The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘sunnyside

secrets never

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Wandering, always wandering.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One fine and recent day, my steps carried me all over Western Queens. Well, not ALL over. I wasn’t in Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, or the forbidden Northern Shore in Astoria. I was in LIC and Sunnyside, however. There was quite a hullabaloo over on 43rd Avenue, and a massive FDNY deployment which was responding to an apartment fire in one of the multi unit building you’ll observe in the section in the 40’s.

I can’t help it, when I see FDNY going to work, I run down the street like a 5 year old yelling “Firemen, Firemen” at the top of my lungs.Imagine my surprise when I discovered that one of these Firefighters was actually a Firelady.

I have to get with the times and stop using gender specific pronouns lest I be sent for corrective therapy at a reeducation campus by the (self described) militias of progressive social justice warriors who lurk online and monitor the Internet for language violations and who police microagressive offenses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Borden Avenue corridor of LIC in the shot above, which is currently the focal point of the speculative Real Estate shit flies. Everywhere I go, people tell me that the interested shit flies want to convert this M1 heavy manufacturing zone over to commercial zoning, which would allow for the creation of office buildings in the corridor between the Pulaski Bridge and Greenpoint Avenue.

I have to say, this actually isn’t a terrible idea. What LIC needs right now is not more apartment and residential stock, rather it needs places for people to work and a commercial corridor which would certainly have a lower environmental impact on Newtown Creek and its tributary Dutch Kills which is local to this area. The former is to the left (or south) side of the shot, just past Fresh Direct and the other warehouse businesses, and the latter is behind the POV of the shot above.

My only request for this conversion would be that the shit flies encourage the MTA to reactivate the Long Island Railroad station found on the other side of the Pualski Bridge for passenger service, which would not make the commercial tenants of the corridor dependent on the Vernon Jackson stop of the 7 train – which is around a half mile away and already quite crowded due to the residential buildout of the East River waterfront and the area surrounding Court Square and Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing I have repeatedly noticed in recent months is the startling number of people you find in industrial LIC these days. When this, your Newtown Pentacle, was started up back in 2009 LIC was a ghost town on the weekends. The sense of devastating loneliness and isolation from the surrounding city is what drew me here in the first place, and it’s bizarre to see people wandering around in my happy hunting grounds.

Who are all these people in my safe space?

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 21, 2016 at 11:00 am

various stages

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Sangria law is coming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ever since Marco Gutierrez, founder of the group Latinos for Trump, laid out his dire warning that “you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner” I’ve been noticing that there already are – in fact, taco trucks on just about every corner. As with all things stupid, some clever quant out there on the web did a calculation regarding the claim, and it emerged that this would represent the creation of something like 15 million new jobs.

I can get behind this sort of capitalist activity, although most of the taco trucks here in Astoria are kind of gross, and offer a quality of foodstuff that’s mainly aimed at inebriates.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t like the “race stuff” and never have. I don’t like lumping groups of people together under a label, whether it be nationalist in nature, racial, or whatever. I don’t like the term “homeless” for instance, as it creates the impression of some homogenous population who all have the same set of problems. I don’t like the idea of calling a huge number of people who hail from widely disparate “south of the border” locales under the umbrella “Latino” either. Labels dehumanize, and once you’ve dehumanized a group…

Do people actually talk to each other anymore, or do they just make stuff up about strangers?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally speaking, as the grandson of members of one the groups who were reviled when they arrived in this country a century ago – in my case, Jews from the Pale – the whole taco truck thing is cast in a different sort of light. These are people who arrived here with nothing – like the Italians, Irish, and other Europeans who came in the 19th and early 20th centuries – and who have worked and clawed their way into the entrepreneurial space by the sweat of their brow. The “race stuff” precludes some from seeing what’s going on here, but a taco truck on every corner is actually not a good thing – it’s a great thing. These people are your grandparents, reborn.

I look forward to the introduction of Sangria Law into the United States, as it will be a delicious and refreshing reboot. Every twenty five to fifty years, you need to pull the plug on America, refresh its firmware and update its operating system – if I’m reading Thomas Jefferson’s meaning correctly, and using modern idiom, to paraphrase his “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”

Upcoming tours and events:


“13 Steps around Dutch Kills” walking tour
with Atlas Obscura, Sunday, September 18th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm

fear him

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Remember, remember the fourteenth of September.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One word before I delve into the usual narrative here – I was attacked by friggin Grasshoppers while in pursuit of some of the images in today’s post. Grasshoppers, as in a biblical plague like swarm of giant bugs flying at me with murder on their minds – a gang of grasshoppers in friggin Long Island City.

It occurs, since these shots were largely collected on the 11th of September, that there are certain calendrical markers which loom large in the collective mind. Unfortunately, these events tend to reflect recent history, whereas other moments which were once considered to be of maximum importance are forgotten. September 11th will be remembered for the events of 2001, of course, but what about September the 14th?

On this day in 326 A.D., Emperor Constantine the Great’s mom Helena (Helena was the Augusta Imperatrix) is said to have recovered a piece of the True Cross in Palestine, as well as finding the site of the burning bush and a few other odds and ends. She’s a Saint now, the Augusta Imperatrix.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even on the day of the attacks, I mentioned to the little gaggle of refugees who had gathered at my home office in Upper Manhattan that it would be just a matter of two to three decades before Sept. 11th became a legal holiday of national remembrance like Labor Day. Within five to six decades, it would lose its significance, like Labor Day or Veterans Day have. Future generations would figure their vacations around the week between Labor Day and what will likely be called Remembrance Day, and there would be sales at retailers. It’s crass, but that’s the American way.

In 1741, George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” was completed on this day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was out wandering around on the 11th in Long Island City, it was somewhat forefront in my mind that I wanted to get an uncommon shot of the Freedom Tower from Newtown Creek, which is why I was wandering around in spots which are normally avoided due to fear of arrest for trespassing. The shot above overlooks the DB Cabin railroad bridge and the mouth of Dutch Kills, incidentally.

In 1812, an antichrist named Napoleon marched the Grand Armée of France into the City of Moscow on September 14th.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have to admit – I was actually enjoying the day, and the solitude, for once. I love conducting my Newtown Creek tours on the weekends, bringing people to the crazy places I know around the Creek and reciting the historical trivia, but it does get in the way of me doing “my thing” with the camera. Having a Sunday off for once, the headphones were stuck into my ears and I spent several happy hours listening to my collection of HP Lovecraft audio books. In particular – the Horror at Red Hook, The Outsider, The Thing on the Doorstep, and The Shunned House were in rotation last week. Pictured above is the Cabin M rail bridge over Dutch Kills.

In 1901, President William McKinley died. The President was shot by an anarchist on Sept. 6th, and it was gangrene that ended up doing him in. McKinley’s Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, succeeded him.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was while I was crouched down to get the shot above that the Grasshoppers grew angry at me, and hundreds of chitin clad bullets suddenly erupted from the brush. While I was flailing about in the buzzing crowd, a cramp developed in my left arm and one of my “spells” came upon me. I must’ve been laying on the tracks crying for a good half hour, cursing the fact that I hadn’t decided on studio photography rather than urban landscape. The horror…

On Sept. 14th in 1959, a Soviet built probe called “Luna 2” crashed into the moon, making it the first man made object to reach the satellite.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scarred by the insect attack, I decided “enough” and headed for home back in Astoria. I was hungry, desired an alcoholic beverage to steel myself after the grasshopper incident, and was working out how to exact my revenge on the horde of exoskeletal bastards who had harrassed me. Astoria? Only primates, dogs, cats, and rats live in Astoria. Ok, we’ve got possums and raccoons too, but you catch my drift. We ain’t got grasshoppers.

In 1715, the French monk Dom Pérignon died on September 14th, and in 1836 – so did Aaron Burr. In the United States, September 14th is “National Eat a Hoagie day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Be back tomorrow with some other drivel and a bunch of pix.

If you’re not doing anything after work tomorrow, I’ll be narrating on the Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour for the Working Harbor Committee, along with Capt. Maggie Flanagan of Waterfront Alliance. Come with? We’re boarding at Wall Street/Pier 11 at 5:30 and the weather is meant to be bloody brilliant. Link below for tix.

Upcoming tours and events:


“Brooklyn Waterfront – Past & Present” boat tour
with Working Harbor Committee, Thursday, September 15th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“13 Steps around Dutch Kills” walking tour
with Atlas Obscura, Sunday, September 18th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

little polyhedron

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Street photography, literally, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every little facet of Western Queens is endlessly fascinating to one such as myself. The section of Jackson Avenue which was refashioned into Northern Blvd. in the early 20th century (a puzzling nomenclature, as it runs east/west, and both Ditmars and Astoria Blvd. are further north), which I’ve long referred to as the “Carridor” has a distinctive look and feel. On the western end of it, the Real Estate Industrial Complex has finally broken through the barrier presented by the southern end of 31st street and large scale tower production is under way. It won’t be long before the Manhattan skyline views which Western Queens is known for will be completely obfuscated by the glass boxes being hurled at the sky.

Let’s face it, a used car lot has a huge footprint, and the Real Estate shit flies are rapacious when the subject of Sasquatch property lots arises. Thing is, this used car lot strains the Municipal infrastructure a whole let less than a block of apartments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on 43rd street, a longish roadway that leads from Newtown Creek to the south to a northern terminus at Bowery Bay and which transverses Astoria, Sunnyside, and Blissville that used to be called Laurel Hill Blvd., there’s a window on the world of tomorrow which can be observed by looking over the Sunnyside Yards at the western horizon. In Tolkien’s epics, it’s the west that the elves disappeared into. Coincidentally, the same mythology is presented as relating to the Decadent Dutch colonials who fled the “English” through Western New York and New Jersey by the literature of Washington Irving, H.P. Lovecraft, and many others. In Western Queens, the Real Estate Industrial Complex has stolen the western sky, as evinced by the shield wall of luxury apartment buildings rising from the filled in swamps of Long Island City pictured above.

Legend has it that the Dutch will return someday, when we need them most, but we won’t see them coming anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The same shield wall of construction is visible from the eastern side of Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, which rises from the elluvial flood plains of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary nearby Skillman’s intersection with Thomson Avenue. The intersection of two communities is nearby, on a sloping hill which hosts both a “Woodside” and a “Sunnyside.” The Woodside, my reading suggests, was heavily forested with deciduous speciation in its aboriginal state, and the Sunnyside was more of grassland interspersed with coniferous trees that graduated into what would best described as an environment resembling the Louisiana Bayous.

The Sunnyside of the hill sloped down to the swampy lowlands of what’s now Queens Plaza, Dutch Kills (neighborhood), and the Degnon terminal area. This condition, which bred what was contemporaneously described as a “pestilential number of cholera and typhus carrying mosquitoes,” largely persisted in Queens until the early 20th century when the Sunnyside Yards, Degnon Terminal, and Queensboro Bridge construction projects included a fair bit of land reclamation and swamp drainage.

Upcoming tours and events:


“Brooklyn Waterfront – Past & Present” boat tour
with Working Harbor Committee, Thursday, September 15th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“13 Steps around Dutch Kills” walking tour
with Atlas Obscura, Sunday, September 18th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

curious explanations

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Neither here nor there, and feeling pretty burnt out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was out and about conducting a tour of Greenpoint’s East River and Newtown Creek coasts when a vast amount of smoke was noticed rising out of Sunnyside last week. Some of the members of my group engaged their portable data terminals to inquire about the plume, and it emerged that there was a warehouse fire underway on 37th street near the corner of Queens Blvd. Having missed the actual conflagration, one did happen to wander past the aftermath the next day and a few shots were gathered.

Oddly enough, FDNY was still on scene, no doubt in cautious anticipation of flare ups in the still hot rubble. Luckily for the fire fellas, the fire took place directly across the street from Gallagher’s gentlemens club, cause y’know, for when you need to use the toilet or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be a show of serious remiss for me to not mention that one of the firefighters on scene was perhaps the largest human being I’ve ever seen. I’m talking pro wrestler big. I’m talking David vs Goliath big, Batman big. Like seven feet tall and pure muscle big, He was taller than De Blasio big.

I’m talking “he claps his hands to put out fires, like the Hulk” big.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By all reports, this was a fairly huge conflagration, and even the biggest fireman in the world wouldn’t be able to do anything but contain and control the blaze. The company based in the one story warehouse style building hereabouts was involved in the cabinetry business, I’m led to believe, and the raw materials stored in the structure were all wood based – which the FDNY would refer to simply as “fuel.” My buddies over at the Sunnyside Post were on scene during the event.

Check out their shots and videos of the raging fire here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can tell you that the day after the fire, the smoot smell of burnt wood still stained the air, but that the businesses next door were open for business. For those of you reading this who live in North Brooklyn, I’m sure you’ve already done the math on what probably happened here, based on experience.

Long story short, the real estate guys have been eying this still industrial stretch of Queens Boulevard for a while now, and their interest in an area usually renders it quite combustible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My prediction for the next decade – based around what I’ve seen in LIC, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint over the last decade and a half – is that the industrial neighborhoods surrounding the Sunnyside Yards are going to be seeing a lot of largish fires occurring. The great thing about immolation is that it’s so costly to repair a burned up structure that the only sensible thing to do is to declare it a total loss and sell the land to a developer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Truly, we are doomed by the ambitions of our lessers and their base short term desires. It’s all so depressing, and it leaves me (and us) totally burned out.

Like a leaf, you.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery 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.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

imperfect posture

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Just a short, and selfie, one today

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As one scuttles about from place to place, lots of things are observed. Recently, the young lady pictured above was taking advantage of a (fairly) recently installed bike lane on one of the truss bridges crossing the Sunnyside Yards, at 39th street, to capture a series of selfies as she rode along. Vision Zero, or zero vision?

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 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm

unpleasant person

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No matter where I go, there I am.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been particularly verbose and vitriolic this week about subjects substantial, which indicates to those who know me that the proverbial process best described in “Brooklynese” as “gettin my shits togetha” has been underway for the last several weeks. The walking tours season has begun, and I’m planning a series of excursions for the year with Mai Armstrong and the various organizations we work with. Cross your fingers and thank the stars – as boat trips, walking tours, and all kinds of cool stuff are being planned. The Atlas Obscura tour listed below has already sold out, I’m afraid, but I’ve got a few pretty cool irons in the fire right now.

While we’re waiting to finalize things, Mai and I decided we might do a walk through Calvary Cemetery with a smaller than usual group, next weekend – probably Saturday. More on this one Monday, and I’ll have a link ready for those of you who might want to come along.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a few iconic Queens spots which will be hitting centennial anniversaries pretty soon, and I’m trying to figure out a few ways to commemorate that. Again, these things are on the stove’s back burners and simmering right now. A bizarre part of my thought processes, one which always befuddled and confused those unlucky enough to know me, is that I can take a project and tuck it away in my subconscious for processing while my waking mind concentrates on and handles other stuff like walking and laundry. Sometimes these simmering bits are utterly forgotten until I look through one of my notebooks and then – boom – it boils over and unfolds into something conscious and actionable.

Unfortunately, this “unfolding” often happens at 2:30 in the morning, which finds me huddled over the computer scratching away at a project as the sun is coming up. Lack of sleep is why my eyes often look and feel like they’ve been boiled.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Photography wise, there’s a few new locations and opportunities I’m interested in pursuing this summer, and many ongoing spots that I need to exert some real effort into continuing to document. Within the next two weeks, one plans to roam through the predominance of the municipality of Long Island City’s former borders, and do so with camera in hand. There’s night shots I want, places I’ve never been that I intend on visiting, and nothing – NOTHING – is going to stop me from getting to Aquarium in Coney Island this year. I’ve got boats to catch, trains to find…

It should all be a lot of fun, but it’s all still kind of depressing at the same time.

“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 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

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