The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘skillman avenue

coherent thought

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Combination punches are what make a great fighter, and a deadly virus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is forced to continue his incessant marching about, as my very existence is predicated upon regular “cardio” without which my veins and arteries will become plugged up. In accordance with quarantine rules, I’m only leaving the house when the streets will be absolutely deserted. Luckily, I favor lonely paths, enjoy the concrete devastations, and am also a bit of a night owl under best circumstance. Recent endeavor found one wandering through Long Island City on my way to Newtown Creek on a Saturday night. I know how to party.

That’s Skillman Avenue pictured above. Somehow, all the arguing and gnashing of teeth over that bike lane seems pretty silly now, doesn’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

LIC is still home to several yellow cab fleets. These pictures were gathered on a Saturday night, and seemingly all of the yellow cabs operated by this particular outfit were sitting parked and empty. Already in serious trouble due to a changing economy and the rapacious greed of both medallion brokers and the City’s “TLC,” I don’t know if the yellow cab side of the “for hire vehicle” segment is going to survive this quarantine.

There’s a lot of people I know who work in the so called “gig” economy who are experiencing total unemployment and impoverishment already. Personally speaking, there is going to zero demand for any sort of walking or boat tour until at least July, and that’s presuming that things are normal again by then, so I’m actually one of the aforementioned “screwed” as well. Lots of belt tightening is underway at HQ, and my goal of buying a new camera body at the end of the year is pretty much kaput.

Saying that, I’m hoping to just not get sick and die right now, so if I manage that, it’ll soften the blow about the camera. ‘Life and death” versus “things you’d want debates”… so very American of me, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I do have a bit of sympathy for the cab drivers, as a note. A humble narrator makes it a point of talking to cab drivers, whereas a lot of folks don’t bother. One is often interested in the points of view offered by the mostly immigrant drivers, some of whom are surprisingly well educated and interesting people working at their first job in the U.S. and are just making ends meet by working in this particular trade. Others are knuckleheads and bad conversationalists.

One of the things I observed while wandering around that night was that the ethnic restaurants were empty, while bars and other restaurants were packed. This was on Saturday the 14th, as a note. When I say “ethnic restaurants” I don’t mean the kind that cater to the general population, rather ones which people of that restaurants actual ethnic culture or community frequent – the Comida Typica’s or Greek Tavernas or the Colombian steak and egg joints.

Of course, on this evening restaurants and bars were still open.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 19, 2020 at 11:00 am

ineffable malignity

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Holy Cow!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saturday last, one found himself aimlessly wandering down Skillman Avenue in Long Island City’s Degnon Terminal and towards the Smiling Hogshead Ranch. The community garden was deserted, of course, and offered one such as myself little succor. My uncharacteristic desire for the company of others thwarted, my languid steps began to scuttle towards the Waldes Koh I Noor complex, whereupon I discovered a herd of cattle. A single one of them was scarlet in coloration, which might have some significance to certain shunned societies which live amongst the Uigar of North Western China’s cold waste.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As has often been posited at this, your Newtown Pentacle, the native art form of the Borough of Queens is surely illegal dumping. Nowhere else do you see the sort of attention to detail, the little splashes of color, the artful composition and theatrical presentation that is commonly witnessed here. Accordingly, presented for consideration… a herd of unwanted cows, shattered and slaughtered in the former “Workshop of America” here in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Presumptively, these were meant for some sort of Christmas nativity scene and didn’t make the cut. Polychrome, the cattle were all in a decidedly ruined state, and one or two of them were painted in a manner which suggested a metallic patina. One wondered if smallish ceramic Neanderthals might have driven the herd over some tiny cliff during a hunt? The stylings of the sculpt suggest a nativity scene to me, but I’m pretty sure there’s supposed to be donkeys and camels in one of those (as well as a few folks in robes, a kid playing a drum, and a glowing baby). One is certain that he has never witnessed the depiction of the Christian nativity scene as having a brazen bull present.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps these are representations of the Golden Cow, from that whole Moses and the Exodus story arc (published in “The Bible” issues 1-5), which have been cast down symbolically? I can’t imagine the late night scenario wherein this bovine statuary was dumped, right across the street from a largish NYPD location which serves the gendarmes as an evidence warehouse. Perhaps the cattle statues were an offering left nearby some totemic item of a malignant occult significance which the Police have kept locked away from the public since the spring of 1923, out of an abundance of caution and concern for the collective sanity of mankind? I mean, it sort of logically follows, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was beginning to stare towards someplace else which wasn’t Queens, so a humble narrator began to trudge back towards HQ in far off Astoria, all the while contemplating the cows. Why a single red one? Why the brazens? Why not pitch them into any one of the hundreds of open containers and garbage bins which line the streets in front of every business? Did the Dumper say “hey, community garden and farm! Here’s the spot, crash the cows over by that police car over there”? Conundrum notwithstanding, one had to quicken his pace as darkness fell because of… well, y’know… Vampires.

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padding, clicking, walking

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Want to feel better? Take a walk in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Skillman Avenue between 39th street and 49th avenue is “big sky country” here in Western Queens, with the majesties of the Sunnyside Yard and the glorious skyline of the Shining City laid out for all observers. It has always been one of my favorite spots for a stroll, and never more so than at twilight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a number of things I can tell you about the yards. When it opened, this was the largest coach yard on the planet, and it hosts the busiest tracks on earth to this day – specifically, the Harold Interlocking, which is shared by Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad. There’s an ocean of PCB’s and other industrial chemicals in the ground here, and its likely going to be listed for some sort of environmental cleanup or remediation before too long.

The odd and continuing appearances of cast off single shoes found along the fence line continues to intrigue and puzzle a humble narrator, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the whole “deck over the yard and build a new neighborhood on top of it, with a stadium and hotel complex at the Queens Plaza side and affordable housing to the east” chestnut has surfaced again – the latest iteration of a plan espoused by Dan Doctoroff early in the first Bloomberg term. A number of people have asked me what my thoughts on the matter are.

My reply is always: How, in any way, would that be good for Queens? Does the proposal to deck the yards include hospitals and schools, an annex for the already stretched 104th and 114th precincts, additional FDNY personnel and equipment, or some mechanism to incorporate this new population into the existing wastewater system? Who will bear the costs of these municipal services? It won’t be the entity that builds a stadium or hotel complex, one guarantees you.

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ecstasies and horrors

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Peculiar shapes framing the opalescent moon- no doubt due to a dynamic weather system, rather than some external force, intelligence, or madness inducing entity of supra normal scope which can exist only in the imaginings of a madman- caught my attention while returning to Astoria from the hoary lanes of Greenpoint. It seems sometimes that one spends most of his time occupied in perambulating between the two communities and those happy neighborhoods which adjoin the two.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Trying to ignore the shining parallelogram of clouds which lent our world’s largest satellite a menacing cast, your humble narrator elected to continue working on the whole “night photography” thing, and began fumbling about with camera settings and nervously whispering to myself. Skillman Avenue, normally a well traveled and busy thoroughfare in Western Queens which adjoins the Sunnyside Rail Yard, is a ghost town at night, although there is a feeling of being watched.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was not being paranoid either, as dozens of security cameras actually were watching me. Whether someone is ultimately watching the camera feed is another matter, of course, but the machines notice all things. They especially notice a weirdo in a black raincoat waving a camera around in near total darkness. Such thinking kept my mind off the menace of the lunar threat, and the curious way that the parallelogram in the sky unsettled me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One supposes that he is just too fragile for this world, a stunted flower straining out from the cracks which mar a post industrial field of pavement. Perhaps it is fated that I follow my ancestors into convalescence and begin the search for an institution of charitable design which might house and insulate me from the terrible possibilities which lurk at the edge of sanity- for if one finds himself a selenophobic, may he not be accused of being a lunatic?

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 6, 2013 at 12:15 am

smaller detail

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The continuing saga of the single shoes shows no sign of surcease. All about the Pentacle, this singular displays of just one half of mated pairs continues, and my suspicions of some malign operation and intent are extant and growing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This sporty number was observed on Skillman Avenue, alongside the titan Sunnyside Yard. A concentration point of sorts for the phenomena, many of the castoff examples of footwear have been observed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mention should be made, for new readers and old, that your humble narrator never poses a found object or alters the scene from the condition in which it is found. What you see is what I saw, in exact situ.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 17, 2013 at 12:15 am

unutterable and unnatural

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Haunting the bridges which carry pedestrian and vehicular traffic over the Sunnyside yards, as always, your humble narrator is both frustrated and relieved at the presence of the stout steel plating which obscures the track.

Frustrated, because it makes it quite difficult to photograph and bear witness to its wonders- Relieved because the vital infrastructure of the rail yard is protected from casual “sapping”.

I, of course, know where every gap in the fencing exists that is large enough to poke a camera lens through.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Yards are used not just by it’s main tenants- Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad- it also serves as temporary housing for the excess capacity of other area rail lines, such as the New Jersey Transit cars on the left hand side of the shot above. The ones on the right are Amtrak.

In the distance is that assemblage of early 20th century industrial splendor known as the Degnon Terminal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The amazing layer cake of Western Queens is manifest in this place, where the drained swamp which became the Sunnyside Yards reveals the natural grade of the land. The tracks of the 7 Subway line hang over a viaduct which exits Queens Plaza and becomes Queens Blvd.

In the distance are the former Ever Ready Battery, American Chicle, and Sunshine Biscuits “Thousand Windows” factories which were the crown jewels of the Degnon Terminal.

sinister exultation

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a mid summer day in the city, July 24th to be exact, and the kind of weather which feels like one has been wrapped in hot barber shop towels was upon us. Occluded by a humid and occasionally precipitating mist, the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was absent from the scene, but its influence was seen and felt by everyone here in this old section of Long Island City once known as the Degnon Terminal.

While marching down Skillman Avenue, your humble narrator could not help but notice a not so minor conflagration at the nearby Hunters Point rail station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that an Amtrak engine, part of a problematic series of units employed by the rail conglomerate which are known as being given to sudden and unexpected events of immolation (or so my rail fan contacts tell me) had caught fire.

It was no surprise that the only camera on the scene was my own, as there are few in the Greater City who care for Queens and it’s burdens. FDNY (which does care about Queens) was on scene in great numbers, including members of several units which the Manhattan Political Elites had recently attempted to close due to budget issues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The engine seemed to be suffering from an electrical issue, which was anecdotally confirmed by one of the fire department commanders who was gracious enough to discuss the issue with me. Frustration was evinced by this veteran of New York’s never ending war on combustion that the spot which the engine had halted at was beyond the reach of his hose lines, and that they could only put band aids on the fire using hand held extinguishers.

There were literally dozens of fire team specialists in full tactical gear and several mobile command posts arrayed at strategic spots around the rail yard, but their ambitions were stymied by security fence and distance from hydrants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The commander, a lanky Irishman of solid build whose height easily passed the six foot mark, next informed me that their plan was to bring a second engine in from the nearby Sunnyside Yard complex and hitch it to the back of the train.

This second unit would then tow the burning engine and it’s passenger cars back to the titan Sunnyside Yard where both equipment and resources to combat the blaze would be available and abundant.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the last few years, of course, your humble narrator has discovered or happened across every possible vantage point large enough to stick a camera lens through around the fenced off and often carefully obscured rail infrastructure which weaves through Western Queens and knowing FDNY’s plan, moved into a more propitious spot to record the event.

One must be careful when photographing trains and trackways, lest one accidentally step onto federal or state property and violate not just homeland security regulations but archaic laws which have persisted since the early days of the iron road, many of which carry mandatory sentences.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The irony of these so called regulations, of course, is that whether it is because of expedience or carelessness, many of the employee entrances to the rail yard are often left ajar and unguarded. Was this to occur in Manhattan, there would undoubtedly be a series of broadcast and print media articles and investigations, followed by political posturing and a spate of sham regulations.

Since this is Queens, where the Borough motto should be “welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself”, nothing will happen and the issue will never be discussed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The smell of burning insulation and plastics mixed freely with the humid air, and a monstrous storm was building in the milky sky. Far off thunder to the south indicated that a storm was coming. Your humble narrator, not too far from home however, persevered and dared the weather to do it’s worst.

Besides, the reason I was on Skillman Avenue in the first place was that I had to meet some guy to talk about a thing down here, and I caught this whole event simply because Queens wanted me to witness her burdens again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps it’s the impending anniversary of the September 11 attacks, or merely the normal late summer ennui which always darkens my mood, but the notion that the FDNY hasn’t got fire hose lines long enough to put out a train fire here- at so critical a spot in the infrastructure of the Megalopolis, and that an ordinary civilian like myself can so easily gain visual and physical access to all this- worries me.

In my travels across the concrete desolations of the river communities of North Brooklyn and Western Queens, there are so many of these unguarded and strategic points which have presented themselves that frankly- I don’t like taking the Train or Ferry anymore. When I point these vulnerabilities out to associates who are employed by government agencies or elected officials, they roll their eyes and tell me not to worry.

Same thing they used to do when I wondered out loud back in the 90’s about whether or not the United States had a system of air defenses protecting the defacto capitol city of North America.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm

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