The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘sunnyside

inappropriate interludes

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It’s National Cupcake Lovers Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lonely path one such as myself walks often reveals hidden facets of the great human hive which are unnoticed or uncommented upon by most. An often quoted line from the 1980’s film Buckaroo Banzai is “no matter where you go, there you are,” and that’s something I couldn’t agree with more. Under the LIRR tracks at 43rd street nearby Barnett Avenue, an enterprising family has been collating the collections of the neighborhood “Canners,” who harvest recyclable beverage containers from residential trash. These containers are literally “money left in the street” and prove out the old aphorism that the streets of NYC are paved in gold if you’re willing to work hard enough to get it.

I first became aware of the “collectors” around twenty years ago when I was working a night shift and living in Manhattan, and I’d encounter trucks filled with bags of bottles. The exchange rate was three or four cents a can (depending), as opposed to the five cents you’ll get at a redemption center, with the extra pennies compensating the truck driver and saving the canner the hassle of using the slow and often out of order bottle redemption mechanisms found at supermarkets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a timing thing, getting the blue arc of electrical energy that lights up the train on the local Queens bound track at Queens Plaza. Cannot tell you how many times I miss it, even though I can utterly predict when the flash will occur as the R line local enters the station. My normal predication is to walk home to Astoria, from Queens Plaza, but at night you need to be worried about the pestilential Vampires who are known to infest the area. The 108th and 114th precincts will both deny the existence of this crowd of blood drinkers.

There’s also teenagers, who are wildly unpredictable creatures given to sudden flights of fancy and best avoided.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as I’ve been able to discern, the only vampire we’ve got locally here in Southern Astoria is my pal Matty, pictured above. The shot above was captured just as he was about to lean in and suckle on my jugular, and I surprised him by suddenly spinning around to catch him in the act before he distended the fangs. Legend has it that Matty has been “living” in the neighborhood since the 1880’s, but it isn’t clear if he was already a nosferatu when he arrived or if it’s something that happened locally. No one, not even Matty, is sure where he nests – but as soon as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself ducks below the horizon, he appears.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm

heavy spring

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It’s National Liver and Onions Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is deep within a web of “have to’s,” “wish I hadn’t’s,” and “should have done better’s” at the moment. All of this coincides with a fiendishly tight schedule of “things to do.” Luckily, after Friday, my burdens will ease up a bit. In the meanwhile, it feels like I’ve drank too much coffee too quickly.

As a note, as you’re reading this, I’ve been onboard a boat with the Waterfront Alliance and attending their annual harbor conference for a good couple of hours. Odds are pretty good that I’ve annoyed the Mayor and several other elected officials by now with stupid questions, asnine observations, and generally sarcastic comments. It’s what I do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was wandering though Sunnyside the other day, this bagged bear was spotted and it’s probably the saddest thing I’ve seen in a while. My thoughts as I was shooting it were along the lines of “well, I guess somebody’s childhood just ended” and “wow, that’s just weird looking.”

I also considered the idea of grabbing the thing and finding it a home at a clothing bin or in front of a church, as it was in fairly pristine shape, but I’m a big softie when it comes to stuffed toys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I found it odd that the bear was in a recycling bag, incidentally. Who recycles a stuffed toy?

Curious. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 10, 2017 at 11:00 am

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

odd debris

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It’s National Chocolate Cake Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Progress. That’s what they used to call it. The reclamation of wetlands for profitable municipal or private use, and the installation of some sort of useful industry upon the new land. Here in Queens – Northern Blvd., or Jackson Avenue depending on where you are standing, used to be a raised road that rolled through a swampy lowland. Queens, and LIC in particular, were remarkable in the post Civil War era for the prevalence of water borne diseases suffered by occupants of the various towns and villages found along its route. Typhus, malaria, cholera – all of the mosquito vector illnesses were quite common.

It’s the reason that Queens was so open to large scale development in the early 20th century when technologies emerged that allowed for the draining of swamplands and marshes. In a sudden burst of activity at the start of the last century – you see the emergence of the Queensboro Bridge, the Sunnyside Yards, and the appearance of the subway system.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as the critters go, they’re still following their old patterns even though the ancestral waters are buried tens of feet below the surface. It’s why you’ll still see clouds of gulls flying around at Sunnyside’s northern border or over in Woodside, miles from the East River or Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The automobile represented “progress” to the generations who fought the World Wars. The City was remade and rebuilt by Robert Moses and the armies he led in pursuance of progress. The highways and local streets which divide us also provided the opportunity to raise the level of land over the water table and install sewerage systems. These sewers quicken the flow of water, which in turn did away with the languid puddles and marshes in which the disease spreading clouds of mosquitos could breed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was no more potent symbol of “progress” in the late 19th century however, than the railroad. Unfortunately, it was ruled by opportunist financiers like JP Morgan and predatory capitalists like John D. Rockefeller, both of whom contributed to the industry becoming less and less profitable to operate. Robert Moses was no friend to the railroads either. Ultimately, by the late 1960’s, all of the private rail companies that handled passenger and freight were bankrupt and brought under government control.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Progress seems to be a forgotten concept in the modern day. It’s about maintaining what we’ve inherited, rather than dreaming big, of what we could have. We no longer reach for the stars, even on National Chocolate Cake Day.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 27, 2017 at 1:00 pm

eastern headland

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Cool cars trucks, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering home one day, I encountered this fantastically retro GMC RV parked alongside the Sunnyside Yards on 43rd street. Fiberglass body panels, panel truck frame… I didn’t check the registration sticker, but I think this is a GMC Motorhome, which was produced from 1973-8. There were only about 12,000 of these manufactured, and according to online sources, 7,000 of those are still registered and on the road.

They really knew how to make ’em back then, huh? This sucker is almost as old as me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A fence was down at the Sunnyside Yards the same day I spotted the GMC Motorhome, revealing the cable truck seen above. Love the wooden spools, I do. Made me think that some titanic tailor had taken up residence at what was once the world’s largest railroad coach yard, and had used up all the threading which the truck brought in.

If you’re a giant, you can’t buy off the rack, as even a “big and tall” clothing shop has limits. Just ask the Mayor… as the Dope from Park Slope is Brobigdagnian. Maybe the giant tailor is working for him.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Northern Blvd., the delivery of automobiles is a daily occurrence. I’ve mentioned before that this sort of sight brings out my inner seven year old in the same way that FDNY engine units screaming by does. There’s a reason that I call Northern Blvd. “the Carridor” y’know.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 28, 2016 at 1:00 pm

clung round

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Night time in Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This week, you can expect exactly zero newly minted shots from this humble narrator. One part of the reason for that is that Xmas week postings are (annually speaking) the ones with the lowest readership at this – your Newtown Pentacle, the other is that due to the gloom, wet, and cold last week – I wasn’t exactly outside a whole lot. As is my habit, a few shots were selected from the archives for presentation, your consideration and possible amusement.

That’s Sunnyside Gardens in the shot above, shot sometime in the late night or early morning, if memory serves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Point A in my life is Astoria, Queens. All journeys start at “Point A,” for me, and end there as well.

Pictured above is 31st street beneath the elevated tracks of the Subway, on a drizzle choked evening.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the elevated, I stand by my assertion that the 7 line is the most photogenic of all NYC’s Subway lines. That’s her, crashing through LIC.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

doglike lopers

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The concrete devastations, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve mentioned several times recently, an effort is under way to revisit a number of spots which I’ve not set foot in for a while. When I first began wandering around Newtown Creek and the neighborhoods surrounding it, a point was made to visit every single block, but in recent months and years, temporal exigency has caused one to travel along “efficient” routes to get from Point A (A as in Astoria) to Points B, C, and so on.

Accordingly, since I seem to have all the time in the world at the moment, I’m taking the road less travelled and revisiting a few locales which have been off my radar for a bit. To wit, pictured above is the view from 53rd avenue at the angle between Sunnyside and West Maspeth, looking west towards the BQE/LIE interchange.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Prior to the installation of the two highways, roughly 75-80 years ago, this was a place where working people still lived. There was a neighborhood here, at the western border of Newtown’s Maspeth section and the eastern border of LIC’s Blissville subdivision. That’s when Robert Moses, with his New Meeker Avenue Bridge (Kosciuszko Bridge), and Brooklyn Queens Connecting highway, and Long Island Expressway came to town. Zoning decisions made in Manhattan during the post WW2 era rendered this area as “M1” – meaning it is designated for heavy manufacturing usage only.

Regardless of how the City people decided this land should be used, residential usage continued and there are still a small number of fairly ancient homes found peppered in amongst the warehouses, factories and construction oriented tower crane storage yards hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funny thing is that this neighborhood is – observationally – one of the last places in NYC where you can “leave your front door open.” Saying that, when I use the term “concretized devastations of Western Queens” this section of industrial Maspeth is what I’m usually thinking of.

Most of the surviving homes I see in this neighborhood are typified by what you see above, wood frame row houses which date back to around 1900 or so. There’s a few older houses nearby which are a bit “grander” and speak to an earlier incarnation of this area. A few have disappeared “under my watch,” and have been replaced with bland cinder block warehouse or industrial buildings. Can’t really speak to “who” lives here, amongst the cranes and highways.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All I can tell you is that they have an amazing view. This POV is on the rising bluff which once led to a prominent hill to the south called Berlin. The next highest prominence to the west would have been Laurel Hill, which Calvary Cemetery was carved into. This section of Maspeth was actually called “Berlin” until the First World War, when it was changed for obvious reasons to West Maspeth. To the east, the land’s declination rises until it meets a ridge which signals the beginning of the terminal moraine of Long Island nearby Mount Olivette and Lutheran Cemeteries. That ridge, which sports the same sort of rocky geology that lends its name to Ridgewood, is “real” land. Everything west of Laurel Hill is elluvial fill deposited by glacial process and sediment delivered by flooding from the Newtown Creek and East River.

Climate change and rising sea level wise, this likely will be the East River coastline someday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looping around to the south, as the BQE and LIE interchange cut off egress east/west, an ad hoc art gallery is encountered. Illegal dumping, as I’ve often opined, is the unofficial nativist art form of the Borough of Queens. Combined with long fence lines that are covered in crude graffiti, you’ll encounter several installations along this route which offer intriguing intellectual postulates from the local artistic community.

Everything here is artisanal, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reality of these installations are that this is simply a convenient place for a low level building contractor to dispose of construction debris without having to pay a dumping fee, but allow me to stay “high brow” in my assessments.

These dumpers really do seem to pay some attention to composition and color, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

53rd avenue terminates in a parabola which carries it into 43rd street, a colonial era pathway that once connected to Newtown Creek from Bowery Bay in Astoria. The road transected the properties of (amongst several other famous Dutch and English family names from the colonial era) the Riker’s, Skillman’s, and Alsops along its route, and according to the historic record – it was paved with crushed oyster shells. All that changed, of course, when first the Long Island Railroad and later Robert Moses came to town.

43rd street still exists in a fairly unbroken line from Astoria to Northern Blvd. and then crosses the Sunnyside Yards south into Sunnyside where it crosses Queens Blvd. and Greenpoint Avenue. When it crosses under the Long Island Expressway overpass, it resumes its pre municipal consolidation name – Laurel Hill Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “43rd street” you encounter in this section of industrial Maspeth, however, is disconnected from the northern section. The last homes on 43rd street went “bye-bye” just a few years ago, due to a smallish construction project going on in the area. With fewer people watching, and caring, the artisanal illegal dumping in this area has amplified.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the shot above, you can discern why I sometimes refer to this section as the “crane district.”

You can also plainly see the sharp rise in altitude hereabouts. This is, as mentioned, largely an industrial zone. There’s a lot of heavy industry going on. Warehouse operations, severely heavy truck traffic, waste transfer stations – Newtown Creek is just a few thousand feet to the south.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Newtown Creek, that smallish construction operation I mentioned earlier is the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project, which crosses the waterway. If memory serves, that means that something like a half million vehicles a day pass through this pass between Berlin and Laurel Hills. The Kosciuszko Bridge was opened in 1939, and the Queens side approach was built into a shallow valley found between the two landforms, and over a lost tributary of Newtown Creek which was called “Wolf Creek.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s that, then. See you next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 16, 2016 at 11:00 am

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