The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘New York City

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It’s National Escargot Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is fairly crispy around the edges, and in a state best described as “too little butter scraped over too much bread.” The ridiculous schedule I’ve been keeping throughout the months of April and May is beginning to wear me down a bit, and I’ve got literally thousands of photos to process and deliver to various entities. Busy is good, admittedly, but “man alive” do I need a day or two off.

Pictured above is one of the Cormorant breeding/habitat stands which are observable beneath the Bayonne Bridge, at the intersection of the Kill Van Kull and Newark Bay

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, it’s the dog who suffers. Poor Zuzu the dog didn’t get out for her slow motion walk last night until after midnight. She’s a bit pissed off at me, my dog. Saying that, she was quite engaged with the late night sniffing, probably because every other dog in the neighborhood had already taken care of business and every tree pit was redolent with their scents and “pee mail.”

Pictured above, the spring blossoms of a tree you might observe on the corner of 45th street and 34th avenue in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s entirely likely that, as we descend into the madness of a holiday weekend, you’re going to be greeted with single image posts tomorrow, Friday, and Monday, so apologies are offered. My services have been engaged by one of the local newspapers to photograph the Maspeth Memorial Day parade on Sunday, incidentally, so if you’re there and you see some weird looking old guy with a camera and a Newtown Creek Alliance hat, say hi.

Pictured above, a double entendre laden bit of signage from Third Avenue in Manhattan. If you don’t know the street slang meaning of “Toss my salad” I’d suggest you google it, as this is a family blog.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm

subaqueous civilization 

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It’s National Taffy Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The camera was desperate for an adventure last week, so a humble narrator acquiesced and took it out on the water for the Working Harbor Committee‘s Education tour. The Education tour is a private event, a boat trip which is conducted for school groups that culminates a program of classroom instruction on the subject of the harbor of New York and New Jersey. There’s a lot of great jobs at the Port, and for some reason most New Yorkers don’t consider it an option when they’re looking for work.

It ain’t just longshoremen or sailor type stuff either, as Ed Kelly from the Maritime Association and Andrew Genn from the NYC EDC explained to the hundred or so high school students who were onboard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, one had to cross through the cursed earth of Manhattan to get to the WHC boat at Pier 11, which is roughly in line with Governeur Lane down in the financial district. This was in the midst of that sudden three day heat wave last week, so rather than walk in to town from Astoria or take the Ferry from LIC (my preference for such excursions) I just jumped on the subway. Why it takes so long to get from “a to b” these days is a complete mystery to me, as the trip ultimately resolves down to around 8 miles.

The good news is that on the way home, I used the Citywide ferry service to return to the blessed and heavy metals rich soil of Queens. I’m planning on hitting the new Rockaway Route soon, btw, as soon as my schedule allows it. It has been a very, very busy month of May for a humble narrator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the new Citywide Ferry service, I still haven’t ridden on one of the new Hornblower model ferries. The one that met me for the trip home was an older but super reliable NY Waterways version, the model which has been servicing the East River route for several years now. While the boat was making its regular stops, I spotted this little push boat tug towing a barge which had a crane set upon it. Couldn’t resist popping out a few shots of the thing.

The camera slept well that night, after having gotten some exercise and a bit of a workout on the water.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 7 p.m.

An hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

thermal valence

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It’s National Vanilla Pudding Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had a just few available minutes last week for perambulation, which I decided to spend wandering around Astoria. It has been a rather busy period for me, with lots and lots of events which saw me either standing in front of cameras instead of behind them (where I belong), or in meetings discussing sobering issues related to either Newtown Creek or the increasingly dire transit situation here in Western Queens. Looming infrastructure crisis notwithstanding, the interests of the real estate industry continue to dominate discourse hereabouts, as you may discern from the shot above.

This is the scene as witnessed across the street from Hallets Cove, where Astoria itself was created – in the dim colonial era past – and where a new series of residential towers will soon rise, thanks to the provocation of a group of politically relevant Manhattan based investors who have decided to tie napkins around their necks and feast at the trough. This is somehow apropo, as the name of “Astoria” was conceived in an vainglorious attempt to garner the favor and investment of Mr. John Jacob Astor – who was himself an 18th century real estate tycoon. Some things never change.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dead things abound in the Newtown Pentacle, skeletonized and worm infested. Metaphorical totems of the community members who can afford housing hereabouts whom are being displaced in the name of creating affordable housing, that’s my high brow and faux intellectual comment on these omnipresent corpses. Of course, who needs to listen to some shmuck with a camera’s opinions about a dead pigeon when there’s money to be made.

The question I always ask the planners, engineers, and developers when they wheel out their grand plans and PowerPoint presentations to Queens, in order to hash off a check box requiring a community presentation is “Where do you live?”. All they know of us, our community, and the local situation is what they know from maps that are spread out on the varnished cabinetry tabletops which are found in the air conditioned offices of lower Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having worked in advertising for many years, one can tell you that there’s certain lines of “copy” which I’ve dreamt of setting. “Please Do Not Climb on the Goats” is one of those lines, and this bit of hilarious signage was observed at the Socrates Sculpture Garden Park on Vernon Blvd. nearby its intersection with Broadway.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 7 p.m.

An hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 22, 2017 at 11:40 am

oblique realizations

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It’s National Chicken Nuggets Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, obligation found one heading into accursed Manhattan.

As is my habit, I stare at the sidewalk whilst walking through the Shining City lest its gaudy lures and attractions infect or tempt me. Of course, given my predilection and interest involving manhole – or access – covers, this habit often pays out certain dividends for the wandering and historically minded mendicant.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted along the Hudson River just north of Houston Street, a fairly old (as indicated by its shape) access cover for the Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Company. It’s an electrical one, as indicated by the hatch marks.

Part of the modern day Consolidated Edison company, Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Company was organized in 1885 with the intention of moving overhead carrier wires off of utility poles and then burying them in subterranean conduits which wiggle about beneath the streets. I would presume that Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Company was brought into the larger CONED conglomerate back in 1913, along with a bunch of other smaller companies and systems, but that’s just an educated guess.

from caselaw.findlaw.com

In the year 1884, the legislature of the state of New York required that ‘all telegraph, telephonic, and electric light wires’ in certain cities-New York and Brooklyn-should be placed under the surface of the streets (Laws of 1884, chap. 534). Under the authority of a statute passed in the next year (Laws of 1885, chap. 499, amended by Laws of 1886, chap. 503), the board of commissioners of electric subways adopted a plan by which the city of New York should enter into a contract with a company to construct the necessary subways, etc., which other companies operating electrical wires should be compelled to use, paying therefor a reasonable rent. Under contracts made accordingly and ratified by the legislature ( Laws of 1887, chap. 716), subways, etc., were constructed by the Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in the Greenwich Village section, this similarly ancient sewer hatch was observed, bearing the screed of “Borough of Manhattan – Bureau of Sewers.” Now, here’s how you “do some of the math” on these things: “Borough” indicates that it dates back to no earlier than 1898 when the consolidated City of Greater New York introduced the concept of the five boroughs to the world. My guess would be that this hatch was placed sometime between 1898 and 1910. You’ll also notice that the identifying system seen on the more modern manholes covers is absent, which would require hexagons as part of the design to indicate its purpose as a wastewater pipe. 

As I’ve said before – Federal Roadway regulations state a preference for State and Local governments to either replace an access cover with an exact copy from the original foundry, or just leave the old one in place. This means, since most of these things were put in place before the World Wars of the early 20th century, there are iron or steel discs adorning the “via publica” which can tell the tale of Municipal organization, consolidation, dissolution, and indeed gentrification which are scattered about and barely noticed by most.

A precursor agency of the modern day DEP was the Borough of Manhattan – Bureau of Sewers. The DEP was formed in 1983 during a City Charter revision, incidentally, consolidating several independent bureaucracies into one massive agency that handles the delivery of potable water to the City, the operations and maintenance of the storm water and sanitary sewers, and a bunch of stuff that doesn’t involve getting wet – like noise complaints, air issues, chemical spills, all those sorts of things.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

wide remark

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It’s National Cheese Souflee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So far, I’ve never tired of seeing the old Koscisuzcko Bridge from the roadway of the new one, but then again its only been around three weeks that the thing has been open. One is curious as to the reactions all of y’all have had at the sight of the new span, how it’s been working out for you so far, all that sort of thing. I’m on the Stakeholders Advisory Committee, so if there’s something specific or pithy you’d want me to bring to officialdom, let me know and I’ll pass it on to the powers that be.

Today’s first two shots were captured from behind the windshield of a car, in case you’re wondering. What I was doing in an automobile, of all things, is something which I’ll tell you about in a future post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The driver of the car I was in is one of my neighbors from back here in Astoria, if you’re curious, but I had engaged his services in the context of his being a professional and TLC licensed driver. Again, I’ll tell you why I needed a ride at a later date. Our path didn’t just include a crossing of the Koscisuzcko Bridge, but also involved a trip into the City as well. That’s the Roosevelt Island Tram hurtling over the Queensboro Bridge, pictured above. Very exciting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weeks ago, I conducted a Newtown Creek tour for a group of European college students, and my pals at Sims Metal Management were gracious enough to allow the group to visit the Newtown Creek Pier facility maintained by the recycling company. Sims has a contract with DSNY to handle the “MGP” or “metal, plastic, glass” recyclable trash we put out on the curb, and they were engaged in the process of collecting it from the white packer trucks maintained by the agency for the task. The stuff ultimately gets barged out to another Sims facility, where it’s sorted.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

parenthetical ideation

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It’s National Barbecue Day, in these United States. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s no secret that we live in an age of real estate mega development, and that the skyline of NYC has been undergoing massive changes which we haven’t seen the like of since the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Unfortunately, so much of what is being built is uninspiring, and banal. Glass rectangles designed to maximize profit which offer no sense of wonder, inspiration, or esthetic joy. 

The exception to this modern rule is actually found in Manhattan, where what I consider to be the most interesting new building in NYC is found. It’s on West 57th street at the Hudson River – Bjarke Ingels’ W57. Check out this article at the Atlantic for all the details on it. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been watching this one go up from the water for a couple of years now, and it’s made me think a bit. I’m in a constant argument with both friends and enemies over rhetorical tone and grammar when it comes to political terminology. “Gentrification” is a bugbear word for me, especially when it refers to LIC or Greenpoint. What’s going on there isn’t gentrification – we haven’t coined a name for what’s happening along the East River coast of Long Island, yet. 

What happened in East Harlem and Park Slope in the 90’s – that was “gentrification.” Similarly, there’s no such thing as a “liberal” or a “conservative” or a “progressive” anymore, our culture is just stuck in a grammatical paradigm which was coined by an earlier generation (one which refuses to retire, much like the so called establishment it sought to replace in the 60’s)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Where NYC architects went wrong was the embrace of inhuman and emotionless architecture like the so called “international style,” which imparted a soulless and somewhat fascist countenance to the city. Ask a native New Yorker, and we will always point to the Chrysler, Empire State, and Woolworth buildings as the ones to embrace. Soulful and inspiring, these sorts of mega structures are loved and welcomed by communities rather than reviled. 

Hopefully, W57 will offer a lesson and act as a harbinger to the real estate shit flies out there. It’s not some “NIMBY” sentiment which activates community protests against their projects, rather it’s about avoiding the building of yet another banal glass rectangle whose singular purpose is “stealing the sky.” 


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

needling comments

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It’s National Chocolate Chip Day, in these United States.  

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s never quiet, here in the western Queens neighborhood of Astoria. I’ve found myself referring to the sudden explosions of noise and activity simply as “Astoria Hullabaloos.” Ever the curious type, one has inquired into the scholastic hive mind and it seems that the word “hullabaloo” was first noticed by the Oxford English Dictionary back in 1762. It is defined by the aforementioned authority as an uproar or a fuss, and the general consensus amongst linguists is that the British picked it up during their adventures on the Indian subcontinent during that era. The Indian root word would be “Hullabol” which refers to a particularly ecstatic civic demonstration. The “Hulla” part is thought to come from Persian and Urdu, while the “Bol” is thought to emanate from Hindi. 

See, you learn something new everyday, at this – your Newtown Pentacle. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular hullabaloo pictured in today’s post seemed to be electrical in nature, with a crew of laborers firstly closing a curbside lane along the north side of Astoria’s Broadway, and then tearing open the street. The effect on traffic was immediate, and the ripple effect transmitted up and down Broadway for several blocks in both directions. Both the stout Croats, and strong backed Spaniards, stuck in this traffic situation loudly signaled their disapproval with a steady cacophony of automotive horn bleats.

One does not understand the “standing on your horn” thing. A “toot” or a “beepity beep beep” yes, but “wharrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn?” Seriously? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is often the nature of efforts such as this, whatever mystery these construction fellows were sent to accomplish was wrapped up by about four in the afternoon, and the next morning another crew arrived who filled in the excavation and applied a fresh layer of asphalt to the road. The everpresent Burrachos drunkenly returned to their perches atop residential stoop and commercial step, indolent adolescent groups began to prowl about again, and the normal pattern of life here in Western Queens returned. The car horn honking continued on, however, unabated – which is as mentioned – normal for these parts. 

That’s the great thing about a hullabaloo, it seldom lasts more than a day, here amongst the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 15, 2017 at 11:00 am

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