The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Bronx

ceremonial mimicry

with one comment

Exquisite funerary monuments encountered at Woodlawn Cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Monument at Woodlawn Cemetery is pictured above, a white bronze and black marble masterpiece. The oldest inscription on the stone is accredited to “Samuel Long, July 28, 1915.” There’s also “William G. Reynolds, July 30, 1950,” and “Alice Reynolds, December 17th, 1957.”

A bit of quick research on Samuel Long (of 137 Riverside Drive in Manhattan) reveals that he died without having left behind a proper will, and that his estate ended up being adjudicated in a court battle between his widow Alice (I have no idea did this is the aforementioned Alice who died in 1957), a business partner, and two unnamed brothers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Samuel Long was a multi millionaire, in 1915 (the equivalent valuation of one million 1915 dollars is 24.4 million dollars in 2018, so…), who had made his fortune in the silent era movie business. He was only forty one years old when he died, after an illustrious career. He lived in the Clarendon Aprtments on 86th street and Riverside Drive, and had only arrived in NYC from Baltimore in 1897. He worked for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (later just Biograph) in a variety of executive roles until 1907, when he organized and became President of the Kalem Company, another film production outfit.

“White Bronze” is the trade term for a copper/zinc alloy that statuary such as the one seen adorning the Long memorial above is cast into. The ornamentation of mortuary stones and monuments with this material was fashionable for about a century from 1850-1950. Funeral Directors and “Stone” salesmen had catalogs of available castings available for plot owners to choose from. There are certain monuments which are entirely composed of this material, which – as mentioned innumerable times before – is worth a LOT of money in our copper hungry modern world.

Sneak thief and tomb robber alike would put some effort into dismantling and carrying off anything made of white bronze.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another plot at Woodlawn which dates to a similar era as the Long Monument is the Miller Monument. The sculptural quality of the white bronze angel was spectacular and quite exquisite. This one used white granite instead of black marble for the base, and wasn’t too far from either Judge Schmuck (see yesterday’s post) or Samuel Long.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dedicated to a fellow named David Miller (1839 to 1910), who didn’t leave many footprints behind that I could find, this monument was absolutely best of breed as far as representing figurative sculptural style from the “fin de siècle” pre WW1 era. Obviously cast in a mold, this white bronze angel was incredibly well executed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Man, just look at that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby the grave of intrepid girl reporter Nellie Bly, the white bronze Caputo monument was centered around a cruciform of white bronze and was quite captivating. All the bas tableaus on its face depict “stations of the cross” scenes. It was surrounded by foot stones which carried individual interment information for the various members of the family.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Advertisements

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Bronx

Tagged with ,

bewildered opening

with 3 comments

The Bronx, Woodlawn Cemtery, and Mr. Schmuck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is often the case, while researching a completely unrelated topic, I will happen across some important personage or event which will cause me to drop everything I’m doing and instead go down a historical rabbit hole. This time, the hole led one to the Bronx, and Woodlawn Cemetery. That’s where New York State Supreme Court Justice Peter Schmuck is buried,

Yes, Schmuck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYS Governor Al Smith elevated Peter Schmuck from his role as Chief Justice of NYC Court to the NYS Supreme Court in April of 1928. A Manhattan born attorney, Schmuck replaced Charles D. Donohoue on the NYS Supreme Court and served that institution as a Justice until 1943. Afterwards he acted as “referree” and advisor to the next generation until his death in Ontario at age 80 in 1954.

1928-1943 are pretty much the years during which the “New Deal” reshaped the United States, with New York State having served as the laboratory for government programs that became Social Security, the Work Projects Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and so on. That means the entire New Deal was decided on as being legally Kosher by a guy named Schmuck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After his appointment to the bench in 1928, Justice Schmuck successfully ran for two fourteen years terms of office on the Supreme Court. In his second term, his law secretary was future NYC Mayor Vincent Impelliteri. I’ve checked with a friend who is German, and he assures me that the Judge’s name wouldn’t be pronounced in the Yiddish manner – Shmuk – but would instead be read by a German speaker as “Shmook.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Schmuck monument is a Mausoleum, one graced by an ornate sculptural bronze door. There’s some inexpert application of gold leaf paint on it here and there, but overall the thing was in excellent condition. One thing which struck me at Woodlawn Cemetery, in the Bronx, was how immaculate it was. The grounds and even the monuments were in fantastic condition. You didn’t see the accidental desecrations caused by inattentive groundskeepers that you do at the Calvary’s here in Queens, nor the sort of wholesale tomb raiding for white bronze and other semi precious metals by the recycling scavengers whom I call the crows at all of the “Cemetery Belt” institutions along the Brooklyn/Queens border.

Additionally, the staff and security personnel at Woodlawn were quite accomodating to my little triad of tapophiles when we arrived at their institution. I was asked to fill out a form, regarding permissions to photograph their grounds, which was straightforward and liberal. At no point did anyone randomly appear and forbid camera usage on spurious grounds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While there, the monuments and mortal remains of a few other NYC notables were visited. The minimalist Art Deco headstone indicating the final resting place of the restless Fiorello LaGuardia is pictured above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The final address of Robert Moses is found at Woodlawn Cemetery as well. His tomb is a simple one, which is fitting somehow, as the grandiose monument he actually left behind is 20th century New York City. I’d imagine that if you had asked Robert Moses how he’d like to be remembered by modernity thirty seven years after his death, I imagine he’d ask you to visit the Triborough Bridge or Jones Beach instead of Woodlawn.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 18, 2018 at 12:00 pm

old privateers

leave a comment »

It’s National Peach Ice Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One believes that if you’ve got a problem to solve, the first step towards “victory state” over it involves wrapping your head around the problem and “getting smart.” I like to be fairly well educated about the nature of things before opening the hood and tinkering around with the engine, basically.

The subject of the MTA, or Metropolitan Transit Authority (a public benefit corporation), has been in the news quite a bit of late. The subways have been the particular focus, but the question a friend asked me the other night is what caused today’s post to come into existence.

What, exactly, is the MTA? Well, it’s complicated.

from wikipedia

Chartered by the New York State Legislature in 1965 as the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority(MCTA), it was initially created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to purchase and operate the bankrupt Long Island Rail Road. The MCTA dropped the word “Commuter” from its name and became the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on March 1, 1968 when it took over operations of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) (now MTA New York City Transit (NYCT)) and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority(TBTA) (now MTA Bridges and Tunnels (B&T)). The construction of two bridges over the Long Island Sound was put under the jurisdiction of the MTA.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To begin with, there’s just over 70,000 employees on the MTA’s payroll. MTA operates, ultimately, in the most densely populated sections of three states with the Shining City of Manhattan as the titular center and bullseye destination for its trains, automotive bridges and tunnels, and multiple fleets of buses.

Nearly all of the MTA train lines were originally built and owned by private businesses (with a significant public investment in the case of the subways) either during the late 19th or early 20th century, but bankruptcies and public foreclosures brought them into government hands. Private bus companies were acquired and folded into the Authority over the decades, along with bridges and tunnels that were formally owned and operated by seperate entities. Today, all of these operations are handled by the individual divisions of the MTA and overseen by a 17 member board of directors (who are all political appointees with virtually zero experience in transportation matters, incidentally).

from wikipedia

The Long Island Rail Road (reporting mark LI), legally known as the Long Island Rail Road Company and often abbreviated as the LIRR, is a commuter rail system in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of New York, stretching from Manhattan to the eastern tip of Suffolk County on Long Island. With an average weekday ridership of 337,800 passengers in 2014, it is the busiest commuter railroad in North America. It is also one of the world’s few commuter systems that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round. It is publicly owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which refers to it as MTA Long Island Rail Road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Capital Construction is where all the money disappears into, basically. Pictured above is the Second Avenue Subway under construction, and however much I wish that I could show you a shot from the East Side Access project – I haven’t managed to find a way to get my camera down there, yet. The MTA is ostensibly meant to be self funding, through bonds it issues and through fare revenue, but it seldom works out that way and both State and City end up sending a significant amount of tax revenue their way to handle deficits.

Everybody asks why it is that these mega projects orchestrated by Capital Construction have the political support that they do while the wheels are falling off the buses and subways. Short answer is that a shot of a politician watching some mechanic turn a wrench while repairing a track switch is a lot less compelling an image, electoral politics wise, than one showing the same politician cutting a ribbon at the opening ceremony of a fancy new subway stop in the richest section of Manhattan on the Uppper East Side.

Capital Construction, like all of MTA’s divisions, is a vertical silo with its own hierarchy and political patronage. They do what they do, and compete for funding with the other divisions.

from wikipedia

MTA Capital Construction is a subsidiary agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), formed in July 2003 to manage the MTA’s major capital projects in the New York metropolitan area. It mainly focuses on improving transportation infrastructure and facilities in New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island areas. Funding primarily comes from local, state, and national bond sales and budgets. As of April 2017, the current MTA Capital Construction president is Janno Lieber.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long Island Railroad, for instance, is a vertically integrated “thing” all of its own. If someone from the Metro North side of MTA calls in sick, they don’t send LIRR employees upstate to fill in the slack. It doesn’t share “synergies” with Metro North (repair facilities, union contracts etc.) or with the New York City Transit Authority (subways). This situation is owed partially to the formerly seperate corporate entities that created the original lines.

Metro North is the grandchild of the old New York Central Railroad passenger service, and the LIRR is the child of Central’s arch rival and adversarial enemy – the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

I’m no expert on this subject, so, I reached out to a buddy who is one of my “rail rabbis” and he anonymously offered this statement and assessment of the situation involving Metro North and LIRR, which – despite logic and what you might think, don’t use the same trains nor operate in common fashion or custom.

“Metro-North Railroad is made up of three distinct operations. Two of these operate out of Grand Central Terminal, the third operates out of Hoboken Terminal.

Hudson and Harlem lines are the remnants of the New York Central Railroad (Vanderbilt), out of Grand Central Terminal.

The New Haven line is the former New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (New Haven for short).

The New Haven was unique in that they operated commuter trains out of Grand Central Terminal and their long distance trains out of Penn Station. The line over Hell Gate was financed by the New York Connecting Railroad, which was a paper railroad business agreement between the New Haven and the Pennsylvania Railroads.

The third operation is frequently overlooked. it is the former Erie Railroad (Jay Gould, THE robber baron), later Erie Lacawanna Railroad operation to Port Jervis New York. MTA pays for the New York portion, while New Jersey Transit pays for the New Jersey operation. This operates out of Hoboken Terminal.

The New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad merged in 1968 into the Penn Central (Good book to read is “The Wreck of the Penn Central” by Joseph R. Daughen and Peter Binzen).

It was an unhappy merger, with battles between the two different management ideologies. It ended up with the US Government creation of Conrail in 1976 to salvage what remained of several north east railroad operations (Including Penn Central).

Conrail operated many commuter railroads, which received state subsidies for commuter operations. (Amtrak was formed in 1971 for intercity/long distance passenger trains, not the many commuter operations) Conrail wanted out of commuter operations at its founding and in 1983, it was NY States turn and Metro North was created.

The LIRR and Metro North are two distinct systems, with the only real compatible technology being the train couplings and the gauge of the trains.

Metro North utilizes an under-running third rail and the LIRR utilizes an over running third rail. Diesel locomotives and diesel hauled electric passenger cars also weigh different, with Metro North being able to haul heavier equipment, Long Island bridges are load limited. The Park Avenue Tunnels on Metro North and the East River Tunnels on the Long Island also limit the interchangeability of some equipment. Signal systems are also different.

The Electric Multiple Unit (MU) trains of Metro North and LIRR look similar and are ordered from the same vendor/companies, but they are configured to operate on their respective systems. They are not freely interchangeable. The Arch Street shop of the LIRR is a warranty shop for the recent purchase of the M-7 MU’s. Metro north ships them there for work, but not before all the third rail shoes are removed, and they have to travel over the Hell Gate from New Rochelle, NY. (The Ventilation system vents on the Metro North Roofs won’t fit in the LIRR East River Tunnels).

The LIRR bilevel cars will not fit in the Park Avenue tunnels.

Metro North diesel locomotives are too heavy for the bridges on the eastern end of Long Island.”

from wikipedia

The Metro-North Commuter Railroad (reporting mark MNCW), trading as MTA Metro-North Railroad or simply Metro-North, is a suburban commuter rail service run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a public authority of the state of New York. With an average weekday ridership of 298,900 in 2014, it is the second-busiest commuter railroad in North America in terms of annual ridership, behind its sister railroad, the Long Island Rail Road. Metro-North runs service between New York City and its northern suburbs in New York and Connecticut, including Port Jervis, Spring Valley, Poughkeepsie, White Plains, and Wassaic in New York and New Canaan, Danbury, Waterbury, and New Haven in Connecticut. Metro-North also provides local rail service within New York City at a reduced fare. There are 124 stations on Metro-North Railroad’s five active lines (plus the Meadowlands Rail Line), which operate on more than 775 miles (1,247 km) of track, with the passenger railroad system totaling 385 miles (620 km) of route.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another vertical silo at MTA is the Bridges and Tunnels group. This is Robert Moses’ old Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority empire, rebranded and “nationalized” by Nelson Rockefeller back in the late 1960’s. TBTA has always been, and always will be, its own fiefdom.

For those of you not familiar with the terms “vertical silo” or “synergies,” that’s a fairly archaic series of terms used in the investment banking industry to describe business units within a corporate structure. When a corporate merger occurs, the investment bankers will often try to “flatten” these silos and merge them with other units to avoid redundancy, which saves them money and ostensibly streamlines an operation. This is not how Government people think, btw. If the MTA was a company and got taken over by another corporation, the VERY first thing the new owners would do is try to flatten these silos and eliminate the wasteful or redundant departments.

MTA, for instance, has multiple divisions of armed police and guardsmen. There’s TBTA cops, MTA cops, MTA Operations armed guards, a whole seperate department of MTA Security… and they’re all operating under different rules, jurisprudence, and circumstance.

It’s all very complicated.

from wikipedia

The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, doing business as MTA Bridges and Tunnels, is an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that operates seven intrastate toll bridges and two tunnels in New York City. In terms of traffic volume, it is the largest bridge and tunnel toll agency in the United States, serving more than a million people each day and generating more than $1.5 billion in toll revenue annually as of 2012.

The seven bridges are:

  • Triborough Bridge (officially Robert F. Kennedy Bridge), the agency’s original namesake and flagship crossing, connecting Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens, via Randalls and Wards Islands
  • Bronx–Whitestone Bridge, connecting the Bronx and Queens
  • Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island
  • Throgs Neck Bridge, connecting the Bronx and Queens
  • Henry Hudson Bridge, connecting Manhattan and the BronxMarine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and the Rockaways (Queens)
  • Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, connecting Broad Channel to the Rockaways (Queens)

The two tunnels are:

  • Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel (officially Hugh L. Carey Tunnel), connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan
  • Queens–Midtown Tunnel, connecting Queens and Manhattan

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The focus of public ennui these days is generally related to the subway system, although this summer the LIRR situation has gathered a lot of storm clouds to the Long Island Railroad. What New Yorker hasn’t stood there on some subway platform and exhorted “EFF YOU, MTA” at least once?

My rail rabbi quoted above offers this, on the subject of the “switch problems” and the MTA’s promises that modernizing them will fix everything wrong with the subways:

“One thing we mentioned about “outdated signal systems” with regard to the subway is that the 100 year old signal, while worn out, allow better utilization of the tracks. As I understand it, typical headways on the NYC subway system are four to seven minutes at rush hour. As a comparison, newer fully automated systems, like BART in San Francisco, WAMATA in Washington DC and MARTA in Atlanta can’t beat seven minutes, with ten minutes being the normal.”

A humble narrator has been getting increasingly involved with transit issues in recent years, and I’ve joined the steering committee of Access Queens, a community organization led by Sunnyside’s Melissa Orlando, which grew out of the “7 train blues” Facebook group. I won’t bore you with the usual song you’ve read everywhere else about switches, overcrowding, deferred maintenance, and aging tracks – instead I’d ask for you to click through to the Access Queens site and see what our group has been working on.

It may be the “Summer of Hell” for the LIRR, but it’s always transit hell in Queens.

from wikipedia

The New York City Transit Authority (also known as NYCTA, The TA or simply Transit, and branded as MTA New York City Transit) is a public authority in the U.S. state of New York that operates public transportation in New York City. Part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the busiest and largest transit system in North America, the NYCTA has a daily ridership of 7 million trips (over 2 billion annually).

The NYCTA operates the following systems:

  • New York City Subway, a rapid transit system in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.
  • Staten Island Railway, a rapid transit line in Staten Island (operated by the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority, a NYCTA subsidiary)
  • New York City Bus, an extensive bus network serving all five boroughs, managed by MTA Regional Bus Operations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The MTA Bus company is part of NYCTA, or New York City Transit Authority, but that’s not all of it. There’s tons of bus lines in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Yonkers, and even Westchester which MTA operates. Buses aren’t the sexiest way to get around, of course, but when it’s raining a bus is always superior to walking. Unfortunately, the vertical silo of the bus company seldom coordinates with the NYCTA subway company during outages and planned work, nor coordinates their schedule with them.

from wikipedia

MTA Regional Bus Operations (RBO) is the surface transit division of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), created in 2008 to consolidate all bus operations in New York City operated by the MTA.


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 17, 2017 at 11:00 am

half seen

with one comment

In today’s post- the mysterious Bronx.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

I know little to nothing about the Bronx, and have probably only been in the Borough less than 20 times over the course of my entire life. Circumstance never carries me north, toward its heights. What I do know of this vast enigma has only been glimpsed from the edges of the place. I understand it to be quite an interesting place, but to one such as myself, it is enigma. I always say that “I’m saving it for the future,” meaning that someday I’ll start turning my attention that way.

There are definitely groups of people living there, as I’ve photographed them from the littoral periphery.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Willful ignorance such as this assists me in maintaining a laser like narrow focus on a single subject, but there are large sections of the City for which little to no interest exists in me. I don’t care about downtown Brooklyn, for instance, and consider myself lucky to avoid being there. Nothing wrong with the place, just not my cup of tea. Also, I find the upper east side of Manhattan completely “meh.”

This unknown country of the north intrigues, but I’m not ready to look at it yet.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Someday I plan to do a little exploring up here, and perhaps attempt some tremulous interaction with the dwellers therein. Supposedly, there is something to the place beyond the odd stadium, bridge, or rail yard.

Of course, its not going to be anywhere as close to cool as Queens is, but there might be some dark secret or two to be unearthed beyond the Hells Gate, and “winter is coming.”

Things to do!

Working Harbor Committee presents: Great North River Tugboat Races and Competition, September 1st, 2013
9:30-11:30 a.m. at West 42nd Street and the Hudson River. Spectator Boat tickets now on sale.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 28, 2013 at 7:30 am

Posted in Bronx

Tagged with , , ,

long narrative

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today’s shots are from “da Bronx”, captured last year while following the estimable Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY fame around. Mr. Walsh was busy planning a walking tour of the area, and his companion at arms- Richard Melnick of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, was along as well. While they were debating the finer points of Bronx history and an overall narrative structure for the excursion, I made myself busy photographing the various sights.

To wit- the Van Cortlandt House museum.

from vancortlandthouse.org

The Van Cortlandt family were prominent members of New York’s mercantile class and its social and business milieus. The business of trade connected the Van Cortlandt’s with mercantile families in the West Indies, European ports, and other American port cities. Additionally, their Dutch heritage linked them with many wealthy and powerful New York families. Marriages forged strong ties between the Van Cortlandt’s and the Schuyler, Phillipse, Jay, DePeyster, and White families of New York.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Knickerbocracy, a 19th century term used to describe the land and slave owning class of Dutch who stuck around after the English arrived and took over, is what the Van Cortlandts were a part of. No small amount of ennui was felt by the English and later the Anglo Americans towards the Dutch, who largely took off for northern and western New York State as the city began to grow.

Like Tolkien’s elves, they headed for the forests and quiet wooded sections of the country- gradually diminishing in prominence and social importance during their diaspora.

The English looked down upon them, describing them as superstitious and degenerate.

also from vancortlandthouse.org

After 140 years of occupancy by the Van Cortlandt family and their slaves, in 1889 the property was sold to the City of New York and made a public parkland. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1967 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1976. The house has been operated as a public museum since 1897.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby the historic structure is a statue of a Civil War General, and one of the the founders of the National Guard- General Josiah Porter. Reports by those who knew him in life described the statue as bearing an uncannily accurate likeness to the actual fellow, and accolades were awarded to the sculptor for his skillful rendering.

from nycgovparks.org

This sculpture of General Josiah Porter (1830–1894) was created by William Clark Noble (1858–1938) and dedicated in 1902. It was commissioned at a cost of $20,000, and was a gift to the City of New York by the National Guard Association of New York State.

Porter is reputed to have been the first Harvard College graduate to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was made a first lieutenant in the Massachusetts Volunteers in 1861, and promoted to captain that same year. In 1865, he commanded the 22nd Regiment of the National Guard of New York (who would sponsor the statue), and in 1867, received the rank of major. Porter’s distinguished service led him to be promoted to colonel in 1869, and then to major general and adjutant general in 1886.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

General Porter met an undignified and messy end, dying in Manhattan on an elevated train line while on his way home from a party. The headline at the New York Times described the General as dying of “apoplexy”.

An archaic term, apoplexy is described by the redoubtable Wikipedia as “From the late 14th to the late 19th century, the word “apoplexy” was also used to describe any sudden death that began with a sudden loss of consciousness, especially one in which the victim died within a matter of seconds after losing consciousness. The word “apoplexy” may have been used to describe the symptom of sudden loss of consciousness immediately preceding death and not a verified disease process. Sudden cardiac deaths, ruptured cerebral aneurysms, certain ruptured aortic aneurysms, and even heart attacks may have been described as apoplexy in the past.”

from nytimes.com

“The train moved on, and I was left alone with the General, who was left lying on the platform near the edge. I asked the ticket chopper to help me carry the General to the waiting room. The man refused. He said something about the helpless officer ‘having a load.” which I indignantly denied. I explained that he had suddenly been taken sick. I tried to carry the General into the waiting room myself, but found that I could not do so. I then went inside the waiting room, where the ticket chopper had gone, and where the ticket agent was. I again asked help, but neither of the men would do anything. The result was that I was compelled to leave the sufferer stretched upon the platform in the cold night air while I went in search of a cab.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 15, 2012 at 1:14 am

Posted in Bronx, Photowalks, Pickman

Tagged with ,

eery pinnacle

with 2 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Until you’ve had a flock of baby birds vomit on you, you haven’t really lived.

It seems that such regurgitation is just part of the daily grind here on South Brother island, an unassuming prominence found on the East River. Heavily wooded, the island is owned and managed by the Government(s) and it is usually “verboten” for primates to even visit.

from wikipedia

South Brother Island is one of a pair of small islands in the East River situated between the Bronx and Riker’s Island, New York City and is 7 acres (28,000 m2) in size. It is uninhabited. The other island, larger and better known, is North Brother Island. Until 1964, South Brother Island was part of Queens County, but it is now part of Bronx County. It had long been privately owned, but was purchased by the city in 2007. Together, the two Brother Islands, North and South, have a land area of 81,423 square meters, or 20.12 acres (81,400 m2).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator managed to insert himself into a scientific survey of the breeding colony of Cormorants, Herons, and Egrets which thrive upon the riverine island. The island has been allowed to go feral, and is positively overrun by seabirds. Upon arriving there via a Zodiac boat, one of the fellows employed by the NRG (Natural Resources Group) of the NYC Parks Dept. asked me if I knew what poison ivy looked like.

Informing him that he should just assume my general ignorance about all things, he remarked- you’re standing in it.

from wikipedia

Toxicodendron radicans, better known as poison ivy (older synonyms are Rhus toxicodendron and Rhus radicans), is a poisonous North American plant that is well known for its production of urushiol, a clear liquid compound found within the sap of the plant that causes an itching, or sometimes painful rash in most people who touch it. The plant is not a true ivy (Hedera).

Poison ivy can be found growing in any of the following three forms:

  • as a trailing vine that is 10–25 cm tall (4 to 10 inches)
  • as a shrub up to 1.2 m tall (4 feet)
  • as a climbing vine that grows on trees or some other support

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The party split into two groups, and the one I accompanied headed into the stand of trees which comprises the center of the island. Thick and overgrown, the darkness of the place was palpable, and a raucous chorus of bird calls was emanating from the canopy above. The mission was to count the number of nests installed (in this section by Cormorants) and whenever possible- to count the number of eggs and or hatchlings.

The other group was busy exploring Heron territory.

from wikipedia

The Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), commonly abbreviated to just Night Heron in Eurasia, is a medium-sized heron found throughout a large part of the world, except in the coldest regions and Australasia (where replaced by the closely related Rufous Night Heron, with which it has hybridized in the area of contact).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was by no means an easy task, given the sort of terrain encountered.

Once- the Newtown Creek’s watershed would have resembled this scene, thought a humble narrator, when a half digested fragment of fish dropped out of the sky and bounced off my boonie hat. It was quickly explained to me that this was normal, expected, and part of their daily round. The floor of the place was a spongy mass of fallen branches, mulch, and guano.

An intense smell of ammonia forced me back to the beach a couple of times.

from wikipedia

Regurgitation is used by a number of species to feed their young. This is typically in circumstances where the young is at a fixed location and a parent must forage or hunt for food, especially under circumstances where the carriage of small prey would be subject to robbing by other predators or the whole prey is larger than can be carried to a den or nest. Some birds species also occasionally regurgitate pellets of indigestible matter such as bones and feathers. Penguins are known to regurgitate in order to feed their young ones.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shooting conditions were difficult, with dense foliage and few clearings. The humidity was nearly unbearable. The instructions I had received from the group leader indicated that I should dress in long sleeves, full length pants, and wear heavy boots.

Conditions on the island indeed demanded such cautions, but heat and humidity plus the aforementioned ensemble worn with a hat while carrying a camera bag and around six pounds of camera and lens made for an uncomfortable morning.

Karmic justice, I suppose, for all the complaining about being cold I subjected you to during the winter at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

this page at nysl.nysed.gov lists all the complaint departments in New York State

Complaint Departments

New York State government information and resources on Complaint Departments.

Consumer Information

WWW.NY.GOV – cick on “Complaints.

Attorney General’s Office 

Consumer Frauds Bureau

Complaints – Includes a section on “Complaints for Other Agencies” to help people contact the appropriate agency…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It should be mentioned that I absolutely detest camping out, abhor hikes in the woods, and am- by definition- a City Boy. Nature wants to eat you, and will at the very first chance it gets. You might be disarmed by the coy attractions of these baby birds, but give them the chance and they’d rip you to shreds.

Then they’d vomit the bits back out onto the next guy who visits this island.

It did occur to me that this might be a safe haven in case of a zombie apocalypse, but the nearby North Brother Island would probably be a better choice. Seriously, I’m not just being paranoid, nature can be messed up, and given several recent headlines– might be time to start formulating a plan for upcoming Nights, Dawns, and Days.

from wikipedia

The bird family Phalacrocoracidae is represented by some 40 species of cormorants and shags. /ˈkɔrmərənt/ Several different classifications of the family have been proposed recently, and the number of genera is disputed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the real world, of course, such fancies fall before the hard materialism of the empirical mindset, and this mission I was accompanying dwelt naught upon such extravagant thinking. They were doing the hard work of field science, collecting data and samples for later analysis. The South Brother Island was acquired by the Parks people in 2008 and the notion of dedicating the tiny island(s) as a refuge for seabirds is actually pretty darned cool.

from nycgovparks.org

In 2001, the City assigned Parks jurisdiction over the publicly-owned lands extending outward from the shores of South Brother Island. The island itself was owned by Hampton Scows, Inc. The recent acquisition of South Brother Island was directly negotiated and completed with approximately $2 million in funds allocated by Congressman Jose Serrano through NOAA’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.

The acquisition was executed by The Trust for Public Land on behalf of the recipients of the NOAA funding, The Wildlife Conservation Society and The Point Community Development Corporation. The Trust for Public Land then donated South Brother Island to Parks for public ownership, management, and natural resource protection.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting auditory effect was noticed, incidentally, which rendered the vocalizations of the avian multitudes into something akin to that which you would hear coming from a crowded lunchroom full of school kids. This blended with a syncopated call and response of what sounded like calisthenics PE over at Rikers Island, a short distance away.

Note- the island is strictly off limits (said status is zealously enforced by several of the different harbor officialdoms and gendarmes). I was the guest of a highly trained and dedicated crew who catechized me on the rules of the place and watched my every step to insure that no harm came to anything living here. It is illegal, in the extreme, to visit this place without prior approval from the authorities.

Despite my dripping sarcasm and good natured kvetching about the trip, the folks I was with are really fighting the good fight here, gathering data in difficult conditions in order to understand the breeding habits of endangered wildlife to foment the survival of said species in the harbor of New York.

check out this 2007 report from harborestuary.org, which contains data supplied by some of the folks on this trip, and is an earlier iteration of what they were up to just a few days ago.

Also:

June 16th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek Alliance has asked that, in my official capacity as group historian, a tour be conducted on the 16th of June- a Saturday. This walk will follow the Dutch Kills tributary, and will include a couple of guest speakers from the Alliance itself, which will provide welcome relief for tour goers from listening to me rattle on about Michael Degnon, Patrick “Battle Ax” Gleason, and a bunch of bridges that no one has ever heard of.

for June 16th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally- the “Obscura Day” Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills tour proved that the efficacy and charms of the Newtown Creek’s least known tributary, with its myriad points of interest, could cause a large group to overlook my various inadequacies and failings. The folks at Atlas Obscura, which is a fantastic website worthy of your attentions (btw), have asked me to repeat the tour on the 23rd of June- also a Saturday.

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boast Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the historic maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at MTA.info.

For June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 5, 2012 at 12:15 am

frenzied throng

leave a comment »

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have noticed from the little flickr badge on the right hand side of this page, it’s been a rather busy few days for your humble narrator. The Working Harbor Committee Tugboat races were a hoot, as always, but I’ve had to develop and deliver the shots in a somewhat timely manner- despite the annoyance of a computer system crash and a concurrent setback in my overall schedule.

Such is life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some extremely exciting stuff is on the front burner right now, and October is looking to be another incredibly busy month. I can’t discuss any of it yet, but there will be several intriguing “events” which will be described to you in some detail in the coming weeks that I’m involved with.

Suffice to say- “Want to see something cool? Come with me, bring a camera and ID”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What does all this shadowy discussion and veiled promise have to do with shots of speedy trains and hidden trackbeds? Nothing at all, but this is a visual metaphor for what it feels like to be me at the moment.

A deer in the headlights, with a juggernaut hurtling ever closer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just in case you were wondering- the trains are Metro North at Spuyten Duyvel, LIRR at Woodside and then DUPBO near Hunters Point, and Amtrak at Sunnyside Yards.

Catching up on the latest round of research, getting the next series of postings together, getting back on track. Expect regular but rather short posts for the next few days as I pull together the next session of this, your Newtown Pentacle.

%d bloggers like this: