The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Subway

attic seclusion

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A travlin’ man, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is Astoria, Queens’s 31st street and the elevated subway tracks which both distinguish and curse the spot once known to a newly consolidated City of Greater New York as Second Avenue, and to the Village of Astoria section of an independent municipality called Long Island City as Debevoise Street. These particular tracks, which are known to the MTA as the IRT Astoria Line, opened for business back in February of 1917, and today carry the N and Q lines between Ditmars Blvd. and the Queensboro Bridge.

Saying that, the predecessor of what we know as the Q Line (which is part of MTA’s “B” Division’s BMT service) began coming to Astoria at the end of April of back in 1950, after the purpose built IRT platforms were modified to accept the BMT trains.

It’s actually called the Brighton Line, the Q, and that should tell you everything about where I was going last Monday morning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the MTA website, it was only going to take me 45 minutes to cross the western tip of a Long Island, from North to South by South East. This calculation proved somewhat true, and the journey took me around 50-55 minutes. On the way, I listened to an audiobook of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu” just to get into the mood.

One had finally found the time, you see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other side of my journey from Astoria, the first thing I noticed were the elevated tracks which lead to the Coney Island Stillwell Terminal. Normal people call that the F, but not me. What I see are the tracks of the IND Culver line, and a rapid transit connection that runs between southeast Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens.

So… lessee… that means that even without the proposed BQX streetcar system, you can connect from two wildly separate sections of Queens to the same locus point in Brooklyn. It also suggests that since you can go further and faster using this already extant path… bah, what does logic have to do with De Blasio’s New York?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the 1980’s, when a humble narrator was still a youth, this was one of the best spots in the City to spot graffiti clad subway cars, as they exited out of the terminal. This was also an area infamous for the presence of crack dealers and prostitutes. It wasn’t quite “do or die” around here, but the area in which “The Donald’s Dad” Fred Trump made his fortune was pretty rough “back in the day.”

And that’s before the Russian mobsters arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My little journey was spurred on by the NYCID card which was obtained back during the winter, and more than once at this – your Newtown Pentacle – you’ve read of my desire to visit all of NYC’s premiere animal prisons. In particular, the one that’s found here in Southeast Brooklyn which I haven’t visited since grade school.

This area, less than an hour from home in Astoria (where I’ve lived for around a third of my life), is close to the part of Brooklyn which I spent the first third of my life in and is the outer edge of my old stomping grounds. Specifically speaking, my family lived about 2-3 miles east of here at the Canarsie/Flatlands border, but in the broader sense – I felt like was returning to my home town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Lenape tribe which lived here called this barrier island “Narrioch,” which means “land without shadows.” Given that I spend most of my time in North Brooklyn and Western Queens along a waterway which the Lenape referred to as “Hohosboco” or “the bad water place” and which modernity refers to as the Newtown Creek – seeing Jamaica Bay rising on the horizon beyond Coney Island… it got me all nostalgic.

That’s when I dropped the Lovecraft audiobook and started listening to Iron Maiden.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

tried every

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I mentioned this over the weekend to my Facebook peeps, now it’s your turn…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An old friend of mine recently hit a bit of a health crisis. Surgery ensued, and she’s having a bit of trouble with the purely existential part of her life during recovery – food shopping, laundry, the lifting and carrying sort of stuff. Our Lady of the Pentacle and I volunteered to help her out, and last Saturday our plan involved an afternoon trip to Hunters Point to help out with “whatever.” Before you ask: a) my old friend doesn’t live in one of the new buildings (it’s one of those century old and quite rickety walk up jobs on Jackson where she has lived for literally decades), and b) there was no connection between Court Square and the IND station at Queens Plaza due to maintenance work so we took the R from Astoria and hoofed it the rest of the way.

That’s not the story, though, that’s just the setup.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, this was Fourth of July weekend, of course. The news was abuzz with the news that NYPD was operating a full scale and City wide security operation, and that Hunters Point in particular was going to be focused on due to the gathering at the waterfront to watch the fireworks. I call it the Homeland Security Kabuki show, for various reasons. Pretty standard stuff, in the age of the Terror Wars.

What wasn’t standard was the steel cylinder, which appeared to be some sort of garbage can, sitting on the 46th street subway platform. Having “seen something” a humble narrator thereupon went over to the MTA Station Agent housed in the booth and let her know that the incongruous item was there. She indicated that the authorities would be alerted, and I boarded the incoming R train having “said something.”

As a note, when I arrived at Queens Plaza, I walked over to the NYPD office at the end of the platform and informed the on duty officer of the situation – and also showed him the picture positioned above. He seemed concerned about it.

I was thanked and told that it would be investigated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the 114th precinct being what it is, when Our Lady of the Pentacle and I returned to the 46th street station some three and change hours later… the curious cylinder was still there and clearly unmolested or investigated. That’s when I posted about my experience, and made sure that our local Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was tagged in my missive. He let me know that he had contacted the precinct and that it would be dealt with. In my neighborhood, JVB is the motive force of all things, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, the council member has a unique ability to twist the dials and move the levers of the municipal machinery.

The thing about Queens which drives me absolutely mad is why it is that when someone “sees something” and “says something,” you still need a high government official to cajole the freaking cops into doing their damn jobs. As far as the MTA station agent goes, she probably didn’t have the union certifications for dialing the phone.

I think it’s the International Brotherhood of Button Pushers, Local 5, who does that. You also need three Union carpenters on duty, but you always need three carpenters for some reason.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Tuesday, July 12, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. –
LICHenge, with Atlas Obscura and the
Hunters Point Park Conservancy. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

rotarian path

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Burnt, literally and figuratively.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator feels a bit swollen in the brain today, a sensation which is coupled with a mild case of sunburn. Yesterday found me onboard a boat for the Waterfront Alliance’s annual conference, and one took advantage of the fantastic weather as much as possible by being out on deck after I had captured the photos which the WA asked me to get. Accordingly, my skinvelope is exhibiting the characteristic radiation burns one might expect after exposure to the emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in earlier posts, a sudden flurry of activity has occurred in the last few weeks, which has been quite a distraction.

A recent event which I attended was here in Astoria – a visioning session conducted by the NYCEDC in pursuance of the BQX Street Car system as proposed by Mayor De Blasio – was actually quite interesting. I’m working on a fairly in depth series of posts exploring the idea, and next week I plan on walking the 16 mile route of the BQX to provide some sort of tangible visual documentation of the plan and route.

More on this one is coming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Two events which I’m looking forward to will be occurring the weekend and week of the 21st – a walking tour of the Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint with Atlas Obscura, and a boat tour of the Brooklyn waterfront with the Working Harbor Committee on the 26th.

Come with?

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, May 21st at 3:30 p.m. –
A Return to The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek,
with Atlas Obscura, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 13, 2016 at 1:15 pm

into which

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I been everywhere, man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is fully “back in action” after a long hermitage. In the last seven days – I’ve conducted three walking tours of the Newtown Creek watershed, visited the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project, attended and partcipated in a Working Harbor Committee tour, and have also found myself cathechizing elected officialdom about the dangers of CSO’s (Combined Sewer Outfalls). I also shot and developed a few hundred photos, and you’ll be seeing some of them over the next few days.

I also got to take the most photogenic of NYC’s subway lines the other day, which is the IRT Flushing or 7 line, as evinced by the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Two of my walking tours last week were private affairs, and involved exposing groups of students to LIC. I brought the kids down the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, then along the main stem of the Creek itself, and we eventually ended up along the East River waterfront in Hunters Point.

The counterpoints between “America’s Workshop” and the “Modern Corridor” are jarring, and seeing the post industrial section contrasted with the gentrified residential sections really seemed to hit home with them. I love taking out groups of students, incidentally, as ultimately our world will be theirs someday, and they have to start thinking up the solutions to the colossal mess we’re going to be leaving behind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, what with all the running around, I ended up walking close to forty miles last week as I scuttled around from place to place. This weekend, I’ve got another private group tour on Saturday, but on Sunday there’s a free event I’m helping to conduct with my colleague Will Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance. Details are found below for attending the “North Henry Street Project,” which will meet up at 11 a.m on the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint.

This one is part of the citywide MAS Janeswalk event, and I’m hoping you can come along and check out the plans NCA has been concocting for the “Unnamed Canal,” a minor tributary of Newtown Creek.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, May 8th at 11 a.m. – North Henry Street Project,
with Municipal Arts Society Janeswalk and Newtown Creek Alliance,
in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm

heavy features

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A few shots from NYC’s most photogenic subway line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, a post was offered at this – your Newtown Pentacle – describing the 99th anniversary of the opening of the IRT Flushing Line’s Corona Extension. That’s the 11 stops between Queensboro Plaza and what’s now called 103rd Corona Plaza on the 7. My intention for that post was to show you every station, which I did in fact visit and shoot… but you know me… a week late and a dollar short.

Speaking of, I’m running a bit late today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Large groupings of photos – in the case of the 7 line shots, I came home with something close to a thousand individual captures which have been boiled down to around 200 – create a sort of roadblock for me. They need to be treated as one continuous shoot during the developing process (I shoot in RAW format, so every shot gets a little love and attention). Procedurally, it works like this – an initial pass to cull out over and underexposed or just junk shots, followed by key wording and then cropping. At the end of the procedural stuff I finally get to do the “developing” stage which is the photoshop equivalent of what you film people used to do in the dark room when pulling prints. Once that’s done I can finally start spawning the final incarnations of the things you see, and upload them to the web for dissemination.

When you’re starting with a thousand individual images, this ends up taking a lot of time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I ended up riding the 7 for several hours last week, between Willets Point and Queensboro Plaza. To me, at least, it was worth the effort.

Speaking of transit, tonight at 6:30 at Riccardos by the Bridge in Astoria, there’s a meeting to plan a centennial celebration for the Hell Gate Bridge which I intend on attending. Come with?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2016 at 1:00 pm

hath forgotten

with 3 comments

It’s 99 for the 7’s original 11.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On April 21st, 1917 – the original 11 stops of the IRT Subway line in Queens opened for business. We call the IRT Flushing line the 7, of course. The first stops on the line in Queens – Vernon/Jackson, Hunters Point Avenue, Court Square, and Queensboro were completed a couple of years earlier – but the stretch along Queens Blvd. and Roosevelt Avenue from 33rd Rawson to 103rd Corona Plaza is 99 years old today.

The NY Times was along for that first ride – leaving Grand Central at 3 p.m. and visiting the first 11 stations of the so called Corona Extension. Check out their reportage here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The original names for these IRT Flushing line stops were Rawson street (33rd), Lowery street (40th), Bliss street (46th), Lincoln street (52nd), Flake street (61st), Fiske Avenue (69th), Broadway (74th), 25th avenue (82nd), Elmhurst avenue, Junction Blvd., and Alburtis avenue (103 Corona Plaza). Willets Point came online in May of 1917, and Main Street in Flushing would open in February of 1928.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I actually spent my afternoon yesterday visiting and photographing all of these locations, but was unable to deliver the finished product in time for the anniversary this year, so archive shots of the 7 – some of which have been presented before – are here in their stead.

The historical development of western Queens from a community of farmers and dairymen to the bustling and crowded community of modernity is tied back to several watershed moments in the early 20th century. The opening of Queensboro in 1909, Sunnyside Yards in 1910, and the Steinway subway tunnels opening for business in 1907.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Walking Tour – Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

First Calvary Cemetery Walk.
Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman at First Calvary Cemetery, found in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood along Newtown Creek. Attendance limited to 15 people.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm

iron gray

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More meeting reportage, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, I joined up with another community group – Access Queens – an organization which got its start as a Facebook group called the “7 Train Blues.” I’ve been invited onto the steering committee of Access Queens, which seeks to improve communications between the communities found along the “international express” and the MTA, and to advocate for the riding public. All the history projects I’d been working on in 2014 involving the Sunnyside Yards, and Queens rail in general, has gotten me pretty interested in the Subways. 

A recent meeting – on Tuesday, the fifth of April, in fact – was organized by Access Queens in conjunction with Councilmember Van Bramer’s office over at the Sunnyside Community Services facility on 39th street, and the MTA sent out a group of its officers for an “Ask the MTA” session wherein the ridership of the aforementioned IRT Flushing Line could express their frustrations and interact with the agency.

Since I’m the new kid on the block, I kept to the sidelines and took pictures rather than running my mouth for a change. Access Queens had a seat at the table with MTA, in the person of one the group’s leaders – Sunnyside’s Melissa Orlando – and believe you me, I don’t have to say a word when Melissa is present – she’s the real deal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting facet to this effort, one that I found particularly novel and kind of fascinating, was that both Van Bramer and Orlando were advancing questions to the transit officials which were being live posted on Twitter and on the 7 Train Blues Facebook group. MTA assured all present, and those in other realms, that their “CBTC” switching conversion work was on schedule. Completion of the project would ultimately allow them to increase the hourly frequency of trains on the already “at capacity” line. Overcrowding on platform and train alike were described by the petitioners from the community. There was also a shed load of media in the room. 

A recurring theme emerging from the community was that given the ridiculous amount of real estate mega development occurring all along the Queens side of the 7 – Flushing Commons, Willets Point, and Hunters Point were mentioned in particular – NYC’s infrastructure is being badly strained and pushed to the breaking point.

One of the more interesting things that emerged from the community comments was a request to synchronize the timing of the bus system to coincide with the 7 train delays so as to avoid the “wagon train” phenomena of one full then two empty buses all traveling together. A sight commonly observed by Queensicans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator, of course, seldom has the “7 Train Blues” given that one dwells upon the IND R line along Broadway in Astoria rather than the IRT 7 along Queens Blvd. and Roosevelt Avenue. The case has been made, however, that when the 7 is delayed, the masses of Flushing, Roosevelt, and Corona use the IND lines (R, M, E, F) instead of the IRT one. This results in quite a situation during morning commutes, and dangerous overcrowding. This is a borough wide phenomena, and is forecast to get worse before it gets better as the population continues to expand along the already overbuilt transit corridors. 

Guess that the folks on my side of Northern Blvd. have the “R train blues.”

“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 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

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