The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for April 2018

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Don’t go to Manhattan unless you have to, that’s what I say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one used his free time to visit a few spots in Lower Manhattan which offer a certain resonance to the historically minded traveler. A quick ferry trip from Greenpoint found me in the financial district, whereupon a looping path carried the camera through first Chatham Square and then over to Paradise Square – aka the former Five Points. It wasn’t a formal “lookee look” as I’ve done and written about that in the past, instead I just wanted to refresh the muscle memory of where a number of Jakob Riis’s photos were captured, and take a walk through one of the few sections of Manhattan that are still interesting.

Also, I was craving Chinese Roast Pork Buns (Bao) and I know a great bakery in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge near Eldridge Street. My old “go to” on Walker Street has changed management and no longer regularly produces the savory variant of Bao, and instead they focus on the manufacture of sickly sweet ones filled with custard – blech.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a pretty neat roughly two hour route around Lower Manhattan which I feel like I can hang my hat on, starting at the Pier 11 ferry stop at Wall Street. You walk north past Peck Slip and the Brooklyn Bridge, hanging a left a couple of blocks south of the Manhattan Bridge. That carries you through a set of new law tenements to the east side of Chinatown, where you can pick up Canal and make a left on Bowery towards modern day Confucius Plaza (Chatham Square) and then up Mott to the actual Five Points. From there, head west to Broadway and then South through Printers Square where all the courthouses are, then head to the Battery where you’ll find Castle Clinton and Pier A and then loop back again to the Ferry at Pier 11.

It’s a nice walk, lotsa history.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been supernally busy for the last couple of weeks, which is not a complaint, and when a rare opportunity for some “me” time came up – I grabbed it by both horns. One has quite a few irons in the fire at the moment, planning events and tours for the summer months, and there’s also been a sudden deluge of meetings to attend regarding that fabulous cataract of urban malfeasance known as the Newtown Creek. It was nice to have an afternoon off which I could fill with some meandering.

NYC History notes for today include the anniversary of the 1936 opening of the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, which was actually yesterday, and today is the anniversary of the creation of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1921.


Upcoming Tours and Events

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more!


Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 30, 2018 at 11:00 am

plainly audible

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Back and forth, back and forth, it never ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Meeting season seems to be upon us all, wherein the various affiliations, causes, and organizations which I’m involved with want to get together in a room somewhere and discuss policy, plans, and or problems related to the issues of the day. Somehow this almost always involves me having to scuttle to Long Island City or Greenpoint at an inconvenient time, but it does allow for intervals on the journey to do a little shooting. Pictured above, a Long Island Railroad Mainline train set on its way from the City to points east, and crossing through the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Intrigued as I’ve been with long exposure shooting for the last several months, an endeavor which is usually carried out at night, whenever I’ve got a spot I can do a long exposure during daylight hours, I take it. That’s about two seconds of accumulated time from Queens Plaza in the shot above. I found a nicely positioned steel bracket which braces the construction scaffolding at one of the tower apartment construction sites on which to brace the camera, lock in the focus, and hold down the shutter button while watching the Fords roll by.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An even longer exposure from the other night on Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, alongside the Unnamed Canal sub tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek. It depicts a somewhat abandoned Department of Sanitation Marine Transfer Station which sits on the shoreline street end of North Henry Street (whose north/south path is interrupted by the sewer plant). The fences were locked up about a year or so ago, and you used to be able to go in there and explore. I think they’re using it to warehouse “stuff” now, but can’t really say for sure. At the very least, they’ve fixed the lights inside the thing.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

terrible difference

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Minimalist Thursday? I dunno, mebbe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from Greenpoint, showing some of the curbside slime and garbage which distinguishes the neighborhood, and I captured it on Earth Day Sunday. Dichotomous, yes. Sarcastically offered, probably. All too commonly observed, absolutely. Doesn’t anyone else just carry their litter with them until reaching a receptacle like I do? Seriously, how far do you have to walk to find a dumpster in the age of gentrification?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looks like someone was prying into one of the electrical hatches on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge again, and observationally causing a small fire while likely trying to harvest the copper wires held therein. Happens all the time, I’m told, in the age of cash on delivery metal recycling. The Crows, which is my pet name for the metal collectors, will sweep in and grab up anything shiny on the pavement. Sometimes that includes manhole covers and the screw caps for fire hydrants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was waiting for a sandwich recently at the little bodega across the street from HQ back here in Astoria, and while a gentleman named Carlos was expertly manipulating the grill a humble narrator wandered about the shop with the camera in hand and snapped out a few shots for future usage. That time is now, in the case of the flowers pictured above.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2018 at 11:00 am

most unplaceable

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Odds and ends, needles and thread.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this day in 404 B.C., the Peloponnesian War ended when the Spartans crushed the Athenians with a naval blockade. Sometime later, in 1792 A.D. the French rolled out the guillotine for the first time, ending the life of a highwayman named Nicolas J. Pelletier. In 1859, ground was broken for the Suez Canal by French and English engineers. The Spanish American War officially began with a declaration by the United States Government on April 25 in 1898. In 1945, American and Soviet troops joined up at the River Elbe in Germany. In 1953, Crick and Watson publish their paper describing DNA, and in 1960 the US Navy Submarine Triton competes the first submerged circumnavigation of the earth. In 1983, Pioneer 10 travelled beyond the orbit of Pluto. In 1940, Al Pacino was born. So was Edward R. Murrow, but that was in 1908.

Today is also World Malaria Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this day in 1901, New York became the first state to require automobiles to carry license plates. During the First World War, the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign was launched in 1915. In 1945, what would become the United Nations sat down to chat, plan, and organize in San Francisco. Polaroid introduced the instant camera to customers in 1972, and the Hubble Space Telescope was deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990.

Personally, I’m stuck in front of the computer at HQ all day today and have an abundance of tasks to accomplish.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One will be writing tour descriptions for upcoming excursions around the fabled Newtown Creek and larger harbor, developing the shots I managed to squeak out last night before it started raining again, and generally servicing the needs of an increasingly elderly dog named Zuzu today. A busy few days are in front of me, which will be carrying the camera across the concretized realities of the great human hive, with everything culminating in a tour I’m conducting with my pal Kevin Walsh from Forgotten-NY for the Newtown Historical Society on Sunday. Link for tix is below, which are only $5.

Come with?


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

sleeping quarters

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Hitting the shutter button in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After having attended a community meeting at Point B (Blissville) the other night, regarding the homeless shelter situation, one decided to scuttle back to Point A (Astoria) and take advantage of the warming climatological conditions photographically. Pictured above is a line in the sand known as the Fairfield Inn, whose owners decided to answer an RFP – Request for Proposal – from the City’s Department of Homeless Services and convert their hotel to a 154 room homeless shelter. The shot is from Van Dam Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the inviting street scene here along Van Dam, with its ever present traffic.

Were the City actually serious about its responsibility towards helping the unhoused, officialdom might be looking into finding ways to create, sustain, and expand blue collar employment but that’s not how our Mayor thinks. His current plan is to expand and extend the usage of Homeless Hotels in pursuance of ending their use, which is the same logic that addicts offer when going on a binge the night before entering rehab.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just two blocks away is where Van Dam feeds into the Long Island Expressway. Three blocks in the other direction is the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blissville is largely an M1, or heavy manufacturing area, according to City Planning. The shot above was captured directly across the street from the Fairfield Inn.

Inviting, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the enigmatic “Blissville Flatiron” pictured above, an apartment house on Van Dam Street.

One has looked into the history of the flatiron in the past, but never too deeply. I like not knowing something about the Creeklands, and would prefer to preserve the mystery. The only clue to its past is on a concrete panel which reads “S.M. 1916.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path home to Point A carried me, as always, to Newtown Creek. The shot above looks northwards along the Dutch Kills tributary towards the Hunetrs Point Avenue Bridge.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 24, 2018 at 1:00 pm

rather gruesomely

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Like every other bit of wind blown trash in NYC, this is where I belong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite being a shambling and sclerotic mess, nevertheless does a humble narrator scuttle on about and around the Newtown Creek in the middle of the night. Recent endeavor found one in Blissville to attend a meeting of the newly created Blissville Civic Association, which the community has formed in response to the Mayor dropping multiple homeless shelters into their midst, and afterwards one set out to a nearby tributary of that legendary cataract of urban malfeasance known as the Newtown Creek – specifically Long Island City’s Dutch Kills.

That’s the Borden Avenue Bridge in the shot above, but don’t ask me where the shot was captured from as I’d have to confess to a misdemeanor. Suffice to say that every nook and cranny is known to me. It’s all I’ve got, ultimately.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Either the world happens to you, or you happen to the world.

That’s the Long Island Expressway above, riding on a truss bridge that carries it some one hundred and six feet over the waters of Dutch Kills. The height was determined by the demands of the War Department of the Federal Government, who had laid down the law to State of New York that the LIE would need to allow egress for maritime vessels on Dutch Kills, and specifically vessels of the Naval surface warfare type.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has read some of the planning documents for this section of the LIE, which is officially the Queens Midtown Expressway, and sections of said plans discussed the need to defend Newtown Creek and the larger harbor of New York against a potential maritime invasion by German naval forces in the run up to WW2. One of the guiding principles was the defense of the industrial zones, and the East River corridor specifically. The Navy’s theory was that the Kriegsmarine would enter New York Harbor via the Narrows between Brooklyn and Staten Island (there was no bridge there in the 1930’s) and that would be the most strategic and effective spot to interdict the German Navy. Accordingly, in the case of such an invasion they would have stationed Destroyer class vessels in Newtown Creek and the Gowanus (as well as other places) to act as protective bulwarks for the industrial operations.

The Navy plan also intended for the Destroyers to fire artillery southwards over Brooklyn to shell the Narrows on vast parabolas. The people in Bay Ridge would have loved that one, I tell you, had it been commonly known. Fuhgeddaboutit. 

Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

any interment

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The pockets of my filthy black raincoat were filled with garlic bulbs, as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one has found his urges constantly frustrated of late by inclement clime, and when a brief window of atmospheric opportunity opened the other night I grabbed the “night kit” and ran towards the East River coastline of Queens. One spent a couple of hours haunting the area directly surrounding the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City, plucking photons out of the air as it were, in pursuit of several long exposure images.

Pictured above, looking west from the staircase that once led up, through a now permanently locked steel door, to the trolley station which found on the southern side of the Queensboro Bridge. On the northerly side, there used to be a vehicle elevator which allowed egress to Welfare or Roosevelt Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were from the end of the endeavor, and a humble narrator was scuttling inexorably towards the IND Queens Plaza subway station a few blocks eastwards. It was beginning to rain, after all, but at the time of these captures it was still more of a precipitating mist than it was rain. Accordingly, a point was made to setup the camera in spots where either overhead infrastructure provided cover, or in the case of the shot above – in the “rain shadow” of a large building.

While the shutter is open, one makes it a point of scanning his vicinity for potential threats. In the case of Queens Plaza and the stretches of arterial streets overflown by the elevated subway tracks, that includes looking up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the time of night which these shots were captured, the legions of vampires which dwell in the overhead steel are likely blocks and blocks away on Vernon Avenue. They siege the NY Blood Center on a nightly basis, it is said. Go ahead, ask the NYPD or the Blood Center people about the Queens Plaza vampires… they’ll probably tell you there’s no such thing.

I’d offer that if you’re visiting the area nocturnally, you might want to wear a turtleneck sweater, or, be like me and fill your coat pockets with garlic bulbs. As a note, I cooked the garlic off the next day on a low flame with some olive oil and onions, using them as a base for a very tasty pot of spaghetti sauce. The trick with garlic is to cook it at a low heat setting to keep it sweet, high heat makes it turn bitter. A pinch of salt, a few chopped up tomatoes, and some pepper flakes and you’re good to go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to the existential terror, though, back in Queens Plaza. That’s the 7 train up there, exiting Queensboro Plaza’s IRT station tracks and heading towards Court Square and eventually Manhattan. This is one of the spots, by the way, where the screeching of the tracks is impossible to escape, and even with headphones in my ears playing music I was painfully aware of its passing. The heavy traffic… the sound of Subway wheels screaming… why anyone would want to live in Queens Plaza is just something I’ve never been able to fathom. To each his own, I guess you can learn to ignore everything if your try…

Except Vampires, you can’t ignore Vampires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One ascribes, or at least aspires, to the philosophical ground espoused by the late Dr. King to judge people by the content of their minds rather than the color of their skin. This point of view collapses, however, when the skin is bluish gray and mottled with black and green splotches. Clothing and hair covered in congealed scabs? Glowing red eyes? Translucent teeth and long broken fingernails? I hate you on sight and will use every power at my command to destroy you, which includes nailing you to a nighted wall which will be shortly be lit by the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself as it rises in the eastern sky. Of course, from my perspective, the eastern sky is over Jackson Heights, but there you are.

Brrr… Vampires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My reveries came to an end as the precipitating mist began to become actual droplets of water hurtling down from on high, as evinced by the shot above. One packed things up, as it were, and made my way to the underground Subway system which hosts the line which travels towards Newtown Pentacle HQ here in Astoria.

Don’t get me started about what lives in the sweating concrete bunkers found below.

After all… who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

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