The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Northern Blvd.

burned out

with 2 comments

Hey, what’s with all this Northern Blvd. stuff?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know what is to come. In recent years, the NYC Dept. of City Planning was working on something they called “LIC Core,” a planning document centering around Northern Blvd. between 31st street and Woodside Avenue. My understanding is that the planning document has been abandoned, and that the Real Estate Industrial Complex will just be allowed to do whatever they want under the proviso that a politically viable number of “affordable” apartments are a part of their plan. The whole “affordable” thing, and the arithmetic by which the concept of affordability is determined, is a bugbear of political deception which I don’t want to get into.

As mentioned in the past, I’m now a member of Community Board 1 here in Astoria, and before the summer break, a humble narrator was obliged to vote for or against a couple of these projects. Now, when you’re on a community board – and I seem to be the only person in Queens who adheres to this – it’s meant to be like serving on a jury. The petitioner presents their facts, you make inquiries, and then you vote. In the case of two large projects just a few blocks from my own home, I voted yes. Here’s why…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Close to transit, shopping, and City services? Check. Best use of the land? Well, I don’t think used car lots are the best use of the land within one to two miles of the East River. How densely populated is the area already? Well…. let’s just say that when the kids want to experiment with cannabinoids well outside the purview of their parents or just see how loud their car stereos are, the side streets along Northern Blvd. are where they go, as it’s a ghost town at night after all the car lots and mechanics shutter their doors. People sleep in their cars along these blocks, or on cardboard boxes piled up against the walls.

Just like when you’re on a jury, your CB vote is supposed to be based not on personal prejudices or preconceived notions, rather it’s meant to be guided by the presented facts and informed by your personal knowledge of the area. Saying that, my queries and comments to the various entities seeking to develop residential properties in the neighborhood revolved around topics that longtime Newtown Pentacle readers will find familiar – green roofs, truly public space, stormwater capture, hospital beds, school desks, and transit. Also, what are you going to plug the building into, since our electrical power system hereabouts… frankly… sucks.

Also – since this has come up a few times during the summer when I was talking to the press about unrelated Newtown Creek business – I in no way speak for CB1, and if you want an official opinion of the group on anything, talk to the Chair or call the office and ask for one. I’m still new to the Community Board, and getting to know not just my fellow members but also the procedural norms under which it operates. My plan for the next set of sessions, which begin again in September, is to show up and observe the way things work and then vote my conscience on the various issues presented. What you read here is from my personal POV, and all opinions are my own. If I’m speaking “officially” on behalf of any of the groups which I work with, I’ll state that. Otherwise, it’s just some schmuck with a camera mouthing off again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, and I’m still startled at the number of people who have willingly made their homes in Queens Plaza, living along Northern Blvd. seems like a poor choice. You do have fairly regular bus service, but the closest subway stops (other than the 36th street R/M) are all several blocks to the north – in Astoria proper – along Broadway. I’ve long called this stretch of Northern Blvd. the “Carridor” as it’s a super wide primary automobile and truck route that offers some of the scariest street crossings in all of Queens. Really, Steinway at Northern… brrrr…

At the moment, I’m spending some effort on recording what’s found on the Carridor right now, in order to create some kind of record before it all gets swept away by the forces of modernity and the rapacious hunger of the Real Estate Industrial Complex. The history of NYC is a story of wrenching, and quite sudden, change. Take a picture when something catches your interest, as it might not be there tomorrow.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 27, 2019 at 11:00 am

hastily filling

with 3 comments

Back in session.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has enjoyed his self allotted time off, if you’re the curious type. Given the tropical clime and frequent rainstorms, the last two weeks haven’t exactly been a wonderland of joy, but evening hours when the temperatures were a bit more tolerable were exploited. During these nocturnal scuttlings around the various neighborhoods I keep an eye on, it was decided to severely limit the amount of “kit” one carried and utilized in my pursuits.

The normal “everyday carry” of heavy zoomable lenses, tripod, and all the other crap I normally drag around was left at HQ. Leaving the house, all I had on me were two prime lenses – a 24mm pancake lens and the 50mm “nifty fifty.” For camera support, I was carrying a gizmo called an “ultra pod,” which is a metal plate with a tripod head on it and four latex furniture caster feet. Beyond that, all I had on me was an air blower and a couple of lens cloths, a flash light, and a cable release. The camera bag weighed more than what was inside it. Perfect for roaming around on sultry August evenings, here in the Borough of Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the worst things you can tell any kind of artist is “do whatever you feel like.” Limitations are important, as that’s where challenge lies. The tyranny of the blank page has demolished the aspirations of many, whereas forcing oneself to write or draw or photograph within set limits is an invitation to “get creative.”

The cool thing about the ultrapod and the tiny and extremely light lenses I was using was that this setup forced me to slow down a bit and really put some thought into where the camera was placed, rather than just zooming in on a subject. Additionally, it put me back into the mental space I used to operate in back when I first got serious about shooting and was using a Canon G10 mounted on a magnetic tripod. My camera has been sitting on top of fireboxes, on the sidewalk, windowsills – you name it – for the last couple of weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, the one thing I was constantly wishing for during this particular two week long exercise was a more modern camera body with one of those neato keen flip out screens. Composing the shot above found a humble narrator lying prone and belly down onto the pavement on the corner of 38th street and Northern Blvd., which was kind of gross.

The Canon 7D is a champion camera body – tough, resistant to the constant physical and emotional abuse I inflict on it, and quite the omnivore as far as the number of common tasks it can handle ably. Saying that, I’m quite attracted to the new Canon mirrorless R series cameras, but everyone I know recommends getting a Sony A7 series with a third party adaptor for my lenses instead. This is all intellectual, of course, as a humble narrator doesn’t have two pennies to rub together. I’d need several hundred thousand rubbable pennies for a new camera.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 26, 2019 at 1:00 pm

piled coffins

with 3 comments

Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Queens Cobbler knows no shame, as evinced by the baby booty pictured above, which the probable serial killer left behind as a ghastly trophy and taunt on Northern Blvd. Babies, Cobbler?

Today’s post carries a few images I captured while doing something else or heading towards a location where I was intending to do some shooting. “Catch as catch can” shots like these fall under my category of “snapshots” rather than the ones I consider “photographs.” What’s the difference? “Intentionality” would be my answer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To wit, that’s a fairly nice shot from the Celtic Park section of Sunnyside depicting the Empire State building rising on the horizon. I didn’t set out to get the shot, rather I was walking over to the Kosciuszcko Bridge to get some “photographs” and while crossing the street this image just jumped out at me. I’m not downplaying serendipity, and being ready for captures on the fly, but you could have just as easily gotten this shot with your phone as I did with the dslr I always have dangling off of me.

I’ve always got the camera ready to fire, as a note. Always.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay section, this butterfly suddenly appeared. How can the itinerant photographer not capture its splendor?

I’ll be conducting a tour on the NYC Ferry Soundview line tomorrow morning, link is below. Come with? Looks like it’s going to be a perfect summer day. Back Monday with something completely different at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Upcoming Tours and Events


Saturday, August 10, 10 a.m. 12.00 p.m.

Exploring the East River, From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
 here.


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 9, 2019 at 1:00 pm

averring that

with 2 comments

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2019 at 1:00 pm

frigid gust

with 4 comments

Like a scorching case of incurable venereal disease, the Sunnyside Yards deck story is back in the news.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just last week, Crains New York Business reported that a development team had been anointed by the NYC EDC to helm the next stage of decking over the Sunnyside Yards and building the Mayor’s Death Star in the LIC section of Western Queens. Representatives of the EDC informed me that this report was erroneous, and that no partner has yet been chosen to explore the pathway laid out in their 2017 feasibility study.

I informed them that the Federal EPA had recently added Sunnsyide Yards to the Newtown Creek Superfund site as a “PRP,” or Potentially Responsible Party, alongside Exxon Mobil, the NYC DEP, National Grid and others as being responsible for the environmental degradation of the waterway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember, decking over the Sunnyside Yards has long been a dream for the Manhattan based Real Estate Industrial Complex. It’s 183 square acres of land which proponents of development describe as “ugly,” a “scar,” and “a wasteland surrounded by under utilized potential.” I remind them that it’s actually surrounded by LIC, Astoria, Dutch Kills, and Sunnyside. Then I remind them of the promises about affordable housing and community space that Council Member De Blasio made about the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and which never materialized, or the self same Council Member and later Public Advocate’s overt resistance to both Newtown Creek and Gowanus being included on the Superfund list in the first place.

Odd position for the self proclaimed man of the people to hold, and one wonders if his relationship with the Toll brothers, Forest City Ratner, and other real estate developers had anything to do with it? Bill De Blasio is the Donald Trump of the left, I would offer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are mutiple bridges crossing the Sunnsyide Yards, this one carries 39th street, which becomes Steinway Street on the other side of Northern Blvd. See that eight story building at the left? It’s the Standard Motor Products building, the one with the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop farm on top of it. According to renderings offered in the EDC feasibility study, the deck at Sunnyside Yards at 39th street would be start one story higher than it. That would be considered the zero altitude point for the measuring of the forty to sixty story tall residential towers which the document also discusses.

At 43rd street and Barnett Avenue, in Sunnyside Gardens, the deck would start at eleven to twelve stories over the current street grade in Sunnyside Gardens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One would actually prefer the deck structure to fully resemble the cinematic Death Star, a vast sphere of steel with an enormous cannon aimed at New Jersey set into its face, as opposed to the idea of seeing more of the banal glassine boxes typical of recent development activity in Long Island City go up. I’m sure the Mayor could tap Disney for a few campaign donations in return for the free advertising to finance the vainglorious Presidential ambitions he’s currently nursing – if he were to build his Death Star in Queens at Sunnyside Yards. He’d be able to claim that he built “affordable” housing in the Death Star.

The Mayor could start calling himself Darth Equity then. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My understanding is that the actual Sith Lord of New York – the Dark Prince of Albany – remains adamantly opposed to allowing the Mayor his folly here in Queens, but I’m positive it’s not out of altruism.

As a reminder, this decking project defeated the ambitions of Robert Moses, Nelson Rockefeller, and Michael Bloomberg as well as a host of lesser powers and potentates over the last century. Robert Moses, famously, threw his hands in the air and said “it’s just too complicated,” and that was just in terms of trying to site the Long Island Expressway over the yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One looks forward to the day when Bill De Blasio is done sharing his wisdom and sage guidance with NYC, and moves on to share his special set of skills and insights with the rest of the country. Like Donald Trump, he will make a series of promises he never intends to honor, and will disappoint those who believe in his sophomoric and disingenuous promises. The reality that the Sunnyside Yards plan was actually offered by and reintroduced by Michael Bloomberg’s right hand man Dan Doctoroff in a NY Times Op-Ed in the current Mayor’s first year in office, rather than the idea having explosively emerged (in the manner of Athena) from the fertile imaginings of Mr. De Blasio, is something unmentioned by City Hall.

Also, if we’ve got the money to do this, let’s fix the Subways and NYCHA first?

Sum up – Darth Equity, the Mayor is a Dope from Park Slope, and he still wants to build a Death Star in Queens.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?
Tickets and more details here.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 3, 2018 at 11:00 am

artisanal hatred

with one comment

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having fairly few tasks at hand the other night, one announced to Our Lady of the Pentacle that a dark light photowalk was in the offing, but that I was going to stay local and would be back in an hour or so. The first rumblings of some viral infection were on the horizon, and I figured that if I didn’t go out for a short walk with the tripod and camera while still relatively well… I would regret it as I suffered through the virus for the next couple of days.

I’m excellent at suffering.

Partially it’s Jewish tradition, this being good at suffering thing. I’m really into the operatic side of it all though. Since I seldom get sick, when I do… it’s pretty bad… so why not wallow in the misery and suffer like a boss?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted this neighbor sleeping on a park bench along Northern Blvd. If you not savvy at reading the occluded messaging of NYC’s streets, there’s a whole story at work in this shot which isn’t the “homeless” trope. Those are new, clean clothes on display – which also color match. A newish leather bag was serving as a pillow, and there were no carts of possessions in view. There are three hypotheses which one can offer:

  • One is that this person was tired and needed a quick nap.
  • Two is that this person needed to get out of their domicile, or couldn’t go back to their domicile for some unknown reason.
  • Three is that this person is dead, as I had the shutter open for about thirty seconds and they never moved or twitched.

Whatever the reason, I moved on. If this individual was actually dead, at my age you’d just say “at least it ain’t me,” and get on with it. Which is what I did, as the suffering was beginning to present itself, and the last thing I needed was to explain to a bunch of cops why I was wandering about on Northern Blvd. with a camera, at night, when I had discovered a corpse across the street from Guitar Center.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, I was more than a little bored whilst waiting for the expected suffering to set in, hence a shot of the unbelievable amounts of garbage piled up on and around the corner collection basket on my block.

Notice the sewer in the left side of the shot? I’ll have you know that one of the biggest issues which the DEP (water and sewer) has to deal with is garbage swept into the sewer system. Now, you can’t expect people to change their behavior on this front around Astoria or most of Westrn Queens. A lot of this heap is actually household trash emanating from the hundreds of illegal basement apartments around these parts. If left on the curb in front of an actual address, Sanitation Inspector reports about abundant trash coming from what should be just a two family house will lead DOB (buildings) to investigate and fine the building owner for an illegal conversion and likely put the tenants out on the street. Hence the abundance of household trash at the collection basket, right next to the sewer.

The question I ask continually is “if trash getting swept into the sewers is such a big issue, why does the DSNY (garbage) put the collection bins literally right on top of the sewers?”

I pondered all of this as a semi delirious, painful, and sleep deprived state of suffering set in over the next 48 hours during which I behaved like a total diva.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 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.

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

utmost interest

with 3 comments

It’s World Hijab Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Boy oh boy, it has been a fairly depressing couple of weeks, huh?

As mentioned in the past, several of the casual friendships I enjoy at my local saloon include fellows who were Trump supporters. They’ve been forcing the rest of us to eat crow since the election, a phenomena which I’ve termed as being “sore winners.” Funny bit is, last week I was sitting alongside one of them “shooting the shit” when his phone began to light up as his union coworkers began teasing him that he’s too fat to be able to climb back in to the country over Trump’s wall. He, Mumbly Joe that is, presumed that when Mr. Trump talked about illegal aliens or those who have overstayed their visa period it was in reference to Mexicans and not Croatians. In my neighborhood, here in Astoria, back in the 1970’s when the predominant numbers of Yugoslavian and Greeks emigrated – it was far easier to get citizenship and green card paperwork fulfilled by certain distaff members of the Italian community for a fee than it was to “go through channels” with the Feds. This is also true for the Irish emigres of the 70’s and 80’s, incidentally.

As always – be careful what you ask for, as you just might get it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has truly enjoyed watching Mayor de Blasio attempting to position himself as figure of national importance during all this, presenting himself as the opposition to the current administration in Washington. The Mayor of NYC is an important position, of course, but City Hall does not “get you a seat on the rocket” which will launch and preserve the lives of important people as the world is ending. It’s also been a joy comparing him to Dickens’ Jakob Marley, dragging the chains of his own perfidy and legal trouble around as he has postured on the national stage.

Speaking on a strictly local level – why are we taxpayers expected to pay the nearly twelve million bucks for the legal defense teams that will attempt to keep the “dope from Park Slope” and his cronies from paying the piper for his sins?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It has actually been a pleasure watching the Democrats, both national and local, trying to figure out a way to attach themselves to the spontaneous and self organizing protests springing up all around them. Ever since the 1990’s, the national party has been operating in a space which – back in the 1980’s and 90’s – would have labeled them as centrist Republicans. Big business, corporatism, a deep embrace of the “forever war.”

When I’ve had labels thrown at me in the last few years – libtard, liberal, etc. – I’ve asked “What does that mean”? There hasn’t been a true liberal in the national sense since President Johnson (or just maybe Carter) and the last “actual” conservative on the Republican side was Bush the elder. Bill Clinton and Obama were actually left leaning conservatives, Bush the younger was a “radical,” and what we’ve got now… well, there isn’t a name for what Trump is yet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My buddies at the bar all tell me “give him a chance.”

I respond that Trump has already blown that chance, just in the first days he’s been in office. I’ve been following with great interest the early signs of factionalization amongst the National Republicans, as the actual “conservatives” are beginning to break away from the White House. One thing that’s been truly interesting to consider is the observation that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is actually the most powerful person in the country right now, simply because it’s the Speaker of the House who holds the switch that triggers impeachment. In the meantime, Donald Trump has nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, as well as the ability to unleash the greatest military machine in human history on anyone he wants.

The Congress hasn’t held this much actual power since the early days of the imperial Presidency back in the 1950’s, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s it for my little missive about National and Local Politics. As I’ve been saying since the election, National stuff is way above my pay grade, and I’m laser focused on local matters which directly affect me and mine. The Sunnyside Yards decking battle is coming, and the Superfund situation on a certain local waterway is about to come to a head. We are being developed to death by the Real Estate shit flies, and Western Queens is under siege by opportunists from Manhattan. There’s an Underground Railroad to set up for the Mexicans… simply put, there’s lots to do.

Bill de Blasio and his vainglory must be sent back to Park Slope, and ultimately – Carthage must be destroyed.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 1, 2017 at 2:00 pm

%d bloggers like this: