The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for October 2015

breathing marble

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Greenwood Cemetery, at night, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, Atlas Obscura produced the “Into the Veil” event which was hosted at Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery. Your humble narrator wormed his way onto the guest list, packed up the whole camera kit in preparation for some night shooting, and headed on over.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ethereal tones were pulsing out of several of the Mausolea, as Atlas Obscura had set up several performance spots. One particular tomb, the Morgan, had a familiar set of sounds pulsing out of it. When I hear musical saws playing, I know that I’ve found my pal and Astoria neighbor Natalia Paruz – the Saw Lady – at work. The shot above is a long exposure, which rendered Natalia in a ghostly blur of musical motion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my goals at the event was to “turn night into day.” I won’t bore you with all the technical details and camera settings, but suffice to say that the shots above and below are well beyond the range of human vision and that I was literally shooting blind. It was night time dark, with an overcast sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tripods are a must for this sort of thing, as are remote releases for the shutter (have to minimize camera shake, after all). The funny thing is that people were wandering around in the dark, literally moving through the frame as the shot was being captured, but because of the length of time that the exposure required – they are rendered invisible unless they stood still as a statue for 20-30 seconds. Random hotspots and reflections on the monuments, as seen in the shots above, emanate from distant flash lights carried by the crowds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In situ, all I could see clearly were the monuments in the foreground, and even they were cloaked heavily in shadow. As mentioned, my goal was to “turn night into day” with these photos. The sky and tree line were barely visible to my eye when I set the exposure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Physically speaking, these kind of shots are fairly arduous to capture, due to “the carry” of the amount of gear required. My normal “walk around” kit weighs about 6-8 pounds (depending on what I’m doing that day), but the full on night rig weighs closer to 20 pounds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but Greenwood is a fairly “physical” environment with lots of steep hills. A light sheen of perspiration, combined with the cool night air, creates another set of circumstances to deal with – ensuring that the moisture on your skin doesn’t migrate to the glass and metal surfaces of the camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being old, I didn’t stay till the bitter end, but was pretty satisfied with what I captured. Hand held, as is the first shot in this post, one last photo of the gates of Greenwood was captured as I left. Both of the bookend shots are “truer” to the eye, and representative of human perception. Personally, I really dig the “night into day” stuff. How about you, Lords and Ladies?

Note: Saturday will see Halloween occur here in Astoria. A humble narrators plan entails assuming my regular station at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – at the Doyle’s Corner pub. I will be photographing all costumed comers who agree to pose, masked passerby, and of course – the alcoholic antics of the Burrachos.

My plan is to get there around 2 and stay until the early evening, so if you’re in the neighborhood and costumed, stop on by and get yourself photographed. Unless the weather is ungodly, I’ll be sitting at an outdoor table right by the door. If the shot turns out nice, you might just find yourself published at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm

shaky strokes

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The Invisible Flame, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the so called “Unnamed Canal” tributary of Newtown Creek, found in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint. Roughly analogous to North Henry Street’s intersection with Kingsland Avenue, were North Henry’s northern terminus not enclosed entirely within the NYC DEP’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s fence line.

Directly to the west is the former DSNY Maritime Waste Transfer station, to the east is the home of Allocco Recycling. Sharp eyes will notice the Newtown Creek Alliance Living Dock project bobbing around in the water at the eastern, or left side of the shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A fairly uncommon view of the sewer plant, with its iconic stainless steel digester eggs dominating the shot. These eggs process “thickened sludge” using biological processes. What comes out of them has been effectively sterilized by the micro organisms which are cultivated and maintained within, but the process does generate several waste products along the way. Within, a material called “Struvite” collects on the hard surfaces which requires the DEP to perform maintenance at regular intervals to scrape the stuff away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another byproduct of the digester process are mephitic gases. The four Venturi jet structures you see at the left side of the image above are the exhaust pipes for the process, and the mephitic gas they are designed to handle is Methane, which is burned off. When the system first came online, the Methane flames were the characteristic bright blue turning to orange that anyone with a domestic stove is familiar with. Passerby on the Long Island Expressway who saw the flames would regularly call 911 to report a fire occurring at the plant. The DEP responded by “tuning” the speed and temperature of the Venturi structures to render the flames invisible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The largest point source of greenhouse gases on the Brooklyn side of the Newtown Creek, these jets produce an invisible flame whose only visual cue is the diffraction of light. The DEP has famously entered into a contract with the National Grid corporation, which will harvest the Methane currently being burnt off. National Grid will use the Methane to augment their “Natural Gas” network, selling it to their customers.

The Invisible Flame, btw, is an analogy used in Islamic mysticism when referring to a supranatural race of mischievous or malign spirits whom they call the Djinn. Western Europeans use the term “Demon” for the Djinn.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 29, 2015 at 1:00 pm

neither plan

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The day of days of nearly upon us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, one met this fellow at the corner of Steinway and Broadway. He was howling mad about bicyclists running red lights, and admonished the delivery guys when they ignored the intentions of egress and pause offered by the corner based signal lights of the NYC DOT. I asked if he was going to a party, to which he replied “No, why do you ask?”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Food Bazaar on Norhern Blvd. is having a bit of concrete work done – filling in the cracks, grinding the edges lifted by tree roots, and fixing those weird rough spots that develop as the stuff weathers. Amidst the maze of safety tape adorning the project, whose screed “caution” is something that most everybody hereabouts abandons with some regularity, this barrier was spotted. I like a good sign as much as the next guy, but the proximity of the pavement to the sign is over the top. Obviously, the sidewalk is close.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself hung itself in the sky right behind this lamp post when I was out getting lunch the other day, allowing for a fairly smooth gradation of light across the afternoon sky. Got me to thinking about the latent dread I’m experiencing regarding the day that the DOT gets around to replacing Astoria’s current sodium bulb lamps with those new fangled LED ones which have started turning up in the tonier sections of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Luckily, Astoria is in Queens, which means that we will be the last priority for the City, just as with everything else.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saturday will see Halloween occur here in Astoria. A humble narrators plan entails assuming my regular station at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – at the Doyle’s Corner pub. I will be photographing all costumed comers who agree to pose, masked passerby, and of course – the alcoholic antics of the Burrachos.

My plan is to get there around 2 and stay until the early evening, so if you’re in the neighborhood and costumed, stop on by and get yourself photographed. Unless the weather is ungodly, I’ll be sitting at an outdoor table right by the door. If the shot turns out nice, you might just find yourself published at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 28, 2015 at 2:15 pm

gently heaving

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Tis the Season.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, one found himself headed towards DUGABO in Greenpoint for a Newtown Creek Alliance event. My intentions were merely to photograph and record the occasion, but as a humble narrator is cursed with the attention span of a house fly, I soon became distracted by a calvalcade of death.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mysteriously, an abandoned DSNY property in the area is littered with animal bones. It is actually difficult to trespass on the property without crunching the most intimate of internal organs beneath your booted foot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A good number of these ossuarial remains are cut, in the manner which a butcher might employ. All are sun bleached, and whereas the vast majority are definitely avian in character, the higher animals are clearly represented as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of interest is the fact that you mostly find limb bones, with nary a skull nor pelvis apparent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly, a floppy disc was observed at the site. Once ubiquitous, this sort of device has been obsolete for a generation, and it is odd to spot one. Who can know what information it might have once held?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are fresher remains to be found all over DUGABO, this ex rat was spotted on the Queens side of DUGABO whilst one was in transit to Brooklyn. Truly, DUGABO seems “death magnetic.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The views from this dead end, as is the case all over my beloved Creek, are spectacular.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 27, 2015 at 3:10 pm

circumstance which

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Feasibility, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’re reading this, in the filth choked furnace rooms and dark satanic mills of the NYCEDC, acolytes of the Real Estate Industrial Complex are working feverishly on the feasibility plan for the decking of the Sunnyside Yards. Syncopated, hammers are smashing out imperfections in the armor plating of their unholy works. Armies are at work, happily consuming the roughly two million dollars which have been allocated to their studies. At the end of the process, hordes of their making will emerge from the EDC’s subterranean vaults, proclaiming that a new order has been achieved, and all of New York’s problems will be solved by the fruits of their labor.

Housing will be made affordable, transit and other municipal services will be abundant and available, and the children of Queens will be assured a bright future. A great darkness will be conquered, and prosperity will spread through the land. In their keeps and towers will wizards and oligarchs rejoice, for Queens will be saved by those for whom the warren of lower Manhattan is a paradise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The grand obfuscation, of course, will arrive when the Mayor’s office announces that the feasibility study of the EDC has made recommendations that City Hall must follow. The inheritors of Tammany will omit the fact that the NYCEDC, or New York City Economic Development Corporation, is not some independent or autochthonous entity. Pretense that the board of the EDC is not composed entirely of political appointees from the Mayoral and Gubernatorial mansions, or that it’s ranking staffers are not in fact just awaiting their turn at either electoral or corporate fortune, will be offered.

Not mentioned either will be the fact that the current so called “Progressive” Mayor of New York City has merely adopted the policies and projects of a predecessor whom his fringe coalition demonized, and that the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards was and is the personal passion of Michael Bloomberg’s “aide de camp” Daniel Doctoroff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The coming of the darkness, an era when Sunnsyide will be referred to as “Shadowside” nears. One has been vocal about the opinion that sometime during the 21st century, at least some portion of the gargantuan rail yard found here in Western Queens will likely be decked over. The despoiled bureaucrats of Lower Manhattan have indicated to me, and others, that the decking will likely happen in three stages – a sort of creeping metastases which will begin with the section between LIC’s 21st street and Queens Plaza. This is the narrowest part of the Sunnyside Yards, incidentally, a part of the project which will be cheaper to accomplish than the sections abutting Northern Blvd. and Sunnyside.

During this last Summer, a meeting with the crew of loathsome sentience who are conducting the study began with a humble narrator slamming a box of donuts down on the table in front of them. I stated “when somebody comes to my house, I serve cake.” They did not know what to make of this, nor the unremitting hostility with which they were greeted. At one point during the meeting, I asked a high ranking member of the team to stop smiling, as it was freaking me out and there is absolutely nothing worth smiling about regarding this existential threat to the health and well being of Queens.

To their minds, the decking of the Sunnyside Yards represents a solution. To those of us who live in, and love, Western Queens – they are the coming of darkness and destruction, a barbarian horde sent to loot our communities and whose mission is to steal the sky and blot out the sun itself.

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viewless aura

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Blissville, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blissville, for those of you not in the know, is the section of Long Island City which the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge connects to. One refers to this area as DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp – as I like to stay ahead of the Real Estate Guys on this sort of thing. DUGABO is an M1 zone, meaning that it is zoned for heavy industry. A couple of blocks to the north, it becomes a “mixed use” zone, and there’s a scattered series of homes and commercial storefronts in the area – a lot of the building stock actually dates back to the 19th century.

The LIRR trackways run along the coast of Newtown Creek, and you’ll find several bits of railroad infrastructure along the shoreline. In focus today, the Blissville Yard, which has found new occupation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Blissville Yard is a series of trackways designed for storage of rolling stock. It connects to the Hunters Point tracks via a rail bridge that crosses Dutch Kills, and there used to be a connection to the Sunnyside Yards and the Degnon terminal railway spurs via the Montauk Cutoff which is no longer an active track. The modern use of the Blissville Yard is governed by the New York and Atlantic company, which is a private corporation that handles freight services for the Long Island Railroad. If you see a black and emerald colored engine operating along the LIRR tracks, that’s them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too long ago, the Waste Management company, which enjoys a profitable relationship with NYC’s Department of Sanitation, opened a new facility on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek. Waste Management handles the exit from our municipality of the putrescent or “black bag” garbage collected by the municipal DSNY. The company has been operating for several years out of an enormous facility on Varick Street in what should be called Bushwick, but is referred to in modernity as East Williamsburg.

At Varick Street, Waste Management and New York and Atlantic operate the so called “garbage train” along the Bushwick Branch of the LIRR. Now, in Queens, they are operating another garbage train out of the Blissville Yard and the newish Review Avenue Waste Transfer Station – which is across the street from Calvary Cemetery. Those green box cars in the shot above?

That’s the Garbage Train.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DUGABO proper, the street where you’ll find the at grade crossings for the garbage train is appropriately called Railroad Avenue. To the west, you’ll find the Blissville Yard and the SimsMetal company. SimsMetal handles the recyclable materials collected by DSNY and others. To the east, you’ll find other new arrivals (new as in the last decade, which isn’t even yesterday to “historian me”) like Waste Managements “Green Asphalt” facility.

This little roadway alongside the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge has become a locus point for heavy trucks, literally thousands of heavy trucks loaded down with garbage, on a daily basis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The putrescent waste is processed at Waste Management, and loaded into these green boxes, which are then positioned onto rail cars. The garbage train(s) proceed eastward to the Fresh Pond yard. From Fresh Pond, they begin a long and circuitous journey which sees them leave Long Island via the Hell Gate Bridge and head north through the the Bronx via the Owls Head yard. Leaving NYC, they head most of the way to Albany, where another rail bridge allows them to cross the Hudson and enter the continent. Where they go after that seems to be a state secret, although I’ve been told that there are a series of tapped out coal mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia which are gradually being filled back up.

Future archaeologists are going to love us, I tell you.

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other metals

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Cool Cars of Astoria, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One recent afternoon, my pal Larry and I decided to walk our cameras around the neighborhood. Our entirely random path found us heading towards the forbidden north coast of Queens, and after taking in the recently refreshed murals at Welling Court, we continued on in the direction of Old Astoria. That’s when I spotted this 1962 Ford Falcon two door sedan which was bathing in the powerful afternoon illuminations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself.

Cool Cars indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The early sixties were a time when American cars were getting bigger and bigger, and imports from Japan and Germany were getting smaller and smaller. It’s also a time when many families were thinking about acquiring a second car, and the Ford motor company decided to get ahead of the game by introducing a compact. Their marketing was geared towards the stay at home suburban mom after research revealed that the ladies found the land yachts common to that era were just too cumbersome for their needs.

Data was all that mattered to the Ford executive who created and ran the Falcon enterprise, Robert McNamara. McNamara is the same fellow who would eventually become the United States Secretary of Defense and coin endearing concepts like “acceptable losses” regarding the possibility of nuclear war, and is the fellow that designed the strategic bombing program for the Viet Nam theater of operations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Ford Falcon was produced between 1960 and 1970, and the design of the thing had budget and economy of scale in mind. The factory used parts and systems which were already being manufactured for other models to keep costs low. Back in the 50’s and 60’s it was common practice to design automobiles with an entirely unique series of parts and components, rather than utilizing the modern practice of modularity which dictates that a single carburetor or muffler could be installed in several different models or lines. McNamara was a data guy, a “bean counter” as it was known at the time. He would end up being the President of Ford before jumping over to the Government posts for which he is justly infamous, and for which he evinced great regret in his dotage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Falcon was a success for Ford, and versions of the line were produced internationally – there’s a somewhat famous Australian variant which customized and used for competitive racing. The 1962 model pictured in today’s post was a product of American manufacture, and the specimen encountered here in Astoria was in pretty good shape all things considered. This thing is older than me, but my pal Larry had a few years seniority on it. Larry is holding up pretty well himself, but occasionally has engine trouble and is worried about his struts and suspension but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When conversing with “Astoria Lifers” the early sixties are often referred to as a golden era here in Queens and seeing these cool cars persist in situ is a particular joy to them. For those of you “youngins” who have never driven a 1960’s American car, I cannot describe the thrill of having the massive horsepower respond to your commands. I know you’ll miss your Bluetooth stereo and seat belts, or the entire concept of being able to walk away from a wreck intact, but wow – when these old cars start up – it is exhilarating.

The Falcon, according to Ford’s corporate propaganda at the time, could do around 30mpg in terms of fuel efficiency. It was powered by a six cylinder 101 HP engine, and could seat six. There were a lot of variants available at the time – station wagons and four door sedans as well as a sort of van. The station wagons were available with those faux wood vinyl stickers on the doors and fenders, btw.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 22, 2015 at 12:30 pm

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