The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Long Island City

artisanal hatred

with one comment

It’s National Scrapple Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having fairly few tasks at hand the other night, one announced to Our Lady of the Pentacle that a dark light photowalk was in the offing, but that I was going to stay local and would be back in an hour or so. The first rumblings of some viral infection were on the horizon, and I figured that if I didn’t go out for a short walk with the tripod and camera while still relatively well… I would regret it as I suffered through the virus for the next couple of days.

I’m excellent at suffering.

Partially it’s Jewish tradition, this being good at suffering thing. I’m really into the operatic side of it all though. Since I seldom get sick, when I do… it’s pretty bad… so why not wallow in the misery and suffer like a boss?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted this neighbor sleeping on a park bench along Northern Blvd. If you not savvy at reading the occluded messaging of NYC’s streets, there’s a whole story at work in this shot which isn’t the “homeless” trope. Those are new, clean clothes on display – which also color match. A newish leather bag was serving as a pillow, and there were no carts of possessions in view. There are three hypotheses which one can offer:

  • One is that this person was tired and needed a quick nap.
  • Two is that this person needed to get out of their domicile, or couldn’t go back to their domicile for some unknown reason.
  • Three is that this person is dead, as I had the shutter open for about thirty seconds and they never moved or twitched.

Whatever the reason, I moved on. If this individual was actually dead, at my age you’d just say “at least it ain’t me,” and get on with it. Which is what I did, as the suffering was beginning to present itself, and the last thing I needed was to explain to a bunch of cops why I was wandering about on Northern Blvd. with a camera, at night, when I had discovered a corpse across the street from Guitar Center.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, I was more than a little bored whilst waiting for the expected suffering to set in, hence a shot of the unbelievable amounts of garbage piled up on and around the corner collection basket on my block.

Notice the sewer in the left side of the shot? I’ll have you know that one of the biggest issues which the DEP (water and sewer) has to deal with is garbage swept into the sewer system. Now, you can’t expect people to change their behavior on this front around Astoria or most of Westrn Queens. A lot of this heap is actually household trash emanating from the hundreds of illegal basement apartments around these parts. If left on the curb in front of an actual address, Sanitation Inspector reports about abundant trash coming from what should be just a two family house will lead DOB (buildings) to investigate and fine the building owner for an illegal conversion and likely put the tenants out on the street. Hence the abundance of household trash at the collection basket, right next to the sewer.

The question I ask continually is “if trash getting swept into the sewers is such a big issue, why does the DSNY (garbage) put the collection bins literally right on top of the sewers?”

I pondered all of this as a semi delirious, painful, and sleep deprived state of suffering set in over the next 48 hours during which I behaved like a total diva.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

strange chemicals

with one comment

It’s National Harvey Wallbanger Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My colleague at Newtown Creek Alliance, Will Elkins, does a formal survey of Newtown Creek and its tributaries about once a week from the vantage point offered by a small boat outfitted with an electrically driven motor. Will collects water samples which are sent off for laboratory analysis to ascertain bacterial levels in the water, and looks around at the shorelines for evidence of this or that. I do a less formal survey of the creeklands, which is performed on foot, and documented using a camera. Will is NCA’s Navy, which I guess makes me a Marine? I dunno, just some shmuck with a camera is all I’ve ever claimed to be.

Last week, a humble narrator was perambulating around Dutch Kills, in Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing I can tell you about LIC that’s seriously changed in the last decade is the presence of large groups of people. Ten years ago, this stretch of 29th street (which is technically not a city street, but rather a “railroad access road”) bordering the turning basin of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek was absolutely deserted except for me and the folks who work in the surviving industrial buildings hereabouts. These days, 29th street has become the de facto spot for students from the various charter high schools, and LaGuardia community kids, who attend school nearby in the former “Degnon Terminal” to go “smoke a bowl.” There were about five or six distinct groups of them when these shots were being captured, whom were carefully not framed in to my shots.

Personally, I’ve got zero issues with people getting stoned on weed – I went to art school, after all, and grass smells a whole lot better to me than Dutch Kills does – but one is concerned ultimately about youthful inebriates ecstatically mucking around in an area known for its environmental degradation, lack of sidewalks, and heavy trucking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was low tide when I was walking the bulkheads – and if I can say that I have a favorite sediment mound – the one pictured above is it. This shot, and the ones following, were captured from the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

For those of you not clued into the Newtown Creek story, the natural bottom of the waterway is anywhere from thirty to forty feet below the surface. A lack of “flow” and the presence of several large “combined sewer outfalls” has built up a bed of sediments which lie some 15-20 feet thick. These sediments – which are a layer cake of municpal horrors that include heavy industrial runoff, as well as everything that has ever been swept into the sewer grates of Brooklyn and Queens, are commonly referred to as “black mayonnaise.” The specific mission of the Federal EPA, regarding the Superfund situation, is to remove or remediate this sediment bed found in the waterway.

In certain places – especially along the “dead end” tributaries like Maspeth Creek, English Kills, and Dutch Kills – the black mayonnaise shoals up along the bulkheads and at low tide ends up becoming exposed to the air. Doesn’t matter how pungent the weed being smoked nearby is when these sediment mounds are upwind, they’re soon all that you can smell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the angle of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is right, the water column is illuminated at Dutch Kills, which was canalized into a more or less north/south trajectory about a hundred years back. Prior to that, it was a compromised but still natural wetland environment with flood plains and swampy edges. Vital wetlands, we’d call ’em – back in the 19th and early 20th centuries they were called “Waste Meadows.”

Visible in the shot above are some of the queer jellies which form just under the surface along Dutch Kills’ bulkheads, which are likely bacterial or fungal mats suspended in the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the western shoreline, enormous electrical cables emerge from the masonry of the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, whose purpose is to power the single bascule drawbridge. I’ve seen Army Corps of Engineers reports stating that sampling of the shoal and sediment in Dutch Kills revealed the presence of Typhus, Cholera, and Gonnorhea extant in the mud down there. I haven’t seen that confirmed during the Superfund process, but there’s so much data about the biota of the Newtown Creek emerging that I could have missed it.

More sediment “mounding” is apparent, along with something fairly unexpected – evidence of “high” mammalian wild life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m a city boy, of course, but those tracks in the poisonous mud of Dutch Kills look like raccoon to me. I found a disembowelled raccoon on this span not too long ago, which is why I was thinking about the “trash pandas” while observing these paw prints, but again – City Boy.

For any of you “country kids” reading this, what would you say that track was left by?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A curious new addition to the black mayonnaise was noticed on this particular walk around Dutch Kills, a series of terra cotta dishes or pots, some of which were adorned with an intricate pattern.

The question of “why would somebody make the effort to travel all the way to this odd corner of NYC just to discard terra cotta pots with intricate patterns into the waters of Dutch Kills, instead of just putting them out on the curb with the rest of their household garbage” must be discarded. There are things you just don’t want to know the answer to, and mystery in the age of Google is something to be preserved and embraced.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 8, 2017 at 11:00 am

systematic collection

with one comment

It’s National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So – last week I had a few things to do over in the Hunters Point section of LIC on a particular afternoon. A short and rapid scuttle ensued, one which saw a humble narrator hurtling south towards Skillman Avenue in a staggering pursuance of arrival in certain points found westwards of the almond eyed Astoria he calls home. Avoidance of perambulatory transit through Queens Plaza has become a “thing” for me, as the alternative route – using Jackson Avenue – is less visually interesting, and is also a somewhat harrowing journey on foot due to omnipresent construction and heavy vehicular activity.

Besides – I have zero opportunity to shoot shots of trains using the Jackson Avenue route, and I know where just about every hole in the fenceline along the Sunnyside Yards can be found. I always advise those dear to me to “stand behind something” while waiting for the traffic signals to change and allow access to cross this Northern Boulevard, I would mention, so in the interest of practicing what I preach – one ducked down and cowered behind a fire hydrant (pictured above). 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

OK – Steinway Street in Astoria is analogous to 39th street in Sunnyside, and the two are connected by one of several truss bridges that span the Sunnyside Yards. It’s actually fairly “good cardio” walking over the 39th street span if you lean into it and push towards the apogee of the thing. At the top of the arch, there’s a worker access road that would carry Amtrak and other railroad employees down into the railyard, and that’s where I spotted a percussionist practicing his craft.

Naturally – One did not wish to interrupt his reverie, so I cannot describe who the fellow was, but he was positively “rocking out.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Observedly – It was a three piece drum set which this gentleman had set up for himself, and despite having noticed a humble narrator photographing him, he never skipped a beat.

Y’know – This sort of drum kit is relatively modern in origin, and whereas it is quite familiar to modern eyes, it was only originated in the 1860’s. It’s called a “trap drum” or “double drumming” kit, and prior to the semi modern era, each one of the instruments on view (base, cymbal, snare) would have required an individual musician to operate. The trap drum innovation was conducive to the development of the musical schools of ragtime, jazz, and rock-n-roll, I’m told.

But – I digress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Then – Although I wish I could tell you that one got caught up in the wild al fresco rhythms offered by this anonymous percussionist, as mentioned at the top of the post – I had things to do and places to be. Utilizing one of those aforementioned holes big enough to stick a lens through – in the fences of the Sunnyside Yards – and which I keep a constantly updated mental map of, to capture a shot of Amtrak’s Acela train passing through the Harold Interlocking on its way towards Manhattan. It’s the busiest train junction in the United States, actually, the Harold Interlocking. The Mayor wants to build luxury housing upon a deck on top of it. Please vote for someone else today.

Ultimately – I had places to go, and headed west into the setting sun, scuttling along with a camera in hand.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 7, 2017 at 11:00 am

couched cipher

with 3 comments

It’s National Sandwich Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been between the proverbial road and a hard place for the last few weeks, as a series of rapidly unfolding projects have demanded full time attention. Accordingly, the whole wandering around and photographing has suffered due to a lack of time and opportunity. Of late, a humble narrator has been possessed of a certain bit of wanderlust, desiring to see things new and unexplored. Luckily, November is now here, with its truncated day light and decreasing temperature (supposedly). Of course, I was wearing shorts yesterday on November 2nd, but climate change is a conspiracy made up by the Chinese in order to crush the American Coal industry, right?

At this writing, one cannot tell you where he will be as you’re reading this, but it’ll be “somewhere” in the greatest metropolis which the world has ever seen. Today, our metropolis has been diminished due to yesterday’s announcement of the death of both DNAinfo and Gothamist, and the wiping of their archives at the orders of some billionaire scumbag.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obligation and employment have been keeping me solidly in the North Brooklyn/ Western Queens zones surrounding Newtown Creek for the last few months. I’m happy to say that there are precious few times in any given week that I need to visit Manhattan. I’m unhappy to say that there’s whole swaths of the City, and even the Newtown Creek, which I haven’t paid much attention to so far this year. Now that summer has come and gone, that will be rectified.

The good news is that Newtown Pentacle isn’t owned by some billionaire scumbag who hates unions and decided to punish his employees by closing the shops in retribution, putting 140 young journalists out of work. Also, the Chicago Cubs completely suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Look for me in places like the ones pictured in today’s post – waste transfer stations, rail yards, skittering along under highways. That’s where I want to be, all alone, and far away. A wandering mendicant in a filthy black raincoat, taking pictures of the deserted concrete devastations… telling the truth of our times in lurid color and florid prose.

Somebody has to do it, after all…


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2017 at 1:00 pm

uncanny library

with one comment

It’s National Breadstick Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is an example of the ultimate reason as to why the proposed BQX trolley line is infeasible, what with the blinking signal arm barriers and the train horn blowing – which rail is required to do at grade crossings such as the Borden Avenue location adjoining the Pulaksi Bridge and Queens Midtown Tunnel pictured above in LIC. One doesn’t want to deep dive on that topic today, however, as thinking about the Mayor depresses me and I don’t want to be “blue.”

A humble narrator was on his way to a “thing” in LIC when this train began to move across Borden Avenue, an occurrence which caused him to utter something which sounded like “squeeeee,” drop to one knee in the middle of the street, and laugh maniacally while waving the camera around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad uses their nearby Hunters Point Yard to stage train sets for rush hour duty, and the tracks lead across Borden Avenue over to the Hunters Point Avenue stop at the southern extant of the Sunnyside Yards. From there, the trains head into the City and Penn Station, before heading out to Woodside, Jamaica, and then Long Island.

At least, that’s what I think happens. I’m not a rider of the LIRR except for rare occasion, and mainly I just like taking pictures of trains moving around in crowded urban settings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that tour season is just about over, and my weekends are my own again, plans for how to spend my time are being laid. I’ve got more than a few things to shoot on my list, which I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to.

It really bakes my muffins when I don’t get to regularly wave the camera around at cool things, and despite the amazing places I’ve been this summer, I’ve generally been the tour guide or if onboard a vessel – on the mike – and I’ve barely been able to “do my thing.” I’ll sneak the occasional photo in when conducting a tour, but it’s a snapshot, not a photograph (there’s a difference).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Good news is that the weather is finally in the “filthy black raincoat” range of temperatures, and since I don’t have to maintain my summertime “early bird” schedule quite as stringently – late night shooting is back on the menu.

Where will I go first? Things to do, things to see, people to avoid – here in the great metropolitan city…


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

hip pocket

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It’s National Mincemeat Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the late post today, flickr was having some sort of issue this morning and one was unable to access the library. A single shot was coming your way anyway, so no biggie. See you tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 26, 2017 at 2:35 pm

bygone mystery

with 5 comments

It’s National Sausage Pizza Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gentrification… it’s all anyone wants to talk about these days, and it seems like people are just coming out of the woodwork to use the “G” word and pronounce the oncoming doom of NYC. One wonders where they’ve been all these years. All of us out here in the wilds of Brooklyn and Queens have watched first DUMBO, and then Williamsburg, and of late LIC and Greenpoint get hit by the wrecking ball, which is then followed by the erection of banal residential towers without any accompanying infrastructure to accommodate the increased population. For decades, voices in the wilderness have been yelling and screaming about this, and our pals over in the Shining City of Manhattan said “so what”?

Something else I’ve been saying for a decade now is that the Manhattancentric city planning model is the problem. Manhattan is not something you want to point to other than as a cautionary tale.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that the same process is playing out in the East Village and Chelsea, where the ivory towered academics live and hang out, it’s become a crisis. You’ve got “not from here” interlopers showing up in Queens and sounding the alarm bells about a fire whereas those of who live here are ankle deep in ash. They inform us that we are not “real” community activists, and that they have the answer to all of our problems without any understanding of how things work. The tactics employed by these outsiders are provocative, and deadly to relationships between government and community which have been painfully and slowly built by generations past and maintained by those in the present.

Are these relationships effective? Is there nothing that can be done to resist the population loading and exploitation of Western Queens by the speculative financiers of Lower Manhattan? Are these outsiders correct in believing that 1960’s era protest techniques will do anything but cause the government people to circle their wagons? Would they be here at all if cherished Manhattan neighborhoods weren’t now in the sights of the financiers of the Real Estate Industrial Complex?

Are the financiers mustache twirling villains colluding with Tammany style politicians?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reality (census and tax base wise) states that the vast majority of residential buildings in NYC fall under the category of family owned small businesses, once you move away from the City’s core (think 5 subway stops from Manhattan). If you were to draw a bell curve depicting the rising rents in NYC and compare it to a) inflation, b) fuel costs, c) water taxes you’d find a disturbing concurrence in the shape of those curves. Our homeless situation is due largely to the fact that the City and State no longer supplies the levels of supplemental rent assistance to low income families which they used to, a program which I believe was suspended back in 2010, but I may be wrong on the date for that one. As the wrecking balls along the East River have demolished the industrial and warehousing sectors, low income New Yorkers have been forced to take service sector jobs which neither pay as well nor offer any sort of job security.

This is something which the folks who throw the “G” word around miss – jobs and job creation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For nearly a decade now, a humble narrator has been deriding the “statements that sound good at cocktail parties” thrown about by elected officialdom and real estate industrial complex employees alike. The REIC folks will offer that their construction activity creates mass employment, and that despite the tax abatements like 421a they enjoy, their projects are a nexus of job creation activity that includes the entire supply chain of their projects – concrete, steel, etc. This is actually true, but given that construction of a new building does not continue forever, it means that all of their contributions to the tax base tend to end after a period of 36-60 months after the demolition crew came in and knocked down the old factory or warehouse which provided career long employment. After that, the warehouse which employed thirty people is replaced by a residential building that has a porter, manager, and a super. It’s also common practice for the development corporation to transfer the property to a management corporation, whereupon all the agreements made by the former do not have to be honored by the latter.

Speaking from a historical perspective, NYC is defined by constant change, construction, and tumult – and going back to Astor – Real Estate has always been one of the major economic forces in our municipality since the earliest days. Believe it or not, the influence of the financial industry on Wall Street is a relatively recent thing. Used to be that industrial activity, shipping, and real estate were the dominant financial contributors to NYC’s health and wealth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it before, and I fear I’ll be saying it for the rest of my life – infrastructure is the skeleton on which our municipal flesh hangs. Without, we’d be a bag of mostly water flopping around in the sun.

The very quality of our lives depends on the transit, water, sewerage, and electrical grids. Hospital beds, school desks, fire stations, police capabilities. All the social welfare agencies, old age homes and elderly rent control programs like SCRIE, are essential. I’ve had high ranking City officialdom use the metaphor for running the show as being “like working on the engine of a locomotive while moving at 1,000 mph, towards a cliff.” You need to tinker around enough to improve the system as you go – but shutting it down, going off the cliff, or applying the brakes to it are unthinkable options.

Thing is, infrastructure costs a lot of money, and involves a lot of labor. People who labor have, by definition, jobs. People who have jobs can afford to pay rent to the hundreds of thousands of residential small business property owners in NYC, which creates a tax base. Don’t know why I have to spell this out, but the “G” people don’t seem to understand it. Maybe it’s because academics and poli-sci majors at say… Hunter… don’t take economics classes and focus on their music instead. Dunno. Sometimes you gotta see the forest beyond the trees.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2017 at 1:00 pm

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