The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘broadway

local vicinity

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The manhole cover saga of Astoria, and Jimmy Van Bramer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I’m out and about here in Astoria the neighbors will express their various problems to me and then ask me to call 311 for them, as they don’t want to get involved. It could be a basketball sized wasp’s nest hanging over their driveway, a busted street light, or just a funny smell coming from the sewer. Why the neighbors cannot grasp their tacit ownership of the environs of their own community is something which one such as myself cannot fathom. Admittedly – I’m the one who tears down stickers advertising “cash for junk cars” on Broadway, chases drunks around with a camera, and I’m the one who calls 911 when I find them passed out. Neighborhood crank, that’s me. The weirdo guy with the cute dog named Zuzu who talks to everybody.

It was one fine night in October, while escorting the aforementioned canine on her nightly rounds, that one encountered this defective access cover on the corner of 45th street and Broadway. Just this once, I decided, I wasn’t going to do anything at all and see if either one of the neighbors – or the literally hundreds of City vehicles that cross it daily – would make an attempt at getting it taken care of. This was back in October. The shot above is from December 7th, so as you see – I was let down once again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was paralyzed with a sort of fever on this December night. While the dog sniffed about at the base of a tree, I angrily watched city buses driving over the thing, causing it to spin like a dime in the broken rim of the pipe it covered. A motorcycle driver almost rolled into it, and then a FedEx truck making the left off of 45th street plunged a wheel into the hole, causing it to flip.

God damn all of you. 

I called 311, and told my tale to an operator whom I had to convince that Astoria was in Queens and not the Bronx. The operator decided it was a police emergency and forwarded it to the 114th pct (who called me some four and a half hours later, btw). Ultimately, the cops did nothing (and the situation persisted through November).

Fearing someone might actually get hurt waiting for the Gendarmes to arrive, I called my neighbor Mario (a construction guy) to grab a few safety cones from the basement and bring them over to the corner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suffice to say that Mario has an abundance of traffic safety devices primed for ready deployment, and he showed up with not just traffic cones but one of those barriers with a blinky thing attached to it. We arranged the safety devices about the broken manhole cover, and again this was the 7th of December. Fervently, one hoped for succor throughout the month, and that a crew from either DOT or DEP would show up and remedy things.

As mentioned in the past, I’m an optimist.

The shot above is from January 2nd of this year. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 3rd of January, I was again walking around with Zuzu the dog and noticed that the impromptu safety devices we had arranged about the hazard nearly a full month earlier had begun to scatter. Cursing my neighbors, the City of New York itself, and whatever malign powers there are which have regency over my life – a decision was made that I was going to be forced into exercising the nuclear option.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Elected officials are kind of a dice throw in Queens, where a single political party enjoys landslide elections and office holders are appropriately described as having been appointed rather than having won an election. In my section of Astoria, the dice have fallen propitiously, as our representative in the City Council is Jimmy Van Bramer.

I’m a big fan of Mr. Van Bramer, it should be mentioned, and several times in the past I’ve reached out to his office for assistance involving one quality of life issue or another. I’m also in regular contact with several of the local electeds (Newtown Creek stuff), and overall – Western Queens is ably served by our representatives on the subject of “Quality of Life” issues.

January 3rd was a Sunday, so I pulled the glass cover away from the big red button that must never be pushed on Newtown Pentacle HQ’s control panel, and called Team Van Bramer’s office on the 4th.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, Monday the 11th actually, while returning from the subway stop at 46th street to Newtown Pentacle HQ, the shot above was taken. A dangerous street condition first noticed in October, which was reported to 311 in December, and which persisted through the holidays to January – was fixed.

It’s for the saga of the Astoria manhole cover and many, many other reasons that Mr. Van Bramer and his team can expect my support, endorsement, and vote in the next election cycle. They can somehow work the levers on the juggernaut mechanism which is the City of Greater New York in expert fashion, and realize that to the citizens of our metropolis – it’s the little things which matter.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

sun choked

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Consarned and new fangled gizmos – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY is the lamp post guy. You will tremble in your boots when he begins discussing “luminaires” and other mechanistic implementations designed to light the streets of the City of Greater New York. Saying that, here on Broadway in Astoria (and along 34th avenue) between Steinway and 48th street, the inestimable NYC DOT has recently installed the latest generation of street lighting – which are LED fixtures that replace the familiar sodium lighting which has long punctured the sepulchral darkness of Gotham.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the start of December, work crews from Weisbach – DOT’s contractor for all things electrical – were observed on the throroughfare in a “cherry picker” truck swapping out the old school sodium lights for the new LED ones. According to official sources “NYC DOT operates the largest municipal street-lighting system in the country, with 262,000 lights on City streets, bridges and underpasses, 12,000 in parks and 26,000 on highways,” and the City plans on replacing every single one of them with the new LED lights.

The effort is expected to reduce the amount (and cost) of electricity consumed in pursuit of lighting the streets by a significant amount, as well as reforming the “carbon footprint” of the municipality. It’s costing us tax payers about $75 million smackers to change out every light, but is expected to save about $6 million a year in energy costs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’d imagine, the gentry here in Astoria have been busy debating the relative merits of the new lighting. On the plus side, the LED’s produce a brighter light which is quite a bit “whiter” than the old sodium lamps. The actual color of the light is 4300 Kelvin, which is quite a bit “bluer” than the sodium lamps which produced the familiar (and warmer) orange yellow light that all New Yorkers are used to suffering in. The LED light is quite a bit better focused on the street itself, and from a photographic point of view – has brightened things up by around two stops.

Observation and conversation, however, have revealed that the new lights create quite a bit of glare. I wear glasses, so… bother.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Non empirically speaking, the sodium lamps scattered their light in a globe of illumination whereas the newer lights are a bit more like a reading lamp in design. Drivers have reported to me that on rainy nights the new lights create a problem for them, windshield glare wise, but nothing insurmountable. There’s also people who just don’t like the new color.

Most of Astoria’s Broadway community seems fairly ambivalent/positive about the change, as a note, offering “why would I care, what can you do about it?” as a response to queries such as “what do you think about the new street lights?”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are all sorts of theories on the effects which LED lighting on human perception. Like the shutter of a motion picture projector, the LED’s flicker at a rate which is just outside of normal human perception. Some say that the flicker induces a state of anxiety to the sensitive, but truth be told, I’ve tried to capture it using video capture and have been unable to perceive anything other than steady illumination – no strobing, in other words.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the plus side, the directed light is no longer illuminating the residential windows along Broadway, and since I live along the street – I can report that at night my windows are considerably darker than they used to be under the old sodium lights. Additionally, the streets and particularly the sidewalks seem considerably and perceptually brighter.

Everything you could possibly want to know about the new LED lights is answered by this PDF at NYC.gov.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can discern the different temperatures of the two lighting systems in the shot above. The avenue (Broadway) is lit by the new and bluish LED’s and the street (44th) by the older and orange sodium light system.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

rose oddly

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Halloween sights from the Times Square of Astoria, 2015.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As has become our holiday tradition – Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself, along with a small group of people who can tolerate my presence for short intervals, headed over to the local corner pub and sat down with a few buckets of candy on Halloween. Our Lady and the others distribute the sweet stuff to the mobs of costumed “yutes” and after I check with and get the permission of parent or guardian to do so, I take some photos.

The ones in today’s post were my favorites, but if you want to check out the whole set – here’s the link to them on flickr.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sugar skulls and “Dias de Los muertes” iconography is a growing theme for Astoria costumers, as you’d suspect, given our growing and welcome population of Mexican and Central Americans. I love the visual style of this particular folk tradition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The superhero costumes available in shops these days are light years beyond what was available when I was a kid, back in the ’70’s, when the Don Post company offered plastic smocks with the characters name on them and weird PVC face masks that always seemed to have sharp edges on mouth and eye holes.

Check out that kid in the lion costume.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of Jokers were out and about, but this young lady was clearly the most “all in.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady had many, many customers for her candy. There were times when it felt like a relentless horde of zombies were attacking her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bunch of the very young kids had literally no idea what was happening, but knew something involving candy was afoot. The toddler pictured above came very close to winning Halloween.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria is all about family, and as you can see in the shot above, in some units – every member of the clan was done up in holiday dress for Halloween.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yep, adorable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As it grew dark, the crowds continued to throb about. A weird thing about Astoria, or my section of it at least, is that the kids don’t trick or treat on the side streets at private homes.

They mainly stick to the avenues (like Broadway), and trick or treat at the mom and pop shops. I’m told that it’s part of the modern day fear of “stranger danger” and the parent’s assumption that every adult male whom the child encounters is likely a pervert or child molester.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the night moved on, the grown ups began to exhibit. This group of happy footed Penguins seemed to be on the way to a party. The chill of the night air, and the fact that we had spent something like six hours at the Doyle’s Corner Bar, contributed to a general agreement amongst my group that it was time to cut things off and head back to HQ to order a pizza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last call, and it was time to head on home with camera and Our Lady in tow. That’s Hank the Elevator Guy in the shot above, incidentally, an oft mentioned but seldom pictured resident of this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 2, 2015 at 12:30 pm

another city

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A few shots from the 11103, here in the NYPD’s 114th precinct.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As expressed in last week’s posts, a humble narrator has had a whole lot of stuff going on. Details, things to do, meetings… the usual “blah blah blah” of the daily round. Our Lady of the Pentacle announced that she was going to be heading over to the Shining City for a social engagement last Friday evening, but I had already made plans to meet with a NY Times photographer to discuss his intentions for a series of essays on the harbor of NY and NJ at my “district office” – a pub called Doyle’s Corner found at the Times Square of Astoria at 42nd and Broadway.

My evening began with a trip to the local bank to deposit and withdraw, and along the way – a genuine articact of the pre digital world was spotted sitting on the sidewalk at the aforementioned Times Square of Astoria – an IBM Selecrtix typewriter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This brand and model of typewriter was the weapon of choice for business and professional writers during the 1980’s and early 90’s. It used to cost hundreds of dollars (which would translate into thousands these days) and was a highly coveted device. Today, it’s an analog artifact, and relegated to the corner trash pile. The hand written price tag on it, and the nearby proximity of a thrift store, allows me to hypothesize that it was likely liberated from sale utilizing the “five finger discount” method. Further supposition would suggest that the thief soon realized that there is little or no market value for a typewriter of this sort in 2015.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few quick shots of it were captured, and a paramount in my mind as I was gathering them was my pal Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY, who would have likely been swept up by a nostalgic wave at the sight of the thing. One continued up to Steinway Street to accomplish my banking, and then I headed back to my “district office” for my meeting with the NY Times guy. A few chums from the neighborhood also stopped by, and several pints of beer were consumed. While this mild debauch was underway, the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself disappeared, and the usual passion plays of Broadway ensued.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fellow pictured above appeared in front of the sidewalk cafe table I was sitting at, asking for a dollar while claiming he was hungry. He wasn’t hungry, instead he was blind drunk. He decided to lecture me, in fairly good English I would add, about the differences in generosity between the Mexican and American people when refusal to part with my dollar was offered. He’s one of the population of drunks who have been plaguing the neighborhood in recent months, incidentally, and a familiar face. He announced “Soy es un burracho” and tried to find a more generous person to give him a dollar.

Soon, he collapsed onto the sidewalk and surrendered to his inebriation. Remarking to myself that he had the wrong idea about Americans, I flagged down a passing FDNY hook and ladder truck and informed them that they had a customer. An ambulance arrived, and carted him off to a hospital where he would sleep it off.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At home, later in the evening, one was hanging out with Zuzu the dog when that amiable canine began to utter a low growl. Coming from the sidewalk below was a string of Spanish curses, “puta madre” and the like. That’s when I noticed this fellow literally crawling home via the gutter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After an interminable struggle he managed to right himself by hand holding parked cars, which were alternatively vomited and urinated on as he headed north. As mentioned at the top of the post, a humble narrator is the first one to suggest enjoying a few pints of beer. It would be hypocritical of me to say that getting a bit drunk isn’t an enjoyable yet occasional diversion. The photos of the drunks which I’ve been sharing with you, lords and ladies, are not of casual passerby who happen to be a little “effed up.” These are serial offenders. The guy in the shots above, well, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen him crawling through the gutter on his way home. The fellow passed out on the sidewalk who wanted a dollar? Same guy you see in the final shot of this post.

What we’ve been experiencing in Astoria, here in the 11103, is more than a bit over the top. This is a siege.

Just another Friday night, here in the 114th precinct, thought I.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 3rd, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2015 at 2:30 pm

parched and terrible

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Hello 114th precinct, it’s me again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since my last post on this subject, concerning “Los Borrachos” on Astoria’s Broadway, the 114th precinct has definitely been doing “something.” Can’t say exactly what, but the population of these alcoholic mendicants has been visibly reduced from the mid July high of 20-25 down to a late August bakers dozen. The shot above, and several of the ones following it, were gathered at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – which is the central muster point that these fellows use, just last weekend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYPD continues to inexplicably roll right past these guys, however. What sets me off, incidentally, and what has made these inebriates rise to the top of the list of “things I have to deal with” are reports from the ladies of Astoria as to the comments they are offered while passing by this crowd.

Even passing familiarity with the old “espanol” is enough to piece together sentences and phrases from the lingo which include “chupa” and “mi penga.” Sexual harassment of women walking down the streets by a drunken crowd of vagrants… is that OK?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Sunday afternoon, and public drinking is not challenged nor noticed by the cops. Everyone else in the neighborhood notices it, as people move to and fro with their children. If you’re curious, that’s Vodka that fellow is drinking.

Gordon’s Vodka to be precise, an assertion of brand loyalty which is based on the empty bottles littering the curbs along Broadway. The Times Square of Astoria indeed, only it seems to the Times Square of the 1980’s around these parts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The effects of the alcohol reduces these fellows to an insensate condition, regularly. For all of you “City Club head up your ass liberal” types who seldom walk the streets of New York – preferring your Uber or Limo for getting around – Progressivism isn’t about permissiveness. This is not something which Eleanor Roosevelt would have reacted to with any sort of empathy. John Lindsay or David Dinkins, on the other hand…

Don’t get me wrong here, I like a good tipple as much as the next guy – more so in fact. It’s the fact that this situation has gotten completely out of hand this summer, and whatever your intellectual notion is of who these guys are is completely fabricated from your own politics. These are bums, drunks, and hobos. We have a decent number of Homeless people here, who are referred to as “The Harmless.” Mostly down on their luck or mentally ill folks, Astoria takes care of its own – whether it’s just a slice of pizza or a bottle of water or a buck slipped into their palm.

The fellows showcased in these posts get off the R train, drink in the neighborhood all day, and then commute back to somewhere else if they can still keep it together enough to do so. If not, they just pass out on the sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often, Astoria’s Broadway looks like a WW1 battlefield, with bodies arrayed haphazardly on the street. The shot above was from a Friday afternoon around 2. All that’s missing is a dead horse in the tree.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A smoke condition down in the Subway drew the FDNY to the Times Square of Astoria last Sunday, whose actions and blaring sirens served to awaken the sleepers from their distillery dreams. Other units of FDNY would undoubtedly be back on the corner later, to scoop up the insensates. NYPD?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Three in the afternoon on a Sunday. 

The funny thing about this shot is that a friend of mine who works for the City spent years working on installing these Subway grate covers (intended to keep snow melt and storm water from infiltrating down to the tracks), which were specifically designed with the idea that they would be fairly impossible to sleep on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Notice that white car with the blue stripe just at the edge of the shot above? 

Guess which uniformed and highly trained branch of City Government drives white cars with blue stripes. Why, 114th precinct, is this being allowed to continue? Do you really want the civilians in this neighborhood to be the ones to deal with this, as we currently are forced to? A day doesn’t go by when one of us is forced to shoo “Los Borrachos” off their stoop or out of a driveway. Often the only thing which will get them to move on is the threat of calling “La Policia.” The Police, however, seem reluctant to lance this boil.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 27, 2015 at 11:15 am

other objects

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Curiouser and curiouser.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been encountering these odd little offerings and altar pieces for a while now, here in the Astoria section of Queens. This post from March of 2014, and this one from 2011 illustrate and speculate upon their origins and purpose. The one pictured above was discovered in calendrical confluence with the celebrations of lunar new year that are practiced by many of the cultures hailing from Asia. Chinese New Year fell on April 19th in 2015, for instance, and the shots offered in today’s post were captured on the morning of the 20th.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As in prior instances and encounters with these… are they small altars, or offerings, or… All I can offer is a brief description without any interpretation or insight. They seem to be molded out of a doughy substance, several different doughy substances actually. This one was obviously disturbed and jostled – whether by the careless footfalls of passerby, or the curious examinations of some canine, I cannot say. The central figure was roughly hewn, and held a candle in its lap.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A block away on the same date, at 34th avenue’s intersection with 43rd street, this example was found. The workmanship seemed quite a bit more advanced, and it was entirely undisturbed. It’s facing essentially north west, if that might have any significance to somebody who knows what these things are. Speculations about prior sightings have pointed towards Latin American Santeria, but there’s no coins and I cannot imagine a Padrino using a plastic plate. Santeria practice would demand a “plate of great price.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I’m seeing here is a sculptural tableau of some kind, and due to the proximity of lunar New Year, one likely connected to the traditions of Asia. Anybody out there recognize what these things are, and which culture they emanate from? Tibetan, maybe? If this looks familiar, please educate the rest of us and leave a comment for everyone else to read.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

states suggested

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Drunkard of the week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to the Kvetching, lords and ladies, and things that are definitively not alright.

This fellow spent a lovely afternoon dozing in the sun, in an obviously inebriate state, at the corner of 41st and Broadway in front of the Loyal order of Moose building. He was sleeping one off, by all appearances. This shot was captured around 6:45 in the evening, but I had spotted him in the same spot earlier in the day, around 2 p.m. Nearly five hours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the late afternoon, and into the early evening, vast numbers of people walked by this man. Mothers and children, old ladies and new immigrants took in the spectacle as they passed by. Hundreds of automobiles stopped at the red light on the corner, with this napping fellow in plain sight and actually illuminated by a setting sun. How many of those cars, I wonder, were driven by the Police?

How is this oft observed behavior in the public space OK, and shouldn’t some member of the Gendarmé have checked to see if this guy was dead or alive?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fellow singled out in today’s post is part of a small population of inebriated gentlemen who frequent the Steinway and Broadway intersection. A small population of junkies also seem to be favoring the corner of late, with many encamping themselves at the Library. Anybody who lives hereabouts will tell you this, yet, few complain or “kvetch” about it.

“What can you do about it? Don’t start trouble”– that’s the Astoria motto.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A shot from around 7:50 or so, when I was making my way back home. This guy actually gets more sleep than I do, by all appearances, and he remained unmolested by the Police or the people in the shops for more than 5 hours. All the while in public view from an intersection. There was a guy sleeping around 2 on the opposite corner, but he had removed himself by the time I came through around 6:45.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

This weekend-

Sunday, August 3rd, Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
With Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2014 at 2:58 pm

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