The Newtown Pentacle

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imperfect salts

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Getting my groove on in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured today are the POV’s from 31st street and Astoria Blvd., which is one of the worst street crossings for pedestrians and bicycles in all of Queens. The construction materials are related to the “enhanced station initiative” that Governor Cuomo introduced a few years back, which has been playing out in incremental stages all up and down the 31st street corridor between Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue and the terminal stop of the N and W Astoria lines at Ditmars Blvd. One was admittedly skeptical about this when it was described, but – in my opinion, at least – the newly redesigned stations are pretty good. They supply an abundance of light to what has historically been a dark and somewhat menacing streetscape, and the “upstairs” component is pretty clean visually.

Saying that, the corner pictured above which… y’know… has a train station over it and thusly a lot of pedestrians, is terrifying to navigate on foot and particularly so at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, the high volume traffic problem is due to the Triborough Bridge, which spits thousands of cars a day out onto a two block long stretch of local streets which lead to the entrance ramps for the Grand Central Parkway. Why there aren’t express lanes leading directly to the parkway from the bridge is yet another one of those Queens mysteries nobody can answer. The Grand Central Parkway runs through a trench sunk into Astoria Blvd. which stretches from roughly 33rd street to 47th street, where it eventually joins the same altitude as the surrounding local streets. The trench is due to topography, of course, and both sides of Astoria Blvd. for the more or less 3/4 of a mile between 33rd and 47th are heavily trafficked one lane service roads with a parking lane along a fairly narrow sidewalk.

Why not deck the highway and create a green space/park over it? It would save the State a bunch of money in terms of snow removal, create a planted area in place of highway, contain the particulates of auto exhaust wafting off the Grand Central and into the residential streets surrounding the thing, and would likely eliminate the de facto “us and them” factor between the bifurcated neighborhoods of Astoria (one centering around the commercial strip of Ditmars to north and the southern 30th ave./Broadway zones). We’d drink up a lot of storm water with a green space, and break up the heat island effect – and as I’m often wont to point out – there is no greater magnifier for real estate valuations than the presence of a nearby park. Everybody wins – contractors, labor, drivers, pedestrians, politicians, real estate people, even the actual community itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn’s South Williamsburg, where the BQE runs through a similar trench, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has been talking about something similar for quite a while. They’ve done a bunch of the math for this sort of thing, and it’s not outlandishly expensive as long as conversation about the subject stays away from creating a deck structure that needs to support buildings, only parkland. You’d be able to prefabricate the sections, install them one by one during (relatively) low traffic intervals, and give a section of NYC remarkable for its lack of parklands a new reason for the citizenry to move in and join the party. Also, this would likely end up being a fully union laborer operation, so all the Politicians could wet their beaks at the trough of a happy Building Trade Council. Again – win, win, win.

Why not here in Western Queens? Tell me why this wouldn’t improve things for the people of Astoria?

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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 for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 19, 2019 at 11:00 am

thunderous declamations

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Instead of Iowa or Texas, the Mayor ought to come out to Queens once in while, just in the name of “Equity.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Expressway rises out of the Queens Midtown Tunnel in the Hunters Point section of Long Island City, and follows the route of Borden Avenue on a high flying steel truss which is at its height 106 feet over the waters of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. According to the NYC DOT’s 2015 numbers, this section of “495” is called the Queens Midtown Expressway and it carries nearly 85,000 vehicle trips a day. It comes back to ground at the border of the Sunnyside and Blissville sections of Long Island City, at Greenpoint Avenue.

That’s about 31 million vehicle trips a year rolling through LIC, and in particular – Blissville. The shot above represents exactly thirty seconds worth of traffic on a corner one block away from the entrance/exit to the LIE. Thirty seconds… keep that number in mind when looking at the shots in today’s post. They’re all thirty second exposures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the LIE itself, shot from the access road which feeds down onto Borden Avenue in an area I call the “Empty Corridor.” I was down there just a couple of weeks back, and the zone was discussed in this post. For the sake of trivia – the LIE opened on the 15th of November in 1940.

The northern border of Blissville is formed by the Long Island Expressway and the Empty Corridor. Saying that, if you’re on the north side of the LIE, you’re still in Sunnsyide.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Blissville side, rivers of steel flow past you on the local street/access road modernity calls Borden Avenue. Named for where it was going, namely the Borden Dairy farm in Maspeth, Borden Avenue was created as a wooden plank road in 1868 that connected the western end of the road with the East River shoreline, and with the upland agricultural properties to the east. Originally, this raised roadway – designed for mules and oxen pulling milk wagons – crossed through the malarial swamps surrounding Dutch Kills.

By the early 20th century, the swamps had been drained or filled in, and Borden Avenue was paved with belgian block and later macadam and asphalt. It became an industrial corridor whose path more or less mimicked that of the Long Island Railroad’s Lower Montauk Branch tracks found just to south, along the bulkheads of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east of Borden Avenue is Greenpoint Avenue, which was built into its current path in 1852 from a dirt road. On one side of the street, since 1848 at least, First Calvary Cemetery will be found. When it opened, Calvary wasn’t even half the size it is now. Acquiring property through inheritances and purchases, the cemetery didn’t attain its current borders until the early 20th century, just before the First World War. There are literally millions held in the loam.

Blissville itself is named for one of its founders, Greenpoint’s Neziah Bliss. It was developed with Eliaphet Nott of Union College, and the goal was creating one of those utopian worker’s hamlets which were all the rage amongst wealthy Protestant industrialists in the years leading up to the American Civil War. There were meant to be no bars or saloons in Blissville, but in the 1850’s when the railroad began to be driven through, the Irish laborers working on the iron road put an end to all that. Additionally, the masses of people coming to Calvary from the Five Points and Lower East Side to visit the graves of loved ones created a demand for inns and bars.

Blissville was one of the five communities which seceded from the Newtown Municipality to form Long Island City in 1870.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to a 2015 report from the NYC DOT, the Greenpoint Avenue (aka John J. Byrne memorial bridge) Bridge carries 28,361 vehicle trips across Newtown Creek on a daily basis. That’s 10,351,765 vehicles a year heading to and from Brooklyn’s Greenpoint to Queens’ Blissville. The traffic feeding through Blissville is (observationally) going in three main directions once it enters Queens; a) north on Greenpoint Avenue towards the LIE and Sunnyside, b) north west on Van Dam towards Queens Plaza, and c) east on Review Avenue towards Maspeth and Middle Village.

The second largest oil spill in the United States is the Greenpoint Oil Spill, the epicenter of which is less than half a mile east on the Brooklyn side of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Similarly, an oil spill of still unknown size lurks in the soil of Blissville less than half a mile east of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. The bridge itself crosses the Newtown Creek, a Federal Superfund site notorious for the 1.8 billion gallons of raw sewage which the NYC DEP dumps into it annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the Blissvillians whom I’ve met, the population of this neighborhood is around 220 people although I’ve also heard 500 (seems a bit high, 500). It’s the usual demographic mix of Queens hereabouts, but with the proviso that almost everybody would describe themselves as “working class.” There’s a generational community here which has held out in the post industrial landscape of Long Island City – despite the traffic and the pollution and the industrial character of the neighborhood. All told, about 4-6 blocks square blocks are the totality of Blissville, Queens. The nearest subway is on Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside, and the two bus lines running the area are in service on neither a twenty four hour nor seven days a week schedule. There are no schools, hospitals, or supermarkets. There are a lot of City owned properties, warehouses, and waste transfer stations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Homeless Services, therefore, has decided that this is the ideal and “appropriate site” for a third homeless shelter (within a half mile of the LIE) to be opened in the neighborhood. This time around, it will be the 2008 vintage and 154 room Fairfeld Inn, found at 52-34 Van Dam Street, that becomes a shelter. Blissville anticipates some 400 people will be installed in this building. Another Hotel on the Sunnyside side of the LIE has been converted to a shelter, as has a former Public School on Greenpoint Avenue.

Blissville could use your help with all this trouble the Mayor is sending their way, Queensicans. A Department of Homeless Services public hearing will take place on Thursday the 15th of March at 6:30 p.m., at St. Raphael’s Church located at 35-20 Greenpoint Ave.

Let’s tell the Manhattan people what the Ides of March are like in Queens, and let the Dope from Park Slope know that enough is enough.

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strange instruments

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My neck hurts, I have to pee, and I think someone might be following me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Disturbing indications, delivered to the brain via input from that subcutaneous network of cabled sensors which are referred to as the nervous system (by layman and medical professional alike) and embedded within the skinvelope, abound. Certain sections of the decaying bag of meat in which one is housed were never much good when they were brand new and unsullied, and after nearly half a century of active service these sections have grown worn and are in a degenerate state of repair. Everything hurts, and the atmospherics surrounding the coming of winter irritate, causing my skinvelope to feel quite itchy.

For too long has my brain looked down upon the meatbag below from the perspective of master and slave, and I fear that a Marxist inspired revolution may be afoot, within.

from wikipedia

Details of delusional parasitosis vary among sufferers, but it is most commonly described as involving perceived parasites crawling upon or burrowing into the skin, sometimes accompanied by an actual physical sensation (known as formication). Sufferers may injure themselves in attempts to be rid of the “parasites”. Some are able to induce the condition in others through suggestion, in which case the term folie à deux may be applicable.

Nearly any marking upon the skin, or small object or particle found on the person or his clothing, can be interpreted as evidence for the parasitic infestation, and sufferers commonly compulsively gather such “evidence” and then present it to medical professionals when seeking help. This presenting of “evidence” is known as “the matchbox sign” because the “evidence” is frequently presented in a small container, such as a matchbox.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crawling about in the dark of night, scuttling to and fro across the concretized devastations, my normally steady gait has become altered of late. Heavy camera bag and too many miles causes one to stoop his shoulders with the left held noticeably lower than the right. My right arm sweeps back slightly (steadying a camera) while the left comes forward, and at the waist I’m bent slightly forward a bit (from offsetting the weight of the bag). Also, I seem to pull myself inexorably forward using my right leg a bit more than the left these days, so my scuttle has evolved into a bit more of a squirm, reminiscent of the calamitous gait expressed by Hollywood zombies. Just a couple of years ago, my movements were somewhat more fluid, but I suppose I just have to deal with the aches and pain and work through this seasonal malady called winter.

Can’t just bury my head in the sand, and pretend I don’t have eyes and ears, or notice a world which is all around me.

from wikipedia

Worms live in almost all parts of the world including marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats. Some worms living in the ground help to condition the soil (e.g., annelids, aschelminths). Many thrive as parasites of plants (e.g., aschelminths) and animals, including humans (e.g., platyhelminths, aschelminths). Several other worms may be free-living, or nonparasitic. There are worms that live in freshwater, seawater, and even on the seashore. Ecologically, worms form an important link in the food chains in virtually all the ecosystems of the world.

In the United States, the average population of worms per acre is 53,767.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Current interests, “mah research” as I refer to it comically, have been leading me inexorably towards the history of an area known to modernity as Queens Plaza and the Sunnyside Yards- large sections which hosted either coastal marsh, flood plain, or littoral zone well into the 19th century. It’s plainly fascinating that the slab of fill and concrete upon which perambulation, vehicular, and mass transit occurs occludes the ancient patterns of flowing water. Somewhere, perhaps as little as 25-50 feet below the somewhat modern cut and cover tunnels underlying the streets, still flow the ancestral streams known by the Dutch.

Could there be underground grottoes inhabited by the atavist extant of the ancestral waters of Dutch Kills, or the Sunswick Creek down there?

from wikipedia

Myriapoda is a subphylum of arthropods containing millipedes, centipedes, and others. The group contains over 13,000 species, all of which are terrestrial. Although their name suggests they have myriad (10,000) legs, myriapods range from having over 750 legs (Illacme plenipes) to having fewer than ten legs.

The fossil record of myriapods reaches back into the late Silurian, although molecular evidence suggests a diversification in the Cambrian Period, and Cambrian fossils exist which resemble myriapods. The oldest unequivocal myriapod fossil is of the millipede Pneumodesmus newmani, from the late Silurian (428 million years ago). P. newmani is also important as the earliest known terrestrial animal.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 4, 2013 at 7:30 am

ordered terraces

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The blasted heaths of Western Queens, which the art of engineering have conquered fully, must have once been quite lovely. What exists at the dawn of the second millennia, however, represent obeisance to the motor vehicle and “flow”. Gaze in horror upon the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the Long Island Expressway, a 1939 expression of the seeming ennui felt by Robert Moses for the ancient villages and communities of Long Island City.

Your humble narrator is often struck dumb and blind when doing so.

from wikipedia

Symptoms of acute stress reaction

The symptoms show great variation but typically include an initial state of “daze”, with some constriction of the field of consciousness and narrowing of attention, inability to comprehend stimuli, and disorientation.

This state may be quickly followed by either further withdrawal from the surrounding situation (to the extent of a dissociative stupor), or by agitation and overactivity, anxiety, impaired judgement, confusion, detachment, and depression. Autonomic signs of panic anxiety (tachycardia, sweating, flushing) are also commonly present.

The symptoms usually appear within minutes of the impact of the stressful stimulus or event, and disappear within 2–3 days (often within hours). Partial or complete amnesia for the episode may be present.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At its apex over the Dutch Kills tributary of the languid Newtown Creek, which climbs to some one hundred and six feet over the water, the steel roadway begins a precipitous change in declination which carries vehicular traffic to the subaqueous Queens Midtown Tunnel and into Manhattan. The roadway was elevated to this altitude for no reason other than allow ocean going vessels egress to the turning basin of the Degnon Terminal at the head of Dutch Kills, and the blighting effect it had on Long Island City was quite unintentional. The industrial center became something to be ignored, driven over, forgotten, and quite irrelevant- seemingly by design.

If this is not the case, why are there no entrance or exit ramps between Greenpoint and Vernon Avenues?

from wikipedia

Depersonalization disorder (DPD) is a dissociative disorder (ICD-10 classifies the disorder as an anxiety disorder) in which the sufferer is affected by persistent or recurrent feelings of depersonalization and/or derealization. A diagnosis is made when the dissociation is persistent and interferes with the social and occupational functions necessary for everyday living. Diagnostic criteria include persistent or recurrent experiences of feeling detached from one’s mental processes or body. “Dissociation is defined as a disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity and perception, leading to a fragmentation of the coherence, unity and continuity of the sense of self.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The complicated snare of vehicular access to Manhattan as it all compacts in Long Island City has often caused me to fall into a stupor when contemplated. Subway lines, railroads, passenger and freight vehicles- all form a tight fist gripping the heart of this formerly vital center. Storm water flows freely from exhausts onto local streets, causing temporary lagoons of sooty liquids to agglutinate about garbage choked sewers. Many of these sewers bear the screed “no dumping, drains into waterway” embossed directly on the iron grates.

Perhaps one is entangled in some waking nightmare, and all of what may be observed is merely some fevered ideation?

from wikipedia

Oneirophrenia is a hallucinatory, dream-like state caused by several conditions such as prolonged sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, or drugs (such as ibogaine). From the Greek words “ὄνειρο” (oneiro, “dream”) and “φρενός” (phrenos, “mind”). It has some of the characteristics of simple schizophrenia, such as a confusional state and clouding of consciousness, but without presenting the dissociative symptoms which are typical of this disorder.

Persons affected by oneirophrenia have a feeling of dream-like unreality which, in its extreme form, may progress to delusions and hallucinations. Therefore, it is considered a schizophrenia-like acute form of psychosis which remits in about 60% of cases within a period of two years. It is estimated that 50% or more of schizophrenic patients present oneirophrenia at least once.


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