Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mitch Waxman ruminates about the role of a "schmuck with a camera" standing up to city movers and shakers


Doughboy Park alongside Woodside Avenue in Woodside, Queens, from our April 11 Woodside Avenue walk with Jack Eichenbaum -- all photos in this post by Mitch Waxman

"I'm some shmuck with a camera who wanders around and researches the history of Western Queens and North Brooklyn obsessively."
-- Mitch Waxman, in his Newtown Pentacle
post today,
"resting and brooding"

by Ken

A few weeks ago I did a dandy Municipal Art Society walk along historic (and wildly varied) Woodside Avenue in Queens with my walking pal Jack Eichenbaum, the Queens borough historian, and who should be along for the walk about another old walking pal, Mitch Waxman -- celebrated walker, photographer, and local historian? Mitch chronicled the walk in his Brownstoner Queens column, which in its way was almost as good as, maybe better than, being there.

The photo above is from that walk, and so is this one, showing Jack in the middle (still on the sidewalk) retrieving the part of the group that was waiting in front of the Orange Hut Deli/Grocery to lead us to the actual meeting place across Northern Boulevard:

(That's me, strangely off by myself at the right.)

Mitch has lately been getting a lot more attention from the city's moneyed class as a result of his considerable skeptical writing about the developers' wet dream of building a platform over the rail yards in Sunnyside, thus making them available for massive development for which there is no infrastructure available, not to mention the massive disruption it would bring to the heavily working-class neighborhoods, it would overwhelm. But the notion that he's some kind of ideologue or has some kind of personal agenda is silly. He's a guy who lives in the area and for years has spent a lot of time talking with other people who do, and who understand that their area has been used as a dirty industrial underbelly for the fancy folk in the city's swank neighborhoods, notably Manhattan's. On many of his walking tours in the area, for example, you get to see that the booming recycling industry isn't clean and green but is in fact filthy and extremely energy-consuming as all that stuff is gathered to points out of sight of the quality folk and then process for shipment to, usually, the East. That's not ideology, it's just having familiarity with the on-the-ground reality.

During the Woodside Avenue walk I finally had a chance to ask Mitch about the publication schedule for his columns at Brownstoner Queens, which I don't see much, and learned that it's Monday and Thursday. (There's an archive of his Brownstoner columns here.) As I've mentioned, his own Newtown Pentacle blog (of which there's an author's archive here) is one of the very few blogs I read regularly, and I thought today's post provides an excellent reason why. The fabulous pictures look much better onsite.
resting and brooding

by Mitch Waxman

Contemplative perambulations, in today's post.

Mighty Triborough, as observed from the elevated Subway station on 31st street here in Astoria. One will admit that the depression era aesthethics of Robert Moses's empire building span over the East River has always appealed to me. Currently, anything that causes me to forget about the various pedantic existential issues regularly offered up by the human infestation - which plague my days - is nepenthe, and a welcome relief from the coarse bleating of the swine.

Regular readers of this, your Newtown Pentacle, would be stunned to hear the things a humble narrator has been accused of. I'm "some sort of shill for the real estate industrial complex," laying the ground for them to develop condos along Newtown Creek - that's my favorite. Recently, someone accused me of distorting facts and propagating a right wing agenda, and compared me to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. Others have asked if I'm seeking some sort of political appointment or secretly working for some candidate for elective office. A representative of City Planning once uttered "Who do you think you are?." Funnily enough, most of my accusers are in fact politcal operators and members of the "establishment."

What I can tell you is this - I'm some shmuck with a camera who wanders around and researches the history of Western Queens and North Brooklyn obsessively. Certain issues or topics force me to "get involved" such as Newtown Creek, or the disastrous plans which the Big Little Mayor have announced for the Sunnyside Yards. Unlike most of my critics, I actually live here. To them, I say go back to your apartments in Manhattan or move here and get some actual skin in the game.


Now that the weather has warmed up, it's tour season for Mitch. (In addition to his long-standing work with the Newtown Creek Alliance and the Working Harbor Committee, he's been doing tours in "his" areas of Brooklyn and Queens for Atlas Obscura and Brooklyn Brainery.) He's already got some dates upcoming --

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

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At 2:09 PM, Blogger Theodore Wirth said...

Waxman is a mensch, not a schmuck.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks, T, that would be my call too!



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