The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Greenpoint Avenue

healing balm

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Cry havoc, and let slip the dog of Blissville…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way to a recent Poison Cauldron tour, wherein a group of overtly curious New Yorkers were guided around neighborhood found in Brooklyn’s DUKBO, a rather large canine was spotted. It is my belief that I have met this dog before, and if I’m correct in my assumption of its identity, all one hundred pounds of slavering canine flesh contained in its skinvelope are overtly friendly and desirous of a good scratch. One way or another, he caught my eye whilst a humble narrator was scuttling toward the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stinging critique is omnipresent in my mind, as always. A novel one has been added to the list over at my Brownstoner Queens column, where someone has characterized a recent post as “classist.” That’s a new one. I’ve been called a lot of things over the last five years or so, but classist ain’t one of them. Just so that you understand where I come from, my Dad called the commode “a terlet” and the conventional wisdom in my family was that the best you could do in life was to pass a civil service exam which would vouchsafe “security” in the form of a job working for the City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dogs are generally good, to me at least. Here in Astoria, where a significant number of the neighbors hail from the near east and adhere to the mores of a Muslim upbringing – they’re not so good. There’s a whole other cultural imperative at work with these folks, and they view dogs as “unclean.” Canines aren’t as “haram” as pigs, of course, and I’ve noticed that there seems to be a coefficient to how unclean they are based on geography. Conversation with the neighbors has revealed that folks from the western side of the near east – Lebanon, Egypt etc. – are fairly tolerant of dogs although they are a bit wary about them (much like the Greeks who hail from the Cyclades). When you meet folks from further east – Bangladesh, India etc. – the sudden appearance of a dog amongst them is tantamount to pulling the pin on a grenade. The dividing line between the two points of view seems to be somewhere around the Arabian peninsula. This is entirely unscientific, of course, and based strictly on conversation with the neighbors.

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frantically begging

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Those cool firemen from Williamsburg, spotted in Blissville, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator does like hisself a fire truck – and having never surrendered the childhood desire to run along the sidewalk screaming “firemen, firemen” when a fire truck goes by – when a Brooklyn based unit comes screaming out of a fire house in Blissville – it catches my eye. For some reason, 108 came out of the Ladder 128 house on Greenpoint Avenue – obviously on a call. My confusion is based on the fact that one normally expects Ladder 108 to deploy via Union Avenue in Brooklyn.

from nyfd.com

History: Ladder 108 Ladder Co. 108, now quartered at 187 Union Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, began life as Hook & Ladder Co. 8 in the old City of Brooklyn Fire Department at 112 Siegel Street near Graham Avenue on November 30, 1887. During this time, to be distinctive, the Brooklyn Fire Department used two-tone green on their apparatus, while F.D.N.Y. apparatus was red. Green continued to be used until consolidation of the five bouroughs in 1898. On January 1, 1898, Ladder Company became part of the Fire Department of the City of New York. It was renumbered as Ladder Company 58 on October 1, 1899. It was not until January 1, 1913, that Ladder 58 was renumbered as Ladder Company 108. In the 110 years of Ladder 108’s existence, two members lost their lives in the line of duty. A fire in Queens on March 2, 1905, took the life of Lt. George McGeary and 27 years later on May 2, 1932, Firefighter Joseph LaGrange was killed when Ladder 108 and Engine 213 collided responding to a false alarm and Firefighter LaGrange was thrown to the street. Ladder 108’s tenure at 112 Siegel Street lasted 84 years and on August 9, 1971, 108 truck moved to a new firehouse at 187 Union Avenue and is still quartered there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the ways and means and mores common to those “firemen, firemen” are many and complex, so no profit can be realized by analyzing their methods. Luckily, one had the opportunity to crack out a few shots of the hurtling ladder truck as it sped along past the walls of Calvary.

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

Can’t help but wonder where Ladder 128 was, maybe they loaded the truck up and drove to Florida for a vacation or something. I like the idea of a whole crew just taking off for a few days, pulling into 711 parking lots along I-95 for toilet breaks and microwave burritos. The random appearance of NYC vehicles in other parts of the country – a taxi or a police car for instance – would be positively dada.

from dnainfo.com

Police officers inside the 90th Precinct were in just the right spot for such an emergency — someone from the station house simply ran next door to report the fire to Battalion 35 Engine 216 and Ladder 108. The firehouse shares a city building on a Williamsburg block with the NYPD.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 25, 2014 at 11:00 am

troubled jottings

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scenes depicted in today’s shots actually didn’t actually look very much like these presented photo. In general, I screw around with every shot a little bit- push or pull the exposure and midpoints of dark and light, alter the color temperature to neutralize and compensate for sodium or fluorescent lights, drop an exposure gradient into a sky or on the water to compensate for glare. I’ll do the occasional tilt shift here and there, but largely strive for the ability to do it “in camera” more than anything else. Nothing major is altered, by “retoucher” standards, who would define such adjustments as merely “helping” the photo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These photos, however, have had a whole bag of hammers thrown at them. One of the things I’m trying to eliminate from my mind these days is any fealty to the metaphor of film in creating a digital photograph. Even the term “photograph” is somewhat disingenuous as what these images actually “are” is a 23 megabyte computer file compiling the data captured by a sophisticated sensor. There is more information in the original file than is needed for reproduction, and the process of outputting the final image always involves a bit of photoshop editing work- deciding what to throw away, and that’s where the artsy fartsy stuff happens.

Losing this metaphor, the film one, leads one down the odd path of the so called “Uncanny Valley.” This term refers to a human perception bias which can instantaneously determine if something is artificially contrived, using CGI techniques to simulate a human face for instance. What I was “going for” in developing the shots as they are was a sort of old timey hand colored thing accomplished by a severely limited but quite saturated color range and an extremely high contrast regarding the black and white ratio. It’s a “formula” or “look” I’ve been asked to apply to other people’s files in my advertising life, by the way, usually for sports marketing stuff.

It beggars a certain question though- If it’s not a faithful rendition of the scene, a photograph by definition, what is it?

Also: Upcoming Tours!

Glittering Realms Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

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 on sale soon.

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.

artificial means

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maritime Sunday is suspended again this week, so as to incorporate the timely but dire warning that another Abomination has been spotted, moving freely through the community. This time the sighting was on Greenpoint Avenue in Sunnyside, whereas the last place and time I reported that such an entity walked amongst us was in Manhattan, back in December of 2012.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The beast had taken up station on the block opposite the park, and in some wild pantomime of clumsy gesticulations admonished passersby to accept a script of some kind. The blood chills thinking about what sort of bargain might be offered by such a creature, and one wonders if there are some things which might well be worth any cost.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The whirring staccato of my camera shutter attracted the attention of this rodent of great size, no doubt due to its overdeveloped auditory capabilities. Irregular coruscations of the cardiac action ensued deep within your humble narrator when the great beast suddenly stiffened and began to turn towards me, for given the speed legendarily attributed to its kind an attempt at escape would be, at best, a fruitless endeavor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cruelly baleful in expression, the monster fixed me in its glare while baring monstrous teeth, which were not fangs, instead its mandibular apparatus appeared to be bare plates of bone whose prominent shape and appearance reminded one of nothing less than the steel blades of jack hammers. ThIs halfling hare was around one and three quarter meters tall, and seemed both sturdily built and well armored by a dense hide which tended to hang loosely about its presumably sinewy limbs.

Watch your back out there today, it may be Easter Sunday, but this Abomination was lurking around, on the sunny side of the Newtown Pentacle, just yesterday.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 31, 2013 at 4:06 am

lost perspective

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back and forth, forth and back.

On yet another of my perambulations twixt ancient Greenpoint and Astoria, the path which presented itself carried me down Greenpoint Avenue and upon the loathsome expanse of the Long Island Expressway did I find myself staring aghast at. Shivering from chills which were not atmospheric in origin, a humble narrator feverishly crossed the pedestrian pathway between the on and off ramps, an island of safety in a sea of automotive sharks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the northern side of the street, yet another singular and abandoned example of the cobblers art was discovered.

Individual shoes are noticed nearly everywhere these days, by one such as myself, so much so that it seems as if some sort of sinister game might be afoot. Is there be some sort of registry for such matters? Some sort of federal list? Can an amputated consumer product such as a shoe be traced back to an owner? Detective fictions opine that this is the case, but who can guess?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wild speculation rules my reactions to these abandoned shoe sightings, lending fuel to flights of blasphemous fancy and outrageous possibility. Commonalities in the sightings of these orphaned singlets include their presence on out of the way, commonly traveled but seldom walked, streets. Most examples seem gently used (with the exception of the damage on the example today,) and that they are conspicuous.

There doesn’t seem to be a bias toward either the left nor right model.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 7, 2013 at 12:15 am

bland face

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of this Newtown Creek thing involves going to meetings in Greenpoint- this monitoring committee or that alliance or just some gathering at which an unelected official or designated regulator will speak at. This consumes quite a bit of time, which is amplified in my case, as I walk to the place from Astoria. Not a long walk by any stretch, roughly 3 miles, but sometimes it feels as if I spend all my time walking to and from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long have I been intrigued by this little fix a flat building which sits at the cross roads of Greenpoint Avenue, Van Dam St., and Review avenue on the Queens side in Blissville. Run down, it seems to be held together with tape and tacks, but there has always been something about the structure which has caught my eye. “Something” seems significant about it, given its location. Despite efforts at finding that something, it has always remained an enigma. Until now, thanks to the NYC Municipal Archives LUNA website.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot, of the Sobol Brothers SOCONY station at the intersection of Greenpoint and Van Dam, is from August 20, 1930- roughly 82 years ago. SOCONY, of course, stands for Standard Oil Company of New York. Standard used to franchise out filling stations, in the same manner as its modern day incarnation ExxonMobil does. The name SOCONY indicates that the signage went up after 1911 when the Standard Trust was broken up, incidentally.

click here for the giant sharp version of the NYCMA image.

Also, at the ever reliable fultonhistory.com, I found this ad for the company, which seems to have had several locations in Queens.

slow decadence

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

I seem to walk past this structure at least once a week, have done so for several years now, and until recently was completely ignorant about one of the largest employers of 20th century Greenpoint. The Leviton family built this commercial empire by the sweat of their brows- stories of part time employees encountering old Isidor working on the factory floor are rampant in Greenpoint, verging on Pop culture amongst garden spotters of a certain age.

from wikipedia

Leviton Manufacturing Company, Inc. is a manufacturer of electrical wiring devices, data center connectivity apparatus and lighting energy management systems. The company was founded in 1906 by Evser and his son Isidor Leviton. They began by manufacturing brass mantle tips for the natural gas lighting infrastructure in Manhattan. They sold their mantle tips on a pushcart on the Bowery on the Lower East side of Manhattan. Isidor Leviton designed a screw in lampholder for Thomas Edison’s Electric Lamp in 1910 and within ten years the lampholders were being used in every apartment in New York. In 1936 Leviton built a two square block 4 story factory and warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn which still stands today. Leviton products include over 25,000 devices and systems, used in homes and businesses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another bit of reputation that the family gathered unto itself was a certain liberalism regarding class, religion, and creed in their hiring practices- eschewing the segregation and selective hiring practiced by other corporations- particularly those in the electronics sector. The father of a close friend once told me that, in the years following the second world war, he was denied an opportunity to use his ivy league engineering degree because of a last name that sounded “too Italian”. Not an issue at Leviton, I am told.

from heresgreenpoint.com

By 1910 Leviton was designing and manufacturing pull-chain lamp holders for Thomas Edison’s newly developed light bulb, and in 1922 the company was moved to Greenpoint to better facilitate its rapid ascention. The massive factory took up two city blocks between Newel and Jewel Streets and produced over 600 electrical items, from fuses to socket covers to outlets and switches. Leviton would remain in Greenpoint until 1975, when the company again relocated, this time to Little Neck, NY.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newspaper reports describe the company as resistant to unionization, and even Eleanor Roosevelt found herself standing in solidarity with a picket line on Greenpoint Avenue in the 1940’s. In August of 1940, a large group of laborers “went out”, despite Leviton paying “benefits”- a rare and coveted perk of employment in that era. “Benefits” are what health insurance and a retirement plan were once known as, and were not an automatic or legislated requirement before the 1970’s- for those of you reading this under the age of 30, understand that these “insurance benefits” were something won by the labor movement of the early 20th century.

This was the scene of a long and contentious labor strike in 1940,

as detailed in this preview of the George Ruffini book– “Harry Van Arsdale, Jr: Labor’s Champion”, courtesy google books.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today, the structure is called the “Greenpoint Industrial Center” and seems to host a series of industrial, artisanal, and warehousing operations who make use of its cavernous interior spaces. The Leviton company left Greenpoint in the 1970’s, migrating to literal greener pastures in eastern Queens and ultimately Melville, Long Island.

from nationmaster.com

The Leviton Manufacturing Company was founded in New York by Isidor Leviton, at the dawn of the electrical era in 1906. Originally engaged in the fabrication of mantle tips for gas lighting, the Company soon afterwards in 1910, converted to production of a single electrical product — a pull-chain lampholder (designed for Edison’s new light bulbs).

  • 1922: Leviton relocated to Greenpoint, Brooklyn after acquiring the TECCO plant, and now offered 568 products.
  • 1929: Acquires Meteor Electric Company, a leading manufacturer of wiring devices.
  • 1932: Leviton devices are used in the Empire State Building.
  • 1937: Acquires American Insulated Wire and becomes the industry leader in wire, cable and cord products.
  • 1939: Leviton devices featured at World’s Fair.
  • 1950: Purchases the Deal Electric Company.
  • 1953: Acquires Hale Brothers Companies, now known as Leviton Canada.
  • 1960: Leviton is among the first manufactures to institute an employee pension plan.
  • 1961: Leviton devices are installed in the White House.
  • 1965: Harold Leviton becomes President and CEO.
  • 1972: Introduces the first GFCI, the first touch dimmer, and a selection of home automation powerline carrier components.
  • 1973: Introduces Decora® designer-style devices.
  • 1975: Moves corporate headquarters to current location in Little Neck, NY.

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

– 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 MTA.info 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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 2, 2012 at 12:15 am

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