The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan

academic alienists

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Something fishy going on?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking a break this week, and single images will be greeting you sans the verbose drivel they’re normally accompanied by. It’s a rather busy week that I have ahead of me, but look for a strange old man wandering about the concrete devastations of the Newtown Creek with a camera. That’ll likely be me.


Tours and Events


Dutch Kills Dérive. Free!
Saturday, September 8, 2018, 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM with Flux Factory

Drowning in our own muck and mire, modern society must transmute its existence into that of an allegorical baptism in order to emerge a society of water protectors. The historic facts of exactly how our civilization has transformed the historic Dutch Kill waterway into a sewershed will act as both a numbing analgesic and a point of illumination. Tickets here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 6, 2018 at 11:00 am

euclidian anomalies 

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Just another day in Paradise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been using the current air conditioned hermitage in pursuit of learning a few things completely unrelated to anything relevant to my life or the modern world, specifically the emergence and early history of modern humans. I haven’t been deep diving into this, mind you, it’s been watching a few BBC and PBS documentaries which have led me to some do some reading on the subject. My interest in this boils down, ultimately, to folkloric inheritances. Every culture on the planet tells their children stories about wild men who live in the woods, mountains, deserts – the “Bogie” or “Boogie” man who will kidnap a petulant or disobedient child and carry them off. These boogie men are usually large, muscular, possessed of ape like dentition, and hairy. I’ve often wondered if these boogie monsters are apocryphal remembrances of the days when our specie had competition from other hominids – Neanderthals, Homo Erectus, etc. Both of these other hominid specie, in a straight up fist fight, would clean even an MMA champion’s clock. They were stronger and faster than Homo Sapiens, on an anatomical level, based on observation of skeletal muscle attachment sites. Home Erectus, for instance, was a long distance runner with an incredible olfactory system.

The general scientific consensus states that since our specie had the capacity for language and long memory, we were able to plan into the future better than our competition. This allowed our ancestors to organize, pass the organization down from one generation to the next, and this eventually out competed the other hominids in the quest to hunt game and eventually led to the sort of agriculture that modern day “indigineous” people’s practice in jungle and forest settings. Neanderthal anatomy, in terms of their ability to conceptualize and then throw a spear or some other projectile, seems to have been similar to our own. Erectus, alternatively, was anatomically unable to throw a spear but would have been able to rip a modern human to shreds in close quarters combat with their bare hands.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Analogizing historical equivalencies is often required when discussing human history. As I often say – if you were a space alien who arrived in orbit at one point in history or another, and were asked to bet which culture which end up dominating the rest of the human hive, you’d almost certainly lose your wager. If it was during “biblical times” 5,000 years ago you’d have bet on the African cultures centered around the Nile Valley, or the Asian ones centered around either the Yangtze or Ganges rivers. A thousand years ago, you’d have probably placed your bets around the middle eastern cultures centered around the Tigris or Jordan River valleys. 500 years ago, it would have been the industrializing Rhine or Seine. For the last century, it’s the Missisippi and Hudson River valley cultures that seem to be the dominar, but it certainly looks like the Yangtze culture is making a comeback. Oddly enough, anatomically primitive hominids like Erectus seem to have persisted in Asia longer and later than originally thought, as late at 30,000 years ago.

Again, speaking from a folkloric point of view, every culture has legends of hulking brutes lurking in the woods ready to carry off disobedient children. There are certain commonalities in all of the legends and religious traditions – the omniscient sky father, the earth mother, the untamable horned adversary, and the wild men of the woods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting point of view offered in a BBC documentary of the history of Wales which I encountered offered an intriguing bit of logic. As westerners, our thought patterns are decidedly non metaphorical and quite literal. If you’re discussing the legends of King Arthur “pulling the sword from the stone” it’s literally interpreted as “there’s a forged sword stuck in a stone.” The historians who wrote this particular documentary instead pointed out that Druidic cultures were quite poetic in their speech patterns, and spoke in metaphor. Their supposition was that in pre modern Britain, early Iron Age cultures got their raw material out of the bogs – bog iron as it was called. That limited supply, and the iron found in bogs wasn’t forged, instead it was merely shaped. The “pull the sword from the stone” legend emerged shortly after the Romans vacated Britain, and the theory is that the legend referred to harvesting iron from ore and forging it into swords, rather than the more familiar imagery of a young Arthur removing Uther Pendragon’s fully formed magick sword from a boulder. Literally “pulling” the “sword” from the “stone.”

One wonders about the folkloric inheritances and associations of the “other” which are encoded in modern cultures, and the predilection towards “racism” that culture displays. Racists often use language describing the subjects of their ire as “monkeys, savages, primitives, or apes,” intoning a subhuman character to those they dislike. Such childish preoccupation with the primeval Boogie Man, Sky Father, Earth Mother, or fear of the Horned God is fascinating to me and I often wonder how much of it is and unspoken inheritance from the days when there were actual “others.”


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

malignly silent

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Hudson Yards vs. Sunnyside Yards, what’s the difference?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week I was invited to speak to a group of architecture students about the Sunnyside Yards. Part of the presentation involved discussion of the Hudson Yards project over in Manhattan, and how it can provide a model for development of the Sunnyside Yard. This is a false equivalency being offered by the powers that be, for a variety of reasons. The first and foremost thing to mention is that the Hudson Yards sit over an outcropping of Manhattan Schist and Gneiss, which provides for a stable underpinning for mega towers. Foundations are somewhat important, my engineer friends tell me, and the Sunnyside Yards sits on a compacted pile of clay and sand which until quite recently (1909) was a swamp.

Actual rock underpinnings on the northwestern side of a certain Long Island are absent west of Maspeth. If you find yourself in Maspeth, look west at what would appear to be a soup bowl, formed by elluvial deposits left behind by post glacial flooding. The piles which the mega developments of Long Island City sit upon are thus more numerous, and driven far deeper, than those in Manhattan which is technically a ridge of igneous rock. Soil conditions can be “engineered around” of course, since – theoretically speaking – if you possess enough money and technical acumen, you could build a ladder to the Moon if you wanted to. It’s just not practical to build a ladder to the moon, but since when does practical consideration get in the way of our Mayor’s political calculus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards was a challenge to the construction and engineering crowd, but a staightforward one inasmuch as the trackage leading out of Penn Station is arranged in parallels as you’ll notice in the shot above. What that means, from a decking perspective, is that you can set out the beams and columns needed to support the above ground structure at regular intervals and you’re essentially constructing a grandiose table or bench supported by multiple legs. The main problem they experienced was how to coordinate the movement of equipment in the cramped quarters of Manhattan.

Sunnyside Yards is defined by a convoluted series of intertwined rights of way which criss cross each other. Some of them, like the “balloon,” or turnaround, track travel over sweeping arches to switches which feed into either tunnels or holding tracks. You’ve even got the busiest railway switch in the entire country in there, the Harold Interlocking. Sunnyside Yards is complicated, and is already the eastern focal point of the largest capital project in the United States – the long delayed and vastly over budget East Side Access project which will allow Long Island Railroad access to Grand Central Terminal via LIC.

Why is it so over budget and so delayed, you ask? Because the MTA didn’t take into account the presence of buried waterways around and in the Sunnyside Yards (which was a big part of the Pennsyvania Railroad’s construction efforts a century ago), which any Queens historian can tell you are the buried remnants of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, and which once flowed to modern day Jackson Avenue and 29th street. Why do you think that section of LIC was called “Dutch Kills,” since it wasn’t named that for shits and giggles?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The parallel nature of the tracks at Hudson Yards allowed for the usage of an esoteric bit of kit called a Beam Launcher, pictured above. The Beam Launcher facilitated the placement of the deck’s supporting beams onto concrete foundation from above, literally lowering them into place from above. The big yellow thing above is the Beam Launcher, which was about 3/4 the length of a Manhattan block. Steel beams were unloaded from trucks, which in some cases were loaded up from barges, brought to the job site, and then manipulated into position. 

The beam launcher dealie is described in some detail, in this post from 2014.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 25, 2018 at 11:00 am

nightmare phrase

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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

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

with one comment

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

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