The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Long Island City

calloused outlook

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A few shots from the Degnon Terminal, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Modernity knows the complex of cyclopean factory buildings along Thomson Avenue in Long Island City as the campus of LaGuardia Community College. If – like me – you can see through time to earlier ages, you know that Thomson Avenue was named for the guy who used to own the Neptune Water Meter company over on Jackson Avenue, a recently demolished building which in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries was the home of 5ptz. You’d know that until the start of the 20th century, this area was a pestilential mosquito breeding swamp known as the waste meadows, and that it wasn’t until the Pennsylvania Railroad decided to site their Sunnyside Yard nearby that the swamp was drained and filled in.

The waste meadows were owned by the estate of a former Governor of New York State named Roscoe P. Flowers, and their acreage was bought up by the Degnon Terminal Realty company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Michael Degnon was a contractor who could accomplish the impossible during the age of “progress” in the newly consolidated City of Greater New York. He came to prominence installing the masonry cladding of the Williamsburg Bridge and finishing the subway tunnels which August Belmont and William Steinway had started. The rock “spoils” which were produced when mining the subway tunnels connecting Queens and Manhattan were brought here to LIC, raising the land to a high and dry condition. Degnon began to sell his land off to large industrial concerns, and constructed their factories for them. His Degnon Terminal offered a “terminal railway” which allowed for shipping connections to maritime barge and cargo ships at Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, as well as direct connections to the Long Island Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad trackages on the LIRR’s Lower Montauk and Main Line. Additionally, connections to the New York Connecting Railroad and the Hell Gate bridge were possible as well. Degnon is buried in First Calvary Cemetery if you’d like to leave him some flowers.

As the Queens Chamber of Commerce called it contemporaneously, Queens was the “Borough of Homes and Industry” a hundred years ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just this last week, a meeting of the “Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group” was held at one of CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College buildings in the former Degnon Terminal, and as is my habit – the camera was deployed before and after the meeting. The shot above looks north in the direction of the Sunnyside Yard and you can just see the arch of the Hell Gate Bridge on the horizon. That yellow streak is the IRT Flushing Line – or 7 train – moving through the shot while the shutter was open for about fifteen seconds.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

palpably diabolic

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Being stressed out is a crutch, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was scuttling along on a recent afternoon, marveling at the wonders of Queens. My day’s photographic targets having been captured, and fully entranced by one of my favorite HP Lovecraft audiobooks (The Horror at Red Hook, read by Wayne June), the path I was on had been chosen to get me home to Astoria from Newtown Creek as quickly as possible via 39th street in Sunnyside. There’s bunches of lovely residences along this stretch, but my visual instinct is generally unexcited by homes and gardens. Nevertheless, the camera is always ready to click and whirr should something interesting pop up.

I am, it should be mentioned, fascinated by the concrete clad topography of Western Queens. The “lay of the land” as it were. There’s all sorts of elluvial hillocks and ridges hidden beneath all the asphalt and brick, and when you walk these streets a lot, you can easily discern where water once flowed or pooled prior to the massive land reclamation and drainage projects of the early 20th century. These projects, and the concombinant political corruption involved with the execution of them, ended the careers of several of the early Borough Presidents of Queens in court.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

File the shot above under “you don’t see that every day,” and even for a humble narrator who has become jaded by the wonders of municipal industry, it isn’t every day that you see a heavy tow truck clad in FDNY trade dress towing an ambulance. I’m sure that the combination was ultimately heading for Maspeth, where the Fire Department maintains a couple of vehicle maintenance facilities.

After capturing the shot, I offered the driver a friendly wave of the hand. He smiled and waved back. Only employees of the FDNY seem to do this, amongst all the City agencies. Cops and Sanitation workers just kind of glare at me. I figure anything that a City employee is driving is partially owned by me anyway, so click and whirr.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from a different afternoon, the day that the Bicycle Fanatics came to Sunnyside to stage a protest. I took a bunch of shots of their “human protected bike lane” hooey, but do not wish to inflate their egos or cause any further than necessary. Accordingly, the crepuscular rays dancing about the Sapphire megalith and the ominous mestastase of the LIC skyline are presented instead.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm

muttered formulae

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Deadman’s curve and the Pratt Oil Works, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, one would not be seen marching along the LIRR tracks in Blissville, but I had my reasons. It was a Sunday afternoon, anyway, meaning that the chances of there being any rail traffic at all on the Lower Montauk would be slim to none so I decided that it would be a good time to throw the dice and hope that I wouldn’t get squished by a passing locomotive. There’s plenty of places to dive out of the way, if I were able to discern an approaching train, but that’s kind of the issue – trains move pretty quickly and the physics of how sound moves around the air dam created by the engine as it’s moving seriously reduce the “early warning” time. Saying all that, I didn’t get squished, but do not recommend you chance it yourself. It is illegal trespass, after all.

Me, I was scoping out the latest wrinkle in the environmental story around the fabled Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I went to a meeting a couple of weeks ago at the NYS DEC offices in Long Island City, which discussed the “Pratt Oil Works Site” or as I’ve been referring to it for several years – “The Queens County Oil Works of Charles Pratt” or alternatively “The Blissville Seep.” ExxonMobil has taken responsibility for the site, which ultimately used to belong to its corporate parent Standard Oil, and has (under DEC guidance) begun the process of siphoning “product” out of the ground. Said product, the ExxonMobil folks said, is distinct from the liquid product which has been oozing from the Creek side bulkheads into the water. The modern day owner of the site is largely the Waste Management company, which operates a waste transfer station along Railroad Avenue that handles DSNY collections and loads up the Garbage Train. Said garbage train provides framing in the shot above. The Queens County Oil Works was in operation from 1842-1949, whereupon the property was subdivided and sold off. ExxonMobil representatives described the materials their contractor Roux will siphoning out of the ground as “Lube Oil and wax” and the petroleum product oozing into the Creek as “LNAPL” or Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid. LNAPL is lighter than water and floats on top of ground water.

ExxonMobil’s contractors, Roux Associates, who handle the Greenpoint Oil Spill for them directly across the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, has been activated to handle the Blissville situation. Roux has installed 62 wells on the property, 42 of which are recovery wells and the other 20 are monitoring wells. Waste Management, separately, has several issues they’re dealing with on the site, including a high level of acidity in the soil and the presence of toxic chemicals – specifically Toluene and Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds. Waste Management will be aerosolizing these chemicals, meaning that they will be using a process called “SPARGing” which will release them into the open air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

ExxonMobil representatives were cagey about the quantity of “product” in the ground, even after I confronted them about specifics. Saying that, I’m certain they know exactly what’s down there, as engineers who have installed 62 wells don’t just do so randomly and hope for the best. Waste Management claimed that their timeline for remediation of both the soil ph conditions and the presence of “chemicals of concern” would be four to eight years, whereas the ExxonMobil folks said it’s an open process and wouldn’t commit to a timeline.

Oddly enough, a review of the combined project’s boundaries corresponds neatly to the property lines of the former Queens County Oil works. Luckily for Blissville, here in Queens, subterranean oil deposits respect above ground political and property lines. If you are technically minded, or just curious enough to “get it straight from the horse’s mouth,” follow this link for the NYS DEC fact sheet.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

bursting cachinations

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Lurking in fear, for today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Onboard the NYC Ferry’s Astoria line heading for the City recently, one felt the oppressive gaze of an impossible thing that dwells within the cupola of the Sapphire Megalith of Long Island City (an inhuman intelligence which cannot possibly exist, nor stare down with avarice upon the world of men through an unblinking three lobed eye) fix upon me from up on high. Paranoid ideation and local rumor would suggest that other attentions were gathered from below the greasy waters as well. There are stories told in the Ravenswood section of Long Island City which describe frog or fish like men who sometimes emerge from the eastern channel of the estuarial East River, specifically the section of the waterway found between Roosevelt Island and Queens.

Who can guess what there may be down there, buried in the slime and post industrial sediments?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing in the megalith, which neither breathes nor sleeps, only knows hunger – and contempt – for the world of man. The aims and actions of the things in the river are less obvious, hidden as they are in the dark and sepulchral depths where the emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself never reach. In the aqueous silt, where the worms gnaw and wriggle and slither, there is rumored to be a complex of shadowed tunnels reaching out to all corners of the Great City above. These tunnels breach into the City’s sewers, allowing them egress to all sections and locales. Only the Mayors of NYC know the truth of the extent of these amphibian stranger’s ambitions, knowledge of which is passed from potentate to potentate across the generations in a letter originally penned by Mayor Fernando Wood in 1855.

Rumors of the contents of this letter are dearly held, but during a drunken stupor at a midtown speakeasy back in 1927, Mayor Jimmy Walker hinted not just at the confirmable presence of an amphibian race of “Deep Ones” in NY Harbor but also alluded to their monstrous desire to interbreed with terrestrial New Yorkers. Efforts by the fish/frog things in that pursuit had occurred during raids on the asylums and workhouses of Welfare (Roosevelt) Island during the late 19th century, launched from the water in the dead of night. The progeny produced by these couplings were, as the inebriated Walker indicated, a “hybrid pestilence” which demanded destruction. The victimized women who incubated them were afterwards found to be hopelessly insane, and driven towards suicide.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mariners and Longshoremen have long hinted at the presence of things observed in the Upper Harbor of New York, but never explicitly discuss such matters with outsiders. Queer and persistent raspings at the keel in Buttermilk Channel, those bizarre underwater light sources keeping pace with your boat at Hells Gate, the basso sounds encountered at Sandy Hook… those serpentine shapes that must have just been some extraordinarily large fish… perhaps a large Sturgeon? Those weird dark lumps spotted in the water at Newtown Creek that just disappear into the depths mere seconds after they are noticed?

Who, truly, can guess… all there is that may be found down there in the drowned metropolis of the worm just off shore?


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

sounding concurrency

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Long Island City, all right!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A late evening walk recently found me scuttling down Skillman Avenue in the direction of “proper” Long Island City, with the intention of gathering a few night shots. That’s the bike lane which the Bicycle Fanatics have designated as being the only possible way to vouchsafe entry to the Queensboro Bridge, and eliminate the lakes of cyclist blood which they describe as flowing freely in the streets due to the presence of automobiles. Their fix for this is to put as many bicycles in the path of as many automobiles as you can find, which in the case of Queens is Queens Plaza.

I found out why the Bicycle Fanatics don’t like the Northern Blvd. route that I’ve suggested a few times… turns out Northern is a NYS controlled road and their lapdog Mayor can’t grandstand there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The red light district of LIC isn’t so called for the usual reasons – involving ladies of the evening and the flesh trade. Instead… well… there’s a bunch of red lights installed on the construction sheds.

I’m sure that the red lights indicate something, as there’s regular white lights installed as well. If you’re in the subway, whenever you see a blue light, that means you’ve found a stairway leading to an exit of one kind or another installed along the tunnels. Always remember, a way out is also a way in, which is something that can come in handy in case of an illegal Space Alien invasion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unpredictability seems to have been the watchword of late here in Queens when the subject turns to the weather. It had been a fairly lovely evening when I started out, but a storm was going to herald the arrival of another temperature inversion and the first “spritz” of rain was beginning to appear in the air. One last tripod setup on Jackson Avenue, focused in on the Court Square station and the Sapphire Megalith of Long Island City was made serendipitous by the sudden passage of a NYCTA Bus through the frame.

Luckily, it got stuck at the light during one of the long exposure images which I was collecting all evening.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2018 at 11:00 am

blind courage

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Luggage, shoe, gloves – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since I am a vast physical coward, and feckless quisling, the normalized habit of a humble narrator is to avoid the horror of meeting another’s gaze by staring down at the pavement while scuttling along his path. This helps one pretend that others are not pointing, laughing, or otherwise reacting in shocked horror as he waxes and wanes through their visual field. The plus is that I seldom miss the discarded items which others strew across the public way. Most modern New Yorkers seem to leave a debris field of manufactured items behind in their wake, much like a torpedo stricken merchant ship would as it steams inexorably forward into the open sea with a crew of dead and dying men onboard.

The suitcase pictured above… what redolent cargo might it have hidden? The fetus of an albino Gorilla? A fortune in narcotics? A few pairs of dirty socks and a t-shirt? Never will I know, having been too wracked with terror to investigate any further than by recording its presence photographically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On 31st Avenue at Crescent Street in Astoria, just a few days after encountering the portentous luggage, evidence of the latest outrage by the Queens Cobbler was observed. A likely serial killer whose ghoulish delight is leaving behind a singular shoe as a taunt to law enforcement and wholesome community members alike, the Queens Cobbler has been mentioned many times at this – your Newtown Pentacle. Last Christmas, the monster signaled that he or she knew where my home address was – as described in this post. This isn’t the first time that I’ve found a child’s shoe, as a note.

I fear you no more than every other living human being, Cobbler, which is absolutely and completely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough, I’ve been seeing a lot of gloves lately, positioned neatly on the sidewalks upon which they were evulsed.

You don’t suppose that there’s a Queens Gaunter running about as well?


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 31, 2018 at 11:00 am

hereditary predilection

with one comment

Queens is mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

No more. The Mayor’s plan to warehouse New York City’s most vulnerable citizens in a neighborhood of warehouses, two blocks from the Newtown Creek Federal Superfund Site and one block from the Long Island Expressway – thereby creating a two to one ratio of actual residents to homeless shelter residents in the Blissville section of Long Island City – seems to have become the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. No more. The needs of the elites of Manhattan do not outweigh the needs of Queens. No more.

On Tuesday last, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer grilled DHS Commisioner Stephen Banks about this plan at City Hall, and community members gathered on the steps of City Hall in protest over the Mayor’s plan. Assemblymember Cathy Nolan sent her representative David Agioloro to show her support for the cause. No more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Monday last, at Gracie Mansion, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney joined with the Blissville Civic Association to protest the Mayor’s plan at the gates of the Manhattan mansion he lives in. Western Queens’s elected officials stand in solidarity with Blissville, as does Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association, Senator Michael Gianaris, and your humble narrator. No more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next week, as a note, the NYS DEC will be presenting their findings regarding the Blissville Seep – where oil has been migrating into the waters of Newtown Creek from the Queens side bulkheads less than a mile from the Mayor’s three homeless shelter. Their informal presentation on the former Queens County Oil Works of Charles Pratt will take place on Thursday, May 24th at the NYS DEC offices on 21st street in LIC.

No more.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 17, 2018 at 11:30 am

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