The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Sunnyside Yards

disclosures which

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Happy Monday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, this weekend’s nocturnal walk occurred on Saturday night, which was a bit windy for my taste but I’m trying to be out and about as much as possible before proper winter sets in so there you are. Pictured above is Steinway Street, here in Astoria, where i considered getting on the subway in pursuance of getting to LIC but decided it wasn’t worth the risk of daring fate by entering the system. Instead, I scuttled along one of my usual routes, and whilst walking pondered a few things.

Amazon, Queens, life. One of the things I decided to do was put out an open request to you, lords and ladies, in the hope of attaining a point of view for the camera which I’m desirous of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrestrial is how I’d describe the images I usually capture. The point of view is generally somewhere between ground level and roughly 64 inches from it (that’s how tall my tripod is). That “big project” I’ve been working on is nearly finished, but I’m still missing something, and that’s a nocturnal aerial shot of Newtown Creek. Ideally, I’d love to set up and capture the image from the Empire State Building over in the City, but they don’t exactly encourage that sort of thing on the observation deck unless you’ve got TV Network money to convince them into letting you do so. The last time I was up there, I got a bunch of daytime shots like this one, just so you understand what I need to tie a bow around this project of mine and put it to bed.

If you’re reading this in Manhattan, and live or work between 18th and 34th streets, with visual access to the East River and Newtown Creek… I’d love to try and talk you into letting me set up the gear and record your POV. I’d only need around thirty minutes, on a clear night, well after dark which is about six p.m. or later this time of year. Contact me here (link is to my email address “newtownpentacle@yahoo.com” if it sets off any security alerts, there’s nothing “unkosher” in it) if this sounds like fun. I’ll pay you back with some sort of cool thing or other.

The “full view” of the Creek from on high is what I’m looking for, but if you’re living on an upper floor in one of the new buildings in LIC or Greenpoint and can see Newtown Creek from your windows or roof, that would work as well. Pictured above, as a note, is Skillman Avenue alongside the Sunnyside Yards. Those new bike lanes are barely being used for their intended purpose, but they do make a nice safe spot to take pictures from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the meantime, I’m scratching along in the grit and grime on the streets of Western Queens.

The shot above was captured at the intersection where Queensboro Bridge traffic from Queens Plaza emerges from under the steel of the elevated IRT Flushing line #7 tracks, and travels on one of the five vehicle bridges spanning the trackage of the Sunnyside Yards. Just to the south is Thomson Avenue, which provides another connection for LIC traffic across the Sunnyside Yards via another viaduct, and westwards towards the Court Square section of Hunters Point, and Jackson Avenue. A busy and complicated intersection, this is also where Van Dam Street begins, carrying automotive traffic south towards the Blissville section of LIC and the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge (which overflies the tracks of the Long Island Railroad) after crossing under the Long Island Expressway at Borden Avenue.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

nicely scabbed

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Monday continues to suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been burning the proverbial midnight oil for the last few days, working late into the night in the manner which I was once known for. There’s a couple of big projects in the works, which I hope to be telling y’all about in the coming weeks, but there is a dearth of content for the old Newtown Penatcle today, so a few odds and ends are on offer. Pictured above is a food truck observed on the corner of Steinway Street and Broadway in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been running to and fro, and relying on the ever unreliable MTA to get me there. As I often opine – The “A” in “MTA” is for “Adventure.” That’s the M line entering the 46th street station here in Astoria, which one utilized to connect – via the Court Square Station – with the G line and North Brooklyn.

Once upon a time, I used to budget out a little extra time and plan my rides on the Subway in pursuance of getting a seat and taking one train to my destination. These days, I’m more likely to transfer three or four times along the way. When life throws you lemons you make lemonade, and when a Mayor and a Governor play political football with the transit system you figure out how to be agile when traveling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of subways, that streaky light in the shot above is the 7 line exiting the “tube” at the Hunters Point Avenue stop and climbing up the elevated tracks towards the aforementioned Court Square Station. The south western tip of the Sunnyside Yards is what you see in the rest of the shot, along with some of the new real estate development underway which will give everyone another chance to live in a high rise tower rooted into a toxic mess of post industrial ooze.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 5, 2018 at 1:30 pm

stalking shadows

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Doom… doom… doom…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So last week, I attended the NYC EDC’s soirée at LaGuardia Community College regarding their Sunnyside Yards Project. It was your standard “visioning” operation with poster board setup stations. You were supposed to progress from one to the next, deliver input, and then receive what turned out to be a really tasty plate of food. Pretty standard stuff for the non profit/public benefit organization industrial complex. The EDC were thrilled with the turnout, with their social media trumpeting vast support for the project and a turnout in the hundreds. They had to set up a line for entry. All the usual faces from LIC and Astoria were present, including a humble narrator. At every visioning station, the first question I asked the facilitator was “Where do you live”? The answer was never “Queens.”

In reality, the Building Trades Council organized a huge turnout by organized labor groups, which is how the EDC achieved that boast of “hundreds turned out for.” The place actually looked like a cast reunion for the Sopranos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The EDC folks focused conversation on the imagined benefits to the communities surrounding the Sunnsyide Yards which their project would bring. They never mention the noise, tumult, and vastly increased flow of heavy truck traffic that a 24/7 multiple decade long project like this would bring along with it.

Don’t forget, the whole point of decking the 183 square acre property is that of a “land grab” with the intention of making it available for politically connected real estate developers to exploit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Decking the Sunnyside Yards is a centuried goal of the Manhattan people. It defeated Robert Moses, Nelson Rockefeller, and Michael Bloomberg. The vain glory of the our current Mayor states that his administration can do this. Notably, the EDC and City Hall neglect to mention how we’d pay for this, although I’m sure terms like “value capture” will be bandied about.

The cost of the deck alone, if they put shovels in the ground today, would likely be $18-20 Billion. That’s money which the City would borrow. If the City was actually in the position to borrow that sort of debt, don’t you think fixing NYCHA would be a slightly higher priority for the self proclaimed “Progressive Mayor”? Funding the Subways? Hospitals? Cops? Bah.


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certain theories

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Central planning likes homogeneity, which is why they hate Queens. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There really is no place like the Borough of Queens, and in particular the western half of it, for encountering sudden visual serendipity. You’ll notice the Triborough Bridge peeking out from a driveway between two semi detached houses in Astoria, a commanding view of the Manhattan skyline from a toilet’s window on Jackson Avenue in LIC, or a railroad train running through someone’s back yard at a BBQ in Woodside. Maspeth’s elevation offers grandiose views of the entire “soup bowl” surrounding the East River and Manhattan, as does Calvary Cemetery in Blissville, and I can tell you – Landing Lights Park in East Elmhurst is an exceptionally interesting place to bring a camera if you’re an aviation enthusiast. 

It’s the patchwork nature of Queens that makes it a special place. Up until a little over a hundred years ago, all the “111” zip codes of modernity were part of an independent Long Island City, Woodside was a seperate town, and so too was Winfield distinct. That’s why you sometimes feel like you’ve crossed from one distinct “zone” into another in Queens, and why we all use our individual community names instead of “Queens” on return address postal labels. Disturbingly heterogenous is the way I’d describe the alignment of street grids, abundance of dead ends, and the chaotic building stock in Queens. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens is still the way all of NYC used to be. Organic and quixotic, quite filthy in certain places, and there are entire blocks you’d be better off walking around than down. There’s too much traffic and not enough transit. It’s a Tower of Babel, with dozens of languages being casually overheard as you saunter along. There’s houses of worship to nearly every god you can imagine (haven’t been able to find a temple to Svarožič, the proto Slavic fire God yet, but give me time… it’ll probably be just north east of Elmhurst somewhere). There’s no form of food you cannot seek and find, product you can’t acquire, nor trouble you cannot get into hereabouts. I know a place in Jackson Heights that will custom tailor a gold thread embroidered Hindu wedding suit that comes with curly toe boots, for instance. The one governing rule in Queens is a complete lack of cross compatible unformity from one side of the street to another, and that there really aren’t any sort of rules. You do what you want or can do, until somebody from the City shows up and hands you either a ticket or a cease and desist order. 

It drives the urban planning crowd insane, Queens does. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The City Planning types like order, geometric precision, and clarity of purpose. They also like ordering things to be done to Queens in the hope of “fixing” it and making it palatable to Manhattan centric sensibilities, something that started with Robert Moses digging trenches through Astoria so that his arterial highway system could feed traffic to his Triborough Bridge. You don’t get a street with a “Utopia Parkway” cognomen if urban planners aren’t involved. 

These folks like “plazas” and theorize about “desire lines” while worrying about density restrictions and guide lines. They spend their working life at the exact intersection where politics and big money real estate crash together, and see some of their best laid plans laid to waste when a concession from a Real Estate Developer is paid to the exigent needs of the Politician who needs to ensure that “the International Brotherhood of Screw Turners Local 6” gets 15 on site positions for the duration of the project. They look and listen as the local community folks yell and scream about gentrification, displacement, and rising rents with calloused eyes. The same sort of eyes that a stripper looks at all males with, since they’ve seen only the toxic excesses and behavioral extremes of the gender. Urban planners, accordingly, have developed a thick skin to the voices of the “locals.” They call us “NIMBY’s” or some other derogatory term.

Thing is, out of chaos comes order, not the other way around. Chaos is life, and entropy is vibrant. Order is staid, banal, maddening. If you allow the urban planning crowd the chance, all of Queens will be covered in campuses visually reminiscent of NYCHA housing. Manhattan is not the model to follow for the “solution to Queens,” rather it’s the problem. I’d rather live in a forest than an orchard, personally.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

morbid listening

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It’s a small world, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometimes it seems like all of Western Queens is a visual parable, some Hollywood set piece or theme park designed by an otherwise unmentioned truly evil brother of Walt and Roy Disney – Dick Disney. The good news is that DickDisneyland doesn’t require an admission ticket, but enter at your own risk since it was designed by a real Dick. Of course, one of my postulates states that entire City of Greater New York is composed of five theme parks. I refer to Queens as “Adventureland,” the Bronx as “Frontierland,” Brooklyn as “Tomorrowland.” The big attraction for the punters is Manhattan the “Shining City,” and there’s always “Staten Epcot” but not many people visit that one. The world of tomorrow ain’t what it used to be, I fear.

Straddling the currently undefended border between Adventureland and Tomorrowland is the Newtown Creek attraction, and I’ll trust that you’ll find it a non obsequious and intrinsically interesting section of DickDisneyland during your next family friendly vacation to New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DickDisneyland has a litter problem, unfortunately, but try to view it as the stuff that future archaeologists will make their careers on, making their academic bones while studying our historic trash middens. It’s not just about entertainment here in the Creeklands (found just next door to Tomorrowland’s Sewer Mountain ride), it’s also educational. Over in Maspeth, nearby the Haberman rail siding, there’s going to be an animatronic showpiece and theater installed soon which will depict Dick Betts and the original Maspeth colonials scalping and killing the Lenape, followed by a live action raid of the theater by actors playing Maspeatche Warriors. At the end of it, the audience will be transported to Elmhurst to find out how that whole story ending up working out.

At the Haberman theater gift shop you’ll be able to buy jarred samples of Black Mayonnaise, small quantities of Peter Cooper’s Glue, and replica oil drums with commemorative certificates indicating the time and date of your visit to the Creeklands attraction here in DickDisneyland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Management at DickDisneyland, it should be mentioned, enforces rules upon its employees and visitors which do not apply to themselves. Were a concession manager to maintain gigantic pools of standing water on their individual lots, enormous financial repurcussions would ensue as our management teams are terrified of mosquito infestation. You can’t have visitors and resident employees of DickDisneyland getting sick, after all. That would reflect poorly on the managers, and deny them promotion to higher positions within the organization.

On the properties directly administered by the management, however… well… who watches the watchers in DickDisneyland?


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stinking ossuaries

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Scuttling, always scuttling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever I mention the 1980’s to those who grew up in Long Island City and Astoria, a shudder seems to go through them. I’ve always wondered if that shudder has anything to do with why all the trees are in cages.

I’ve asked a few of the lifers, but boiling down the answers offered by them reveals one singular truth, which is simply expressed by describing the Croatian people as being remarkably tight lipped. There’s some gesturing involved in their answers, and sometimes a few words in a language which I can never understand (I’ve tried). Regardless, something motivated several of them to build iron cages for the street trees around here. I’ve learned to just accept things over the years which I’ve dwelt here in Astoria, Queens. 

Such is my lot. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is in a weird place, in terms of his mood. Feeling increasingly obsequious, and often wondering who the old fellow staring back at me from the bathroom mirror is, a humble narrator nevertheless sallies forth. Like the trees here in Astoria, there are iron bars and fences all around me. Often it feels as if one is juggling chain saws, and that one slip up will result in disaster. The whole “angry young man” thing is no longer a valid posture, as I’ve instead found myself cast as a broken old man. Such is the wheel of life, however, and there’s no point in moaning about it.

There are still battles to fight, and wars to win.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of, that’s the Sunnyside Yards (est. 1909) pictured above. The shots in today’s post, from this point onward, were all captured along 43rd street while walking south. 43rd street, once you cross Northern Blvd. from the blessed rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria, used to be called Laurel Hill Blvd. It connected the eastern side of LIC’s Blissville over by Newtown Creek and Calvary Cemetery with Middleburgh, which modernity calls Sunnyside. That was before the Long Island Expressway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and even before Queens Blvd. and the IRT Flushing Line were created in the 20th century.

Referring to old maps of Western Queens requires the usage of three distinct sets of documents, as they’ve (a shadowy cabal, probably) renamed and reoriented the streets so many times in Queens that it’s confusing as all get out figuring out what something used to be called. There’s a few “landmark” lanes which you can use to figure out relative positioning, like Jackson Avenue or Steinway Street, but even then…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

43rd street, as a pathway to Newtown Creek, has been off my radar for the last few years due to the Koscisuzcko Bridge construction project. Just this last winter, the newly rebuilt pedestrian bridge spanning the onramp to the BQE from the LIE was opened. It replaced an older iteration as part of the bridge project, and I’m in the process of reinstalling this pathway as part of my mental map for “where do I want to go today” usage.

The scaffolding in the shot above obscures the Celtic Park apartment complex, so named for a former beer garden and complex of athletic fields which the development is named for. The Celtic Park, as it was known, was designed and situated to take advantage of the huge numbers of Irish Catholic New Yorkers who came to Queens to visit loved ones in the various properties maintained by Calvary Cemetery found nearby in Blissville and Woodside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One improvement which hasn’t occurred, and I plan on getting after the K-Bridge team about it next time I see them, is the approach to the pedestrian and bicycle bridge that joins 43rd street with the stubby three block stretch of Laurel Hill Blvd. found on the south side of the LIE. The trestle seen above carries the Long Island Expressway, and acts as a seldom mentioned approach to the BQE and Koscisuzcko Bridge itself.

It’s fairly terrifying walking along this stretch of sidewalk, with traffic ramping up to highway speeds alongside of you. A series of jersey barriers would cheaply and effectively address the issue. I’m on it, don’t worry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Aforementioned, that’s the extant section of Laurel Hill Blvd. mentioned above. To the west (or right) is Blissville’s Calvary Cemetery, to the east (or left) is the BQE and industrial Maspeth. This is also more or less the legal border which once existed between the independent municipalities of Long Island City and Newtown, prior to the consolidation of the City of Greater New York.

Tomorrow – so, what’s going on with the Kosciuszcko Bridge project?


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frigid gust

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Like a scorching case of incurable venereal disease, the Sunnyside Yards deck story is back in the news.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just last week, Crains New York Business reported that a development team had been anointed by the NYC EDC to helm the next stage of decking over the Sunnyside Yards and building the Mayor’s Death Star in the LIC section of Western Queens. Representatives of the EDC informed me that this report was erroneous, and that no partner has yet been chosen to explore the pathway laid out in their 2017 feasibility study.

I informed them that the Federal EPA had recently added Sunnsyide Yards to the Newtown Creek Superfund site as a “PRP,” or Potentially Responsible Party, alongside Exxon Mobil, the NYC DEP, National Grid and others as being responsible for the environmental degradation of the waterway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember, decking over the Sunnyside Yards has long been a dream for the Manhattan based Real Estate Industrial Complex. It’s 183 square acres of land which proponents of development describe as “ugly,” a “scar,” and “a wasteland surrounded by under utilized potential.” I remind them that it’s actually surrounded by LIC, Astoria, Dutch Kills, and Sunnyside. Then I remind them of the promises about affordable housing and community space that Council Member De Blasio made about the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and which never materialized, or the self same Council Member and later Public Advocate’s overt resistance to both Newtown Creek and Gowanus being included on the Superfund list in the first place.

Odd position for the self proclaimed man of the people to hold, and one wonders if his relationship with the Toll brothers, Forest City Ratner, and other real estate developers had anything to do with it? Bill De Blasio is the Donald Trump of the left, I would offer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are mutiple bridges crossing the Sunnsyide Yards, this one carries 39th street, which becomes Steinway Street on the other side of Northern Blvd. See that eight story building at the left? It’s the Standard Motor Products building, the one with the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop farm on top of it. According to renderings offered in the EDC feasibility study, the deck at Sunnyside Yards at 39th street would be start one story higher than it. That would be considered the zero altitude point for the measuring of the forty to sixty story tall residential towers which the document also discusses.

At 43rd street and Barnett Avenue, in Sunnyside Gardens, the deck would start at eleven to twelve stories over the current street grade in Sunnyside Gardens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One would actually prefer the deck structure to fully resemble the cinematic Death Star, a vast sphere of steel with an enormous cannon aimed at New Jersey set into its face, as opposed to the idea of seeing more of the banal glassine boxes typical of recent development activity in Long Island City go up. I’m sure the Mayor could tap Disney for a few campaign donations in return for the free advertising to finance the vainglorious Presidential ambitions he’s currently nursing – if he were to build his Death Star in Queens at Sunnyside Yards. He’d be able to claim that he built “affordable” housing in the Death Star.

The Mayor could start calling himself Darth Equity then. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My understanding is that the actual Sith Lord of New York – the Dark Prince of Albany – remains adamantly opposed to allowing the Mayor his folly here in Queens, but I’m positive it’s not out of altruism.

As a reminder, this decking project defeated the ambitions of Robert Moses, Nelson Rockefeller, and Michael Bloomberg as well as a host of lesser powers and potentates over the last century. Robert Moses, famously, threw his hands in the air and said “it’s just too complicated,” and that was just in terms of trying to site the Long Island Expressway over the yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One looks forward to the day when Bill De Blasio is done sharing his wisdom and sage guidance with NYC, and moves on to share his special set of skills and insights with the rest of the country. Like Donald Trump, he will make a series of promises he never intends to honor, and will disappoint those who believe in his sophomoric and disingenuous promises. The reality that the Sunnyside Yards plan was actually offered by and reintroduced by Michael Bloomberg’s right hand man Dan Doctoroff in a NY Times Op-Ed in the current Mayor’s first year in office, rather than the idea having explosively emerged (in the manner of Athena) from the fertile imaginings of Mr. De Blasio, is something unmentioned by City Hall.

Also, if we’ve got the money to do this, let’s fix the Subways and NYCHA first?

Sum up – Darth Equity, the Mayor is a Dope from Park Slope, and he still wants to build a Death Star in Queens.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?
Tickets and more details here.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 3, 2018 at 11:00 am

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