

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Still way behind on schedule. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure if I’ve shown y’all the one above before, but it’s all I’ve got for today. Bunch of birds chilling on the remains of an old radio transmitter pier nearby the Astoria Houses. My understanding is that the pier won’t be long for this world, as there’s a boat house that will be built in its stead. 

I’m going to be conducting a free walk in LIC on the 30th of March, this Saturday afternoon. The Sunnyside Yards project has roared back to life in the aftermath of the Amazon debacle, and since the Manhattan people are going to all sorts of effort to get this thing done… Click here for details on the “Skillman Corridor” walk.


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 29, 2019 at 1:00 pm

apparent bit

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Astoria odds and ends, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m fascinated by illegal dumping, as you may have noticed over the years. The bucket above was abandoned in front of the post office on Broadway here in Astoria, where it persisted as street furniture for a good couple of weeks. Given my acquired obsession with trash and litter, which I acquired due to my obsession with Newtown Creek, noticing this sort of thing has become an obsession in itself. Saying that, we really have to start some sort of public service announcement campaign on the subject of litter. NYC is a mess these days, and on windy or stormy days there’s a tsunami wave of trash heading toward the sewers.

Is it so hard to just hang onto your waste products for the block or two it would take to encounter a bin? Sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is technically not Astoria, it’s actually Sunnsyide, but I just can’t resist peeling paint. It reminds me of my own physical dissolution and decay, I guess, and like is attracted to like.

You’d think that were you spending the money associated with the largest capital project in the United States, and had been involved with adding an additional trackway for a Federal railroad right of way over a decades long period, that you’d have figured in or budgeted for sprucing up the underpass with a paint job, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just like the MTA, one continues to struggle in the direction of getting back on and maintaining his schedule. I’m fairly nocturnal these days (or nights), and the daily post keep son sneaking up on me. I’m about to transition back to normal, as tour season and summertime obligation are nearly arrived.

I’m going to be conducting a free walk in LIC on the 30th of March, this Saturday afternoon. The Sunnyside Yards project has roared back to life in the aftermath of the Amazon debacle, and since the Manhattan people are going to all sorts of effort to get this thing done… Click here for details on the “Skillman Corridor” walk.


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 26, 2019 at 3:08 pm

mere nerves

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One in the chamber, safety off, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

How I love watching the humans dance. The jockeying for position, the desire to be recognized and loved by their “betters”… their sincere belief that you can reason with the unreasonable and make lemonade when life gives you lemons. Trying to make the best of a bad situation? Seeking to find common ground with somebody who wants to kill or replace you? Is the knife at your throat clean at least?

Maybe there’s still too much Brooklyn in me, but when someone tries to hurt me I hurt them first, and in a way that they will remember. Maybe there’s too much inheritance in me from the side of my family descended from the Jews of Russia, but when the Cossacks arrive you can either make them disappear and send riderless horses back to the barracks or they will make you disappear. They were sent to harm you, and no amount of talking to the Cossacks will bring them over to your side. They will cut your head off and play polo with it in the village square, then rape your mother. You mean nothing to Cossacks, employed as they are by a foreign despot, and they will make a game out of destroying you and yours for their own advantage in the eyes of their god king.

When the Cossacks come and announce they want to deck over the Sunnyside Yards, you fight them. End of parable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is continually dismayed by those who dismiss the memories of the last hundred encounters with the Cossacks, thinking that since there’s a new Tsar on the throne that this time things will go differently. Mounted Calvary soldiers sent by a despotic regime to visit distant peasant villages seldom arrive bearing either gifts or good news. Neither do real estate industrial complex employed governmental development teams have the best interests of long established communities in mind when they announce the desire to construct mega projects.

As a note, the Sunnyside Yards people have been walking this project around in Manhattan. A group of architecture students I met, who were taking a theoretical stab at the project, included a kid from China who commented to me that “this project would be so easy to do in Beijing, since you wouldn’t have to worry about community sentiment or input.”

Cossacks. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have you noticed how much the city planners seem to hate cities?

They abhor the chaos, the organic growth, the unpredictability of it all. They want to create shopping mall corridors instead of streets, lined with neat panes of glass. They are Cossacks, who pine for depostism.


“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 5, 2019 at 2:30 pm

alienists were

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Dag, I really got my $2.75 worth out of this ferry ride, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing my maiden voyage on the NYC Ferry’s new Soundview route, the boat left its (Manhattan) East 90th street dock and proceeded towards Hells Gate. This is a spot I often visit, but always from the landward side in Queens. Living in Astoria, a frequent destination when I’m out for a constitutional walk is Shore Road, which adjoins Astoria Park and provides commanding views of two bridges which I’m rather enamored with – the Triborough and Hell Gate. The former is just one part of a complex of automotive bridges built under the guidance of Robert Moses which opened in 1936. The latter is a rail bridge (OK, technically it’s a complex of bridges too) which opened in 1917, designed by Hornbostel and Lindenthal, and constructed by Carnegie’s American Bridge Company for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Hells Gate is formerly the most treacherous section of the East River, due to whirlpools and strong currents which wrecked hundreds of ships during colonial and early republic times. Its name is an anglicization of the old Dutch “Hellegaat” which refers to “a bright passage.” The hazardous conditions in this section of the East River were caused by the topography of the riverbed beneath the water, a situation which was dealt with by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in several stages during the 19th century. The USACE efforts culminated with an 1885 detonation of mined explosives that broke up the riverbed, an explosion which was the largest intentional detonation in all of human history until the Hiroshima atomic bombing in 1945 (debate about certain WW1 military actions does exist on this topic, btw.)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the Ferry moved northward towards its destination at the northern side of the Bowery Bay section of the river, we passed by the “Astoria Energy” power plant located on the forbidden northern shore of Queens. That nomen is one of my own little inventions, indicating the frustration a humble narrator often expresses when discussing the coastlines of the Borough. There’s a solid wall of “not allowed” secure sites along the shoreline, which is ultimately prosaic and appropriate, but still frustrating. You’ve got the power plant, then a sewer plant, then Rikers Island, and then LaGuardia Airport. The first time you might be able to get close enough to even see the water is at Flushing Bay.

Fingers crossed for an East Elmhurst or Flushing Ferry line, anyone?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve seen this POV a few times over the years, but it’s still pretty uncommon for me. That’s Randalls/Wards Island on the right, which used to be seperate islands until Mr. Moses made them one landmass as part of the Triborough project. Hells Gate and Triborough’s East River span are at center, and the former Politti Power Plant (which the Astoria Energy outfit now uses as its campus) are on the left.

More tomorrow, at your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 27, 2019 at 2:00 pm

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