Mitch Waxman is a lifelong New Yorker and historian who for the past decade has traversed the area near the Long Island City waterfront at Anabel Basin where Amazon’s HQ2 is planned. In a recent post on his site Newtown Pentacle, Waxman revisits some of the photos he snapped of the future Amazon HQ2 campus, and Greenpointers reached out to Waxman to learn his point of view regarding the HQ2 announcement. He offered the disclaimer that he’s neither for or against Amazon’s HQ2 expansion into Queens and that his views are still developing on the deal as details emerge.
The area of Anabel Basin where Amazon’s HQ2 will be partially constructed is on contaminated land where a plastics manufacturer once operated, why would Amazon choose contaminated land to build on?
MW: There’s hundreds of state Superfund sites in Western Queens, and the people who have been moving into North Brooklyn and Western Queens over the last 20 years are breaking the old pattern. It used to be when you bought a house, you intended to be buried in your backyard, whereas the current population has very little intention of making New York their final stop. This is one stop on the trip of their lives and eventually, they’re going to settle elsewhere.
When you’re at Amazon’s new campus you’re down the block from the largest power plant in New York City that’s causing childhood asthma rates of historic levels in Ravenswood, Astoria and Queensbridge Houses. You’re on what abuts a brownfield, and a future Superfund site at Anabel Basin.
Future Superfund Site Anabel Basin has the same black mayonnaise in it that Newtown Creek does, the same combined sewer outfall problem that Newtown Creek does, it has all the good stuff that we would talk about in the area around the Pulaski Bridge. So why on earth would you choose this particular location to put Californians and Seattle people who are famously environmentally conscious, why would you put them there? Could it be that you’re going to be visible from the offices of the United Nations? Could it have anything to do with that Manhattan is the center of global investment and that putting yourself there means that you’re going to be a lot sexier to Goldman Sachs and everyone else who will cut you more preferential rates because you know them from drinking with them in a hotel?
The answer is that they came here for Wall Street and they came here to start bolstering their international presence and to start getting ahead of some of the regulatory environment that’s developing internationally around companies like Amazon.
Why is Mayor Bill de Blasio voicing a strong pro-Amazon stance given his progressive reputation?
MW: The “tale of two cities” for me is the tale of Manhattan and Long Island City. Long Island City is where he gets to do what he wants to do. Overbuilt, overdeveloped, not enough infrastructure.
He wants to borrow $18- $20 Billion from the city’s coffers for Sunnyside Yard deck. What they’ll do then is they will give the land away for a dollar an acre to the developers who paid them off to do the project, and the city taxpayers will pay the mortgage on $18 – $20 billion over a 25 year period hamstringing us from doing anything else we need to do.
Conventionally speaking, NYCHA needs $53 billion to bring its housing back up to snuff and to bring the roughly 1/10th of all available apartments that have been out since Hurricane Sandy back into service. If he was the man of the people that’s the direction he would go in.
De Blasio likes to blame all the problems of NYCHA on Mayor Bloomberg. Who was the public advocate during Bloomberg’s last two terms? Who was in the City Council during the last term of Giuliani and the first term of Bloomberg?
Why would Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo agree on something like the Amazon HQ2 deal after disagreeing on nearly everything else?
MW: Both of their political machines are getting fed by the deal. At the top of the food chain, there are people who are Democrats; like the Yankees, they’re just wearing hats.
Amongst the many, many, many things that I disagree with Donald Trump about, the firing of Preet Bharara just as he was drawing in on both the Mayor and the Governor, is something the Mayor and the Governor should fall down and kiss Trump’s feet for. If Preet had continued on with his investigation, I’m certain that the headlines we would be seeing every day would be simultaneous trials for the Governor and the Mayor.
There’s a lot to say about corruption in our city and state always. We have a one-party system. We have different factions of a single political party, and what I am not gonna to do to you as a fellow elected Democrat is put you on trial because you would do the same to me, and that affects the larger party.
Living in a Republic that ostensibly operates as a Democracy, there was no conversation, there was no argument. You had two people who are pro-development, neo-liberal capitalist-oriented Democrats, talking to a neo-liberal corporatist, and deciding for the community in the manner of Nelson Rockefeller, in the manner of Robert Moses, in the manner of Austin Tobin deciding for a community exactly what it is that they needed. And you know what? If you don’t like it you can get out.
You’ve probably seen at least some of Greenpoint’s favorite waterway (and superfund site) Newtown Creek, but have you seen ALL of Newtown Creek? Sunday morning kicks off the second annual walking tour of the entire length of Newtown Creek! The all-day 14-mile tour, hosted by Mitch Waxman (Newtown Creek Alliance Historian) and Willis Elkins (Program Manager of the NCA), begins at 10am in LIC and wraps up in Greenpoint, trekking through LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, and stops along at the Creek’s many bridges.
The tour is FREE, but donations are welcome and the organizers ask that you RSVP in advance. There will be a lunch pitstop halfway through, and guests are welcome to come and go along the tour route as they please. More details can be found here.
On May 21st, Newtown Creek Alliance sets sail on Newtown Creek in a NY Waterway ferry boat. Historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Program Manager Willis Elkins are hosting the boat ride, and participants are invited to learn about the Creek’s rich industrial history, lasting legacy of contamination and environmental damage and on-going efforts to revitalize and restore this unique waterway in the heart of New York City.
This is a unique and rare way to be able to tour Newtown Creek and learn about our neighborhood’s (tragic) environmental history.
Newtown Creek Boat Tour | India Street Ferry Dock, 10 India Street Sunday, May 21 | 2pm-4pm
WEDNESDAY 9/24 * Financial Planning Workshop for Parents @ Caribou Baby (272 Driggs Ave) 6:30pm, FREE, For new and upcoming parents to learn how they can provide a secure financial future for their families, More info ☺How Do I Get There? @ The Creek & the Cave (10-93 Jackson Ave) 8pm, FREE, With Ashley Bez / Shakir Standley / Erin Gloria Ryan / Eric Grundhauser, RSVP ☺Jeff & Buttons @ The Brick Theater (579 Metropolitan Ave) 8:30pm, $15, This two-man comedy duo is like Laurel and Hardy on a bender with the Marx Brothers, drunk dialing Beckett, Buy tixContinue reading →
WEDNESDAY 7/23 * SummerScreen @ McCarren Park (North 12th & Bedford Ave) 6pm, FREE, John Waters’ cult classic Cry-Baby, with music before the film from Man Forever and White Suns, More info * International Film Fest @ Socrates Sculpture Park (32-01 Vernon Blvd) 7pm, FREE, Screening of Umberto D., a neorealist masterpiece from De Sica, More info * Poker Philanthropy @ TBD Brooklyn (224 Franklin St) 7:30, FREE, Twenty-seat Texas Hold ‘Em tournament to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project, More info
WEDNESDAY 6/11 * Making Spaces: Urban Interventionism & the Commons @ freespace nyc (340 Boerum St. #2) 7pm, FREE, This panel explores art and social projects that occupy, repurpose, and investigate urban spaces, (re)claiming the commons for dialogue and action, RSVP * The Newtown Creek “Magic Lantern” Show @ Brooklyn Brainery (190 Underhill Ave) 8pm, $11, A photo slideshow and lecture presented by Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman, More info * Constance and the Perpetual Motion Machine @ Cloud City (85 North 1st St) 8pm, $10, Rough House presents a darkly humorous puppet play of catastrophe, grief, and mechanical engineering, RSVP
THURSDAY 6/12 ♦ B.E.A.T. Fundraiser & Art Event @ Verboten (54 North 11th St) 7pm, FREE, Art raffle, DJs, and a special guest, More info ♫ House Party @ House of Vans (25 Franklin St) 7pm, FREE, With Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires / Mac Demarco / Benjamin Booker, More info * VideoTALE: Storytelling with Video @ Videology (308 Bedford Ave) 9:30pm, FREE, With Frank Conniff /Adam Wade / Harmon Leon / David Lawson / Angel Yau, More info Continue reading →
♦ Revisions Opening Party @ Picture Farm Gallery (338 Wythe Ave) Friday 5/2, 6-10pm, FREE, Join Picture Farm for the debut solo show of surf photographer, Zak Bush, whose photographic journey starts in the cold, clear north of Nova Scotia and the reaches of coastal Canada, More Info
WEDNESDAY 4/30 * Free Craft Night @ Brooklyn Craft Co (61 Greenpoint Ave) 6:30pm, FREE, Learn to make dip-dyed sailor knot bracelets, More info ☺Twillerama @ Legion Bar (790 Metropolitan Ave) 8pm, $5, Films screened include shorts by Bill Plympton, Leah Shore, George Griffin, Richard O’Connor, and Signe Baumane, More info * Three Kinds of Wildness @ Standard Toykraft (722 Metropolitan Ave) 8pm, $12, The newest play from Der Vorführeffekt Theatre features exquisitely crafted puppets, intricately layered soundscapes, and unconventional theatrical lighting, Buy tickets
THURSDAY 5/01 * “Pirate Nightmare Vice Explosion” Release Party @ Desert Island (540 Metropolitan Ave) 7pm, FREE, Michael Kupperman’s outsider-art collection of adult magazines annotated and defaced by persons unknown to form something entirely new, RSVP ♫ Red Bull Music Academy’s Bounce Ballroom @ Brooklyn Night Bazaar (165 Banker St) 8pm, $10, Four dance styles, four dance crews, four DJs: Bruk Up/Flexing with Bobby Konders, Voguing/Ballroom with MikeQ, Housing/Waacking with Todd Terry, Jersey Club with DJ Sliink, More info ♫ Funky Warsaw @ Warsaw (261 Driggs St) 10pm, FREE, DJ Bobby J plays all vinyl: sassy-ass 60’s soul, funky funk, power-pop, post-apocalyptic punk, and pre-historic hip-hop, More info Continue reading →
A black-crowned night heron. Several swallows, cormorants, and geese. One lone white duck. These were some of the birds seen on this Saturday’s canoe trip to Plank Road, which was a collaboration between the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) and the North Brooklyn Boat Club. The paddlers, many out for their first trip on New York’s waterways, remarked on the stunning juxtaposition of active and crumbling industrial sites alongside a very living, if troubled, ecosystem. They traveled up the Newtown Creek and met up with a land-based group to hear from historian Mitch Waxman about this peculiar site that the NCA is looking to revamp in the coming months.