The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Long Island City

quiet steps

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was captured at the corner on the Astoria side of Northern Blvd. and 47th street, a couple of weeks ago. If it was shot a hundred years ago, this location would have been described as the corner of Jackson Avenue and 17th avenue (aka 19th century Oakley Street) nearby Long Island City’s border with Woodside. Back then, there would have been streetcars (trolleys) rolling through the shot. That’s the sort of thing which I wish the NYC EDC’s BQX team would think about – putting streetcars back where they belong, along these old routes currently serviced by MTA’s buses. This particular trolley route was one that rolled off the Queensborough Bridge, the New York and Queens County Railroad.

The street grid of modern day Sunnyside continued through to the north towards Astoria across what’s now the Sunnyside Yards and those huge used car dealerships you see in the shot above, which are found on the southern side of Northern Blvd. in modern times.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northern Blvd. is a widened version of Jackson Avenue, which is another one of the many road projects overseen by Robert Moses in the early 20th century. Another one of Mr. Moses’s projects was both the creation of the Grand Central Parkway (which fed traffic to his Triborough Bridge from Eastern Queens and Long Island) and the redesignation of Astoria Avenue into Astoria Blvd.

FDNY’s Engine 263 and Ladder 117 are housed in a consolidation era firehouse, pictured above, which predates the Grand Central’s construction. There’s a shot of the place from ca. 1920 you might be interested in perusing at this dcmny.org link which shows what things looked like back in the post WW1 period here in Western Queens. The historic shot looks west down Astoria Avenue towards Steinway Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Long Island Rail Road as it rolls out of the 1870 vintage LIC Passenger Yard towards the Hunters Point Station. The incredible trainsarefun.com is an invaluable resource for studying this particular rail empire, and they offer this incredible aerial image from 1940 which shows the LIRR operation at probably its grandest moment.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 18, 2017 at 11:00 am

repeated combination

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It’s National French Fries Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one was invited to attend an event at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s Nature Walk last week, and since I was planning on shooting the Kosciuszcko Bridge later in the evening at sunset, a humble narrator hung around for a few minutes taking in the scene at Newtown Creek.

If you haven’t been, the Nature Walk is part of the sewer plant, and is a sculptured public space designed by George Trakas. NYC is under an obligation to spend “1% for art” in all new municipal structures, and the Nature Walk was built as the 1% part. You can access it at the eastern side of Paidge Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a New York and Atlantic Railway switcher locomotive above, crossing Long Island City’s DB Cabin rail bridge – which carries the LIRR’s Lower Montauk Branch tracks – at the mouth of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. New York and Atlantic was moving freight cars between the Wheelspur Yard (to the west) and the Blissville Yard (to the east). New York and Atlantic is the freight contractor for the Long Island Railroad, which owns the tracks and yards of the Lower Montauk Branch, and the extant lead tracks connecting to it like the Bushwick Branch. Their freight service area includes NYC, as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties.

There used to be passenger service on the Lower Montauk, but LIRR abandoned service to the stations along the Newtown Creek back in the 1990’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular engine seen in today’s post is an EMD MP15AC, the New York and Atlantic 151.

It’s a switcher locomotive, one which used to wear the brand colors of the LIRR. It’s a diesel powered unit, generating about 1,500 horse power and was manufactured by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division sometime between August 1975 and August 1984. Apparently, New York and Atlantic has four of these units.


Upcoming Tours and events

13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – July 15th, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m..

The “then and now” of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary in LIC, once known as the “workshop of the United States.” with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

cylcopean blocks

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not just having the titular cake, nor the eating of it too, ever seems to satiate the lustful aspirations of the Real Estate Industrial Complex here in Long Island City. Population loading – despite intensifying the looming infrastructure crisis surrounding transit, electrical, and water systems – just continues. The backdrop in the shot above represents a not insignificant number of the approximately 13,000 new apartments added to LIC in the last decade. NYC City Planning is about to unveil a new rezoning plan called the “LIC Core” which will change current regulations and make it legally possible for about another 20,000 apartments to be built. Hospital beds? Not so much.

LIC Core, btw, brings the eastward march of these glass shrouded monstrosities to just within throwing distance of Newtown Pentacle HQ. Couple that with the monstrous Sunnyside Yards development proposal, which would bring half the population of Boulder, Colorado into the mix? As a note, while capturing the shot above, my back was turned to the former Paragon Oil building on 49th avenue and 21st street – once known as the Subway Building and or Queens Borough Hall.

Bugs Bunny, who is another Brooklyn kid, said it best. Batman says it well too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whose fault is all of this runaway development – devoid of some overarching governance plan that demands some municipal payback from these Manhattan based developers that sow and reap hereabouts?

NYC’s real estate economy is not exactly set in the 1970’s anymore, as far as there being a excess of undeveloped land which the City had to beg developers to do something with, offering sweetheart deals with reduced taxes and lots changing hands for a dollar. Why does the Real Estate Industrial Complex still get to operate in the manner that they did during the Koch administration? Why can’t we get a Subway station or a few hospital beds out of them? Who is responsible?

The Mayor, City Planning, Councilmember, or the NYC Economic Development Corporation? The Governor, or the Assembly member, or the State Senator? What about the Congressional Representatives, or the Senators? What about the Borough Presidents? Is it all of them, or is the horrible truth actually that there’s nobody steering the wheel at all?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a related note, I’ve been reading up a bit on the Borough Presidents of Queens recently. Interesting group, and reminsescent of early Norman history.

1) First up was the City Consolidation era BP Frederick Bowley, from 1898-91.

2) “Curly Joe” Cassidy was BP from 1902-05, and the sewer situation on the Queens side of Newtown Creek is pretty much his fault. Cassidy was accused of 47 different counts of financial corruption during his terms, 24 of which were proven but he was never brought to trial. In 1912, however, he did a year in Sing Sing prison for trying to sell a seat on the NY Supreme Court.

3) Joseph Bermel ran as reformer against the corruption of Curly Joe’s administration, and was in office from 1906-1908. He effectively resigned as BP by skipping out of the country – on an ocean liner to Rome – during the lunch break on a day in 1908 that he was testifying in court – at his own corruption trial. BP Bermel’s final statement to tthe press was “I have nothing to say except to leave good luck for my friends and enemies alike.” He died in 1921 in Czechoslovakia.

4) Lawrence Gresser was Borough President of Queens from 1908-11, and was removed from office by the Governor of New York State for abusing the BP office’s power, and for being incompetent.

5) Maurice E. Connolly was BP from 1911-28, and is my 2nd favorite political character in Queens history, after BattleAx Gleason. Connolly resigned in 1928, then brought to trial for a sewer construction graft scandal. He was fined, convicted, and did a one year stretch in prison.

6) Bernard M. Patten stepped into the office for seven months in 1928, filling in for Connolly in the same way that David Patterson filled in for Elliot Spitzer as Governor a few years back. This sort of thing is common in the history of the Broough President’s office in Queens.

7) George U. Harvey was the first Republican Borough President, serving from 1929-41. Harvey was deeply involved with a series of Robert Moses’s projects, but the 1939 Worlds Fair is the one most closely associated with him.

8) James A. Burke put the Borough Presidency back in the hands of the Democrats, and he served from 1942-49 when he resigned the office.

9) Maurice A. FitzGerald was Borough President of Queens from 1950-51, and died of a heart attack while on vacation.

10) Joseph F. Mafera served out the remaining four months of FitzGerald’s term in 1951.

11) James A. Lundy was the last Republican Party Borough President, from 1952-57. He was an energy industry captain, and had a long public career ahead of him after leaving office.

12) James J. Crisona was BP in 1958, a members of the Democrat Party which has claimed the office since. Crisona was a real climber, having previously been elected to the NYS Assembly and Senate, he resigned as Borough President in 1958 and assumed a seat on the NY Supreme Court.

13)  John Thomas (Pat) Clancy stepped into the office from 1959-62, resigning to become a Queens County Surrogate Judge.

14) Mario J. Cariello was Borough President from 1963-8, was a former State Assemblyman, and also resigned to take a position on the NYS Supreme Court.

15) Sidney Leviss was BP from 1969-71, before resigning and following his forebears to the NYS Supreme Court.

16) Donald Manes was BP from 1971-86. In 1986 he was under investigation for various charges when he first attempted to commit suicide in his car. He succeeded in killing himself a few months later, after stabbing himself in the heart with a kitchen knife. As a note, during Manes’s term, a City Charter revision occurred which neutered the power and influence of the Borough Presidents in favor of a “strong Mayor.”

17) Claire Shulman took over the office, and served from 1986-2002. The first female BP title goes to her.

18) Helen M. Marshall came next, and was in office from 2002-13.

19) Melinda Katz was voted into office in 2014.


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unseen eyes

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It’s National Eat Beans Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who received a post update last night from Newtown Pentacle, oops. Guess I have to pull back the curtain a bit to explain, but suffice to say that I’m working off an iPad and I fat finger published a template document rather than hit “save draft.” It’s happened before. Reason for the template? Lots easier to format remotely on the iPad, which is pretty decent for writing, but absolute shit for writing HTML instructions as it keeps on trying to spellcheck everything. Like I mentioned above, “oops.”

At any rate, that’s a mysterious jack of hearts I found laying on the street near my house one afternoon, all by itself. As to the disposition of the rest of the deck, who can say? It did make me think of that great Bob Dylan song, though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been observing a different perambulatory schedule of late. It has been increasingly difficult over the last few months to set aside the time for a day or half day long walking excursions, which has meant that one is not getting as much exercise as is salubrious. My remedy for this has been to scuttle my feet a bit faster than I would on a long trek – say, Red Hook to Astoria, or Astoria to Flushing – and ensure that I make it out for at least an hour and change a day, but by staying in the “neighborhood” I’m saving some time.

Generally – this sort of “quicker” trek will be something like a walk from Steinway Street to the East River and back, or from Astoria’s Broadway over to Queens Plaza and back via Sunnyside’s Queens Blvd. and over one of the truss bridge roads spanning the Sunnyside Yards. Since I know where all the holes in the fences are anyway, I’m often chasing a shot of the LIRR or Amtrak as they move through the Harold Interlocking, so at least I’m doing something useful beyond getting some exercise. And, yeah, before you ask, I can walk pretty fast when I want to if I’m working above the railroad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One recent afternoon, while on one of my “quickies,” a gentleman’s clothing emporium on Steinway Street had positioned some of their wares outside to lure in potential customers. Of the two display items, I actually find the one on the right the most distasteful. The floral number on the left might come in handy if I ever had to judge a child’s beauty contest or appear in a Bollywood dance scene, but… just ain’t my style, yo.

Dean Martin could pull that one off, however, but… Dino, right?


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cellular corruption

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It’s National Mai Tai day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Increasingly, one realizes the depths of his personal ignorance about common things. Whilst watching, lovingly, my little dog Zuzu sleeping the other night it occurred to me that I didn’t know very much about Dogs from a scientific point of view. This led me directly into a “Wikipedia rabbit hole” during which canid evolution and its various family trees were explored, and soon it was 3:30 in the morning. This is an occupational hazard for the curious.

The next morning, I continued my reading on the Canids of the Holocene era, which led me to the Oligocene and the root ancestry of the Carnivora mammals. Moving forward instead of back in time, I soon found myself reading about the Hyena family, which somehow led to me watching videos of wild animals fighting. It was decided to end my explorations after witnessing a battle between a Hippo and a Rhino. The Hippo won, which was sort of unexpected but there you go.

I was able to control myself and avoid searching for “Tiger versus Hippo” as it might shatter a preconception I have which states that nothing can beat a Tiger in claw on claw combat, with the notable exception of a Russian. Russians and Tigers are probably the toughest bastards on the planet in terms of pure survival skills, IMHO, and long have I argued for the preservation of both specie just in case we are ever invaded by an extraterrestrial civilization.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be unexpected, I realize, for some space faring race of conquerors to suddenly find themselves beset by Russian Spetnatz troops riding militarized Siberian tigers. Supposition began to reign, and it occurred to me that the “tough guy” cultures of the Earth – all the tribes of man – would probably lend a unit of paired human and animal predators to the battle for earth. Maori riding rocket propelled tiger sharks in zero gravity, Inuit riding Polar Bears… the mind boggles when imagining units of French Dauphine commandos or Apache wolf riders. Vietnamese guerillas mounted on giant centipedes or Mekong Catfish, Polynesian Frogmen and their cephalopod partners, Bantu special forces with their Hippo armies – the mind boggles.

With the right inducement, we could probably create whole divisions of animalia who would require no human partner at all. It’s their planet too. Imagine units of angry Chimpanzees in space helmets suddenly introduced into the confines of a spacecraft. Chimps are ghastly and powerful warriors.

You don’t mess around with Chimps, as a note, as they’ll eat your face and twist off your junk just for shits and giggles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A little known fact about Western Queens is that when the Europeans arrived here, Maspeth in particular, but all of the East River coastline was infested with wolves. It was likely the so called “Red Wolf” which was well established on the eastern coast of North America. The Dutch, and later the English, offered bounties to the populace for wolf pelts in pursuance of exterminating the predators which poached from the European farmer’s livestock.

According to my readings, entered into after watching Zuzu the dog snoring away in a corner of the living room, modern day wolves and dogs are both descended from a common ancestor which was far larger and more vicious than anything walking the earth today – a critter adapted for taking down the megafauna of the Ice Age. Who knew?

Happy July 4th weekend, lords and ladies, back on Monday with something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

tentative measures

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It’s National Orange Blossom Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another day, another commute. One’s life is odd, and each day brings its own sort of challenge.

I didn’t have any paying work one recent weekday, so when a Manhattan based anti gentrification activist emailed and asked if he could meet up with me to discuss the DEP and their CSO’s in Greenpoint and LIC… well, how could I say no to something like that? We met at Dorians in LIC, I had a cheeseburger and a cup of black coffee. On the way home, I had to stop off in Sunnyside to see a guy about a thing, so I hopped on the 7 across the street from Dorians at Vernon/Jackson.

As a note, I sometimes use “Vernon Jackson” as an alias.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m trying to come up with a term to replace “gentrification” at the moment, as I don’t think it’s apropo to describe what’s happening in Long Island City and the East River coastline of Brooklyn (et al) in modern times. According to the dictionary people, gentrification is defined as – “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”

That’s not what’s happening in Long Island City. At all.

Gentrification is something that “happened” in East Harlem and the Upper West Side, Bushwick and Williamsburg and Park Slope, but back in the 1990’s. What’s going on now… we don’t have a name for it, yet. Longtime Newtown Pentacle commenter and reader “Cav” has suggested “development rampage.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, let me qualify my statements with this – unlike normal people, I don’t exactly have “feelings.” Rather, and especially when behind the camera, I try to be some sort of extraterrestrial thing recording the antics of you drunken man beasts in a quite separated, sterile, and utterly emotionless manner. When not shooting, I don’t run around waving signs, chanting chants, or spouting sophomoric “poli-sci” nonsense about “the youth” or “verbal activists.” If I need to get something done, or fixed, I “show up” and get involved in the process of fixing it.

I don’t think that what’s in your pockets is somehow mine by natural right, and I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to do or not do with your own property. Like most Americans, I want to be left alone to mind my own business without input from you, the government, or anybody else.

Saying all that, I may not like what you do with your personal property, but just as I would insist regarding my own “stuff” – it’s none of my business what you do. Key word in that statement is “business.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It always pisses off the officialdom types when I refer to “my property” and question them about their stewardship or management thereof. A good political operator working for the Government will respond positively to me when I refer to them as “my employees,” whereas others will sneer at me and adopt a tired expression. When we’re talking about Sunnyside Yards, that’s the very definition of “our collective property,” however. Amtrak and MTA don’t own the yards, the public does, and the two agencies are meant to represent our collective interests. The only part of the yards which are in private hands is on the 43rd street side, and it’s owned by General Motors. With a phone call and a quick Wall Street transaction, I can own some “buy in” of General Motors too.

Ultimately, if it’s government land, WE own it. Maybe… just maybe… before any sort of deck thingamabob is built on our property, there should be a vote about disbursing it for the usage of the real estate industrial complex?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It always makes my fellow riders a bit uncomfortable when they see me pressed up against the window of a subway car, furiously working the shutter button on the camera. This is something I’ve never quite understood. People often react to the presence of a camera in the same manner as if I was carrying a firearm, and God forbid you get a shot with some random person in it who has decided that you’ve just stolen their soul or something. The odd thing about this, to me at least, is that half the train population seem to be taking “selfies” and it’s fairly common for people to use their phones to take shots of every amusing or wry thing they see these days.

Me? I’m just the guy taking pictures out of the dirty windows on the 7 train, trying to make some productive usage of the otherwise wasted time as I travel from Hunters Point – where I met a guy to talk about a thing to Sunnyside – so I can go see another guy about a different thing before heading home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maybe I’ve just gotten used to being photographed and videoed over the last decade, but it really doesn’t grind my gears if someone takes a photo of me – especially if I’m doing something outlandish in public.  It’s something that happens all the time during my tours of Newtown Creek, and I do turn up in newspaper articles periodically, commenting on this event or that so I guess I’m used to it. My understanding of things, law wise, is that if you’re in public you have no basic right to privacy. It’s the pretext which the cops and others use when installing street facing security cameras, and the only “rule” surrounding the photography of the public sphere is that you can get in “libel” trouble for assigning an editorial meaning to an image that isn’t inherent. There’s also a whole set of rules about private property, but that’s a different tale.

Example – you’re coming out of a pharmacy and pop a physician prescribed pill you just purchased, and I present it with a caption saying “well known drug addict Joe Blow popping pills again.” That’s libelous, and bad journalism, as I don’t know for certain what sort of pill it is and whether or not it’s habitually consumed, nor whether or not Joe Blow is an addict. All I actually know is what happened in the 1/500th of a second when the shutter was open.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Deep existential wandering, such as that contained in this post, is also one of the ways a humble narrator passes the time during the random series of subway connections which allow one to maintain his odd lifestyle. The bullet points of this post are “wow, look at all this construction and we have a looming infrastructure crisis on the horizon,” “must come up with a term to replace gentrification,” “what’s up with all these communists wackos suddenly emerging from the woodwork in Western Queens who have been emboldened by Trump’s surprising victory,” “must oppose the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards in every possible way,” “people are staring at me on the train while I’m shooting,” and so on.

What can I tell you, I’m all ‘effed up.

I was also a bit gassy after eating that cheeseburger at Dorians in Hunters Point, and had been suppressing the emergence of a colossal fart for the entire ride on the 7. Here at 40th street, as the next 7 was pulling in, I let it rip. It would have been bad form to do so in the confines of the subway car.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

potential menace

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It’s National Pecan Sandy Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After that crazy set of storms that blew threw Astoria earlier this week, an odd orange glow permeated the sky. I got shots of the double rainbow too, of course, but since everyone else in NYC had their phones out and Instagrammed it – what’s the point? I was far more interested in the stage lighting offered by nature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was also out on a boat in NY Harbor this week, specifically on the solstice, and the sky that presented on the longest day of 2017 did not disappoint. That shot is looking towards New Jersey, from the waters just off Red Hook.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in LIC, one was surmounting the Pulaski Bridge when a LIRR train began making its way towards the Hunters Point Avenue station. This is one of LIC’s great natural spectacles, for one such as myself.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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