Newtown Creek musings
enormous stitched panorama, Pulaski Bridge- photo by Mitch Waxman- (click images for larger views at flickr, worth it)
Over the last several weeks- I have been honored to encounter an interesting community of historians, photographers, and maritime enthusiasts. A lot of these people asked me how I got so into this whole history thing. My standard answer has been “Newtown Creek”.
My long suffering wife has often been reduced to a stupor by my endless musings over the deeper meanings represented by the curious location of some manhole cover I found on Northern Blvd, or speculations about the carefully obscured origins of our modern city.
If you are religious, pray for her strength and tenacity against these spouse inflicted irritations to her infinite patience, if you’re not a churchgoer- raise a glass in her name and toast- to our lady of the Pentacle.
Newtown Creek, NYC panorama, Queens museum of art- photo by Mitch Waxman
Since I found the place, (like most New Yorkers, I had no idea that Newtown Creek even existed a few years ago) the Newtown Creek has had some kind of hold on me. My actual first reaction was:
Putrid, this dripping eidolon of unwholesome revelation which sits between Brooklyn and Queens is an abomination- a comfirmation of all that is unclean- unholy- and detestable. A ghoulish shade of decay, antiquity, and dissolution hanging about it- the Newtown Creek has that awful bearing which, in any sane world, a merciful earth should not have to endure.
Newtown Creek- photo by Mitch Waxman
My inclinations and interests have always tended to touch upon those subjects ignored and shunned by the madding crowd. After all, have I wandered through nitre choked graveyards in winter, and amidst the cloaking shadows of the urban wastelands in the hellish inferno of a New York heat wave for any reason other than joy? What drew me to the story of the Newtown Creek, at first, was the quivering green immensity of the place- the horror- which is nepenthe to me. The esthetics of the place began to infiltrate and infect me.
Rail Bridge near the junction of the Dutch Kills and the Newtown Creek- 3 exposure HDR photo by Mitch Waxman
I started reading up on the Newtown Creek, and found the Newtown Creek Alliance, and saw youtube videos from Riverkeeper, and read the history (Greater Astoria Historical Society‘s LIC book is a must have), and followed Forgotten-NY around the place (via their gold standard website). I found my long walks less and less of a burden, and I became mezmerized by the idea of exploring this strange and horribly exciting place. Camera in hand, I set out on foot. If you want to see anything in New York, you have to be on foot.
Petro history- from Newtown Creek Alliance tour of the Newtown Creek- photo by Mitch Waxman
There is a beauty to this cradle of the industrial revolution that contemporary reading would call Dickensian. Its the wide open skylines (squat, most buildings are under 3 stories, and loading docks are set back from the street to allow trucks to berth), the maddening shadows dropping off the elevated highway whose roadways- in some places- are over 10 stories above, and the sudden drop-offs whenever fenced off bulkheads signal the presence of water. Its the supernal way that the oddly colored water dapples reflected orange or green light up into the underpinnings of those highways, or the constant appearances of rail tracks both active and abandoned. Perhaps- its just the counterpoint of a shining city hanging over the miasmic occlusion rising off of the Newtown Creek.
from Metropolitan Avenue Bridge- (click images for larger views at flickr, worth it)- photo by Mitch Waxman
Maybe its the sure knowledge that change and progress have arrived in Long Island City again, and that in the near future all of this will be gone- buried under towering apartment houses and obscured by cosmetic improvements meant to obscure the past and hide what it is that may still lurk down here.
LIE- stitched panorama photo by Mitch Waxman- (click images for larger views at flickr, worth it)