The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Astoria

frightened them

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The Queens Cobbler survived the cold, and Liberty walks the streets of Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been spotting evidence, once again, that the Queens Cobbler is active and amongst us. A likely serial killer who leaves behind a single shoe as a taunt to both community and law enforcement, the Cobbler has been a subject mentioned so many times at this – your Newtown Pentacle – that the monster has actually tracked me down and left one of his ghoulish trophies on the ornamental fence surrounding Newtown Pentacle HQ last Christmas. One refuses to be cowed.

The boot above was spotted recently on Northern Blvd. nearby 39th avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in the still industrial section of Long Island City, not too far from Van Dam Street, the shoe above was noticed while a humble narrator was scuttling past. It is my belief that someday will a commercial self storage room, or an untenanted storeroom in some old factory, be opened and within will be hundreds and hundreds of single shoes – the mates to the ones which have been documented at this publication over the years. I believe the Cobbler keeps on of their victim’s shoes as a trophy, and discards the other as a taunt.

One would be hard pressed to describe the particular footwear of a missing loved one to the Police, I admit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a completely different note, this fellow has been wandering up and down Broadway here in Astoria throughout tax preparation season. He’s apparently employed by a local shop, whose corporate branding revolves around the Statue of Liberty, that handles financial matters to act as a living signboard and busker to drive potential customers to their door.

I’ve enjoyed a brief conversation with the gentleman, who attests that the costume is actually quite warm and comfortable, which he’s been glad of given the recent cold snap. Everybody has to make a living, I guess.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm

muffled oaths

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More Astoria night time action, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An expressway “cloverleaf exchange” between the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, the Grand Central Parkway, and the local street grid is found on Astoria Blvd. in the high 40’s and 50’s blocks A small industrial zone exists thereabouts, which is quite a busy place during working hours. At night, it’s a ghost town inhabited by rats, cats, and me.

Also, the one guy on a delivery bike who rode through the shot while the shutter was open.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I find these kinds of structures fascinating, there’s something about the curving steel and concrete which are lit by harsh sodium fixtures which I just can’t get enough of. The cool coloration of the City’s new LED street lamps provide for a very interesting color contrast, to my eye.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A point of pride for me is knowing where to find hidden byways like the stairs pictured above, which carry you over and through the tangle of high speed roads from one sidewalk plateau to another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Said plateau is pictured in full above, roughly a full story of elevation from one level to the next.

As a kid growing up in south east Brooklyn, it was critical to know about places like this when fleeing random dangers or avoiding the attentions of law enforcement. My little group of idiots favored the usage of back yards and the jumping of divider fences, or just running across the roofs of connected homes and garages.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As an addendum to a recent conversation I had on social media with a bicycle enthusiast, who was aghast at my assertion that bike lanes in Astoria are superfluous as bike riders use every paved surface available to them, the red light trail over the sidewalk comes from the tail light of an electric bike which zipped past me at speed on the sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks down on the street where the first shot was captured. That’s the Brooklyn Queens Expressway running in the trench.

Robert Moses was entirely specific when assigning nomenclature to his roads, and it all depended on where he was getting to the money from to build them. Parkways have planted dividers and shoulders – built with “parks” money. Expressways have more exits feeding into local streets than Highways – or High Speed Ways – do. Thruways have even fewer exits, which can be 5-10 miles away from each other. The latter three were generally built with slum clearance or urban renewal funds. There was a method to that man’s madness, I tell you.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?
Tickets and more details here.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 6, 2018 at 11:00 am

being wakeful

with 2 comments

At Astoria’s edge, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday last, a humble narrator checked the weather forecast and realized quickly that this was likely going to be a fairly ghastly week as far as weather goes, and so packed up the night kit for an evening walk. My destination was not too far from HQ, a pedestrian bridge over the Grand Central Parkway which also overlooks St. Michael’s cemetery.

The shot above looks eastwards from the pedestrian bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the pedestrian bridge pictured above. While I was shooting this, a bus discharged one of the families staying at the Westway Hotel homeless shelter on the other side of the parkway. They had a kid who couldn’t have been more than five who was absolutely fascinated by what I was doing, although mom and dad couldn’t have cared less that their kid was talking to strangers. Nice kid, I have to say, and I felt bad for him that his family was in the circumstance that they’re in. At least they landed in a shelter based in a neighborhood that has supermarkets and small businesses to find work in, unlike Blissville.

I wished them a happy Easter and got back to my business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As per usual, I was wearing the high visibility vest, before you ask.

There’s a sidewalk along the local access road alongside the highway (looking westwards above) which is scary as hell to walk down. The crash barriers stop on the other side of St. Michael’s driveway, and then you’re walking down an increasingly narrow sidewalk which in some places is no more than two feet in depth while traffic shoots right past you at speed. I did actually walk it the other night, which in retrospect was kind of a stupid move.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down on cemetery property, lit by street lamps and passing vehicle lights.

The last time I took a shot from this location, probably about five years ago, that grave with the disturbing subsidence and the two safety cones was in precisely the same condition as it is today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of a longer shot looking south across a row of mausoleums at St. Michael’s. There’s a famous 20th century Mafia Don buried in one of those marble temples, as a note. The actual inspiration for “the Godfather” Vito Corleone, Frank Costello. In 1974, a rival named Carmine Gallante was alleged to have to have detonated explosives at Costello’s grave to settle an old score and announce his return to “the syndicate” after a long jail sentence.

Of course, there’s no such thing as the Mafia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking back towards the Grand Central, eastwards towards the East Elmhurst neighborhood.

The Grand Central is one of the arterial roads built by Robert Moses back in the 1930’s to guarantee high volume usage of the Triborough Bridge’s toll plazas. His engineers carved a trench through Astoria to carry the Grand Central, forever dividing the community into the Ditmars side on the north, and the Broadway side to the south.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?
Tickets and more details here.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 5, 2018 at 11:00 am

induced hypoplasia

with 4 comments

Odds and ends, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, when one refers to “street furniture,” the term applies to lamp posts, fire hydrants, benches, or any of the other bolted to the sidewalk bits of kit that the City of Greater New York installs here and there. In Western Queens, and especially in any of the neighborhoods which were once part of the independent municipality called “Long Island City,” street furniture is a cast off chair or couch which has been abandoned on the curb. The one above has been resident at the corner of Steinway Street and “terty fourt avensues” for a while now.

As a note, I have a personal preference for fabric covered furniture rather than items which are clad in plastics or animal skins. During the summer months, you end up “sticking” to them and getting up from such an accoutrement can be quite uncomfortable. For any of you reading this who have been planning on buying a living room set, my advice has been offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Sunnyside Yards scene above was captured from the vantage offered by one of the many, many fence holes which one such as myself maintains a catalog of. This is late in the afternoon, when a significant number of train sets are being stored at the coach yard. New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and the Long Island Railroad store rolling stock here in LIC in between the rush hours. When the “busy time” arrives, these train sets will begin to either start rolling through the tunnels to Manhattan or head eastwards towards Woodside and Jamaica to fulfill their purpose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It laughs at us, the thing which dwells in the cupola of the sapphire megalith of Long Island City. Looking down at the pedantic world of men through its three lobed burning eye, this inhuman thing which does not breathe nor sleep but instead only hungers has been hanging in the sky above LIC since 1992, when this great dagger was driven into the heart of Queens.

As above, so below. Rumor has it that some fifty stories below the poison mud and concrete devastations of Long Island City is where you’ll find the actual forges and fiery engines of gentrification, stoked and tended to by this impossible entity’s armies of acolytes.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

 

small pit

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I don’t actually do that much shooting in Astoria, for some reason.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning home to my section of Astoria (Broadway in the 40’s) on the southern extant of the neighborhood is easily accomplished. Steinway Street allows for a quick walk, although I could have easily hopped on the Q101 bus and gotten to HQ even quicker. Saying that, it’s only about ten fairly long blocks from 19th Avenue to Broadway, so why not walk?

Not going to see anything interesting from a vehicle, and I won’t be getting any photos if I’m on the bus, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The northern end of Steinway Street is exactly the sort of desolate industrial zone which I normally inhabit. You’ll notice the RV and the sleeper van on the corner of 19th avenue, I imagine. In recent years, more and more of these sorts of vehicles have been turning up in my shots. The sleeper van actually had a generator on a hitch which was running. There’s folks living in them.

I know someone who lives in an RV which you might notice around the Newtown Creek. This person is saving for retirement by not paying rent, despite enjoying a high paying Union job at a major utility company. Not bad, as that’s some gordian knot style lateral thinking right there. Somewhat illegal, of course, but let’s face it – things are illegal in NYC only if there a cop around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Residential Astoria is not my “cup of tea” to photograph, but I decided to break my rules for once and did a few tripod setups on my way home. In general, I don’t wave the camera around at residences unless they are something extraordinary or there’s some historical tale that revolves around the building.

Also, it makes the neighbors antsy and the last thing I want is to have to talk to anyone while I’m focused on shooting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Astoria Blvd., and the gateway to “Little Egypt.” The area is so called because of the huge concentration of middle eastern restaurants, peoples, and a large Mosque which can be found just south of the corner.

The shot is captured from one of vehicle/pedestrian bridges which spans the Grand Central Parkway which Robert Moses jammed through Astoria “back in the day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Grand Central feeds to and from the Triborough Bridge in a trench which Moses’s engineers cut into Astoria, forever severing the north and south sides of the neighborhood. Lifers in the neighborhood will refer to the area north of the highway as “y’know, Ditmars” or “Astoria, Astoria Bro.” To the south, they’d say “tertieth avensues” or “Broadway” to describe the zone your domicile is found in. There is some debate about “terty fourt avensues” being Long Island City or Astoria , a status which might be debated fiercely by Mumbly Joe, Mattie the vampire, or Glazier Chris at the local saloon.

I prefer the neat borders offered by Woodside Avenue to the east, and Northern Blvd. to the south to define this particular edge of the neighborhood. Things get a bit wiggly along the border with the Dutch Kills section of LIC, but it’s generally agreed that their border with Astoria is defined by Crescent Street and 36th avenue. Don’t dare mention Ravenswood to Mumbly Joe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal, Greenpoint historian Geoff Cobb, makes a joke when he speaks in public that he’s lived in Greenpoint for thirty years so he’s just now not being considered a newcomer by the lifers. Same logic applies to Astoria, and even though I’ve lived here for fifteen years, the lifers will tell me I’m “fresh off the boat.”

As a note to long time residents of Astoria, my aunt Yetta has recently passed on at 99 years of age. You will likely remember Yetta as the owner of the “Three R’s” card shop on 30th avenue nearby the train at 31st street, a storefront which was next door to the butcher. Her actual name was Ethel, but the Greeks hereabouts back in the 70’s had trouble with that and renamed her Yetta – which stuck.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Blissville Stories Film Screening –
with Newtown Creek Alliance. Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222.
Click here for trailer.

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

virtual identity

with 3 comments

Artsy and fartsy at Luyster Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, Luyster Creek is an inland tributary of the larger East River which was once known as Steinway Creek. The Steinway piano factory, built in 1870, used to float logs of mahogany in here for their manufacturing needs but that was a long time ago. Today, Luyster Creek is surrounded by energy infrastructure and is part of what I call the “forbidden northern coast of Queens.”

The shots in today’s post were gathered at a street end on 19th avenue, which is pretty much the only place you can get close to the water without fear of arrest for trespassing on the grounds of a power plant or a sewer plant or God knows what else.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regular readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you that a humble narrator is currently obsessed with night photography and has been wandering about Queens with a tripod in the dark. All of today’s shots are long exposures, which render flowing water into a near perfect mirror.

It was low tide when I arrived at Luyster Creek for sunset.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a “floatables boom” draped lasciviously over the rotting wood of some structure which was once likely a dock. Said boom is used to curtail the path of solid material carried by open sewers into larger water bodies. Designed to hang in the water column near the surface, these devices can get swept up during storms and end up becoming floatables themselves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mud flats along the shore could probably be described as being “black mayonnaise.” The energy companies based hereabouts are just the latest in a century of such endeavors, and I’m fairly sure that prior to Con Ed taking regency over the western shoreline of Luyster Creek there was a manufactured gas plant on their site simply called “Astoria Gas.” The Politti Power Plant, and the newish Astoria Energy power plant, as well as the NYC DEP’s Bowery Bay sewage treatment plant are all in the neighborhood and within throwing distance of where these shots were captured.

The likelihood of these sediments not being rich in PCB’s and coal tar is slight, therefore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

New, to me at least, is a stream running from an upland property recently claimed by construction giant Skanska. Vituperous amounts of water were running out of some hidden outfall into Luyster Creek and carving out a new channel path in the mud flats. The source was right behind the rotting piles seen in the shot above.

Relevant state agencies have been notified and will investigate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the inviting street end on 19th Avenue that these shots were gathered from, incidentally. A bunch of kids died here a couple of years ago, when they drove their car right into the water. There used to be goats, but there were none spotted here last Sunday. This industrial dead end does seem to be the preferred location for area “utes” interested in experimenting with cannibinoids and listening to hip hop, based on my experiences in the area, including last Sunday night.

It’s a good place for that sort of thing, I guess. If I was in high school, it’s where I would have gone for those sorts of pursuits. As a withering old man, however, all I’ve got is a tripod and a deep desire to explore lonely and ignored waterfront parcels like Luyster Creek here on the forbidden northern coast of Queens.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Blissville Stories Film Screening –
with Newtown Creek Alliance. Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222.
Click here for trailer.

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

startling degree

with 5 comments

The forbidden northern coast of Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All up and down the East River and its tributaries like Newtown Creek or the Gowanus, people (myself included) jump up and down screaming about waterfront access for the public. My pals at Waterfont Alliance call it “Our Waterfront.” Not so, here at the northern end of Astoria. Power plants, and an airport, and Rikers Island of course, create a security zone wherein one is not just blocked from getting to the water – you can be arrested for trying on the grounds of trespass. Security is actually pretty effective back here, as evinced by a nearly total lack of graffiti.

I wasn’t supposed to take a picture of “that” in the shot above, nor was I meant to be where it was shot from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wasn’t supposed to photograph or even notice “that” either. I won’t tell you what “that” is, but suffice to say that if something happened to “it” there would likely not be much left of Astoria or East Elmhurst north of Astoria Blvd.

“Things” like those pictured in the first and second shots are why the general public is precluded from the forbidden northern coast of Queens. It also means that the industrial and governmental facilities along the waterfront can do whatever the hell they want because there’s nobody who can admit to watching for fear of prosecution by regulatory officialdom.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is one tiny little spot where you can get to the water here. It’s a street end, and you’re standing on top of a combined sewer outfall at the end of 19th avenue, at the head of Luyster (or Steinway) Creek. As has become my habit in the recent weeks, on Sunday last I donned my high visibility vest of invisibility and packed up the tripod and other camera gear. For a change, since I’ve been haunting the southern inland coast of Queens along the Newtown Creek, one decided to stay in Astoria instead and head over to Luyster Creek.

Luyster was the name of a Dutch family of some prominence who settled in the area, and there was likely a natural stream here once. There used to be an island at its junction with the larger harbor, but the USACE took care of that just before the First World War, during a period of vast upgrades to the waterfront of western Long Island.

Luyster Creek opens up into the Bowery Bay section of the East River, which allows mariners and barge traffic easy access to Flushing Creek, the “proper” East River, and Long Island Sound. Calling it Luyster is a historical affectation, for the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th it was known as Steinway Creek, or the Steinway Canal. William Steinway bought the surrounding property for his piano factory in 1870. The Steinways used to float logs of mahogany and other valuable feedstock through here, which would be fed into the mill and used in the manufacture of their eponymous pianos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, one didn’t come here to complain about environmental degradation, endemic pollution, or a lack of public access to the water. I was here to get some neat shots just as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was about to occlude behind New Jersey.

I do love what a long exposure does to flowing water, rendering it as a nearly perfect mirror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was low tide when I was standing there on the combined sewer, amidst the illegally dumped construction materials and other debris which will inevitably end up in the water the next time a storm hits us. A couple of security guys at a nearby Skanska yard were eyeing me curiously, until I pulled the high visibility vest on. From that point forward, one was invisible to them.

It was decided to get both artsy and fartsy, but that’ll be the shots in tomorrow’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This large wooden structure… to me, it looks like it used to be a pier or some other kind of shoreline tackle. Saying that, it’s kind of overbuilt for that sort of purpose. Don’t know what it is, other than an accidental habitat for shellfish and rodents.

More tomorrow. 


Upcoming Tours and Events

Blissville Stories Film Screening –
with Newtown Creek Alliance. Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222.
Click here for trailer.

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

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