The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Astoria

considered established

leave a comment »

It’s National Fast Food Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A variety of obligations and impediments have caused one to come up short on content this week. As is my custom, accordingly, whilst a humble narrator is out perambulating about the great city seeking to ameliorate his shortcomings – single shots which I like for one reason or another will be presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Pictured above – a shot of a really good cuppa joe, served at an Astoria restaurant which is no longer extant.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Advertisements

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria, Broadway

Tagged with ,

brought about

leave a comment »

It’s National Deviled Egg Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As has become traditional in recent years – on Halloween, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself gather with some friends in front of a local bar here in Astoria and hand out candy to Trick or Treaters.

Well… they hand out candy, I take pictures and drink beer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Pentacle award for costumery – if there was one – would go to this family, encountered at Socrates Sculpture garden and all done up as characters from the movie “Aliens.” Even their dog was in on the act.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here on the southern side of ancient village of Astoria, along Broadway in the 40’s, Halloween is taken quite seriously by young and old alike. The neighbors go all out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the top, and all out, that is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a pal of mine under the makeup, which was creeptastic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even Hank the elevator guy showed off his latest disguise. As a note, Hank wears masks all year long, whenever the mood strikes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lots of superheroes were floating around Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was even a gnome or two.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I really dig the “sugar skull” makeup, and there was a LOT of it to be photographed.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 2, 2017 at 11:00 am

avian menace

with 4 comments

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting a series of CSX locomotive engines which were observed hauling a freight train over the Hell Gate bridge recently. Busy today with developing the shots from Halloween in Astoria, which I hope to be able to show you tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 1, 2017 at 1:00 pm

witchcraft panic

leave a comment »

It’s National Caramel Apple Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rich Melnick is no witch, as far as I know. Instead, Mr. Melnick is instead one of the longstanding leaders of the Greater Astoria Historic Society, a heck of a guy, and last Saturday he performed and presented his “Haunted Waters Tour” along Hells Gate and Hallets Cove here in the ancient village. I hadn’t seen Rich for awhile and since I had my first weekend off in months, decided to tag along. As you can see, Rich pulls a pretty nice crowd. Still, he’s probably not a witch, but if he were that would be ok with me. This is America, after all, and if you want to be a witch, nobody can say “boo” to you. First Ammendment, yo! 

I’ve been on this “Haunted Waters” tour several times, I would mention, and upon my arrival volunteered to act as a second set of tour guide eyes for Mr. Melnick and so I took up a station at the back of the group, sometimes repeating something he had just said for somebody who missed it. While Rich was busy at the front of the group narrating, I helped keep the them from stretching out along multiple blocks, and assisted him with street crossings. Rich didn’t need me of course, but since I was there, why not help out? We’re all one big happy family out here in Western Queens, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One noticed a couple of strange things over the course of the afternoon, while acting as “sweeper” for this tour of Hells Gate, as Rich Melnick explored and described the long history and fairly macabre lore concerning this riverine section of Astoria. He was discussing the odd history of Hells Gate, when I noticed the coppers were doing their thing.

The NYPD Harbor Unit seemed unusually busy for a Saturday afternoon in late October, and were buzzing around the river a bit, moving back and forth under the two bridges that define the former maelstrom of Hellegaat – as the decadent Dutch of New Amsterdam might have called it. 

There are legends about this spot which suggest that the largest intentional explosion in human history – until the advent of the Atomic Age – which the United States Army Corps of Engineers detonated under the river here at Hells Gate in 1885, was only partially in the name of eliminating the navigational dangers presented by the so called “Bright Passage.” These legends say that there was something else down there, something older than Henry Hudson, Adriaen Block, or even the aboriginal civilization of the Lenape (who avoided this spot like the plague). It was a “something” which the Federal Government saw fit to obliterate, as part of a clandestine nationwide campaign initiated after discoveries of certain conditions in a decayed Massachusetts fishing town – shortly after the Civil War – were revealed to the War Department. The Corps did a LOT of explosives work in the waters all around the northeast between the Civil War and the First World War, all supposedly in the name of “navigational improvements.” 

Yeah, right… pffft.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While Mr. Melnick was telling the tragic tale of the General Slocum disaster, a humble narrator decided to climb around a fenceline in pursuance of getting a shot of the two bridges which wasn’t occluded by foliage. Denied my desire, this red brick structure leading off into the river caught my attentions instead.

All sorts of individuals talk to me, it should be mentioned. 

Cops and robbers, ordained priests and devil worshippers, abolitionists and addicts. I know people who – if they say “run,” you do. I also know those whom “run” is followed by sitting down and asking them what’s wrong and inquiring as to whether or not they’re still “on their meds.” A few of the latter and far more numerous grouping – whom I consider to be “a few steps off the beaten track, and more than most” – have reported to me that they’ve seen man like “things” pulling themselves out of the water here in the dead of night. Fish like and unblinking eyes, accompanied by  an unbelievable stink and dripping with riverine slime – those are the commonalities. One or two highly circumspect witnesses describe these fish or frog men as wearing jewelry and tiaras made out of some queer kind of gold. 

Nonsense, say I, hallucinations arrived at by combining cheap liquor with questionable narcotic powders. Still… I wonder, and more than wonder…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The walk led by Mr. Melnick continued beyond Shore Road and Astoria Park, towards the sub neighborhood known as Old Astoria Village. While passing by an enormous and out of scale apartment house along the route, I noticed the handiwork of the Queens Cobbler. The single shoe phenomena, left behind by a probable serial killer whom I’ve christened as the “Queens Cobbler,” continues to grow in intensity in the area. 

As a note, Rich Melnick didn’t mention any of this to his group, neither the Nest of the Deep Ones which existed at Hell Gate until 1885 nor the reports of their continued occupancy, or the whole Queens Cobbler thing.

That’s because Rich pretty much sticks to a provable and sane version of reality, unlike me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s what I did last Saturday. Today, of course, is Hallomass, or Halloween if you must.

I’ll be in Astoria tonight, sitting outside with Our Lady of the Pentacle at the neighborhood saloon, giving away candy to kids and asking their parents if I can take photos of their costumery for future presentation at this – your Newtown Pentacle. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 31, 2017 at 11:00 am

excite attention

leave a comment »

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For many reasons, a humble narrator has found himself at Hallets Cove along the Astoria waterfront in recent weeks. Partially, this recent focus was related to a humble narrator being invited to write a guest blog for the NYC Ferry service’s new Astoria stop (check it out here), but didn’t go “super granular” with it in my usual manner. Something I learned while writing my old Brownstoner Queens column was sometimes you need to approach a story, and a more general audience, with a different voice than you normally would (the NYC Ferry is operated by the Hornblower company, under the auspices of the NYC EDC, in case you’re wondering). 

The other reason I’ve been down at Hallets Cove a lot in recent weeks has been to actually use the Ferry to get to and from work, as the MTA has seemingly deduced that nobody in Queens needs to get to and from Manhattan on the weekends. Luckily, my destination for conducting boat tours is Pier 11, which is one of the terminal stops for the ferry, so problem solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The kids of Queens never disappoint, as evinced by these phalluses recently scratched into the sand at Hallets Cove. There’s actually a lot of fine detail to appreciate in these, from the spurts to the hairy sacks. Good show.

As a note, I know of just three sandy beaches along the East River, Hallets Cove being one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The future site of a floating “Eco Dock” as my pals from the Waterfront Alliance call it, one has long been fascinated by the muddy flats underlying a discarded pier found at the entrance to the NYCHA Astoria Houses on what is historically known as Lawrence Point, but which has been rechristened as “Astoria Point” by real estate interests and elected officialdom alike.

This sort of marshy area is immensely important to the ecology of the waters surrounding NYC, as my pals from Riverkeeper will tell you, and you don’t see very much of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a derelict pier overflying those muddy flats, which as mentioned, will be replaced with an eco dock. My understanding is that the pier was installed to support a radio station’s broadcast tower, specifically WLIB, back in 1953. Further, I’m told that the radio station abandoned this location in 1967, and that the structure has been feral ever since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you haven’t tried out the new ferry service leaving from Astoria yet, I recommend it for nothing other than seeing the sights. The route carries you along the east channel of the East River, which transits between the Ravenswood section of Long Island City and Roosevelt Island. You’ve got some pretty incredible stuff along the route, including both the Roosevelt Island Lift bridge and the amazing Queensboro bridge, and the Big Allis power plant is on display as well.

This particular ferry service makes an amended series of stops as compared to the longer tenanted East River route, stopping first at Roosevelt Island, then the northern ferry stop at Hunters Point, 34th street and then Pier 11/Wall Street in Manhattan. Im personally really looking forward to the upcoming Soundview route, opening in 2018, which will go to the southeastern Bronx – which is the unknown country for one such as myself.

Check the Astoria ferry out, what else have you got to do?


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

stymied appetites

leave a comment »

It’s National Seafood Bisque Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One loathes the fact that the Queens Cobbler, a probable serial killer operating on both sides of the Newtown Creek who leaves single shoes behind as a taunt to both community and gendarmes alike, left this stiletto heeled shoe behind at the very same Astoria saloon at which a humble drinks his troubles away. Just last weekend, on a night when I had brought my little dog Zuzu out with me for an evening of commiseration with the neighborhood commentariat – as I was walking my trusty canine around the corner to allow for a moment of her lavatorial relief – this scene was encountered.

Should you find a singular size 11 Merell hiking boot displayed prominently somewhere in North Brooklyn or Western Queens, that means the Cobbler has finally zeroed in on me and that you’ll need to find a replacement for this – your Newtown Pentacle. If you see a headline saying “blogger catches killer” then it’ll mean I got the best of him or her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been working on a Newtown Creek event, one which is not public facing I’m afraid, assiduously over the last couple of weeks and is highly distracted. Due to this – and other obligations – one hasn’t had a lot of “me” time. One of those many obligations recently saw me attending a rather contentious meeting with environmental officialdom in Sunnyside, where I noticed some fellow doing his job in the rain at a local tire shop on 39th street.

The “G” bomb, which is the term I use for the unfolding wavefront of so called “gentrification” has observedly hit the street side auto industry hardest in recent years. Gas stations, taxi yards, tire shops, mechanics – have all been disappearing at a rapid rate in recent years. They occupy large lots and generally have shallow pockets, a pair of factors which are quite attractive development opportunities for the Real Estate Industrial Complex.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Subway conductor recently told me that MTA employees absolutely hate it when shots like the one above are captured. They are especially enraged when their faces are recognizable. One plans on continuing to photograph the men and women who operate the system, however. Just last night, when a token booth worker at Fulton Street made me miss two trains so that he could complete a phone call with his wife before performing the transaction to charge up my Metrocard, I didn’t take his picture as I was particularly “geared up” with a tripod and bag of lenses and my hands were full.

Another reason for me to enjoy enraging the MTA workforce with photos captured involves the weekend habits they employ, announcing that a train is going express to some extant locale just after the subway doors close at Queens Plaza, negating any chance of not visiting Forest Hills or Briarwood.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm

bygone mystery

with 5 comments

It’s National Sausage Pizza Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gentrification… it’s all anyone wants to talk about these days, and it seems like people are just coming out of the woodwork to use the “G” word and pronounce the oncoming doom of NYC. One wonders where they’ve been all these years. All of us out here in the wilds of Brooklyn and Queens have watched first DUMBO, and then Williamsburg, and of late LIC and Greenpoint get hit by the wrecking ball, which is then followed by the erection of banal residential towers without any accompanying infrastructure to accommodate the increased population. For decades, voices in the wilderness have been yelling and screaming about this, and our pals over in the Shining City of Manhattan said “so what”?

Something else I’ve been saying for a decade now is that the Manhattancentric city planning model is the problem. Manhattan is not something you want to point to other than as a cautionary tale.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that the same process is playing out in the East Village and Chelsea, where the ivory towered academics live and hang out, it’s become a crisis. You’ve got “not from here” interlopers showing up in Queens and sounding the alarm bells about a fire whereas those of who live here are ankle deep in ash. They inform us that we are not “real” community activists, and that they have the answer to all of our problems without any understanding of how things work. The tactics employed by these outsiders are provocative, and deadly to relationships between government and community which have been painfully and slowly built by generations past and maintained by those in the present.

Are these relationships effective? Is there nothing that can be done to resist the population loading and exploitation of Western Queens by the speculative financiers of Lower Manhattan? Are these outsiders correct in believing that 1960’s era protest techniques will do anything but cause the government people to circle their wagons? Would they be here at all if cherished Manhattan neighborhoods weren’t now in the sights of the financiers of the Real Estate Industrial Complex?

Are the financiers mustache twirling villains colluding with Tammany style politicians?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reality (census and tax base wise) states that the vast majority of residential buildings in NYC fall under the category of family owned small businesses, once you move away from the City’s core (think 5 subway stops from Manhattan). If you were to draw a bell curve depicting the rising rents in NYC and compare it to a) inflation, b) fuel costs, c) water taxes you’d find a disturbing concurrence in the shape of those curves. Our homeless situation is due largely to the fact that the City and State no longer supplies the levels of supplemental rent assistance to low income families which they used to, a program which I believe was suspended back in 2010, but I may be wrong on the date for that one. As the wrecking balls along the East River have demolished the industrial and warehousing sectors, low income New Yorkers have been forced to take service sector jobs which neither pay as well nor offer any sort of job security.

This is something which the folks who throw the “G” word around miss – jobs and job creation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For nearly a decade now, a humble narrator has been deriding the “statements that sound good at cocktail parties” thrown about by elected officialdom and real estate industrial complex employees alike. The REIC folks will offer that their construction activity creates mass employment, and that despite the tax abatements like 421a they enjoy, their projects are a nexus of job creation activity that includes the entire supply chain of their projects – concrete, steel, etc. This is actually true, but given that construction of a new building does not continue forever, it means that all of their contributions to the tax base tend to end after a period of 36-60 months after the demolition crew came in and knocked down the old factory or warehouse which provided career long employment. After that, the warehouse which employed thirty people is replaced by a residential building that has a porter, manager, and a super. It’s also common practice for the development corporation to transfer the property to a management corporation, whereupon all the agreements made by the former do not have to be honored by the latter.

Speaking from a historical perspective, NYC is defined by constant change, construction, and tumult – and going back to Astor – Real Estate has always been one of the major economic forces in our municipality since the earliest days. Believe it or not, the influence of the financial industry on Wall Street is a relatively recent thing. Used to be that industrial activity, shipping, and real estate were the dominant financial contributors to NYC’s health and wealth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it before, and I fear I’ll be saying it for the rest of my life – infrastructure is the skeleton on which our municipal flesh hangs. Without, we’d be a bag of mostly water flopping around in the sun.

The very quality of our lives depends on the transit, water, sewerage, and electrical grids. Hospital beds, school desks, fire stations, police capabilities. All the social welfare agencies, old age homes and elderly rent control programs like SCRIE, are essential. I’ve had high ranking City officialdom use the metaphor for running the show as being “like working on the engine of a locomotive while moving at 1,000 mph, towards a cliff.” You need to tinker around enough to improve the system as you go – but shutting it down, going off the cliff, or applying the brakes to it are unthinkable options.

Thing is, infrastructure costs a lot of money, and involves a lot of labor. People who labor have, by definition, jobs. People who have jobs can afford to pay rent to the hundreds of thousands of residential small business property owners in NYC, which creates a tax base. Don’t know why I have to spell this out, but the “G” people don’t seem to understand it. Maybe it’s because academics and poli-sci majors at say… Hunter… don’t take economics classes and focus on their music instead. Dunno. Sometimes you gotta see the forest beyond the trees.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2017 at 1:00 pm

%d bloggers like this: