The Newtown Pentacle

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It’s National Cordon Bleu day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Totemic exemplars of existential horror are everywhere you look in the Newtown Pentacle. To wit, at the border of Sunnyside and Blissville, you’ll find the Long Island Expressway, which was sited along it back in the 1930’s. Pictured above is the overpass which carries Greenpoint Avenue across the expressway, where a “ghost bike” has been encountered for several years. Ghost Bikes, for those of you not in the know, signify the spot where a bicyclist died after being struck by a motor vehicle. Post facto the installation of this Ghost Bike, the NYC DOT has since installed a bicycle lane, which is a badly placed one given that heavy trucks and thousands of automobiles routinely execute turns on this traffic choked overpass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ghost bike, as originally encountered a few years ago, and before the bike lane was striped in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking over to Greenpoint from Astoria the other night, for a meeting between the DEP and the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee, the scenario above was witnessed. It appeared that a vehicle of some sort had taken out not just the ghost bike, but had also snapped the steel signpost it was affixed to. The thing I’d like to point out is that the driver of this vehicle had to have been “busting a move” through the bike lane, which proves a point I’ve been talking about for awhile.

You’re not even safe on the freaking sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bike lanes area a fairly decisive issue amongst some Queensicans. More often than not, the argument against these things involves people protecting their street parking or something. I see bicyclists completely ignoring the street markings for these bike lanes and doing whatever the hell they want to – sidewalks, wrong way, running lights, all kinds of stuff. Everybody has probably ridden a bike at one time or another, everyone has also done something stupid on their bikes – that’s not the point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I see some truly tragic implementations of this bike lane thing, which were clearly drawn out in an ideological fashion by people who are staring at maps of remote places they’ve never visited. The bike lanes on, and leading to, the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge are ludicrous and actually cause a constant traffic jam mid bridge – it was and is far safer for the bikes to ride on the sidewalk of the bridge than to try and navigate the gravel and debris which litters the GP Ave. Bridge lanes. The ones here at Greenpoint Avenue and the LIE are also a disaster. Again, it’s better for – and is the observed custom of – bicyclists to use the sidewalk to cross the overpass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what 5:41 p.m. looks like on a weekday at this intersection. That white SUV in the foreground is the head of a vehicular snake of east bound stop and go traffic which coils all the way back to Midtown Manhattan. It’s so busy that NYPD has permanently stationed traffic control officers here during the rush hours. If there has to be a bike lane on Greenpoint Avenue, lets widen the sidewalk and line it with those concrete jersey barriers to protect both scuttling narrator and the riders of those mechanical contraptions called bicycles. That would be smart.

If this spot can kill a ghost bike… the mind boggles over the implications for one such as myself.

Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

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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 4, 2017 at 1:05 pm

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

While walking down Greenpoint Avenue recently, specifically that section of the ancient lane which overpasses the massive Long Island Expressway, this “Ghost Bike” caught my attention. Reckless, the political calculations which have caused the Manhattan elites to embrace and encourage cycling as an alternative form of transportation has created several spots where high speed traffic interacts directly with human powered vehicles, and tragedy has ensued. Cycling enthusiasts place these white painted bicycles at the spot where someone has died, as a memorial and a reminder to passerby.

It’s kind of a somber thing, these white bikes.

This is an “unnamed” ghost bike, according to

A livery cab driver struck and killed a cyclist in Long Island City early this morning, as first reported by DNAinfo. The motorist was not charged with any crime, said an NYPD spokesperson.

According to police, the cyclist, a man in his 30s, was riding south
on Greenpoint Avenue at the time of the crash, while the livery driver,
25, was heading east on Borden Avenue, along the side of the Long Island

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This post won’t be debating the efficacy of such alternative transportation, the wisdom of allowing vehicles to operate on the streets of New York City (motorized or human powered) without insurance or tags or operator training or licensing, or comment on the tremendous amount of traffic focused on and through Western Queens.

Instead, my attention was drawn to the slip of notepaper which was inserted into the spokes.

from wikipedia

A ghost bike or ghostcycle is a bicycle set up as a roadside memorial in a place where a cyclist has been killed or severely injured (usually by a motor vehicle) Apart from being a memorial, it is usually intended as a reminder to passing motorists to share the road. Ghost bikes are usually junk bicycles painted white, sometimes with a placard attached, and locked to a suitable object close to the scene of the accident.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“You have a beautiful bike. Have a nice day- homeless Cassie” is what it reads. Hipster “twee” notwithstanding, this is simply in bad taste, and the writer might as well have left a note of the gates of nearby Calvary saying “nice landscaping.”



August 5th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman will be leading a walk through the industrial heartlands of New York City, exploring the insalubrious valley of the Newtown Creek.

The currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and the place where the Industrial Revolution actually happened, provides a dramatic and picturesque setting for this exploration. We’ll be visiting two movable bridges, the still standing remains of an early 19th century highway, and a forgotten tributary of the larger waterway. As we walk along the Newtown Creek and explore the “wrong side of the tracks” – you’ll hear tales of the early chemical industry, “Dead Animal and Night Soil Wharfs”, colonial era heretics and witches and the coming of the railroad. The tour concludes at the famed Clinton Diner in Maspeth- where scenes from the Martin Scorcese movie “Goodfellas” were shot.

Lunch at Clinton Diner is included with the ticket.

Details/special instructions.

Meetup at the corner of Grand Street and Morgan Avenue in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. on August 5, 2012. The L train serves a station at Bushwick Avenue and Grand Street, and the Q54 and Q59 bus lines stop nearby as well. Check as ongoing weekend construction often causes delays and interruptions. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your vehicle in the vicinity of the Clinton Diner in Maspeth, Queens or near the start of the walk at Grand St. and Morgan Avenue (you can pick up the bus to Brooklyn nearby the Clinton Diner).

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic as we move through a virtual urban desert. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed-toe shoes are highly recommended.

Clinton Diner Menu:

  • Cheese burger deluxe
  • Grilled chicken over garden salad
  • Turkey BLT triple decker sandwich with fries
  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce or butter
  • Greek salad medium
  • Greek Salad wrap with French fries
  • Can of soda or 16oz bottle of Poland Spring

for August 5th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

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