The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘FDNY

black smoke

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What a nightmare.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning from a short constitutional walk the other night, a sudden explosion of FDNY activity drew my attention to the corner of Newtown Road and 45th street here in Astoria. A structural fire was consuming one of the older homes in the neighborhood, a wood framed one set back from the property line. It soon became an all hands fire, it seems, and FDNY units from both Woodside and Astoria were present, as was Rescue Unit 4.

I also captured a bit of video on my phone, which can be accessed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighbors were all coming out of their houses to see what was happening, and lots of them were breaking out in tears over the spectacle. I suddenly realized that dozens if not a hundred people were forming a crowd and one beat it out of there quickly in the name of social distancing. Cooties.

I don’t know anyone who lives in that house, thought I, but as it turns out that wasn’t true. Somebody from the outer ring of my social circle did indeed live there and was now homeless. Under normal circumstance, this is plain horrible, and the normal systemic response would involve the Red Cross setting you up in a hotel for a couple of days while the insurance people figure out next steps. Fire insurance will usually pay for temporary lodging until the house is determined to be fixable or a total loss, at which point repairs are made or you have to find a new apartment.

During the current crisis – this is a nightmare scenario.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I posted the video of the fire to a couple of social media platforms, and made sure that City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer was aware of it, since this is not only his district but the neighborhood he grew up in. The next morning, a message was sent to me from a friend informing that the aforementioned “outer ring” acquaintance of ours was in fact now homeless and sleeping on their couch, and I made sure that JVB’s office had their contact information. Apparently, some sort of shelter for the poor fellow was arranged.

Structural fires are one of the things which I am worrying about more and more with all of us trapped inside. Be careful in your kitchens lords and ladies, and with those extension cords, and if you don’t have a fire extinguisher or two in your house – get some.

Also, on this date in 1909, the Queensboro Bridge opened for traffic. That’s your NYC history trivia of the day.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. 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.


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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

March 30, 2020 at 11:00 am

resident alienists

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Friday bits and bobs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week and here in Astoria, just as a humble narrator was about to succumb to that daily interval of involuntary unconsciousness during which wild hallucinations occur, the windows at HQ began to strobe with a scarlet hue. Thinking that the Astoria Borealis might be occurring again, one rushed to the porch. It seems one of my neighbors was having a visit from both the NYPD and the FDNY, and since both of the municipal vehicles were quite static while the City’s preeminent staffers were busy within, one decided to get a couple of shots for the archive.

I do love seeing an unnaturally colored series of lights. A recent query offered by a passerby nearby Queens Plaza which was a variation on the standard “why are taking pictures of that”? My answer was “Y’know those old photos of NYC that people share on the internet? Somebody like me took those, and whereas these photos are new, someday they’ll be old.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luyster Creek is a lonely industrial waterway found on the forbidden northern coast of Queens, here in Astoria. A humble narrator is drawn to things forbidden, lonely, and industrial so a scuttle from HQ on the Broadway side of the neighborhood was enacted. Timing was key in this walk, as I wanted to get there just as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was dipping down beyond the western shore.

There’s a pretty active industrial driveway leading to the aforementioned western shore, leading to what’s soon going to be a new Department of Sanitation New York (DSNY) maintenance garage and salt dome complex. The City is moving operations from 21st street nearby the Ravenswood NYCHA campus over to the IBZ (industrial business zone) found on the north side of Astoria. DSNY is planning on spending a ball park number of $131 million back here.

Did you know that NYC has a 1% for art requirement in all new municipal construction projects? It’s how the Newtown Creek Nature Walk in Greenpoint got funded. Been on the books since 1982, the 1% for art requirement. You know who must have gotten that into the books, back in 1982? I’ll bet it was Astoria’s own Peter Vallone, senior. Hmmm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One stuck around at Luyster Creek for a while as the tide was coming in. Saying that, Luyster is a lot like my beloved Newtown Creek in terms of there being a vertical rather than laminar or horizontal flow related to the tide. There’s a bunch of indeterminate muck in the water and its sediment bed due to industrial pollutants as well as a large CSO or Combined Sewer Outfall (BB-041) maintained by the DEP at the head of the canal. As a matter of fact, the shot above was gathered while standing on the pipe’s outfall weir.

NYC has a combined sewer system, meaning that sanitary and storm water use the same underground pipes to travel to the 14 sewer plants. A quarter inch of rain, City wide, means a billion gallons have suddenly surged into the system, and the agency responsible for wastewater management and the 14 plants – the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection, or DEP – is forced to release the overage into area waterways.

The nomenclature of “BB-041” is explained thusly; the BB stands for Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant” which is just a few blocks away, the 041 indicates that this is number 41 of the 1936 vintage Bowery Bay plant’s 47 outfalls. BB-041 experiences an average number of 61 weather related discharges into Luyster Creek annually, and pours roughly 84 million gallons of untreated sewage per year directly into the water. Fun times.


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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 21, 2020 at 11:00 am

ultimate abomination

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Hullabaloos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, whilst enjoying an autumnal afternoon with the neighbors at the local pub, a sudden explosion of noise and tumult occurred when the FDNY suddenly arrived at a call on 42nd street right off of Broadway here in Astoria. Given that – despite my advancing age – I still run down the street yelling “Firemen, Firemen” when the big red trucks are screaming past, one couldn’t help but get excited and start waving the camera at them.

Predictably enough, it was the engine and hook and ladder you’d normally associate with Astoria who answered the call – Engine 263 and Ladder 117 – who are based out of a house on Astoria Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure what the emergency was, based on what I was seeing and what they were carrying with them, I’d guess that somebody had reported smelling gas or something. They didn’t stay too long, which usually indicates that the emergency conditions were overstated and that the talents of the FDNY weren’t required to ameliorate it. Not pictured was one of those red big jeep vehicles which the FDNY brass ride around in, but which was present. There were no ambulances either, so it must have been purely a structural call. We get a whole lot of FDNY personnel showing up whenever a drunk is being scooped up by EMS units for some reason.

A few people at the bar were grousing about overkill. I offered one of my little aphorisms about not questioning the appropriateness of what professionals think is correct, and especially so in the case of FDNY. If they think it’s right to show up with a small army…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thankfully, the emergency – whatever it was – was resolved quickly. The normal pattern of life in Astoria resumed, and as the photo above can confirm, delivery bicycles began to flow freely about without impediment again.


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Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 17, 2019 at 1:00 pm

wide notice

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It’s National Prime Rib Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent afternoon found one wandering about the waterfront in LIC whereupon FDNY’s Tiller Ladder 175 truck was encountered. For those of you not in the know, Tiller Ladders are those “old school” fire trucks with a driver at both ends. This one was Ladder 175, which normally spends its time over in East New York, but based on the patches worn by the FDNY guys driving it, I’d say that Ladder 175 was in the possession of the Fleet Services unit that day.

Fleet Services have several properties in Maspeth and in Greenpoint, all within spitting distance of the fabulous Newtown Creek, and you can often spot interesting equipment awaiting mechanical or esthetic attention.

from wikipedia

In the United States, a tiller truck, also known as a tractor-drawn aerial, tiller ladder, or hook-and-ladder truck, is a specialized turntable ladder mounted on a semi-trailer truck. Unlike a commercial semi, the trailer and tractor are permanently combined and special tools are required to separate them. It has two drivers, with separate steering wheels for front and rear wheels.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As opined many times in the past, a historically minded fellow is a fool if he tries to fill in the blanks when the subject is the FDNY. Every firehouse has an active duty resident historian who can tell you EVERYTHING about the units therein and the pre consolidation history of the individual firehouse, and there are legions of retired firefighters who know literally EVERYTHING about the department in excruciating detail. When the City created itself in 1898, all fire units in Brooklyn and Queens saw their unit numbers raised by “100,” so… if there was a Brooklyn Fire Department ladder unit back then it would have been “Ladder 75.”

Saying that, I don’t know if East New York was part of the BFD, or if it was an independent operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The design and purpose of the tiller models is built around turning the ladder unit around narrow street corners, which is accomplished through the use of the double steering mechanisms. The trucks are also quite a bit longer than the tower ladder units, which extend and telescope their ladders from a turntable. This means that the tiller trucks can carry more equipment and muster more firefighters than more traditional units.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the rear operators cabin, with steering wheel and other controls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As they drove away, I yelled out “are ya lost?” and “east New York is that way” while gesturing to the southeast.

You literally never know what you’re going to encounter in LIC, so it’s best to carry a camera, just in case.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

indubitably linked

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It’s UNESCO World Radio Day, in the member states of the United Nations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Owing to other obligations and piss poor weather conditions for the last couple of weeks, one hasn’t got anything new to show you for this week. Accordingly, it has been decided to instead present a few archive shots of the various branches of NYC government which make life liveable for us here in “Home Sweet Hell.”

Today, the focus is on the FDNY – the redoubtable Fire Department of New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The men and women of this municipal service are amongst the most visible manifestations of our collective willpower and substantial tax base, here in the five boroughs. It’s hard not to notice the sirens and flashing lights when they show up, either to quench a fire or to pick up some unfortunate soul who requires a speedy trip to the hospital. FDNY runs, regulates, and operates the EMT ambulance service in addition to their other more obvious duties involving fire prevention and the extinguishing of blazes they couldn’t prevent. They also govern the safety rules concerning public gatherings like stadium games, clubs, and concerts with a small army of inspectors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY has a spectacular Marine division, which in addition to many smaller vessels – includes the thoroughly modern and science fiction like “Three Forty Three” and “Firefighter 2” fire boats. Pictured above is the Three Forty Three, doing parade duty on the Hudson River.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 13, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in FDNY, Fireboat 343

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hitherto baffled

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Santa Claus, Sunnyside, the Turks, and FDNY Ladder 163 – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Celebrating the forthcoming Saturnalia, on a stretch of Sunnyside’s Skillman Avenue, the community received a visit from Santa on Saturday the third of December. There was a street fair sort of thing, and all the local small businesses welcomed the arrival of both Father Christmas and the shoppers who followed him. The whole thing was orchestrated and underwritten by the office of Jimmy Van Bramer, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and I think there were other donors but didn’t pick up on who they were. 

The owners of Flynn’s, Quaint and Claret, and the Dog & Duck all slept happily that night – I’m sure – after watching their establishments grow absolutely full to the gills with merry making community based customers who were lured over to Skillman Avenue for the event.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even the Turks, who aren’t exactly Christmas people, got in on the show. They were grilling kebabs – or whatever the Mediterranean grilled meat on a stick standard is called in Anatolia – on a smoky BBQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was asked to come and photograph the event by my friends in the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and did my standard “thing” at public events when behind the camera. Part of my “thing” is this – always take pictures of kids, dogs and the food.

I moved back and forth between 51st street and 43rd street on Skillman Avenue, which was closed to traffic due to the pending arrival of Santa and the concurrent lighting of a tree at that little church on the corner of 48th. I will admit that this sort of event photography ain’t exactly exciting for me – I mean… it’s not like something visually “exciting” is going to happen at a parade or street fair.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On one of my passes, the smoky Turkish BBQ pictured above had disappeared. The smoke liberally painting the air was now billowing up from their sidewalk basement gates, and FDNY had arrived on the scene.

As mentioned in the past, I was the Brooklyn kid who ran down the street yelling “Firemen, Firemen” whenever an engine or ladder truck screamed past. Nothing has changed for me, despite the passing of multiple decades.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A minor blaze had broken out in the basement of the Turkiyem Market, it seems.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ladder 163 was called to the scene, along with their partner unit Engine 325 – both are stationed at the same firehouse and they call themselves the “Woodside Warriors.” The two units were discussed a couple of weeks ago, in this post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that this was a street fair, ultimately, the normal crowd control stuff they do didn’t apply and this was a rare opportunity to get in close and observe while FDNY did its thing. Saying that, I wasn’t “that” close as I was using that new zoom lens of mine – the Sigma 50-100mm f1.8. I also swapped in another Sigma lens occasionally, which was an 18-35mm f1.8. Periodically I fired off the flash for a bit of extra light, but I’m trying not to use camera mounted flashes these days.

These two Sigma lenses are now the core glass in my “NYC night kit,” btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The FDNY folks firehoses (monitors?) were charged up with hydrant water, but from what I surmised, the initial wave of personnel who went into the basement had managed to quell things using hand operated extinguishers. I suspect that they probably squirted a bit of water around down there anyway in the name of conquering any “hot spots,” or areas which might reignite.

BTW, I question “monitors” above as that’s what you’d call a fire suppression hose and nozzle on a boat. If any of “youse guys” are on the job, let me know what you call a fire hose in the comments. The comedic potential of the preceding sentence is acknowledged, but keep it clean – this is a family blog.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was all terribly exciting. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crisis was averted, and Sunnyside got back to the holiday season. Jimmy Van Bramer lit a Christmas tree at the church, kids sang holiday ditties, and eventually Santa showed up despite being around 25 minutes late. It seems that Santa got stuck in highway traffic, which amplifies the message on a bit of common knowledge held by all New Yorkers.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, beats the Van Wyck. Not even Santa.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

reasonably legitimate

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Another Astoria Hullabaloo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I was walking home to Astoria with the goal of reuniting with Our Lady of the Pentacle and Zuzu the dog before they both fell asleep. I was returning from a meeting over in Sunnyside, and imagine my surprise as I encountered the Woodside Warriors on 34th avenue. Housed on 51st street, the 49th Battalion of the FDNY is composed of Engine 325 and Tower Ladder 163. The firefighters had taken over the corner of 45th street and 34th avenue.

Couldn’t possibly tell you what was going on, they were too busy for me to ask. Didn’t smell smoke, nor did I see arcing flashes of electricity, and it was just the FDNY response units on scene – no Ambulances or Police were there.

from wikipedia

There are currently six different types of fire companies in the New York Fire Department which all operate distinct types of apparatus: 198 Engine Companies, 143 Ladder (or Truck) Companies, 5 Rescue Companies, 7 Squad Companies, 3 Marine (or Fireboat) Companies, and the Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) Company. In addition to these six types of fire companies, there are numerous other specialized units that are operated by the Special Operations Command (S.O.C.), the Haz-Mat. Division, and the Marine Division. Each fire company has a specific role at the scene of an emergency.

Each type of fire company utilizes a certain type of fire apparatus, colloquially known as “rigs”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ladder 163 extended itself up to the roof level of the apartment building that FDNY was focusing on, but after spending a couple of minutes shining lights around up there, they retracted the basket back down to the truck. Notably, the Engine 325 folks didn’t connect their hoses up to the hydrants.

I have no clue what was going on, hence – I call it a hullabaloo.

from wikipedia

FDNY Ladder Companies (also known as Truck Companies) are tasked with search and rescue, forcible entry, and ventilation at the scene of a fire. A Ladder Company can operate three types of Ladder Trucks: an Aerial Ladder Truck, equipped with a 100′ aerial ladder mounted at the rear of the apparatus; a Tower Ladder Truck, equipped with either a 75′ or 95′ telescoping boom and bucket mounted in the center of the apparatus; a Tractor Drawn Aerial Ladder Truck, or Tiller/Tractor Trailer, equipped with a 100′ aerial ladder. A Ladder Company carries various forcible entry, ventilation, and rescue tools to deal with an assortment of fires and emergencies, including motor vehicle accidents.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since nothing seemed to be going on, as far as the likelihood of the FDNY doing “batman” type stuff – which is fun to photograph – I continued back on my way home. Zuzu the dog needed walking, and that’s my job. The pup and I wandered about for a bit. She seemed a bit on edge, my dog, the sort of mood she gets into when the silhouette of a bicycle chained to a fence presents itself. The game was afoot, signaled the dog. Then she peed.

from wikipedia

Most of the Engine Companies in FDNY’s fleet are Seagrave Commander II’s and Seagrave Marauder II’s and include 500 gallon water tanks and either 1,000 or 2,000 gallon per minute pumps. The 2,000 gpm pumps are primarily located in the high-rise districts and are considered high pressure pumpers. With the loss of apparatus which occurred as a result of the September 11 attacks, FDNY began to use engines made by other companies including Ferrara, KME and E-One. The FDNY is making the move from a fixed cab to a “Split-Tilt” cab, so the Seagrave Marauder II Pumper will fill the FDNY’s new order for 69 new pumpers. In 2014, FDNY went to KME for an order of 97 pumpers over the next few years. The new KME pumpers feature the split tilt cab and are also high pressure pumpers. As of January 2015, All future pumper orders will be ordered from KME. Seagrave will no longer make the split tilt cab, high pressure pumpers for the FDNY.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The next day, on the self same corner that the FDNY were doing their thing, Zuzu discovered the scene above. The dog was upset that the Squirrel, which seemed to be reaching for its last cigarette, didn’t react when she barked at it. I wondered, and more than wondered…

Then, Zuzu the dog peed again. Short attention span, my dog.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

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