The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Subway’ 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?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

copper eyed

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The timid banality of it, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One enjoys the pained expression on the faces of Subway train operators and that uncomfortable look which washes across them when they see some odd character in a filthy black rain coat on the subway platform, in the process of photographing them while in their offices. A rare caprice, for one such as myself, are the moments which occur only when a momentary glimmer of joy breaks through that dire cloud normally occluding my mood. Few of these glimmers are more dearly held than those that are coincidental to some other task, which renders these annoyed expressions intrinsically whimsical.

The task, in these cases, is the continuing usage of NYC’s finest low light photography workshop – by a humble narrator for his endless experimentation with camera exposure triangles. Hey, I’m down there anyway, and headed on my way towards some miserable fate, might as well make some use of otherwise wasted time.

F 3.2, ISO 6400, 1/125th of a second, tungsten color temperature. 

Btw, that’s the R line entering the 46th street station along Broadway in Astoria. The R line came online in this part of Queens back on the 19th of August in 1933.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the E line entering Queens Plaza on its way towards Manhattan. The IND (underground) station at Queens Plaza also opened on August 19th in 1933, but back then it only ran as deep into Queens as Jackson Heights at Roosevelt Avenue. On the Manhattan Side, it went to what was once called Hudson Terminal, a spot which we refer to as Ground Zero these days. The E’s range was extended several times throughout the 1930’s until it achieved a route which extended deep into Queens. Cutbacks began in the 1940’s, and continue to this day on the E.

F 3.2, ISO 6400, 1/160th of a second, tungsten color temperature. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 23rd street Ely Avenue IND Station, over in Long Island City, opened on August 28 in 1939, about six years after the elevated IRT station “Court Square” was opened for business. That’s the M train coming into the station. The M line is part of the (in LIC and part of Manhattan) IND 53rd street line, which is a section of the IND Queens Boulevard line in terms of the larger system.

There you go. 

F 2.8, ISO 5000, 1/160th of a second, tungsten color temperature. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Manhattan, at the deepest kind of a subway platform which one can mentally conjure, and at what has to be only 20-39 feet above hell itself – the 4 train illuminates one of those rotting concrete tunnels it inhabits while entering the scene. Notice how the train jockey is writhing whilst realizing he’s being photographed… hee hee. Why so serious, say I?

This station opened at two in the afternoon on the 17th of July in 1918. I’ve been using this line more and more often these days, as the less time the spent on the Subway the better, and the Lexington Express gets me to the Staten Island Ferry in Lower Manhattan just as quick as you can.

F 3.2, ISO 5000, 1/125th of a second, tungsten color temperature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan, and the 5 train is entering the tableau. This used to be the terminal stop for the Lexington line, when the station opened on the 10th of July in 1905. Service to Brooklyn also started in 1905. It’s an IRT station, just like 59th street. IND and IRT are terms which refer to the old dual contracts era of the Subway construction era, which have created the A and B divisions of the modern day MTA New York City Transit Authority.

F 3.2, ISO 5000, 1/200th of a second, tungsten color temperature. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the G train entering the Greenpoint Avenue stop in the shot above, and also showcasing the decidedly uncomfortable expression characteristic of an MTA subway employee who suddenly realizes he or she is being photographed while at work. Another of the August 19th of 1933 era lines in Brooklyn and Queens, the G is officially called the IND Crosstown Line by MTA insider and rail fan alike.

F 4.0, ISO 5000, 1/160th of a second, tungsten color temperature. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An IRT train, the 7 line enjoys its elevated existence under the ever watchful burning thermonuclear eye of God itself, upon having entered Queens. The stop at which this shot was captured is the 40th street Lowery stop, which opened for business in 1917.

One is always amazed at the series of late dates upon which these stations opened, incidentally. Assumptions that the Broadway line through Astoria opened in the 1920’s are acknowledged, given the density of apartment houses along the line which are both admitted to and offered at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

F 7.1, ISO 250, 1/250th of a second, daylight color temperature. 

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 10, 2015 at 11:00 am

noisome herd

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There really is no hope for the future, is there?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor saw a humble narrator headed eastwards towards the ancient hillocks of Maspeth from Astoria, and since time was short, a bit of the old mass transit was called for. My plan involved getting to Elmhurst by train and grabbing a Q53 bus at Queens Blvd. which would carry me up the surprisingly steep slope that 69th street is set into to my eventual destination nearby Borden Avenue and the LIE. Accordingly, one found himself at the estimable Steinway Street stop of the R and M lines.

This particular subway station is one of two I frequent, the other being 46th street. Both are in somewhat deleterious condition, as least as far as the passenger visible areas are concerned, but are fairly serviceable. A bit of steam, bleach, and elbow grease could work wonders for these facilities but… well… the borough motto is… after all… Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a lot of fingers you can accusingly point at our commonly held municipal employees, particularly the ones who work for the NYCTA division of the MTA. The transit system is the last true home of trade unionist sentiment, and often it seems that if a fire was to break out down in the sweating concrete bunkers that the trains move through, it would be allowed to spread if no representative of “Fire Alarm Pullers Local 103” were present.

Fair enough, I guess, as the Union guys and gals who work down here are battling against the Doctor Doom of faceless bureaucracy on a daily basis. Nobody beats the MTA for what the military would call “fold up fucktard” policies, or at least that’s what I’ve been told by people who work for them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The situation, however, pictured above isn’t the fault of either Union Labor nor Albany Wonk. This one is on us. There’s observably been a growing issue with litter citywide, wherein entire generations of New Yorkers seem to have been able to get all the way from Kindergarden to College without once being exposed to the concept that you shouldn’t just abandon your trash wherever you feel like it. The concept of finding a proper receptacle for trash is alien to most, it would seem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Never mind the eclectic collection of beverage containers and bits of paper, who tosses a soccer ball into a Subway pit? If a train’s leading edge caught this ball in Astoria…

Seriously, what is wrong with you people, would you do this at home?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not to be a scold, but here’s the way it’s supposed to work:

If you have generated trash during your daily rounds – say, a water bottle or crumpled up piece of foil from a sandwich or something – you are meant to hold on to it until you spot a proper receptacle. Said receptacle is called a “garbage can.” A group of Municpal employees will ostensibly come by at somewhat regular intervals to empty these cans. What you don’t do is a) just drop it, b) throw it onto the Subway tracks.

I swear, what this City needs is a good plague.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 22, 2015 at 11:17 am

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

in connection with

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Subway fever dreams, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself generally doesn’t recall the hallucinations which occur during those dark hours when biological imperatives overcome and consciousness is lost. At least once per day, but more often than not – at night – a sudden wave of fatigue drowns out all other motivations and I find myself lapsing into a death like state which is accompanied by wild visions. I cannot tell you what happens during these intervals, which can sometimes consume a third of any day. Perhaps this is why I maintain the presence of an ever present and watchful dog, who on more than one occasion has pulled me out of this state when danger approaches with her ululating vocalizations. This daily failing is excaberated when my biological functions are impeded or hampered by injury, or some bacterial or viral infection.

A wild gyre occurs during these spells, with thoughts unrestrained by physics and possibility. My conscious mind rejects all remembrance of these visions upon reawakening. This is certainly true of any hallucination which might be deemed “pleasant.” It is only the terrors of the night which persist into the sunlit hours. A recent injury to the fleshy stalk upon which my head is mounted resulted in a series of Subway oriented visions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One recurring hallucination took the form of an endless Subway trip. Transfers and long distances occur, but one never seems to get to a destination. When the trains pull into unknown stations, the exits and stairs are always boarded up. Usually these barriers were adorned by signage warning about the presence of some sort of airborn toxin, as indicated by the skull and crossbones iconography which one does not immediately associate with a MTA logo, and were one to walk up the steps to the surface a dire fate awaited.

One is always given the impression that something terrible has happened to the world above, and the Subway is improbably the only safe place remaining.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my nocturnal phantasmagories featured entire Subway trains traveling on the R line – the R stood for “Refugee” – which had been converted over to shelter dwellings. The trains were kept moving so as to avoid undue exposure to whatever might be mingling with the dust of desiccated rat droppings and fungal spores in the station atmosphere.

At certain stations, this Refugee train did not stop, as the platforms were crowded with ragged caricatures of the human form – desperately clawing at the moving metal and glass surfaces, and seeking entry into the traveling refugee village. Making matters worse, the car which this scenario played out in was populated by at least three Korean street ministers, who my fellow travelers and I would have gladly fed to any cannibal mob.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another hallucinatory vision saw a Q train which never exited the subterranean tunnels nor encountered any station, crawling along in an obsequious and onbnoxiously slow fashion. This train provided no shelter from the infestation of human survivors however. Instead, the Q stood for “Quarantine” and all of my fellow riders were suffering from some sort of hemorrhagic fever.

The image which quietly withstood the regaining of consciousness early the next morning was that of a Subway train filled, ankle deep, with blood and gore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another horrible imagining occurred just as the healing process within the ruggose tube that supports my head began, one wherein a long Subway ride was experienced in a car in which your humble narrator was the only occupant that wasn’t a busker or street performer.

One was surrounded by Mariachi’s and those teams of acrobatic dancing youths, and along with them were accordionists and the “if anyone is hungry, I’ve got sandwiches” people. One sat at the center of a pulsing crowd of perfomers and prosletizers, as the street ministers and clipboard volunteers were along as well. Several members of lesser cults, seperatists, and joiners were also present. All thrust dirty plastic cups at me, asking for a dollar or two.

In one corner of the train, a hipster girl filmed the scene on an iPhone, in a somewhat disaffected manner. She’d seen it all before.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Always, the rays of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself interrupts these bizarre hallucinations, rousing me from the comatose and back to a world of harsh reality. At the end of my recent infirmity, one hallucination was running full bore when I awoke in a cold sweat with a rapidly beating heart.

I travelled through the City’s intestinal crevasses, and encountered another dreamer who informed me that my whole life had, in fact, been what they had been having nightmares of since childhood. This person had been suppressing me with psychiatric care, and a schedule of narcotic drugs. After having directly encountered my personage, this person – an amiable Spaniard – decided to kill himself forthwith. Sometimes I have that effect on people, I guess.

I wondered – and more than wondered – can all of this reality of ours simply be someone’s, or some thing’s, dream? Is there something out there, which lies not dead but dreaming?

“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 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

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

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