The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Queens Plaza’ Category

is where

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Is there anyplace smellier than the IND station at Queens Plaza?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stumbling home through the dark recently, a humble narrator found himself at Queens Plaza, waiting for the R or M to arrive and carry his stinking carcass back to Astoria. “It seems that I’ve been dead for quite a while, judging by the smell,” thought I. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t the standard “eau d’ jew” which accompanies the end of a period of physical exertion and exercise which I was discerning, rather it was some other reeking horror that was permeating the Subway Platform.

At the end of the platform, or at least the side where the last Queens bound subway car arrives, that I found the source of an odor which I can only describe as Satan’s diarrhea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that the syringe had already separated itself from this bubbling spring of buboes breeding Queens juice, but the smell of it…

Now remember, I’m the Newtown Creek guy. I hang around Sewer Plants, and open drains which carry liquids whose coloration ranges from olive green to cadmium yellow, and am possessed by fond memories of walking amongst the settling and aeration pits of the DEP. When I say an odor is nose hair curling, will wither away plastic, and describe something as having smelled like the dysentery of the Devil itself – pay attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can guess where this water is coming from, but it would only be a guess. The underground IND Subways in Long Island City are essentially concrete bath tubs which were set into a wetland that was already despoiled by sewage and industrial pollution by the time LIC incorporated in 1870. The subways didn’t come along until the 20th century, of course, but the waterways that flowed through Queens Plaza are still very much present.

One of them was the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek itself, which flowed across what’s now the Sunnyside Yards and was navigable all the way back to 40th avenue at the corner of Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue. Just ask the East Side Access guys, they drilled right into it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Commuters in Queens who transfer at Queens Plaza, and at the 21st street G station, will tell you about seeing green water spilling out from behind the tile walls and gag a bit trying to describe the smell. In the case of 21st, it’s a different tributary of Newtown Creek – contained into a sewer tunnel – called Jack’s Creek. If you see, or smell the phenomena at Queens Plaza – my bet is that it’s Dutch Kills.

Can I prove this? No. Call it a hunch, or an educated guess by a guy who spends his time on the shorelines of Dutch Kills’s extant path who can recognize its particular pungency from a half mile away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

yellow paw

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A few randoms, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An assertion which has been offered on several occasions… it’s actually more an observation or opinion, actually… is that the 7 line of the NYCTA division of the MTA is the most photogenic of NYC’s subways – particularly that stretch that emanates off the Queensboro Bridge heading towards Sunnyside and Woodside. There’s all kinds of delays, crowding, and an angry mob has and continues to form from Queensicans suffering the “7 Train Blues” but for a purely visual bit of candy – the 7 just can’t be beat.

I also enjoy photographing the G, particularly at the elevated Smith 9th street stop in far off Red Hook, but the 7 is tops.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Carridor, or Northern Blvd. as it is conventionally known, is also one of my favorite spots to wave the camera around – particularly at twilight. Pictured above is a car lot that occupies a triangular property nearby 43rd street. The particulars of Northern Boulevard’s mapping, which sees it sweep around the curvilinear borders of the Sunnyside Yards, creates several oddly shaped properties. There are few rectilinear or squared off lots along its run from 31st street to Woodside Avenue. As it enters Jackson Heights, the road assumes a more conventional path as it moves through Roosevelt and Corona on its way to Flushing.

I’ve walked all of Northern Blvd. between 31st and Citifield, where pedestrian sidewalks disappear nearby the intersection with Ditmars and Astoria Blvd., and can tell you that the section adjoining Astoria, Sunnyside, and Woodside are my favorites – the happy hunting grounds, as it were.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been fascinated throughout the summer by a certain Brownfield remediation project underway in Queens Plaza, incidentally. Sometime soon, you will be greeted by post detailing the operations underway at the former West/CN Chemical factory and the efforts being made to raise residential towers on the site. Personally, I would not want to a) live in Queens Plaza, b) live on the site of a chemical factory which was erected on a swamp, c) live within throwing distance of the tens of thousands of automobiles which exit the Queensboro or traverse Jackson Avenue, or d) live within direct ear shot of the 7, N, Q elevated tracks. I wouldn’t mind capturing shots of these trains from the windows of one of these towers, I would add, but wouldn’t want to live there.

I’ll happily take my little spot here in Astoria, although it is never quiet here either.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 21, 2015 at 1:36 pm

creaking joints

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I’m all ‘effed up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The compulsions to record and categorize everything one encounters, which a humble narrator suffers from, must be related to some form of narcissism – which is the favorite “go to” syndrome for every arm chair and amateur psychologist’s diagnostic assessment. “Dude, you’re a total narcissist,” might be an appropriate statement were it not for the fact that when I reach out to touch the eidolon of decay staring back at me from beyond a pane of silvered glass, that monster always recoils in shock and horror and retreats.

Pictured above, a locomotive unit of the Long Island Railroad transiting the Sunnyside Yards, full of people who – unlike me – have somewhere else to go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Dude, you’re a freaking sociopath, and all you’re doing is trying to prove how shit the rest of the world and everybody in it is while making yourself out to be somehow above it all” is one I’ve heard as well. In all actuality, I think the rest of you are amazing, and wish that I could somehow function on the level that others seem to effortlessly maintain. One can barely pull himself out of bed in the mornings and climb across the giant piles of ennui and hubris which litter my floors. Buying an egg sandwich and an orange juice for breakfast is a moral dilemma for one such as myself.

Pictured above, illegal dumping along Skillman Avenue, wherein a bag (?) of paint was left to harden into putty on the sidewalk. In all seriousness – who has a bag of paint? Doesn’t paint usually come in a bottle, jar, or can?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If I’m not disappointing someone with my personal failings, abrasive and egomaniacal behavior, moral assertions and precepts, or preconceived notions – my day is ruined. A friend of mine once suggested that I should start a business offering “freelance, unsolicited criticism.” I would walk into a bank, tell the manager that they had set up the ropes all wrong, and hand them a bill.

Many employees of the government would offer that “freelance unsolicited criticism” is what I’ve actually been offering them for the last few years, particularly a group of NYC EDC employees whom I recently sat down with regarding their feasibility study for decking over the Sunnyside Yards who received a less than salubrious series of exultations regarding their ruinous plans. The usual “who do you think you are” expression was quite visible from my side of the table, incidentally.

Pictured above, the 7 line of the MTA’s New York City Transit Authority transiting the elevated tracks over Queens Plaza South at the intersection with Skillman Avenue. We don’t call it NYCTA anymore, but the MTA still does.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a serious desire for a short vacation, and to visit some vernal wonderland in which the cessation of daylight brings actual darkness. To experience quiet, and the sort of silence which causes a city dwellers ears to ring with tinnitus for a couple of days. I’d like to see something nice, and not chase drunks away from my door for just a day or two.

Unfortunately, one remains trapped within the concrete devastations of the Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 3rd, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

could furnish

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As mentioned yesterday, while you’ve been sleeping, I’ve been out working.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This happens every so often to a humble narrator. Circadian rhythms short circuit somehow, and a distinctly nocturnal phase occurs. Desire to record scenes observed remains, however, and specialized kit is required. Queens looks so interesting at night, as the concrete devastations are generally well lit. Above – the Long Island Expressway’s 106 foot trussed apex over the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabled Newtown Creek.

This sort of shot is tripod country, of course.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north along Dutch Kills in the direction of the Sunnyside Yards and Queens Plaza, a scene familiar and loved, for it depicts the waterway’s turning basin which once fed maritime traffic into the Degnon Terminal via a barge to rail facility. These shots were all captured using my trusty old Canon G10, btw, mounted on a magnetic tripod. This particular bit of camera support allows a secure connection to ferrous surfaces via the use of multiple rare earth magnets, which in the case of the shot above was the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge itself. The magnet tripod, in effect, transforms the bridge itself into a tripod via its electromagnetic grip.

These are ISO 80 15 second exposures, captured with a narrow aperture – f8 – for those of you who are curious shutterbugs. Additionally, the light meter was set to the “tungsten” temperature, which caused the light captured to favor the blue side of the spectrum rather than the oranges and reds which street lighting normally produces. The camera was outfitted with a remote release cable, and I just had to time out the sequence of traffic lights on either side of the bridge to ensure that passing vehicle traffic didn’t introduce a ruinous vibration to the bridge which would transmit up to the lens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking back to Astoria in the darkness along Skillman Avenue from Dutch Kills, certain apertures in the fence lines of the Sunnyside Yards allowed me to secure and trigger the camera fortuitously. The 7 train, notorious for its multitudinous and unexplained delays, was just sitting there waiting for a humble narrator to record it.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

often hath

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As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens, particularly Western Queens, is far and away my favorite place in NYC to wander through. It’s actually difficult to go more than a block or two without having some sort of eye candy appear. The best thing about Manhattan is not being in it, as you can see the heroic skyline of the Shining City. Brooklyn is fun, mind you, but full of busy body’s and wise asses asking “what are you taking pictures of” while the petitioner is sizing you up for how much he or she can get if they boiled you down for elements. Staten Island… well… it’s largely a residential zone and I don’t like taking pictures of people’s houses so I stick to the shorelines for maritime stuff. Rumor has it that there is some incalculably northern locale known as the Bronx, but I regard that as mere legend.

Queens is the place for me, bro.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, at the Queens Plaza E/M/R station, I discovered that we need to install bike lanes on the subway platforms. One of my daring suggestions for the de Blasio administration to consider is that once half of all NYC surface streets have been converted over to bike lanes, we should consider digging trenches in the remaining vehicle lanes which would be flooded for the usage of kayakers. Also, zip lines should be considered for commuters to fly over the East River to alleviate Subway over crowding.

Why? Affordable housing. This Mayor and his henchmen justify any of their crazy schemes simply by answering “affordable housing.” Pissing on the street? “Affordable Housing.” Reverse twenty five years of crime reduction and return the City to the era of identity politics which nearly destroyed it?  “Affordable Housing.” Allow Al Sharpton to be the person vetting Municpal policies?  “Affordable Housing.” Operate City Hall as the second coming of the Dinkins adminstration? “Affordable Housing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Sunnyside, alongside the Sunnyside Yards (“Affordable Housing”) the native art form of Queens is expressed daily. Illegal dumping is accomplished in Queens with a compositional panache you just don’t see in the other members of the pentateuche which composes our civic archipelago. In Brooklyn, a van door slides open and trash is roughly thrust onto the street. In Queens, refuse is carefully arranged, and the negative space of the environs incorporated into the “work.”

In western Queens, illegal dumping is curated, and really should be considered to be an installation. Why? “Affordable Housing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Why do I love shooting in Queens so much? Perhaps it’s the fact that “Affordable Housing” hasn’t entirely blotted out the sky yet and you can still feel the sun on your face. The sepulchral shadows of Manhattan, and the gathering shadows of Brooklyn, the residential splendors of… Staten Island…, even the supposed existence of the Bronx… you can have them. I’ll take Queens.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 18th, 2015
Newtown Creek City of Water Day Boat Tour 
with Metropolitan Waterfront 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

rapid run

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Content warning today – blood and gore, in today’s post. Not kidding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor carried one in a westerly direction through the Carridor – down Northern Blvd. to its junction with Jackson Avenue and towards Queens Plaza, from the rolling hillocks of raven tressed Astoria. Having some spare time to kill on the way, one elected to spend some of it getting “artsy fartsy” with the camera in this overly familiar corridor.

Note: Wasn’t kidding about the blood and gore stuff in this post. If you’re faint of heart, stop reading now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens Plaza and the area surrounding it are a devilish place for photography due to the contrast of elevated Subway shadows and bright sky. Hence – one such as myself likes to wave the camera around a bit in the name of staying “sharp,” exposure wise. Never know what you’re going to find around here, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the case of this particular afternoon, what I found was this unfortunate dead thing.

Once some sort of baby bird, something had expertly and partially skinned it and removed its head. That little bit in the lower right of the shot was actually the heart. I see a lot of dead things as I walk around – flat rats, dead pigeons and the like, but this… this was deucedly odd. Cat? Rat? Who knows?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around thirty feet further east of the dead thing, a small pile of blood was encountered. Now when I say small, it actually covered around a third of a sidewalk box, but by Queens Plaza standards this is actually a small amount. I would venture that this blood was not that of the dead thing described above, but had exsanguinated from a higher form of animal instead – likely from one of the humans who are known to infest this area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The spatter above offers evidence of the blood I warned you about at the top of the post, and the third shot contains the gore. The truth of our times, as offered in graphic narrative, is presented plainly and in full color at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

unmistakeable facades

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Announcing a new walking tour, the Skillman Corridor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obscura Day is Atlas Obscura’s global outing, and this year I’m going to be offering a new walking tour that has been in the works for awhile now – The Skillman Avenue Corridor. This will explore the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards, descending from the heights of Sunnyside to the flood plain of the Newtown Creek’s tributary Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As long time readers of this, your Newtown Pentacle, know – Skillman Avenue is one of my “happy hunting grounds” for photographic pursuits. Those of you who share the same obsessions with infrastructure and photography thereof that possess me will find this an immensely satisfying experience. Along the way, the history of Sunnyside Yards and the industrial giants which surround it will be explored.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We will also be visiting Dutch Kills next weekend with Atlas Obscura (May 16, see the link below), on the 13 steps tour, which was actually premiered on Obscura Day several years ago. The Skillman Corridor is the first of several new tours which I’m conjuring up that aren’t directly “Newtown Creek” oriented which will occur in LIC, btw.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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 30, 2015 –
The Skillman Corridor 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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