The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn

inviolably private

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Continuing from a visit to Coney Island, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Described laboriously in prior posts, one took the Brighton (or Q) Line Subway from Astoria, Queens to the former site of the Dreamland Amusement Park in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, which has housed the NY Aquarium since 1957, and then decided to turn east in a moment of whimsy.

I was headed for Ocean Parkway and Brighton Beach Avenue when I encountered something kind of odd in the grassy border of the Coney Island Boardwalk along Surf Avenue just before it loops into Ocean Parkway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An enormous concrete sculpture of a giant squid, with its tentacles playing out over a fish.

In the shot above, Im standing on the squid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough since its in a NYC Parks Dept. property, and I looked around quite a bit for information on this item, I couldn’t find any sort of documentation on it. It had all the appearances of emanating from the Parks playground design people employed by Robert Moses back in the 1950’s and 60’s – concrete construction and all, but there’s “bupkis” online information about it. That’s weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some enterprising Brooklynite has painted the fish caught in the squid’s tentacles to resemble the Nemo character from the Disney “Finding Nemo” movie franchise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If anybody out there knows anything about this, and Andrea Coyle of GANYC or Sergey Kadinsky – I think Im talking to one of you, please share.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was now on a mission in South East Brooklyn, which carried me in a generally eastern direction, and I soon found myself turning onto Brighton Beach Avenue and under the elevated tracks of the Brighton Line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, this area has become overwhelmingly Russian in the last few decades, and the storefront signs were all in Cyrillic. Brighton Beach wasn’t my destination, of course, and I was just passing through the community on my way to another one of my old haunts.

More on that in a future post, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

attic seclusion

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A travlin’ man, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is Astoria, Queens’s 31st street and the elevated subway tracks which both distinguish and curse the spot once known to a newly consolidated City of Greater New York as Second Avenue, and to the Village of Astoria section of an independent municipality called Long Island City as Debevoise Street. These particular tracks, which are known to the MTA as the IRT Astoria Line, opened for business back in February of 1917, and today carry the N and Q lines between Ditmars Blvd. and the Queensboro Bridge.

Saying that, the predecessor of what we know as the Q Line (which is part of MTA’s “B” Division’s BMT service) began coming to Astoria at the end of April of back in 1950, after the purpose built IRT platforms were modified to accept the BMT trains.

It’s actually called the Brighton Line, the Q, and that should tell you everything about where I was going last Monday morning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the MTA website, it was only going to take me 45 minutes to cross the western tip of a Long Island, from North to South by South East. This calculation proved somewhat true, and the journey took me around 50-55 minutes. On the way, I listened to an audiobook of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu” just to get into the mood.

One had finally found the time, you see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other side of my journey from Astoria, the first thing I noticed were the elevated tracks which lead to the Coney Island Stillwell Terminal. Normal people call that the F, but not me. What I see are the tracks of the IND Culver line, and a rapid transit connection that runs between southeast Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens.

So… lessee… that means that even without the proposed BQX streetcar system, you can connect from two wildly separate sections of Queens to the same locus point in Brooklyn. It also suggests that since you can go further and faster using this already extant path… bah, what does logic have to do with De Blasio’s New York?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the 1980’s, when a humble narrator was still a youth, this was one of the best spots in the City to spot graffiti clad subway cars, as they exited out of the terminal. This was also an area infamous for the presence of crack dealers and prostitutes. It wasn’t quite “do or die” around here, but the area in which “The Donald’s Dad” Fred Trump made his fortune was pretty rough “back in the day.”

And that’s before the Russian mobsters arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My little journey was spurred on by the NYCID card which was obtained back during the winter, and more than once at this – your Newtown Pentacle – you’ve read of my desire to visit all of NYC’s premiere animal prisons. In particular, the one that’s found here in Southeast Brooklyn which I haven’t visited since grade school.

This area, less than an hour from home in Astoria (where I’ve lived for around a third of my life), is close to the part of Brooklyn which I spent the first third of my life in and is the outer edge of my old stomping grounds. Specifically speaking, my family lived about 2-3 miles east of here at the Canarsie/Flatlands border, but in the broader sense – I felt like was returning to my home town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Lenape tribe which lived here called this barrier island “Narrioch,” which means “land without shadows.” Given that I spend most of my time in North Brooklyn and Western Queens along a waterway which the Lenape referred to as “Hohosboco” or “the bad water place” and which modernity refers to as the Newtown Creek – seeing Jamaica Bay rising on the horizon beyond Coney Island… it got me all nostalgic.

That’s when I dropped the Lovecraft audiobook and started listening to Iron Maiden.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

nail biting

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A bit of Newtown Creek “now and then,” in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been at work on several subjects regarding that fabulously decadent cataract of Municpal neglect known to all as the Newtown Creek. It’s kind of big picture stuff, which requires a “long tail” of research on and about certain industries. You can’t understand something modern unless you understand its past, I always say.

For example – If I want to describe the Brooklyn Union Gas Manufactured Gas plant on Newtown Creek in Greenpoint (which is now the National Grid LNG plant on Varick), I need to possess an at least topical amount of knowledge regarding the history and technology of the 19th century Manufactured Gas Industry in New York City.

Actually, that’s not an example, it’s precisely the thing I’ve been working on – to develop an understanding of. Manufactured Gas Plants – or MGP’s as they’re known in the environmental community.

Harper_s_Weekly_hp001a_S_

– from Harper’s Weekly, August 6th, 1881 (courtesy google books)

This sort of research always turns up a few surprises, and for an area like Newtown Creek – which is of truly national importance in the story of the second industrial revolution, but for which scant historical visual documentation exists – it’s sometimes pretty interesting. Harper’s Weekly was on quite a tear about my beloved Creek back in the summer of 1881, and presented a few illustrations of “the horror” interspersed with texts describing the oil drenched mud and stinking waters of Newtown Creek.

Here’s my speculation as to what I think we are seeing in these drawings. Educated guesses, btw., that’s all.

Nowadays, the outline of Newtown Creek barely resembles what it looked like back in 1881 – there used to be a couple of islands in the Maspeth Creek/Turning Basin area for instance – but there are few historical constancies with which you can reckon location around the creek when old photos or even illustrations are presented. The LIRR tracks are one of them, and another is the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road.

In the shot above, that pile of piles on the shoreline in the center of the shot? The smokestacks on the far shore? The gas holder tanks on the horizon?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think that the illustrator was sitting right about where I was last winter, at the shoreline intersection of industrial Maspeth’s 58th road with Newtown Creek, looking south west towards Greenpoint’s National Grid LNG site with the ruins of the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road directly in front of me.

Harper_s_Weekly_hp001b_S_

– from Harper’s Weekly, August 6th, 1881 (courtesy google books)

The view above has railroad tracks in it, ones which follow a certain curve, one that has remained fundamentally the same since the LIRR laid them down in the late 1860’s. The tall smokestacks at the left of the shot are likely those of Phelps Dodge. The ones off in the distance are probably the Haberman rendering plant. Calvary cemetery would be to your left, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the illustrator set up his tripod at Penny Bridge – which is the modern day spot that Review Avenue transmogrifies into Laurel Hill Blvd.

That would put the illustrators point of view somewhere on the eastern side of Blissville, looking eastward towards Maspeth.

photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m of the belief that this is the same shoreline seen in the left side of the shot above, although my photo was captured from out in the middle of the channel while onboard a boat. The masonry on the lower right – or Brooklyn side – of the shot is what’s left of old Penny Bridge, and the 1939 model Penny Bridge (Kosciuszcko) is right where that divot on the shoreline is in the 1881 illustration from Harper’s Weekly. Phelps Dodge would have been found on the east side of the Kosciuszcko Bridge, and their property included the gray building with the blue stripe (the modern day Restaurant Depot).

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

what would

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You wanus, I wanus, so let’s Gowanus…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one was onboard for the Working Harbor Committee’s tour of Gowanus Bay and part of the Gowanus Canal. My pals Joseph Alexiou and Capt. Maggie Flanagan were handling the narration, and I spent most of the trip down on the bow of the NY Waterways Ferry boat shooting. One of the many interesting tableaux encountered included the sudden appearance of DonJon Marine’s Caitlin Ann tug.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Caitlin Ann was towing a barge of recyclables, specifically metals. A 1961 vintage, 2,400 HP tug, Caitlin Ann’s story can be best explained by visiting this page at the ever reliable tugboatinformation.com.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DonJon is a New Jersey based company, founded in 1964 by a fellow named J. Arnold Witte. In concurrence with the traditions of the towing industry, their tugs are named after family members. It isn’t limited to just the tug business either, and the company handles all sorts of hauling – including terrestrial tasks like trucking, as well as heavy maritime industrial tasks like dredging and even diving.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On our way out of Gowanus Bay, I couldn’t help but get a shot of the Abu Loujaine at the Quadrozzi Grain Terminal docks. I wrote about the Loujaine a while back, in this post from January of 2012.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

sojourns beyond

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A man needs a decent hat. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After conferring with a friend who is known for his regular display of sartorial excellence, regarding queries as to his current preferences for a haberdashery, a humble narrator found himself heading to the South Side of Williamsburg to purchase a summer hat. Famously, “I wear a lot of hats” – which is how I often describe the complicated web of non profit organizations with whom I’m associated. Saying that, I’ve always favored “old fashioned” hats in my normal round, the sort of things commonly observed on male heads until the early 1970’s – fedoras and the like. I used to have a place near Port Authority where I’d shop for my chapeaus, but that operation is long gone, and burnt away by the fires of gentrification. 

Accordingly, I found myself in a cab heading to Williamsburg (where those fires burn hottest, oddly enough) from Astoria last week. Normally, I’d walk it, but I was still convalescing from a nasty cold which I was suffering from and didn’t want to overexert. Since the logical route involved the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and a trip across the Kosciuszko Bridge and over my beloved Newtown Creek, I had the camera ready to go and was firing the shutter the entire way. 

Pictured above – Calvary Cemetery in Blissville. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One hopes that before the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge is demolished that a chance to properly shoot Newtown Creek from up here comes along, rather than just using an insanely high shutter speed and the “spray and pray” technique. “Spray and Pray” is basically a series of blind shots, where you point the prefocused lens in the general direction of a subject and hold down the shutter button with one hand and with the other – you cross your fingers and hope your luck is good. 

The whole ride took around 15 minutes, which is kind of lucky. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from that rooftop in Greenpoint that I mentioned the other day, and it’s a lot more in tune with what one normally goes for – a composed shot with a thought out field of focus. Hopefully, I’ll get to do something similar from up on the “Kos” someday after the BQE is rerouted onto the new span, and before they demolish the old one. 

As far as the hat buying went, I went to “Bencraft” on Broadway and South 8th nearby the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza and bought a spectacular Panama for a reasonable price. Seriously, if it wasn’t for the Orthodox Jews of Brooklyn, there wouldn’t be a single haberdashery left in the entire City of Greater New York.  

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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I like a good door, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One could bore you endlessly with the metaphorical and philosophical significance of doors. They keep you in, or keep you out, in their simplest function. A lot of the doors in today’s post are simply gone, such as the one pictured above which used to found in Queens Plaza along Jackson Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunterspoint Steel literally left their building in Queens well more than a decade ago, but their portal and signage nevertheless remained. Found just east of the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek and Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, the old factory building has become home to a plumbing supply company in recent years – but their sign typography is nowhere near as cool as Hunterspoint Steel’s was. They also replaced the old yellow door with some modern piece of “store bought.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn, at the Greenpoint Terminal Market, this second story number once connected with another building. That building burned away in the largest fire since 911, which – luckily enough – made lots of room available for the development of luxury condos on its lot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In lower Manhattan’s Alphabet City, there’s a church which celebrates the Hispanic Mozarabic Rite of the Western Orthodox Catholic tradition. No, really. I did a whole post on this church back in August of 2012.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on… Staten Island… there’s a bar on Richmond Terrace where you’ll find the front door always open, and within there’s a phone booth. If it looks familiar, that’s because it’s where Madonna called Danny Aiello from in the “Papa don’t preach” music video back in the 1980’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queens, over in Ridgewood, there’s a pretty ancient set of doors you can walk through at the Onderdonk House. If you’re tall, you might want to duck down a bit while walking through, as our colonial ancestors didn’t necessarily possess the same stature which we assign to them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queens’s Woodside, along Broadway, there’s a church which is fairly well vouchsafed against Vampires. Of course, Woodside doesn’t have too much of an infestation – nosferatu wise. For a good chance of encountering Vampires, you’d want to go to Red Hook (under the Gowanus Expressway is a good bet). As a note, Vampires avoid this particular corner anyway, as there’s a Sikh temple on the opposite corner.

You don’t screw around with the Sikhs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There aren’t that many burial grounds in Lower Manhattan, but you can bet that when you do find one it will be vouchsafed by stout iron doors. Whether it’s to keep the Wall Street types from robbing the graves, or to keep the dead from exacting vengeance upon the living – who cares, it’s Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hidden doors are my favorites, of course. In Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery, there’s hundreds of hidden doors designed to both protect and control the tomb legions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite doors are actually the elaborate bronze portal covers you’ll find adorning the Mausolea at one of the four Calvary Cemeteries here in Western Queens. Just look at that example above. Woof.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –

Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

doom that

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Kosciuszko Bridge visit, a few random things I noticed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of days back, a fairly enormous posting detailed the latest visit to the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project in Greenpoint. The shots in today’s post were candidates for that post, but I had to draw a certain line in the name of being concise in terms of the overall narrative. It was a progress report, after all. Today, some of the cool stuff I saw which didn’t fit into the structure thereof.

I love taking shots of people welding or working with metal and torches. There’s two ways to approach this shot, btw. One is to use a high ISO and insanely fast shutter speed to freeze the individual sparks. The other is to lower the ISO sensitivity and use a slower shutter. The shot above uses the former approach, which freezes all the little sparks. The latter approach allows the sparks to stretch out and look like fiery spaghetti.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from up on the still under construction roadway and overlooks the National Grid site in Greenpoint. I don’t know ANYONE who has ever personally visited this site, and it remains one of the “black boxes” on the Newtown Creek. By “black box” I mean that it’s like fight club when you ask the National Grid Guys about it, and you don’t talk about fight club. This is looking easterly, towards Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Turning on my heels, as it were, and looking south along Meeker Avenue/Brooklyn Queens Expressway towards Manhattan. For some reason, the chattering lunatic voice which constantly wails between my ears and behind my eyes has started referring to Manhattan as “Manchuquo” in recent weeks. I don’t know why. It won’t be the first time that I remind you that I’m an idiot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszko Bridge, Brooklyn side, is absolutely surrounded by waste transfer stations. Something close to 40% of NYC’s trash (by ton) comes to within about a mile of the bulkheads of Newtown Creek and its tributaries for processing. Last time I checked, the City generates about 12 million tons of trash a day, and since I’m mathematically challenged – I’ll allow you to do the calculations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gear, gear, gear. These construction guys have the coolest toys to play with you’ve ever seen. The vehicle above had some sort of crane/winch thing on it which appeared to be able to telescope out of the hydraulic boom that was set into the rear of its chassis, scorpion style. This particular device seemed to be just a few generations away from the the exoskeleton rig that Ripley used in the movie “Aliens.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot came from a temporary staircase set against the new overpass’s abutment/retaining wall. This has to be around 50-60 feet up from the deck. One of my many, many phobias – albeit a minor affliction in my portfolio – involves heights. In my mind, it’s a good defense mechanism, as falling 50-60 feet will kill you dead. Saying that, just looking at this picture causes neurological symptoms to manifest in the muscles controlling my hands.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, May 8th at 11 a.m. – North Henry Street Project,
with Municipal Arts Society Janeswalk and Newtown Creek Alliance,
in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 5, 2016 at 11:00 am

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