The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

ancient overmantle

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Walking in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent night found one scuttling about in the darkness while drawn towards the weird illuminations of the Kosciuszcko Bridge, which spans the fabulous Newtown Creek. Pictured above is the northeast corner of LIC’s First Calvary Cemetery, a photo which was shot using a somewhat different technique than the now tried and true methodology I use for night shots, which is why it looks a bit “different.”

An observation made during the walk, from Astoria to Blissville via Sunnyside, was that since all of the humans are staying in at night now, and automotive traffic is at an all time low, the normally furtive eidelons of nature are free to wander about.

Lots and lots of Raccoons, Opossums, and Rodents of all typologies were spotted along the way. Proof of what I’ve been saying for years, that if we were able to allow the mechanisms of the natural environment just a little bit of room, we’d lick the various problems facing our civilization pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, it’s taken the near collapse of that civilization to prove my point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Growing up in a home where the reaction to leaving a faucet dripping was greeted with the same emotional and tangential severity as having discharged a firearm, one developed a series of coping mechanisms which have served me well over the years and have gained me the reputation of being “good in a crisis.” Unlike most, when I see that the house is on fire, my first instinct isn’t to assign blame but rather to pick up a hose or fire extinguisher and fix the problem in the most expeditious fashion possible. “Plenty of time to freak out afterwards” I always say. I guess I learned something from my batshit crazy mother after all, which at least takes the form of how and when one should react to random stressors.

Saying that, even my legendary ability to subsume and bury emotional stress is fracturing. Periodic walks like the ones described in recent weeks are sanity inducing.

Just as I was shooting the image above, a couple of plain clothes NYPD officers rolled up on me and began asking the familiar “why are you taking pictures of the bridge” queries. The encounter was short and non eventful, but it actually made me feel “normal” for a few minutes. Afterwards, rumination revealed that whereas I’ve had this exact same conversation with private security dozens of times in the last few years, it had been a long while since I had to have it with a badge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not having the super bright lights of the new Koscisuzcko Bridge blow out the highlights of any night shot they’re in is still a challenge which I haven’t been able to conquer, in a single exposure, yet. The middle shot in today’s post was severely underexposed to compensate for the bridge lighting, as I wanted to get the “red, white, and blue” pattern it was displaying. The shadows were “pushed” during processing to allow for detail in the shot. One technique I’ve experimented with is to do two exposures and then marry them together, but it’s a lot of work to get them to look “right.” I prefer to “get it in one” and whereas I know all about HDR, that technique really isn’t the answer either.

Luckily, I have lots of time on my hands to experiment. How are you spending your Quarantine, Lords and Ladies?

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, March 30th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

dismantled laboratory

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Chancing the vampires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My practice for the last few months, given the broken toe drama of late 2019 and the subsequent recovery thereof, has been to go for a long walk and then hop on a train or a bus for the proverbial “last mile” home. This has been working out pretty well for a humble narrator, but what with the current “death cooties” epidemic and all, avoiding the Subway in particular has become a bit of a preoccupation for me. Under the best circumstance, the MTA system is a microbial nightmare, let alone during the “season of the Corona.” A pedestrian life for me, for the time being at least.

Problem is that I had to make my way through Queens Plaza, and down Jackson Avenue to get back to Astoria, and as I’ve often opined – there are Vampires up in the steel rafters of the elevated tracks. I reached into my camera bag and affixed the garland of garlic cloves which I always carry with me, and set out towards home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens Plaza is always crowded, even during a Quarantine. Luxury condos, built in the name of worshipping at the altar of the City Planning crowd’s beloved “density,” are chock full of the children of the well off. These tower buildings disallow it’s residents several activities, notably smoking. Accordingly, a few dozen young adults were standing on the sidewalk wearing surgical masks and smoking cigarettes while staring into their phones. The mask would get edged up, and the cigarette would get sucked. One enterprising young woman had poked a hole in her mask large enough to stick a cigarette through. Yes… she poked a hole in the mask so that…

You have to love the humans, I always say. Years ago, I was on the subway and some guy boarded the train. He grabbed the pole, then used that hand to first dig the crust out of his eyes, followed by a generous amount of ear canal poking, followed by a quick nose pick and… yes, I was watching and waiting… he stuck that finger in his mouth to dislodge some food off a tooth. Every possible path to the brain covered, he then squeezed at the little bottle of hand sanitizer attached to his knapsack and rubbed a bit of the stuff into his hands. A seat opened up and upon sitting down he rested his head on the metal pole. Bravo, thought I. My goal is to touch nothing at all except the ground and only with my shoe covered feet. Don’t get me started on sandals.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Ford dealership building on Northern Blvd. which had been used as a Taxi company’s HQ in recent years – just off 31st street – has been demolished. Yet another part of old industrial Queens bites the dust, huh? Luckily, the scions of Manhattan’s real estate scene have ensured that yet another multi story self storage building will replace it, so that their mad quest to pack ever more people into ever smaller apartments can be supported with off site closets in Queens. I’m fairly sure that the Lost Ark of the Covenant is sitting in a lock box at the old Johnson Wax building.

The temporary roadway pictured above, if you’re curious, leads to the muster area for the East Side Access project’s laborers at the Sunnyside Yards.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

snorting choke

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Concretized.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The head of Dutch Kills, the sole surviving tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek in Long Island City, hosts a concrete company called NYCON. This is pretty busy operation under normal circumstances and difficult to get photos of do to the hustle and bustle. Also, I generally avoid photographing the concrete guys, for certain reasons, including that they don’t seem to like being photographed – not one little bit. The nice thing about the Corona Virus quarantine, therefore, is that they don’t seem to have been rated as “essential” and my recent constitutional walk in LIC offered an opportunity to record a few of their industrial splendors.

This is from 47th Avenue and 27th street, if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quite a few people have asked me if I’m worried or scared or whatever when I’m out at night, and in particular during the Quarantine. A few have chided me for being out at all, but the reality of my life is that I’m under Doctor’s orders to keep moving. Without exercise, it won’t be long before my arterial system narrows and plugs, and then I’ll find myself having to spend time in a hospital during an epidemic. Not only do I never, ever, want to experience the cardiac ward of a hospital again – given the current circumstances I could easily find myself in one of the FEMA or USACE wards being set up around the City. I’d be lying if I don’t say I was a bit paranoid on the deserted streets, but paranoid is good during times of trouble and tumult. Stay frosty.

I am not going to find myself sleeping in a hospital bed at the Javitz Center if I can help it. Have you been to the Javitz Center?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever the risks, one must continue to turn the earth under his feet. I’m used to being lonely out here in the Creeklands. At night, in particular, there are so few humans about that it’s arguably one of the safest places to be when a deadly virus is being passed about. There’s also so much to see, and photograph. For a couple of hours, one is able to forget about the apocalyptic situation we are all suffering through. Get away from the news feeds and the constant dirge of nightmarish import.

I NEED that in addition to the exercise. It’s literally all I’ve got right now.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 2, 2020 at 11:00 am

only acquiesce

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Scuttle, scuttle, scuttle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One keeps on finding himself at the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek, here in Long Island City, for some bizarre reason. Partially, it’s the lack of people one might encounter along the way. On the other hand, it’s a familiar place to me and therefore comforting. Pictured is the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

Dutch Kills, as the United States Army Corps of Engineers so rendered it in the early 20th century, averages about 150 feet of space between its bulkheads. It’s spanned by several bridges, and this particular single bascule drawbridge – which it’s owners at the NYC Dept. of Transportation will tell you – is the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. Replacing an earlier wooden drawbridge powered by a donkey walking on a wheel, the modern HPA Bridge was originally erected in 1910 as a double bascule drawbridge with electric motors. The masonry, bridge house, and basic structure of the thing are original to that effort but in the 1980’s a retrofit of the bridge eliminated the double bascule mechanism with a simpler to maintain single bascule one.

What’s a bascule, you ask?

That’s the section of a draw bridge’s roadway which tilts upwards to allow egress to a passing vessel. See? You learned something in Quarantine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What is a man? What has he got? Frank Sinatra asked that.

When is a road not a road, and a city street is not technically a street? When it’s 29th street between Hunters Point and 47th avenues in Long Island City. There are several roads and streets around here which are on the NYC map, host NYC street names and signs, and you can get mail delivered to structures which use those designations as addresses, but they aren’t actually city streets. Railroad access roads, they are called, and are the actual property of the MTA/Long Island Railroad. 29th street is one of them. If you know what to look for, beyond tracks rising up out of the asphalt, these streets are easy to spot. Long gentle curves between the corners, rather than straight as an arrow, and if the distance between the corners is curiously long… you’ve found a good candidate for “railroad access road.” You have to check the official record, of course, but 29th street alongside Dutch Kills is definitively part of this classification.

Back in the early 20th century, there used to be a “terminal railway” setup in these parts which provided “last mile” service to the factories and warehouses of “America’s Workshop” as LIC was known. This “Degnon Terminal railway” split off from the Lower Montauk tracks along Newtown Creek via the Montauk Cutoff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of blocks from Dutch Kills is the former Waldes Koh-I-Noor four building complex, which used to be able to accommodate a train set running between its various buildings. Waldes were manufacturers of milliners supplies – pins and needles, buttons, snaps. The metal pants zipper was innovated here during the First World War, I’m told. During the Second World War, Waldes ceased production of clothing items and retooled their factory for war production, manufacturing the internal components of artillery shells for both the Army and Navy.

Boy, do I love LIC. I guess this is part of the reason I find myself wandering around here so often. The stories I can tell… and wish I was telling… but somehow I don’t think that I’m going to be leading many walking tours this year.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

maddening suggestions

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Keepin on keepin on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So far so good here at HQ, and the only thing I can report to as involving coughing and wheezing so far involves the seasonal allergies which one has always contended with. Why we plant flowering trees in NYC is something I cannot fathom. Pollen is the age of pandemic is a “poop your pants” situation every time you sneeze or blow the shnoz.

As described in prior posts, one needs to maintain a fairly regular schedule of exercise for health reasons. Accordingly, I’ve been leaving Astoria at opportune times when the streets are entirely unoccupied and then heading towards similarly unoccupied areas in the industrial zones surrounding Newtown Creek. Personal security is something which I’m very, very aware of given the deserted sidewalks and thusly I haven’t been sticking my headphones into my ears as is the normal custom. Situational awareness, I call it. It’s part of what I promise Our Lady of the Pentacle when I’m leaving the house and she opines “Be careful.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad traversing the Harold Interlocking at the Sunnyside Yards is pictured above, a set of tracks which are said to normally be the busiest right of way in the entire country. On this particular walk, one noticed breadstuffs scattered about on the sidewalks, often arranged in cruciform patterns. Could have been something random, and it wasn’t worth taking a picture of frankly, but does anyone know anything about such practices? Desperate and scared people typically embrace ancestral magic and peasant rituals during crises. Many cling to their magic books or scrolls, thinking the imagined power of the words contained therein will protect them from pestilence and misfortune. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood which was partially populated by people with numbers tattooed on their arms, who would have gladly offered to any that queried them that those scrolls didn’t do them one bit of good when the wolves arrived.

This is the hour of the Wolf for our civilization, isn’t it? We’re all locked up inside and some forest monster is scratching at the door in the dead of night. Stay frosty, I always say, and be smart. Your god won’t vouchsafe you, instead fate helps those who help themselves when the wolves are near.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s why I’m continuing to march about, all alone in the night. When it comes time to put everything back together, we are going to need strength – both emotional and physical – to bury the dead and comfort the living. I’m hoping to count myself as part of the latter, but it’s impossible to predict whether or not a plague will take you.

The only thing you can do is lock your doors, and keep that wolf at bay.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 31, 2020 at 11:00 am

black smoke

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What a nightmare.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning from a short constitutional walk the other night, a sudden explosion of FDNY activity drew my attention to the corner of Newtown Road and 45th street here in Astoria. A structural fire was consuming one of the older homes in the neighborhood, a wood framed one set back from the property line. It soon became an all hands fire, it seems, and FDNY units from both Woodside and Astoria were present, as was Rescue Unit 4.

I also captured a bit of video on my phone, which can be accessed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighbors were all coming out of their houses to see what was happening, and lots of them were breaking out in tears over the spectacle. I suddenly realized that dozens if not a hundred people were forming a crowd and one beat it out of there quickly in the name of social distancing. Cooties.

I don’t know anyone who lives in that house, thought I, but as it turns out that wasn’t true. Somebody from the outer ring of my social circle did indeed live there and was now homeless. Under normal circumstance, this is plain horrible, and the normal systemic response would involve the Red Cross setting you up in a hotel for a couple of days while the insurance people figure out next steps. Fire insurance will usually pay for temporary lodging until the house is determined to be fixable or a total loss, at which point repairs are made or you have to find a new apartment.

During the current crisis – this is a nightmare scenario.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I posted the video of the fire to a couple of social media platforms, and made sure that City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer was aware of it, since this is not only his district but the neighborhood he grew up in. The next morning, a message was sent to me from a friend informing that the aforementioned “outer ring” acquaintance of ours was in fact now homeless and sleeping on their couch, and I made sure that JVB’s office had their contact information. Apparently, some sort of shelter for the poor fellow was arranged.

Structural fires are one of the things which I am worrying about more and more with all of us trapped inside. Be careful in your kitchens lords and ladies, and with those extension cords, and if you don’t have a fire extinguisher or two in your house – get some.

Also, on this date in 1909, the Queensboro Bridge opened for traffic. That’s your NYC history trivia of the day.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 30, 2020 at 11:00 am

low toned

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Holy smokes, the FreshDirect building is toast!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just at the point where one traditionally turns back towards HQ and begins the journey from the LIC Dutch Kills “zone,” I suddenly stopped in my tracks at the realization that I could see the sky. The gigantic building with yellow painted corrugated steel walls that used to house the FreshDirect operation here in LIC has been demolished. Tectonic!

This was a HUGE footprint building, five or six stories tall, with both refrigerated and shelf stable warehousing as well as several food preparation workshops. There were interior driveways large enough for multiple semi tractor trailers to reverse into, and smaller loading bays that could handle about ten or so of the FreshDirect local delivery trucks at the same time. Gone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as an aside for the thousands of people who have interrupted me while photographing over the years to ask “why are you taking pictures of that” while looking at me suspiciously and asking if I like hummus, this is exactly the reason. Creating some sort of record of what was there prior to it being replaced by something new. The “new” thing will have all sorts of government and corporate effort attached to it whose singular goal is the obfuscation of the site’s history. Ask the people in Queens Plaza if they know about the chemical factory, or lead foundry, which used to occupy the site of their shiny new condominium building. That’s the FreshDirect facility pictured above, as seen from a few blocks east.

A big part of the mission here at Newtown Pentacle is to create a record of this era of transition and rapid change in Western Queens for posterity which is independently held and not beholden to the political or business order. Whatever goes up on the site of that FreshDirect building… well… what used to be there?

Glad you asked.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big historic factory here was owned by the American Druggist Syndicate, who made pharmaceuticals – so essentially a chemical plant. There were a couple of varnish factories as well, so petrochemical processing. Then a few of the smaller lots were occupied by metal working and refining companies involved mostly in iron working, so that means heavy metals and coal retort residues. The statement above comes from a cursory scan of a 1919 fire insurance map in my possession. Did the 20th century bring in plastics? Garbage handling? Good questions.

Right behind the FreshDirect lot is a set of tracks used by the LIRR which have been liberally doused with rodenticides and herbicides over the centuries, and the soil they sit on hosts lakes of PCB’S, PAH’S and other electrical insulating oils beneath the surface which has bled out of their trackside equipment. Newtown Creek itself is about 2,000 feet away from the Borden Avenue sidewalk pictured in the first shot of this post.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

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