The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Astoria

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It’s National Escargot Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is fairly crispy around the edges, and in a state best described as “too little butter scraped over too much bread.” The ridiculous schedule I’ve been keeping throughout the months of April and May is beginning to wear me down a bit, and I’ve got literally thousands of photos to process and deliver to various entities. Busy is good, admittedly, but “man alive” do I need a day or two off.

Pictured above is one of the Cormorant breeding/habitat stands which are observable beneath the Bayonne Bridge, at the intersection of the Kill Van Kull and Newark Bay

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, it’s the dog who suffers. Poor Zuzu the dog didn’t get out for her slow motion walk last night until after midnight. She’s a bit pissed off at me, my dog. Saying that, she was quite engaged with the late night sniffing, probably because every other dog in the neighborhood had already taken care of business and every tree pit was redolent with their scents and “pee mail.”

Pictured above, the spring blossoms of a tree you might observe on the corner of 45th street and 34th avenue in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s entirely likely that, as we descend into the madness of a holiday weekend, you’re going to be greeted with single image posts tomorrow, Friday, and Monday, so apologies are offered. My services have been engaged by one of the local newspapers to photograph the Maspeth Memorial Day parade on Sunday, incidentally, so if you’re there and you see some weird looking old guy with a camera and a Newtown Creek Alliance hat, say hi.

Pictured above, a double entendre laden bit of signage from Third Avenue in Manhattan. If you don’t know the street slang meaning of “Toss my salad” I’d suggest you google it, as this is a family blog.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm

thermal valence

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It’s National Vanilla Pudding Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had a just few available minutes last week for perambulation, which I decided to spend wandering around Astoria. It has been a rather busy period for me, with lots and lots of events which saw me either standing in front of cameras instead of behind them (where I belong), or in meetings discussing sobering issues related to either Newtown Creek or the increasingly dire transit situation here in Western Queens. Looming infrastructure crisis notwithstanding, the interests of the real estate industry continue to dominate discourse hereabouts, as you may discern from the shot above.

This is the scene as witnessed across the street from Hallets Cove, where Astoria itself was created – in the dim colonial era past – and where a new series of residential towers will soon rise, thanks to the provocation of a group of politically relevant Manhattan based investors who have decided to tie napkins around their necks and feast at the trough. This is somehow apropo, as the name of “Astoria” was conceived in an vainglorious attempt to garner the favor and investment of Mr. John Jacob Astor – who was himself an 18th century real estate tycoon. Some things never change.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dead things abound in the Newtown Pentacle, skeletonized and worm infested. Metaphorical totems of the community members who can afford housing hereabouts whom are being displaced in the name of creating affordable housing, that’s my high brow and faux intellectual comment on these omnipresent corpses. Of course, who needs to listen to some shmuck with a camera’s opinions about a dead pigeon when there’s money to be made.

The question I always ask the planners, engineers, and developers when they wheel out their grand plans and PowerPoint presentations to Queens, in order to hash off a check box requiring a community presentation is “Where do you live?”. All they know of us, our community, and the local situation is what they know from maps that are spread out on the varnished cabinetry tabletops which are found in the air conditioned offices of lower Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having worked in advertising for many years, one can tell you that there’s certain lines of “copy” which I’ve dreamt of setting. “Please Do Not Climb on the Goats” is one of those lines, and this bit of hilarious signage was observed at the Socrates Sculpture Garden Park on Vernon Blvd. nearby its intersection with Broadway.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 7 p.m.

An hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 22, 2017 at 11:40 am

needling comments

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It’s National Chocolate Chip Day, in these United States.  

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s never quiet, here in the western Queens neighborhood of Astoria. I’ve found myself referring to the sudden explosions of noise and activity simply as “Astoria Hullabaloos.” Ever the curious type, one has inquired into the scholastic hive mind and it seems that the word “hullabaloo” was first noticed by the Oxford English Dictionary back in 1762. It is defined by the aforementioned authority as an uproar or a fuss, and the general consensus amongst linguists is that the British picked it up during their adventures on the Indian subcontinent during that era. The Indian root word would be “Hullabol” which refers to a particularly ecstatic civic demonstration. The “Hulla” part is thought to come from Persian and Urdu, while the “Bol” is thought to emanate from Hindi. 

See, you learn something new everyday, at this – your Newtown Pentacle. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular hullabaloo pictured in today’s post seemed to be electrical in nature, with a crew of laborers firstly closing a curbside lane along the north side of Astoria’s Broadway, and then tearing open the street. The effect on traffic was immediate, and the ripple effect transmitted up and down Broadway for several blocks in both directions. Both the stout Croats, and strong backed Spaniards, stuck in this traffic situation loudly signaled their disapproval with a steady cacophony of automotive horn bleats.

One does not understand the “standing on your horn” thing. A “toot” or a “beepity beep beep” yes, but “wharrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn?” Seriously? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is often the nature of efforts such as this, whatever mystery these construction fellows were sent to accomplish was wrapped up by about four in the afternoon, and the next morning another crew arrived who filled in the excavation and applied a fresh layer of asphalt to the road. The everpresent Burrachos drunkenly returned to their perches atop residential stoop and commercial step, indolent adolescent groups began to prowl about again, and the normal pattern of life here in Western Queens returned. The car horn honking continued on, however, unabated – which is as mentioned – normal for these parts. 

That’s the great thing about a hullabaloo, it seldom lasts more than a day, here amongst the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 15, 2017 at 11:00 am

short pursuit

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It’s National Shrimp Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Zuzu the dog is pictured above, and she has been growing ever more “crotchety” as she’s grown older. She does not like it when one leaves her alone in the house, no matter the cause. Notice the amount of smoke she’s blowing at me there, and she was giving me the side or horse eye while I was calling her inside from her perch on the porch. I had to go, as there was some business I needed to attend to during the evening over in LIC, and I also wanted to get some shooting time in as well. Zuzu, however, was having none of that.

Promising her that we would go for a walk when I got back home, she nevertheless angrily slunk past me, and then dove right into the bath tub. This is how she signals her displeasure, my dog. She has become a canine Jewish mother, my dog.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path carried me first through the Dutch Kills neighborhood and into Queens Plaza, which is in the middle of a dystopian construction boom, on my way to Hunters Point. Nightmares in sapphire glass, these titan things just keep on going up. The real estate shit flies may have stolen the sky, but at least we can still see the reflections of it in the mirror facades of the residential slabs they’ve thrown at it. They don’t need to build supermarkets or anything like that around here, since FreshDirect is nearby, found along the Newtown Creek.

Soon, every midwestern trustfundafarian’s dream of living on the site of a former chemical factory in Queens Plaza can be realized. Progress is achieved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was walking down 29th st. in Dutch Kills, this interesting bit of street furniture was observed. It was right in front of the Flux Factory, so it’s entirely possible that this was “art.” Saying that, in my experience, when you leave a toilet on the street, somebody will use it for the purpose it intended for whether or not it’s hooked up to plumbing.

Also – gentlemen, please remember to leave the seat down for the ladies.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

revenue sloop

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It’s National Coconut Cream Pie day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a story about yet another Astoria Hullabaloo, this one involving the NYC DEP. Back in the third week of March, whilst walking Zuzu the dog along her normal sniffing route, one noticed liquid bubbling up out of a manhole – or access cover – on 44th street midway between Broadway and 34th Avenue here in Astoria. Back then, it was a slow flowing trickle of water – maybe five gallons an hour.

A week later, on the 29th of March I had the dog out again for her outing, after noticing that the flow of water had increased significantly, I finally shrugged my shoulders and accepted the fact that since no one else was going to do anything about this situation before the street exploded in a geyser – I called 311 and reported the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first week of April arrived and after querying the neighbors about whether or not anyone had shown up to investigate, one was not surprised that – in fact – no one from the NYC DEP had shown up at all. Don’t forget that the borough motto is “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.”

If it’s water related, DEP is the agency that handles investigation and repair, in terms of the City process. Procedurally – if it’s their pipe, they send out a city crew or contractor to fix it, if not – they figure out whose pipe it is and write an order for the property owner. This is pretty straight forward. Ultimately, you don’t fool around with any of the four primal elements, whether it be fire, water, air, or stone.

The first week of April is when I called Councilmember Van Bramer’s office and apprised his staff of the situation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DEP said that “they were aware of the leak and keeping an eye on it.” By the second week of April, the water flowing down 44th street had gained in volume and flow, and was fast becoming a stream. Wind blown trash began to catch in the curbside puddles and rivulets, and was being carried towards the corner of Broadway by the water.

There it was carried into the catch basin and into the sewer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other access covers along the path of the water, like this electrical one, were inundated and in some cases completely underwater. During the second week of April, I called Councimember Van Bramer’s office again to inquire if they had heard any news about the leak. They were under the impression that DEP was working on it.

Note – The NY&QEL&PCo screed on the hatch cover stands for “New York and Queens Electric Light and Power Company” (incorporated 1901, absorbed by Edison in 1913), which is one of the 170 smaller gas and electric corporations that were “consolidated” into the CONED conglomerate during the 20th century.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While all of this back and forth was going on, the leak grew larger and larger.

A now constant flow of water, roughly equivalent to letting a garden hose endlessly empty into the street, was moving north on 44th street from the bubbling manhole cover at mid block. At this point, I had made contact with someone I know at DEP and made the upper management of the agency aware of the situation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a fairly modern Consolidated Edison transformer pit access cover in the shot above, which was under a couple of inches of flowing water for most of the month of April. Remember last summer, when I told you about the transformer explosion and fire on my corner? If you’re asking yourself “why does he care about this stuff,” that’s why.

The first week of May is when I hit my breaking point with this situation, as I watched my friends who run the bodega across the street from HQ get a ticket from a Sanitation Cop, who was fining them for the water swept garbage that this flowing stream continuously transported in front of their shop and into the sewer catch basin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the second week of April, some of the neighborhood fellas on the block had put out chairs and set up a hookah, saying that they had decided to sit by the water.

That’s the source of the leak, another NY&QEL&PCo access cover found mid block on 44th street, in a photo shot on May 2nd.

It had been bubbling like this for about five weeks at this point and the flow was still increasing daily. I called Councilmember Van Bramer’s office again, his staff was frankly stunned that the situation was still ongoing, and I also informed them of the unfairness of the ticket received by my buddies at the bodega.

Team JVB jumped into serious action at this point. Seriously, when it comes to quality of life issues, Team JVB is best of breed and sets a standard which the rest of the City should be envious of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I specifically asked them to conspicuously use my name with DEP, and to say “yes, that Mitch Waxman, the one from Newtown Creek.” Now to be clear, Councilmember Van Bramer certainly does not need any help in being taken seriously, but when the subject of the DEP comes up… I’m sort of the fly in their ointment, along the Newtown Creek, and there’s precious few of the “bigwigs” who haven’t suffered my wrath… so I knew that when the Commissioner’s office saw my name attached…

I don’t play nice with people who lie to me on a regular basis. They know I can be mean spirited, routinely ask pointed questions, and will not just accept their pronouncements at face value.

water main

video by Mitch Waxman

An atypical video (for Newtown Pentacle) is offered above, depicting the bubbling water sometime around the end of April.

On Friday, May 5th, DEP investigators finally responded to the gathering storm and determined that the leak was not coming from a city owned pipe, rather it was a residential connection that was leaking due to a tree root infiltrating it. The home owner who owns the pipe is now on the hook for not just the repairs, but also paying for the thousands of gallons of water which were released (last I checked, that’s $1.36 per 100 gallons). An uncalculable amount of garbage and street trash was also swept into the sewer system. The bodega guys are appealing the sanitation ticket. Team Van Bramer could have been spending their time on more useful things. I had other things to do as well.

Perhaps, just perhaps, if the DEP had inspected and assessed the situation back in March in response to the initial 311 call – this whole chain of events could have been avoided.

Just another Astoria Hullabaloo, I guess.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 8, 2017 at 11:00 am

suitable pressure

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It’s National Garlic Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been “behind the eight ball” of late, as far as getting things done. There’s so much to do and see in Queens, but lately I can’t seem to climb outside the box of obligation which I’ve built for myself. Something as myopic as that previous sentence will sound hilarious to my friends with kids, of course. The truth is that I just can’t seem to get on top of my various deadlines for some reason, and this unpredictable weather pattern we’re in at the moment is “harshing my buzz.”

As a note, there’s a new event that just popped up on the “upcoming tours and events” section today, an event with Access Queens which will be celebrating the centennial of the opening of the “7’s 11” or Corona Extension in 1917. Come with?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor saw Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary at a rooftop bar and restaurant here in Astoria, and when the sun began to set – the ancient village was cast in a beautiful sculptural light. Long suffering, Our Lady knows that when my head starts twisting around at such moments, and I start fiddling with the controls on the camera, that I need to crack out some shots.

Pictured above is the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridges, as seen from high over Steinway Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On “Astoria Business” notation – I spotted this adorable bit of signage one night while walking my little dog Zuzu. I wish it hadn’t been screwed into the street tree, but there you go. That water main leak I mentioned the other day continues to magnify, despite my urgent warnings to the government officialdom who oversee such things. Accordingly, I’m spending today filling up sandbags and shoring up the levie here at HQ.


Upcoming Tours and events

7 Line Centennial Ride, April 21st.

With Access Queens and NYC Transit Museum, Free event, except for subway fare – details here.

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 19, 2017 at 11:30 am

hushed conversation

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It’s National Cheeseball Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lots of odds and ends today. A supposition which opines that I live on the most exciting corner in Astoria continues to play out, as evinced by a deployment of the ever reliable FDNY the other night. It seems that one of the neighbors discerned the olfactory evidence of combustion emerging from a storefront occupied by the local bagel shepherds, which was a report which the FDNY responded to with a fairly large deployment. The fellows on the big red trucks soon determined that this was a false alarm, and it all ended up being just another Astoria hullabaloo. 

My suspicions that I live on the most interesting corner in Astoria will soon bear a different kind of fruit, however, as the trickle of water which I reported to 311 as bubbling out of a manhole cover on the next block – about two weeks ago – has now grown into a small flowing stream. Never quiet – here in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hypothetically – due to having had to sign a non disclosure agreement with the State of New York today, one cannot tell you where I am this morning or what I am doing. I am precluded from sharing photographs or discussing my visit to some mysterious location where my camera has been brought to today until some indeterminate time in the future when the embargo on such collected material has been rescinded by NYS officials. There are no specific penalties described for violating this embargo (which is odd), nor was it originally offered with an “expiry” date, which is fairly standard for such situations (an open ended NDA contract for such matters isn’t strictly “kosher” legally, anyway, and there’s also that whole first amendment thing which NYS doesn’t get to suspend). Saying that, a humble narrator made a big stink about the imposition of an open ended image embargo with certain hypothetical people whose offices would be found in some theoretical minor City – which would be found around two hundred miles to the north of the de facto Capitol of New York State at the other end of the Hudson River – and eventually I will be able to describe in some excruciating detail where I went this morning and what I saw at some later date whenever they decide it’s no longer a state secret. 

The photo of the two Kosciuszcko Bridges seen above is merely a decorative addition to this post – filler, if you will – and does not in any way indicate where I am, or what I may be walking upon or over as you’re reading this. The shot was gathered a week ago in Greenpoint, on April 9th, for the legally minded and prosecutorially inclined amongst you. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the bagel shop which drew the attentions of the FDNY to Astoria one recent night, while waiting for the bagel shepherds to construct a sandwich for me one recent afternoon, one was standing outside in the rain and glowering at passerby when I noticed these two pigeons working a flooded tree pit for bits of food and drinking from the puddles. Our normal flock of pigeons, who live in Astoria in fairly considerable numbers, have lately been harassed by a sudden explosion of super aggressive sparrows. This flock of avian bullies has been chasing the pigeons about, and driving them from their ledges. The Sparrows, on the other hand, have recently begun to be harassed by a bunch of Ravens. The multitudinous Sparrows will be loudly chirping when a single “caw” is sounded, which shuts them all up. Down below, the street cats watch, and wait. Luckily, after the bagel shepherds completed the construction of my sandwich, I was able to remove myself from this internecine urban warfare and return to the tranquil safety of HQ where my little dog Zuzu polices the behavior and habits of all the lower life forms. 

Gang warfare, of the feathered variety, affects us all. It’s best to have an elderly dog around to keep things straight.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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