The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘street furniture

kindred wells

with one comment

The Astoria street furniture dance has begun anew.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, one noticed the display above on the corner of Broadway and 43rd street. The cast off box spring somehow evaded the bulk pickup day efforts of the DSNY, or it came from an “illegal” apartment, and had made its way down to the corner, where some wise Astorian had decided to attempt disposal of the large item by putting it into proximity with the corner trash basket. The entirely accidental nature of its pleasing esthetic – with a slab laid in triangular fashion over the cylindrical trash barrel – is fairly common for these parts. Everyone is an artist, even if they don’t know it.

For those of you not in the know, or who sleep on the floor, a box spring (or Divan) is a wooden or metal frame covered in fabric that encapsulates metal springs. It provides a base for, and adds height to, a softer mattress which sits on top of it. Box Springs used to be a fairly western european and american “thing” but as the material and financial pleasures of a “modern western economy” have spread around the planet, so too has this style of bedding. A notable holdout on this are the Japanese people, who still prefer their traditional “futon” style bedding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Box Springs, and mattresses for that matter, are fairly robust in construction and cause no small amount of trouble for DSNY (NYC Department of Sanitation) and other entities that handle the flow of waste and trash. Bedding is fairly huge, easily lights on fire, and is designed to resist both weight and pressure. Bedding items choke shredding machines, fill landfills and collection trucks up rather quickly, and given their central role in the citizenry’s off hour pursuits (sex, sleep, drooling etc.) are often biohazards. Recent years have seen regulations created here in NYC that demand box spring and mattresses left out for bulk collection be wrapped in specialized plastic sheeting to keep them from spreading the plague of bedbugs (or vantsem, in Yiddish).

Here in Astoria, where we have a fairly severe problem as far as the subject of illegally dumping unwanted items on the sidewalks on a good day, the dance of the street furniture has officially begun. This thing will be, and has been, moving around Broadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was captured the same night as the first two, just a few hours later when I was returning from my evening activities.

So… why did the box spring cross the road?

Short answer is the likely one, which is that the building owner on the side of Broadway where it was originally discarded didn’t want to take the chance of getting a ticket from the DSNY inspectors who would be showing up along with the collection trucks the next morning, so they shunted the problem off onto someone else. I’ve observed the “dance of the street furniture” before, and it’s entirely likely this thing is going to become very well travelled before it finally gets taken away.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Upcoming Tours and Events


Thursday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Greenpoint Walking Tour w NYCH20

Explore Greenpoint’s post industrial landscape and waterfront with Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman.

Click here for ticketing and more information.


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

July 24, 2019 at 1:00 pm

honest bourgeoise

leave a comment »

Street Furniture, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is still a bit behind in his schedule, and a series of peregrinations over the weekend diverted one from producing new posts or putting the finishing touches on any new shots, so I reached into the archives for today’s post. It’s one of my favorite subjects – street furniture. Normally that term applies to fire hydrants or lamp posts or benches, but in my little world it can also be used for the cast off furnishings that the humans who inhabit this urban hive position on the street in the hope that some one, anyone in fact, might lessen their burden and take the unwanted thing.

Interesting thing about street furniture is that it often speaks to the economic status of the neighborhood you encounter it in. To wit – this rather expensive looking chair encountered along the sidewalks of the Upper East Side of the Shining City of Manhattan, pictured above. That’s some high class trash, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Brooklyn rules” state that if something has been abandoned on the sidewalk, it’s yours for the taking. Before the reemergence of bed bugs (or “vantzem,” as my Grandma would have said) in NYC in recent years, it was fairly commonplace for young folks and college students to furnish their entire apartment with found furniture.

Not so much anymore, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always impressed with the material wealth of our culture. The amount of usable and fairly well conditioned furniture cast aside in the pursuit of redecorating is kind of staggering. Often it seems that you could fill an entire apartment with stuff you’d find after a bit of leg work on bulk pickup days.

I’d need to buy a new mattress, as a note. There are certain items which I categorize as “personal” – hats, shoes, underwear, bedding. Items that might spend a lot of its time absorbing bodily fluids like spit or sweat are things you really want in “virgin” condition, in my opinion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are a few non profits out there, beyond the morally circumspect Salvation Army people, who will take your “good condition, used” category furniture items and see that they find a new home with somebody in need. There’s “Build it Green” here in Queens, for instance. I’ve always wondered why the Sanitation Department doesn’t do something similar with good condition furniture left on the curb.

I would guess that the logistics of redistribution rather than disposal would be too expensive and complicated to be feasible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A complaint often offered at this – your Newtown Pentacle – centers around the lack of public lavatories in NYC.

This sidewalk find in LIC suggests that all things are possible if a little imagination is utilized.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This fellow is a hero to all Astorians, having dragged his reclining “dad chair” into his minivan and then deploying it at Astoria Park. Thusly, the very best definition of street furniture is submitted for your approval.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm

reciprocity delayed

leave a comment »

Street Furniture, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is not what I mean by the term “street furniture,” despite some accuracy in the description for the depiction. Street Furniture is the term used by city planners and their ilk for the lamp posts, fire boxes, benches, and all the other stuff which officialdom rivets to the sidewalk. The City of Greater New York is blessed with what must be at least one bureaucrat for every living citizen, and they just love generating “municipal paper.”

This sort of municipal paper is chock full of technical drawings, installation instructions, and specifications outlying the construction and installation of “street furniture.” Check out the NYC DOT’s street design manual here. It will tell you how to plant a tree, or fence one off, and install a light somewhere near it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The urban ephemera which surrounds us all is barely noticed except when one is trying to park a car, but the signs governing the activity are all up on certain sorts of poles, and carry missives which conform to city, state, and federal guidelines governing font usage and kerning.

As discussed in this 2014 NY Times piece, the Federal Highway Administration recently updated the specifications for street signs and have compelled the NYC DOT to change EVERY street sign in the City to conform to their “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the one thing which the municipal officials don’t seem to want to acknowledge is human biology, and the concept of hanging a piss bucket on a post every few blocks seems to have escaped their endless categorization and classification. Luckily, there are amateur planners out there who ensure that there is always someplace for a passing pedestrian to use and exploit.

While passing by this tableau, a few years back, a humble narrator did – in fact – investigate what might be found under the lid of this unconnected commode. Affirmation that somebody used it to produce what is colloquially referred to as “#2” is offered.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 5, 2016 at 11:00 am

%d bloggers like this: