The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Empty Corridor

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Empty Corridor is what I call those streets of Long Island City which are particularly shadowed by the ferrous gargantua that is the Long Island Expressway’s “Queens Midtown Expressway” elevated truss section. The blighting effect of this 160 feet at its apex, 1940 vintage, span is all encompassing – both because of its inescapable presence and for the supernal amount of automotive related pollution which it represents. 32 million vehicle trips a year, lords and ladies, push along this truss bridge on their way to and from Manhattan via the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Were these vehicle trips moving along the ground, at least Queensicans could benefit from it by selling bottles of water or bags of oranges to the drivers. Instead, we get all the bad and nothing good from its presence.

Pictured is a section of the centuried Montauk Cutoff elevated railroad tracks, mentioned many times here at Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has experienced a few close calls, human interaction wise, in the Empty Corridor in recent months, and this “zone” as a whole has impressed one as having become somewhat “crimey.” This is partially the paranoia of a middle aged fellow marching around in the dark by himself, of course, but it’s also the prosaic observation of a life long New Yorker who knows what trouble looks like when it’s walking your way. Be careful out there, keep an eye on others, and ask yourself why somebody might be making a beeline towards you despite there being a respiratory plague spreading. Nobody is that friendly.

Many of my younger friends believe that the stories we tell about “the bad old days” in NYC are reflections of systemic racism, outright fiction, or overblown reportage. What I can tell you is that what my younger friends think is uninformed and wishful thinking, romantic aspiration for who they wish sympathetic characters were, and that getting “jumped” is something that’s never happened to them – apparently. The late 1970’s and the entire 1980’s were no joke. Back then, you had to learn how to improvise weapons on the fly. Metal garbage can lids are no longer available for ready hands to use, and there’s fewer glass bottles lying around to break and use as a slashing weapon due to the return deposit cash in. Plastic bottles, as a note, make for shit shivs. When you hit a guy with a plastic bottle it makes a comical and hollow “blonk” sound.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One time in the mid 80’s, I was crossing the street at 21st street and Third in the City. Some guy had his back to traffic on 21st and got hit by a car. He hit the crosswalk with his forehead, which pretty much “asphalt erased” his face, and his corpse was set up in a tripod formation with his knees flat on the street along with what remained of his head, the arms were arranged straight back and it looked a lot like he was praying. The cops were so busy with handling corpses back then that they just threw a blanket over the body and set out a traffic cone while waiting for the Coroner to scoop up the mess, and the whole tableau was still in place about three hours later while I was walking the other way. His blood was running into the sewer. There’s a metaphor there, I thought.

Early 90’s, a guy got shot on the corner of 99th and Broadway while he was talking on the phone in one of those half size phone booths. An ice storm blew in, and the poor SOB’s body and in particular his hand froze up while he was still grasping the phone receiver. When I passed by on my way to work the next morning, his body was swaying in the wind and the phone cord was the fulcrum supporting him. The Cops smoked cigarettes and drank coffee while similarly waiting for the morgue’s meat wagon to appear.

I’m not arguing for any sort of Police state Götterdämmerung moment, by the way, I’m just saying that there’s always been a different set of rules on the street. A lot for these rules aren’t what you’d like them to be, aren’t fair, and have nothing to do with justice.

It’s all true. The Force, Luke Skywalker, the Death Star, all of it.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, February 8th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 9, 2021 at 11:00 am

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Empty Corridor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Were it not for political maneuvering and the inertia for which a certain NYS authority whose mandate involves metropolitan transit is famous for, you’d have some open space in Long Island City to visit during this interminable quarantine, namely the Montauk Cutoff. The cyclopean wall on the left hand side of the shot above supports a set of abandoned railroad tracks which several of my chums and I have been trying to turn into a public space for years at this point. Ennui abounds.

One found his way down here last week, to an area of LIC which I often refer to as “the empty corridor.” When the Long Island Expressway and the Queens Midtown Tunnel were installed here, eight decades of blight began. Devil’s advocate, though, says that the chemical and pharmaceutical factories, as well as the lead foundry and varnish plant which the LIE displaced weren’t exactly “not blight” but at least there were a lot of people with jobs hereabouts as opposed to a lot of people driving back and forth to office jobs in Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Empty Corridor is pure and utilitarian. Not a single thought was given to anything natural or “normal.” Anything green growing here is due to shrinking maintenance budgets on behalf of City and State authorities. It’s been decades since they sprayed herbicide, or sent in teams of arborists to clear cut the self seeded trees. Rodents walk around freely here, much to the joy of the residents of a nearby feral cat colony.

Illegal dumping is art. The streets are broken pavement, shattered automotive glass collects along the crushed curbs like rainwater, the air smells of burning wire insulation and automotive exhaust. The buzzing sound of failing electrical transformers echoes out from the manholes, infrequent local traffic rockets past at incredible speed, and half of the street lights are burned out.

I love it so.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When this whole “social distancing” thing started up, I thought of this particular scene and place.

The immense street level loneliness of places like the Empty Corridor belie their actuality. Whereas in my mind, I was totally alone with my personal biome, in reality I was surrounded by crowds of people. The Long Island Expressway is descending into the Queens Midtown Tunnel at the left of the shot, and just beyond the tunnel is the population center of Long Island City at Hunters Point. On the right is the New York City Housing Authority Warehouse, and most of the street parking is occupied by their fleet of trucks. Biome wise, therefore, there’s probably a couple million people’s worth of cooties floating around in the air down here, or they’re stuck to some greasy smear.

I’m going to get the Montauk Cutoff done, as we need some more open space. Or, at least I’m going to reduce the number of streets in Western Queens without sidewalks. There’s no sidewalk on the left side of the street in the shot above, for instance.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 25th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

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It’s National Banana Split Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue, where it crosses the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek nearby 27th street in LIC, was originally built in the 1860’s as a raised plank (or corduroy) road for pack animals and wagons. It was constructed to create a pathway between Maspeth, where the Borden dairy people would have been found, and the East River docks at Hunters Point. Accounts of the journey describe clouds of mosquitos rising from the swampy wetlands surrounding it that were reminiscent of smoke rising from camp fires, and the swarms of blood suckers would feast on the oxen, mules, and horses pulling the wagons. When the drivers would arrive at the section of the hill leading towards Maspeth nearby Calvary Cemetery, their practice was to stop and wipe away the wriggling gray sweater their pack animals had accrued. First hand reports describe the animals as being covered in a sheen of blood.

There’s a reason our ancestors paved over everything, y’know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This street called Borden Avenue mirrors the pathway of the Lower Montauk Branch of the Long Island Railroad, found a couple of thousand feet to the south. As the mercantile era gave way to the second industrial revolution, and LIC became colloquially known as “America’s Workshop” the concurrence of waterborn shipping (via Dutch Kills), the easy availability of rail sidings, and a booming population of sharp elbowed immigrant labor pouring off of transatlantic boats into Manhattan daily saw massive investments by manufacturing and warehousing interests occur along the street.

Borden Avenue was raised and paved, the swamps filled in, and enormous concrete structures were erected.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the 1930’s, as the age of the automobile and it’s great proponent – Robert Moses – dawned, the highway truss pictured above was built. It soars 106 feet over Dutch Kills, and comes to ground at a vehicle tunnel which allows access into Manhattan. This “Long Island Expressway” and “Queens Midtown Tunnel” complex had a blighting effect, due to foot and vehicle traffic no longer using local streets, and effectively cut industrial LIC in half. Just to the north of Borden Avenue is 51st avenue, which is permanently shadowed by the high flying steel of the truss bridge. Further north are another set of rail tracks – the LIRR main line, and the cylcopean Sunnyside Yards – which further isolate it. The tunnel and highway officially opened in 1940.

I’ve long called 51st avenue the “empty corridor.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One could sing his usual song about the lost history of the empty corridor. Charles Pratt’s varnish works, Blanchard’s fireproof windows and doors, Battleaxe Gleason handing out the contract for fire hydrants to his brother who installed water pipes too narrow to carry a meaningful amount of liquid for firefighters to use… it goes on and on.

On an empty lot, which had once housed a factory that manufactured “lucifers” or as we would call them – books of matches – some unknown entity has planted a garden.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve mentioned before, sunflowers freak me out due to early childhood experiences with their bee addled faces. Brrr.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Untenanted occupancy, and it’s evidence, is still quite apparent in the empty corridor. I hear rumors about who, or what, may be living back here – but it’s best if the general population continues to believe that they’re just rumors.


Upcoming Tours and events

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 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.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm

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The Empty Corridor, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DULIE, or Down Under the Long Island Expressway in Long Island City, is actually quite a busy place during the work week. On the weekends, however, the nickname I’ve assigned the area is “The Empty Corridor.” Last Saturday I found myself wandering about LIC, which was on my way to Greenpoint via the Pulaski Bridge. The light was pretty good on Saturday, and the weather tolerable to one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been stuck in the house for so long that I recently found myself chiding Our Lady of the Pentacle for her arrangement of cutlery in the drying rack found alongside the sink (forks down, spoons up), and realized that hell or high water – I had to get out and take a long walk to regain some perspective. Viking Hell be damned. I’m happy to report that the cat colony alongside the UPS facility on 51st avenue seems to be in fine fettle despite the vagaries of winter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In actuality, I’ve been making good use of any interval wherein polar temperatures and ice falling from the sky were not experienced. The shot above is actually from Sunnyside, sometime last week. As mentioned in prior posts, I’ve been studying up on both Sunnyside and the rail yards which figure massively in the current Mayor’s plans for so called “affordable housing.” More on that later in the week.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Declination and Altitude. These are two concepts referenced and always mentioned when I’m conducting a walking tour around Newtown Creek, where nothing is “as god made it.”

For instance: The real Borden Avenue in Long Island City, what comics fans would refer to as the “Golden Age Borden Avenue” is buried 20-30 feet below the modern street- which would equate to “Bronze Age,” if one were to collect and assign value to important industrial corridors in the same manner as you would with comic books (scarcity, condition, desirability). Borden’s value would be downgraded, of course, as the modern day Borden isn’t exactly in “mint condition.” That’s what happens, I guess, when an Internet grocery chain runs thousands of heavily laden delivery trucks across it on a daily basis, as do thousands of other business and private vehicles.

In terms of scarcity and desirability, however… well, there ain’t that many industrial corridors left in New York today (golden, silver, or bronze age)– which makes it akin to finding an Amazing Fantasy 15 at a thrift store.

from wikipedia

Amazing Adult Fantasy and its retitled final issue, Amazing Fantasy, is an American comic book anthology series published by Marvel Comics from 1961 through 1962, with the latter title revived with superhero features in 1995 and in the 2000s. The final 1960s issue, Amazing Fantasy #15 (cover-dated August 1962), is the title that introduced the popular superhero character Spider-Man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The original street was a plank road built into and over a boggy swamp, held together by Cypress roots and salt grasses.

I’ve read accounts of the place as having been what modernity would describe as a “thriving wetlands environment,” similar in appearance to the bayous of the southern United States, but quite obviously populated by latitudinal appropriate flora and fauna. This plank road, which would have ridden around 2-3 feet above flood tide upon wooden struts planted into the mud, was a rough surface by modern standard, but which was appropriate for teams of draft horses and cargo laden wagons.

The protocol for building this sort of wooden or plank road is something that people from north of the Mason Dixon line got very, very good at during the 1860’s during the Civil War. By the early 20th century, advanced or modern forms of engineering had landfilled this part of Long Island City and raised the street level (or grade) to modern altitudes.

from wikipedia

The Bronze Age of Comic Books is an informal name for a period in the history of mainstream American comic books usually said to run from 1970 to 1985. It follows the Silver Age of Comic Books.

The Bronze Age retained many of the conventions of the Silver Age, with traditional superhero titles remaining the mainstay of the industry. However, a return of darker plot elements and more socially relevant storylines (akin to those found in the Golden Age of Comic Books) featuring real-world issues, such as drug use, alcoholism, and environmental pollution, began to flourish during the period, prefiguring the later Modern Age of Comic Books.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of the many “nerdgasms” which I experience around the Creek, and particularly on the LIC side when I’m around this area- which I’ve vaingloriously named “The Empty Corridor- ones involving the actual declination of the land itself are particularly intense. The truss structure above is the oft mentioned 51st avenue footbridge, which allows one to see the surrounding neighborhood rise above the rail tracks leading away from Hunters Point. The tracks sit on engineered ground themselves, which was highly compacted and rises an uncertain number of feet above the water table.

The height of said water table level is easily calculable by examining the particular altitude of the nearby Newtown Creek in relationship to the declination of the tracks, as the ground water here actually is the Newtown Creek.

from wikipedia

Condition is a significant factor in the valuation of a comic book. An example is Action Comics #1, the first published appearance of Superman. In 2010, 2 copies sold on the comic book auction website comicconnect.com for record prices. One copy was CGC graded 8.0 and sold for $1 million USD. The second book at a later auction, a copy CGC graded at 8.5 sold for a record setting $1.5 million dollars, the most ever paid for a comic book. So with CGC’s ability to provide a grading service as a neutral third party from a transaction, this created a degree of impartiality that did not exist before. This has shown that there is a demand for graded books as consistently these books have set sales records.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

A free event, “Watch Wildlife on Maspeth Creek with NCA and DEC!” – Friday, April 26
Meetup at Maspeth Creek at 1 p.m., for more information visit newtowncreekalliance.org.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

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