The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

haunted steep

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At the Maspeth Plank Road, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the same morning walk described yesterday, wherein one was heading over to East Williamsburg from Astoria to conduct a walking tour of My Beloved Creek, I found myself at the Maspeth Plank Road.

Whenever possible, an attempt to scout the day’s intended route is enacted, to ensure against any of the little surprises which are known to pop up in the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek. Bridge closures, road work, chemical spills – you know, the usual.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I ran into this family of Canada Geese, whom I’ve been noticing all over the Creek for the last few weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too much I can tell you about this specie, other than that like swans – you don’t want to get too close to them. Geese can be mean tempered and vast physical cowardice notwithstanding, who wants to get pecked?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The gaggle seemed to take some umbrage at their unwanted portraiture, it seemed, and they headed back to the loathsome ripples of that cataract of urban neglect known as the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My decision to scout the route was actually quite fortuitous, as the Grand Street Bridge was closed. The NYC DOT was conducting some sort of repair job here, something about fixing the deck plating on the pedestrian walkways so that it could accommodate bicycle traffic. This, of course, directs vehicular flow onto the sidewalks and directly into the path of pedestrians, but priorities are priorities for City Hall.

NYC MUST REPLACE ALL SURFACE ROADS AND PEDESTRIAN PATHS WITH BIKE LANES, AT ALL COST, INCLUDING SACRIFICE AND TORTURE.

Also, AFFORDABLE HOUSING.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

jouncing descent

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The situations which I find myself in…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long story short, my pals at HarborLab ended up building a floating dock which will be used by LaGuardia community college’s biology people to study wetlands restoration techniques and theories on Newtown Creek’s LIC tributary – Dutch Kills. Problem is that a 19th century railroad bridge at the mouth of Dutch Kills has been non functional for about twenty years, so towing the dock into the canal in the manner that any normal person would accomplish the task – y’know, like using a boat with an engine to tow something heavy – is a non starter.

That’s how I found myself in a freaking canoe on Newtown Creek a few weeks ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

HarborLab is based on the Queens side of Newtown Creek, at the Vernon Avenue Street end, which is where we launched from. I was in a boat with Lynn Serpe, long time environmental and community activist and the former Green Party candidate for City Council in Astoria, and one of the folks behind the Two Coves Community garden over in Old Astoria. Pictured above are Patricia Menje Erickson, HarborLab’s Facilities Manager, Erik Baard, and volunteer Phillip Borbon – who had the unenviable duty of rowing the dock itself roughly a mile back from the Vernon Avenue street end to the turning basin of Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The next few days will bring you an image saturated series of posts detailing the excursion. Dutch Kills leaves the main body of Newtown Creek a little over three quarters of a mile from the Creek’s intersection with the East River and heads northish in the direction of the Sunnyside Yards and Queens Plaza for about a mile. Long time readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you that Dutch Kills is far and away my favorite part of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. Thing is, because of that decrepit rail bridge blocking the channel, you can’t get in there using a motorized vessel except at extreme low tide.

Low tide was part of the calculations made by the HarborLab team, and we timed our trip to coincide with it lest we be barred from entry or end up stuck in there waiting for the water to slack out again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One generally discourages the aspirations of people who want to do this sort of thing, given the horrendous state of water quality in Dutch Kills, but the HarborLab folks (along with my pals at North Brooklyn Boat Club) are well versed in the “rules of the road” in the maritime industrial waters of New York Harbor so I agreed to come along and record the journey.

After all, this was the first time something on Dutch Kills was going to change in nearly fifty years, with the exception of the Borden Avenue Bridge repairs from a few years ago. Sometimes, “Newtown Creek Historian” means you have to be there when something is happening in the name of preserving it for posterity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s how I ended up in a canoe on Newtown Creek photographing HarborLab delivering a floating dock to the Turning Basin of Dutch Kills. There were times when I had to actually row the boat, but luckily Lynn Serpe did most of the work, allowing me to wave the camera around. A couple of times, the radio crackled out instructions to get shots of them doing this or that or reminding me to shoot them with the skyline behind them.

Their radio crackled back with me saying “NO ART DIRECTION NEEDED.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’re looking at is part of the LIRR Montauk Branch, a swing bridge called DB Cabin. It’s not long for this world, as the LIRR and MTA are rekajiggering a bunch of their operations in LIC at the moment. The Wheelspur Yard actually has freight rail running through it again, for instance, and there’s been a lot of chatter about plans for the relict Montauk Cutoff tracks which has reached me recently.

Anyway – what DB Cabin mainly functions as these days is as an obstacle to navigation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the situation as we encountered it, at low tide mind you. There’s about four to five feet of clearance between the rusting deck of the bridge and the surface of that gelatinous analogue for water that distinguishes Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The dock sits up out of the water, of course, as did its pilots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First step was getting their own canoe into the water and hitching it up to the floating dock.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Then a bit of “paddle fu” was enacted, and they slipped under DB Cabin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As Lynne Serpe and I approached the bridge, we noticed an amused gaggle watching the progress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In tomorrow’s post – we leave the geese behind and move inexorably towards the loathsome Turning Basin of a cautionary tale known as the Dutch Kills tributary of the Newtown Creek – at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 11th, 2015
BROOKLYN Waterfront Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 10, 2015 at 11:00 am

fully inanimate

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Hanging out at Hallets Cove, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having nothing especially pressing, on a recent and quite cloudy afternoon, a general scuttle was enacted to go out and “see what Queens wants to show me today.” My footsteps carried me to Hallets Cove, where the ancient mouth of Sunswick Creek lies forever buried beneath the folly of progress. One decided to pay some attention to the local fauna, and then find a private spot where the elimination of metabolic waste water might go unobserved by the surrounding human infestation. Such unfortunate consequences of my consciousness residing in a biological organism notwithstanding, the age old question of NYC once again arose and bedeviled.

Why is there no place to pee in New York? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC plans for everything in excruciating detail, and employs armies of academics and consultants to study the citizenry in the name of accuracy and scientific methods. I’ve met people who can tell me how much water I use, trash Our Lady directs me to carry to the curb, and predict my usage of the subway system based on geography and income levels. There are officials who can hazard a pretty good guess about the month and year you are likely to die in, barring accidents. They also have good figures for the probability of accidents.

The one thing which they can’t seem to figure out is the deployment, and maintenance, of a few piss buckets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eastwards of Greece, you start seeing a different form of public toilet than the ones we see in the affluent Western countries – what is known as a squat toilet. The system boils down to a cess pool or sewer connection with a goose neck drain that breaks the surface at a tiled hole in the ground with two raised blocks of concrete on either side. The name “squat toilet” describes how you use it. These are ubiquitous in the East, as they are FAR cheaper to install and maintain than our western porcelain. Over at Barge Park in Greenpoint, a recent “comfort station” cost better than a million bucks.

I’m not asking for “comfort stations.” How about three walls and a hole in the floor to piss in?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC has a “one percent for art” requirement baked into all of its municipal construction projects, which is how the Newtown Creek Nature Walk was funded. May I suggest we create a similar requirement stating that NYC must budget “one percent to acknowledge human biological functions” into future endeavors? Wouldn’t this be better than having to find some retail establishment which will allow you to use their facilities, or pissing against the wall of some innocent party?

Maybe we can cook it into a deal with future commercial and residential developments that they would be required to build and maintain publicly available facilities for elimination of bodily waste as part of the cost of doing business in the City Of Greater New York?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What do I know, though? One such as myself does not claim to possess advanced degrees in Urbanism or City Planning. I mean, everything that such professionals have done over the years has worked out perfectly. Why would actual community need figure into development plans and the march of progress?

I’m probably just full of shit, but the lack of public bathrooms in the City of New York pisses me off.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

strength and ingenuity

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Ok, guess where this was shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another shot from my archives, this iron statue of an eagle is not found anywhere within New York City – which is a rarity for me. I’ll narrow the challenge down a bit, and tell you that it is definitively found somewhere on Long Island. Recognize it? Leave a comment and I’ll confirm if you’re correct in your assertion.

As mentioned last week, I’m taking a bit of a break and there will be single shots from my archives offered all week at this, your Newtown Pentacle. 
“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 30, 2015 –
The Skillman Corridor with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 19, 2015 at 11:00 am

grown stern

with one comment

Getting meaner and meaner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday’s little post about Earth Day seems to have struck a sour note with some. Apparently your humble narrator was a bit too much of curmudgeon on this topic for some. Well, there you go. One has run into this sort of thing over and over during the last few years, folks who cry “Heresy” if everything they believe in isn’t part of your personal credo. Personally, I’m not the sort who buys the entire restaurant’s menu when sitting down to dinner. I say it all the time to the Newtown Creek people, whenever a disagreement erupts amongst us – There’s more that we agree on than what we disagree on, so let’s focus on that.

Unfortunately, academics and activists are often rather “catholic” in their viewpoints and want you to just sign on to anything they tell you with little critical analysis. You can’t “pick and choose” they’ll tell you. If you persist in pursuing or debating with them, you’re branded with analogies or aspersions of your resemblance to unloved or reviled historical characters that range from Adolph Eichmann to Dick Cheney or Sean Hannity (or other members of the Fox News staff) – a juvenile response which is akin to a drunken adolescent calling a uniformed Police Officer a fascist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Orthodoxy has never sat well with me, whether it be in politics or religion. A closed mind is a closed mind, after all. If you think you’ve got the world all figured out, you’re wrong. Nothing is simple, every action and stance has a consequence and an unimagined result. Robert Moses once suggested that Lucifer himself would be lauded by the Press if he was advocating for Parks. Question everything, I say. Take nothing at face value. Everybody does this thing or that for a reason, nothing is random, and there is not one person in public life who isn’t beating some sort of drum. Unfortunately, we are trapped in a paradigm of political life which has been frozen since the 1960’s. There are no liberals, or conservatives, or progressives, anymore. Those labels no longer apply, and haven’t since the 1990’s. “Conservative George W. Bush” was actually a radical, and “Liberal” Barack Obama is actually a conservative – using the actual meaning of what those terms once meant 50 years ago.

Can’t tell you how many of the urbanists and City Planning types that I’ve met over the years only live in NYC part time, and who actually hate the City lifestyle, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, what sort of drum am I beating?

Famously, I have no agenda. My role in all of this nonsense that I’m involved in is simply to record the tumultuous era we are experiencing – the Superfund period on Newtown Creek, the vast redevelopment of the two East River communities surrounding it in Hunters Point and Greenpoint. I strive to leave behind a photographic record of what was here when I arrived, documenting the last traces of what was, and showing the origins of what will be. The last time that these sort of paradigm shifts happened in Queens, there were a few photographers working on it, but they were in the employ of government or corporate interests. My archive isn’t.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

nearby where

with 4 comments

This one just makes me angry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, the other day I’m walking up Steinway Street towards the Museum of the Moving Image to go shoot some party for my Brownstoner column. It’s not the sort of thing I’d EVER cover for your Newtown Pentacle, of course, but there you go. As I’m walking along, what seemed at first to be some sort of weird statuette in a store window began to move, and that’s when I noticed that this particular shop had a live and quite exotic bird living in its front window.

An extremely ill one, at that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Awww, hell. Cue the Sarah McLachlan music.

This poor thing had pecked and scratched itself bald. Our Lady of the Pentacle, upon examining these rather ugly photographs, offered that the bird likely has untreated mites or some other parasitic infection. It chest was quivering, and the beating of the heart and action of respiration was quite visible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I see a bloodied drunk laying face down in the street, I know what to do. Same thing with a fire, or car accident, or even who to complain to about excessive noise emanating from a commercial business. Smell the sewer? Spilt some oil? Yup, I can tell you whom to call and what to tell them. A sick bird?

Is it even my business, this? Who do you call? Sure doesn’t seem to be Police business. Am I meant to storm into the store and demand to speak to their Vet?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Let’s just presume that this particular blog post is merely intended to point out that there seems to be a pretty sick bird, in a shop window on the west side of Steinway Street in Astoria, between 35th and 36th avenues. That bird… well, there might be certain signs that someone versed in handling this sort of situation could observe to find and help it.

I’m truly ignorant on the subject of avian veterinary health, perhaps that shivering miserable looking creature isn’t as bad off as it looked to me, and I’m simply over reacting.

Just saying.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

strange cry

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Aprils Fool’s Day is for the birds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, one would present some sort of elaborate gag to you on April Fool’s, but I’m not in a joking mood at the moment. Accordingly, here’s a few shots of the feathered variety. It has been an intensely busy few weeks for old Mitch, and I think it’s likely that the two remaining posts this week will be single image ones (unless something interesting happens right in front of me, of course). 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, the busy time has little to do with actually producing anything worth talking about – accounting tasks for the annual tax filing, negotiating the sometimes hostile waters of setting this year’s walking and boat tour schedule… the whole Sunnyside Yards thing… it’s been a doozy of a March in 2015.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of this, coupled with the interminable darkness and gloomy cold of a never ending winter, has really kept me from producing images worth seeing in March. Looks like there’s a day or two of OK weather ahead of us now, so if you spot some mendicant in a filthy black raincoat scuttling along the pavement in Ridgewood or Queens Plaza or something – that’ll probably be me.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

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