The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan

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Midtown, Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking a short break this week, and you’ll be greeted with single shots when visiting this – your Newtown Pentacle. Trust that I’m out and about gathering new tales to tell and photographs to display.


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

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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 23, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Manhattan, Midtown

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Manhattan, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, a humble narrator found himself in Lower Manhattan, moving on foot betwixt the rivers. Having debarked a boat nearby Houston Street on the Hudson which I’d been on since the morning, my next obligation involved Long Island City and one decided upon involved walking crosstown to connect up with the NYC Ferry’s East River route via Pier 11 at the foot of Wall Street. Along the way, my camera was clicking away at whatever happened to catch my eye. The scene above, a well preserved example of the former mercantile empire which NYC was once at the center of, exhibited the tepid level of what passes for street life and activity in the sections of NYC which are the Crown Jewels of gentrification. Urban planners hate the chaos and tumult of actual street life, and would offer this section – defined by the Holland Tunnel – up as a success story.

It’s Laight Street, if you’re morbidly curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Worth Street, a rather large “works” project is underway involving the rebuilding of the road itself. Luckily, this has scratched away the occluding asphalt which disguises the “works” of the City, exposing the veins and arteries of the metropolis for inspection by one such as myself. The area surrounding this trench is the heart of the Legal Industrial Complex in Lower Manhattan. Shadowing of the public way was provided in this particular spot by a fortress like Federal building. It should be pointed out that they don’t seem overly concerned with creating protected bike lanes in this part of the City.

I was following a path that inevitably led to the East River, and as mentioned, moving diagonally across Lower Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Manhattan Municipal Building at 1 Centre Street was renamed in 2015 for former Mayor David M. Dinkins by our current Mayor, who was his protege. Given how startlingly awful the administration of the former executive was, it’s stunning that anything at all is named after him in NYC. There’s a been an attempt at rehabilitating his image in recent years, stealthily led by the current Mayor and his acolytes. Plastering names of former politicians on public buildings is red meat for those currently in office, it should be mentioned. I refuse to call Triborough or Queensboro anything other than their proper names until the Brooklyn Bridge is renamed for Michael Bloomberg or David Patterson. Accordingly, it’s the Manhattan Municipal Building, not the David M. Dinkins municipal building.

Luckily, my steady scuttling got me to the ferry on time, and I arrived in LIC at the appointed hour. Unfortunately, one developed a blister on the second little piggy (or index toe) of my left foot during the walk.


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 14, 2018 at 11:00 am

frightful vistas

with 4 comments

On this day in 1931, the Empire State Building opened for business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Empire State Building was completed a month and half ahead of schedule, no doubt due to the influence of the “official” head of the project’s influence. A mostly ceremonial and political position, former NYS Governor Al Smith was nevertheless the boss. The real players in the construction of the icon were an investor group led by Louis G. Kaufman, Ellis P. Earle, John J. Raskob, Coleman du Pont, and Pierre S. du Pont.

John J. Raskob was the prime mover, however. Everything and everybody else on the project were just political window dressing or finance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Empire State Building was designed by William F. Lamb, of the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon. The actual construction of the thing was accomplished under the oversight of the Starrett Brothers and Eken, Paul and William and James Farley’s General Builders Supply Corporation handled material delivery and deployment. John W. Bowser was the construction superintendent of the project, and structural engineer for the building was a fellow named Homer G. Balcom.

The plan for the Empire State Building was presented to the public on January 8, 1930. The entire operation, which included demolishing the old Waldorf Astoria which stood on the site, was accomplished in 16 months. The actual erection of the Empire State began in March of 1930.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the facts; the Empire State Building rises 1,860 steps from the first to the 102nd floor, and it’s said to weigh 365,000 short tons (331,122 t). It encloses an internal volume of 37,000,000 cubic feet, and its exterior is covered in 200,000 cubic feet of limestone and granite. Construction of the tower incorporated ten million bricks, 370 short tons of steel, 1,172 miles of elevator cable and 2,000,000 feet of electrical wires. The building has a capacity for 20,000 tenants and 15,000 visitors. To the 102nd floor, Empire State is 1,250 ft tall, but is 1,453 feet 8 9⁄16 inches when you include its 203 ft pinnacle.

According to official records, the construction cost 7 lives, but contemporaneous socialist newspapers claimed that 42 deaths occurred during construction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally speaking, I can tell you that the easiest way to say “New York City” in a photograph is to frame the Empire Stae Building into it. One of the “seven wonders of the modern world,” and for much of the twentieth century the tallest structure on earth, Empire State Building was the first of the “super talls,” although the Chrysler Building did arrive on the scene first. It’s pretty commonplace to see skyscrapers these days, but the significance of the Empire State Building to the generation that saw it rise – at the astounding pace of 4 1/2 stories a week – cannot be overstated.

For that NYC generation, who were either immigrants or the children of immigrants, the future had arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the generations of immigrants who pulsed into NYC during the high tide years of emigration – the 1850’s through the 1920’s – arrived here, what they found were a few grandiose structures like the Woolworth Building or the odd church or cathedral, but these were the exception. Manhattan had unpaved streets which pigs roamed around at night, and the building stock in NYC was squat. Tenements spread out in every direction, punctuated by occasional six to eight story industrial or office buildings.

Up until the 20th century – ship masts, industrial chimneys, Trinity Church’s steeple, and the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge formed the skyline.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of us who grew up in NYC, the Empire State Building was always aspirational. It represented “the City,” where we’d make our fortunes someday, escaping the humiliations and constraints of the blue collar neighborhoods we were born into. When returning from someplace else, spotting the Empire State Building was a signal that home was near.

Happy 87th Birthday, old fella.


Upcoming Tours and Events

May 12th – 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 1, 2018 at 11:00 am

tag removed

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Don’t go to Manhattan unless you have to, that’s what I say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one used his free time to visit a few spots in Lower Manhattan which offer a certain resonance to the historically minded traveler. A quick ferry trip from Greenpoint found me in the financial district, whereupon a looping path carried the camera through first Chatham Square and then over to Paradise Square – aka the former Five Points. It wasn’t a formal “lookee look” as I’ve done and written about that in the past, instead I just wanted to refresh the muscle memory of where a number of Jakob Riis’s photos were captured, and take a walk through one of the few sections of Manhattan that are still interesting.

Also, I was craving Chinese Roast Pork Buns (Bao) and I know a great bakery in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge near Eldridge Street. My old “go to” on Walker Street has changed management and no longer regularly produces the savory variant of Bao, and instead they focus on the manufacture of sickly sweet ones filled with custard – blech.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a pretty neat roughly two hour route around Lower Manhattan which I feel like I can hang my hat on, starting at the Pier 11 ferry stop at Wall Street. You walk north past Peck Slip and the Brooklyn Bridge, hanging a left a couple of blocks south of the Manhattan Bridge. That carries you through a set of new law tenements to the east side of Chinatown, where you can pick up Canal and make a left on Bowery towards modern day Confucius Plaza (Chatham Square) and then up Mott to the actual Five Points. From there, head west to Broadway and then South through Printers Square where all the courthouses are, then head to the Battery where you’ll find Castle Clinton and Pier A and then loop back again to the Ferry at Pier 11.

It’s a nice walk, lotsa history.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been supernally busy for the last couple of weeks, which is not a complaint, and when a rare opportunity for some “me” time came up – I grabbed it by both horns. One has quite a few irons in the fire at the moment, planning events and tours for the summer months, and there’s also been a sudden deluge of meetings to attend regarding that fabulous cataract of urban malfeasance known as the Newtown Creek. It was nice to have an afternoon off which I could fill with some meandering.

NYC History notes for today include the anniversary of the 1936 opening of the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, which was actually yesterday, and today is the anniversary of the creation of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1921.


Upcoming Tours and Events

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

April 30, 2018 at 11:00 am

flashed farther

with 2 comments

Lower Manhattan is just freaky, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, I found a hole in the wall sandwich shop set up in some alley in Lower Manhattan, and that’s where I purchased a delicious milk shake. When I returned to the spot just a week later, not only was the shop gone, but so too was the alley. A few weeks later, I spotted the alley a few blocks distant from its original location, and I was soon drinking another delicious milk shake, pondering how my spatial memory could be so “off.” As you may have guessed where I’m heading at this point, the alley and the shop has disappeared just a day later when I went looking for them.

I’ve been looking for the alley ever since, as that was one hell of a milk shake.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After visiting the Standard Oil building, as detailed in yesterday’s post, one needed to get back to Queens and my little dog Zuzu. On my way home, however, I decided to walk to Fulton Street rather than just catch the 5 line at Bowling Green. The tripod was deployed several times along the way, and I decided to spend a few minutes at the beating heart of global capitalism. Also, I was hoping to run into the alley again, as I really want another one of those milk shakes.

Pictured above is arguably one of the most important places, historically speaking, on the entire planet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is where George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States, after all.

Is it really possible that there’s an alley in the financial district which transposes itself from place to place? Is anything really impossible? The sandwich shop, as I’m describing it, is one of those old school NYC locations which is little more than a counter set in an open doorway. They had their offerings wrapped in wax paper, not plastic. In addition to little bags of potato chips, also offered in wax paper, they sold simple sandwiches of ham, turkey, or roast beef. A large coffee urn was extant, as well as two mixers used to produce the milk shakes. They also offered pastries – bear claws, the square variant of cheese danish, and cinnamon buns. The proprietors were named Chaim and Jose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just down the block at the corner of Broad Street is a building which the global economy is operated out of, I’m told.

The milk shake was a bizarre concoction – chocolate ice cream, syrup, whole milk, half a banana, and a shot of strong black coffee. It should have been cloying. Chaim made the first milk shake I had, Jose the second, but they were both on point and identical in flavor and consistency. I don’t get down to the financial district often, but everytime I am here, I search for that alley and the sandwich shop. Have you seen it? Where might that alley be today?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sandwich shop with the delicious milk shakes found in that alley was called “J.C.’s,” which probably stood for Jose and Chaim. Next door was one of those old school Chinese laundry shops, the sort where you get your clean garments handed back all wrapped up in brown paper and tied off with string. Directly across the narrow pavement of the alley, which was asphalt with Belgian blocks peeking through it, was a shop that sold fishing equipment. Next door to that was a shoemaker whose window signage promised one hour service on reheelings. That’s a real need in the financial district, given the amount of time which people who work hereabouts spend grinding other people and things under their heels, a practice which causes real “wear and tear” on footwear.

The beating and fortified heart of American Capitalism’s grand facade is pictured above, as seen on the corner of Wall St. at Broad Street, which is a filled in canal that originally connected to the East River during the days of the decadent Dutch. The canal, which was known as “The Common Ditch,” was filled in by 1676.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One continues to search for the alley where that delicious milk shake was on offer. The last time it was encountered was at the start of Michael Bloomberg’s second term as Mayor. Ponderings and wonderings abound about this alley, the manner it which it seems to transpose its location from place to place, and ultimately about the mystery of the delicious milk shakes. In this neighborhood, it should be mentioned, you need to watch out as there’s always somebody who will grab at and drink your milk shake if you give them half a chance.

A humble narrator makes it a point to wander along the lesser byways and permanently shadowed warrens of lower Manhattan in search of it, while also wondering what else might be hidden away down here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Largely forgotten in historical circles are the great fires of 1835 and 1845, which burned away much of what was left from colonial times in Lower Manhattan. Massive building projects during the Tammany Hall era eliminated the rest. Hushed bar room conversations with municipal workers hint at there being a world of secrets in Lower Manhattan’s underground. Sewer workers tell of masonry tunnels found during the pursuit of their duties whose floors are littered with clay pipes, and deeply seated caverns with rough hewn walls of dripping timber and nitre crusted stone which appear on no map. The only story I can offer them in response revolves around an alley which seems to change locations and where one can purchase a world class milk shake.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

burns best

with 2 comments

Visiting one of the seats of empire, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long have my eyes wished to look upon this place, found in Lower Manhattan at Bowling Green nearby Battery Park, and literally across the street from that charging bull statue which is meant to represent capitalism. You can put up all the bronze monuments you want to capitalism that you’d like to, but nobody – and I mean nobody – can hold a candle to what “the man” built at 26 Broadway nearby “de Waalstraat.” This was the center of the American Imperium, ultimately. If you want to answer the question Americans were asking directly after the attacks of Septmber 11th, 2001 – “Why do they hate us?” – you can start weaving the answer to them right here at 26 Broadway.

As a note, a long time before this 31 story office building’s opening in 1928, 26 Broadway was Alexander Hamilton’s home address.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the entity which inhabited it, the building is an agglutination which solidified and agglutinated over time and was built by many hands.

The original building at 26 Broadway was ten stories tall and went up in 1885. It was expanded in 1895, and then again in 1921 (that construction took 7 years, finishing in 1928) which resulted in its current form. The original structure is contained somewhere within the 1928 version, which was the tallest building in Lower Manhattan when it was finished. 26 Broadway is crowned by a pyramid shaped structure that was once illuminated, meant to act as a beacon for ships entering New York Harbor, and said pyramid was modeled after the Mausoleum of Maussollos in the City of Halicarnassus – part of the 4th century b.c. Achaemenid Empire in modern day Turkey. “Maussollos” is where modernity derives the word mausoleum from, incidentally.

The master of the early modern world had moved his organization here to Bowling Green back in 1885, from Cleveland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We live in an era defined by the fact that he once walked amongst us. We live in an era during which the corporate leader is exalted as a princeps, and ruthless business tactics are celebrated. This was not so when he was born in 1839. In his lifetime, he was viewed as the epitome of American villainy. He is the model for Mr. Burns from the Simpsons cartoon, Mr. Potter from Frank Capra’s “it’s a wonderful life,” and Lex Luthor from the Superman mythos. His empire made him the richest person in recorded history, wealthier than all the kings and queens of England, the Pharoahs of Egypt, and all the Caesars of Rome – put together. Only Augustus Caesar enjoyed personal wealth and power that began to approach his. His instrument – “the organization” as he called it  – controlled better than 90% of American petroleum production, and 26 Broadway was his headquarters.

This is the former home and HQ of the Standard Oil Company, and it’s master was John D. Rockefeller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One normally eschews visiting this section of Manhattan unless it’s absolutely necessary. A meeting I was invited to was being held “nearby Bowling Green,” as I was told. Once I consented to attend, and was then told the address where the gathering would be occurring, a broad smile broke out across my normally sullen and sunken countenance.

Esso, as Standard Oil’s New Jersey arm became known in the early 20th century – it’s Exxon now – was headquartered here until 1946. Greenpoint’s Mobil, the New York operation, was similarly managed out of the Standard Oil Building at 26 Broadway until 1956.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The views from 26 Broadway are exactly what one would expect in terms of being spectacular.

The crowded warrens of the lesser corporate towers fill the streets abundantly, and humanity is fairly removed from the equation, reduced to the status of crawling insects from this perpective. You see a few survivors of the Beaux Arts era from up here – the old Customs House (modern day Museum of the American Indian) pictured in the previous shot, the Cunard building, Castle Clinton over in Battery Park. The most important building in this area, saving the actual Stock Exchange – in terms of American History – is the Standard Oil building.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In his lifetime, John D. Rockefeller was reviled. He was, personally, the “one percent.” A culture which celebrated the self made man nevertheless saw this self made man as a monster, despite his best efforts to demonstrate his humanity and Christian virtues. In his later life, seeking to salvage the family name from infamy, Rockefeller and his sons began a career of philanthropy which familial descendants continue to this day. Standard Oil was notoriously ruthless in the continental territories of the United States, but it’s when you look overseas that the true scope and infamy of their ambitions become clear. The company’s agents, operating in the smoking ruins of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, began troublesome relationships with the Sheiks and Mullahs of the Arabian Penninsula (along with British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell) whose consequences continue to bedevil the American Imperium to this day.

Why hit the World Trade Center? It was the personal project of John D. Rockefeller’s grandson David. Memory is held long in the near east, and revenge is a dish best served cold.


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 9, 2018 at 11:00 am

odd inquiries

with one comment

The Shining City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I had to attend a seasonal setup meeting with the Working Harbor Committee over on the west side of midtown Manhattan, followed by meeting up with Our Lady of the Pentacle at Penn Station when she returned from a business trip. That gave me about an hour’s interval to play around with, which I used to do a few long exposure shots.

Funny bit was, regarding the shot above, the coppers pulled up next to me and parked their car. I figured I was about to have a conversation about what I was taking pictures of when one of the cops apologized and asked if they were blocking my shot. I laughed and explained that they had provided a beautiful bit of framing for me and thanked them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a pretty foggy night, and in all actuality I was wishing that I was anywhere but in midtown Manhattan. Saying that, I really started to groove on the way that the masses of tourists motion blurred into greasy smears as the always crazy traffic you encounter in these parts zipped about. You work with what you’ve got, after all.

Also, given that I generally don’t spend much time around these parts at night, I was startled at the return of the army of derelicts and addicts doing drug business right out in the open, just as they used to in the bad old days. “Giuliani Time” is over, it seems. Within an hour spent between 42nd and 34th, I was able to scope out the network of customer finders, the drug runners, the junkies assigned to delivery duty, and even figure out who was holding the stash and cash.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For one reason or another, noticing this sort of thing has always been a talent of mine. Maybe it’s just that I grew up in 1970’s and 80’s New York. Maybe it’s a shame I never joined the police. I would have made a lousy cop, as I’d be shooting people for minor infractions and being a general hardass about every little thing – the kind of cop that other cops hate.

I actually do shoot at people all the time, but it’s with a camera.


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

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