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It’s National Peach Ice Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One believes that if you’ve got a problem to solve, the first step towards “victory state” over it involves wrapping your head around the problem and “getting smart.” I like to be fairly well educated about the nature of things before opening the hood and tinkering around with the engine, basically.

The subject of the MTA, or Metropolitan Transit Authority (a public benefit corporation), has been in the news quite a bit of late. The subways have been the particular focus, but the question a friend asked me the other night is what caused today’s post to come into existence.

What, exactly, is the MTA? Well, it’s complicated.

from wikipedia

Chartered by the New York State Legislature in 1965 as the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority(MCTA), it was initially created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to purchase and operate the bankrupt Long Island Rail Road. The MCTA dropped the word “Commuter” from its name and became the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on March 1, 1968 when it took over operations of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) (now MTA New York City Transit (NYCT)) and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority(TBTA) (now MTA Bridges and Tunnels (B&T)). The construction of two bridges over the Long Island Sound was put under the jurisdiction of the MTA.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To begin with, there’s just over 70,000 employees on the MTA’s payroll. MTA operates, ultimately, in the most densely populated sections of three states with the Shining City of Manhattan as the titular center and bullseye destination for its trains, automotive bridges and tunnels, and multiple fleets of buses.

Nearly all of the MTA train lines were originally built and owned by private businesses (with a significant public investment in the case of the subways) either during the late 19th or early 20th century, but bankruptcies and public foreclosures brought them into government hands. Private bus companies were acquired and folded into the Authority over the decades, along with bridges and tunnels that were formally owned and operated by seperate entities. Today, all of these operations are handled by the individual divisions of the MTA and overseen by a 17 member board of directors (who are all political appointees with virtually zero experience in transportation matters, incidentally).

from wikipedia

The Long Island Rail Road (reporting mark LI), legally known as the Long Island Rail Road Company and often abbreviated as the LIRR, is a commuter rail system in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of New York, stretching from Manhattan to the eastern tip of Suffolk County on Long Island. With an average weekday ridership of 337,800 passengers in 2014, it is the busiest commuter railroad in North America. It is also one of the world’s few commuter systems that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round. It is publicly owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which refers to it as MTA Long Island Rail Road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Capital Construction is where all the money disappears into, basically. Pictured above is the Second Avenue Subway under construction, and however much I wish that I could show you a shot from the East Side Access project – I haven’t managed to find a way to get my camera down there, yet. The MTA is ostensibly meant to be self funding, through bonds it issues and through fare revenue, but it seldom works out that way and both State and City end up sending a significant amount of tax revenue their way to handle deficits.

Everybody asks why it is that these mega projects orchestrated by Capital Construction have the political support that they do while the wheels are falling off the buses and subways. Short answer is that a shot of a politician watching some mechanic turn a wrench while repairing a track switch is a lot less compelling an image, electoral politics wise, than one showing the same politician cutting a ribbon at the opening ceremony of a fancy new subway stop in the richest section of Manhattan on the Uppper East Side.

Capital Construction, like all of MTA’s divisions, is a vertical silo with its own hierarchy and political patronage. They do what they do, and compete for funding with the other divisions.

from wikipedia

MTA Capital Construction is a subsidiary agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), formed in July 2003 to manage the MTA’s major capital projects in the New York metropolitan area. It mainly focuses on improving transportation infrastructure and facilities in New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island areas. Funding primarily comes from local, state, and national bond sales and budgets. As of April 2017, the current MTA Capital Construction president is Janno Lieber.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long Island Railroad, for instance, is a vertically integrated “thing” all of its own. If someone from the Metro North side of MTA calls in sick, they don’t send LIRR employees upstate to fill in the slack. It doesn’t share “synergies” with Metro North (repair facilities, union contracts etc.) or with the New York City Transit Authority (subways). This situation is owed partially to the formerly seperate corporate entities that created the original lines.

Metro North is the grandchild of the old New York Central Railroad passenger service, and the LIRR is the child of Central’s arch rival and adversarial enemy – the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

I’m no expert on this subject, so, I reached out to a buddy who is one of my “rail rabbis” and he anonymously offered this statement and assessment of the situation involving Metro North and LIRR, which – despite logic and what you might think, don’t use the same trains nor operate in common fashion or custom.

“Metro-North Railroad is made up of three distinct operations. Two of these operate out of Grand Central Terminal, the third operates out of Hoboken Terminal.

Hudson and Harlem lines are the remnants of the New York Central Railroad (Vanderbilt), out of Grand Central Terminal.

The New Haven line is the former New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (New Haven for short).

The New Haven was unique in that they operated commuter trains out of Grand Central Terminal and their long distance trains out of Penn Station. The line over Hell Gate was financed by the New York Connecting Railroad, which was a paper railroad business agreement between the New Haven and the Pennsylvania Railroads.

The third operation is frequently overlooked. it is the former Erie Railroad (Jay Gould, THE robber baron), later Erie Lacawanna Railroad operation to Port Jervis New York. MTA pays for the New York portion, while New Jersey Transit pays for the New Jersey operation. This operates out of Hoboken Terminal.

The New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad merged in 1968 into the Penn Central (Good book to read is “The Wreck of the Penn Central” by Joseph R. Daughen and Peter Binzen).

It was an unhappy merger, with battles between the two different management ideologies. It ended up with the US Government creation of Conrail in 1976 to salvage what remained of several north east railroad operations (Including Penn Central).

Conrail operated many commuter railroads, which received state subsidies for commuter operations. (Amtrak was formed in 1971 for intercity/long distance passenger trains, not the many commuter operations) Conrail wanted out of commuter operations at its founding and in 1983, it was NY States turn and Metro North was created.

The LIRR and Metro North are two distinct systems, with the only real compatible technology being the train couplings and the gauge of the trains.

Metro North utilizes an under-running third rail and the LIRR utilizes an over running third rail. Diesel locomotives and diesel hauled electric passenger cars also weigh different, with Metro North being able to haul heavier equipment, Long Island bridges are load limited. The Park Avenue Tunnels on Metro North and the East River Tunnels on the Long Island also limit the interchangeability of some equipment. Signal systems are also different.

The Electric Multiple Unit (MU) trains of Metro North and LIRR look similar and are ordered from the same vendor/companies, but they are configured to operate on their respective systems. They are not freely interchangeable. The Arch Street shop of the LIRR is a warranty shop for the recent purchase of the M-7 MU’s. Metro north ships them there for work, but not before all the third rail shoes are removed, and they have to travel over the Hell Gate from New Rochelle, NY. (The Ventilation system vents on the Metro North Roofs won’t fit in the LIRR East River Tunnels).

The LIRR bilevel cars will not fit in the Park Avenue tunnels.

Metro North diesel locomotives are too heavy for the bridges on the eastern end of Long Island.”

from wikipedia

The Metro-North Commuter Railroad (reporting mark MNCW), trading as MTA Metro-North Railroad or simply Metro-North, is a suburban commuter rail service run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a public authority of the state of New York. With an average weekday ridership of 298,900 in 2014, it is the second-busiest commuter railroad in North America in terms of annual ridership, behind its sister railroad, the Long Island Rail Road. Metro-North runs service between New York City and its northern suburbs in New York and Connecticut, including Port Jervis, Spring Valley, Poughkeepsie, White Plains, and Wassaic in New York and New Canaan, Danbury, Waterbury, and New Haven in Connecticut. Metro-North also provides local rail service within New York City at a reduced fare. There are 124 stations on Metro-North Railroad’s five active lines (plus the Meadowlands Rail Line), which operate on more than 775 miles (1,247 km) of track, with the passenger railroad system totaling 385 miles (620 km) of route.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another vertical silo at MTA is the Bridges and Tunnels group. This is Robert Moses’ old Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority empire, rebranded and “nationalized” by Nelson Rockefeller back in the late 1960’s. TBTA has always been, and always will be, its own fiefdom.

For those of you not familiar with the terms “vertical silo” or “synergies,” that’s a fairly archaic series of terms used in the investment banking industry to describe business units within a corporate structure. When a corporate merger occurs, the investment bankers will often try to “flatten” these silos and merge them with other units to avoid redundancy, which saves them money and ostensibly streamlines an operation. This is not how Government people think, btw. If the MTA was a company and got taken over by another corporation, the VERY first thing the new owners would do is try to flatten these silos and eliminate the wasteful or redundant departments.

MTA, for instance, has multiple divisions of armed police and guardsmen. There’s TBTA cops, MTA cops, MTA Operations armed guards, a whole seperate department of MTA Security… and they’re all operating under different rules, jurisprudence, and circumstance.

It’s all very complicated.

from wikipedia

The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, doing business as MTA Bridges and Tunnels, is an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that operates seven intrastate toll bridges and two tunnels in New York City. In terms of traffic volume, it is the largest bridge and tunnel toll agency in the United States, serving more than a million people each day and generating more than $1.5 billion in toll revenue annually as of 2012.

The seven bridges are:

  • Triborough Bridge (officially Robert F. Kennedy Bridge), the agency’s original namesake and flagship crossing, connecting Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens, via Randalls and Wards Islands
  • Bronx–Whitestone Bridge, connecting the Bronx and Queens
  • Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island
  • Throgs Neck Bridge, connecting the Bronx and Queens
  • Henry Hudson Bridge, connecting Manhattan and the BronxMarine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and the Rockaways (Queens)
  • Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, connecting Broad Channel to the Rockaways (Queens)

The two tunnels are:

  • Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel (officially Hugh L. Carey Tunnel), connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan
  • Queens–Midtown Tunnel, connecting Queens and Manhattan

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The focus of public ennui these days is generally related to the subway system, although this summer the LIRR situation has gathered a lot of storm clouds to the Long Island Railroad. What New Yorker hasn’t stood there on some subway platform and exhorted “EFF YOU, MTA” at least once?

My rail rabbi quoted above offers this, on the subject of the “switch problems” and the MTA’s promises that modernizing them will fix everything wrong with the subways:

“One thing we mentioned about “outdated signal systems” with regard to the subway is that the 100 year old signal, while worn out, allow better utilization of the tracks. As I understand it, typical headways on the NYC subway system are four to seven minutes at rush hour. As a comparison, newer fully automated systems, like BART in San Francisco, WAMATA in Washington DC and MARTA in Atlanta can’t beat seven minutes, with ten minutes being the normal.”

A humble narrator has been getting increasingly involved with transit issues in recent years, and I’ve joined the steering committee of Access Queens, a community organization led by Sunnyside’s Melissa Orlando, which grew out of the “7 train blues” Facebook group. I won’t bore you with the usual song you’ve read everywhere else about switches, overcrowding, deferred maintenance, and aging tracks – instead I’d ask for you to click through to the Access Queens site and see what our group has been working on.

It may be the “Summer of Hell” for the LIRR, but it’s always transit hell in Queens.

from wikipedia

The New York City Transit Authority (also known as NYCTA, The TA or simply Transit, and branded as MTA New York City Transit) is a public authority in the U.S. state of New York that operates public transportation in New York City. Part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the busiest and largest transit system in North America, the NYCTA has a daily ridership of 7 million trips (over 2 billion annually).

The NYCTA operates the following systems:

  • New York City Subway, a rapid transit system in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.
  • Staten Island Railway, a rapid transit line in Staten Island (operated by the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority, a NYCTA subsidiary)
  • New York City Bus, an extensive bus network serving all five boroughs, managed by MTA Regional Bus Operations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The MTA Bus company is part of NYCTA, or New York City Transit Authority, but that’s not all of it. There’s tons of bus lines in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Yonkers, and even Westchester which MTA operates. Buses aren’t the sexiest way to get around, of course, but when it’s raining a bus is always superior to walking. Unfortunately, the vertical silo of the bus company seldom coordinates with the NYCTA subway company during outages and planned work, nor coordinates their schedule with them.

from wikipedia

MTA Regional Bus Operations (RBO) is the surface transit division of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), created in 2008 to consolidate all bus operations in New York City operated by the MTA.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 17, 2017 at 11:00 am

these views

with 11 comments

Welcome to the Montauk Cutoff, Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, one found himself hitting the tracks just before sunrise. I was there with sanction, accompanied by an MTA employee and entirely “legal.” It should be mentioned, again, that illegal trespass is against a humble narrator’s code, and like a vampire – I need to be invited in to do my thing. You also really, really, don’t want to get caught trespassing up here by the railroad cops, by the way. You also really, really, don’t want to meet the sort of person who camps out along railroad tracks in LIC when you’re all alone in the wee hours.

The Montauk Cutoff in Long Island City was designed to connect the North Shore line with the Montauk Line. The Montauk Line uses the tracks which follow the shoreline of Newtown Creek through Queens, eventually intersecting with the Bushwick Branch and both head for the rail yard at Fresh Pond. The elevated trackway of the Montauk Cutoff crosses Skillman, 49th, 50th, 51st, and Borden Avenues, whereupon it meets a rail bridge called Cabin M which spans Newtown Creek’s tributary Dutch Kills.

The North Shore line used what are approximately the modern LIRR passenger tracks, give or take a few yards, which transverse the Sunnyside Yards and head through Woodside on their way east. The Montauk Cutoff was built for freight, as were the North Shore and Montauk Lines. Passenger service was always a loser for the LIRR. Modern day freight on the LIRR is handled by the New York & Atlantic company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first discussion, which I’ve been able to find at least, about building LIC’s Montauk Cutoff was in 1906 – as part of a series of railroad projects either proposed or already under construction at the start of the 20th century by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company – projects which included Penn Station and Sunnyside Yard. Other documents I’ve examined state that the LIRR was paying taxes to New York State as early as 1912 on the Montauk Cutoff, which suggests that it came into service around the same time that the Sunnyside Yards came online. The surrounding Degnon Terminal wasn’t far behind the rail complex, either, with the Loose Wiles factory and other mega factories opening in the 1920’s.

As is always mentioned, old Mitch ain’t no authority on the whole railroad thing. If there’s something wrong in my little summary, please let me know in the comments and corrections or an errata will be incorporated. I can speak pretty intelligently about the maritime/locomotive complex around Newtown Creek, but I’ll admit to having vast gaps on the particular subject of the iron road. That was my pal Bernie Ente’s area of expertise.

For a historic series of shots, maps, and technical descriptions of anything involving the LIRR, you are going to have to visit the fairly excellent trainsarefun.com. Here’s their Montauk Cutoff Page.

Another set of maps and historic shots can be accessed at an equally fantastic site called arrts-arrchives.com. Here’s their Montauk Cutoff page.

I’ve written about the Smiling Hogshead Ranch before, which sits on the interchange between the Degnon Terminal Railway and the Montauk Cutoff, over at my old Brownstoner Queens column.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The view from up on the Montauk Cutoff is unique. That big parking lot at the bottom of the shot above is a UPS shipping center, the one on 49th avenue. Rearing above and behind it is the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the Long Island Expressway, which arches up and over Dutch Kills some 106 feet from its beginning at the Queens Midtown Tunnel – which is around a half mile away.

My MTA companion and I met up at the Smiling Hogshead Ranch at 5:30 in the morning to get these shots, which gave me a solid hour to work in absolute pitch darkness up on the tracks. The shots in today’s post are obviously tripod shots, and long exposures. Leaving the shutter open for 20-30 seconds at a pop, you can gather a tremendous amount of light and color, but the hot spots of electric street lighting always cause certain problems. Compensation for this is to move the aperture into “hyperfocal” range, f11 and narrower, which is counterintuitive for night shots but nevertheless effective. It also produces those neat little star bursts around the lights.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, why was I out on a chilly November morning with an MTA property manger, walking on a century old rail spur in Long Island City?

The MTA has decided to “abandon” this line. Abandon doesn’t mean the same thing in “railroad” as in does in english. It means that the agency has no current plans for the line and wishes to free itself of the duties necessitated in maintaining it as functional track. It means that the MTA will retain ownership of the Montauk Cutoff, and can at any time reactivate the pathway should “future use” require it. Given the speed with which rail projects generally move, however, that means a window of at least a couple of decades of inactivity awaits the property no matter what happens.

Accordingly, MTA has issued a “Request for Expressions of Interest,” or RFEI, regarding the Montauk Cutoff and is seeking potential lessees for the space.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As defined in the RFEI document, the MTA is seeking out creative uses of the land with an eye towards community improvement. The agency has set down a few ground rules for any potential lessee of the site, many of which are quite expensive – such as insurance, utility service – those sorts of things. The property, as defined in the RFEI, includes the Smiling Hogshead Ranch – who currently lease and pay insurance on the parcel in which the community garden is operated.

Before certain web masters start pointing their fingers and shouting “j’accuse” at me while spinning a conspiratorial tale, Smiling Hogshead is indeed associated with Newtown Creek Alliance, as am I. You can absolutely bet that I’m a fan of SHHR’s operations and programming, and friends with a lot of their members. Long Island City needs every bit of green space it can get, which is how I finally get around to explaining why me and the MTA guy were here on the day before Thanksgiving and just before sunrise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “Request for an Expression of Interest”? You can say that I’m interested. I’m interested in seeing this trackway converted over to green space, in much the same way that the Degnon Spur on Pearson and Skillman – a weedy dumping ground and homeless camp – was turned into a lush garden by a group of dedicated volunteers.

Can you imagine what a group like Smiling Hogshead’s could do up here?

If you want to get in on the conversation, or contribute some time and knowledge to the project – shape the future, as it were – whatcha doing on the 2nd of December? A bunch of us are going to attend a “visioning meeting” at Nomad Cycle (47-10 Austell Pl, Queens, NY 11101) which is set to happen between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My companion and I had discussed the possibility of getting up here in the pre dawn hours, and a couple of previous appointments had to be cancelled on account of weather. We had met on a walk through of the site which MTA had conducted back in October for parties interested in acquiring the land, an excursion which occurred just before solar noon – which is not the most efficacious time to photograph LIC. I made the case to him that a “proper” set of photos would be needed for this project and quite handy to boot, which my new friend at the agency agreed with. Hence, where we were, when we were, and why we met up in the dark on Skillman Avenue on the day before Thanksgiving.

The wrinkle in this potential project is this – it doesn’t necessarily have to become a green space. Anyone can “express interest” in the Montauk Cutoff, and as long as their proposed project meets the requirements set aside by the MTA, it will be considered a viable option.

I see this as being a frankly huge opportunity to create an enormous acreage of green space in an otherwise completely barren industrial area which can be best described as a “devastation of concrete.” My interest in this thing is simple – this property touches Dutch Kills, where the borders of the “abandoned” section ends, which is “my house.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Montauk Cutoff begins at Sunnyside Yard, and at its southeastern edge connects to the M Cabin truss bridge over Dutch Kills which connects to the Blissville Yard, which in turn feeds the tracks that travel under the Greenpoint and Kosciuszko Bridges to Maspeth, Ridgwood, and all points east. The RFEI states that the M Cabin bridge will be opened, and secured in that position, and that a barrier of some sort will be erected at the edge of the Montauk Cutoff’s lot.

Additionally, I cannot begin to, nor have I ever believed that this is the original bridge on this site. I’ve got some Intel that suggests the early 1940’s for its origins, but nothing solid enough to to stick a pin into. The original early 20th century bridge is long gone at any rate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can tell you with some certainty that the nearby DB Cabin rail bridge is from 1919, and is a swing bridge that hasn’t opened since 2002. My pal Bernie, mentioned above as having been THE authoritative source on all things rail around LIC, told me once or twice that two industrial wreckers are required to tow it from either side to open the bridge. The swing bridges motors are non functional, something that has caused no small amount of grief for the EPA’s Superfund investigators. DB Cabin allows access from the Wheelspur Yard to the Blissville Yard and the Montauk Line.

Like I said, Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking northwards along Dutch Kills, at a scene familiar and loved by long time readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle. That’s the Borden Avenue Bridge, with the LIE above, spanning Dutch Kills. I’ve been writing about this neighborhood for years, it’s one of my favorite locations in New York City. The Montauk Cutoff leads directly to this spot, which in my mind directly connects it to the environmental problems of the Newtown Creek watershed.

Know how I’ve been rattling on for years about “combined sewer outfalls” and the problems presented to the ancient sewer system during rain events? Montauk Cutoff represents an opportunity to create a nearly four acre long green sponge that can drink up a significant amount of the storm water that carries garbage, grease, and poop into this water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Montauk Cutoff. This is a once in a generation opportunity to do something right for the environment in the ruined biome of Long Island City. Every elected official I’ve spoken to about this idea is “into it” although they haven’t made any public declarations yet (too early in the process to bring them in) and recently – Community Board 2’s environmental committee voted to support the use of these tracks as “green infrastructure.”

Want to get involved in the future of the Montauk Cutoff? As mentioned above, a “visioning meeting” which be taking place at LIC’s Nomad Cycle (47-10 Austell Pl, Queens, NY 11101) on December 2nd, between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

… down there?

with 4 comments

Second Avenue Subway, 72nd to 86th street, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As detailed in several posts last week, with today’s offering as capstone, I was invited to join with a group of photographers and reporters on a walk through of Phase One of th Second Avenue Subway project with MTA President of Capital Construction Michael Horodniceanu. We entered the project at 63rd street, and walked all the way to 86th street, experiencing differing levels of “finish” as we went.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A constant issue encountered was the presence of other people, which bedevils me wherever I go, and efforts were made to move slowly and find myself at the rear of the group in order to attain “clean shots” of the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

86th street was far and away the least developed section we encountered, and work on the actual tracked hadn’t progressed much past foundations. Platforms were still under construction as well. When invited to come along, MTA personnel had warned that at the end of the trip, we would have to “climb a 130 step staircase.” One was a bit worried about the “climb” designation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As it turns out, I was right to worry about that word “climb.” Some anonymous laborer had scrawled the graffito “heart attack ridge” on the temporary landing and by the time a humble narrator had achieved that height, a heart attack felt like it was a real possibility. As my grandmother would have said – I couldn’t stop shvitzing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nevertheless, I plodded up the steps with camera gear in tow, while wearing my heavy steel toe boots and “PPE.” At the landing, all of us old guys decided to take a breather.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A construction worker in his mid twenties admonished us that he did this flight of stairs several times a day, which tells you about the sort of fortitude it takes to wear a hard hat. Insult to injury was added when Donna Hanover came bounding up the stairs like a mountain goat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back at the surface, one avoided the Q&A section of the trip, and a hasty retreat back to Queens and my beloved Astoria was enacted. I had a speaking engagement on for the evening, discussing the Sunnyside Yards development plans with the United Forties Civic over on the Woodside/Sunnyside border, and needed to get home and shower off all the concrete dust and “shvitz.”

Tomorrow, something completely different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

…that might be…

with one comment

From somewhere under Manhattan, the Second Avenue Subway Series continues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were work lights arrayed within the deep, pushing back against the enveloping darkness. Happily, they were polychromatic, and provided one with an interesting series of contrasts. Additionally, a flash gun was employed in the capture of some of these images, an evil necessitated by lighting conditions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This section of track, which had been continuously installed in the tunnels from our starting point at 63rd street, led into a complex of chambers which will one day be the 72nd street station. One noticed that electrical equipment was already installed. This spot would likely be around 70th street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The design of the Second Avenue Subway passenger stations is distinct from the older sections of the system, there were no steel beams hanging down from the ceiling for instance. The stations take the shape of a series of flattened cylinders with cathedral like interiors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The gaggle of photographers and press people whom one had joined were directed to follow the tracks as we walked north, more than 100 feet below the surface of the Shining City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In this section, the roadbed hadn’t been installed yet, and prefabricated sections of the tracks were simply placed. Notice the rebar nest underlying the sections, into which concrete will be pumped, which will provide the firm footing for the river of trains which will flow through here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My strategy of staying at the back of the group paid off several times, this shot is looking southward towards the section we had just traversed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual 72nd street, lower level, station appeared. There’s that rack thingamabob pointed out at the 63rd street station, which is designed to allow water to flow without destroying the “finish” tiles which will be attached to it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The group was directed to climb the stairs up to the upper level.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is where the scale of this project really began to come into view.

More Second Avenue Subway walk through shots in tomorrow’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 30, 2015 –
The Skillman Corridor with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –  SOLD OUT
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 28, 2015 at 11:00 am

…all that there is…

with 3 comments

Second Avenue Subway, continues in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one managed to attach himself to the press tour offered by the estimable MTA Press Office of its under construction facilities of the Second Avenue Subway project.

Part of largish band of reporters and photographers, one grew increasingly annoyed at the inability to capture a shot of the tunnels sans evidence of humans.

Bother.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The atmosphere in this newly carven intestine of the Megalopolis was actually a bit on the warm side, but not uncomfortably so, and no unpleasant nor mephitic odors were encountered in any abundance. Curing concrete coupled with a somewhat static and dusty air mass contributed to bodily perspiration, however, a process exacerbated by the requirements for wearing “PPE” or “Personal Protective Equipment” insisted on by the work site management.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vests and construction hats, as well as safety glasses, were gladly offered by our hosts on this trip to the underground world. Required dress code also included long pants, and sleeves, as well as heavy boots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Such precautions are standard going when visiting active industrial sites, in ones’ own experience, and a sturdy pair of steel toe boots are part of my personal arsenal of equipment. These are not the most comfortable shoes in the world, but the so called “steel toes” did provide me with a bit of prevaricating logic that explained to the MTA handlers why I seemed to be lagging along at the rear end of the group.

“Still breaking them in” uttered a humble narrator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A fascinating ideation was rattling about in my thoughts, namely that after a lifetime of avoiding a situation wherein I would find myself standing on the tracks of some Subway, here I was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One other fellow seemed to be thinking like me, hanging a little further back than me. He didn’t seem to be feigning a slight limp as I was, but there you go. The head of this press snake was pretty far ahead of us by this point, and we were asked to “catch up.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For my part at least, the request was answered, and soon I was back in a crowd of reflective vests, hard hats, and flashing cameras.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One bent over to retie the laces of the “steel toe” boots, which allowed a plausible reason for dallying. I found myself at the end of the line, walking along with the tour’s “sweeper.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One decided to retie the other boot as well, out of an abundance of caution.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s the little things which make me happy. 

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 30, 2015 –
The Skillman Corridor with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –  SOLD OUT
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 27, 2015 at 11:00 am

Who can guess…

with 2 comments

Lords and Ladies, the Second Avenue Subway project…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lucky, that’s me.

Persistent, that’s me as well, and I’ve been bugging/begging the MTA to allow me to wave the camera around at the Second Avenue Subway project for quite a little while now. Graciously, they invited me along for a press excursion that occurred on May 21 of this year. The fellow pictured above is Michael Horodniceanu, and he’s the President of Capital Construction for the MTA – the boss.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were a sizable number of sharp elbowed reporters in the group, including the former First Lady of NYC, Donna Hanover. She seemed nice.

One made an early decision, based on a hunch that since the presence of my fellow photographers was going to be an integral part of this experience, that I’d make sure to photograph the photographers while they photographed.

from wikipedia

The Second Avenue Subway (officially the IND Second Avenue Line; abbreviated to SAS) is a long-envisioned rapid transit subway line, part of the New York City Subway system. As of 2014, Phase I, a new line between the existing BMT 63rd Street Line and 96th Street and Second Avenue, is under construction beneath Second Avenue in the borough of Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The whole mob of us followed Michael Horodniceanu deep into the F station at 63rd street, and proceeded down to the lowest of platforms. The MTA folks opened the gates for us, so there was no need to swipe my Metrocard. Score!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Second Avenue Subway project entrance was along the F platform, where commuters encounter a plywood partition separating them from the show. A door was opened, and the gaggle of reporters followed Michael Horodniceanu and his cohort of contractors (and assorted MTA folks) through it.

from wikipedia

Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street is a two-level station shared by the IND and BMT 63rd Street Lines of the New York City Subway. Located at the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 63rd Street, it is served by the F train at all times. Downtown and Brooklyn-bound trains use the upper level, and Queens-bound trains use the lower level. The original wall tiles installed in this station were red-orange; currently, there are beige-white wall tiles, which replaced the orange wall tiles because of the construction for the Second Avenue Subway. There are a total of ten escalators, six staircases and two elevators. Two additional staircases between the platform levels are at the eastern end of platforms, past the elevator.

The station’s upper level is 140 feet (43 m) deep, making the station among the system’s deepest. This depth is because it has to go under the IRT Lexington Avenue Line and other existing infrastructure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the actual 63rd street station, which is quite far along. There’s track, for instance, and the far wall is sporting some actual finishes. The MTA didn’t use tile, to avoid the maintenance costs experienced whenever water infiltrates behind it. Instead, the wall has a sort of rack on it, and the “tiles” clip on to it leaving a bit of leeway for flowing liquids to find their way to drains.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seemed like electrical and HVAC work was still underway, and there was a staircase under construction on the platform as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It wasn’t the thrill of photographing a subway station platform that lured me down here, however titillating that prospect might be…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This MTA tour allowed us to walk the actual tunnel, from 63rd to 86th streets. That’s what brought me here, and over the next several days, Lords and Ladies, you’ll see what I saw. Like today’s rather photo heavy post, the next few days will bring you sights and scenes from the darkness below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the “old school” staircase found at the end of the platforms has been done away with in these Second Avenue Subway stations, and we were shuffled into a line that entered a small antechamber at the edge of the public arena.

Soon, we found ourselves “behind the curtain.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A small flight of stairs, somewhat crowded, and all the latest offerings from Nikon and Canon were brandished about. iPhone and GoPro alike were deployed, and the flashes began to pop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down on the actual tracks, and looking back towards the 63rd street station, the point of no return on this journey into an oneirontic darkness carven from the belly of Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tomorrow, and for the rest of the week, you’ll be seeing Second Avenue Subway images, at this – your Newtown Pentacle. Remember, I go to these places so that you don’t have to.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 30, 2015 –
The Skillman Corridor with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –  SOLD OUT
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

corporeal tenement

with 2 comments

Wind, snow, rats, egg rolls, fear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting visualization of the locations where rats were reported in 2014 in the City of Greater New York, as presented by the Village Voice, was reviewed over the weekend. The health department and the writer of the piece focused in on the seeming correlation between the addresses of Chinese restaurants and the location of rat colonies. Officialdom and the Voice writer speculated on whether or not the rodents have a preference for Chinese take out. When viewing the map, I couldn’t help but notice that the shape of the rat infestations closely mirrored that of the NYC Subway system. Follow the critters through Queens, and you can trace out the path of the R/M, 7, and F lines rather neatly. Same thing with Brooklyn, where you can trace out the G tunnels. Just saying… these restaurants are either located above subway tunnels or are nearby the entrances to the system.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personal observation of the Chinese restaurants here in Astoria, a few of which are on the Voice map, reveals that the owners of these establishments consider the corner sewer drain as a handy receptacle for the issuance of both fryer oil and the emptying of mop buckets. Rats love fatty foods (who doesn’t, after all?) and hang around the local sewer interceptors and underground vaults knowing that the good stuff will be coming soon. Thing is, my belief is that these sorts of anecdotes are coincidental to the real issue of where the rats are coming from – which are the MTA tunnels.

Ask anyone who lives in public housing – the worst landlord in the City of New York is actually the City of New York, which passes strict rules and enacts a series of fines on the citizenry to enforce them, rules which it does not find itself obliged to follow. Show me a New Yorker who hasn’t seen a rat in the Subway and I will declare them a one percenter who normally gets around town in the back seat of a limo. Show me an apartment house owner with black mold on the walls and no available heat or hot water, who never gets fined, and I’ll automatically tell you the owner is the City of New York.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the snow finishes falling, look around tomorrow. You’ll be able to discern which properties in your neighborhood are owned and operated by the City simply by noticing which sidewalks haven’t been shoveled (with the exception of schools, courthouses, and anything within camera range of Manhattan’s City Hall). These City owned stretches of pavement will remain covered in snow, which will shortly compact down into a plate of milky colored, rotting, wet ice that will persist until the spring thaw. Sadly, many of these spots will surround Subway stations and bus stops. This is one of the things which “I don’t get” as even the Soviet Commisars acknowledged that they had certain responsibilities to the Proletariat. The connection between high volume restaurants and rats is actually a correlation of the proximity of these establishments to Subway infrastructure. Dealing with NYC’s rat infestation should begin with that which connects us all – the subway tunnels. Then, we should work our way up to the surface and blame the Chinese restaurants.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

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