The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Long Island Railroad

quiet steps

with 3 comments

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 18, 2017 at 11:00 am

repeated combination

leave a comment »

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

unseen eyes

leave a comment »

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?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

curious sequel

with 2 comments

It’s European Day of the Righteous, in the European Union.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note, last week I decided to play around a bit with my camera, in the cause of doing “the opposite of what I normally do.” All of today’s shots were shot with my night lenses set wide open to f1.8. Why? Why not? Gotta mix things up every now and then. I had nothing else to do anyway, as I was early for a meeting in LIC and was just hanging around killing time.

The thing in the sapphire megalith finds everything we mortals do funny.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A curious access – or manhole – cover was spotted along Jackson Avenue at a former Taxi depot which has recently been vacated. No doubt, this site will soon host a gigantic apartment building, of course. The creed on the manhole cover is “NYCTS” which likely indicates it as the property of the MTA (NYC Transit System). 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having little to do and no where else to go, one headed over to the crumbling 51st avenue footbridge in anticipation of watching a LIRR train go by. Given the current expectations of joy which one such as myself expects, this was a rather exciting prospect, and when the railroad’s signal arms descended over Borden Avenue, I was all a twitter.

This is pretty much all I’ve got these days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the LIRR 7100, and unless I’m mistaken – it’s one the 836 electric M7 electric multiple units that the MTA bought from the Bombardier company and which started service in 2002. It’s moving from the Hunters Point Yard to the Hunters Point Avenue station, after crossing under the Pulaski Bridge and across Borden Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Presuming that I’m correct in naming it as an M7, the train is powered via a non proverbial third rail, just like the NYCTA subway system. I hung around for a little bit and watched the train pass by, as I was still quite early for my meeting.

It was all kind of depressing, actually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long Island City has grown so significantly in recent years that this, along with all the other lonely spots which I used to indulge my innate and deep sense of isolation in, was quite crowded. The 51st avenue footbridge which I was squatting upon had a steady stream of pedestrian traffic flowing over it.

Your humble narrator was in the way, as I am in many situations and scenarios.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The LIRR train continued on to the Hunters Point Avenue station where it picked up people who had somewhere to go. I had somewhere to go for a change, so I flopped out the big lens for the small one and headed over to my meeting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing in the megalith doesn’t care how any of us feel, just so you know.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

odd debris

with 6 comments

It’s National Chocolate Cake Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Progress. That’s what they used to call it. The reclamation of wetlands for profitable municipal or private use, and the installation of some sort of useful industry upon the new land. Here in Queens – Northern Blvd., or Jackson Avenue depending on where you are standing, used to be a raised road that rolled through a swampy lowland. Queens, and LIC in particular, were remarkable in the post Civil War era for the prevalence of water borne diseases suffered by occupants of the various towns and villages found along its route. Typhus, malaria, cholera – all of the mosquito vector illnesses were quite common.

It’s the reason that Queens was so open to large scale development in the early 20th century when technologies emerged that allowed for the draining of swamplands and marshes. In a sudden burst of activity at the start of the last century – you see the emergence of the Queensboro Bridge, the Sunnyside Yards, and the appearance of the subway system.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as the critters go, they’re still following their old patterns even though the ancestral waters are buried tens of feet below the surface. It’s why you’ll still see clouds of gulls flying around at Sunnyside’s northern border or over in Woodside, miles from the East River or Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The automobile represented “progress” to the generations who fought the World Wars. The City was remade and rebuilt by Robert Moses and the armies he led in pursuance of progress. The highways and local streets which divide us also provided the opportunity to raise the level of land over the water table and install sewerage systems. These sewers quicken the flow of water, which in turn did away with the languid puddles and marshes in which the disease spreading clouds of mosquitos could breed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was no more potent symbol of “progress” in the late 19th century however, than the railroad. Unfortunately, it was ruled by opportunist financiers like JP Morgan and predatory capitalists like John D. Rockefeller, both of whom contributed to the industry becoming less and less profitable to operate. Robert Moses was no friend to the railroads either. Ultimately, by the late 1960’s, all of the private rail companies that handled passenger and freight were bankrupt and brought under government control.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Progress seems to be a forgotten concept in the modern day. It’s about maintaining what we’ve inherited, rather than dreaming big, of what we could have. We no longer reach for the stars, even on National Chocolate Cake Day.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 27, 2017 at 1:00 pm

displayed during

with 3 comments

It’s National Peanut Butter day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Occasion carried me towards Brooklyn recently, at a chronological interval during which the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had already dipped behind the mysteries of New Jersey. Accordingly, I packed up my “night kit” and headed south from “Point A” in Astoria and down to the flood plains of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

My night kit, as previously mentioned, are my two Sigma zoom lenses – the 50-100 f1.8, and 18-35 f1.8, as well as a trusty Canon “nifty fifty” 50mm f1.8 prime lens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path was simply scouted. Heading south along Steinway and across the “Carridor” of Northen Blvd., west on Skillman and then south to the Pulaski Bridge, across Newtown Creek, then west on Greenpoint’s Franklin Avenue, and then south to my destination on Williamsburg’s north side near Berry street.

This somewhat photogenic route resulted in the crossing of wonders and landmarks like the Sunnyside Yards, the Skillman Avenue Corridor, and the legendary Newtown Creek. I could have just taken the train, but then you don’t get to see the wonders of Western Queens and North Brooklyn on your way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t help but utilize one of the many “holes in the fence” at Sunnyside Yards which I’ve mapped and catalogued over the years ,and grabbing some shots of a passing rush hour Long Island Railroad unit heading towards Woodside and points further to the east. Gotta love the interlockings, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One turned right (or west) onto the Skillman Avenue corridor, and the incredible horizon of rampant gentrification it displays. In pre industrial times, just a block or two away, you’d have been able to visit a “pest house” where suffers of contagious diseases were quarantined and left to die by their loved ones.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Skillman Avenue took me to Queens Plaza, where one crossed under the tracks of the 7 Line and across one of the worst pedestrian intersections in all of NYC. Drivers here exhibit the same sort of behavior as stampeding cattle in this spot, moving from the feedlot to the abattoir.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In my opinion, should the large scale decking of the Sunnyside Yards, as proposed by our Mayor – the Dope from Park Slope – happens, it will encompass the area pictured above will be first, an acreage which spans the area between Thomson Avenue and Queens Plaza. There’s a triangular section found at Jackson Avenue and 21st street which will happen initially, but that will merely be an air raid siren signaling the coming of the Luftwaffe over London. This is where the blitzkrieg will happen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once the “Subway Building,” which housed both the offices of the Borough President of Queens and those of master builder Michael Degnon, the Paragon Oil building is being converted from a documents storage building over to office space as you read this. This seems to be “stage 2” of the LIC buildout, the construction and conversion of former industrial buildings over to commercial – rather than residential – usage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Subway Building overlooks the Hunters Point Avenue stop of the LIRR, and sits astride the Hunters Point stop of the IRT Flushing – or “7” – line. The LIRR station is criminally underused by the MTA, IMHO.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

dread aperture

with one comment

There’s so many of us, at least for a couple of hours each day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling down Skillman Avenue and approaching Queens Plaza, one was reminded of a conversation recently enjoyed with a locally deployed NYPD Commander about the unique nature of this area. For a couple of hours, each morning and evening, this is theoretically one of the most densely populated places on the planet, but the individual members of this population blob are seldom in the neighborhood for longer than a few minutes and they are in vehicular motion (however stunted) the whole time.

To put it simply, the multitudes moving through western Queens during the rush hours, on their way to work or home to other places – traveling by car, bus, subway, railroad, bicycle, or autogyro perhaps – create a statistically irrelevant but nonetheless astounding jump in the “persons per square foot” or population density of LIC. Thing is, lots of people elected to suffer a long commute when they moved to Eastern Queens, or Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Lots of time to read, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Statistical relevance is part of how planning decisions are made. It big math – “quant” stuff, actually, and beyond my understanding. The theory behind the relevance of statistical information is summed up by that quote from Josef Stalin that a single death is a tragedy whereas a million deaths are a statistic. A lot of policy decisions revolve around, or at least they’re supposed to, the greatest good for the greatest number.

“Greatest number” inherently means that someone gets left out, which translates as “not statistically relevant.” Planning of public works in recent decades has strived to expand and include traditionally marginalized groups, most notably folks with health related mobility issues – thanks to the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of public spaces and City buildings out there were formally denied to people in wheelchairs, since the era in which most of these public buildings were erected, the disabled population wasn’t considered as being “statistically relevant.”

Access to mass, affordable, and reliable transit – which parallels what’s available to “abled” people – still remains a problem, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Statistical relevance, I’m informed, is a big part of the algorithm under which the 311 service of NYC was designed to operate. One person from Blissville complaining to 311 about a cat in a tree is low priority and statistically irrelevant, but the City will send somebody out when they can. Twenty people from the same block call 311 about the cat? Help is on the way a lot faster, as the problem is now far more mathematically relevant and the City will send out Superman to investigate and mitigate.

Make me wonder what would happen if everybody who was commuting through Queens Plaza on any given day suddenly called 311 to complain about something.

Then again, I wonder why it is that everyone doesn’t vote on Election Day.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

%d bloggers like this: