The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Long Island City

forbidden retreat

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more #thingstheydidnttellamazon, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst shlepping about the other night with camera in hand, I was listening to an audiobook recording of David McCullough’s “The Great Bridge,” which is a wonderful recount of the struggles of the Roeblings in pursuance of building the Brooklyn Bridge. In my mind, you can divide the historical narrative of NYC into halves – before and after the Brooklyn Bridge was built. There’s lots of other “bookmarks;” Fulton and his ferries, the emergence of Tammany Hall, City Consolidation, the Robert Moses era, the age of Anarchy and diminished expectations, even the second Gilded Age which we’re living in right now. The Brooklyn Bridge project, however, was a epochal moment. I bought the audiobook a few years ago from Audible.com, which is an Amazon affiliate, and I like to revisit it periodically while I’m “doing my thing.”

All of the bookmark moments mentioned above are important, in my mind, because they set political precedents when they occurred which both current and future generations will have to live with. Brooklyn Bridge as the beginning of the age of progressivism in NYC, a term which meant something entirely different when it was coined than how it is used or interpreted in modernity. Back then, it invoked “progress” and stated that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. What that meant was that if you owned a business or home that was in the way of the Brooklyn Bridge, or some other needed improvement, you got out of the way in the name of the common good. The ultimate incarnation of “progress” was carried forward by Robert Moses in the middle 20th century, with his slum clearance and urban highway programs carving up entire neighborhoods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is one of the inconvenient truths about Queens that I’m sure Amazon hasn’t been made aware of, which is that the high speed data lines that will connect them to the world are strung to rotting utility poles which are often – as is the case in the photo above – held together with bits of jury rigged string. I’ve got some personal experience with this sort of situation, and have been haranguing to get a similarly rotten utility pole on Broadway in Astoria replaced for several years. The situation boils down to there being a NYS Utility Commission governing the poles, who are slow moving but ultimately effective. A work crew arrives and installs a new pole, in short order. The problem is that the utility providers of NYC – ConEd/NatGrid/Verizon/RCN/Spectrum or Time Warner or whatever they are now – are allowed to take years to transfer their lines from the old pole to the new one due to their special “licensed monopoly status.” There was one situation here in Astoria, and I’ve got a photo of it somewhere, where the old pole had been sheared off its base by a truck and they tied it up with maritime rope to the new one. It took about five years for the wires to be transferred and the broken utility pole to be removed.

You don’t get away with this sort of thing in Manhattan, by the way. Queens is sort of the red haired step child amongst the boroughs, and always gets the smallest portion when the municipal cake is getting divvied up. This is because of the “get along” and “development at any cost” mind set that has ruled over the Queens Political caste since City Consolidation in 1898. That mind set has created “precedent,” and it’s why our sewers overflow and the lights go dim during high electrical demand periods during summer heat waves. It’s also why our streets are caked in ice during the winter days after the pavement in Manhattan is clear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Setting a precedent is important in legal and political circles, as it allows some opportunist to say “I’m just doing what ‘so and so’ did last year, so what’s the problem?” What the citizenry always needs to be wary about is “the first time,” since that’s what the lawyers are going to cite “the next time.” One of the things which President Obama did that made me go red in the face was to give the Executive Branch the power to unilaterally execute an American citizen on American soil using a drone strike, in the name of national security and the never ending “war on terror.” All my pals on the Democrat side of the conversation said “don’t worry about, Obama won’t use that power all willy nilly” whereas I said “yeah, but what happens when somebody you don’t like inherits that precedent and power?”

Thanks Obama. Donald Trump can use a drone strike to assassinate an American citizen on American soil at his own discretion, and so can every future President of the United States. Precedent is important, and we need to be very careful as a society when setting it. Did you know it was originally an extraordinarily rare thing for a NYC Policeman to be seen carrying a gun? Now, it’s precedent.

The thing about the Amazon deal is the precedent it sets, which says that the executive branches of NYC and NYS can bypass all of the procedural “stops” which have been inserted into the process of large scale development in NYC to keep a Robert Moses from ramming highways through the Bronx or Austin Tobin from condemning dozens of thriving acres of Lower Manhattan to build a World Trade Center complex at the behest of the Rockefeller brothers which nobody really wanted except them?

The dimunition of legislative branch prerogatives and community input is what the Amazon deal represents, and it’s ultimately a disturbing precedent.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 13, 2018 at 2:00 pm

expressed policy

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Arrrrgh!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been chasing a shot for quite a bit of time now, one which has eluded me with all the skill of a Bigfoot. I’ve gotten high in LIC looking for it, spent a lot of shoe leather wandering around Newtown Creek in a safety vest at night, and have even spent time in the Shining City during the quest. Frustrating is this particular pursuit, as although I’ve captured some nice imagery, “the shot” still remains elusive.

Above, looking eastwards from Manhattan at the notorious Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a matter of perspective, you see. I need to attain some altitude in order to get the right POV, a high rooftop or windowed enclosure in the east 20’s of Manhattan which will allow me to capture the Newtown Creek in some detail and provide a 3/4 down view of the waterway. Empire State Building would be perfect, but there’s all sorts of rules involved with shooting from up there (at night) which negate  that possibility. They ban the use of camera supports like tripods or stands up on the observation decks (which is reasonable, I suppose), but unfortunate for the shot I need to pull off would involve all sorts of “kit.”

I’ve asked everyone I know if they know anyone at the Empire State Building, which has received a consistently negative reply. I’m sure I can talk the ESB people into letting me have literally ten minutes up there with my setup if I had the chance, but…

Arrggggghhhh!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I will, somehow, get that shot.

Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. So, again, I’m putting out a clarion cry… If you are reading this and have access to a high vantage point on the extreme east side of Manhattan anywhere between 14th and 34th street (preferrably around 23rd street) and would be willing to let me roll by with camera and tripod on a clear night – I will be in your way for a maximum of fifteen minutes. Contact me at newtownpentacle@yahoo.com if so.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

smiling grimly

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Better late than never.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obligations and “have to’s” notwithstanding, that nearly week long pile of rain we received here in the City that never sleeps really got in the way of my good time. Last night, one anxiously watched the forecast for the exact minute that the rain would turn to fog and shot out of the house towards the Newtown Creek with camera bag in hand. The shots in today’s post aren’t from last night, as the pixels are still drying on those, rather they’re a few that were gathered during other outings in recent weeks.

Pictured above is the perspective of lying flat on the sidewalks on Jackson Avenue, genuflecting before the inhuman thing which cannot possibly exist in the cupola of the Megalith. The intelligence which has inhabited the Sapphire tower since it rose is said to be moving to another perch, and it will be replaced by an entity which calls itself “Alexa.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can’t tell you how many times I find myself tangled up in some industrial thingamabob or another when I’m out and about at night. Sometimes I’m just hiding from teenagers, or ghost pirates. One has several bolt holes around the Newtown Creek whose occupancy he favors for moments of existential terror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of existential terror, these two travelers were spotted recently in Queens Plaza. They must have been Newtown Pentacle perusers, since they seem to be following the advice often offered for crossing the busy intersections of the now residential area. “Stand behind something” while waiting to cross.

Back tomorrow, on schedule and with a bit more substance.


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inquire what

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Things they didn’t tell Amazon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only definitive statement that you can make is about something that’s already happened, which is why I spend a lot of my time thinking about the past in pursuit of informing my journey through the present and into the future. Since the Mayor and Governor seem to have found common ground on the subject of Amazon coming to LIC, and announced their intentions to offer the company a kings ransom in tax breaks and other incentives to base their second HQ here in Long Island City, on a huge campus located adjacent to the so called Anable Basin, a lot of people have inquired as to my positions and thoughts on the matter. Dire implication of pending doom, or a bright future?

Let’s get to it then. The shot above looks down 44th drive, towards the East River and Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above is a fire insurance map section of Anable Basin’s (labeled “canal”) neighborhood in 1919, depicting the land use of one century ago. If you click it, the link will carry you over to Flickr, where a larger incarnation of the thing can be zoomed into for deeper perusal. The Standard Oil properties above were an operation called DeVoe, which I understand to have primarily been a canning and packaging facility for petroleum products and chemical byproducts that were refined at Standard’s several refineries to the east and south, and notably those along the nearby Newtown Creek.

The shots below depict scenes more recent, 2009 specifically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back when I first started wandering around LIC with a camera, I really didn’t understand the things I was looking at nor the complicated web of connections and tangents that were directly in front of me. Often I would gain a moment of insight, saying “that looks like it might be important to get some shots of,” as is the case with these now decade old shots. At the time, the land on the southern side of Anable Basin was an open field of post industrial rubble and construction equipment, fenced in with gated entrances that displayed signs saying “NYS DEC Brownfield Remediation site.” It took better than two years, and millions of dollars (and a bit of epic legal trickery) before environmental officialdom could sign off on Rockrose Development’s plans for the site.

The shots above and below are from December 6th in 2009, and were presented in a Newtown Pentacle post describing the Brownfield Remediation project on the southern side of Anable Basin which the following text was a part of:

9.5 acres, and owned by Rockrose Development (which has recently transformed itself into another corporate entity), this is the future home of four residential towers. As of April 2008, some 80,000 tons of contaminants had been removed from the site at a cost of $31 million. Standard Oil sited an oil refinery here in the 1860’s, and the soil is contaminated with Benzene, Petroleum Distillates, and volatile organic chemicals whose detected presence – in trace amounts- would cause the regular NYFD to evacuate and call in their HAZMAT teams.

Additionally, generations worth of untreated sewage and industrial pollution swirl and mix with the water table of the East River in the deeply cold gravels and blackened mud beneath the place. Sources also reveal that the “clean fill” being used to replace the contaminated substrates that were removed in the remediation process emanate from the tunnel being bored out from under the East River by the “East Side Access” project.

Additionally, the photo directly below is from a bit earlier in 2009, June 29 to be specific, and depicts the dozens and dozens of steel drums that contaminated material which had been removed from the ground in the first pass was stored in onsite.

If you live in that large residential tower in LIC that’s found at 45-45 Center Blvd, well… guess what?

They didn’t mention this, or any of the other inconvenient environmental truths about LIC, to you before you moved in? They’re probably not revealing it to Amazon or their employees either.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north at the corner of 44th drive and 11th street, there’s a light industrial zone that has somehow survived having the real estate folks picking away at it over the last couple of decades. It’s been nibbled in at the edges, which I’d define as being 23rd street to the east, the Queensboro Bridge to the north, East River to the west, and 44th drive to the south. It’s an area composed of truck based warehouse businesses, light manufacturing, food preparation, construction contractors. 11th street’s southern end terminates in the onramp to the Pualski Bridge, the gateway to North Brooklyn.

Amazon’s presence will make this area “the next big thing,” development wise, and its presence will definitely heat up the already red hot real estate market of North Brooklyn as well as the similarly fevered one here in Queens. Don’t be surprised if this industrial zone is remade into Manhattan style office buildings and hotels. Also, don’t be surprised if nearby civic groups welcome it, in return for crumbs from Amazon’s table, and the hotels become homeless shelters after a year or two.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s 44th Drive’s intersection with Vernon Blvd. which will all be part of the Amazon campus. Don’t ask how many feet of water were sloshing about here during Hurricane Sandy, or about the complaints often offered to the City DEP by residents about sewage backups that occur during ordinary storms. Certainly, don’t tell Amazon about it.

Until quite recently the goal of the Real Estate Industrial Complex, as led by the NYC EDC, was to develop this intersection as high density residential, and to give the government owned land away to a developer for the price of a handshake. Don’t worry about the developer, they’re the ones that are going to build the Amazon campus. They also got a sweetheart deal on a property adjoining Newtown Creek where they’ll be allowed to erect four twenty story tower apartment buildings. Win, win!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The huge NYC owned building at the corner of Vernon Blvd. and 44th drive is officially a NYC Dept. of Education facility. Currently, it houses some 1,000 plus employees of the Office of Pupil Transportation (the School Bus people, who are coincidentally having their $1.2 Billion operation investigated by the FBI under charges of rampant corruption), the Division of School Facilities (responsible for construction of new schools and maintenance of existing structures), and the Office of Food & Nutrition Services (School Lunch people, who feed around 1.1 million students a day).

Now, if you’re someone like me (which is unlikely), when you look at 44-36 Vernon Blvd., you don’t see the Department of Education building, instead you see a late 1930’s Work Projects Administration built City of New York Department of Purchase and Bureau of Stores warehouse. Construction began in 1938, if you’re the curious type. I am.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing west down 44th drive, you encounter a lonely and sort of scary street. While these shots were being captured, there was one automobile being utilized as a boudoir, and in another there was a group of teenagers who were experimenting with cannibinoids. A few workers sidled past me and shot “the hairy eyeball” in my direction.

This section of 44th drive, found between Vernon Blvd. and the East River, is a little scary at night but no different than many of the streets you find in the peninsular sections of Hunters Point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunters Point is the actual name of this area, not Long Island City. Long Island City, as it were, encompassed a vast area which included parts of Middleburgh or LIC Heights (modern day Sunnyside), all of Astoria, Blissville, Hunters Point, Dutch Kills, and Ravenswood. If you live west of Woodside Avenue or 51st street and your zip code starts with a “111,” you live in the former municipality of Long Island City, which was absorbed into the City of Greater New York along with the rest of Queens back in 1898. Referred to at the time by citizens of what became the outer boroughs as “The Great Mistake,” Manhattan’s interests have been primal ever since.

Ravenswood, as a note, is the neighborhood on the other side of the Queensboro Bridge as you move northwards along Vernon Blvd., and Astoria starts somewhere between 35th and 34th avenues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Roughly analogous to 5th street, the DOE building has a huge parking lot for its employees which will also become a part of the Amazon campus. This view looks north, through the open gates of the facility towards an empty property. Said property had a building on it which was demolished in anticipation of real estate development, but funding for the project fell through and it was allowed to grow wild with self planted vegetation.

The foundation of the former building filled in with rain and flood water, and the site is colloquially referred to as “Lake Vernon.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south along 5th street, which is hardly a street and more of an access drive that’s one block long, is the intersection with 45th avenue (labeled as “Division Street” in the map at the top of the post). The area is defined by a large NYC DOT yard, one devoted to roadway resurfacing and asphalt spreading operations. When manufacturing declined as an economic sector in NYC during the 1960’s and 70’s a lot of formerly valuable waterfront property owners ended up either in bankruptcy or unable to pay their taxes, and the City ended up foreclosing on or just taking over their abandoned properties. In order to bring some sort of economic life to these depressed post industrial zones, and free up more valuable land in Manhattan, NYC began to base its’ service fleets in these centrally located areas.

Starting in the 1990’s, these waterfront lots and parcels began to be considered valuable again, but the City couldn’t afford to relocate them elsewhere as real estate valuation had risen. All over the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts, you’ll find facilities like this DOT yard or the DOE building across the street. The so called “movement” to replace the jails complex on Rikers Island has nothing to do with “mercy” or “justice,” and everything to do with resiting municipal facilities operated by DEP, DSNY, NYPD, FDNY, and so on from valuable parcels in hot real estate zones.

You can’t build tower apartments on Rikers, it’s near an airport and very far from mass transit other than buses.

You can build one and two story garages and warehouses for City owned vehicle and equipment fleets, though, ones which will be safe from prying eyes at the end of a causeway bridge in East Elmhurst.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing towards the waterfront, you encounter a recreational pier with seating and benches, after passing by the entrance to an “eating and drinking” establishment called the Anable Basin Sailing Bar and Grill. It’s seems to be a pretty popular destination during the summer, that bar and grill. Anable Basin itself is on its southern flank, which is bordered by that benzene laden construction site and the tower building built atop it on the other side of the canal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking at the waterfront properties, from that recreational pier, which the Amazon Campus will be observed from by residents of Manhattan’s Upper East Side and visitors to Roosevelt Island’s Four Freedoms Park. The building at the right of the shot is one which our Mayor would likely celebrate the demolition of – the Waters Edge restaurant. The former owner of the restaurant testified to Federal Prosecutors about rampant political corruption at City Hall, and directly about his “pay for play” interactions and transactions with the Mayor himself.

Mayor De Blasio seems to have escaped charges “by the hair of his chiny chin chin” by exploiting the technicalities of election law. Read about it here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the East River and looking south towards the NYC Ferry LIC north dock near the Pepsi sign, the aforementioned brownfield cleanup area, Anable Basin, and the LED countdown clock ticking away the remaining number of days that we still need to call Donald Trump “President.”

One of the many decisions undertaken by the Trump Administration which I disagree with was the firing of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was in the process of investigating and tightening the prosecutorial noose – which jailed Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos – on our Mayor and on our Governor as well. Bill De Blasio and Andrew Cuomo actually owe their reputations and freedom to Donald Trump firing Bharara, which would be an ironic fact at any other time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north along the East River coastline past Water’s Edge, Lake Vernon, a large Con Edison training facility, and the gas powered electric generation turbines found nearby the Queensboro Bridge and just south of the Queensbridge NYCHA houses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above looks up 44th drive, towards the Sapphire Megalith of Long Island City, and the Court Square area. It’s literally the other direction of the first shot in this long post.

The megalith, which has been occupied by Citi Group since it opened some 26 years ago, will be the temporary home of Amazon’s HQ2 until construction on the LIC campus winds up sometime in the middle 2020’s.

So? What do I think about Amazon coming to LIC? I still haven’t formed an intelligent opinion or gleaned any nuance, but now I can intelligently say what used to be and is here, and why. Now, you can say that too. What do you think about this subject? What else hasn’t Amazon been told by the snake pit of New York politics?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2018 at 11:00 am

choking gasp

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Great Gallopping Golly Gosh Gee, it’s Wednesday again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

High over Hunters Point in Long Island City, the POV looks southwards across the Long Island Railroad’s terminal passenger stop on the Lower Montauk line, various incarnations of which have been found here since 1870. In place even longer than the LIRR station, is the intersection of Newtown Creek with its parent waterway East River. Beyond is Greenpoint, which has been there for a good stretch, and that’s Manhattan on the right side of the shot which has also enjoyed a long occupancy hereabouts.

That’s the Williamsburg Bridge at center distant, which has been hanging out over the river since 1903. It’s an immigrant superhighway!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

September of 1954 is when the children of Brooklyn and Queens exploded into revelry over the opening of the Pulaski Bridge. One always refers to the area seen above as “DUPBO” or Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp, opining that “you need to get ahead of the Real Estate guys on this sort of thing or you’ll wind up living in “Westoria” or something.

The Pulaski Bridge is also an immigrant superhighway of sorts, connecting Queens’ Long Island City to Greenpoint in Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks northwards, where you can still spot the three major bridges of Western Queens all in one go by peeking over and around the residential towers of LIC. The Queensboro (1909), Hells Gate (1918), and Triborough Bridges (1936).

Tower Town, indeed.


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complete vacation

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Happy Tuesday, Lords and Ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of friends answered my request to get “high in LIC” in the last week. Last week, on Thanksgiving and the Black Friday following it, views from my pal’s roof deck high above the Queens Plaza/Court Square area were on offer. On Sunday last, another friend allowed me onto his roof deck over in Hunters Point. The birds eye shots from Sunday will be presented in tomorrow’s post, for the most part.

While I was in the neighborhood, I did a little bit of wandering about, and had a very odd experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is one of the birds eye shots, from about twelve stories over Long Island City, looking towards East River past the Queens Landing section of Hunters Point Park South.

Shortly after recording this shot, I bid my host “adieu” and made my way down towards the street. Heading off towards Newtown Creek to the south was my goal. Upon reaching the corner, a sudden panicked call of “please help me, sir, please help me” rang out. An unusually tall blonde woman, my impression was that she was Russian (or some similar flavor of “Slavic”), approached and beseeched me to escort her back to her apartment house as she was terrified of a “driver” who “said all these things, horrible things, things…” She was brandishing her phone, which was on speaker with a man she said was her father. Fully aware that I might have wandered into the jaws of an old street grift called “cat fishing,” one nevertheless guided the lady back towards her building whereupon she disappeared within. Strange encounter with a quite hysterical person, but I got to feel like I helped some stranger out of a jam she was in, so “win.”

Life on the streets of NYC for an itinerant photographer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wasn’t at all nervous about having to possibly “handle” a Russian hooligan if indeed I was being catfished (modern context notwithstanding, this is the one where a lady gains the attention of a man, whereupon she appeals to him to help her in a variety of circumstantial but always urgent situations, counting on his gallantry, who then leads him to usually male confederates who beat the tar out of the fellow whereupon the gang splits whatever loot he’s carrying) I was apoplectic about the masses of unsupervised teenagers gathered about the well lit East River waterfront.

Brrr, teenagers.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

intervening hours

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Friday has come at last, whew.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I mentioned yesterday, my stated desire to get high in LIC received a few answers, and one of them presented an opportunity to access the roof decks at one of the titanic new residential towers in the Queens Plaza area. One was offered a fairly limited period of time in which to get busy with the clicking and whirring, as my friend’s generosity was limited by him having preexisting plans for later in the evening.

Pictured above is the zone found around and about the Court Square section, with the Sapphire Megalith at center.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking southeast towards Brooklyn, that’s the Kosciuszcko Bridge and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway at the top of the shot, and the dark mound just in front of it is Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville section. The bright line is the Long Island Expressway, and in the foreground is the Degnon Terminal nearby the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

This is how City Planners see things, I suspect. Neat little blocks and distanced “zones” devoid of the complications or existential realities of humanity. Personally, I spend so much time scratching around in the filthy substrate and granular truths of these places, this point of view is like an alien reality to me. Saying that, even all the way up here, there are construction cranes visible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking west and slightly northwards towards Manhattan and the Queensboro Bridge, the Queensbridge NYCHA houses are filling the right hand side of the image and looking for all the world like charcoal briquettes on a BBQ.

Have a nice holiday weekend, lords and ladies, and I’ll be back Monday with something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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