The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Long Island City

aspirant traits

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Where it all started, and fear of Vampires, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Pentacle’s first posting was back in 2009. One had been obsessively photographing Western Queens and the Newtown Creek waterfront for a couple of years at that point, but as I had somehow blundered into becoming a Parade Marshall for the Queensboro Bridge’s Centennial back in 2009, I figured it would be a good idea to have something to “show” if the occasion popped up. A lot has happened since then, of course, but one does like to return to where this weird journey of mine started periodically. Saying that, I didn’t know about the vampires back in 2009.

Given that the intervals between periods of windy rain and precipitating mist for the last few weeks have been few and far between, when the weather forecast has indicated that I’d be able to pry the lens cap off without fear of the glass becoming instantly spotted with rain drops for a couple of hours, I’ve taken it. The other night, I walked down the East River coast from Astoria, through Ravenswood, and then back upland to Queens Plaza following the great bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a lonely spot for a pedestrian here under the Queensboro. The Queensbridge houses are on the north side of the bridge, on the south there’s a couple of boutique hotels and a rapidly shrinking industrial zone. To the ultimate south is Tower Town at Hunters Point with its logarithmically expanding population. Other than a few cars passing through, however, a humble narrator was all by himself, just the way he likes it.

It was windier than I’d have liked it to be, which caused me no end of tripod trouble at the water’s edge, but once I started moving eastwards towards Queens Plaza, the wind factor dropped off a bit and I was able to do my thing without the camera shuddering when a gust blew through. The price I’m paying for the dramatic lessening of weight in my fancy new carbon fiber tripod is one involving stability, since it only weighs about two pounds. The three and change extra pounds associated with my aluminum tripod compensated for windy atmospheres, but I’d often have an aching back afterwards from shlepping the thing around for miles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was shooting the photo above, and looking out for the Vampires who dwell in the steel of the bridge and that of the subway elevated tracks feeding into Queens Plaza, I was basically standing in one of the angled box girders which meet the ground. As I had a good thirty seconds to wait while the shutter was open, I put my ear to the girder and spent a few seconds listening to the harmonics of the Queensboro Bridge.

Each one of the great bridges of New York City generates its own unique sound or harmonic, which is generally beyond the range of human hearing unless you press your head against the steel and allow the vibratory frequency to transfer to the skull and thereby the inner ear.

The chorus of the great bridges, I am certain, can only be described as being the music of the spheres.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 19, 2018 at 1:30 pm

frightened them

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The Queens Cobbler survived the cold, and Liberty walks the streets of Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been spotting evidence, once again, that the Queens Cobbler is active and amongst us. A likely serial killer who leaves behind a single shoe as a taunt to both community and law enforcement, the Cobbler has been a subject mentioned so many times at this – your Newtown Pentacle – that the monster has actually tracked me down and left one of his ghoulish trophies on the ornamental fence surrounding Newtown Pentacle HQ last Christmas. One refuses to be cowed.

The boot above was spotted recently on Northern Blvd. nearby 39th avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in the still industrial section of Long Island City, not too far from Van Dam Street, the shoe above was noticed while a humble narrator was scuttling past. It is my belief that someday will a commercial self storage room, or an untenanted storeroom in some old factory, be opened and within will be hundreds and hundreds of single shoes – the mates to the ones which have been documented at this publication over the years. I believe the Cobbler keeps on of their victim’s shoes as a trophy, and discards the other as a taunt.

One would be hard pressed to describe the particular footwear of a missing loved one to the Police, I admit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a completely different note, this fellow has been wandering up and down Broadway here in Astoria throughout tax preparation season. He’s apparently employed by a local shop, whose corporate branding revolves around the Statue of Liberty, that handles financial matters to act as a living signboard and busker to drive potential customers to their door.

I’ve enjoyed a brief conversation with the gentleman, who attests that the costume is actually quite warm and comfortable, which he’s been glad of given the recent cold snap. Everybody has to make a living, I guess.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm

metal substance

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Crispy around the edges, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last few days have been busy ones, and accordingly, here’s a few shots without too much accompanying folderol or explanations. This last weekend saw me do two tours, a late afternoon walk in LIC on Saturday and the all day 100% Toxic Newtown Creekathon on Sunday. Having walked something close to 18 miles during the last 48 hours, whilst shouting out narration, I’m plain old pooped today.

Pictured above, the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, my colleague from Newtown Creek Alliance – Will Elkins – and I managed to bring the Creekathon to a close yesterday well before it started raining, so there’s that. Unluckily, I haven’t been too busy with the camera this last week due to the cold and wind and rain, so that side of my psyche is quite unfulfilled.

Pictured above, a Thornton Tug on Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking forward to the middle of this week, a humble narrator is. The weather should be on my side, and I’m making a few plans to get out at night with the tripod and night kit.

Pictured above, the instersection of Van Dam Street and 49th avenue in LIC.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm

frigid gust

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Like a scorching case of incurable venereal disease, the Sunnyside Yards deck story is back in the news.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just last week, Crains New York Business reported that a development team had been anointed by the NYC EDC to helm the next stage of decking over the Sunnyside Yards and building the Mayor’s Death Star in the LIC section of Western Queens. Representatives of the EDC informed me that this report was erroneous, and that no partner has yet been chosen to explore the pathway laid out in their 2017 feasibility study.

I informed them that the Federal EPA had recently added Sunnsyide Yards to the Newtown Creek Superfund site as a “PRP,” or Potentially Responsible Party, alongside Exxon Mobil, the NYC DEP, National Grid and others as being responsible for the environmental degradation of the waterway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember, decking over the Sunnyside Yards has long been a dream for the Manhattan based Real Estate Industrial Complex. It’s 183 square acres of land which proponents of development describe as “ugly,” a “scar,” and “a wasteland surrounded by under utilized potential.” I remind them that it’s actually surrounded by LIC, Astoria, Dutch Kills, and Sunnyside. Then I remind them of the promises about affordable housing and community space that Council Member De Blasio made about the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and which never materialized, or the self same Council Member and later Public Advocate’s overt resistance to both Newtown Creek and Gowanus being included on the Superfund list in the first place.

Odd position for the self proclaimed man of the people to hold, and one wonders if his relationship with the Toll brothers, Forest City Ratner, and other real estate developers had anything to do with it? Bill De Blasio is the Donald Trump of the left, I would offer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are mutiple bridges crossing the Sunnsyide Yards, this one carries 39th street, which becomes Steinway Street on the other side of Northern Blvd. See that eight story building at the left? It’s the Standard Motor Products building, the one with the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop farm on top of it. According to renderings offered in the EDC feasibility study, the deck at Sunnyside Yards at 39th street would be start one story higher than it. That would be considered the zero altitude point for the measuring of the forty to sixty story tall residential towers which the document also discusses.

At 43rd street and Barnett Avenue, in Sunnyside Gardens, the deck would start at eleven to twelve stories over the current street grade in Sunnyside Gardens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One would actually prefer the deck structure to fully resemble the cinematic Death Star, a vast sphere of steel with an enormous cannon aimed at New Jersey set into its face, as opposed to the idea of seeing more of the banal glassine boxes typical of recent development activity in Long Island City go up. I’m sure the Mayor could tap Disney for a few campaign donations in return for the free advertising to finance the vainglorious Presidential ambitions he’s currently nursing – if he were to build his Death Star in Queens at Sunnyside Yards. He’d be able to claim that he built “affordable” housing in the Death Star.

The Mayor could start calling himself Darth Equity then. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My understanding is that the actual Sith Lord of New York – the Dark Prince of Albany – remains adamantly opposed to allowing the Mayor his folly here in Queens, but I’m positive it’s not out of altruism.

As a reminder, this decking project defeated the ambitions of Robert Moses, Nelson Rockefeller, and Michael Bloomberg as well as a host of lesser powers and potentates over the last century. Robert Moses, famously, threw his hands in the air and said “it’s just too complicated,” and that was just in terms of trying to site the Long Island Expressway over the yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One looks forward to the day when Bill De Blasio is done sharing his wisdom and sage guidance with NYC, and moves on to share his special set of skills and insights with the rest of the country. Like Donald Trump, he will make a series of promises he never intends to honor, and will disappoint those who believe in his sophomoric and disingenuous promises. The reality that the Sunnyside Yards plan was actually offered by and reintroduced by Michael Bloomberg’s right hand man Dan Doctoroff in a NY Times Op-Ed in the current Mayor’s first year in office, rather than the idea having explosively emerged (in the manner of Athena) from the fertile imaginings of Mr. De Blasio, is something unmentioned by City Hall.

Also, if we’ve got the money to do this, let’s fix the Subways and NYCHA first?

Sum up – Darth Equity, the Mayor is a Dope from Park Slope, and he still wants to build a Death Star in Queens.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – 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.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 3, 2018 at 11:00 am

obscure trembling

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There may be vampires there, but how can you avoid Queens Plaza?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Two of the proposals which Access Queens, a transit advocacy group which I’ve been working with for the last couple of years, has offered to the MTA to ameliorate the chaos which the forthcoming L train shutdown will bring to Queens when the masses of infinite Brooklyn are steered towards Long Island City are: a) extend the G line one stop from Court Square to the IND Queens Plaza station and b) allow a free “walking transfer” between the IRT Queensboro Plaza station upstairs (N, W, 7) to the IND station below (E, R, M).

In the case of the G extension, it would simply undo one stop’s worth of the cutbacks in service which the MTA created back in 2008 and allow Queensicans the opportunity to not have to use the particularly narrow and crowded platforms of the former 23rd Ely stop on the IND tracks at Court Square.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By MTA’s own numbers, which must always be taken with a grain of salt, the 7 line is at capacity by the time it rolls out of Woodside. The E and M lines are fairly close to the number of passengers one can expect to fit on board, and the R line is extremely crowded as well. When the L train shuts down for repairs of the Canarsie tunnel, MTA’s announced intentions are to add another car to the G and pulse the L’s cross river ridership into Court Square, where they’re meant to transfer to – you guessed it, the 7, E, or M lines. Court Square is a “Frankenstein” station, cobbled together from the IRT above and the IND below to satisfy the needs of real estate interests in LIC. The escalators and elevators in the station seldom operate reliably, and there’s a chaotic scene at work there during the busy times as masses of people move through corridors connecting the lines that can be as long as two city blocks.

Were the option to transfer at a station purpose built for massive crowds of people moving through it, aka the IND tracks at Queens Plaza with their wide platforms, the situation would be somewhat manageable. At Court Square, it’s the proverbial ten pound load being crammed into an already full five pound box.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I first moved to Astoria about fifteen years ago, I was startled to discover that there was no mechanism in place to facilitate a transfer between the upstairs IRT and downstairs IND platforms. Given that in Manhattan the N and W lines share trackage with the R… well, I guess that logic often has little to do with the way that MTA operates.

One is continually surprised that MTA (the A is for adventure, you know) still operates the NYCTA system as if it were the age of the dual contracts, and that after a half decade of absolute control over both the A and B divisions of the Subway they maintain the distinction. One would imagine, if private capital was involved, that after fifty years there would be greater interoperability at least in terms of fare control – let alone maintaining two seperate fleets of rolling stock to accommodate a few inches of variance in platform depth.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 29, 2018 at 11:30 am

induced hypoplasia

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Odds and ends, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, when one refers to “street furniture,” the term applies to lamp posts, fire hydrants, benches, or any of the other bolted to the sidewalk bits of kit that the City of Greater New York installs here and there. In Western Queens, and especially in any of the neighborhoods which were once part of the independent municipality called “Long Island City,” street furniture is a cast off chair or couch which has been abandoned on the curb. The one above has been resident at the corner of Steinway Street and “terty fourt avensues” for a while now.

As a note, I have a personal preference for fabric covered furniture rather than items which are clad in plastics or animal skins. During the summer months, you end up “sticking” to them and getting up from such an accoutrement can be quite uncomfortable. For any of you reading this who have been planning on buying a living room set, my advice has been offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Sunnyside Yards scene above was captured from the vantage offered by one of the many, many fence holes which one such as myself maintains a catalog of. This is late in the afternoon, when a significant number of train sets are being stored at the coach yard. New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and the Long Island Railroad store rolling stock here in LIC in between the rush hours. When the “busy time” arrives, these train sets will begin to either start rolling through the tunnels to Manhattan or head eastwards towards Woodside and Jamaica to fulfill their purpose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It laughs at us, the thing which dwells in the cupola of the sapphire megalith of Long Island City. Looking down at the pedantic world of men through its three lobed burning eye, this inhuman thing which does not breathe nor sleep but instead only hungers has been hanging in the sky above LIC since 1992, when this great dagger was driven into the heart of Queens.

As above, so below. Rumor has it that some fifty stories below the poison mud and concrete devastations of Long Island City is where you’ll find the actual forges and fiery engines of gentrification, stoked and tended to by this impossible entity’s armies of acolytes.


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elusive quality

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One last post in Blissville, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Homeless Services seems hell bent on sending NYC’s mot vulnerable citizens up the creek. The Newtown Creek, that is. They’ve sworn up and down that their program will be phasing out the usage of private hotels for housing people. Instead, they’re renewing contracts with hotels like the Pan Am over in Elmhurst and creating new concentrations of population all over Brooklyn and Queens, except for Park Slope and the Upper East Side for some reason or another. Those of us who live in neighborhoods like Maspeth, LIC, Astoria, or Blissville who stand up and complain about this policy will be branded racists or “NIMBY’s.” That last one stands for “Not in My Back Yard” and I’m just going to ask how the Mayor would feel if I was to start camping out in a certain somebody’s back yard on 11th street in Park Slope. I’d talk about equity and sharing the burden to him, but I’m pretty sure he’d tell me I couldn’t take up residence in his back yard. I’m positive that if I listed his back yard on Air BNB he’d be a NIMBY.

The shot above depicts the newly constructed Kosciuszcko Bridge, a mega project going on in Blissville’s back yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Sunday night in early March, on Review Avenue looking up 37th street, with First Calvary Cemetery’s walls forming the eastern border of that street here in Blissville. That’s when and where the shot above was captured. I could barely find a thirty second interval that didn’t have traffic running through it to capture this shot, so I decided to just roll with it.

No wonder, as the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge which carries just over ten million vehicle trips a year is only a block away, and the Long Island Expressway with its 85,000 daily vehicle crossings is less than a half mile distant. A not insignificant proportion of these vehicles are semi and garbage trucks, heading to the waste transfer locations found along a Federal Superfund site called the Newtown Creek. At these waste transfer stations, barges and trains are required to vacate Blissville of the load carried by these trucks.

37th street is mixed use, there’s residential buildings sitting right next to factories and warehouses. The world’s largest Fortune Cookie factory is at the end of the street nearby Bradley Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The people of Blissville deal with lots of trouble and stress due to the astonishing levels of traffic, severe environmental issues which include two nearby oil spills, and the presence of a sewer plant just across the water in Greenpoint. To the west and north, in Hunters Point and Sunnsyide, the fires of gentrification burn fiercely, driving rents up all over Western Queens, and even here in Blissville. Blissville has no supermarkets, no hospitals or urgent care centers, and access to mass transit is problematic at best. The 108th pct. is in Hunters Point, about a mile and half to the west. They do have a firehouse, so at least the City does something for Blissville other than open homeless shelters in it.

The shot above looks towards the intersection of Greenpoint Avenue, Van Dam Street, and Review Avenue at the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. That self storage joint used to be the home of the B&G Pickle factory, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, equity, and a fair shake for all New Yorkers is the sort of contrived rhetoric offered by the political establishment of City Hall under the current Mayor. Their policy, however, always seems to indicate that the needs of Manhattan outweigh the needs of Queens. Most importantly, to me at least, remains the eventual disposition and fate of the people whom the Mayor intends to house in this already overburdened community named for Greenpoint’s Neziah Bliss.

Is Blissville an appropriate place to house the homeless? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are already two homeless shelters within a half mile of the proposed facility which would double if not triple the current population of Blissville. That’s one of the converted hotels pictured above, the other one is on the Sunnyside section’s side of the Long Island Expressway, behind St. Raphael’s church. Do these two shelters mean Blissville is already carrying enough “equity” or has their “fair share of burden” for the rest of the City not yet been met?

That’s a former public school, in the shot above. It was built for the independent municipality of Long Island City by its last Mayor, Patrick “Battle-Ax” Gleason. Battle-Ax Gleason said that if you built palaces for working men to send their children to, you’d never get voted out of office and you’d be loved by the voters. When he died, 5,000 school kids lined the streets of Long Island City along the route of his funeral cortège. He’s buried in First Calvary cemetery, incidentally, here in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m expecting my phone to start ringing from 212 numbers in lower Manhattan this week, by the way, telling me to “back off.” Sorry, but no.

I’ve said this before and fear I’ll say it again – there is no “homeless problem,” rather there’s a million individual problems. By branding a vulnerable population of people whose only commonality is poverty as “the Homeless,” a demonized and stereotyped population is created. The shelter system is a jail without bars.

We are a rich and ostensibly “christian” society, and so we are both morally and legally obligated to help these folks lift themselves up. One bad day stands between all New Yorkers and homelessness. What these folks need is no different than what everybody needs – jobs, a roof, food. Jobs let them pay rent, which allows them to create a credit history, which allows them to pass out of the “system” and suffer like the rest of us.

Saying all that, and I’ll repeat myself again here – sending these people into industrial zone hotels nearby a superfund site with nearly zero access to transit, healthcare, just about everything they’ll need… that’s a human rights violation.

Mr. Mayor, this isn’t a homeless shelter you’d be creating here in Blissville, it’s a penal colony. It’s also the sort of heavy handed and deaf eared policy choices that you spent the twelve years of the Bloomberg administration complaining about.


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