The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for August 2018

unusually odd

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MOOOOOON. That’s what I said. Ultimately I should have said “cable clutter” since that’s what you notice first. I will never understand how the spectrum/rcn/Verizon people are allowed to get away with this sort of thing in Queens. The City will hand out tickets for looking at something too long in this Borough, treats local businesses like a cash register with fines for minor infractions, and polices parking like clockwork. We have DSNY inspectors picking through the trash, building inspectors ordering sidewalk replacements all willy nilly, but when it comes to the metric shit ton of dead wires hanging off the utility poles – nada.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same sort of thing applies over in Brooklyn, as a note. If your home had a cracked water pipe, the DEP would gladly bill you for every gallon and then fine you for the flow going into their sewers. When it’s the City, on the other hand…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing in the Sapphire Megalith just laughs.

Have a great Labor Day weekend, Lords and Ladies – I’ll be walking amongst you in the shadowed edges, amongst the revenants and along the remnants.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 31, 2018 at 11:00 am

malignity expressed

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Nighted travels on the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In yesterday’s post, I described the… nana nana nana Bat Boat!…. excursion I joined in with that my pals at Newtown Creek Alliance and NYC Audubon had organized which saw some three dozen bat enthusiasts take to the water in search of the children of the night. Today, here’s a few shots I cracked out on the way back to the North Brooklyn Boat Club dock in Greenpoint found alongside the Puslaski Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the “operating the camera” POV, these were actually kind of difficult shots to gather. It was crazy dark, as there aren’t many light sources directed at the water, and when there are they’re explosively bright like the ones on the Kosciuszcko Bridge. Generally speaking, I was using two of my “night lenses” which offer apertures as wide as f1.8.

Shooting “wide open,” however, introduces an extremely shallow depth of field into the shots. It’s quite the endeavor to find a focal point which offers an acceptable level of sharpness to the entire shot at these settings. Things were further complicated by the fact that I was in a giant canoe with six other people who were all rowing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of the “shooting in the subways” stuff I do is in preparation for opportunities like this, which in the past have produced few or no usable shots. Practice, practice, practice – that’s how you get to Carnegie Hall. 

Oddly enough, for the last few weeks, I’ve found myself shooting at f1.8 in bright sunlight, with insanely fast shutter speeds like 1/6000th of a second. What can I say, I like to “mix it up.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Frequent commenter George the Atheist asked yesterday, in a comment, about the safety aspect of paddling around in Newtown Creek. I offered a short reply, but here’s the official story:

The stuff you really have to worry about are the bottom sediments, the so called “black mayonnaise” which is about 20-30 feet down. If you’re coming into contact with that, you’ve got a whole other series of problems going on which involve a lack of buoyancy and oxygen deprivation. As far as the biological activity in the water, that’s determined ultimately by the last time that it rained, and whether or not that rain has triggered the “combined sewer outfalls” to release untreated wastewater into the creek.

My pals at North Brooklyn Boat Club who were running the expedition are seriously good at their jobs, and everybody out with us were wearing life vests. Additionally, T. Willis Elkins of North Brooklyn Boat Club (and NCA project manager) is in charge of the water testing program at NCA and if he says its “Kosher” to go out paddling you can take that to the bank.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, you’d definitely want to wash up after paddling around and certainly before picking up a chunk of food and sticking it into your mouth. In my mind, you’d want to do that anytime you eat, especially after engaging in hand shaking activities with people you meet.

I hate that plague passing custom, as a note, especially when I’m doing a tour and thirty strangers all want to shake hands. One insists on touching elbows instead, if need be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As we were returning to the dock at North Brooklyn Boat Club, I whipped out a pocket flashlight and illuminated this juvenile Night Heron. The bird then proceeded to lunge at us, aiming its path at my head.

Everyone, and every thing, hates me.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 30, 2018 at 11:00 am

well marked

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Nana nana nana, Batboat!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, Sunday last, my pals at Newtown Creek Alliance and NYC Audubon set up an event which would see a group of three dozen Brooklyn bat enthusiasts climb into canoes at dusk and ply the lugubrious waters of the Newtown Creek in search of urban bats. How, I ask, could a humble narrator not want to come along?

Bat Boat!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was in one the two gigantic canoes maintained by the North Brooklyn Boat Club for such endeavors, and since I make great ballast, was sitting up front in the bow of the thing. All told, we had seven canoes out on the water.

Bat Boat!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Audubon people were all geared up with electronic bat detectors (ultrasonic microphone doohickeys) and other frammistats. Bat experts were on hand to answer questions, and copies of “Bat International” magazines offered.

Bat Boat!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, I know what you’re thinking here, but at the 520 Kingsland Avenue Green Roof nearby the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, they’ve got bat detecting equipment installed and have – in fact – detected bats.

Bat Boat!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was onboard mainly for the opportunity to shoot some shots from the water at night. Our original plan was to head into Dutch Kills and bat hunt there, but an unusually high tide precluded that option so we headed down the main channel for a couple of miles. No need to go to the gym on Monday for the bat crowd, as rowing is great cardio.

Bat Boat!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the end we didn’t see or ultrasonically detect any bats, for which the bat experts offered several reasons. It’s my belief that, just like everybody else in NYC during the last week of August, the bats were probably on vacation and taking advantage of the coming Labor Day weekend to extend their time off.

Bat Boat!


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 29, 2018 at 11:00 am

splintered state

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How many bees would you get if you bought a pound of bees?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had planned on offering you a batty story today, but alas, the photos are still in the oven and are being cooked. It will be a satisfying repast, I believe, but that particular dinner isn’t ready yet. Accordingly, here’s a few odd and end shots collected over the last couple of weeks that utilize the daytime long exposure techniques recently described.

Once it cools down again, and we’re in the post Labor Day period when the beaches are fairly empty, I plan on doing some shooting with this technique in areas with truly energetic water. For now, the East River and my beloved Newtown Creek will just have to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I’m looking for are shorelines with some serious waves blasting against the shoreline. I’m thinking the southern coastlines of Brooklyn are perfect, as is the eastern coastline of Long Island out in Montauk, for this sort of endeavor. These shots use the ten stop ND filter recently acquired, and represent about thirty seconds each of movement for both water and wind blown vegetation.

The first shot is one of the dolphins surrounding the Roosevelt Island Bridge, the second is Hallets Cove in Astoria, and the one below is from Newtown Creek in Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Half of the Newtown Creek’s environmental issues result from a lack of laminar “flow” which allows for the buildup of a bed of sediments referred to as “black mayonnaise.” At low tide, and using the long exposure technique, you can eliminate the specular highlights of the surrounding environment encountered on the surface of the water and peer into the shallows. I’ve always wanted to chuck a chunk of magnesium into the Creek to light up the water column (magnesium burns in water and emits a blinding white light) but I’d probably end up blowing up Maspeth or burning down Greenpoint.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 28, 2018 at 11:30 am

sequestered factoids

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I miss the tick tock of analogue clocks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m a bit behind schedule today, as I had to got to Greenpoint to do a lecture for a group of school teachers about my beloved Creek, and that’s why a single image greets you. Back tomorrow with a story that’s just plain bats.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Long Island City, newtown creek

Tagged with ,

sallies abroad

with one comment

No matter where you go, there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spends a great deal of his time gazing in wonder and astonishment at the City of Greater New York, and no place moreso than Astoria here in the Borough of Queens. When I mention Astoria to people who live in other boroughs, they immediately go to the “Greek” thing, but whereas we still have a substantial Hellenic population hereabouts it ain’t the 1970’s no more. In my observation, there really isn’t a single dominant group in Astoria anymore, unless you start lumping folks together into “racial” groupings like “Latino” or “Black” or “Asian” or “European.” It’s a fairly unsophisticated way to look at people, in my opinion, using this sort of categorizing. One such as myself prefers to see people as individuals rather than as part of a cultural or socioeconomic super group, but I am famously not enamored with identity politics.

I guess it’s human nature to try and stick strangers into a tribal box, and define them by where they’re from. For the identity politics crowd, this means that they’re constantly surprised when assumptions about some stranger’s politics or lifestyle don’t turn out to be true. Identity politics are ultimately “nationalism” when you get down to it, just on a different side of the aisle from what you’d normally associate with the term. I find it dehumanizing when somebody categorizes me as “Jewish” or “a Yank,” and try not to do it myself. As I tell people constantly, it’s “way down the list” when I’m describing someone whom they like to noodle with or where their family is from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Breaking into ever smaller groups seems to be the fashion at the moment, however, and folks do it to themselves. This sort  of fragmentation works beautifully for the political establishment, and allows them to target either the “one legged transgender Peruvians” or “three eyed second generation Lebanese home owners” vote during election season. Are you a white small business owner who fears clear blue skies since you have been selling umbrellas since 1987 on Steinway Street? A woman of color who receives too much mail? A non binary gender neutral hog butcher disturbed about the new LED street lamps? Like riding bikes? How about a shepherd in traditionally male dominated field who has become separated from one of your charges?

Don’t worry Little Bo Peep, I’ve proposed legislation in the Assembly to place a non GMO fed and cruelty free chicken specifically in your pot. Me, I’m a “big tent” kind of guy. What have we got in common, and why is it so hard to resist it when a politician insists on using our divisions to distract and work us?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bah. Old man shakes fist at cloud, right? 

Kids these days.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

terror withheld

with one comment

PSA: August 23 is the “Night of the Living Dead.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On 45th street, here in Astoria, a water main replacement project has been playing out. That’s the Tully company at work above, contractors for the NYC DEP, doing the work of trenching and replacing old pipe. There’s been a LOT of roadwork and utility construction work happening in the neighborhood for the last couple of years – replacing gas mains leading to either LaGuardia Airport or Astoria Energy on the forbidden northern shore, Vision Zero oriented work on street corners along 31st street, sewer line repairs along several of the avenues.

It’s never quiet for long around these parts, I tell’s ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s been an unusual amount of Police activity as well, here in the 114 pct. Just a couple of weeks ago, the neighborhood along Broadway in the 40’s and 30’s was all abuzz about the Machete Man Bandit, for instance. There there was the Peeping Tomás near by 36th street, and that crazy murder suicide near Hallets Cove which was all over the news.

Even Los Burrachos, the railroad bums that gather nearby the paint shop on 42nd street, have been startled by the sudden appearance of dozens of new homeless inebriates – whom even they look down on. Many have been given nicknames like “Shit his Pants, and American Flag shirt, guy” (which distinguishes this particular fellow from “shit his pants guy”) or “Krustie McGee” and “Surprisingly fat for a homeless guy Guy.” We’ve also suddenly amassed a group of retirement age junkies who have decided to base themselves around the Broadway Branch of the Queens Library and are charismatic but ultimately tragic characters.

Before you ask, these folks are generally what the pros would call “services resistant,” and I reached out to Jimmy Van Bramer about them, and the councilman sent out a DHS counseling crew whom they pretty much ignored. They’re not homeless because of a run of bad luck. Drunks, junkies, bums, street urchins – this is their life and they’re the ones living it, not you. Best you can do by them is to call 911 when you find them passed out on the sidewalk, so they can go sleep it off in a supervised bed, get a shower, and eat a meal on the City at Elmhurst Hospital.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Omnipresent is the thing in the sapphire megalith of Long Island City, gazing down upon the world of men through its unblinking and three lobed burning eye. This thing, which cannot possibly exist, covets. Through its global armies of often unsuspecting acolytes, this thing which does not nor cannot breathe or feel gnaws into the flesh of the world and feeds passively. From the cupola of that sapphire dagger, dug deeply into the heart of Queens, the thing watches men and their folly. It enjoys itself, and plans to someday reveal to mankind new ways for us to revel, and feed, and enjoy ourselves in its manner. 

That last paragraph was just for me, as a note. It’s my birthday, and I’ll cry if I want to.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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