The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for March 20th, 2018

startling degree

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The forbidden northern coast of Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All up and down the East River and its tributaries like Newtown Creek or the Gowanus, people (myself included) jump up and down screaming about waterfront access for the public. My pals at Waterfont Alliance call it “Our Waterfront.” Not so, here at the northern end of Astoria. Power plants, and an airport, and Rikers Island of course, create a security zone wherein one is not just blocked from getting to the water – you can be arrested for trying on the grounds of trespass. Security is actually pretty effective back here, as evinced by a nearly total lack of graffiti.

I wasn’t supposed to take a picture of “that” in the shot above, nor was I meant to be where it was shot from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wasn’t supposed to photograph or even notice “that” either. I won’t tell you what “that” is, but suffice to say that if something happened to “it” there would likely not be much left of Astoria or East Elmhurst north of Astoria Blvd.

“Things” like those pictured in the first and second shots are why the general public is precluded from the forbidden northern coast of Queens. It also means that the industrial and governmental facilities along the waterfront can do whatever the hell they want because there’s nobody who can admit to watching for fear of prosecution by regulatory officialdom.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is one tiny little spot where you can get to the water here. It’s a street end, and you’re standing on top of a combined sewer outfall at the end of 19th avenue, at the head of Luyster (or Steinway) Creek. As has become my habit in the recent weeks, on Sunday last I donned my high visibility vest of invisibility and packed up the tripod and other camera gear. For a change, since I’ve been haunting the southern inland coast of Queens along the Newtown Creek, one decided to stay in Astoria instead and head over to Luyster Creek.

Luyster was the name of a Dutch family of some prominence who settled in the area, and there was likely a natural stream here once. There used to be an island at its junction with the larger harbor, but the USACE took care of that just before the First World War, during a period of vast upgrades to the waterfront of western Long Island.

Luyster Creek opens up into the Bowery Bay section of the East River, which allows mariners and barge traffic easy access to Flushing Creek, the “proper” East River, and Long Island Sound. Calling it Luyster is a historical affectation, for the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th it was known as Steinway Creek, or the Steinway Canal. William Steinway bought the surrounding property for his piano factory in 1870. The Steinways used to float logs of mahogany and other valuable feedstock through here, which would be fed into the mill and used in the manufacture of their eponymous pianos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, one didn’t come here to complain about environmental degradation, endemic pollution, or a lack of public access to the water. I was here to get some neat shots just as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was about to occlude behind New Jersey.

I do love what a long exposure does to flowing water, rendering it as a nearly perfect mirror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was low tide when I was standing there on the combined sewer, amidst the illegally dumped construction materials and other debris which will inevitably end up in the water the next time a storm hits us. A couple of security guys at a nearby Skanska yard were eyeing me curiously, until I pulled the high visibility vest on. From that point forward, one was invisible to them.

It was decided to get both artsy and fartsy, but that’ll be the shots in tomorrow’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This large wooden structure… to me, it looks like it used to be a pier or some other kind of shoreline tackle. Saying that, it’s kind of overbuilt for that sort of purpose. Don’t know what it is, other than an accidental habitat for shellfish and rodents.

More tomorrow. 

Upcoming Tours and Events

Blissville Stories Film Screening –
with Newtown Creek Alliance. Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222.
Click here for trailer.

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

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