The Newtown Pentacle

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hath looked

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The Tug Sea Lion, at Newtown Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When one was onboard that Anchor QEA excursion mentioned last week (the post with the shot of those cool storm clouds blowing in), the Sea Lion tug appeared. She was towing an empty garbage barge, and navigating down the East River. Whenever one of these towing vessels nears my vantage in this part of the harbor, even one as loathsome as myself can grow excited.

The backgrounds which they move against are… iconic… to say the least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Freedom Tower, or One World Trade if you must, has assumed this sort of iconic “gravitas” despite its relatively short period of tenancy in the skyline of the Shining City. Thing is, if you are after instant recognition, nothing beats either the Empire State or Chrysler buildings for saying “New York City.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sea Lion entered Reach A of the Newtown Creek, heading eastwards. I’ve asked around a bit about the whole “Marion or Reach A,” “Reach B,” thing, btw. My maritime chums, and in this case an actual Ships Captain, have all related that the “reach” thing is how far you can navigate based on a single compass heading.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sea Lion was witnessed delivering it’s empty barge to SimsMetal, and exchanging the thing for a filled up one. The cargo onboard the barge is full of recyclable materials which the company will process at one of its other facilities.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

all signs

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All we have to fear is fear itself, and I’m pissing my pants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like many Queensicans, when it was announced that this year’s July 4th fireworks would be taking place in the East River just off the coast of LIC, a humble narrator grew excited. Then one began to read about frozen zones (pretty much from 11th street to the East River) and homeland security. My enthusiasm for the event began to wane as the Terror Warriors descended from their Manhattan aeries, discussed throwing down cordons, announcing entry checkpoints, and throwing a cage over the entire neighborhood. One “gets it” of course, as our enemies from “east austral Asia” specifically target public events that draw media attention, which is the very definition of what the July 4th fireworks show is.

The thing is, and I’ve been pointing this out for years, is that there is very little actual “homeland security” going on the rest of the year around these parts, and the Terror Warriors spend most of their time in Manhattan offices dreaming up scenarios which could only be accomplished by Nation/States with vast combined weapon system resources and functionally unlimited budgets. If we were at war with the United States or the People’s Republic of China, for instance, I’d be pooping my pants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is not so irresponsible to point the actual vulnerabilities out in any detail, as some moron out there might decide to exploit them (do your own research), but if you see graffiti along a train track or in a subway tunnel – that’s called time and opportunity. It should be impossible, literally, to sneak into a train yard or even get close to a moving train nearly two decades into the Terror Wars.

Problem is that our security personnel tend to focus on the outlandish notion that non state actors, who are basically mafiosos, can not only maintain but deploy complicated weapons systems that most nation states cannot even hope to possess. Jackass sappers like the Boston Marathon bombers, whose presence and intentions are THE real threat, just don’t fire the imagination or finger the purse strings of Congress.

It’s all a show, ultimately, designed to assuage the nagging truth that some jerk pulling the pin on a dud hand grenade while riding on the 7 train would be sufficient to shut the entire Subway system down for weeks while the Terror Warriors installed metal detectors and biometric sensors on every turnstile.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think I’m just going to go up on my roof this year on the 4th of July, photographing the fireworks at a distance from almond eyed Astoria. One is not interested in being part of a compacted herd of spectators, who are all potential suspects, in LIC. I’ll be out and about on the 5th of July, and will wager that I won’t see a single cop or security contractor protecting the vital infrastructure found hereabouts. To me, that’s terrifying.

The big show will be over by then, and the Terror Warriors will be worrying about space based laser systems at BBQ’s on Long Island and in Westchester County. They’ll muse whether or not ISIL has perfected a tractor beam that can pull asteroids down on targets (that’s called a mass driver, btw.) or developed a neutron bomb.

“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

July 1, 2015 at 11:05 am

public building

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Sunnyside Yard, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody always asks me how I get these shots, or about certain qualities in them. Simple answer is that I’m always experimenting with the camera, and when I come up with some protocol for “how to get this or that” my next move is usually to reverse it and see what happens.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, my friend, practice.

The setting: Recently, an evening meeting carried one up the hill from the elluvial flatlands of Southern Astoria to the heights of the ridge which Sunnyside was built into. Between these two neighborhoods, there’s a former tidal swamp into which the Sunnyside Yard was embedded back in the first decade of the 20th century. Once the largest rail coach yard on earth, the Yard still hosts the busiest rail junction found on the continent, the so called Harold Interlocking. The busy part is due to the frequent passage of Long Island Railroad commuter rail trains, which share the switches and rails with Amtrak.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The conditions: Sunset to the west, which I was going to be shooting right into. The weather was humid, and a bit misty. The point of view is surrounded by steel plated chain link fencing whose purpose is to deny observation of vulnerable infrastructure (I’m told that this fencing was installed during the first decade of the Terror Wars). One such as myself has a vast catalog of fence holes and gaps which are dearly held, and since my meeting in Sunnyside would carry one past an entire series of these occluded viewpoints, a point was made to pocket one of my lenses small enough to fit into while leaving HQ. I also brought some chewing gum, but that’s not important.

My “good lenses,” which are used in particularly high rotation, have a circumference too large for these cracks in the walls around the Sunnyside Yard – so a “decent” lens which has a decidedly smaller diameter was employed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “decent lens” mentioned is the so called “nifty fifty” offered by Canon. It’s far and away my most inexpensive tool, and allows wide open apertures which would make it handy for night time shots but for its persnickety focusing mechanics. The term for what it does, autofocus wise, is called “hunting.” What that means is that it noisily rolls through the range of focus and never quite settles itself into a lock. My usual habit with this sort of thing is to use autofocus to “get it close” and then switch the thing over to manual focus for final adjustment.

The optic formula of the lens also renders things a bit less “contrasty” than I’d like, but you can’t really complain about camera equipment which retails for around a hundred bucks – especially when it fits through fence holes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The methodology: For those of you not in the know, as to how cameras and lenses work – a “bright lens” will allow you to operate it at wide apertures (f1.8 in the instance of the nifty fifty). Wide apertures create a tremendous “depth of field” effect, which means that the area which is in focus will appear sharply delineated and everything else will be blurred. Higher aperture settings – the “f-stops” as it were – will create a hyperfocal range in which everything in frame will be sharply defined. The lower the “f-stop” the more light enters the camera, and the higher ones allow less light to get to the sensor. You balance the shot using shutter speed and ISO settings. Night shots and interior spaces require you to use the lens “wide open,” with slow shutter speeds, and higher ISO settings – all of which introduce certain quality issues to the captured image.

The shots in today’s post were consciously captured with the desire to have “everything” in focus, with a minimum of motion blur as well, and to record a full range of color and tone. Difficult to do with the sun behind the scene, and in a setting where everything is made of contrasting reflective surfaces.

My formula was to actually reverse my night shooting protocol on 2/3rds of the exposure triangle, using a very narrow f-stop and fairly fast shutter speed, but with a high ISO setting for tone and color sensitivity (f10, 1/1250th of a second, ISO 800). Sometimes, particularly during the summer, the problem isn’t that there enough light – there’s actually too much of it and some methodology needs to be employed to control it. Experimentation and failure often emanate from screwing around with your normal shooting habits, but sometimes it pays to mix things up a bit.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

simple swains

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Most photogenic Subway line nomination, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The elevated 7 line has become quite famous for its multitudinous delays, entire weekends wherein service is suspended, and the frustrations of the vast population who count on it as their daily conveyance to and from the Shining City from Queens. One would offer that despite all of this, it looks great, and since appearances are all that really matter under the current administration in City Hall and Albany…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The underground lines just don’t have the same panache as the elevateds, and there are analogs for them in every major human infestation found upon the earth. The subterranean lines are dirty, dark, and the sweating concrete bunkers through which they run are the kingdoms of the rat. The first shot in today’s post emanates from a point in space roughly one hundred or so yards above the one above depicting the E line, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 even looks good from high above, as it turns out of the Hunters Point stop into the open air over the Sunnyside Yard and heads towards Court Square. If the MTA has a “Belle of the Ball,” it’s clearly the 7 – esthetically speaking. There’s a lot to be said about the scenery at Bushwick junction as well, but the 7…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Further east, where the so called international express heads through Sunnyside and Woodside and Jackson Heights high over Roosevelt Avenue – towards its eventual destination in Flushing – the 7 carries itself with a certain bearing and sharply appointed charm. One therefore nominates the 7 as the best looking of NYC’s subways.

Remember, it’s better to look good than to feel good, and that form always trumps function.

“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 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

daytime pilgrimmage

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Jackson Avenue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been watching the construction efforts underway at the former West Chemical site adjoining Queens Plaza for a while now. Building condominium towers in Queens Plaza is a questionable proposition, beggaring the question “who would really want to live in Queens Plaza?,” but the bigger one for me is “would you want to live on the former location of a chemical factory?.” I often remark to myself that the reason why the history of Queens is often so tough a nut to crack is the careful obfuscation of its past by the real estate industrial complex so as to preclude casual mention of the fact that so many of the new residential towers rising from Western Queens are in fact built atop such sites.

State and City officialdom call sites like these “brownfields,” which sounds a lot better than “toxic and irreversibly polluted” I guess. Just say “affordable housing” or “green infrastructure” and you’ll feel better about the whole thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brownfield remediation, or “opportunity area,” sounds a heck of a lot better at cocktail parties and let’s face it – lower Manhattan and North Brooklyn cocktail parties tend to grind into uncomfortable territory when you mention the environmental consequence of a century’s worth of industrial use. One would point out that at least the “powers that are” aren’t planning on putting a school on top of the old West Chemical site, but that brings up the uncomfortable subject of the infrastructure required to support a residential population being inserted into a former industrial zone, and the lack thereof, so that’s best avoided as well so as to not make the bond brokers skittish and derail the program.

It will not be conducive, condo sales wise, to mention all of those closed FDNY units or the frankly astounding conditions encountered at the centuried Queensboro or Ravenswood NYCHA projects, nor where the nearest hospital emergency room is located.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The old “chickens coming home to roost” adage will likely be punching Western Queens in the nose some time in the late 2020’s – by my estimate. That’s when our trains will be running at (instead of near) capacity, our lack of school desks and hospital beds will be most apparent, and when the new populations installed in these former industrial corridors begin to organize – politically speaking. One wonders if these new populations will vote in as reliable and “party loyal” a fashion as the current residents do. Will the 20’s roar, or howl, for the Democrats?

The folks who can afford the so called “affordable housing,” rising from these “brownfields,” will they vote for a Democrat party candidate and continue the rule of the “Queens Machine” – or will they support somebody else who is a little more in tune with them socioeconomically? Only time, and a roll of the political dice, will tell.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

magnified by

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Scenage from Tower Town, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, a humble narrator found himself invited to a party/fundraiser for the Friends of Hunters Point South Park group, and a generalized scuttle was enacted to the East River in LIC’s Hunters Point section. For those of you not in the know, Gantry Plaza State Park (which has been open for several years) is the recreational waterfront amenity found just to the north (ca. Center Blvd. to Anable Basin), and Hunters Point South Park (which includes the so called LIC Landing of the East River Ferry, and which will eventually wrap the ER shoreline all the way to and around the Newtown Creek) is a more recent phenomena.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I hate to admit it, but the whole Tower Town thing seems to be congealing together as intended by the “powers that once were and will be again.” These two parks are VERY well used and the human infestation hereabouts really seem to have taken to them in a big way. Most members of the local infestation with whom one confers attest that they all love living here, with the only two complaints commonly offered by these residents involving transit and a complete lack of any nearby supermarkets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was at the party as well. For some reason, the shot above makes it seem as if he was singing a song to the crowd, but in fact he was merely greeting the assembled group. There were a few other dignitaries about, but this wasn’t a press event or anything, it was an “LIC Henge” party.

On a personal note: Mr. Van Bramer has recently announced that he will be running for reelection, and I for one will whole heartedly cast a ballot for him. One dwells within the political district he oversees and JVB is bloody fantastic. Watch this guy, that’s a future Mayor crooning on the mike in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One brought his trusty tripod along, since the scenery to the west is entirely filled by the phosphorescent towers of the Shining City itself. One such as myself finds his eyes drawn to the vast public housing complexes which line the East River in all their Title 1 glory, but manifest hubris naturally pulls my attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The famous “Manhattanhenge” wasn’t meant to happen until the following evening, which was a washout anyway due to storms blowing in from the continent found due west of our archipelago, but sunset is always a sure thing when you’re in this spot. It was a fun gathering, and I got to spend some time with a bunch of my Queensicans. If you haven’t been, get on the 7 or East River Ferry and check this space out.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

stinking shallows

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The Turning Basin, and exit from Dutch Kills, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Turning Basin of Dutch Kills here in LIC is something I like to show photos of to my harbor pals who hang around in Manhattan. Usually, their jaws drop open when they witness the neglected bulkheads and ask me “where, exactly, is this?.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The west side of the Turning Basin abuts the property of a concrete company called NYCON. There’s an Elevator Mechanic’s Union Hall just across the street behind it on 28th, but life’s all ups and downs for those guys so the less said the better.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of the stuff you see floating around in the water here is actually deposited by the two large Combined Sewer Outfalls at the head of the canal, but there’s a significant contribution to the murk coming in from roadways and industrial properties. The LIE, for instance, drains directly into Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the east side of the canal is found a significantly undermined maritime bulkhead.

Said bulkheads are ones which whose owners – The American Warehouse Self Storage on 29th street – are anxiously attempting to repair, or so I’ve been told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the past, I’ve referred to these rotting apertures as “grottoes” and the term is apt. There’s a whole set of hidden chambers and voids beyond these openings which are cast in a permanent and quite sepulchral shadow. There are pale things which wriggle and flop and slide around inside of them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The former U.S. Crane building is currently owned by the Broadway Stages film production company, and my guess is that they will have to institute some set of repairs to their firmaments before too long. There are grottoes here as well, but one suspects that this is where the Hollywood agents commune with Father Dagon and Mother Hydra while sound stage production is underway within the structure. These agents are just a part of the population of wriggling, flopping, sliding things mentioned above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The creeping vines covering the water facing walls of the Broadway Stages building remind me of varicose veins, although ones which display a decidedly necrotic character. Notice the relict bollard up on the bulkhead, which would have once been used to tie off vessels of substantial size. Presumptively, the maritime ropes dangling from the structure are how the Hollywood Agents get up and down out of the grottoes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned at the beginning of this series, our presence on Dutch Kills was to ensure the delivery of a floating dock and the timing of the excursion was governed by low tide. Tick tock, tick tock, and it was time to exit stage south if we didn’t intend on waiting for the next water cycle to occur.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The distance between the water ceiling and the DB Cabin rail bridge was beginning to narrow, and we made for it with some urgency.

Lynne Serpe, who was providing motive power for our canoe through most of the trip, allowed me to take over for a while and we paused briefly for the shot above when the Freedom Tower came into view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While exiting back into the main stem of Newtown Creek, a humble narrator again put the paddle down for a moment to capture the fact that the guardian gaggle of Dutch Kills had degenerated down to a singular goose, and that some speciation had occurred while we were on the canal.

Perhaps the afternoon shift had arrived?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some sort of blue headed duck had arrived, which I’m sure the biology department of LaGuardia will describe in some detail in the coming months now that they have the dock which HarborLab prepared and delivered for them. Personally, I don’t trust any bird with a blue head, but that’s me.

Me and Lynn Serpe? We beat it back to the Vernon Avenue Street end which HarborLab calls home, and went our separate ways after exiting the canoe. For my part, a hasty trip to HQ in Astoria was enacted, whereupon a hot shower was immediately employed. My bathing ritual this time around, after Our Lady of the Pentacle found out what I had been doing, was reminiscent of certain scenes from the movie “Silkwood.”

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 15, 2015 at 11:00 am

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