The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

very confines

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Over in DUGABO…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Saturday, whilst wandering about in between snow storms, this outfall was spotted pouring into Newtown Creek. This is the terminus of Greenpoint Avenue alongside the Bridge, a lane which was coincidentally the path of an earlier Greenpoint Avenue Bridge – one that allowed rail to cross over from the LIRR tracks in Queens – which is today a fairly abandoned spot. The water is snow melt, incidentally.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s street drains all over the place which bear the screed “drains directly into waterways” and this is what it looks like when they do. The drain in question is actually visible, as is the melting snow pack which is feeding it. Along with the melt water, it’s carrying road salt and as well as all the litter and junk which line the curbs. The frustrating part of this scene is that the brand spanking new Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment plant is just a block away and that this drain isn’t connected to it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Amongst the many interesting people I’ve met along the Newtown Creek, some of them work for the so called “potentially responsible parties” named as being responsible for the cleanup in the Superfund agreement. Over and over, these folks have pointed out that the ongoing “point source” situation that these outfalls maintained by the City DEP present makes their court mandated mission a fools errand. You can remove the Black Mayonnaise, which is the colloquial term for the historic pollution that forms the sediment bed of the Creek, but without addressing the antiquated sewer system it won’t be twenty years before the Newtown Creek is again lined with toxic junk.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

recalled bondage

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The Empty Corridor, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

DULIE, or Down Under the Long Island Expressway in Long Island City, is actually quite a busy place during the work week. On the weekends, however, the nickname I’ve assigned the area is “The Empty Corridor.” Last Saturday I found myself wandering about LIC, which was on my way to Greenpoint via the Pulaski Bridge. The light was pretty good on Saturday, and the weather tolerable to one such as myself.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been stuck in the house for so long that I recently found myself chiding Our Lady of the Pentacle for her arrangement of cutlery in the drying rack found alongside the sink (forks down, spoons up), and realized that hell or high water – I had to get out and take a long walk to regain some perspective. Viking Hell be damned. I’m happy to report that the cat colony alongside the UPS facility on 51st avenue seems to be in fine fettle despite the vagaries of winter.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In actuality, I’ve been making good use of any interval wherein polar temperatures and ice falling from the sky were not experienced. The shot above is actually from Sunnyside, sometime last week. As mentioned in prior posts, I’ve been studying up on both Sunnyside and the rail yards which figure massively in the current Mayor’s plans for so called “affordable housing.” More on that later in the week.

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cosmic vengeance

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Death, annihilation, hatred.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post come from that time before Viking Hell consumed our megalopolis, and depict the modern version of Long Island City from a fairly high vantage. The glaciers have covered all of this by now, and the frost giants – or Jotun – now exercise sovereign control this territory. One begins to grasp why the suicide rate is so high in Northern Europe’s frost belt.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Enormous amounts of study have been enacted, during these cold and dark months, centering around the subject of the Sunnyside Yards. It’s odd, how you can “know” a lot about something, and then discover that your knowledge base is ephemeral at best. Then you start reading century old engineering reports and examine old maps of the area, and the depths of your ignorance become apparent. I can tell you many things now – for instance, the chief engineer who built the yards was named Albert Noble, and he oversaw the East River division of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s efforts during the “New York Tunnel Expansion” which occurred between 1904 and 1910.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the coming months, I will be talking a LOT about the yards, and the Big Little Mayor’s plans to deck them over and wreck at least two thriving communities in the process. What I can say at this point in time, however, is that the amount of taxpayer money which would be required to deck over the close to 200 acres of the Sunnyside Yards could easily reactivate several LIRR lines in Queens AND extend the 7 line all the way to College Point. We are talking 150-200 billion dollars for this caprice, and that’s before any structure rises from the deck.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things that has also emerged, and this is fairly novel for me, is empathy for the Real Estate Industrial Complex investors who have been dutifully “developing” Long Island City for the last 25 years. Can you imagine investing millions in a piece of property, securing financing for construction and obeying the annoyances of the regulatory process, all the while greasing all the right political palms – and then having a one term Mayor come along and announce a plan that will devalue all you’ve done?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 27, 2015 at 11:00 am

sorry planet

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Something else that’s kind of odd.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills is currently a giant block of toxic ice, and I think the EPA is missing a big opportunity to just lift the water up and scrape away the black mayonnaise while the getting is good. That’s just a crazy idea, not the odd thing, however. This shot is looking south towards the estimable Long Island Expressway truss bridge over Dutch Kills, with the infinity of Brooklyn found just beyond the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking in the opposite direction, towards the Dutch Kills turning basin and the Degnon Terminal. This is a familiar view, of course, and one of my favorite points of view along the entire Newtown Creek. As you can see, there was a fresh layer of snow recently deposited. That’s where the odd thing comes in.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Tracks were observed in the fresh snow, some of which were easy to classify. These were clearly left by a web footed bird, likely a Canada Goose due to their size and indication of gait. Also could have been a large gull. That’s still not the odd part.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These tracks in the snow covering Dutch Kills, this is what was odd. Some of these repeating shapes can easily be chalked up to garbage rolling along the surface of the snow, driven about by the cold wind. As a fairly obvious note, I shot these differently than the photos at the top of the post, intentionally under exposing them and desaturating the color so as to capture the detail and render the textures of the snow.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I can explain away most of these oddly mechanical looking impressions in the snow. That curving series of parallels – that’s a shoebox sized box. One cannot, however, reconcile the series of circular impressions. The circular impressions – that’s what was really odd. Also, it was odd that I was out at all as it was something like ten degrees Fahrenheit outside.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

other objects

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Curiouser and curiouser.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been encountering these odd little offerings and altar pieces for a while now, here in the Astoria section of Queens. This post from March of 2014, and this one from 2011 illustrate and speculate upon their origins and purpose. The one pictured above was discovered in calendrical confluence with the celebrations of lunar new year that are practiced by many of the cultures hailing from Asia. Chinese New Year fell on April 19th in 2015, for instance, and the shots offered in today’s post were captured on the morning of the 20th.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As in prior instances and encounters with these… are they small altars, or offerings, or… All I can offer is a brief description without any interpretation or insight. They seem to be molded out of a doughy substance, several different doughy substances actually. This one was obviously disturbed and jostled – whether by the careless footfalls of passerby, or the curious examinations of some canine, I cannot say. The central figure was roughly hewn, and held a candle in its lap.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A block away on the same date, at 34th avenue’s intersection with 43rd street, this example was found. The workmanship seemed quite a bit more advanced, and it was entirely undisturbed. It’s facing essentially north west, if that might have any significance to somebody who knows what these things are. Speculations about prior sightings have pointed towards Latin American Santeria, but there’s no coins and I cannot imagine a Padrino using a plastic plate. Santeria practice would demand a “plate of great price.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

What I’m seeing here is a sculptural tableau of some kind, and due to the proximity of lunar New Year, one likely connected to the traditions of Asia. Anybody out there recognize what these things are, and which culture they emanate from? Tibetan, maybe? If this looks familiar, please educate the rest of us and leave a comment for everyone else to read.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

afterward gave

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More photos from an ice choked Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The scene, as witnessed in DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp, along Newtown Creek’s so called Marion Reach. Vast sheets of ice, carried by the languid tidal action of the Creek, headed towards the East River. These shots were captured during the brief warmup on Sunday last, and let me tell something that photos cannot convey – the smell was… even by Newtown Creek standards… incredible.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a combined sewer outfall on the Queens side, right where those ripples you see in the shot above are emanating from. With melt water feeding the system, it was releasing a month’s worth of frozen stink. The smell of raw sewage is unique, and has no odiferous analogue. Like the smell of death, you instantly recoil from it, and the best way to describe it is to compare it to the taste sensation enjoyed when licking a 9 volt battery’s contact leads.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These piles are on the Brooklyn side, nearby the Metro bio fuel plant on Kingsland Avenue. Speaking of oil, I heard back from the NYS DEC about the flowing oil I reported and described in yesterday’s post nearby the Pulaski Bridge. They believe the material observed was actually creosote oil being released from the wooden “Dolphins” which protect the bridge from allision with maritime traffic.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Tugboat Ireland seems to have taken up a somewhat permanent residence on Newtown Creek, and was tied up at the Tidewater building. My understanding is that the former petroleum facility is now owned by the Broadway Stages company, and is being used for theatrical productions as an industrial set. Perhaps the Broadway Stages people bought Ireland as well? If so, that’s some expensive window dressing.

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intelligent response

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My beloved Creek, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Taking advantage of the positively balmy weather on Sunday, one soon found himself at the loquacious Newtown Creek. My beloved Creek was choked with ice floe, and the atmosphere was misty. All that ice in the ground was releasing moisture into the considerably warmer air, after all.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Icy times like this are excellent for being able to visualize the currents, and the underwater features that shape them, along my beloved Newtown Creek. One was content in his communion, happily snapping away at the feature rich environment, when something was noticed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A fairly substantial load of oil was moving along the water, heading towards the East River with what passes for the tide on my beloved Creek. These shots were captured from the Pulaski Bridge, btw, and the oil was traveling along the Brooklyn coastline. This was about 3:45 p.m.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The oil was fairly fresh stuff, with its vintage betrayed by the rainbow sheen that it was displaying. I’ve been lucky enough to receive a bit of training on discerning the different types and nature of petroleum spills over the years, and in accordance with that training – made a call to NYS DEC Spill response hotline at 1 (800) 457-7362 to report it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While clicking the shutter, a second phone call was made to my pal Laura Hoffman over in Greenpoint, a local activist and a Newtown Creek Alliance board member that lives nearby the Manhattan Avenue Street end. Laura captured a series of shots from that perspective and location, and called the DEC as well.

If you see something, say something.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

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