The Newtown Pentacle

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common tongues

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The angle between…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a long time, I’ve been using the term “angle” to describe those spots which form the borders of neighborhoods in Western Queens, which are actually historic remnants of the pre consolidated City of Greater New York. One of them is found where the steel of the elevated IRT Flushing line sweeps off of Queens Blvd. and instead overflies Roosevelt Avenue. This is the former border of Long Island City’ Middleburgh (alternatively LIC Heights) and the town of Woodside, and is today the border of the neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Woodside. Recent endeavor found a humble narrator negotiating his way home well after midnight, and just as it was starting to rain.

What sucked was that I didn’t have an umbrella.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I posted the shot above to a couple of my social media accounts, so sorry if you’re seeing it twice, but I stand by the text that accompanied it declaring that NYC looks best when it’s wet. Given my lack of an umbrella, and the startling amount of electronic devices affixed to my person, some care was exercised in my path down Queens Blvd. in the pursuit of not becoming soaked by the sudden downpour. There’s two ways to do this – one is to walk so fast that you’re actually dodging raindrops (which is illogical and doesn’t actually work), and the other is to utilize the “rain shadow” offered by the built environment. It had been around eight hours since my last meal at this particular moment, and given that I wasn’t going to be hitting the sack until the wee hours of the morning, the only option available at the particular time involved a fast food chain. Lemmee tell ya, Lords and Ladies, the denizens of the City who inhabit fast food restaurants after midnight in Sunnyside are an interesting demographic.

My high fat and calorie hamburger consumed (have you noticed what the fast food people consider a “small” coke is these days?), and with the rain actually having intensified, I decided to hire a taxi for the short jaunt across the Sunnsyide Yards and back to HQ in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having grown up in a solidly blue collar section of Brooklyn, my first instinct is always to support the working people rather than big corporations. That’s how I found myself standing in a bus shelter and trying to hail a cab. For the last couple of years, I’ve had a taxi app – Lyft – on my phone which I’ve been using for the occasional cab ride. I like it because the cab comes to me, and given the weird places and transit deserts like industrial Maspeth that I spend my time you’re not going to have many opportunities for street hails so Lyft is my go to for those sorts of spots. Queens Blvd. and 40th street, however? Use a yellow or green cab, one will be by in a minute or two. That’s what I thought, and when a yellow cab pulled up and rejected any other destination but Manhattan, I was reminded why I don’t care about the dying medallion cab industry nor its asshole drivers. Yellow cab drivers in particular would seem to prefer it if they just rolled down the window for you to throw money into the front seat before they spit at you and drive away.

I fired up the Lyft app and was home in about ten minutes.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 15, 2019 at 1:30 pm

present bungalow

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Flushing Bay, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week I attended a meeting thrown by the NYC Parks Dept. detailing their $35 million dollar upgrades to the World Fair Marina in Flushing Bay. The plans involved relocating and rebuilding one of the docks, installing a new facility house and refueling dock, and installing a bunch of new street furniture on the public sections of the marina (benches, lamp posts etc.) It was my kind of meeting, truth be told, where the government people deliver their information in a punchy and well organized fashion, and public commentary is offered in a businesslike and terse fashion. My main interest in attending revolves around a long term bit of advocacy for Newtown Creek’s Queens shoreline which I’ve been working on, namely the creation of a similar marina on the Newtown Creek coastline Long Island City, and I wanted to take a look at “how it’s done” in the modern era.

Afterwards, a bit of time was spent outside with the camera and tripod, shooting into foggy darkness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just like the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, the NYC DEP has been experimenting with the installation and planting of greenery, specifically Saw Grasses, in the littoral zones at Flushing Bay. Littoral means the intertidal area of the shoreline, and they’re engaged in the project for the same reasons that they are at Newtown Creek – mitigating the long term environmental consequences of an abundance of their Combined Sewer Outfalls on the waterway. DEP, or the New York City Department of Environmental Protection if you must, inherited a messy combination of underground pipes from precursor agencies when their organization was created during a 1983 City charter revision, many of which were installed in a hodge podge manner and prior to the Federal Clean Water act.

Due to the outfalls, a lot of raw sewage has historically found its way into area waterways, and the section of Flushing Bay nearby LaGuardia Airport and the World Fair Marina is notoriously and reliably smelly. The creation of these engineered wetlands is an attempt to harness the curative powers and mechanisms of nature in pursuance of fixing a manmade problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the section of the north shore of Queens which isn’t forbidden, as a note. There’s a NYC Parks property which sits between the water and the Grand Central Parkway called the Flushing Bay Promenade. It’s 1.4 miles long, starts at the equivalent of 27th avenue, and is a modern addition to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park facility whose creation was funded by the NYC DEP in return for Parks allowing them to build a sewer retention tank in the main park.

When it warms up a bit, I plan on bringing the camera back out here to the promenade and do some exploring.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

dark speculation

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Ghosts, wolf ghosts, ghost teenagers, bears, witches, black mold, paranoia, vampires…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post are from a different night than the one I felt threatened by teenagers passing by, but still did a humble narrator lurk in fear. This time around, I found myself a couple of blocks from the future Amazon campus, an area which I’m trying to form a photographic record of before the furnaces of the real estate industry are fully stoked in response to the so called HQ2. Luckily for me, there was virtually no one about in this area after dark, but I can report that nearly every one of the squat industrial buildings found hereabouts bore a vinyl sign that read “available” followed by specific information leading one to a realtor’s name and phone number.

These vinyl signs are generally the “buboes” of a forthcoming plague of construction activity in Western Queens and North Brooklyn. It has begun, again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is one of those areas where you can go knock on a door looking for work, rather than submitting a resume to some automated system. HR is usually a mid 40’s woman named Esther or Shirly, and you get to work before the sun comes up most days, but get out at four in the afternoon. The job don’t pay well, but if you’re new to speaking English or just knocked your girlfriend up, this is the sort of thing you have to do to pay the bills. These are the jobs which will be extinguished by the coming of Amazon and the white collar economy of Manhattan.

If you’re one of the people who counted on finding a job, any job, and you don’t “know someone” you can just go to New Jersey or something. Neither the “Dark Prince of Albany” nor the “Dope from Park Slope” give two shits about you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Adolescents are real, and scary. So are political hacks. Saying that, I prefer my little world of eldritch horror and ghostly influences to the real world in Queens these days. At least monsters like vampires can be done away with by jamming a stake in their hearts and they don’t keep on getting reelected, or climbing the career ladder to new and higher positions. Ever feel like a rat trapped in a maze? I often do.

Pfah.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 10, 2019 at 11:00 am

inordinate amounts

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Souring the milk, one day at a time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While hiding amongst the barren streetscape of industrial LIC from cadres of both ghostly and living adolescents, as well as a cohort of spectral forest animals, one found the time to crack out a few shots. When my nervous state emerges, solace is often found operating the camera. The technical aspect of it all pulls me back from the edge of madness, calms my frayed and often unctuous nerves, and allows me to lurk about in a normal rather than heightened level of fear. There’s a societal impulse to be afraid all the time these days, despite the fact that NYC is probably the “safest” it’s been in centuries.

Ask anyone. There’s pederasts hiding behind every tree waiting for an unwary parent to turn their back. Terrorists are everywhere, as are foreign born cartels of murder happy characters. Every employee of every corporation is working on new ways to give you cancer, defraud you, or conspiring to “sell your information.” Knife wielding pistoleros will addict you to amphetamines if you leave the house unarmed, and pistol wielding knifers will road rage you. Even University campuses aren’t safe anymore, with frequent bloody brawls occurring between pro and anti fascist, or so the Internet tells me. Your only hope seems to be in the embrace of the badged reverend in blue, who are the priestly class of an elected officialdom that are your only hope for succor before the descending curtain of a new dark age. They’ll protect you from all of these existential threats, the politicians will, unless they’ve been paid not to by a shadowy cabal of landlords who want you to move away. Your home isn’t safe either, as there’s black mold. Black mold is scarier than regular mold, because you know… black… which reveals that racism underlies everything. All is false, nothing is true, and there’s just no point so you might as well just accept it all and bunker down.

Ghosts. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cognitive dissonance sells laundry detergent. Paranoid wonderings are fantastic fodder for people who sell security cameras and padlocks. Distraction and distrust of “the other,” who is everybody not as smart as you (who is everyone but you), are the best marketing gimmick of all time. Can you trust yourself? Our societal theater is crowded, and all are shouting fire, but nothing is actually burning. A humble narrator, however, who spends as much time as possible alone, asks this:

Are you so hungry you’d eat dirt, or haven’t had access to clean water for a long time? Have you ever experienced famine? Have you experienced drumfire artillery fired at your city? Are the teenaged packs of foreign born nationals in your nightmares just walking around and acting like dumbasses, or are they child soldiers riding around on a pickup truck that was modified to carry automatic weaponry on a mount? Are outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever common in your neighborhood?

Alternatively, do your biggest problems involve being overweight or spending too much money? Are you experiencing boredom since you’ve watched everything on Netflix already? That you’re worried about a nagging bit of nerve pain in your ass, caused by sitting around watching TV? How many violent attacks have you had to defend yourself from lately?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ghost teenagers stayed with me, but luckily I was able to lose the living ones in a maze of streets called Long Island City. On this particular evening, I had finally finished the audiobook I was listening to, which was “The Great Bridge” by David McCollough. Starting with the shot above, I started “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson, who is one of my all time favorite authors. That’s the one where the world is overrun by a plague of vampires and is told from the perspective of a “LMOE” or Last Man on Earth. It’s been adapted to film three times, with the first one (Last Man on Earth) starring Vincent Price being the best version in my opinion. I have some fondness for the Charlton Heston version (Omega Man), and the less said about the Will Smith version the better. If you want to know about Vampires, however, hang out under either the Gowanus Expressway in Brooklyn, or the elevated tracks along Jackson Avenue nearby Queens Plaza, and you’ll get to meet some. It’s a fantastic exploration – ultimately – of loneliness and isolation, that book.

Ghosts, wolf ghosts, ghost teenagers, bears, witches, black mold, paranoia, vampires.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 9, 2019 at 2:05 pm

central figure

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Adolescent and Ghostly predation, it affects us all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrified by the sudden appearance of a group of teenagers, spotted while out for a recent nocturnal walk, a humble narrator embarked on a panic fueled scuttle across Long Island City seeking safe shelter from their probably malign notice. Convincing myself that they were indeed material and living creatures, rather than ghosts, my footsteps carried me into the upland industrial zone which separates the Degnon Terminal area surrounding the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek from residential Sunnyside and the lanes of shadow haunted Blissville. I pressed myself up against a factory window seeking help or shelter from the nearby adolescents, but like the key master

Really, you people have no idea how much fun it would be if you could listen to my inner dialogue. The voice(s) in my head are a freaking riot, one of them even sounds just like jackie mason doing the aardvark voice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the historic record, there used to be quite a wolf problem around these parts. So much so that the Dutch, and later English, authorities over in Manhattan offered a bounty for wolf pelts right up until the Revolutionary War. The folks who settled into the parcels around these parts were farmers, mostly, and were happy to reduce the population of predators roaming around what we call Long Island City. Why all the wolves? Lots of deer. Why all the deer? Deciduous forest land punctuated by grassy marshes, creeks, and swamps. Know what else there was a lot of? Bears.

So, is Long Island City teeming with the specters of deer, wolves, and bears (as well as ghost teenagers)? Oh my.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve done a lot of targetted research looking for witch panics in the colonial era of Long Island City and Maspeth. There’s a couple of interesting stories, but nothing too crazy. It seems that the farmers of Newtown were a fairly laconic bunch who didn’t go in for a lot of hysterical jumping about and ecstatic garment tearing – unlike the folks who settled in New England. Generally, I try to avoid targetted research about social trends like witch panics since you end up finding only what you want to find. As an example, I’m famously not a fan of the current Mayor of NYC, so anything I read about him or any the policies he enacts are automatically interpreted negatively. I’m not the guy who should write his biography, as I’d paint the seven year old De Blasio as a scheming and disingenuous first grader with ridiculous ambitions.

It’s an entirely unscientific approach, history wise, when you go hunting for something you want to find, as a note. You can approach the record from a number of different “forensic” points of view, (economic, social, technological etc.) but you’re not supposed to say “I’m looking for” and then comb through the old books looking for what you want to find or to prove some political point about the modern world you’re trying to make. Directed research introduces a confirmation bias and you end up cherry picking the facts to prove your postulate, ignoring those which disprove it, in the same manner that a Prosecutor builds a case against the accused in court. Historical events can be interpreted through the various filters mentioned above, but what happened is what happened. This is something I learned while writing about Newtown Creek here at your Newtown Pentacle.

Ghosts, wolf ghosts, ghost teenagers, bears, witches.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 8, 2019 at 2:35 pm

averring that

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Lurking, in fear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, I was a bit restless and in need of some exercise, so a short scuttle ensued. As I was making my way, a group of adolescents was noticed walking on the other side of the street which induced a state of panic in me. Was this a wolf pack? Juvenile delinquents? An amoral band of street gypsies, or urban privateers? Junior stick up men? Cowering behind a cast off cardboard box, I noticed that a few new holes had appeared in the fencelines at the Sunnyside Yards and one decided to pass the behind the box time spent hiding from the teenagers by sticking my lens through these new chain link apertures.

Teenagers are scary. I was cold, and I think there might have been wolves – or ghost wolves – following me. Ghost wolves are scarier than either teenagers or regular wolves because… y’know… ghosts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards from the 39th street or Harold Avenue viaduct, towards the balloon track at Sunnyside Yards. No ghosts are apparent in this shot, but that’s no guarantee that there wasn’t some spectral tomb legion staring back up at me from the oily mud below. I’ve repeatedly asked my landlord if anybody has ever died in my apartment, but he’s always pretended that he didn’t hear the query. It would explain some of the hot water issues enjoyed at HQ in Astoria, were there a few extra invisible people showering at inconvenient times in the other units, but I really have no way of knowing.

Supposedly, there’s about seven million people in NYC these days. Historically speaking, there’s got to be at least a quarter billion ghosts roaming around the five boroughs, maybe even half a billion. That’s a lot of ghosts. I wonder how many of the living seven million are teenagers, though, as that’s the population I really worry about. Ghosts have impulse control, teenagers don’t. Teenagers are the absolute worst.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ghost wolves are scary to contemplate, but what about ghost teenagers? I knew a few people who died in High School and college through a variety of mishaps – mainly car accidents or drug overdoses, or some combination thereof. How many people have checked out at the corner of Northern Blvd. and Steinway over the centuries? Ok, it’s only been Northern Blvd. for about eighty years and Steinway for just over a hundred and change, yes, so let’s just call it the intersection of Jackson and Harold Avenues? Ok?

Ghosts.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2019 at 1:00 pm

led by

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I’m not wearing a costume.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been taking care of all the existential stuff since the New Year started, as my personal world doesn’t start turning again until next week. Laundering, prescription filling, walking the camera about, drinking plenty of water – those are some of the items which have been at the top of my list. Last night I stopped by a community board meeting in Sunnyside for a few minutes, which was focused on responding to the Amazon news. Luckily I was there when an older gentleman made his public statement (having nothing to do with the subject of the day) and declared that he was older than the Triborough Bridge and he wanted all of Queens’ bridges to revert back to their original names. He asked if the Battery Tunnel takes you to Hugh or Carey. I loved him, instantly.

Pictured above is the scene in DUKBO, looking southwards towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They seem to be hard at work on the K-Bridge project, which is scheduled to open its second span sometime in the second or third quarter of the year. That’s the BQE they’re putting together in the shot above, specifically the new southbound lanes which will also host the pedestrian and bicycle path which I’ve been endlessly anticipating. I am likely going to spend an entire week camped out up there when it’s opened, with a passel of lenses both long and wide, getting every shot of Newtown Creek from high above that I possibly can.

I consider it lucky that the bridge replacement project has occurred on my watch, and that I’ve been documenting every stage of it from every possible angle for years now. I’ve even got a chunk of steel from the old bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The challenging part of visiting this spot, and the pathway which all those bike and pedestrian people have set out for them, is the terrifying “last mile” section which is owned by the City. This is the approach that spits you out onto 43rd street after walking on a sidewalk adjoining the onramp for the BQE, with nothing separating you from traffic other than a three inch curb. That’s Sunnyside’s 43rd street, incidentally, at Borden Avenue. The neighborhood has to get this sorted out before the bicycle fanatics notice it, I think.

Me? I’ve got to go pick up the laundry.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 4, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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