The Newtown Pentacle

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shadowed lips

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fairly excellent Watercourses blog presents this post on Sunswick Creek, a waterbody which once existed here in Astoria, and still runs to the East River through manmade corridors deep below the modern streets. No, really. Watercourses has been down there and has photos! More importantly, the post also carries two maps from the 1870’s which show the early street plan of Astoria.

You’ll notice, on the 2nd one, a “Ridge St.” and a “Camelia St.”. The road running between them is Broadway, and at its intersection with Vernon Ave. the latter takes a wicked hook and becomes Sunswick Creek XXX (at this moment, it remains obfuscated to me whether this is a street or avenue or road, I think I can hear somebody at Greater Astoria Historic Society sighing right now).

This bit of geographic reckoning, of course, is simplified by saying- “Stevens Est.” = Costco, and that weird mouth of the creek is Socrates Sculpture Garden, and these photos were shot just beyond where that little dock shape is, between the “n” and second “s” in Sunswick. (I also wanted to send a shout out to Watercourses. Well Done!)


– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to certain sources, two aboriginals named Shawestcont and Erramorhar (as witnessed by their cohorts Warchan and Kethcanaparan) sold much of what we know as Astoria (but which they called Sintsinck) to William Hallett (who was similarly accompanied by a company of witnesses and countrymen) on August 1, 1664- which is how the place got its name.

For a more complete view of highlights from Hallets Cove, and Sunswick Creek- check out this Newtown Pentacle post from February of 2010, and the “The Horrors of Hallet’s Cove“ from June of 2009.

The very fact that temperatures have risen once again to the point at which the atmosphere can sustain water in a liquid state, by the way, is a font of joy for your humble narrator- as walking the East River shoreline is once more possible for both man and duck. Which means that a winter’s worth of book research can finally be explored materially.


I’ll be that weirdo in the dirty black raincoat you might spy scuttling along the waterfront…

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 25, 2011 at 3:32 am

One of those days

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

March 25th… this is one of those days on which a random series of events lend the day a sense of odd concurrence and portentous destiny. Cherry picking any series of historical events in the name of stitching together a narrative is an easy thing to do, and its best practice is expressed by the art of propaganda. Certain patterns, moments of causality and traditional celebration, however, do seem to cluster around parts of the year. Equinoxes or traditional holidays that transcend temporal distance and cultural extinctions, the remarkable October 31Nov. 2 period, the end of december and first week of january, middle-late march, and the last week of august all have long chains of historical events that coincide with ancient Roman feast days- which were post modern celebrations of antiquity even in their own time.

from wikipedia

At an equinox, the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator (i.e. declination 0) and ecliptic intersect. These points of intersection are called equinoctial points: the vernal point and the autumnal point. By extension, the term equinox may denote an equinoctial point.

An equinox happens each year at two specific moments in time (rather than two whole days), when there is a location on the Earth’s equator where the centre of the Sun can be observed to be vertically overhead, occurring around March 20/21 and September 22/23 each year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Roman feast of Hilaria Matris Deûm (honoring Cybele) fell to it’s apex today, and of course its the Christian Feast of the Anunciation, and the British Empire legally abolished the Slave Trade on March 25 in 1807.

Today is also the anniversary of the 1947 Centralia Mine disaster (a seminal moment in the history of the American Labor movement), the Rev. Martin Luther King’s 3rd march on the state capitol in Montgomery, and closer to home- it’s the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire which happened in 1911.

from wikipedia

The Annunciation is the Christian celebration of the announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she would become the Theotokos (God-bearer). Even though a virgin, Mary would conceive a child who would be the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus (“Yahweh delivers”). Most of Christianity observes this event with the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March.

According to the Bible, the Annunciation occurred in “the sixth month” of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Luke 1:26) with the child who would become known as John the Baptist. This celebration of Jesus′ incarnation falls nine months before that of his Nativity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Deep in our colonial past, prior to 1752- in fact all across the early British Empire – March 25th was actually New Year’s Day. Commonly called Lady’s Day, it dates from the days of the Julian Calendar, which was established by Caesar.

from wikipedia

The logic of using Lady Day as the start of the year is that it roughly coincides with Equinox (when the length of day and night is equal) and it is worthy to note many ancient cultures still utilse this time frame as the start of the new year, for example Iranian new year. In some traditions it also reckons years A.D. from the moment of the Annunciation, which is considered to take place at the moment of the conception of Jesus at the Annunciation rather than at the moment of his birth at Christmas.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 25, 2010 at 12:12 am

Posted in linkage, Photowalks, Pickman

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Conspiring against the timely posting of these missives, confluences of external forces have rendered me somewhat inert for the last couple of days. Time Warner Cable, whose reliability is best compared to some third world provider of rolling blackouts and occasional electrification, knocked out my service wednesday night during my usual “blog time”. Frustrated, as it was network not node that had malfunctioned, I scuttled off to bed. Assuring myself that I’d finish up the post thursday, I discovered that WordPress had gone dark. Wordpress is, of course, the blogging service and software suite that delivers Newtown Pentacle and 9.2 million other blogs to the interwebs on a daily basis.

The vehicle in the image above is an “Astoria Express” school bus, a Bluebird TC/2000, incidentally. It’s one of the many heavy vehicles whizzing around us, half noticed, all the time.

from wikipedia

In 1948, the Blue Bird All American was the first transit-style school bus to be popularized by an East Coast manufacturer. California-based manufacturers Crown, Gillig and Seattle-based Kenworth-Pacific had introduced transit-style school buses long before Blue Bird; while these were marketed outside the West Coast, they did not achieve a national following. With the All American’s design, Blue Bird had chosen a path of slow evolution.

By 1987, the version of the All American on the market was almost 40 years old and Blue Bird was looking for an updated design to sell for a lower price (to attract large fleet orders) without cutting too many corners on quality. The TC/2000 was introduced for 1988 using essentially the same exterior design as the All American with minor changes to lower production costs. Most of these design changes were visible on the front. The All American’s massive amount of chrome trim was pared down to a bare minimum, and four headlights were replaced with two. Inside, the All American’s side control panel was retained, but the wood-panel dashboard was replaced with a simpler black fiberboard design clustered closer to the driver (who was greeted with a smaller steering wheel). As the TC/2000 was focused on being a no-frills design, hydraulic brakes and a gasoline engine were standard specifications, but most were ordered with diesel engines and some were ordered with air brakes. Seating capacity ranged from 54 to 90 students in the FE and 66 to 84 in the RE (introduced in 1991).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been noticing a lot of traffic accidents lately, minor impacts and benders of fenders. This one in Dutch Kills is fairly typical, a gypsy cab hits a non union contractors van, no one is hurt and damage is cosmetic. Nothing will get reported, a couple of bucks will change hands, and its done. One lane and local in nature, one wonders how this scene will play out in 10 years when Dutch Kills has been reborn as a little Manhattan. Clicking through to the link below will open a FEIS pdf from discussing the anticipated environmental effects of adding 35,000 apartments, 9 hotels (6-12 stories), and adding another major transportation hub (at Queens Blvd. and Skillman Avenue) to the Great Machine.



As shown in Figure 9-8, the streetscape in Subarea C is marked by trees and street furniture that enhance the pedestrian experience of the streets surrounding the subway stop at 31st Street and 36th Avenue. Further, mixed-use buildings that feature restaurants and neighborhood business establishments at ground floor, line 37th Avenue, and reinforce the pedestrian friendly character of this Subarea.

The traffic volume and pattern here can best be described as a busy but relatively uncongested two-lanes of traffic found on rectangular grid streets typical of the Dutch Kills neighborhood.  Street parking is readily available to the businesses that line 36th Avenue, as well as 31st Street located under the elevated subway structure.  Although the prevailing streetwalls in this area are not overbearing, few opportunities for views outside the Subarea are available, largely due to the elevated subway platform along 31st Street as shown in Figure 9-8.

In its entirety, Subarea C serves as a commercial and transportation hub of the larger neighborhood marked by significant pedestrian traffic.  A diverse mixed-use sector, this Subarea serves as a highlight of the Dutch Kills neighborhood with an inviting and lively street presence that is aged but well maintained.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the cheery demeanor your humble narrator is distinguished by and reknowned for, the dirge of February darkness continues. This Mack Truck (a Brooklyn born company) pictured above is at the DOT yard found along the Newtown Creek on the Brooklyn side of the Pulaski Bridge. An unremarkable brute, it is nevertheless one of the motive engines that keep New York from collapsing into the seas or bursting into flame. DOT isn’t the “sexiest” service job in the city- that’s Sludge Boat Captain– but they do have some of the coolest gear.

Having no connections to the DOT, however, are recent revelations of extensive concentrations of perchloroethylene in the ground further down the creek near Bushwick- as reported by Andy Campbell in the Brooklyn Paper.

from wikipedia

  • 1890: John M. Mack gets a job at Fallesen & Berry, a carriage and wagon company in Brooklyn, New York.
  • 1893: Mack and his brother, Augustus F. Mack, buy the company John worked for.
  • 1894: A third Mack brother, William C. Mack, joins his brothers in the company’s operations. The Macks try working with steam powered and electric motor cars.
  • 1900s: Inspired by Orville and Wilbur Wright, Willis Carrier and Henry Ford’s inventions, John Mack has a vision, dreaming about producing heavy duty trucks and engines.
  • 1900: The Macks open their first bus manufacturing plant. The Mack bus, ordered by a sightseeing company, is delivered.
  • 1902: The Mack Brothers Company established in New York.
  • 1904: The company introduces the name Manhattan on its products.
  • 1905: Allentown selected as the home of main manufacturing operations, and headquarters. A fourth Mack brother, Joseph Mack, becomes a stockholder. Mack begins to make rail cars and locomotives.
  • 1910: The Manhattan name changed; from now on, the trucks are known as Mack Trucks. Charles Mack, a fifth Mack brother, joins the company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are so many different kinds of trucks in these parts, have you ever noticed the variety? These particular specimens are craft service trucks, mobile kitchens that serve surprisingly sophisticated food at television and film shoots all over the city. This well appointed set of comestible wagons can be found in their off time along the Dutch Kills extant of the Newtown Creek- which is right behind that concrete barrier that the snow is piled against. One wonders if the Clooneys or Jolies of the world know that these gourmet kitchens spend their off time along Newtown Creek. Welcome to Queens.

Speaking of Newtown and Queens- this Sunday, the Newtown Historical Society (which I am a member of) will be doing a presentation at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown and providing a sort of craft service- slices of Pippin. Following text with contact info and schedule quoted from

(February 12, 2010) The Newtown Historical Society will be presenting a free lecture and slideshow about the historic Newtown Pippin apple at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown located at Queens Blvd & 54th Avenue in Elmhurst, on Sunday, February 21st, 2010 at 12:30pm.

The venue was the site of a planting in 2002 which brought the apple back to its area of origin for the first time since the early 19th century.  The presentation will explain the history of the apple in Queens and the new replanting project that has been underway for the past year.  Speakers will include Bob Singleton, Vice President of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, Erik Baard, Co-founder of the Newtown Pippin Project, and Marjorie Melikian, Historian for the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown.  Council Member James Gennaro’s 2009 resolution calling for recognition of the Newtown Pippin as the official apple of the City of New York will also be discussed and samples of the apples will be available for tasting.  For more information, please call the Newtown Historical Society at 718-366-3715 or e-mail

from wikipedia

In the mid-1960’s, Crafts Service Employees still operated as general laborers. They had also became in charge of answering the telephone and making coffee. At Universal Studios, they had huge roll-around carts where they would brew coffee. These carts could be shut during takes so that the bubbling machines wouldn’t spoil a sound take. There was a dish where you could throw a quarter for your coffee at Universal, not at other studios. Eventually, the laborers added doughnuts as a revenue stream, but often had to interrupt the display to dig a trench for dolly tracks or clean up after animals.

In European union film studios, buffets would be set out in lieu of a lunch break, so as not to disrupt the momentum of the day. At four-thirty in the afternoon, the crew would vote on whether they should continue working on overtime, or wrap for the day. As low-budget and non-union filmmaking took hold in the USA, production companies would provide day-long buffet spreads to make up for long hours and lower wages.

As crews migrated to union films and studios, they came to expect these “spreads,” so laborers got a budget and laid out tables overflowing with Ritz Crackers, spray-on cheese, tanks of Dinty Moore Chili, peanut butter, Slim Jims, Ding Dongs and bottles of YooHoo. Much of this was disastrous to expensive wardrobe, and as the day wore on and on, the pickin’s became slim, and the “cut it yourself” salami quite slimey.

Stars, checking out these layouts were appalled at the quality and demanded better stuff. It also became a tradition for Crafts Service to set out a special treat in the afternoon, rumaki, cheese and turkey wraps, sliced cold cuts with your choice of breads.

Occasionally there are two craft service stations, with one being for cast and crew and another for non-union background actors. The food provided can vary widely with pilots often offering very limited food, while big budget shows often offer generous food and drinks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another event to put on your calendars is the DOT presentation of potential replacements for the Kosciuszko Bridge. I missed the meeting last night in Middle Village, but will be attending the meeting at St. Cecilia’s in Greenpoint on February 24th. The site offers a description and CGI renderings of the massive process that’s about to begin, with reportage by Robert Pozarycki. This is going to affect the entire Newtown Pentacle, and its time to get involved, lords and ladies. Change is arriving at the Newtown Creek.

Pictured above are the refrigerated trucks of an online grocer, well known in the community, coming and going from their loading docks on the occluded and vestigial 53rd avenue along the Newtown Creek here in Queens.

from wikipedia

FreshDirect uses SAP AG software to process thousands of orders placed on its website every night. Orders are dispatched to the kitchen, bakery, deli as well as fresh storage rooms, produce ripening rooms and production areas within the company’s refrigerated facility. All order components are custom-cut, packaged, weighed and priced. In the case of dry goods or frozen foods, items are picked from storage before being placed inside bins that travel along conveyors to the sorting area. There, products in a customer’s order are scanned and gathered in corrugated fiberboard boxes. The boxes are labeled, recorded and loaded into refrigerated delivery trucks.

FreshDirect is based in a 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) building in Long Island City and is one of the largest employers in the area. Though the website and plant processes were in development for several years before its public launch, the company made its first deliveries to Roosevelt Island on July 11, 2002. FreshDirect has since expanded service to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the The Bronx and parts of Nassau County, Westchester County and New Jersey. The company now has almost 2,000 employees, 250,000 customers, and has delivered more than 6,000,000 orders.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Thawing Thursday linkage

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Well, it seems that the Deep Ones have been spotted in Antarctica by the Japanese. They dare much, these Deep Ones, for the city of the Old Ones– infested with Shoggoths– still awaits rediscovery atop the Earth’s forbidden peaks at the austral pole. Has to be, because Lovecraft was actually right about a lot of things- although his racial politics were distasteful even by the standard of his times.

photo from

The Ningen, ladies and lords, and the glory that is

The Occult-

Check out the story of an Orthodox Jewish exorcism, which is part of an ongoing Dibuk Possession at


Check out Geoff Dyer’s comparisons of the British and American mindset at

Discredited, but worth a look-

Miss Murray’s Witch Cult in Western Europe

Tragedy in Haiti

Looks like a 100,000 may have died in the Earthquake on Tuesday. 48 tons of emergency supplies and 2,000 Marines are onboard speedy ships coming to help dig out, set up field hospitals, and facilitate law and order. An air craft carrier and multiple support vessels are enroute as well. The Coast Guard just arrived to set up communications and air traffic control. It is time to live up to our national mythology, and damn the cost of it. Count on the national government to find a way to focus the charitable urges of the nation- a flood of donations and canned food drives- with shipping arranged by some friendly corporation. The Mexicans are a rather large presence in the region as well, and don’t be surprised if even Cuba shows up to help.

And- America must resist the urge to “fix” Haiti during reconstruction in any way except to leave behind a staggering amount of useful stuff. Our national will has tried to “fix” Haiti several times before and it hasn’t worked out very well for anyone concerned. Haitians are clever, just broke. They can do a lot more with a cord of lumber and a set of tools than they can with a paper grocery bag full of cash, and there’s enough unsold raw material sitting around in American warehouses and factory docks to build a stairway to the moon out of PVC pipes and drywall.

This is the head of the snake, of course, and a vast conveyor belt of aid is being loaded up all over the East Coast. America is coming, and this is when we are at our national best- when our friends are in trouble. The Eagles are coming.

note: Growing up in Brooklyn, I knew A LOT of Haitian families, and my heart goes out for the people of Port Au Prince. There are so many Haitians in Brooklyn, by the way, that this may as well have happened to New York. God speed, good luck, hold on for a couple of days and stay warm- the Cavalry is just on the other side of the hill… hopefully.

For Google’s listing of organizations working on Haiti relief efforts, click here.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2010 at 5:14 am

Posted in linkage

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The Newtown Creek Community Health Harm Narratives Project

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Andrea Muraskin of the CHHNP asked if I could post this and help get the word out about this project, all text by CHHNP-

Attention Residents of Greenpoint, East Williamsburg, and Maspeth:

Are you worried about health problems caused by the pollution in your neighborhood?

Would you like the opportunity to tell your story?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If yes, then you may want to be interviewed for a community health project that aims to document the public health concerns of individuals residing in communities along Newtown Creek in NYC. If you live, or have ever lived in Greenpoint or East Williamsburg, Brooklyn or Maspeth, Queens, you are invited to participate in the Newtown Creek Community Health and Harm Narrative Project, as study which hopes to capture residents’ experience with illness and environmental pollution in their neighborhoods.

Participation will provide you with an opportunity to have your story documented in your own words. With your permission, the information you disclose will be displayed in written and audio format on the website and in a written report that will be disseminated to community members, media outlets, elected officials, and other interested parties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Community involvement is important. Make your voice heard!

If you have any questions or are interested in participating, please contact Yvonne Kodl or
(718) 566-1359.
Please note: The study is in the concluding portion of its interview phase. If you are interested, please contact us as soon as possible.

The Newtown Creek Community Health and Harm Narrative Project is a collaboration between the Urban Public Health Department of Hunter College, HabitatMap, and the Newtown Creek Alliance.

Media Links
Television: Brooklyn Community Access Television ,
Radio: Leonard Lopate on WNYC
Newspaper: NY Daily News


– photo by Mitch Waxman

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 12, 2010 at 4:19 pm

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