The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Queens Plaza

so special

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A busy week arrives.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been somewhat less than fully engaged with my normal round for the last couple of weeks, simply in the name of enjoying the last couple of weeks of August. Uncharacteristic of me, periodic downtime is nevertheless a “necessary.” One believes that all true wisdom can be gleaned from 1970’s “prog rock” lyrics and as the band “Yes” proferred in their anthem “Roundabout” – don’t surround your self with yourself, move on back to square.

Ruts can be depressing, as are the daily demands of the world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This week, I’ve got a fairly major Newtown Creek event going on (not a public event, unfortunately) which has been increasingly all consuming, that will play out on Wednesday evening. Suffice to say, it takes place on a boat, and that one has been tremulously watching the quite changeable weather reports that have accompanied the path of Hurricane Hermine up the eastern seaboard.

As soon as the event has passed, which will be after Wednesday evening, I’ve got a few new offerings for the general public as far as walking tours and so on that I’ll tell y’all about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The aquatic excursion will be a Newtown Creek event, onboard and co hosted by the Fireboat John J. Harvey, which I’ve been describing to invitees as a “Community Conversation about Newtown Creek with the Newtown Creek Community.” The event will bring together community representatives, business leaders, environmentalists, and government employees with the goal of discussing the future. I’m proud too say that one of the goals of the trip – to engage neighborhood people and organizations from the eastern section of the Creek (Maspeth, East Williamsburg, Bushwick) seems to have been accomplished. The event has been underwritten – in the name of full disclosure – by Connective Strategies and the Newtown Creek Group, who represent the “potentially responsible parties” named in the Superfund declaration.

Cross your fingers, as this should be a rather productive conversation. We are nearing the interval in which the post superfund future of Newtown Creek will be decided upon, and it’s one of my goals to ensure that everybody’s voice and concerns be addressed. As I’ve told multiple people – there’s a path which I think is the right one, but it’s not up to me to tell Maspeth what it needs. That’s what City Hall does, and unlike the Mayor I happen to believe in Democracy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As an aside, the probable serial killer whom I’ve christened the “Queens Cobbler” seems to have returned to the area, and resumed their nefarious work – as evidenced by a sudden dearth of “single shoe” occurrences.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

rational position

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I really need a vacation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the fun involved with buying a new lens is testing it out. Doesn’t matter how good or bad the device is, there’s “sweet spots” and contradictory failings which the itinerant wanderer needs to be familiar with if the thing is part of the daily carry. The B&H folks have a fairly generous return and exchange policy, and in my experience, the window in which you can hand them back the lens is a crucial interval for the investment. Accordingly, one has been shooting everything, and everywhere.

I can tell you this, the sigma 50-100 is one hell of a portrait lens, but I’ve had unequal results in certain circumstances. My effort at the moment is to discover where and when those failings occur, rendering them predictable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the places this lens absolutely sings is in the dark. The shot above is “wide open” and was captured while I was waiting for the train at 59th street recently. I’ve been saying it for a while, but the subway system is an absolutely fantastic photography workshop. Worst case scenario lighting, with a reflective subject moving at speed through darkness.

I don’t often “open the hood” on the process I use to produce shots for Newtown Pentacle, but since a bunch of you asked after yesterday’s post…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots above were captured at f2.2, with the lens dialed out to 94mm at ISO 5000. I’ve got a few other “bright lenses” but the sigma 50-100 really does a beautiful job drinking in the lurid shimmerings of pale light, and it literally outshines the other specimens in my “dark” kit. You can discern the lens’s aperture blades in the hot spots surrounding the R train’s headlights, incidentally.

Shots like these subway images are dependent, in my experience on shooting posture. There are US Army sniper rifle manuals out there which discuss shooting postures, and the body posture process which riflemen use to steady and focus their fire on targets is quite appropriate for the capture of light through a lens, IMHO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From a different commute, the shot above was captured at Queens Plaza, and also depicts an R line train entering the station. There’s a bright, almost cartoony quality to the way that sigma’s “art” series lenses renders primary colors which required some adjusting on the saturation slider when I was working on the shot in Photoshop’s “camera raw” window.

For those not in the know, RAW format is essentially an uncompressed digital negative which allows a great deal of fine tuning to the captured shot as the file contains ALL of the information which the sensor saw, whereas JPEG is an image which is compressed and all the decisions have been made for you by the camera. Those decisions include color temperature, depth of shadows/highlights and so on. Every RAW shot can therefore receive a bit of a tweak, and I always shoot in that format.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I engage in when testing a lens is trying to push it to fail. Architectural detail does not work well with a wide open lens, due to the shallow depth of field. Even an infinity focus will produce unacceptable “bokeh” in this context, or at least it’s unacceptable to my eye. I want to see every rivet.

Saying that, the two shots of the Manhattan Bridge in today’s post were shot at f2.2 on a sunny afternoon.

I think I’m going to keep this lens. 

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm

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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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

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