The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for November 19th, 2010

previous recollections

leave a comment »

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, I was obliged to meet up with a couple of guys from Williamsburg when they asked me to guide them through some of the Newtown Creek’s less well known attractions. My pithy reply was that I would be straddling the border of Brooklyn and Queens, and they should just meet me there- at the venerable Grand St. Bridge. I walked there from Astoria in record time, arriving quite a bit earlier than I had anticipated.

Luckily the morning was crisp, my coffee was hot, and the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was shining strongly- which afforded me with a nice opportunity me to do a little shooting.

Note: I’m never sure how to describe the actual act of photography. Shoot, capture, take- all somewhat violent terms which don’t really fit the action. Sniper techniques do transfer neatly into telephoto work, exhaling while triggering the shutter and all that, but… it’s all rather soldier sounding isn’t it?

from wikipedia

Photography is the process, activity and art of creating still or moving pictures by recording radiation on a radiation-sensitive medium, such as a photographic film, or electronic image sensors. Photography uses foremost radiation in the UV, visible and near-IR spectrum.[1] For common purposes the term light is used instead of radiation. Light reflected or emitted from objects form a real image on a light sensitive area (film or plate) or a FPA pixel array sensor by means of a pin hole or lens in a device known as a camera during a timed exposure. The result on film or plate is a latent image, subsequently developed into a visual image (negative or diapositive). An image on paper base is known as a print. The result on the FPA pixel array sensor is an electrical charge at each pixel which is electronically processed and stored in a computer (raster)-image file for subsequent display or processing. Photography has many uses for business, science, manufacturing (f.i. Photolithography), art, and recreational purposes.

As far as can be ascertained, it was Sir John Herschel in a lecture before the Royal Society of London, on March 14, 1839 who made the word “photography” known to the whole world. But in an article published on February 25 of the same year in a german newspaper called the Vossische Zeitung, Johann von Maedler, a Berlin astronomer, used the word photography already. The word photography is based on the Greek φῶς (photos) “light” and γραφή (graphé) “representation by means of lines” or “drawing”, together meaning “drawing with light”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Surreal, the waters around the Grand Street Bridge teem with that alien colour which typifies and describes the industrial hinterlands of that annihilation of innocence which is called the Newtown Creek. For an extensive description and history of this spot, a busy automotive and truck crossing in modernity, click the following for the Newtown Pentacle posting “a Grand Journey in DUGSBO


Grand Street is a two-lane local City street in Queens and Kings Counties. Grand Street runs northeast and extends from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Brooklyn to Queens Boulevard in Queens. The road is known as Grand Street west of the bridge and Grand Avenue east of the bridge. The bridge is located between Gardner Avenue in Brooklyn and 47th Street in Queens. The Grand Street Bridge is a 69.2m long swing type bridge with a steel truss superstructure. The general appearance of the bridge remains the same as when it was opened in 1903. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 17.7m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 3.0m at MHW and 4.6m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a two-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width on the bridge is 6.0m and the sidewalks are 1.8m wide. The height restriction is 4.1m. The approach roadways are wider than the bridge roadway. For example, the width of Grand Avenue at the east approach to the bridge (near 47th Street) is 15.11m.

The first bridge on this site, opened in 1875, quickly became dilapidated due to improper maintenance. Its replacement, opened in 1890, was declared by the War Department in 1898 to be “an obstruction to navigation.” Following a thorough study, a plan was adopted in 1899 to improve the bridge and its approaches. The current bridge was opened on February 5, 1903 at a cost of $174,937.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While pondering the atypical number of 19th century suicides which occurred here, a flock of geese happened along in this so called urban desert and distracted me from my usual morbid soliloquy. They were pecking at the manmade bulkheads, skimming for waterline plant life.

from wikipedia

The Canada Goose was one of the many species described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae. It belongs to the Branta genus of geese, which contains species with largely black plumage, distinguishing them from the grey species of the Anser genus. The specific epithet canadensis is a New Latin word meaning “from Canada”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first citation for the ‘Canada Goose’ dates back to 1772. The Cackling Goose was formerly considered to be a set of subspecies of the Canada Goose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby was this enormous creature, balancing on one foot . Unfortunately, it wasn’t disposed toward looking my way, despite my best Brooklyn exclamation of “hey, boid, overs here’s”. When a tractor trailer blew by, it suddenly exploded upward.

from wikipedia

New York dialect is predominantly characterized by the following sounds and speech patterns:


  • The low back chain shift The /ɔ/ vowel sound of words like talk, law, cross, and coffee and the often homophonous /ɔr/ in core and more are tensed and usually raised more than in General American. Labov (1966) describes this pattern as varying on a scale from [ɔ] to [ʊ]. An inglide typically accompanies higher variants giving [oə] or [ʊə].  /ɑ/ in father and /ɑr/ in car are backed, diphthongized, and sometimes rounded to [ɑə] or [ɒə]. The result is that card in New York can be similar to cod in parts of New England. In addition, a subset of words with /ɒ/ as in lot feature a lengthened and diphthongized variant, [ɑə]. This variant may appear before a word final voiced stop, /dʒ/, or /m/ (e.g., cob, cod, cog, lodge, bomb). It also occurs variably before voiced fricatives (e.g., bother), /ʃ/ (e.g., wash), and in the words on, John, and doll (Wells 1982: 514).
  • The short-a split There is a class of words, with a historical short-a vowel, including plan, class, and bad, where the historical /æ/ is raised and tensed to an ingliding diphthong of the type [eə] or even [ɪə]. This class is similar to, but larger than, the BATH lexical set, in which Received Pronunciation uses the so-called broad A. Other words, such as plaque, clatter, and bat, retain a lax, low-front [æ], with the result that bad and bat have different vowels. A related (but slightly different) split has occurred in the dialect of Philadelphia. Although the lax and the tense reflexes of /æ/ are separate phonemes in these dialects, their distribution is largely predictable. See Phonemic æ-tensing in the Mid-Atlantic region for more details.
  • /oʊ/ as in goat does not undergo fronting; instead, it remains [oʊ]. This groups New York with the “North” class of dialects rather than the “Midland”, in which /oʊ/ is fronted. Relatedly, /uː/ as in goose is not fronted and remains a back vowel [uː] or [ʊu]. This lack of fronting of /oʊ/ and /uː/ also distinguishes New York from nearby Philadelphia. Some speakers have a separate phoneme /ɪu/ in words such as tune, news, duke (historically a separate class). The phonemic status of this vowel is marginal. For example, Labov (1966) reports that New Yorkers may contrast [duː] do with [dɪu] dew though they may also have [dɪu] do. Still, dew is always [dɪu] and never [duː].
  • Diphthongs The nucleus of the /aɪ/ diphthong is a back and sometimes rounded vowel [ɑ] or [ɒ] (right as [ɹɑɪt]) and the nucleus of the /aʊ/ diphthong is a front vowel [æ] (rout as [ɹæʊt]). The sociolinguistic evidence (Labov 1966) suggests that both of these developments are active changes. The fronted nucleus in /aʊ/ and the backed nucleus in /aɪ/ are more common among younger speakers, women, and the working and lower middle classes.
  • pre-r distinctions New York accents lack most of the mergers before medial /r/ that many other modern American accents possess:
    • The vowels in marry [mæri], merry [mɛri], and Mary [meri] ~ [mɛǝri] ~ [mɛri] show either a two- or three-way contrast.
    • The vowels in furry /fɜri/ and hurry /hʌri/ are distinct.
    • Words like orange, horrible, Florida and forest are pronounced /ɑrəndʒ/ and /fɑrəst/ with the same stressed vowel as pot, not with the same vowel as port as in much of the rest of the United States.
  • Merger of /ɜr/ and /ɔɪ/: One of the stereotypes of New York speech is the use of a front-rising diphthong in words with /ɜr/ (e.g., nurse). This stereotype is popularly represented in stock phrases like “toity toid” for thirty-third. The phonetic reality of this variant is near [ɜɪ]. This variant may also appear in words with /ɔɪ/ (e.g., choice), resulting in verse and voice as homophones. The diphthongal variant for /ɜr/ is highly stigmatized. Labov’s data from the mid-1960s indicated the form was recessive then. Only two of his 51 speakers under age 20 used the form as compared with those over age 50 of whom 23 out of 30 used the form. Items with /ɔɪ/ may occur with [ɜr] (e.g., [tɜrlət] toilet), apparently as a result of hypercorrection. Younger New Yorkers (born since about 1950) are likely to use a rhotic [ɜr] in bird even if they use non-rhotic pronunciations of beard, bared, bard, board, boor, and butter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Turns out it’s a heron. Go figure, a heron at Newtown Creek.

from wikipedia

The herons are wading birds in the Ardeidae family. There are 64 recognised species in this family. Some are called egrets or bitterns instead of herons. Within the family, all members of the genera Botaurus and Ixobrychus are referred to as bitterns, and—including the Zigzag Heron or Zigzag Bittern—are a monophyletic group within the Ardeidae. However, egrets are not a biologically distinct group from the herons, and tend to be named differently because they are mainly white and/or have decorative plumes. Although egrets have the same build as the larger herons, they tend to be smaller.

The classification of the individual heron/egret species is fraught with difficulty, and there is still no clear consensus about the correct placement of many species into either of the two major genera, Ardea and Egretta. Similarly, the relationship of the genera in the family is not completely resolved. However, one species formerly considered to constitute a separate monotypic family Cochlearidae, the Boat-billed Heron, is now regarded as a member of the Ardeidae.

Although herons resemble birds in some other families, such as the storks, ibises and spoonbills, they differ from these in flying with their necks retracted, not outstretched. They are also one of the bird groups that have powder down.

Some members of this group nest colonially in trees; others, notably the bitterns, use reedbeds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s it for today, over the weekend I’ll be thrilling you with recent encounters your humble narrator has had with the political class who rule over New York City.

Also, please buy a copy of our book- Newtown Creek, for the vulgarly curious- here. Every copy sold contributes directly to sustaining and maintaining this- your Newtown Pentacle.

from wikipedia

Grand Street is a street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, United States. The Grand Street (BMT Canarsie Line) subway station serves the corner of Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue. Crossing English Kills into Queens, Grand Street becomes Grand Avenue, continuing through Maspeth where it is a main shopping street, to Elmhurst. Its northern end is at Queens Boulevard. Broadway continues the thoroughfare north and west.


In the 19th century, before the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge, the Grand Street Ferry connected Grand Street, Brooklyn to Grand Street, Manhattan. The Grand Street Line was a streetcar line along the road.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 19, 2010 at 1:46 pm

%d bloggers like this: