The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Roosevelt Avenue

innocuous solidity

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The “A” in MTA is for “adventure.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On our return trip from the Queens Zoo last weekend, Our Lady of the Pentacle and I took a stab at using the cheapest and fastest way from 111 street in Corona to Broadway in Astoria. In the morning, we were forced to use a cab and plunked out nearly $20 doing so. The alternative was to take the R into Manhattan, and transfer at 42nd street/Grand Central to the 7 line which would then take us to the zoo. Maintenance crews were at work on both lines, and there was neither an east bound option on the R (to Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights where you normally transfer to the 7, or the E and F for that matter) nor a west bound one since the R was bypassing Queensboro Plaza. You had to go into Manhattan. Another alternative I sometimes use, when needing to access the 7 line, is the Q 104 bus which connects Astoria’s Broadway to Queens Blvd. Unfortunately, the 7 line was skipping more than half of its eastwards route as well, which included the stretch from Queens Plaza to Jackson Heights. As mentioned above, the “A” in “MTA” stands for “Adventure.”

Before one of you jokers jumps in with “why not ride a bike, Mitch,” allow me to offer a saying I learned from the Sicilians of Canarsie – Bafongoo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily for us, upon arriving at the 7 line stop at 111th street after our zoo experience, we discovered that the trains heading towards Manhattan were operating in the standard fashion. After weaving our way through the groups of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had arranged themselves around the station, we swiped through “fare control” and joined with the hundreds and hundreds of people waiting for the 7 up on the platform. Seemingly, Corona still hosts a large population of Puerto Ricans, many of whom seemed to be traveling to the Puerto Rican Day Parade over in the City. I presume they were Puerto Rican, given that many of them were wearing clothing adorned with the island’s flag and were also adorned with various garments reading “Boricua” or “Nuyorican.” They might have just been fans of the island and its peoples, who knows. Never assume.

All I can tell you is that it was a pleasure to hear Spanish spoken with the particular rhythms that the Puerto Rican accent brings. Growing up in NYC, most of the Spanish speakers I encountered were Puerto Rican or Dominicans. These days, the entire Spanish speaking world is represented here in NYC, but the dulcet and softer spoken tone of the Mexican and Central American accents seem to be the ones most commonly encountered. Kind of a Boston accent versus a Louisiana one sort of thing, y’know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Alongside basic mathematics, the intellectual weakness I’ve most commonly displayed over the decades has been a consistent inability to speak other languages. I can understand a bit of Spanish, or at least watch an espanol movie or TV show and follow along with most of the dialogue. Often, I can form a simple sentence in my mind ina foreign tongue, but can’t force my mouth to make the words come out correctly. I’ve tried and tried. Yiddish was regularly spoken by my family, but the same issue occurs if I try to speak it. Essentially, I’m doing an imitation of somebody talking yiddish rather than speaking it. Weird, huh?

I’ve got friends, born overseas, from all over the world here in Astoria. They’ll often apologize for not knowing some esoteric English word or turn of phrase and proclaim their stupidity. I remind them that they speak two languages cogently, and oftentimes more than two. That’s a pretty incredible thing, when you think about it. I pronounce “hors d’oeuvres” (those little French snack things) as “whores da ohvoors,” after all.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

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

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

Tickets and more details
here.


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Buy a book!

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

correlate every

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Artsy fartsy on Roosevelt Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, I was actually talking on a conference call about MTA with a couple of colleagues while shooting the shots in today’s post. Additionally, I was freezing my yum yums off, but what does a little existential discomfort matter when one is pursuing the muse? I had scuttled along this pathway on Roosevelt Avenue sometime in the last couple of weeks and decided there and then that I needed to come back with the intention of capturing the artificial light playing along the steel of the IRT Flushing or 7 Line elevated subway tracks above. These shots are from where and when I did so.

Last Monday and Woodside, which sounds sort of anticlimactic, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, during the day, the steel structure casts harsh shadows that are framed by extremely bright shafts of sunlight which reduces photo exposure options significantly. At night, however, traffic and street lights – even light spilling out of apartment windows – creates a random and often quite colorful luminance. Throw in passing auto traffic and illuminated shop signs? Yup, interesting place to do some long exposures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Roosevelt Avenue, however, isn’t exactly a backwater. It’s densely travelled by vehicles of all kinds and there’s lots of pedestrians as well. Luckily, the steel girders supporting the overhead trackage provide lots of places for you to set up and compose a tripod shot. Unfortunately, these girders seem to be favorite spots for illegal dumping or vomiting and are very popular with the canine population of Woodside. C’est La Vie, ay?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The path I decided on walking was, by necessity of climatological conditions, short by my standard. A quick subway ride on the M train from Astoria to the Roosevelt Avenue stop carried me to Jackson Heights, whereupon a southeasterly posture was assumed by turning onto Roosevelt and walking up the hill towards Queens Blvd. After finishing up my self appointed task, one walked down the hill at 48th street and back to HQ in Astoria.

Yes, I was tempted to cut things short and hail that cab in pursuance of warming up my yum yums.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The conference call I was on, as mentioned, revolved around the MTA and various issues surrounding it in Queens. Given the dearth of subway lines serving 75% of the Borough, and the fact that most Queensican commuters have to rely on Buses, I volunteered to begin using the bus system more and more to “get smart” about it. Back when I was full time advertising guy Mitch, one of the agencies I worked for was Ogilvy & Mather, founded in part by a fellow named David Ogilvy. Ogilvy was one of the first scientific marketers back in the “mad men” era, and wrote several books about his experiences and realizations. One of his bits of advice involved signing up for or using your customer’s products, to learn what the experience is of the said customer you’re trying to sell something to.

I’m not trying to sell you bus rides, of course, but within a year I’ll be able to speak a lot more intelligently than I can now (I literally live over a Subway line, so I’m going to have to go far afield of “my way” on this one) about what’s good or bad about Bus service in – at least – Western and Northern Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Baby, it was cold outside. Luckily, I arrived at my turnaround point at Queens Blvd., packed up the tripod and wide angle lens, refitted the camera to handheld settings and affixed a “bright” night lens. As it turns out, my yum yums survived the cold and are in fine fettle.

Next week – something completely different at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 18, 2019 at 11:00 am

much attention

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Woodside area, Roosevelt Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Throughout 2018, particularly from the end of the summer through the autumn and all the way into December, a nighttime photographic survey of Newtown Creek and its surrounding neighborhoods was undertaken. As regular readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you, every nook and cranny around the waterway saw me show up in the dead of night and set up the tripod. Because of this effort, I’m trying to take a Newtown Creek break and shoot other things for a bit. Sometime in the next couple of weeks I need to go shoot another progress report on the K Bridge project, but I’ll do that when I feel like it and have some time to kill. Right now, I’m really interested in the 7 train corridor.

Coincidentally, since the aforementioned corridor has a de facto roof on it provided by the elevated tracks of the IRT Flushing Line, it’s a bit less “chilly” than it is hanging around the waterfront in January.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always wondered about what it’s like living near the Woodside stop on the 7, where there’s both an elevated 7 line stop and a Long Island Rail Road station. Noisy, I’d imagine. Luckily for the folks that live here, it’s also on a primary approach to LaGuardia Airport which is found to the north. The folks that live on the block pictured above actually have an awesome Irish Bar on their corner, Saints and Sinners, so they can at least find solace or succor deep in their cups if the noise is keeping them awake at night. HQ back in Astoria sits atop a subway tunnel, the IND Broadway Local or R line. I barely even notice the vibrations anymore. You don’t hear anything, other than minor rattling emanating from the cupboards.

It’s best to just ignore the rattling, or any of the sounds which come from deep inside the walls, at Casa Mitch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

58th street, which at Roosevelt Avenue is just a few blocks from the dead bang geographic center of NYC at Queens Blvd. and 58th, is where I decided to start deploying the tripod and other long exposure gear to try and capture the amazing amount of light kicking around in the steel rafters after dark. During the day, it’s just a mass of hard shadows up there, and a fairly difficult place to get the right exposure due to the bright shafts of sunlight peeking through the steel. There aren’t a lot of middle tones, essentially, to meter against in such a contrasty environment.

More tomorrow. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 17, 2019 at 11:00 am

astute pupils

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into the cold waste…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Multiple layers of insulating clothing were draped off of the slowly rotting corpse which houses a humble narrator, just the other night, and out into the freezing temperatures did I go. As mentioned countless times in the past, one has a particular vulnerability to cold weather, which is at odds with and forms a comorbidity revolving about my aversion to boredom. Accordingly, my plan was to avoid the waterfront this particular evening and spend my time inhabiting the steel shadowed corridor of Roosevelt Avenue and limit my evening constitutional to just over two hours spent in the cold.

Strategically speaking, one needed to acquire imagery for this and other posts, and my tactics involved the usage of the NYCTA system to put myself in a fairly interesting place and then walk back to HQ the “long way round.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ever a stickler for grammatically annoying others, the different meanings of a strategy versus a tactic is something which drives me mad. While browsing a military surplus website, one came upon an offering for two items – a tactical briefcase and a tactical pen. The briefcase was merely a fairly ugly bag constructed from the sort of fabrics commonly found in military items like rucksacks, and the pen was designed and constructed in a manner where it could double as a stabbing weapon. What sort of tactic either of these items represented is beyond me.

A strategy is an overarching plan formulated to achieve a goal – “I shall conquer France, using my portfolio of mad scientist inventions, along multiple fronts in pursuance of causing their Government to collapse while stretching the capabilities of their military out.” A tactic is – “The race of Atomic Supermen I’ve been breeding in the jungles of the Amazon will invade from the Atlantic seaboard,” or “while my volcano cannons bombard their Mediterranean coast, freezes rays will shine on Paris and bury it in ice.” Actions committed are tactical, the overall plan is the strategy, and neither briefcases nor pens could be considered as being strategic nor tactical. Your goal in a game of Chess is to capture the opponent’s King, the strategy involves how you plan to do it, and each piece you move is tactic.

As a note, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about conquering France using science fiction weapons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m also obsessed with the word “Carpenter” at the moment. A carpenter doesn’t “carpent” at work, yet the job indicates that they do. The word entered the English language via Old French (which in turn got it from Roman Latin) around the time that the Normans took over in England. It replaced the Germanic sounding “wright” for the trade, although there are a bunch of distinctions in the carpentry world describing what you would do at work (joiner, cooper, finisher etc.) that also indicate skill levels. An interesting bit of linguistics that I recently got turned on to involves the Normans, actually, and how when they set themselves up as the Old French speaking Lords of the Manor in England the English language began to change. Common people ate mutton (Germanic English) whereas the Normans ate lamb (Old French) for example. In essence, if you’re saying a word in English and the tongue is lifting and hitting the frontal roof of the mouth (lightning, for example) it comes from Old French, and if the tongue is on the bottom of the mouth and bunched up at the back (woodworker) its from the Germanic influenced pre conquest language. I can’t speak too intelligently about this subject, as I’ve just encountered the topic, but it’s a pretty interesting one.

These are the sort of things one ponders (tactic) as I’m trying to stay warm (strategy) whilst wandering the streets of Queens in the January dark.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 16, 2019 at 2:30 pm

only briefly

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With one foot in Queens’s Flushing, and the other in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, this NYC street endlessly fascinates. It’s called Roosevelt Avenue east of 48th street and Queens Blvd., and to the west it’s called Greenpoint Avenue. The elevated IRT Flushing line has been lurking above the street since 1917, meaning that the Roosevelt Avenue section has been shielded from the emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself for a century now.

Funny thing is, as far as I’ve been able to discern, Roosevelt Avenue isn’t all that much older than the elevated tracks. Here’s a NY Times article from 1910 which discusses the great haste undertaken by the newly consolidated City of New York in creating the road. Back then – Roosevelt Avenue was considered a highway, apparently, and it was designed to parallel (and create a secondary path for Queensboro Bridge bound traffic) Jackson Avenue (Northern Blvd.) for its three mile route from Woodside to Flushing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The elevated subway along the street (to Corona, Flushing happened a bit later) opened in April of 1917, but it had only been proposed in 1911. This is one of the many reasons which should keep the managers of the MTA up at night, as a note, for the actual agreement to build the thing didn’t happen for another two years in 1913. Imagine the modern incarnation of the organization being able to get literally anything done, let alone monumental capital construction, in just four years.

Them’s was giants in those days, I tells ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been led to believe that there are a significant number of “quality of life” issues suffered by the folks who frequent Roosevelt Avenue due to the presence of the elevated tracks. Bird droppings, toxic lead paint flaking from the steel, omnipresent heavy vehicle traffic, a suffocating amount of noise. There’s meant to be a significant footprint of the underworld along Roosevelt Avenue as well, and Ive been told tales of all levels of prostitution (street to Madame run apartment Boudoirs), gangsters, and gambling dens.

Funny thing is, all of these things don’t slow things down along the street one little bit. The shops are all occupied, and commercial businesses thrive, even on the third floors of walk up buildings. Compared to other commercial strips in Western Queens – Steinway Street in Astoria comes to mind – every kind of business seems to be booming along Roosevelt Avenue.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

teetering sanity

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The glorious IRT Flushing Line, or 7 line, opened in a couple of stages here in Queens. It wasn’t until 1928 that the line reached its modern terminal destination in Flushing, with the section in LIC between Manhattan and Queensboro Plaza having opened in 1915. The second section to open was the QB Plaza to 103rd st./Alburtis Avenue stop in Corona, and that happened on the 21st of April in 1917. That means that we have a centennial on our hands, lords and ladies, next Friday.

Luckily, a humble narrator and his friends are not the sort of people to allow such important matters to go unacknowledged.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may or may not know, I’ve been hanging out and working with the folks at Access Queens of late, a community group dedicated to transit advocacy issues. Next Friday, we are going to be commemorating the opening of the line – and I’ll supply details of the event with you as soon as possible next week (everything is still forming up) – and I wanted to advise those of you inveterate fans of the NYC Subway system to start the process of getting the afternoon off on the 21st (next Friday) if you want to join us in celebrating the “international express” which, in many ways, built modern day Queens.

There’s going to be some pretty cool stuff going on, I tell you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The plan, as it stands right now, involves the replication of a journey which the “hoi polloi” and politicians made a century ago, boarding the IRT Flushing Line at Grand Central at 2 in the afternoon. We are going to ride the line through the eleven stops after Queensboro Plaza to 103/Alburtis and then commemorate “our train.” Come with?

The history of Queens is often unacknowledged, ignored, or forgotten entirely. Not on my watch, however.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 14, 2017 at 1:00 pm

purple hills

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It’s Sepandārmazgān, or “Women’s Day,” in Zoroastrian Iran.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A shot of a Taxi Garage on Roosevelt Avenue today, but only a single one – as I still haven’t dug myself out of a hole which I currently find myself in. FYI, a humble narrator is involved in that most harrowing of all projects which an artist of any stripe can venture into – the creation of a portfolio to showcase past work and procure future employment. This is a vast endeavor, ripe with psychological recrimination and personal ennui. It’s also “all consuming,” but I should be done with the meat of it by the end of this week at which point postings of a more substantial sort will be coming your way.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

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