The Newtown Pentacle

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intense interest

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few odds and ends, in today’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

There’s nothing that somebody who works for the City hates more than being photographed while pursuing their occupation, and none moreso than the NYPD. Saying that, if you’re doing a traffic stop right in front of me while I’m hanging out with my pals at the neighborhood saloon… what’s a humble narrator to do? Constitutionally speaking y’all have less of a right to privacy in the public sphere than the rest of us do because you’re wearing that blue suit and sporting the badge, and the inherent lack of privacy that all of us suffer when out in public is the constitutionally justified reason y’all can get away with hanging surveillance cameras and speed trap gizmos on lamp posts.

Big brother? Little Brother? All part of one big happy, and quite paranoid, family.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same corner in Astoria, different day, and a DSNY garbage truck was experiencing mechanical problems. You don’t see tow trucks of the type pictured above too often… well… I do, but most don’t. I didn’t stick around too long to watch them towing the truck back to 58th street and the garage found at the angle between Woodside and Maspeth.

I had somewhere to be, people to see, politicians and officials to annoy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down in Hunters Point one night, as I was passing by the LIRR yard, I noticed this cool bit of kit. My surmise, based on the sort of tools that the gizmo sported in its front end, was that this was a track maintenance mechanism. It had what looked like two claws that stuck out of the front which were positioned pretty close to where the steel tracks are found.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 22, 2017 at 12:00 pm

shrewd questioning

with 2 comments

It’s National Pecan Cookie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last few days, a humble narrator has carried you around Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville section. As mentioned, I always have at least one ulterior motive or backup plan involving anything I do. My purpose in coming here was to walk out the route which I was going to guide a group around the place via during a walking tour, refamiliarizing myself with sight lines and “rehearsing” as it were. Along the way, however, there was so much to see that the camera was clicking and whirring away as I walked through the ancient polyandrion.

My ulterior motive today was to document the current phase of the demolition of the old Koscisuzcko Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long time readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you that this bridge replacement project has been explored before.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – 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. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Here’s a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’s some night shots from early July of 2017. Finally – Here’s a series of posts focusing in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “explosive” or “energetic demolition” of the remainders of the old bridge was originally meant to happen this Sunday the 24th of September, but for a variety of reasons – including the high winds and weather induced by Hurricane Jose out in the Atlantic Ocean – the NYS DOT engineers decided to reschedule the event for a later date.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the meantime, Breeze Demolition is wrenching and prying anything off of the structure that they can.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The idea, essentially, is to lessen the amount of material which will hit the ground during the so called energetic demolition. This reduces the chances of “flyaway” debris and seismic shock, and will quicken the reopening of area streets in Greenpoint and Maspeth afterwards. From what I’ve been told by the DOT, once the charges go off, the entire mass of the old bridge will drop in its own footprint. The point of removing what they can by conventional means involves reducing the seismic “hit” of having more than a mile of steel and concrete falling all at once.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All over the old roadway, giant mechanical “insects” are chewing and chipping away at the old bridge. As the bits are removed – and these bits can weigh multiple tons, as a note – they are sent off to be recycled.

As has always been the case with this bridge project, the NYS DOT is being strangely cryptic about the recycling operation, and unwilling to discuss it in any sort of detail. Why they act like this thing is a state secret…

Honestly… do you think ANYTHING happening along Newtown Creek can be kept a secret from ME?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pfft

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So… the following Saturday after the Calvary Walking Tour, I was doing a private tour for group of students from NYU while wearing my Newtown Creek Alliance hat. As it happens, I was able to arrange for our party to visit the Sims Metal Management LIC Dock so that they could understand the recycling process in a tangible manner.

Sims Metal Management is big on education – it’s a baked in part of the mission at their Sunset Park facility for instance – but the LIC location is a fairly dangerous industrial site with giant machines whizzing about and hundreds of tons of various recyclable materials stacked up. These guys and gals who work here toss around crushed cars in as seemingly casual a fashion as you would throw a napkin into the trash – and the only reason that can do this routinely and without killing each other is care, practice, and long experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The site manager met us at the gates of Sims, which is at the end of a long and quite dusty road found alongside a railyard in Blissville, and after a brief lecture about safety and the signing away of liability was completed, the site manager got on his radio and told his crew to shut everything down and take a coffee break. My NYU group and I followed him out onto the deck, and he took over the narrator duties. The kids from NYU were “gob smacked” having never suspected that anything like this place existed, let alone existent .8 of a mile from the East River in LIC.

While the site manager, named Lachman Hanoman, spoke to the group about what Sims does and how they do it – I waved the camera around a bit (even I don’t get in here very often), and guess what I spied with my little eyes?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Kosciuszcko, Kosciuszcko, men have named you…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bridge found alongside a graveyard, which is no longer a bridge, being pulled apart in expectation of its final demolition. Pieces of that bridge, observed along the fabulous Newtown Creek, at a graveyard for steel. That’s the executive summary of today’s post. Also – I know all, I see all.

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


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

moulder through

with one comment

It’s National Pepperoni Pizza Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Positively cinematic, First Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville of Queens is. The Roman Catholic Church acquired Laurel Hill, found along the troublesome Newtown Creek, from the Alsop family back in 1848. The Alsops had held the land since 1648, when a fellow named Thomas Wandell acquired it from the Dutch colonial authorities. Wandell, an associate of Oliver Cromwell’s who had fallen out of favor with the Lord Protector, died in 1691 and the land passed to his nephew Richard Alsop (who died in 1718). The last Alsop who actually worked the land died in 1837, and it was a distaff member of the family who was a member of Manhattan’s “Knickerbocracy” that sold it to the church.

The Church sent armies of laborers to Blissville, who altered Laurel Hill into its current shape, installed a drainage system, and by 1860 or so there were as many as fifty interments a day taking place here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are a few simply gorgeous structures in First Calvary Cemetery (ultimately, there are four Calvary Cemeteries in Queens, with the other three found over in Woodside) such as the Almirall Chapel.

Archbishop Farley had returned from a visit to Rome in 1908 with the intention of creating a new funerary chapel at Calvary which would also host an ossuary for the nuns, monks, and priests of his diocese. Architect Raymond Almirall designed the structure pictured above, which is one of the earliest poured concrete buildings in New York City. The dome of the chapel is forty feet across and eight eight feet high. Atop it is a statue of “Christ the redeemer” designed by a female sculptor (her sex is mentioned as it is quite significant that a female was chosen for this commission during the particular time period) named Merro Beatrice Wilson. The Almirall Chapel sits atop a shaft which leads down a hundred feet to a partially completed cruciform vault where the bones of Farley’s priests and nuns lie.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The real show stopper at Calvary Cemetery is the Johnston Memorial. Erected in 1873, at a cost of $200,000 (that would translate to about $4 million in modern terms) the Johnston Memorial, like the Almirall Chapel, forms a centerpiece of the section it’s found in. There were three Johnston brothers, who operated a very successful milliners business on Manhattan’s “Lady’s mile,” specifically on Fifth Avenue and 22nd street. Brother Charles died in 1864, and brother John left the world in 1887. The remaining Johnston brother, Robert, went mad with grief and fell into poverty. He died in a barn on the grounds of a an upstate nunnery, during a thunderstorm, in 1888.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Johnston memorial is well appointed with some exquisite carvings, and luckily the brothers sprang for granite rather than marble. The marble monuments all over Calvary Cemetery have the appearance of melting ice cream, due to the former presence of an acid factory in nearby Maspeth. A marble frieze over the entrance to the mausoleum, however, displays the characteristic damage from exposure to Newtown Creek’s corrosive atmospherics which one can see all over the cemetery’s acreage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Calvary sits upon, and in, Laurel Hill. A natural prominence left behind by the glaciation process, Laurel is one of the foothills which lead through Maspeth towards the beginning of the terminal morraine of Long Island, which truly begins at another Roman Catholic cemetery called Mount Olivette. This “Y” shaped ridge of actual bedrock is what the elluvial shoals of the landform of Long Island are supported by, and they continue all the way to eastern shore with the the two branches of the Y terminating at Montauk and the Hamptons.

The view from Calvary is astounding, and I always remark that “you can see the whole soup bowl” of NYC’s inner harbor from up here. You used to be able to see a lot more, but… y’know… luxury towers and the real estate guys.

As a note, burial in First Calvary is quite desirable for Roman Catholics. Accordingly, the price of a grave hereabouts is astronomical, making this – from a square footage vs pricing ratio POV – the most valuable real estate in all of Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Adorning the dome of the Johnston Mausoleum, in addition to the statue of Jesus at its top, are granite renderings of four angels who gaze out at the sky from the cardinal points of a compass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east, the industrial zone of West Maspeth is hard to miss. The Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Koscisuzcko Bridge are just out of frame in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, Calvary Cemetery is positively cinematic. It’s where Bruce Wayne’s parents, and Spider Man’s Uncle Ben, were buried in the movies. It’s also where Vito Corleone was interred in the Godfather movie. The place is seen regularly in television and movies as a set piece when you need a New York City backdrop for a funeral.

You never know what you’re going to find at Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville section of Queens, along the fabulous Newtown Creek, I always say. Bring a camera, and wander around the place without a plan, see what Calvary wants you to see. It’ll still be there the next time you come back, this history book etched in stone.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 20, 2017 at 1:30 pm

deliberate effacement

with one comment

It’s National Double Cheeseburger Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often, it seems as if all of Western Queens is a “work zone,” and it’s impossible to go more than a few blocks without seeing the telltale “high visibility” orange vests and barriers of one work crew or another. The folks in the shot above work for a company called “Hecla,” and they were doing some sort of street work that involved setting down a large concrete pad into 48th avenue, adjoining a bus stop.

As a side note, I associate the word “Hecla” with a very active Icelandic stratovolcano (a volcanic ridge, actually, which rises nearly 5,000 feet high) which medieval Europeans believed to be the entrance to hell. The Icelandic spelling is actually “Hekla,” but both spellings are apparently used for this subarctic fire mountain. The most active part of the Hecla stratovolcano is a fiery fissure called “Heklugjá.” “Hekla Fell” is where witches are still meant to gather at Easter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that Queens sits nestled in a combination of elluvial deposits and post glacial rubble piled up around a “Y” shaped ridge of Manhattan schist and other hard rocks that form a very long island, we don’t have to worry too much about magma exploding out of the manhole covers anytime soon, but one thing I’ve learned over the nearly two decades I’ve lived hereabouts is to not take much for granted. You never know what’s going to happen next.

Would not be surprised one little bit – for instance – if a group of witches gathered at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and 43rd street, pictured above, on Easter. Occult tradition states that between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the throne of Heaven is empty and that the elder devil Satan is free to do his thing. People confuse Satan and Lucifer all the time, by the way, which annoys me.

As above, so below. Satan is the “adversary” to Yahweh the father (Old Testament), as Lucifer is to Jesus the son. The whole Holy Ghost trinity thing is what gives heaven’s armies their edge, and why Christians fear the coming of the antichrist, which will even the odds between the two sides.

But I digress. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I think all of the construction Orange is pretty cool, visually. I wish that instead of the sapphire glass which will inevitably be clad around the tragically named – and branded – 5ptz residential luxury tower in LIC, they’d design in some nice orange motifs.

Orange reminds one of hell, and fire, and the consequence of embracing one or more of the seven deadly sins – greed, avarice, and so on. Christian scholar Jeffrey Burton Russell posits that the devil’s incarnation in the modern age isn’t the Bronze Age Satan, nor the medieval Lucifer – rather it’s either the lord of lust called Asmodeus or the demon God of greed called Mammon.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 15, 2017 at 11:00 am

shrewd guessing

with one comment

It’s National Cream Filled Donut Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the Labor Day weekend, on September the 3rd to be exact, our Working Harbor Committee presented the 25th Annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition on the Hudson River. It was raining at a pretty good clip, which kind of sucked, but… tugboat race. I mean… tugboat race.

That’s a brand new tug above, the Capt. Brian A. McAllister.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is usual for the tug race (this is my seventh or eighth time photographing the event), I was onboard the “official” race boat, but due to the inclement weather and a variety of other conditions, one wasn’t in the best place to shoot the actual race this year. Normally, I like having Manhattan in the background, looking northwards across the competition. Construction barges and other maritime impediments forced the race to occur in the west channel of the river this year, so all you got for background is New Jersey.

No offense to New Jersey is intended, of course, but y’all haven’t got an Empire State Building on your side. It seems nice over there though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite part of the Tug Race, from a photographic perspective, has always been the line toss competition. That’s Donjon towing’s Mary Alice Tug in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This rope was a thrown from a tug based at Millers Landing, the Susan Mller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Mister T tug also gave it a go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one was hurled by a crewman of the tug James William.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

mute clue

leave a comment »

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one seems to have been hanging around in Astoria quite a bit recently. The long walks from the ancient village which a humble narrator is known for undertaking, carrying one from Astoria in North West Queens to all sorts of distant locales, require a bit of time to undertake and a variety of factors have limited the open windows of time needed to commit them. Fear not, for vast overland crossings through the concrete devastations are being planned and will be embarked upon shortly, whereupon description of said events will be presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Just in the name of getting some exercise, for myself and the camera alike, I’ve been perambulating about in a roughly two mile circle from HQ for the last few weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The world is a scary place. It’s full of wildly unpredictable people, some of whom just might be a part of some sadist doomsday cult who seek the world’s end. Others are just stupid, and you can see it on their faces when they try to think about something. The other day on the train, I sat there watching some woman visibly thinking. Her brow beedled, she silently mouthed words, and was apparently either rehearsing or reviewing an argument she either had lost or will lose when she has it. Occasionally, she would pull out her phone and fire off a text missive, which was angrily stabbed out with her digitus tertius or “curse” finger. Lip reading informs that she was upset at somebody she knew who had said hello to her “ex.” She kept on mouthing the word “ratchet.”

She had her two kids watching the display, one of whom was licking the subway seat. There really is no hope.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria is decidedly carnivorous, as a rule. Don’t get me wrong, “we gots our vegans ’round here’s,” but most of the people you meet in the neighborhood talk about some kind of meat when you ask “what’s for dinner?” I know I do, but when I came across this display of half pig in a butcher shop window, one became entranced by its gruesome spectacle and the illusion of some monstrous face screaming in terror.

Pareidolia (/pærɪˈdoʊliə/ parr-i-DOH-lee-ə) is what it’s called when your brain perceives facial structures in inanimate objects. According to studies of the psychological phenomena, if you’re like me and you see “faces” in a LOT of inanimate objects and every cloud reminds you of some esoteric critter, it’s sympomatic of a highly neurotic personality type. Me, neurotic?

Who knew? 


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 13, 2017 at 11:00 am

mental complexity

with 2 comments

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My daily walk for the last few weeks, due to certain constraints on schedule and other obligations, has been decidedly local in nature and a humble narrator has seldom found himself less than an hour from HQ before its time to turn around and head back. As I enjoy the distinct pleasure of living on the southern side of Astoria, Queens – this isn’t that big a burden. Lurking, in fear – after all – around Western Queens is one of my favorite activities.

There’s always something interesting happening here in the ancient village.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Steinway Street’s intersection with 34th avenue, there’s a mid sized construction job going on. A former one story furniture store is being converted over to a multi story residential dealie. The iron workers have been busy at this corner all summer, doing their thing, and a whole crew of local lords and ladies have been observed entering and leaving the job site in their bright yellow vests since last winter.

I know that to some calloused eyes this is “gentrification” occurring, but it’s hard to argue against creating both a bunch of construction jobs and some new housing units that are so close to the 34th avenue side of the Steinway Street stop on the R and M lines. Y’know, no form of housing is “affordable” unless you’ve got an opportunity for gainful employment and the chance to earn a living from it. That is, unless your idea of “affordable” involves the redistribution of earned wealth from someone else’s pocket into yours.

Just saying. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this particular day, a crane was delivering steel beams and the union guys were crawling all over the skeleton of the new building. I can tell that they’re Union, as you’ll notice all of the safety equipment they’ve got on display. If this was a non Union job, these cats would be sporting baseball hats instead of hard hats, and the safety harnesses they’re wearing would be absent or made of duct tape.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They seemed to know their business, these fellows (I think they’re fellows at least, as I wasn’t close enough to discern sex), and after snapping out a few shots I moved on. My half way point destination for the afternoon walk was set to be Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside, where an easterly turn would be undertaken towards Roosevelt Avenue and a return back to Astoria’s Broadway in the 40’s would be accomplished via Woodside Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking south down Steinway Street, where it transmogrifies into 39th street at Northern Blvd., one encountered this little assemblage of compound signage. It somehow fit my mood, and current worldview.

You people scare the hell out of me. 


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 12, 2017 at 1:00 pm

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