The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Astoria

quiet steps

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was captured at the corner on the Astoria side of Northern Blvd. and 47th street, a couple of weeks ago. If it was shot a hundred years ago, this location would have been described as the corner of Jackson Avenue and 17th avenue (aka 19th century Oakley Street) nearby Long Island City’s border with Woodside. Back then, there would have been streetcars (trolleys) rolling through the shot. That’s the sort of thing which I wish the NYC EDC’s BQX team would think about – putting streetcars back where they belong, along these old routes currently serviced by MTA’s buses. This particular trolley route was one that rolled off the Queensborough Bridge, the New York and Queens County Railroad.

The street grid of modern day Sunnyside continued through to the north towards Astoria across what’s now the Sunnyside Yards and those huge used car dealerships you see in the shot above, which are found on the southern side of Northern Blvd. in modern times.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northern Blvd. is a widened version of Jackson Avenue, which is another one of the many road projects overseen by Robert Moses in the early 20th century. Another one of Mr. Moses’s projects was both the creation of the Grand Central Parkway (which fed traffic to his Triborough Bridge from Eastern Queens and Long Island) and the redesignation of Astoria Avenue into Astoria Blvd.

FDNY’s Engine 263 and Ladder 117 are housed in a consolidation era firehouse, pictured above, which predates the Grand Central’s construction. There’s a shot of the place from ca. 1920 you might be interested in perusing at this dcmny.org link which shows what things looked like back in the post WW1 period here in Western Queens. The historic shot looks west down Astoria Avenue towards Steinway Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Long Island Rail Road as it rolls out of the 1870 vintage LIC Passenger Yard towards the Hunters Point Station. The incredible trainsarefun.com is an invaluable resource for studying this particular rail empire, and they offer this incredible aerial image from 1940 which shows the LIRR operation at probably its grandest moment.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 18, 2017 at 11:00 am

risible talisman

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It’s National Blueberry Muffin Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

July 11th, 1936. That’s the day that the Triborough Bridge was dedicated and opened for business. The favorite child of Robert Moses, this was the epicenter of the master builder’s early empire of highways, bridges, and parks. It’s the main room in the “House of Moses,” and the center of a web of concrete and steel that extends for hundreds of miles in all directions. All of Moses’ many roads ultimately lead to the toll booths at Triborough.

The bridge serves as a backdrop in tens of thousands of family photos found in the Astoria section of Queens, but there’s only a handful of living Astorians still left above the ground who can recall a time before there was a Triborough Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Caro, who wrote the definitive biography of Robert Moses, described the bridge as a “traffic machine.” Caro was being critical (as in the bridge generates and amplifies traffic congestion rather than solving it), of course, but I think Moses (who often opined that without high speed roads, the traffic would still be there but moving along local streets instead) would have had an affinity for the term.

There’s an exceptionally brief and easily digestible history of the Triborough Bridge (more accurately the Triborough Bridges and Highways complex) in this 2006 NY Times piece, for the curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Moses is famously and rightly associated with the Triborough, but it was Mayor Jimmy Walker who turned the first ceremonial shovel of dirt in Astoria Park on October 25 in 1929.

The bridge was conceived of, designed by, and it’s construction overseen (during most of construction) by the Chief Engineer of the NYC Department of Plant and Structures, Edward A. Byrne (who is coincidentally the fellow who did the Hunters Point Avenue and Borden Avenue Bridges over the Dutch Kill tributary of, and the vanished Vernon Avenue bridge at, Newtown Creek). Byrne became the first Chief Engineer of Moses’ Triborough Bridge Authority in 1933, but a silly political conflict forced him to resign and retire in 1934.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reliable government source numbers I’ve reviewed, referring back to calendar 2015, inform that the Triborough Bridge hosts about 92,000 vehicle trips a day. That would shake out to something close to 33.6 million vehicle trips per annum.

Maybe “traffic machine” is the right description? 

At any rate, Happy Birthday to Mighty Triborough, from here in Astoria, Queens.


Upcoming Tours and events

13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – July 15th, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m..

The “then and now” of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary in LIC, once known as the “workshop of the United States.” with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

intimate setting

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a summer Friday quickie today, lords and ladies, focusing in on Zuzu the dog. Zuzu has a double coat of fur, which makes the summertime quite uncomfortable for her. Accordingly, whenever Our Lady of the Pentacle is watering the plants, Zuzu makes a game of it and lunges for the stream of water coming out of the hose nozzle for a cold drink and a quick cool down. This results in an immensely wet dog, as you’d imagine.

I happened to have the camera handy one recent and quite hot morning, and was lucky enough to capture the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I love the “freeze frame effect” when a dog begins to shake off moisture, and never so much as when my soaking wet and double coated girl goes into her “barrel roll.” The problem with Zuzu cooling off by lunging at the hose, of course, is that she gets completely soaked. This results in everything within five feet of her getting wet as well as she discards the water.

Zuzu doesn’t actually care about that, she’s a dog.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always found this spiral shake business that dogs utilize to dewater their fur fascinating. They all do it, so there must be some sort of genetic programming behind it which is innate. If you watch it happen “live” it’s all over in a few seconds, but by slowing time down to the tiny increments captured in a photograph the canine procedure is revealed. The head shakes and sheds water first, and then the motion travels down the spine to the tail. Along the way, excess water is released in vortices.

Dogs are fascinating critters, IMHO. Back Monday with something completely different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – July 15th, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m..

The “then and now” of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary in LIC, once known as the “workshop of the United States.” with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 7, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria, Photowalks, Queens

Tagged with , ,

distant relations

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have a happy 4th of July, lords and ladies, celebrating the original Brexit.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 4, 2017 at 11:00 am

unseen eyes

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It’s National Eat Beans Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who received a post update last night from Newtown Pentacle, oops. Guess I have to pull back the curtain a bit to explain, but suffice to say that I’m working off an iPad and I fat finger published a template document rather than hit “save draft.” It’s happened before. Reason for the template? Lots easier to format remotely on the iPad, which is pretty decent for writing, but absolute shit for writing HTML instructions as it keeps on trying to spellcheck everything. Like I mentioned above, “oops.”

At any rate, that’s a mysterious jack of hearts I found laying on the street near my house one afternoon, all by itself. As to the disposition of the rest of the deck, who can say? It did make me think of that great Bob Dylan song, though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been observing a different perambulatory schedule of late. It has been increasingly difficult over the last few months to set aside the time for a day or half day long walking excursions, which has meant that one is not getting as much exercise as is salubrious. My remedy for this has been to scuttle my feet a bit faster than I would on a long trek – say, Red Hook to Astoria, or Astoria to Flushing – and ensure that I make it out for at least an hour and change a day, but by staying in the “neighborhood” I’m saving some time.

Generally – this sort of “quicker” trek will be something like a walk from Steinway Street to the East River and back, or from Astoria’s Broadway over to Queens Plaza and back via Sunnyside’s Queens Blvd. and over one of the truss bridge roads spanning the Sunnyside Yards. Since I know where all the holes in the fences are anyway, I’m often chasing a shot of the LIRR or Amtrak as they move through the Harold Interlocking, so at least I’m doing something useful beyond getting some exercise. And, yeah, before you ask, I can walk pretty fast when I want to if I’m working above the railroad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One recent afternoon, while on one of my “quickies,” a gentleman’s clothing emporium on Steinway Street had positioned some of their wares outside to lure in potential customers. Of the two display items, I actually find the one on the right the most distasteful. The floral number on the left might come in handy if I ever had to judge a child’s beauty contest or appear in a Bollywood dance scene, but… just ain’t my style, yo.

Dean Martin could pull that one off, however, but… Dino, right?


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ghostly side

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one enjoyed a pleasant evening on a boat tour offered by the Open House NY outfit which explored the City of Greater New York’s solid waste disposal system. The boat was one of Circleline’s smaller vessels (Circleline Queens) and the speakers were Sanitation historian Robin Nagle, SimsMetal’s Tom Outerbridge (who is also a board member at Newtown Creek Alliance), and some fellow from the Department of Sanitation whose name I didn’t catch. It was coincidentally the date of the summer solstice, the light was fantastic (from a photography POV), and it was the longest day of the year.

It certainly felt like the longest day of the year once the boat docked at west 42nd street, and the time came to make the journey back to Astoria, on the landward side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s no secret that I believe Manhattan, particularly the west side of midtown, to be a cautionary tale for urban planners. Some see midtown west, with its recent construction of gigantic residential towers and the nearby Hudson Yards project, as a modern day success story. The urban renewal engineers of the Bloomberg era captured a gritty section of the City which both housed and employed those at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum – a problematic population, from the municipal point of view, who consumed far too much in the way of City services – and converted it over to a neighborhood of “pied a terre” and upper middle and management class dormitories.

They forgot, as is the usual case these days, to think overly about transit and supermarkets and places people can gather without permits or permission. In my eye, they made a bad situation worse, in a neighborhood west of the Port Authority bus terminal. What are you going to do though, Manhattan is ruined and has been for twenty years. The junkies are still here, but instead of being able to return to some tenement squat at the end of the day, today they’re just living on the crowded streets and sleeping in the waterfront parks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is what the ridership numbers on the Queensbound E line look like at about 9:30 at night, and you should see what sort of crowding occurs on this line at rush hour. Just a few years ago, at a similar interval, the train population would have been not even half of what you see in the shot above. Why the crowding?

Simply put, not many actual New Yorkers can afford to pay the three to four thousand dollars a month in rent which a one bedroom in this hellish midtown area will cost. The Real Estate Industrial Complex’s dreams of avarice have caused a migration from this so called center out to the so called outer boroughs. It seems that they either never checked with the MTA about ridership capacity, or didn’t bother to care.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For one such as myself, who is lucky enough to live in Astoria, the E is merely a link in the chain of my commute. Once upon a time, my habit was to find a seat on a local train back to Queens and use the time to read, draw in my sketchbook, listen to an audiobook, or just blankly stare off into space.

Since the entire concept of finding a seat on the R in Manhattan is now a fantasy, even late into the evening, in recent years one has decided to instead be clever about using the Subway system and be nimble in terms of enacting as many transfers as I can in pursuance of escaping the inhuman canyons of the Shining City and returning to the human scaled locale known as Astoria. Accordingly, I find myself on the platform at Queens Plaza quite a bit these days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the work day, until 9:45 p.m. actually, you have a double chance of getting a local here – the R or M lines. MTA, in their infinite wisdom, cuts M service off at 9:45, effectively halving local service in Queens. This tucks nicely within the statement of what I believe to be the borough motto of “welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself,” which multiple elected officials have personally asked me to stop propagating. I believe however, that I’ve discovered part of the disconnect between elected officialdom, real estate industrial complex, and transit.

During conversation with the NYC EDC regarding their Sunnyside Yards proposal, the EDC folks pointed out that the project boundaries are served by “8 subway lines.” They know this because they checked a subway map. They didn’t realize that, because they all live in Battery Park City or South Brooklyn, that in reality it’s only three lines (R, part time M, 7 lines) which can accessed by just three stations (36th street, 33rd/Lawson, 40th Lowery) which can be reasonably walked to from the center of their proposed project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The stretch of Steinway Street pictured above, between 34th avenue and Broadway, sits atop an R/M local station. This would, according to the EDC, be one of the stops servicing what would be roughly half the population of Boulder, Colorado who would be living atop the Sunnyside Yards deck. Again, since they only know this part of Queens from the maps they spread out on polished mahogany desks in the air conditioned offices of lower Manhattan, they don’t realize that the walk from Steinway/39th street at the north eastern side of the proposed deck is nearly a half mile away and would necessitate a hazardous street crossing of Northern Blvd.

Simply put, they want to turn western Queens into the west side of Manhattan. Density is over rated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria is one of the last working class/lower middle class neighborhoods left in the urban core of NYC. Perhaps EDC might want to leave us alone to live our lives the way we wish to, in a human scale neighborhood where the neighbors actually know each other by name. Maybe they’d like to establish a residence nearby and rotate their planning staff into and out of it on a biannual basis so that they could understand what would be lost here.

Perhaps, we should preserve Western Queens as a museum piece of the actual “progressive era.”


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm

potential menace

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It’s National Pecan Sandy Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After that crazy set of storms that blew threw Astoria earlier this week, an odd orange glow permeated the sky. I got shots of the double rainbow too, of course, but since everyone else in NYC had their phones out and Instagrammed it – what’s the point? I was far more interested in the stage lighting offered by nature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was also out on a boat in NY Harbor this week, specifically on the solstice, and the sky that presented on the longest day of 2017 did not disappoint. That shot is looking towards New Jersey, from the waters just off Red Hook.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in LIC, one was surmounting the Pulaski Bridge when a LIRR train began making its way towards the Hunters Point Avenue station. This is one of LIC’s great natural spectacles, for one such as myself.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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