The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Queens Plaza

frightened messengers

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Massing, massing, massive – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a few days ago, one found himself walking towards Hunters Point via the Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue route which I refer to as “the Carridor.” I was heading for a public safety meeting, regarding the East River parks in Hunters Point, and as is my habit – the opportunity to stretch my legs and get a bit of exercise was seized.

Whenever I’ve taken this walk over the last couple of years, one thought seems to predominate as I cast my gaze around – “they’ve stolen the sky.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sky has been stolen, or horse traded away, by the Real Estate people in collusion with the short term thinkers who populate City Hall – of course – but ultimately, who did they steal it from? Did anyone used to own the sky in Western Queens?

Definitively, somebody does own the sky now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The area around Queens Plaza and Court Square, in particular, has become a shadowed warren of glassy towers.

At the public safety meeting in Hunters Point, which was called due to a disturbing allegation of a rape occurring in Gantry Plaza State Park, the residents of the new buildings surrounding the waterfront had a chance to speak and offer their complaints about this and that.

Most of their comments boiled down to “I’ve lived here for twenty minutes, and this isn’t what the realtor told me it would be like.” Nobody told them that the Borough Motto was “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself” it seems.

The tower people mainly offered quality of life complaints to the panel at the front of the room which included Jimmy Van Bramer and representatives of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy as well as the various branches of law enforcement who have jurisdiction over the parks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can barely spot the Citi Megalith anymore, which once stood as a lone sentinel.

The impossible thing which cannot possibly exist that lurks in its cupola… with its unblinking three lobed burning eye… no longer has an unoccluded view of the world below.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

accordingly determined

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Queens Plaza, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wowzers. It’s no secret that I’m concerned about the “population loading” of Western Queens which has been and is currently underway. From an urbanist point of view, there’s really no reason “why” you shouldn’t cram as many people onto every square inch of city center as you can, and Queens Plaza is – in fact – pretty close to the center of all things. Just ask the powers that be, they’ll rattle off how many subway and bus lines there are, and throw in the East River Ferry as well. They won’t mention hospitals, or the fact that LIC can’t seem to build enough schools to meet its current demands, nor the costs of expanded Police, Fire, and Sanitation units.

What are you gonna do, fight City Hall?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There seems to be a burst of construction activity going on at the moment over on Jackson Avenue between Court Square and Queens Plaza – these shots are from late on a Saturday morning about a week ago, incidentally. The construction guys had closed down Jackson to one lane, as they were moving in a tower crane and other equipment. To say that traffic was snarled…

Actually, automotive traffic is another thing that the powers that be generally neglect to mention when discussing this very modern corridor of some brave new world which is being built down here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The buildings at the far end of the shot above are closer to Court Square and the Citigroup Megalith, which has suddenly begun to seem a lot less out of place or wildly out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood. My guess is that all of the people who will be moving in here soon are meant to take the 7 train to work.

The 7 express is, of course and by the MTA’s own admission, at capacity as of right now. The riders of the 7 routinely describe overcrowded conditions, and complaints about having to allow several Manhattan bound trains to pass before they can even find a spot to squeeze into have been heard from as far away as Sunnyside and Jackson Heights.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To me, it stands to reason that the next waves of development should consider the creation of exurb commercial centers, outside of Manhattan. That would allow for job locations to radiate away from the titular center of the City, to the east and north. An office complex in Jamaica, or maybe Forest Hills? They’re served by several train lines as well. This Manhattancentric development model is really going to end up hurting us, but what do I know? I just live here.

Pretty soon, there’s going to be a gigantic number of people in Long Island City, all flushing their toilets at the same time every morning. Guess where all that sewage is going to end up? The 1939 vintage Bowery Bay sewage treatment plant in Astoria, that’s where. If there’s too much of the smelly stuff in the pipes under the street, like when it’s raining, it’ll go into Newtown Creek.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Thursday, June 30, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Elizabeth Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2016 at 11:30 am

repellant mannerisms

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No more meetings, supposition instead, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last few days, you’ve been informed about my various causes and committees, and some of the “inside baseball” on the Newtown Creek story has been offered. There’s more I could tell you, and will in the fullness of time. I’ve got a whole world of weird minglings with the “powers that be” which I can relate, but a lot of these encounters are in situations where some discretion is expected from all parties and I don’t want to act like a jerk and tattle everything I’ve been told about this and that.

One thing which I’ve been annoying the powerful about is the Mayor’s proposed street car system – the BQX. When I bring it up, the powers and potentates of the permanent government exhibit a momentary flash of wild panic, and they then start assuring me that it’s an entirely reasonable proposal, all the while forcing that horrible crocodile grin of the professional politician across their mugs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve got the route of this BQX thing figured out, incidentally. It’s an Einsteinian thought experiment, this, and entirely out of my own brain – none of the officials I know will say anything other than “we’re looking at a number of options” even in informal settings. My impression is that the Mayor just dropped this on officialdom and didn’t really check with anyone to see if the BQX was feasible before announcing it, but that’s strictly an impression. The route I list below is based on my personal knowledge gained from thousands of hours walking the western shore of Long Island, coupled with literally hundreds of water born observations.

At the northern side – it’ll start at the former Politti Power Plant by Astoria Park, travel down Shore Road to the corner of Astoria Park South, and then ride on a causeway built into the water, on its way to the Astoria Point development. It’ll roll around the periphery of the peninsula which Astoria Point will share with NYCHA’s Astoria Houses and then come back to shore at Hallets Cove near Socrates Sculpture Garden. It then heads south along Vernon to LIC, turning west at 46th avenue to meet and make a left on Center Blvd. just after Anable Basin. From there, it continues down to second street and a new drawbridge over Newtown Creek, which meets up with West Street in Greenpoint. South along West to Kent and Williamsburg, then around Wallabout Creek to Kent’s intersection with Flushing Avenue. The BQX then tracks south down Flushing Avenue and around the Navy Yard.

I’ll get to Vinegar Hill and DUMBO in a minute.

Let’s just skip ahead to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where Furman Street would carry BQX south to Columbia and then it would track under the Gowanus Expressway through Red Hook and all the way to Industry City in Sunset Park. I think it would be passing over a retrofitted Hamilton Avenue Bridge spanning over the Gowanus Canal.

Hamilton carries the BQX trackway to Third Avenue and – VOILA – you’re at Industry City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fly in the BQX ointment, as I see it, is precisely that Vinegar Hill section and the area which my dad used to refer to as “Downtown Brooklyn” where the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges converge with Subway lines, highways, a complex of courts, housing projects, government buildings, the rich people in Brooklyn Heights who are easily annoyed and politically relevant, and – literally – the highest real estate valuations which can be found upon the planet along Brooklyn’s Gold Coast.

I have no idea how you’d thread the streetcar needle through that area, and most of the important people (whom you’d be surprised I even know, let alone enjoy congenial relationships with – I still can’t believe some of the folks I get to interact with) I’ve asked how no idea how to do it either. I’ve been told by engineer friends in the construction business that it would be easier to build the two new bridges over Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal for this project, simultaneously, than it will be to acquire or afford enough space in “Downtown Brooklyn” for the BQX.

It’s funny, I have no real opinion on this project. I’m neither for, nor against, as I explain to these members of the permanent government whom I condemn to this conversation. I just think it’s kind of an interesting thought experiment, and when the conversation runs its course – alternatively suggest select bus service which could use the route described above, and you wouldn’t have to build any new bridges or buy up parts of DUMBO to accomplish the goal of the thing and achieve a right of way.

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April 16th, Obscura Day 2016
“Creek to Creek Industrial Greenpoint Walking Tour” with Mitch Waxman and Geoff Cobb.
Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman and Greenpoint historian and author Geoff Cobb for a three-hour exploration of the coastline of Greenpoint. Click here for more info and ticketing.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

is where

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Is there anyplace smellier than the IND station at Queens Plaza?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stumbling home through the dark recently, a humble narrator found himself at Queens Plaza, waiting for the R or M to arrive and carry his stinking carcass back to Astoria. “It seems that I’ve been dead for quite a while, judging by the smell,” thought I. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t the standard “eau d’ jew” which accompanies the end of a period of physical exertion and exercise which I was discerning, rather it was some other reeking horror that was permeating the Subway Platform.

At the end of the platform, or at least the side where the last Queens bound subway car arrives, that I found the source of an odor which I can only describe as Satan’s diarrhea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that the syringe had already separated itself from this bubbling spring of buboes breeding Queens juice, but the smell of it…

Now remember, I’m the Newtown Creek guy. I hang around Sewer Plants, and open drains which carry liquids whose coloration ranges from olive green to cadmium yellow, and am possessed by fond memories of walking amongst the settling and aeration pits of the DEP. When I say an odor is nose hair curling, will wither away plastic, and describe something as having smelled like the dysentery of the Devil itself – pay attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can guess where this water is coming from, but it would only be a guess. The underground IND Subways in Long Island City are essentially concrete bath tubs which were set into a wetland that was already despoiled by sewage and industrial pollution by the time LIC incorporated in 1870. The subways didn’t come along until the 20th century, of course, but the waterways that flowed through Queens Plaza are still very much present.

One of them was the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek itself, which flowed across what’s now the Sunnyside Yards and was navigable all the way back to 40th avenue at the corner of Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue. Just ask the East Side Access guys, they drilled right into it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Commuters in Queens who transfer at Queens Plaza, and at the 21st street G station, will tell you about seeing green water spilling out from behind the tile walls and gag a bit trying to describe the smell. In the case of 21st, it’s a different tributary of Newtown Creek – contained into a sewer tunnel – called Jack’s Creek. If you see, or smell the phenomena at Queens Plaza – my bet is that it’s Dutch Kills.

Can I prove this? No. Call it a hunch, or an educated guess by a guy who spends his time on the shorelines of Dutch Kills’s extant path who can recognize its particular pungency from a half mile away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

used in

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Spectacle on the Boulevard of Death, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had a bit of Newtown Creek related business to take care of, and found myself visiting the offices of a certain City Councilman last week to discuss the matter. As always, the exchange was amiable and after accomplishing the delivery of my missive to the office, I found myself wandering down Queens Boulevard in pursuit of a return to Newtown Pentacle HQ. My phone rang, and I wandered onto the median of the so called “Boulevard of Death” to discuss a friend’s upcoming Birthday celebration when a caterwaul sounded from the east bound lanes at the corner of Locust – or 44th street if you must.

An “accidental” had occurred. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seemed that some unlucky fellow, who was riding a bicycle and got struck by an automobile, was laid out on the Boulevard. Luckily, passerby were already calling 911 and guiding the always heavy traffic around the scene. There was also a USPS employee on scene, who was talking to the 911 operator, and since the NYS DMV has always told me – emphatically – that postal traffic has the right of way in all things traffic related, I felt like it was being sorted and did not require my intervention as the Feds were on it.

So, I stood there taking pictures. We all have a role to play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bicyclist, who seemed stunned when I came upon the scene, suddenly began to writhe about. The car’s driver and passenger managed the victim’s bicycle while the aforementioned postal employee and a member of the gathering crowd of gawkers chided the poor fellow to “not move” and “stay down.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless, he sat up, but seemed thunderstruck (or at least Mazda struck). Off to the north, in the direction of Skillman Avenue, sirens began to ring out – no doubt in response to the multiple 911 calls coming in from the gathering crowd of “lookie loo’s.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Woodside Warriors, Engine 325, arrived. As mentioned in the past, my reaction to the arrival of FDNY units is “everything is going to be all right now.” Accordingly, I put the lens cap on my camera and started back on my path towards Astoria. Such is life in Western Queens, and the traffic corridor of Long Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle, when I was relating the tale above to her, asked me if I did anything to help. She immediately regretted asking, as I went through a whole set of “photographer” morality plays with her. It’s an odd thing, actually. My moral dilemmas about recording an event versus participating in it are rather tame.

Look at the war photographers for the true soul searching about whether or not you should stand there taking pictures or intervene while someone is bleeding out.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

sophist shuffling

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Taking my chances, vampire wise, in Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As all residents of Western Queens know, the Vampires which infest our section of the borough begin to wake up as the sun is setting. Accordingly, a humble narrator normally performs his daily rounds in the morning and afternoon, but one recent perambulation found me out and about during the danger time around sunset. Bereft of the normal sachet of garlic worn during evening walks, my steps quickened as I made for the relative safety of Astoria where bloodsuckers fear to tread due to the prevalence of Croatian and Serbian residents.

Both nationalities have long traditions regarding the nosferatu, as do the Greeks and Italians. South Eastern Europeans don’t play around with the Strigoi. My neighbor Dario spends his free time sharpening wooden spikes in the basement of Newtown Pentacle HQ, for instance, and the superintendent of the building next door keeps a ready supply of granulated garlic at the ready in case of emergency.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I decided the safest course for me to follow would be to leave Skillman Avenue and head home via Jackson Avenue. One of the many viaducts which cross the Sunnyside Yards is often referred to as “Queens Blvd.” but that street name only applies once this viaduct intersects with Thomson Avenue a block away. This is officially Queens Plaza South, and it provides a crossing for pedestrian, bicycle, motor vehicular, and IRT subway traffic over the titan rail yard. It’s not the friendliest environment for pedestrians, with the caterwaul of the subway above and the mephitic emanations of motor vehicles, but when one is concerned about vampiric attack – the most direct route is the best one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north easterly across the yards, the surviving factory buildings which surround the yards may be observed. The fires of gentrification have burned many of these older buildings away in recent years, replacing them with bland residential and hotel buildings. The yards were constructed back the first decades of the 20th century, after the Queensboro Bridge opened in 1909. Back then this pathway was called Jane Street, and it crossed an ancient swamp fed by Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary. LIC used to drain its sewerage into the swamp, which fed a series of endemic water based pathogens – typhus, cholera – that sort of thing.

Legend has it that the Vampires began to arrive in LIC about when the English displaced the Dutch, but that they avoided feeding hereabouts due to the various blood conditions in the populace caused by the stagnant water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heading towards Queens Plaza, one quickened his steps as movement was observed in the shadowed rafters of the IRT rail bridge carrying the 7 train over the yards. Plump and well fed after several holiday meals, my vital fluids would be a prized delicacy to the undead. The sun was dipping down in the west, after all, and I had no silver on me. My delicate physical condition, carefully maintained by a team of doctors with an arcane set of medications, began to manifest psychologically. Nervous and skittish by nature, one felt himself descending into “one of my spells” which usually ends with a humble narrator running through the streets screeching.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Elevated mood, coupled with a stertorous action of the heart, caused one to constantly look back over his shoulder for ghastly pursuers. Blood began to evacuate the extremities, rendering fingers into little more than chalk white claws clutching desperately at a camera. Beneath a filthy black raincoat, my shoulders began to hunch, and due to the aforementioned exsanguniation of extremity, my gait began to alter and I noticed that one of my feet was dragging along the pavement forcing the other leg to do all the work.

My eyes began to bulge, and mouth grow dry, which caused my lips to draw back over the teeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Signs and portents of lurking horror accompanied every pained step as a desperate narrator made for the safety of Astoria in a bizarre and somewhat ataxic gait. Surely the monsters nested above had noticed me at this point, and were licking their chops at the though of consuming the corpulent pedestrian below them. The night haunts would soon be dropping from the IRT rafters in the manner of rotten fruit, loosed from the prison which the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself imposed upon them. That’s when a plexiglass window, impressed into a construction fence at a former chemical factory being converted into residential housing revealed that it was already too late, one of the monsters appeared.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

But… a reflection? Vampires enjoy no reflection.

Staring into the pale visage of an ancient monster – with its bulging eyes, and lips drawn back over yellowed teeth, it’s pale and numbed claws reached out towards me – and I was compelled to do the same. That’s when the supreme horror presented itself, as my finger touched that of the monster’s in the reflection, and it is why I shall never again know peace.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

yellow paw

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A few randoms, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An assertion which has been offered on several occasions… it’s actually more an observation or opinion, actually… is that the 7 line of the NYCTA division of the MTA is the most photogenic of NYC’s subways – particularly that stretch that emanates off the Queensboro Bridge heading towards Sunnyside and Woodside. There’s all kinds of delays, crowding, and an angry mob has and continues to form from Queensicans suffering the “7 Train Blues” but for a purely visual bit of candy – the 7 just can’t be beat.

I also enjoy photographing the G, particularly at the elevated Smith 9th street stop in far off Red Hook, but the 7 is tops.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Carridor, or Northern Blvd. as it is conventionally known, is also one of my favorite spots to wave the camera around – particularly at twilight. Pictured above is a car lot that occupies a triangular property nearby 43rd street. The particulars of Northern Boulevard’s mapping, which sees it sweep around the curvilinear borders of the Sunnyside Yards, creates several oddly shaped properties. There are few rectilinear or squared off lots along its run from 31st street to Woodside Avenue. As it enters Jackson Heights, the road assumes a more conventional path as it moves through Roosevelt and Corona on its way to Flushing.

I’ve walked all of Northern Blvd. between 31st and Citifield, where pedestrian sidewalks disappear nearby the intersection with Ditmars and Astoria Blvd., and can tell you that the section adjoining Astoria, Sunnyside, and Woodside are my favorites – the happy hunting grounds, as it were.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been fascinated throughout the summer by a certain Brownfield remediation project underway in Queens Plaza, incidentally. Sometime soon, you will be greeted by post detailing the operations underway at the former West/CN Chemical factory and the efforts being made to raise residential towers on the site. Personally, I would not want to a) live in Queens Plaza, b) live on the site of a chemical factory which was erected on a swamp, c) live within throwing distance of the tens of thousands of automobiles which exit the Queensboro or traverse Jackson Avenue, or d) live within direct ear shot of the 7, N, Q elevated tracks. I wouldn’t mind capturing shots of these trains from the windows of one of these towers, I would add, but wouldn’t want to live there.

I’ll happily take my little spot here in Astoria, although it is never quiet here either.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 21, 2015 at 1:36 pm

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