The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan

nitrous cellar

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It’s National Whipped Cream Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards is the biggest construction project going on in Manhattan at the moment. Literally creating a new neighborhood out of a decked over rail yard, this project is what inspired the Dope from Park Slope – Mayor de Blasio – to call for the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards back in Queens. Were the Mayor savvy about… well, anything other than seemingly spending his time staring in the bathroom mirror and telling himself that he’s a progressive rather than the neoliberal that he actually is… construction and engineering, he’d realize that the conditions at Hudson Yards are conducive to such an endeavor and those in Queens are not.

The Big Little Mayor doesn’t realize that the tracks at Sunnyside Yards crisscross each other and are unevenly spaced, and that the ones at Hudson Yards are regular and parallel. Parallel allows you to insert steel columns between them, whereas crisscross doesn’t. There’s also logistical issues with creating a deck supported by those columns which is roughly one or two square blocks as opposed to an 183 square acre one. Also, Manhattan has hospital beds to spare, Penn Station and Herald Square are nearby, and they don’t have to worry about where their sewage will go (Newtown Creek WWTP, in Greenpoint, if you’re curious). There will be a surfeit of places to shop for food, but there’s always Fresh Direct (located along the Newtown Creek in LIC, if you’re curious).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The comparison between Hudson Yards and Sunnyside Yards is apt, in my mind at least, just in case you think I’m being obtuse or provocative. This is the other end of the Pennsylavnia Railroad’s urban rail system which the company installed in NYC during the early 20th century. The same buildout which saw the East River and Hudson River tunnels constructed, and that built the original Penn Station, built the Sunnyside Yards. The passenger trains you’ll notice spending their day in between rush hours at Sunnyside Yards are the same ones later visible at Hudson Yards. Sunnyside Yard is a “coach yard” which indicates it was designed for storage of rolling stock in between peak hours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the schedule at Penn demands, the trains which you see above at Hudson Yard are called into the tunnels underlying the west side of midtown Manhattan and brought over to the tracks where they’ll take on their customers and head for Eastern Long Island. For all of my lifetime, the Hudson Yards represented a giant hole in the west side of Manhattan. The Bloomberg administration initiated this investment and construction process, in accordance with the vow Michael Bloomberg made to “change the skyline of Manhattan” when he took office. I’m actually all for this one, but I don’t live here so my opinion really doesn’t matter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The idea behind this project is a “game changer” for what has come to be referred to as “midtown west” by the powers that be. I’ve heard idle chatter about the Javitz Center being replaced sometime in the near future, and certain ideas which seem to make sense on that subject include building a grand hotel on the footprint of the Javitz which rises to skyscraper heights, and which would include a mutiple story convention center at its footprint/base that isn’t a craphole (the Javitz Center is absolutely and undoubtedly a failed institution, a cesspool of municpal corruption, and absolutely a craphole with leaky Windows that doesn’t just lose money for the City and State – it hemorrhages it).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is looking north along the newly constructed buildings and deck. As far as I’m privy to, the deck isn’t meant to cover the still visible section of the train yard, but I might be wrong about that. The Real Estate Shit Flies are more than ambitious, credit is easily available to them, and borrowing it is at a historic level of cheap right now.

The only thing that holds back modern engineering is money.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was beginning to enter that daily arc which carries its emanations behind New Jersey, but I was still uncomfortably early for my assignation in Hells Kitchen. Regardless, as Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor admonished constantly in the Superman 2 film – “North, Ms. Tessmacher, north!”.

Crossing the West Side Highway, or West Street if you must – one last look at the Hudson Yards mega project was called for, and I began scuttling along the river side of the street. One was fairly sure that I’d taken my last photo, but boy was I wrong – as you’ll discover tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note – the shots in today’s post were captured from the latest section of the High Line, in case you want to go check out progress on the Hudson Yards mega project for yourself.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

obsolete phraseology

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Getting high, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not so easy getting high in the age of terror. Once upon a time it was fairly easy to gain entrance to a building and find your way to the roof, but not so much anymore. Accordingly, whenever I get the opportunity, the camera is deployed.

This one is from a friend’s wedding, which was held at a Manhattan hotel on Park Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gridlock Sam didn’t necessarily want me to be bodily hanging out one of his office windows, on Broadway and Houston Street, but since I was there anyway for a meeting…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one was gathered in LIC from the roof deck of one those shiny new condo towers, and looks down on Hunters Point Avenue, the LIE, and a little bitty piece of the Sunnyside Yards.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

secretive youth

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Existentialist archive stuff, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everything is kind of gray at the moment, ain’t it? I’ve always preferred the British spelling of the word gray, incidentally, they use “grey” over there. They also use “colour” which is a prettier spelled word than ours, IMHO. That’s some nameless and bland east side of midtown Manhattan office building in the shot above, just if you’re curious.

The shot was chosen purely for its bleak and hopeless character.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You wouldn’t believe the amount of preparation it took to get the moon shot above, at least in the chaotic environment and sooty air of Astoria, Queens. Tripod, long lens, lens extender, manual focusing, compensating for the counter revolutions of the planet and planetoid… yeesh, at least it wasn’t cold out that night. As a note, there’s some math genius out there who has calculated lens focal length vs. maximum aperture and created tables which tell you how long your exposure can be before movement begins to affect image fidelity. Google it.

The moon moves across the night sky in a surprisingly fast fashion, incidentally, at least when you’re looking through something like 700mm of optical magnification.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Astoria, or “Point A” as I call it… it’s always great to come back here from Points B or M (or Point SI for that matter) even if it’s dark and raining. Can’t see the moon on those nights, of course, but Astoria rules no matter what the weather is like. Well, the cold sucks, but…


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 21, 2016 at 11:00 am

easily showing

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Continuing archive week, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my favorite “night shots” of the last few years is presented above, depicting the mausoleum of Stephen Whitney in Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery. I was there well after dark with the folks from Atlas Obscura, on a summer night when I and two other narrators read Lovecraft’s “Horror at Red Hook” to a group of tapophiles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was actually listening to the Horror at Red Hook audiobook (Audiorealms version, Wayne June narrating) when I caught this shot under the 7 train tracks on Queens Blvd. over in Sunnyside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was thinking about Lovecraft, in general, when the shot above was captured in the Lower East Side section of Manhattan not too far from Hester Street. As a note, Jakob Riis described this area as being “Jewtown” or “The Ghetto” in his many anecdotal accounts of life in 19th century NYC.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

tapering arms

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Back in lower Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dover Street in Lower Manhattan is the stuff of historical legend. It starts its western path abruptly at South Street, and to the north is the tangled steel of the FDR Drive ramps and the always victorious Brooklyn Bridge. There are buildings on Dover which date back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The interesting thing is that they’re not churches, or government buildings, instead they’re shops with homes above.

As a note, when the British controlled Manhattan before and during the Revolutionary War, everything in the shot above was pretty much the East River. It’s all landfill, from the modern shoreline west to Front Street, which is coincidentally the corner this shot was captured on, meaning I was standing on the historic shoreline of the island. This is the northern extent of the South Street Seaport Historic District, and Peck Slip is about a block away. Governor Al Smith grew up in this neighborhood in the late 19th century, back when it was still a port, and Tammany ruled it all.

Al Smith is buried is buried in LIC’s Calvary Cemetery along the Newtown Creek.

Small world.

from wikipedia

The South Street Seaport is a historic area in the New York City borough of Manhattan, centered where Fulton Street meets the East River, and adjacent to the Financial District. The Seaport is a designated historic district, and is distinct from the neighboring Financial District. It is part of Manhattan Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, and is bounded by the Financial District to the west, southwest, and north; the East River to the southeast; and Two Bridges to the northeast.

It features some of the oldest architecture in downtown Manhattan, and includes the largest concentration of restored early 19th-century commercial buildings in the city. This includes renovated original mercantile buildings, renovated sailing ships, the former Fulton Fish Market, and modern tourist malls featuring food, shopping, and nightlife, with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Water Street at Dover is where you’ll find a solid claimant to the title of oldest bar in NYC. It’s the Bridge Cafe, which I’m told is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy damages. The original shell and frame of the building went up in 1794, and was altered steadily until the 1880’s when it assumed its present form. Bridge Cafe has a nice history of the building at their site. Doesn’t mention the great fire of 1835, but there you go.

Just down the block, Kit Burn’s “Sportsman Hall” at 273 Water Street was a saloon where you could watch bare knuckled humans boxing, or bet on the canine and rodentine combatants that were fighting in the 250 seat (400 standing) octagonal rat pit Kit maintained in the basement. The Sportsman Hall was housed in what’s considered to be the third oldest building in Manhattan (1773), which is now called the Joseph Rose House and Shop. Kit Burns and his competitors in the rat pit game are a big part of the reason that the ASPCA was formed back in 1866. Kit died in 1870, and is buried in LIC’s Calvary Cemetery along the Newtown Creek.

Small world.

from wikipedia

Born Christopher Keyburn in New York City on February 23, 1831, Burns joined the Dead Rabbits as a young man and, by the late 1840s, co-led the organization with Tommy Hadden. Both men started their own businesses in the Bowery with Burns opening his Sportsmen’s Hall on Water Street. His establishment was widely known for holding illegal bare-knuckle boxing prize fights as well as featuring such entertainment as the infamous “rat pit” where blood sports such as rat and dogfighting took place. In these events, large gray wharf rats were captured and set against dogs. These dogs, mostly terriers, were sometimes starved for several days beforehand and set against each other as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too far away, over on Canal and Lafayette, is what was once known as the Bruce Building – 254-260 Canal Street. George Bruce was a rather successful printer when he started to build his NYC headquarters back in 1856. The Bruce Building was converted over to office space back in the late 1980’s, but what makes it really special are the iron works which dress the walls. They’re the (1850) patented work of James Bogardus, according to prevailing opinions. Bogardus was the guy who pioneered the cast iron facades commonly seen on Victorian era buildings in NYC and elsewhere.

James Bogardus is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, but he was a descendent of Dominie Everardus Bogardus, who died in a ship wreck in 1647. Dominie Bogardus was granted a piece of property by the Dutch colonial government across the river from Manhattan, a point of rocky land surrounded by swamps and salt marshes, which came to be called “Dominie’s Hoek.” It adjoined a fertile waterbody still called the Mispat, but which we know today as the Newtown Creek. The LIC saloon “Dominie’s Hook” is named after him. In 1825, the Hunter Family acquired the Hook, and its been called Hunters Point ever since.

Small world.

from wikipedia

The Reverend Everardus Bogardus (1607-1647) was the dominie of the New Netherlands, and was the second minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, the oldest established church in present-day New York, which was then located on Pearl Street (Manhattan) at its first location built in 1633, the year of his arrival. Bogardus was, in fact, the second clergyman in all of the New Netherlands. (The slightly obscure early history of the Dutch colony meant that he was often considered the first clergyman.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

greater wildness

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Vertigo, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, one had attended a photo industry trade show at the Javitz Center. As this was the first time that circumstance had carried me to the newish Hudson Yards stop on the IRT Flushing line – conventionally referred to as the “7” – I decided to take a few minutes and record a few images.

There you go. Back to Manhattan. Sigh…

from wikipedia

The name “Manhattan” derives from the word Manna-hata, as written in the 1609 logbook of Robert Juet, an officer on Henry Hudson’s yacht Halve Maen (Half Moon). A 1610 map depicts the name as Manna-hata, twice, on both the west and east sides of the Mauritius River (later named the Hudson River). The word “Manhattan” has been translated as “island of many hills” from the Lenape language. The United States Postal Service prefers that mail addressed to Manhattan use “New York, NY” rather than “Manhattan, NY”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing that kept on striking me about visiting the new station was a sensation of vertigo. Normally, one is possessed of a sound and reliable bit of plumbing in the inner ear, but there was just something about the setup of the incredibly steep escalators which distinguish the new station that induced me to feel as if I was about to fall and tumble.

Given the sort of things I know about escalators, which are – functionally speaking – indistinguishable from industrial meat grinders, this was a real concern for one such as myself.

from wikipedia

Escalators, like moving walkways, are often powered by constant-speed alternating current motors[citation needed] and move at approximately 0.3–0.6 metres (1–2 ft) per second. The typical angle of inclination of an escalator to the horizontal floor level is 30 degrees with a standard rise up to about 18 metres (60 ft). Modern escalators have single-piece aluminum or stainless steel steps that move on a system of tracks in a continuous loop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps it’s the angle at which they’ve been set at. The Hudson Yards station platforms are found fairly deep in the ground, by NYC Subway standards. Comparable but still examples of the depth would be the 7’s Grand Central platform, or the 59th street and 3rd exit on the IND lines. Looking up rather than down, it felt a bit like the Smith/9th street stop on the F and G lines. Mr. Walsh from Forgotten-NY assures me that the deepest station in the system is in upper Manhattan, and I have few occasions to oppose his opinions so I’ll take his word on it, but Hudson Yards is deep.

from wikipedia

In January 2005, the New York City Council approved the rezoning of about 60 blocks from 28th to 43rd Streets, including the eastern portion of the West Side Yard. This did not include the western portion. In June 2005, the proposed West Side Stadium, to be built over the western portion for the New York City bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, was defeated. Soon after, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) thought of ways to redevelop the 26 acres (11 ha) yards. In conjunction with the government of New York City, the MTA issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 12,000,000 square feet (1,100,000 m2) of mixed-use space. The space was to be built on platforms over the rail yards, which would still be in use.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a mezzanine level where you’ll find the turnstiles, which is where the set of escalators in the shots above bring you. The mezzanine is fairly pleasing, design wise. There’s a whole bunch of arcing shapes moving against each other, tiled floors, and other “architect” looking features that are pretty pleasing to the eye. Or, to mine at least.

from wikipedia

The new construction, part of the city’s and the MTA’s master plan for the Far West Side, extended the IRT Flushing Line west from Times Square to Eleventh Avenue, then south to 34th Street. Although the West Side Stadium plan was rejected by city and state planning agencies, the 7 Subway Extension plan received approval to move ahead, as New York political leaders wanted to see the warehouse district west of Eighth Avenue and north of 34th Street redeveloped as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, and subway service was to be an essential part of that effort. The extension also serves the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which was expanded in 2008–2014 and is located a block away from the station entrances.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big kahuna of the escalators, and the ones which caused me to begin to experience vertigo, are the ones which carry you down to the platforms themselves.

from wikipedia

Vertigo is when a person feels as if they or the objects around them are moving when they are not. Often it feels like a spinning or swaying movement. This may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, or difficulties walking. It is typically worsened when the head is moved. Vertigo is the most common type of dizziness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is looking back up at where the previous photo was captured, and just the act of turning myself around forced my non camera arm to reflexively reach for some kind of support.

from wikipedia

The MTA completed excavation of a 150-foot (46 m) long cavern in June 2009. The cavern was dug below the bus entrance ramp to the lower level of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and formed part of the eastern end of the new extension and connected it to the Times Square station. At the same time, tunnels were being dug northward from the machine shaft at 26th Street; soft ground at 27th and 28th Street required 300 feet (91 m) of ground to be frozen so that the tunnel-boring machines could easily dig through the soil. On December 21, 2009, it was announced that a tunnel-boring machine broke through the 34th Street station cavern wall. Both tunnel-boring machines were scheduled to finish the required tunneling in the spring of 2010.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think it’s the “leading lines” which did it. There’s a real “THX 1138” vibe to this station, which seems to be part of a modern design aesthetic MTA is following. I’ve been to the Second Avenue Subway construction site and the new stations about to come on line are visually quite similar to the Hudson Yards stop.

from wikipedia

THX 1138 (pronounced “T-H-X Eleven Thirty-Eight”) is a 1971 science fiction film directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut. The film was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch. It stars Donald Pleasence and Robert Duvall and depicts a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled through android police officers and mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotion, including outlawed sexual desire.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down at the bottom, there’s another vaulted tunnel which terminates at yet another barrel vault, which is where the two tracks for the 7 train are found. This is a terminal stop, of course, so there must a turnaround track somewhere down there but I’ll be godamned if I knew where it was. Felt like like I was halfway to hell if truth be told. Dizzy, I got nervous, my chest grew tight, and it was oddly warm on the platform itself – given its depth.

Then again, Manhattan generally makes me experience both agita and angina, and often reminds me of hell.

from wikipedia

The main entrance, located at the southeast corner of the intersection of 34th Street and Hudson Boulevard, has a turtle shell-shaped glass canopy above it that allows light to shine on the upper mezzanine. The elevator is located south of 34th Street in Hudson Park, while the escalator entrance is located further east, closer to the boulevard. The ventilation building will be built over by developers at a future date. The second entrance, which will contain escalator entrances is at the southwest corner of 35th Street and Hudson Boulevard East. At both of the exits, the staircases and four escalators each go down 40 feet (12 m) to a fare control area, then another 80 feet (24 m) to the common lower mezzanine; the main entrance was completed by summer 2014, while the secondary entrance is still under construction and will be completed by 2016.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

haggard and ghastly

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Eldridge Street Synagogue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, a humble narrator was invited to a “thank you” event for the Open House NY weekend site hosts (we produced a Newtown Creek Alliance event at the 520 Kingsland Avenue Green Roof this year). The event was set for six o’clock in what is now Manhattan’s Chinatown, at the 1887 vintage Eldridge Street Synagogue, a 19th century institution which had fallen into disrepair during the middle 20th century, but which has been restored and converted over for use as a museum.

from eldridgestreet.org

The Eldridge Street Synagogue opened its doors at 12 Eldridge Street on September 4, 1887, just in time for the Jewish High Holidays. Hundreds of newly arrived immigrants from Russia and Poland gathered here to pray, socialize and build a community. It was the first time in America that Jews of Eastern Europe had built a synagogue from the ground up.

Dozens of Stars of David decorate the Eldridge Street Synagogue’s façade. Here in America, Jews could worship openly and freely. The synagogue was a proud declaration of newly- found religious freedom for the synagogue’s immigrant founders. The synagogue was also emblematic of their economic aspirations. With its soaring 50-foot ceiling and exuberant Moorish-style interior, Eldridge Street provided an inspiring contrast to the crowded tenements, factories and shops of the Lower East Side.

For fifty years, the synagogue flourished. Men and women came in their finery, and mounted policemen patrolled the crowds. The congregation hired world-renowned cantors and in 1918 hired Rabbi Aharon Yudelovitch, the first in a series of famed Talmudists and speakers. Thousands participated in religious services in the building’s heyday, from its opening through the 1920s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself enjoys being in the company of other historically minded folks, it should be mentioned, but I’ve always found the people I meet at these sort of gatherings to be somewhat stuffy types who take themselves quite seriously, and that my particular and inescapable sense of humor is neither appreciated nor expected by them. Accordingly, a minimal amount of time is devoted to “socializing” with the “Manhattan people.”

Instead, I wander around and take photos.

also from eldridgestreet.org

“It was as though the synagogue was held up by strings from heaven,” said Roberta Brandes Gratz, founder of the Museum at Eldridge Street, of her first impression of the synagogue in the early 1980s. Pigeons roosted in the balconies and benches were covered with dust. Gratz and others rallied to save the building. They formed the non-sectarian Eldridge Street Project, pre-cursor to the Museum at Eldridge Street. The synagogue was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996 and more than $20 million was raised to restore it to its original grandeur.

The Museum completed the Eldridge Street Synagogue restoration in December 2007, the synagogue’s 120th anniversary. The restoration received nearly every major preservation honor, including the prestigious National Trust for Historic Preservation 2008 Preservation Award. The crowning piece of the Museum’s restoration is a magnificent new stained-glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans.

Today the Eldridge Street Synagogue is home to the Museum at Eldridge Street, which welcomes people from around the world for tours, school programs, concerts, lectures, festivals and other cultural events. The building also continues to be home to Kahal Adath Jeshurun. This small Orthodox congregation has never missed a Saturday or holiday service in the more than 120 years since the synagogue first opened.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The overall architectural impression received from visiting the Eldridge Street Synagogue was that a significant Moorish and or Galician influence was evident in its design. I’ve seen ruins of synagogues in Southern Europe, built during the days of the Ottomans, which this structure reminded me of – but nothing of the size nor as ornate as the one on Eldridge Street. That’s America for you, I guess.

from wikipedia

The Eldridge Street Synagogue is one of the first synagogues erected in the United States by Eastern European Jews (Ashkenazis). One of the founders was Rabbi Eliahu the Blessed (Borok), formerly the Head Rabbi of St. Petersburg, Russia. It opened at 12 Eldridge Street in New York’s Lower East Side in 1887 serving Congregation Kahal Adath Jeshurun. The building was designed by the architects Peter and Francis William Herter, (but unrelated to the Herter Brothers cabinet-makers). The brothers subsequently received many commissions in the Lower East Side and incorporated elements from the synagogue, such as the stars of David, in their buildings, mainly tenements. When completed, the synagogue was reviewed in the local press. Writers marveled at the imposing Moorish Revival building, with its 70-foot-high vaulted ceiling, magnificent stained-glass rose windows, elaborate brass fixtures and hand-stenciled walls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Star of David is everywhere you look on the front of the building, an elder sign meant to act as both a ward and an announcement that “we are here.” Chatting with one of my cousins about this location afterwards, I kept on coming back to the sort of “Sheols” which the Waxman clan frequented in Brooklyn. There are three forms of modern Judaism in the United States – Reformed, Conservative, and Orthodox. I grew up in the former variant, and our ritual centers could best be analogized to Christian churches as being plain and unadorned in the manner of Lutheran or Presbyrterian temples. Eldridge Street was an Orthodox center, and they liked to pour it on in the sort of manner for which the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches are known for. The modern day Orthodox are fundamentalists, and eschew this sort of “glitz.”

from nytimes.com

By 1910, according to the historian Hasia R. Diner, the neighborhood contained half a million Jews; by contrast, Vienna, one of the largest Jewish centers in Europe, had a Jewish population of 175,000, and Chicago, about 100,000. This neighborhood had one of the largest Jewish populations of any city in the world — and surely one of the poorest. Most of the area’s 60-some synagogues were humble gathering places named after the Eastern European towns and shtetls from which their worshipers had fled, resembling the social clubs that develop among many immigrant communities.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you know anything about Jewish mysticism, which the Orthodox are well known practitioners of, you’ll spot instances of Kabbalist motif all over Eldridge Street. The Sephiroth and other occult concepts are omnipresent, and really seem to be governing the designs laid down by architects Peter and Francis William Herter.

from njit.edu

This synagogue was built in part to assert the importance of this Orthodox congregation in opposition to the more liberal German Jewish population which bad preceded them. The feeling was that German Jews had become to Americanized and assimilated and had, therefore, given up many of their traditional Jewish practices in favor of the more liberal reform movement. The construction of Eldridge Street Synagogue was a statement on the part of its congregation that one does not need to abandon strict Judaism to su~ in America. The opulence and ornament of the synagogue compare to German Jewish/Reform synagogues of the same period. The architect of the building was the German firm of Herter Brothers, which went on to build numerous Lower East Side tenement buildings. This was not the first synagogue for this congregation, which was housed in earlier buildings prior to raising the capital for the construction of their own building.

Eldridge Street Synagogue is located on the block bounded by Eldridge Street on the west, Canal Street on the north, Allen Street on the east and Division Street on the south. The immediate neighborhood is a sheltered enclave, set off from the surrounding bustle in part by the Manhattan Bridge, which sits just above it. The building fills most of its lot, which is approximately 60 feet wide by 87 feet deep, but is set apart from its neighbors by narrow areaways. This block is part of the densely packed Lower East Side which is a neighborhood known for role as a point of first contact for immigrants throughout the last two centuries, a role that continues to this day. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eldridge Street, btw, is named for a soldier named Lieutenant Joseph C. Eldridge of the 13th U.S. Infantry, who died during the war of 1812. Eldridge was butchered by the Ottawa, in a fashion horrific enough that the British actually petitioned that American prisoners taken by the Ottawa be rendered to the King’s army in exchange for a substantial bounty. Chief Blackbird told the British that money meant nothing to his people, and refused.

from warof1812chronicles.blogspot.com

One of the essays in “THE WAR OF 1812: Writings from America’s Second War of Independence” told of “The Death Of Joseph C. Eldridge…,” a lieutenant with the 13th U.S. Infantry, who was ambushed by Chief Blackbird and other Ottawa warriors. The Ottawas, from Michigan, “joined the British army during the siege of Fort George,” and that is the vicinity where was killed. An investigation conducted by Colonel William Claus, of Canada’s Indian Department, ensued at the request of the Fort George commander after it was reported that Eldridge was tortured and killed in captivity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The second floor of Eldridge Street Synagogue is where the ladies would have been seated, but since it’s a museum now, I was allowed to go up there and get my shots. That’s a Bimah, in the shot above, incidentally.

from nyc-architecture.com

READER’S PLATFORM (Bimah) — The table upon which the Torah scroll is read. The location, in the center of the sanctuary, follows the older European tradition. The central location is to insure that all can hear the reading of the Torah, and refers to the location of the sacrificial altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. In many American synagogues the bimah is placed in the front of the congregation near the Ark. In Sephardic synagogues the bimah is generally located in the rear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my tripod with me on this excursion, but I did find a couple of spots where I could rest the camera for a minute. This allowed me to drop the ISO down to 100, and narrow the aperture for a greater depth of field and infinity focus. Next time I come back to Eldridge Street, I’m bringing the tripod.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

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