The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘queens

collective deliberation

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It’s National Onion Ring Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few odds and ends greet you today, lords and ladies. Pictured above is my beloved Newtown Creek, as seen from a bulkhead in Greenpoint. That barge is being filled with aggregate soil material by the Allocco recycling operation on Kingsland Avenue. Aggregates are an interesting side of the recycling industry, wherein excavated soil is sieved and graded according to particle size (gravel, sand etc.) and then sold in bulk for industrial “fill,” or packaged and sold at consumer hardware stores in fifty pound bags. It diverts the stuff from ending up in landfills. Who knew?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was on his way out one fine afternoon, and caught this meteorological sight. A curtain of rain was trailing a storm cloud, on an otherwise sunny day, as the cell headed eastwards. For some reason, I’m fascinated by this sort of thing, but I also routinely throw rocks at the moon when it rises outside of my cave.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The weather down in the rotting concrete bunkers and tunnels of the Subway system never ceases to amaze me. Given that it’s a series of shaft ways open on both ends and which are open to the air at nearly every station, and have de facto pistons moving through them at somewhat regular intervals, how and why is it that the atmospherics in subway stations always seem to lag twenty four to forty eight hours behind the surface? Also, why is it also so damned hot at 34th street/Herald Square?

I avoid that station like the freaking plague because of the heat.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2017 at 11:00 am

phenomenal boldness

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It’s National Peaches ‘N’ Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, the Open House NY organization created an event with the NYC Department of Sanitation at the latter’s enormous “General Repair Shop” on 58th street, right on the hazy border between Woodside and Maspeth. The shop handles vehicle maintenance for DSNY and for several other city agencies, as well as building maintenance for the various Sanitation facilities scattered throughout the 5 boroughs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the City’s snow removal equipment takes quite a beating during the winter, and part of the job for the working stiffs here is to recondition and repair it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The amount and kinds of equipment on display in the various shop sections was staggering, which included the chassis straightener pictured above. A couple of the folks on the tour were mechanics, and they looked like kids in a candy store.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are multiple floors in the General Repair Shop building, which was erected in 1964.

Everything I’ve shown you so far was from one of the upper floors, which is accessed by the vehicular ramps found on 58th street. Downstairs, we visited several smaller shops, including this one which was dedicated to woodworking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The section pictured above is a sheet metal, and general metal working, shop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An abundance of inventory was available, and I can’t imagine the logistic difficulties of keeping the army of labor employed in this giant facility armed with everything they’d need to do their jobs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This lathe caught my eye, if for no other reason than its scale. Apparently, they can fabricate axles for trucks with this gizmo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sort of esoteric industrial age equipment found hereabouts was incredible, and the sort of stuff you might be able to find on a WW2 era Navy ship. That’s a “turret lathe” if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An engine mechanic’s shop was visited, where truck engines were being broken down and rebuilt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It goes without mentioning that the Sanitation Department keeps a clean house.

Despite all of this material, and its occupation, the place was clean as a whistle. We were told that the “Commish” had been there earlier in the day, so maybe that’s why, but in my experience the folks who handle our collective mess are generally “obsessive compulsive” about staying clean. Never known an off duty Sanitation worker who wasn’t sweet smelling and perfectly groomed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t resist a close up on those gear heads.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Open House NY tour lasted a couple of hours, and our last stop was at a “clean room” with a vehicle emissions testing lab. An MTA Bus was secured in place by stout chains, and positioned over steel cylinders set into the flooring.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bus was actuated, and its engine roared into action. If the wheels had been able to gain purchase, it would have likely been moving at thirty to forty miles an hour.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All sorts of scientific “tackle” had been attached to its exhaust system, which gathered its emissions and ran it through filtration materials to test what the thing breathes out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The OHNY tour ended, and we tourists were released back into the darkness of industrial Maspeth. It was time for DSNY to get back to work. Me too, and I had to evacuate the area before the night gaunts and ghasts at the nearby Mt. Zion and Third Calvary Cemeteries realized that I was in the neighborhood after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had dipped behind the Shining City of Manhattan.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

strict silence

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you found yourself in Queens, between two cemeteries and two highways and at the angle between Woodside and Maspeth (technically Woodside, according to the US Postal Service), at 52-35 58th street – one would be hard pressed not to notice the gargantuan building that’s operated by the NYC Department of Sanitation – which is labeled as being “Department of Sanitation Central Repair Shop.” I’m told that the interior of this industrial facility holds about a million square feet of space, and long have my eyes wished to view that which does transpire within.

The earliest mention I could find of the Central Repair Shop, incidentally, dates back to August of 1955 when the Sanitation Department Commissioner requested that the City Planning Commission include $15 million smackers in their 1956 budget to build the place. The building opened during the tenure of Commissioner Frank J. Lucia, but I’m not certain if he’s the fellow who oversaw its construction.

Wishes come true if you want them hard enough, lords and ladies, for both Commisioners and Humble Narrators.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may recall that there was a bit of a hullabaloo here at the Central Repair Shop back in 2011 which made the news.

The building was designed, btw, by the architecture and engineering firm of Fellheimer and Wagner. By me, it’s quite an attractive structure, but I do like my “modernism” and the exterior of this structure would look very much at home if it was found in Batman’s Gotham City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The purpose of this facility, which opened during the Mayoralty of Robert Wagner and the Borough Presidency of Mario Cariello in August of 1964, is to service the vast fleet of trucks and other heavy equipment used by the Department of Sanitation. Coincidentally DSNY also handles fleet maintenance for several other City agencies here – and you’ll notice examples of the DEP, Buildings, DOT and other municipal fleet vehicles scattered throughout today and tomorrow’s posts.

I was lucky enough to score a ticket to visit this spot on a tour created by the Open House NY outfit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Central Repair Shop is immense, with literally hundreds of heavy trucks occupying maintenance bays almost as far as the eye could see. Before you ask – no, it didn’t smell. All the garbage trucks receive a power wash before they enter the building, and there was an elaborate ventilation system in place which vented the shop floors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t catch his last name, but the fellow with the shaved head pictured above was named Bob, and he was one of the managers of the shop building. He conducted the tour for the OHNY group, which hosted a fairly substantial number of folks. As is usually the case with such tours, everybody was waving around expensive camera setups.

Given the amount of low light photography which a humble narrator has been engaging in during recent years, I surmised two things rather quickly – a) I was going to have to use a flash and b) wide open apertures weren’t going to cut it in here given the levels of foreground detail and long sight lines. I angled my flash at the white ceiling for “bounce light,” and set the camera to f5.6 at ISO 6400 for pretty much the whole endeavor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lighting situation was complex within the Central Repair Shop, with combinations of sodium and flourescent overhead light fixtures above and street facing windows carrying in bright sunlight. Coupling that with metallic and reflective surfaces that ran the entire spectrum from black to white, the flash provided a fill light that brought everything together under one overarching color temperature. The narrowed aperture allowed for a certain hyper focal distance to be achieved.

Normally, I’d just shoot using ambient light and a wide open lens (f2.8 or faster) but that wasn’t going to work this time around. When the shots came off of the camera, they required a bit of tweaking, contrast and color temperature wise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, I’ve personally never seen a garbage truck up on a lift before.

More tomorrow from inside the Department of Sanitation’s Central Repair Shop, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 20, 2017 at 11:00 am

odd purchases

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things that we, as in the environmental and activist community along Newtown Creek, have been asking officialdom about for years is about why there is zero signage advising the citizenry about not fishing or crabbing in the Newtown Creek. I know this might strike you as odd, but folks actually do fish and crab hereabouts. Observationally, these are people who were born overseas, so the signage issue becomes a bit complicated given the legendary “diversity” of Western Queens and North Brooklyn. The Albany people have always questioned as to why you’d need signage, as it’s illegal to fish without a license, and every NYS licensee has been advised about the environmental conditions encountered on the inland waterways of NYC – which is one of the most “Albany people” things I’ve ever heard.

Luckily, the Feds at EPA realized what we’ve been asking for is necessary and have begun the process of creating advisory signage, and the PRP (Potentially Resonsible Parties) consortium which styles itself as the “Newtown Creek Group” volunteered to manufacture the placards, which EPA would in turn design and install. The signage is pretty close to its final design iteration, and the latest version looks like this. As to where the signs should be placed? Who has carefully documented every little pocket and corner of the streets surrounding the Creek? Who can tell you where people commonly fish? That’s a Newtown Creek Alliance job, anyone can tell you that.

Let’s face it, who ya gonna call?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Accordingly, one found himself in Greenpoint recently at nine in the morning as the EPA team assembled. Civilians cannot ride in Government vehicles (which is an odd rule, as we technically own them) so the third party contractor who will do the actual installation of the things did the driving. We hit every little corner of the Newtown Creek where people can find access to the water, even the hidden spots where the “utes” of Greenpernt like to experiment with cannibinoids.

It was actually quite a beautiful morning, and the light was fantastic, so while the Feds got busy with the tape measures and GPS’d the various locations we visited, I waved the camera around a bit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We did encounter an “enforcement situation” in Brooklyn alongside the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. There’s a protocol for “who’s responsible for what” along the Newtown Creek. Short version is this – EPA is in charge of Superfund, which is specifically related to the sediments under the water. New or ongoing pollution entering the water is the provence of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

The NYC DEP is responsible for absolutely nothing anywhere or anytime, it’s not their fault at all, and they have no idea why they were named as a PRP in the first place as it’s all Exxon or National Grid’s fault.

The fellow from EPA I was on the bridge with confirmed my belief that “I should call this in” and the NYS DEC Spill Response hotline was called. If you spot oil slicks, plumes of floatable contaminants, or as in the case of the shot above – hundreds of gallons of milky white mystery juice exiting one of DEP’s open sewers – the protocol is to first photograph it, as documentation, and then to call 1 (800) 457-7362 to let DEC know about the situation so they can investigate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We were, as mentioned above, visiting every conceivable spot that the citizenry could find their way to the water.

That included “off limits” locations like the Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge over the English Kills tributary. As you can see from all the interesting graffiti on the bridge, which carries lead tracks of the Bushwick Branch LIRR, trespassing is pretty common back here. This is the reason that EPA asked Newtown Creek Alliance to send somebody along with them, as there’s the “official story” and a “real story” found along the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This family of Canada Geese were encountered at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road, and were being predated by a feral cat who was anxious for breakfast. Momma and Poppa Goose were just out of frame to the left, so the cat made a brilliant decision and continued on into the brush to look for some easier prey. We encountered a couple of broods of Geese over the course of the morning. Geese can be ornery, as a note, and will smack you up if they’re annoyed.

One of these illegal alien avian bullies, at Maspeth Creek, actually hissed at us as we neared, and stuck its tongue out at me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reasoning behind the signage is based around science rather than good humored politics, incidentally. When you’re chatting with environmental officials, they don’t refer to oysters or mussels as shellfish, rather they call them “bioaccumulators.” Animals that are high up in the food chain have internal organs – livers in particular – and muscular tissues which have amassed dangerous levels of whatever pollutant is found in the sediments of the waterway, which they’ve attained by consuming all the prey critters who are below them in the food chain hierarchy. In the case of crabs, in particular, you can encounter a fantastic amount of chemical concentrates due to their particular niche and occupations.

Newtown Creek is – of course – a Federal Superfund site. The sediment beds hereabout are a goulash of petroleum and petroleum byproducts, organocopper compounds, volatile organic compounds, PCB’s, coal tar, sewage, and everything else that has ever been dumped or spilled into the water. The sediment is referred to as “black mayonnaise” and it’s where the crabs live. It’s also where most of the invertebrates that form the bottom of the food chain for the fish population live. Itty bitty critters eat the decaying organics of the black mayonnaise, and slightly less itty bitty critters eat handfuls of the little guys, and the larger critters eat hundreds of them – you get the idea.

You don’t want to eat fish or crabs that you catch in the Newtown Creek. Really.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

inappropriate interludes

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It’s National Cupcake Lovers Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lonely path one such as myself walks often reveals hidden facets of the great human hive which are unnoticed or uncommented upon by most. An often quoted line from the 1980’s film Buckaroo Banzai is “no matter where you go, there you are,” and that’s something I couldn’t agree with more. Under the LIRR tracks at 43rd street nearby Barnett Avenue, an enterprising family has been collating the collections of the neighborhood “Canners,” who harvest recyclable beverage containers from residential trash. These containers are literally “money left in the street” and prove out the old aphorism that the streets of NYC are paved in gold if you’re willing to work hard enough to get it.

I first became aware of the “collectors” around twenty years ago when I was working a night shift and living in Manhattan, and I’d encounter trucks filled with bags of bottles. The exchange rate was three or four cents a can (depending), as opposed to the five cents you’ll get at a redemption center, with the extra pennies compensating the truck driver and saving the canner the hassle of using the slow and often out of order bottle redemption mechanisms found at supermarkets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a timing thing, getting the blue arc of electrical energy that lights up the train on the local Queens bound track at Queens Plaza. Cannot tell you how many times I miss it, even though I can utterly predict when the flash will occur as the R line local enters the station. My normal predication is to walk home to Astoria, from Queens Plaza, but at night you need to be worried about the pestilential Vampires who are known to infest the area. The 108th and 114th precincts will both deny the existence of this crowd of blood drinkers.

There’s also teenagers, who are wildly unpredictable creatures given to sudden flights of fancy and best avoided.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as I’ve been able to discern, the only vampire we’ve got locally here in Southern Astoria is my pal Matty, pictured above. The shot above was captured just as he was about to lean in and suckle on my jugular, and I surprised him by suddenly spinning around to catch him in the act before he distended the fangs. Legend has it that Matty has been “living” in the neighborhood since the 1880’s, but it isn’t clear if he was already a nosferatu when he arrived or if it’s something that happened locally. No one, not even Matty, is sure where he nests – but as soon as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself ducks below the horizon, he appears.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm

immature exemplar

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It’s National Peanut Butter Cookie Day, according to the National Peanut Council, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who didn’t get the notification, the City has updated the Queensboro Bridge’s firmware over the weekend. You’ll no longer find your driving directions in “citytunes,” instead they’re now in a separate app.

That’s a joke, of course, for those of you who are literally minded, but this last weekend was a commuter nightmare subway wise, which resulted in a surface transportation clusterfuck of vehicular traffic trying to exit or enter Queens. A classic example of “you can’t get there from here,” multiple subway lines were rerouted or nonexistent due to track work, and the entire experience of getting around town was framed by a couple of conversations I was a part of last week with the NYC EDC, regarding their Sunnyside Yards Feasibility study.

One had two opportunities last week to throw shade at them about the project. One was at the Queens Chamber of Commerce – while wearing my Newtown Creek Alliance Hat – which saw me asking EDC about truck routes and what exactly they think they’re going to be able to plug 28,000 units of housing into. The other was wearing my Access Queens hat (we don’t have actual AQ hats, btw) and I queried as to how half the population of Boulder Colorado would manage to get to work in the City using just three subway stations (33rd Street/Rawson and 40th street/Lowery on the 7, and 36th street on the R/M) every day. Other questions involved hospital beds, NYPD, FDNY, and we explored the chronology involved with transport to Elmhurst Hospital or Bellevue for a citizen who might be experiencing a heart attack or stroke from the ostensible center of the project at Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Hunters Point, the dig for Captain Praa’s Golden Horde continues. The semi legendary Dutch sea Captain who settled on the northern side of the Mispat, or Newtown Creek, is meant to have buried a blasphemous treasure he collected on a journey to and from the mysterious Micronesian island of Pohnpei (formerly known as Ponape) in the South Pacific. In the native tongue, Pohnpei translates to “upon a stone altar,” and it is where you’ll find the archaeological site of Nan Modol (which translates to “the spaces between”). Legend has it that Praa was terrified by the latent occult implications of the golden treasure he carried home, and ensured that it would be forever lost in the mud and silt. The tall tale that frog headed monstrosities, reported as periodically rising from the Newtown Creek in the historical record, followed him back to NY Harbor is completely unsubstantiated and fantastic in implication.

from wikipedia

According to Pohnpeian legend, Nan Madol was constructed by twin sorcerers Olisihpa and Olosohpa from the mythical Western Katau, or Kanamwayso. The brothers arrived in a large canoe seeking a place to build an altar so that they could worship Nahnisohn Sahpw, the god of agriculture. After several false starts, the two brothers successfully built an altar off Temwen Island, where they performed their rituals. In legend, these brothers levitated the huge stones with the aid of a flying dragon. When Olisihpa died of old age, Olosohpa became the first Saudeleur. Olosohpa married a local woman and sired twelve generations, producing sixteen other Saudeleur rulers of the Dipwilap (“Great”) clan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the weekend, one encountered an online conspiracy theory describing the retail giant Wal-Mart as playing a seminal role in a secretive FEMA plot which would see a declaration of martial law enacted in pursuance of the confiscation of personal firearms. This plot, as reported, had Hillary Clinton as its fountainhead. Mrs. Clinton was just an agent, however of a shadowy cabal populated by internationalist Jewish Bankers in league with the Bilderberg group, who are upset that Donald Trump has emerged to thwart their nefarious goals. Who knew?

It made me wonder, and more than wonder, what role the Harley Davidson people might be playing in this global power grab. What other large scale American corporations might be working to subvert individual liberty and institute a new world order?

Moreover, why isn’t anyone talking or worrying about the antediluvian horrors lurking in the seas of the South Pacific just off Pohnpei, specifically located at 47°9′S 126°43′W – where the nightmare corpse city of R’lyeh lies sunken beneath the waves…  in all of its slimy green immensity – which was built in the measureless eons behind history by those vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars?

I think we can all guess who that flying dragon that Olisihpa and Olosohpa built Nan Modol with is, after all.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

pocket flask

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It’s International Lemon Drizzle Cake Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My understanding is that there are isolated settlements, and pockets, of humanity which would be found to the north, west, and south of New York City but that just might be an old wives tale. Imagine… someplace which is not NYC… it boggles the mind. Do these semi mythological people wear skins and hunt with clubs? Are they the descendants of the Dutch who moved away when the English civilization took regency of our archipelago so long ago? Someday, one must mount an expedition and explore the dark continent found to the west, but for now… one is busy attempting to access a lead clad iron vault hidden away beneath the Steinway Branch Library at Broadway here in Astoria, wherein the Queens library system is rumored to store its collection of blasphemy riddled occult literature.

The Queens Library won’t admit, and will tacitly deny in fact, that a stout vault containing tomes of forbidden occult lore exists in Astoria, but you can’t fool a humble narrator… such wonders do exist, as does the dire information they contain. Why do you think the Greeks and Copts travelled from the orient and settled here? Grow up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Word has it that Dutch Sea Captain Peter Praa brought certain “artifacts” back from the southern Pacific island of Ponape, which he buried in discrete locations around a land grant he acquired from the Dutch East India people which once belonged to Dominie Everardus Bogardus. This land was later inherited by Praa’s great grandaughter Anna Hunter. Hunters Point in LIC, as we know it in modern times, is constantly riven by the crews of laborers who are scratching into the mud and rock found here. The cover story offered by officialdom is that these laborers are merely construction workers employed by the Real Estate Industrial Complex, but don’t believe what you’re told. They’re searching for Praa’s treasure, and their employers seek possession of those occluded secrets carried back to the west which the Dutch thought best left buried and forgotten.

Just because a tale is fantastic, unbelievable, or inconceivably byzantine doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Secrets and lies, secrets and lies. There are sections of the Newtown Creek about which even the otherwise overly transparent officials overseeing the Superfund proceedings will not opine. When questions arise about these isolated spots, they grow pale and elusive, avoiding your gaze and changing the subject quickly. What have they found in the muck and mire, in certain stretches of the waterway, particularly on the Brooklyn side, where the pirate Blackbeard is said to have buried a cache of stolen booty? The 19th century tales told by the toll bridge attendants of the Penny Bridge? The man like things with frog heads which they reported as loping out of the water in the dead of night and howling at the moon? Myths and old wives tales, if you believe the powers that be.

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


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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