The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Queens Plaza

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There’s so many of us, at least for a couple of hours each day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling down Skillman Avenue and approaching Queens Plaza, one was reminded of a conversation recently enjoyed with a locally deployed NYPD Commander about the unique nature of this area. For a couple of hours, each morning and evening, this is theoretically one of the most densely populated places on the planet, but the individual members of this population blob are seldom in the neighborhood for longer than a few minutes and they are in vehicular motion (however stunted) the whole time.

To put it simply, the multitudes moving through western Queens during the rush hours, on their way to work or home to other places – traveling by car, bus, subway, railroad, bicycle, or autogyro perhaps – create a statistically irrelevant but nonetheless astounding jump in the “persons per square foot” or population density of LIC. Thing is, lots of people elected to suffer a long commute when they moved to Eastern Queens, or Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Lots of time to read, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Statistical relevance is part of how planning decisions are made. It big math – “quant” stuff, actually, and beyond my understanding. The theory behind the relevance of statistical information is summed up by that quote from Josef Stalin that a single death is a tragedy whereas a million deaths are a statistic. A lot of policy decisions revolve around, or at least they’re supposed to, the greatest good for the greatest number.

“Greatest number” inherently means that someone gets left out, which translates as “not statistically relevant.” Planning of public works in recent decades has strived to expand and include traditionally marginalized groups, most notably folks with health related mobility issues – thanks to the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of public spaces and City buildings out there were formally denied to people in wheelchairs, since the era in which most of these public buildings were erected, the disabled population wasn’t considered as being “statistically relevant.”

Access to mass, affordable, and reliable transit – which parallels what’s available to “abled” people – still remains a problem, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Statistical relevance, I’m informed, is a big part of the algorithm under which the 311 service of NYC was designed to operate. One person from Blissville complaining to 311 about a cat in a tree is low priority and statistically irrelevant, but the City will send somebody out when they can. Twenty people from the same block call 311 about the cat? Help is on the way a lot faster, as the problem is now far more mathematically relevant and the City will send out Superman to investigate and mitigate.

Make me wonder what would happen if everybody who was commuting through Queens Plaza on any given day suddenly called 311 to complain about something.

Then again, I wonder why it is that everyone doesn’t vote on Election Day.


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Banal pedantry, and Western Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst hanging around at my local bar, recently, one has been forced to eat a bunch of crow by the working guys who voted for “he who must not be named.” I don’t say the name of the President Elect, as it lends him power in the manner of a certain Harry Potter villain – as a note. The working guys are generally union members who became convinced that “the Mexicans are taking my job,” and voted accordingly. I have declared a moratorium amongst friend and foe alike, as I cannot spend another minute of my time discussing the 2016 Presidential election, which went on for what seemed like four or five years.

At the moment, I’ve got other fish to fry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Admiration is what I feel towards the “canners” of Queens, for instance. Observationally, I see mostly Latino or Asian folks pursuing this line of profiteering – picking through this bin or that one in pursuance of the deposit money for aluminum can and glass bottle. We native born Citizens generally leave our pocket change in the curbside recycling bags, but our newly arrived neighbors believe – rightly – that the streets of New York City are paved with gold, if you just expend a bit of effort to harvest it.

I wonder if the Catholics have assigned a patron saint for the canners?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While watching the humans in their daily rounds, one of the things which I’m currently observing and finding fascinating are their set of behaviors, social mores, and so on. One comment I can offer is that people spend a lot of extra energy on walking that they don’t need to in pursuance of looking “cool.” Bad shoes, pants falling down, lots of gestural movements that have little or nothing to do with locomotion. Focus, people, focus.

Ultimately, it’s all pretty depressing, but interesting nevertheless.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

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Holiday traditions, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, like every other history geek in Queens, I found myself at Queens Plaza waiting for the MTA’s annual “Holiday Nostalgia Trains” event to start. I missed the first roll through, as I was up fairly late the night before, but got there in time for the second showing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Nostalgia Trains are late model subway cars maintained by the transit museum that are still quite functional. They make a round trip from Queens Plaza to the City’s Second Avenue stop on what’s normally the “F” line.

As an aside, my railfan pals can cogently argue that the subway cars which the modern day F is using could qualify as museum pieces, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, the Nostalgia Trains run several models of car which would be familiar to New Yorkers of the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and so on. Some of these units were online as late as the 1970’s, I’m told. Back in the day (as late as the 1980’s), as it were, the L or Canarsie line had incredibly low ridership by modern standards, so MTA used some of these antiques to service it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One missed last year’s Nostalgia Trains, for a variety of reasons, but after the long holiday weekend – Our Lady of the Pentacle suggested that I get out of the house for a while. I ran into a number of people I know onboard, and met a few new people – including a Subway Historian named Andrew J. Sparburg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MTA is going to be running the Nostalgia Trains every Sunday during December, and the link below offers a bit of nitty gritty about the eight historic examples of their rolling stock, and a schedule of when and where you can board and ride.

from mta.info

Seven of the cars on the “Shoppers Special” are nearly identical except one: No. 1575, which appears much more modern than the rest of the consist. No. 1575 is the prototype for the subway car class that followed the R1/9, with amenities such as fluorescent lights and smaller ceiling fans. Customers can visit the train year-round at the Transit Museum, though it sometimes makes guest appearances for special occasions such as anniversaries and the holidays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does wish that MTA had preserved just one of these historic units in the actual distopian condition which distinguished the NYC Subways during the “bad old days.” Graffiti, mess, etc. It would be great if they hired a professional junkie to pass out on the rattan seats as well. Spray some piss scented air freshener around, hire a couple of thugs to menace the crowds, etc. Poop on the windows… y’know – New Yawk, Fun City.

The problem with museum pieces is often the loving restoration, which belies what their true operational ambience was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I was rather happy that all of the shooting which I’ve been doing in the Subways over the last couple of years seems to have finally paid off. Practice, practice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The nostalgia trains carried us from Queens Plaza to Manhattan, where a short interval was suffered and the reverse trip was begun. I spent much of the first half of the journey catching up with friends and acquaintances, then got busy on the return to Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you’re planning on attending and photographing the trains, I’d recommend bringing along a bright lens (f2.8 or better) and shooting at a fairly high ISO speed. Modern subways are quite a bit better lit than these survivors.

The shot above, if you’re curious – was captured at f3.5, ISO 4000, and a shutter speed of 1/250th. It’s also pretty important, when shooting in the “system,” to adjust your color temperature settings. If you’re on AWB or “auto white balance,” you’re going to be losing a whole lot of the image to an orange cast which will increase image noise. I shoot in raw format, and therefore always adjust the color temperature of the shot during the development process, but these were captured under the menu settings for tungsten light and later adjusted to 3750K.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thanking the merciful creator that I didn’t have to spend much time in Manhattan, the Nostalgia trains soon reentered Queens Plaza, where riders were commanded to debark by the MTA personell. It seems they didn’t want us to see the turnaround track, for some reason.

Funny thing is, the crowd who was in attendance at this event seemed to be at least 50% railfan. Railfans will tell you the kind – and exact model – of the screws used to hold the track in place, when it was installed, and where the rails were forged.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train disappeared into the east bound tunnel, whereupon it executed a reversal along the occluded turnaround track, and then picked up another load of lookie loos for the journey back to Second Avenue.

The Nostalgia trains are running every Sunday until the end of the year.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2016 at 11:30 am

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Stealing the Sky, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one was headed for Queens Plaza and accordingly marched down Jackson Avenue. The startling rapidity of construction going on in the area claws at my sanity, as in nearly half a century spent in NYC, I’ve never met anyone who said “Man, I really want to live in Queens Plaza.” Queens Plaza? Really?

The shot above is from about a week ago, specifically the morning of the 19th of November in 2016.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from June of 2015, and represents approximately the same point of view as the one above – although I was a little further west on Jackson Avenue than I was in the 2016 shot, and the N train is crossing the POV. LIC is one of the few spots in NYC these days where you can produce a “now and then” shot that only covers a 17 month interval.

Woof!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The two furthest buildings are going up on the site of the former West Chemical factory, which is classified as a NYS Brownfield Opportunity Area – meaning there’s a bunch of “yuck” in the ground left over from the age of industry. According to various sources, this construction you’re looking at – in Queens Plaza – will bring something like 1,800 apartments online in the next couple of years, and represents more than a million square feet of development. That’s a lot of toilets flushing into the decrepit Bowery Bay sewer plant, which overflows into Newtown Creek.

Stealing the sky, indeed.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

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Well, that sucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is dismayed at the results of yesterday’s election results, and I’m in fact struck dumb by them. I was hoping that the United States wouldn’t succumb to its baser instincts in this election, but I’ve been disappointed before. It always strikes me as odd that working class people across the country continually vote against their own interests – which is what a vote for either one of the major parties ultimately turns out to be.

Saying that, as I’ve opined several thousand times in the last year – the National level stuff is above my pay grade, and that the only thing we can really have any effect on are the local issues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can offer you predictions – based on having lived through several rightist swings in the White House about what the next half decade holds. There will be war, and recession, an unregulated corporatist nirvana, and the very same rural and rust belt people who voted the new administration into power will be the ones most impoverished by its policies.

This is nothing new, of course, and it hasn’t been so since Marius and Sulla.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mistake made by the leftists in this election was in the choice of a technocrat candidate who seemed to be awaiting a popular voter enabled coronation to the Presidency – despite being remarkably unpopular. The national level party bosses repudiated, and destroyed, the chances of the populist wing in their own party structure in the name of ensuring this coronation. As the Book of Revelations says – you are neither hot nor cold, you are lukewarm, and I spit you out.

They ran a 20th century campaign in 2016, and lost.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rural/urban divide is something I’ve been talking about for a long time, incidentally. I’m of the belief that we are headed for a second Civil War in these United States, one that isn’t based around a North and South divide, but instead one that is based around whether you live in a City or a Town.

Cities are internationalist, towns nationalist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Beyond all of that, one is absolutely speechless and sort of terrified. Apoplectic is an appropriate word.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing is, this election came out of NYC.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 9, 2016 at 12:30 pm

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A few odds and ends, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An ex-Cat, this skeleton was observed in Long Island City up on the Montauk Cutoff tracks about a week ago. There were raccoon tracks surrounding it, which probably explains a lot about where the rest of the cat is. Pretty gross shot, I guess, but there’s a whole lot of existential reality all over LIC when you peek into its shadowed places.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A renewal of my previously stated opinion that the 7 line is far and away the most photogenic of NYC’s subways is offered. A comparison to Michelle Pfeifer in the movie “Scarface” would be made, but it’s inappropriate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finally, did you know that the “King of Shwarma and Falafel” food truck people have opened a brick and mortar storefront on Astoria’s Broadway at 31st street? Practically under the El? I do, which is why I was waiting for Our Lady of the Pentacle on that instersection recently, and I cracked out this noirish shot of the N/Q stairs to pass the time.

Mmm… Shwarma.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

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Queens Plaza, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrifying is how I usually describe the rate of real estate development around Queens Plaza, but I do have to admit that all the high visibility construction materials, which are orange, that currently surround the transit hub really do add a bit of color to an otherwise dour locale. Ten years ago, the only colors you associated with Queens Plaza were soot green, soot gray, and just plain soot. There were also little piles of blood here and there, but… y’know.

I’m sure the residential towers in the shot above, rising on the site of a former chemical factory, will end up being encased in the same sort of pale blue glass that all the other recent arrivals sport, but it would be great if we could permanently adopt some colors from the other side of the color spectrum around these parts – just to liven things up and provide some contrast with the increasingly occluded sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As part of the “affordable housing” bonanza being led by the Big Little Mayor these days, I’ve been brainstorming for ways that I can get in on the feeding frenzy. Having no desire to alienate parkland or build a luxury tower on a former playground in a NYCHA housing project, this has forced me to get creative.

Sleeper cars on the subways! That’s my idea. Imagine tooling around the City in your own personal car, like some sort of modern day Artemis Gordon and James West. Sleeper cars on the Subway would defeat “NIMBY” sentiments for homeless shelters as well, as the shelter wouldn’t reside in any one neighborhood for long (except in the case of the Franklin Avenue Shuttle).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NIMBY thing, as thrown around by the Real Estate shit flies and their acolytes, bugs me.

The way it’s used by these oligarchs is contextually meant to throw a recidivist cast on local activists who oppose the wholesale destruction of their communities by external forces seeking to squeeze every bit of bank they can from functioning neighborhoods. The subtext is that the people who presently reside in Queens are atavist or racist, or anti “progress,” and must be done away with.

Since this “progress” is the seeming goal of real estate oligarchs like Donald J. Trump – replacing working class residents with higher end tenants while claiming their developments will address historical wrongs – as the new populations can be exploited in deeper ways than the old ones due to the size of their wallets – the NIMBY accusation against opponents plays quite well in the press who want to please their principal advertising customers. If “NIMBY” doesn’t work, however, then the real estate lobby moves on to “racist.” Tell me, are rich people now an ethnic bloc? If race figures into luxury real estate development, what are the demographics of the moneyed class who are the anticipated tenants of these towers, and that of those who are displaced by them? I also point out to our overwhelmingly single party political system that these new residents won’t necessarily be members of the Democratic Party, which will kind of mess up your franchise and that iron grip on political power you currently enjoy.

The higher end tenants moving into these towers will not have a back yard to complain about anyway, as they’ll be living on top of a former chemical factory in Queens Plaza. Does Janovic or Home Depot offer interior design supplies in shades of “soot”?

Upcoming tours and events:


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

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