The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Maspeth

obvious that

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More on the proposed Maspeth Homeless Shelter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In yesterday’s post, the northern side of the area surrounding the proposed Homeless Shelter in Maspeth was descirbed in somewhat excruciating detail. The proposal put forward from the Mayor’s office calls for converting a Holiday Inn hotel on 55th Road to provide housing for one of NYC’s most vulnerable groups of people, and the location of it seems to be an entirely random choice of venue which City Hall arrived at by throwing a dart at a map of districts which didn’t support the Mayor in the last election cycle. The decision has already caused one long serving local politician to lose her job in an elective primary to an upstart and relative unknown who strongly objects to the placement of this facility, something which I’m sure the political establishment hereabouts will hold against the “Dope from Park Slope” when he attempts to get reelected.

That’s the hotel in the shot above, the tan and coral structure just to the south of the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other than being a bland architectural travesty, the hotel itself is inoffensive. As a note, there is another nearby hotel found to the north on Maurice Avenue across the street from Mt. Zion cemetery – a Comfort Inn branded establishment which, like the Holiday Inn pictured above, exploits the European tourist market and offers lodging at a rate significantly lower than the ones offered at hotels closer to the City center. The shot above is from 55th Road, by the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was gathering these shots, the fellow above emerged from the hotel. He first informed me that I couldn’t take photos of the structure without a permit, then kind of invaded my personal space while telling me he didn’t want his photo published in a newspaper. This is a web site, incidentally, so I would offer to the gentleman pictured above that he needs to be more specific when stating his prohibitions. I reminded him that I was on the sidewalk of an adjoining property, of course, and that he had no right to attempt to circumnavigate the constitution of these United States on the subject of photography of those things which are visible from the sidewalk. He also sundered his right to privacy by confronting me thusly. Were I assigning any sort of editorial “slant” to this photo, he would have a legitimate beef with me, but since I’m not – he doesn’t.

As I always say, if you don’t me to point a camera at you, don’t hassle me when I’m shooting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As stated in yesterday’s post, my objections to the placement of this facility revolve around the actual location of it, which I honestly believe to be a violation of the human rights of a vulnerable population.

The Holiday Inn sits across the street from the Long Island Expressway, which produces a standing wall of high decibel sound. While I was shooting the shot above, I actually called a friend, whom I could not hear even though my headphones were in – and she could barely make out what I was saying despite the fact that I was shouting into the microphone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This gas station with a convenience store is directly across the street from the hotel, and would presumptively fill the role of a supermarket for purchasing food and other existential necessaries. As is the case with such locations, everything you can purchase within is priced as high as the market will bear, and food items available are typically highly processed food stuffs designed for a long shelf life.

I guess the Mayor thinks that microwave burritos are good enough for these so called “Homeless” he’s planning on exiling to industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The character of the streets surrounding the hotel can be best described as truck routes. The sidewalks found under the overpasses of the highway have no pedestrian protections like bollards or jersey barriers, and are littered with debris and dead pigeons. There is no lighting, and perpetual shadow exists down in these spaces.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the west – more highways, cemeteries, and industrial sprawl.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the south – the roads lead to the industrial zone surrounding the Newtown Creek superfund site.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east – McDonalds and a Chinese take out restaurant offers an alternative food source to the microwaved burritos and packaged snack cakes found at the gas station convenience store. Luckily, there’s a financial institution in this little strip mall – a check cashing location, which like all examples of such institutions offers high interest payday loans and charges a usurious amount for cashing a check.

The people proposed for exile to this hotel are going to need somewhere to cash their benefit checks, after all, why not ensure that they get to keep as little of it as possible?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south – up Maurice Avenue. At the top of the hill, around a half mile away, is the Goodfellas/Clinton Diner on Rust Street, if you need a landmark. The businesses located in the area are mainly warehouse operations, and there’s still a bit of manufacturing going on in the area, but it’s highly unlikely that any of the businesses in this area would hire a down on their luck person for an entry level job.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is 55th drive, looking east, this street is found behind the hotel property lot. Bleak, this is an industrial street which hosts a few Korean family owned kitchen cabinet manufacturers and a couple of warehouse operations. During the week – the fleets of trucks which carry their wares, and palettes of their products, populate roadway and sidewalk alike.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking west along 55th drive, the Koscisuzcko Bridge project is visible, but I don’t think that an opportunity for work will manifest itself for the proposed occupants of the Holiday Inn hotel there either.

What are the people that the City wants to move in here supposed to do to fill their days? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The condition of the sidewalks and streets along 55th drive are fairly crappy. As with all the industrial neighborhood sidewalks you’ll find in Western Queens – illegally dumped junk, debris, and gravel are randomly deposited.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This playground and pocket park is one of the very few public green spaces in Maspeth’s northern section, and will likely become the place where the residents of the Hotel spend their time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, does it make sense?

Is it smart to exile a vulnerable population in an industrial zone found along an elevated highway that carries close to a half million vehicle trips a day and which produces an ear shattering din? Is it ok for these people to be exploited by a check cashing location, and to have to make a choice between eating convenience store food, Chinese take out, or at McDonalds? Or, is it just expedient?

Spotty bus service is a regular complaint for the residents of the surrounding neighborhood, and Maspeth is notoriously a “transit desert.” How will the people housed in this Holiday Inn access medical or social services without a car?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What do you think?

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

dizzily down

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From the perspective of a wandering mendicant…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often have I commented on the hazy “intertidal” zones found along the former borders of long forgotten town and village municipalities in Western Queens – in fact, I’ve coined the term “angles between” for them. There’s – functionally – no one alive today who has a personal remembrance of Maspeth or Woodside being referred to as towns or villages with clearly defined borders due to urban sprawl and the life’s work of Robert Moses. When the City of Greater New York consolidated Long Island City and the county of Newtown into a new entity called “Queens,” it’s at these hazy border areas that the Manhattan people got away with literal “bloody murder.” The export of Manhattan’s dirty industries, it’s unwanted poor, the corpses of its dead – all were sent east to what was – then – a still quite agricultural community called Queens. This also happened to the Bronx and Staten Island, and to a lesser degree Brooklyn.

The local politicians in the “lesser” boroughs were more than happy to take on the cemeteries, heavy industries, and garbage handlers in the name of “progress” and doing favors for the hidden elites of Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Shining City of Manhattan replaced its tenements, its abattoirs, its manufactured gas plants with what at the time would have referred to as “modern” apartment blocks. For you real estate savvy types – that’s so called “pre war” developments like Tudor City in Murray Hill, Peter Cooper Town/Stuyvesant Village which sits on the former site of several Manufactured Gas Plants, or the United Nations building (built into the former site of several slaughterhouses and abattoirs that was known as “blood alley”). The process of converting industrial Manhattan over to a residential and commercial center kicked into high gear in the years before and directly following the Second World War, the age of “urban renewal.” That’s when the highways were jammed through on Long Island, the dairy farms of Queens were converted to housing tracts, and the “Manhattancentric” school of thought concerning development really kicked in. The tenements emptied as the teeming masses sought a better life in Queens, and further east in suburban Nassau and Suffolk counties. This turned Western Queens into a transit corridor for trade and commuters.

It’s all about “the City” and literally all roads for hundreds of miles in any direction lead to Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mt. Zion cemetery – that’s its Maurice Avenue fence line pictured above and it’s in the center of all the shots in today’s post – is categorically in Maspeth, and it is infested with tiny gecko like lizards. Saying that, it also defines Maspeth’s blurry border with Woodside in the same way that Maspeth’s border with LIC’s Blissville section is defined by the Koscisuzcko Bridge. The cemetery is fairly ancient by Queens’s standard, it’s roughly 78 acres in size, there’s around 210,000 interments therein, and its first burial in Mt. Zion was conducted in 1893. There used to be a Gypsy encampment here, a shanty town that was home to a Romani tribe from Transylvania that called itself the “Rudari,” or “Ludar,” depending on whom you ask. The Rudari, just for the sake of literary trivia, are the same tribe that worked for Count Dracula in the Bram Stoker novel named for the vampire lord. The historical record of Queens usually refers to them as “The Maspeth Gypsy’s,” and it should be mentioned that referring to them using such nomenclature would be considered a racist hate crime and slur in the modern day European Union.

The Rudari were renowned for copper working and animal training. The reason that the circus train still comes to Western Queens every year is that the circus industry used to buy trained critters – bears, horses, etc. – from them. Many Rudari found work at the Phelps Dodge copper refinery along Newtown Creek, and remnants of their community persist to this day in the Sunnyside Gardens area along Queens Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are a series of semi detached one and two story homes in the area directly surrounding Mt. Zion, which are sandwiched between the Long Island Expressway and Brooklyn Queens Expressway. To the south is the heavy manufacturing district surrounding the eastern side of Newtown Creek and its tributary Maspeth Creek. Mixed use industrial zoning directly touches the cemetery, and hundreds of truck based warehouse businesses are located hereabouts. There is also a large footprint Coca Cola distribution center nearby, and a primary shipping hub for United Parcel Service is less than a mile away, as is the warehouse and distribution center for the Duane Reade retail empire. Mt. Zion’s western side is directly across the street from the Second, Third, and Fourth sections of Calvary Cemetery. Pictured in the first shot of today’s post is part of the Department of Sanitation’s colossal vehicle maintenance facility, which is right next door to an NYPD vehicle maintenance facility, and there’s an FDNY vehicle maintenance facility nearby as well. Suffice to say that these are heavily travelled streets, here under the Long Island Expressway and just a short walk away from Newtown Creek.

If you talk to the people who live anywhere near this area, their common complaint always involves the amount of trucks and cars which use their neighborhood as a thoroughfare. Of course, talking to the people of Queens is considered an obstacle by City Hall, and a loathsome requirement when implementing their policies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mt. Zion cemetery was set up for members of the Jewish community, whose burial laws are a bit different than the Catholic ones. Jews are meant to buried singularly, rather than having multiple bodies in the same gravesite as in the Catholic tradition. This means that Mt. Zion sprawls and has the appearance of being overcrowded. There are sections of the cemetery which are virtually impassable due to this, where it is impossible to find a place to put your foot down between the rows of tombstones.

The streets surrounding it are barren, virtually treeless, and are a favored spot for illegal dumping of construction debris and other garbage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason that this little travelogue is being presented today involves the plans recently presented by the De Blasio administration to convert a hotel in the area over to a homeless shelter. A subsequent post will detail the hotel and the area directly surrounding it, but this is the northern side of the zone which the “Big Little Mayor” has picked to warehouse those who are considered socially and economically undesirable. The community of Maspeth has responded with their characteristic flair, and pushed back on City Hall with considerable skill and energy. City Hall, as is its habit under the current Mayor reacted to the protests by implying that Maspeth’s indignation is fueled by racism. Several publications picked up this theme, and the Internet commentarium knee jerk followed the rhetoric offered by the administration of the “Dope from Park Slope.”

My personal views on the Maspeth shelter project were the subject of a debate recently with a former colleague whose views and perspectives I greatly respect, but the argument I make about the placement of people – people who exist at the lowest end of the socio-economic spectrum – in this area is that it’s a human rights violation.

Simply put, it ain’t exactly a bed of salubrious roses out around these parts even if you’ve got money in your pocket, let alone when you’re down and out. This wouldn’t be a shelter, this would be a penal colony.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maspeth, as in the community of, has been doing a great job of demonstrating its objections to the placement of a homeless shelter hereabouts. They don’t need me to chime in, or make war, for them.

What I’ve found disturbing is that the knee jerk reportage mentioned above that describes their objections in terms of “rich white people” not wanting “poor black people” in their neighborhood – which has been presented by news sites that have covered the protests.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To start, there’s a few different sides to Maspeth. To the south and east, you do indeed have a somewhat suburban and moneyed section that is populated by people of European decent. To the south and west you’ve got an industrial zone, but you’ll find the odd block of homes in there, the residents of which are a hodge podge of “everybody.” On the north western side, here around Mt. Zion, my observations have revealed a population who are pretty much the same mix of people you see everywhere in Woodside, Sunnyside, Astoria and so on. East and Southeast Asians, Africans and African Americans, Irish, Jews, Italians, Levantines, Middle Easterners – the whole “vibrant diversity” mix that the politicians are always crowing about.

The “homeless” are not a monolithic people comprised from a single racial group with a common ancestor. Who these “homeless” are would be best defined, by Marxist economists, as the “underclass” and what they have in common is not the color of their skin but grinding poverty. I’ve always argued that just calling these people “the homeless” is dehumanizing and that it’s done by those armchair academics who have never actually known someone living on the street in any context other than dropping a quarter in their cup. There is no “homeless problem,” rather there’s tens of thousands of individual problems. Siting them away from a familiar setting, breaking whatever they have left of a social network, treating them like something to be warehoused in a neighborhood of warehouses – this ain’t the right idea.

On the subject of every neighborhood having to do “its fair share” – Maspeth already handles close to 20% of NYC’s garbage, it hosts the LIE and BQE, has several NYS and one Federal Superfund sites in it, and there are intersections where close to 3-400 heavy trucks an hour roll through on their way to Manhattan. The garbage train also transits through Maspeth a few times a day, which represents and comingles Brooklyn’s share of the garbage handling with Maspeth’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are virtually no mass transit lines available from this location, police patrols are infrequent at best, and at night this is a virtually abandoned part of the city. Bus service is spotty, and it’s one of the places in Queens where you truly need a personal vehicle to get around.

There are streets with no sidewalks here in the half mile around the proposed shelter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shocking ignorance of City Hall regarding the existential realities of Western Queens never fails to amaze me. All they seem to know about our neighborhoods is what they see on maps rolled out on mahogany desktops that have pins stuck into them by paid cronies. I’ve met several members of the Dept. of City Planning over the years, and the ones who I respect the hell out of are the ones who put on a pair of sneakers periodically and go out for walks in the areas they’re assigned to. I don’t always agree with their choices, but I do respect them.

I have a random idea, which is to site a homeless shelter on 11th street in Park Slope, just off fifth avenue.

Tomorrow, we’ll cross under the highway and take a direct look at what Mayor Bill De Blasio considers as being a good fit for one of the most vulnerable populations of people in NYC to call their temporary home, since he hasn’t decided to lead by example and convert his aforementioned house on Park Slope’s 11th street over to either affordable housing or for use as a shelter.

Upcoming tours and events:


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

leaping shadows

with one comment

Lets talk about the Kosciuszcko Bridge, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since the big bridge over Newtown Creek’s 77th birthday is coming up – August 23rd for the vulgarly curious – one decided to walk over and through Calvary Cemetery into West Maspeth the other day and check out the latest progress which the NYS DOT and their contractors are making on replacing it. The Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement project is humming along.

As a note, this post represents no special access or anything, just some specialized knowledge about Newtown Creek and the points of view thereupon which I am privy to. If there’s an angle of view on the Creek I don’t know about by this point, I will buy you a drink for showing it to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, one has been keeping a running tally of posts about the project.

To start – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway which will be the easterly BQE section leading out of Queens is now largely in place. There’s still a bunch of work going on up there, presumptively it involves the sort of rebar work observed in the May 2016 post linked to above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shape of the cable stay section of the new bridge is beginning to form up as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The steel sections are prefabricated and shipped to the job site via flat bed truck, where they’re then hoisted up and attached to the towers and cables.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down 56th road from Blissville into Maspeth. The area in the left hand side of the shot used to be an NYPD tow yard, which was a great example of NYC’s macabre sense of humor. NYPD tow pounds are typically in places which you can’t reach without a car, and since they’ve just taken your car…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north towards Sunnyside from 56th road. You can really discern the difference in height between the 1939 and modern bridges in the shot above. Apparently, part of the traffic engineering underlying the new bridge project is to eliminate the steep incline from the approaches.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south towards Brooklyn, while still on 56th road. The property fence line I’m shooting over is the former home of the Phelps Dodge refinery, which is said to be a particularly toxic hot spot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit closer to the water, on another part of the former Phelps Dodge properties which isn’t quite so “hot,” pollution wise. This is the parking lot of a wholesaler catering to the restaurant trade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The cable stay span of the new bridge is growing steadily towards Brooklyn in the shot above. To me, it looks like it’s going to be connected to the Brooklyn side ramp fairly soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A close up on the ramp, and you can see the itty bitty construction guys at work right on the edge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same perspective, but wide angle. That’s the Newtown Creek flowing below, and we are looking west towards Manhattan. Again, notice the height differential between the two spans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south again, this time from Maspeth’s 43rd street. The contractors have a lot of their equipment and prefabricated materials staged out here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back on 43rd street, but this time from the very edge of the project site, looking south along the spine of the BQE.

There you are.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

tourist parties

with one comment

Bottoming out in Blissville, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Saturday found me speaking at an early morning waterfront event in Astoria recently, which was followed by conducting a walking tour of the Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek in the late afternoon. Left with a gulf of time to fill between the two, I decided to spend it by walking from Astoria to Greenpoint via Blissville and checking in on what’s going on with the Kosciuszko Bridge project on the border of West Maspeth and the aforementioned Blissville section of Long Island City.

A bit of history trivia is offered – the Kosciuszko Bridge is built along the “legal” south eastern border of Long Island City and what was once known as “Newtown.” For the curious, the North Eastern border was more or less defined by Woodside Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway ramps on the Queens side of the Kosciuszko Bridge project are now overflying Review/58th avenue and reaching towards Newtown Creek. The Kosciuszko Bridge project engineers have always said that the northern section of the project would lag behind the southern, or Brooklyn, side.

Longtime readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will report that I’ve been keeping track of things at the Kosciuszko Bridge, with this recent post being the latest report from the Brooklyn side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a running history of Newtown Pentacle coverage on the subject – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Supposedly, I’m meant to be gaining some access to the actual worksite in Queens fairly soon, although the only thing keeping me from having walked the site is my own discretion. As far as “urban exploring” goes, this would be an easy conquest. Regardless, I’m looking forward to walking the site sometime in June.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To wit, a graffiti crew which decided to adorn the still under construction masonry of the new Brooklyn Queens Expressway ramps leading to the span. Another crew a little bit further north of here weren’t quite as colorful, and instead painted white swastikas on the brick masonry of the BQE on-ramps.

What you see above is not graffiti, incidentally, it’s time.

Time and opportunity. 

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

antique forms

with 3 comments

Visiting with the Alsops, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, the Roman Catholic Church purchased the land which would become LIC’s Calvary Cemetery back in 1848 from the Alsop family, who had inhabited it since the time of the Dutch decadence. The first Alsop on the land was a fellow named Thomas Wandell, who had ran afoul of Lord Protector Cromwell back in England and decided his best move was to hide out in the American colonies, specifically the ones which ran the flag of the Staten Generaal up the pole. The property was occupied during the American insurrection by none other than Lord Cornwallis and General Howe, and the experience of the Alsops regarding the forced quartering of troops and the damages inflicted on home and hearth by Hessian and Dragoon alike actually helped inform the Constitution of the United States’s ban on the practice. By 1848, the family line had dispersed and there was only one full blooded Alsop left in Queens. His estate sold the property to the Church, with the provision that the Catholics would maintain – in perpetuity – the Alsop family graveyard within the larger cemetery.

The Alsop plot is a theoretically unique place upon the earth, a Protestant graveyard entirely enclosed within a Catholic one. This doesn’t sound like too big a deal to modern ears, but back in the 1700’s, the Protestant Reformation and the Eighty Years War were still pretty present in people’s minds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Protestant Reformation, incidentally, is the filter by which one such as myself processes the news of the day. When you’re reading about insurgents and terrorists in the Middle East, it’s hard not to think that “those people” are savages and barbarians. That’s because… well, this post is written in English… Europe’s experience with this sort of thing has sort of faded into the historical firmament.

Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church back in 1521, which is coincidentally the same period in which Catholic Spain conquered the Mexica Aztec culture and appropriated an enormous quantity of precious metals and wealth from them. Churches in Spain, to this day, have a lot of Mexican silver worked into their ornamentation. What the Spanish Crown did with most of that silver, though, was fund the war against the Protestant crowns who followed Luther into the cold. It’s how they paid for the Spanish Inquistion, and the Counter Reformation, and it’s how Holland and the Netherlands ended up becoming independent countries after fighting their way out of the Hapsburg empires.

Europe, for a bit more than a century, was ripped apart by the religious wars. Famine, plague, all that good stuff was the result. Ultimately, the Thirty Years war between 1618 and 1648 ended up killing something like 25-40% of what modernity refers to as Germany.

At the end of it, the Crowns of Europe set up authoritarian states which brooked no dissidence and strictly controlled religion, printing, and what we would call “free speech.” The Dutch, and later the English, both began sending their religious zealots to the colonies in the Americas in an effort to try and keep the peace back home.

These zealots – Anabaptists, Puritans, Quakers – even Cromwell himself – were considered to be dangerous and it was best to make them go away. The reformation and its wars were bad for business and everyone agreed that a predictable future was better than the inverse, so the Kings grew ever more powerful in the name of stability.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember too, that 500 years ago, what we know as “Europe” was considered a violent backwater. The royalty were essentially the descendants of inbred motorcycle gangs who had ridden into a city and taken over by force of arms. Death came swiftly for the common people, as any infraction of the rules set down by these undereducated masters incurred reprisals that the ISIS people would be very comfortable with. After the Protestant Reformation’s wars had run their course, Europe entered into a period which is referred to as “the enlightenment” during which the winners of the reformation game consolidated feudal holdings they’d won control over into nation states whose names are familiar to modern ears – France, for instance. The countries which were never burned by the fires of these wars remained feudal duchys of the Catholic Church until quite late in the game – Italy comes to mind.

The absolute monarchs who ruled these new “national” territories were tyrants, so much so that the merchant classes of Europe – the so called Bourgeoise – began to pick up stakes and follow the zealots over to the Americas.

These Bourgeoise, who were heavily influenced by the Freemasons philosophically, are the people who led the revolutions against the European Monarchs, and the influence of the very conservative Catholic Bishops, and who set about trying to create Nation States which would operate in “rational” and “scientific” ways.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What’s happening today in the Middle East is not entirely unlike the Protestant Reformation. The Protestants were religious fundamentalists driven to violent action by tyrannical and unfair governments who were supported by a clergy that supported and reinforced the power of the tyrants – those motorcycle gangs mentioned above. The Spanish empire was ruled by the Hapsburg family, who also controlled what would one day be called the Austro Hungarian Empire but at the time was called the “Holy Roman Empire.” Both Catholic and Protestant militarized and controlled vast resource bases, and when the Spanish hit the jackpot in Mexico – things flew into high gear. Genocide was an official policy back then, and the reason that the Crusades were abandoned wasn’t entirely because of the rising power of the Ottomans. It was because the Crusades were being aimed at the Albigensians and Cathars in France and what we would call Germany.

As Americans, we are the inheritors of a particularly Anglophile point of view. The fact that this POV exists at all is because the Spanish Armada never made it to the Thames.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a straight up history of the Alsops, check out this post presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle – back in 2011. Institutional memory is something that I constantly rattle on about. Something has gone wrong with our culture – it just might be Facebook – in recent years. A scandal or tragedy occurs, and everybody acts as if it’s something that’s happening for the first time. Ignorance of history seems willful, which breeds a sense of fatalism on the part of many. The world is not going to hell in a hand basket, rather, it’s been there before.

How did the Europeans solve the religious wars which decimated them for nearly 150 years? Totalitarian governments and absolute monarchy, that’s how, which sparked the age of colonialism. How did they solve that? Republics and representational democracy. Where that led – the second thirty years war – WW1 and 2. Which led to the Cold War…

I’ve got to stop hanging out in cemeteries, because places like the Alsop plot are how every story ends.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

cyclopean endeavor

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Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridges Onramps – DUKBO – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around two weeks ago, Newtown Pentacle presented a pair of postings (this, and that) showing the progress of the Brooklyn side of the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. I was invited to walk through the site by the NYS DOT, along with other members of the “Stakeholders Advisory Committee,” and the photos captured during the walk populated the posts. Today, the Queens side of DUKBO.

It should be mentioned that I didn’t enter the site for these, and just creeped around the fences on Thanksgiving weekend. It would have been a simple thing to enter the deserted site, of course, but the Newtown Pentacle way is to never trespass. I’m like a vampire, and have to be invited in before I do my work. Luckily, you don’t need an invitation to walk down the sidewalks of Queens in the direction of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These are the 1939 era bridge’s concrete approaches, as seen from Laurel Hill Blvd., which is the eastern border of Calvary Cemetery. The street that’s all ground up into gravel is “used to be 54th avenue.” “Used to be” is an apt adjectival phrase, as when the new bridge is finished several of the existing streets will have been relocated and the geometry of the street grid will be altered to accommodate the new structure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you can see, security is tight as a drum here in Blissville. Nobody over 350 pounds would be able to get through this gap. It’s at times like these that my “no trespassing” rule really grates.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down Laurel Hill Blvd. to the south. That’s Calvary Cemetery on the right of the shot, and the redoubtable 1939 Robert Moses version of the Kosciuszko Bridge on the left. Moses convinced LaGuardia that the old Penny Bridge, which crossed Newtown Creek from the end of Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn and connected to Review Avenue in Queens, would be insufficient to handle the traffic load which the 1939 Worlds Fair in Corona would create. He proposed the “New Meeker Avenue Bridge,” which LaGuardia agreed to. Moses then argued that without the 2.1 miles of high speed approach roads, the money spent on the bridge would be wasted. LaGuardia agreed again. Moses then expanded the approaches, on one side to connect to his “Grand Central” Parkway and Mighty Triborough, and on the other to connect via Meeker Avenue to Grand Street, he also created something LaGuardia did not agree to in the bargain. What would become the “Brooklyn Queens Connecting Highway,” something we refer to in modernity as the “Brooklyn Queens Expressway.”

Clever one, that Moses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing under the Kosciuszko Bridge at 54th road – a corrugated fence which used to be part of an NYPD towing impound lot allowed for a quick view of the “House of Moses.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the end of 2017 (if I remember the schedule accurately), this will be an enormous demolition site. All the steel will be coming down in sections, and the cyclopean concrete piers will be chipped away. The stripping away of the central span of the Kosciuszko Bridge promises to be quite an exciting sight.

Essentially, they are going to bring in maritime cranes which will affix supports to the truss section in the center, cut it away from its supports with torches, and then lower it onto a platform composed of several barges. Multiple tugboats will guide it away, heading in a westerly direction down Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing under the Kosciuszko Bridge via 54th road onto “used to be” 43rd street, the now familiar masonry of the BQE overpass appears. The roadway will be considerably lower here, in comparison to the old setup. Not really sure how much I like that, actually. It’s going to be bringing the close to 200,000 vehicles a day that cross the thing down to nearly street level. Noise, exhaust, etc. It’s higher on the Brooklyn side.

Oh well… welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself… right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “used to be” 54th drive, and you can see the new concrete supports for the Kosciuszko Bridge approaches are coming along nicely. If you refer back to the two posts from the Brooklyn side linked to in the first paragraph, you can check out what this area will look like probably 6-8 months into 2016. The deck roadway will ride along on the top of this piers, rising to the cable stay supported section spanning Newtown Creek.

On the other side of the concrete structures are a bunch of office trailers which house the administrative and engineering staff for the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszko Bridge project is striking its path through the former location of the Phelps Dodge company, on a patch of land which was once adjudicated as being “too toxic to park empty United States Postal Trucks on.” Phelps Dodge is a NYS Superfund site, and the company is one of the “potentially responsible parties” named in the Federal Superfund listing of Newtown Creek itself. Incidentally, Phelps Dodge and their copper refining operations were pretty much a 20th century thing, they inherited the property after a merger with a chemical conglomerate that had been here since the 1830’s.

The State Bridge people have made it a point of mentioning that they’re able to deal with the environmental stuff, but that it’s an immensely complicated situation. There’s a sign on the fence that says “Hazwoper.” I mentioned this signage to my Union laborer neighbor Mario during conversation about the project, which caused the big fellow to utter a “woof” sound, followed by “Hazwoper Zone, bro, woof.”

The entire project is an immensely complicated situation, actually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Imagine building a bridge, next to an existing one which carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over a heavily polluted maritime industrial waterway found in the dead bang center of NYC. Imagine that this waterway was where the oil refining industry, and the manufactured gas industry, and the waste disposal industry, and the chemical industry, and the Long Island Railroad, all figured themselves out. Refineries, distilleries, waste transfer stations, open sewers… Ok? Got it?

Ok, so you finish the bridge, and reroute the highway onto it. Ok. Now you have to demolish the old bridge and cart it away. Now, you get to start on building the second half of the new bridge, and then reroute the highway again to take advantage of the completed bridge.

Ahh… my beloved Creek!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks north, from the “will continue to be” Restaurant Depot Parking lot. Most NY’ers are surprised at how much of the food they eat has spent some of its journey to their colons at Newtown Creek, but a humble narrator has reached the age where his innermost psychology can best be described as “a severe and apathetic form of nihilism,” so nothing really surprises me anymore. I don’t buy sausages in supermarkets, as an example of how this numbed acceptance of the world we live in informs my days and tortures my nights.

As you’ll notice, the shots depict concrete still being formed into the columns, and rebar sticking out of a few of them. The Brooklyn side is a bit further along, I’m told it was a bit more complicated on the Greenpoint side due to the rerouting of the BQE over Meeker Avenue, and the presence of dense populations surrounding the road.

In Maspeth, here on the Queens side, there were just two or three private homes and a few warehouse sized businesses. The various entities, hereabouts, were recompensed for their properties by the State and assisted with relocation to parts unknown. Or they might now be sausages in a freezer at a Costco. You’ll never know… which brings me back to the whole nihilism thing. There you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle often reminds me that whereas everything in the shot above is familiar to me, I shouldn’t make the assumption that everyone reading this enjoys the same visual catalog as my creek chums and I do.

This shot looks towards the west, where you can see the Empire State Building over in Manhattan. Out of sight, not mind, the tracks of the LIRR Montauk line are aimed directly at midtown Manhattan and are travelling under the bridge and along the tree line. The wooded section, on the right, is Calvary Cemetery. Just beyond those concrete blocks is part of the Phelps Dodge site, and the truss section of the 1939 Kosciuszko Bridge is overflying Newtown Creek and traveling out of frame at top left – or south.

Just keeping y’all in the loop, here in DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridges Onramps.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

dog trot

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A bit of weirdness encountered in Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before launching into my usual folderol, mention must be made that an equipment failure here at HQ has sent my mac to the shop, and any oddities in formatting of posts and interactions for the next few days are due to the fact that several workarounds have been enacted in the name of keeping the ship afloat. I’m working off an iPad and Our Lady of the Pentacle’s laptop. The iPad is a familiar tool, but crap at formatting posts. The laptop is using a newer operating system than the one I normally use – which is unfamiliar at best and there is a learning curve. Never a dull moment.

Anyway, check out this little oddity noticed on Rust Street in Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator had been out and about for several hours when these shots were captured, and having just stepped between a parked truck and the fencelines adjoining the LIRR tracks in pursuance of a private spot in which to answer the call of nature. Whilst painting the street with urea, this little fellow was noticed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know a lot of tree huggers around Newtown Creek, but this was a new one for this little pisher.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It will be somewhat light fare at this, your Newtown Pentacle, for the next few days. When the repairs are completed, I can begin churning out photos from the “master cylinder” desktop machine again.

I will mention, incidentally, that I find it surprising how the modern operating systems offered by apple get in the way of doing actual work. Then again, they aren’t in the business of selling workstation computers anymore.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

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