The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for September 2018

forbidden tithing

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Rhapsodic ecstasy, that’s what it’s all about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, a humble narrator needed to get to the financial district in Lower Manhattan and soon found himself in hell’s third circle, which is my pet name for the 59/Lex subway interchange. Hell’s ninth circle, where you’ll find Satan chewing on Judas Iscariot, is the 34th street Herald Square complex – in case you were wondering (that’s why it’s always ninety degrees in there, even during the winter, as it’s literally a portal to hell.) If you’re a Queensican, however, there really is no way to avoid the third circle. My habit is to ignore the wailing desires of those ghastly entities who run the system found below, and not ride the local R line from Astoria all the way to lower Manhattan. Instead, a quick transfer to the Lexington line express is accomplished, which gets me to lower Manhattan in short order. The former journey, using the oft delayed Broadway line local service can take up to an hour, whereas my composited route and transfer only takes about a half hour.

The “A” in MTA is for “adventure,” lords and ladies, so live a little and transfer often. The less time spent in the sweating concrete bunkers below the better, I say. Also, take MTA’s route suggestions for what they are, and be nimble. Dante had Virgil, you’re stuck with me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My preference would have been to take a ferry, but the United Nations General Assembly was underway, and the Coast Guard had interrupted service due to security concerns. Given that I had to go “adventuring” through the circles of Hell, I padded out my time of arrival in Lower Manhattan. My obligation was to do a short talk about Newtown Creek for a group of esthetes and intellectuals, which is a task gladly embraced. Unfortunately, it involved the chore of going into the City.

Since I had arrived about forty five minutes ahead of my scheduled arrival time, a short walk about Battery Park and Castle Clinton ensued. The weather has been absolute junk for what seems like weeks now, but all that atmospheric activity has at least been producing dramatic and enigmatic skies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A quiet weekend is ahead for a humble narrator, during which I hope to be brandishing the camera about. Monday the 1st is an “Infrastructure Creek” walking tour I’ll be conducting for Atlas Obscura (ticketing link below). On Thursday, I have an actual adventure scheduled, which will unfortunately mean that I have to repeat my journey through the Third Circle at something like seven in the morning… but as mentioned – the “A” in MTA is, in fact, for “adventure.”

There’s also a couple of big projects I’m working on at the moment, as a note, which I’ll let y’all know about next month.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2018 at 11:00 am

rotting ossuaries

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A dollar short and a day late…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I seem to be about twelve hours behind on my scheduling today, due to a very busy week. Thusly, a single image of a DonJon Tug moving barges about on Newtown Creek greets you in this very late post. Back tomorrow with something decidedly meatier for you to sink your teeth into, lords and ladies.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2018 at 1:59 pm

stifled oaths

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A bit more Creekery, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Middle part of last week, I had to get together with some of my colleagues at Newtown Creek Alliance to discuss and strategize about a project we’re involved with over in Long Island City, and we decided to do the meeting in the early evening at the NCA offices at 520 Kingsland Avenue over in Greenpoint.

It was a misty day, with crazy dark clouds blowing through the sky, which made for nice atmospherics and a couple of times during the meeting I excused myself and headed out onto the green roof to shoot some shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our topic of focus was the Montauk Cutoff project, which is a whole other story.

Me? I was fascinated by the contrast being offered by the illuminations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself setting to west and the restless clouds rolling through the sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east, and looking towards the Metro Fuel facility, you could see some sort of fiery industrial process at work.

I had an urge to find a really long stick and try to toast a marshmallow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking home afterwards via the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, on the Blissville side of the Newtown Creek, I noticed that the NY & Atlantic outfit were getting busy with the whole garbage train business. Shot this through a convenient hole in the fence on the bridge, and noticed that the train set was sitting there in a static position so I quickened my pace and got down to the dangerous intersection of Review Avenue and Van Dam street as quickly as possible.

Didn’t have the time to slip on my reflective safety vest, which is kind of stupid but I’ve always been fairly lucky as far as not getting killed by trains and trucks – so far.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For some reason, whenever I seem to get into position for this sort of shot, I instantly need to pee. I’m talking dancing around, shifting weight from foot to foot like a five year old need. Didn’t have an inkling of it on the bridge, and took care of business prior to leaving the offices not fifteen minutes prior.

Biology… it affects us all. Me moreso than others.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, the NY&A folks didn’t keep me waiting too long before the signal arms came down and they advanced along the tracks of the Lower Montauk branch, exiting the Blissville Yard and heading eastwards a short distance to the Waste Management company’s transfer station found a short distance away.

WM handles the curbside black bag, or putrescent, waste collected by the Sanitation Department.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For short distance hauling, the NY&A folks use this “critter” which is a slow moving but powerful engine unit. It’s job is to move empty cars into loading position at the waste transfer station and then move the full ones back to the Blissville Yard where they’ll be coupled to other full boxes. At some indeterminate time in the late night, a “proper” locomotive engine will arrive and haul the train set away.

Our garbage goes on quite a scenic journey, through the Fresh Pond Yard and over the Hell Gate Bridge via the NY Connecting Railroad. It heads up the Hudson after visiting the Bronx, and eventually crosses over onto the continent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By this point, it felt as if my bladder was about to explode, but I had to get in a couple more shots.

Exigent prioritization of such matters are the razors edge of a humble narrator’s existential experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, the operator of the train set moved out of eyeshot shortly, and a misdemeanor or two occurred.

At least there’s now a semi clean spot on the Blissville side of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, albeit one that smells slightly of urine.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

drowsy realisation

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Newtown Creek, where all things are possible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, I’m hanging out with a photographer friend of mine, and she’s got a car. Therefore, since she’s become quite enamored with my beloved Creek, I decide to show her a few of the less than obvious locations where interesting shots can be attained. One of these spots is one that I seldom visit, the Maspeth Avenue street end on the Brooklyn side.

The Maspeth Avenue street end on the Queens side is the Maspeth Avenue Plank road, as a note, which I’m at quite frequently. The Brooklyn side is a pain in the neck to get to on foot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason it’s a pain in the neck is that there really aren’t any sidewalks, one side of the street is defined by the fences of the National Grid site, and it’s a long “road to nowhere” which doesn’t offer any possible “escape route” should anyone take issue with a photographer wandering around – which happens occasionally. The other side of the street hosts a series of waste transfer stations, vehicle impound lots, and concrete plants. All of those businesses are defined by Maspeth Avenue on the street facing or western side of the street, and by the English Kills tributary on the eastern side of their lots. In recent years, there’s been an abundance of homeless folks living out of their cars camping out along the National Grid side. If I get in trouble on this section of Maspeth Avenue while on foot, I’m pretty much screwed as I’d have to walk or run to get away from it. Since my friend had a car, we could zip down to the water and do our thing, then zip back out.

It’s pretty desolate and lonely back there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The water quality is abysmal in this section, which is one of the narrowest points on the Newtown Creek. It’s where Furman Island used to be, just across the water on the Queens side, and the DEP has installed an aeration system in the narrow which creates weird lipid jellies of foamy garbage and sewer solids that collect up along the bulkheads.

The industrial people use the street itself as a private lot, storing materials and heavy equipment wherever they want to.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One climbed up on a giant pile steel beams for the shot above, which gave me a vantage over to the Queens side.

Someone has been using these steel beams as a shelter wall, and the signs of occupancy were all over the place at the Maspeth Avenue street end – clothing, suitcases, chairs, bedding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This suitcase in particular caught out attentions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

‘Nuff said. 


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 25, 2018 at 1:30 pm

began negotiating

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A few shots from Penny Bridge, along Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a busy weekend for a humble narrator, and had to show my face in public for a couple of events. Had a bit of time afterwards that was productively spent, as a photographer friend and I hit a couple of “sweet spots” along that troublesome cataract of municipal neglect called the Newtown Creek whereupon I got busy with the tripod and the clicking.

Pictured above, the Koscisuzcko Bridge project is moving along nicely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One seems to be obsessed with longish exposures of rotting piles these days, can’t tell you why. Give me a centuried mass of lumber groaning with ship worms and wood lice sticking out of the water and I’m happy.

Other people like seeing family or friends, I’ve got decaying maritime infrastructure. What can I tel you, I’m all ‘effed up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking westward, towards the Shining City.

See y’all tomorrow, and check out the offer for the “Infrastructure Creek” walk I’ll be conducting on October 1st.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

billious congestion

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few shots from my travels and travails over the last couple of weeks assail you today, lords and ladies. Pictured above, the NYC DEP has been working on a water main replacement project here amongst the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria for the last month or two, which has necessitated the occasional interruption of residential water service. The access, or manhole (as its called colloquially), cover which one of our municipal heroes is standing upon vouchsafes the subterrene valve which controls such service on the corner that Newtown Pentacle HQ is found on.

Who knew?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That bulkhead collapse on Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary I told you about shifted one of the derelict oil barges, long abandoned, from its decades long position. That’s the black mayonnaise sediment I’m always talking about exposed to the air in the shot above. The particular day I was shooting this was a dicey one due to a heavy rainfall and high atmospheric humidity which caused my camera to malfunction. A few of the mechanical controls on the back of the thing began to “stick,” which made me nervous as heck. Luckily, after returning home and throughly cleaning the device and then leaving it wrapped in a thick and thirsty towel, everything was back to normal the next day. Whew.

Rain + humidity = bad for camera. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is seriously tired of this summer humidity crapola. I do enjoy warm weather, but not when it’s accompanied by dew points in the 70 – 80th percentiles. It’s after Labor Day, and I’m still wearing white? Gauche, I. 

That’s one of the arches of the New York Connecting Railroad leading to the Hell Gate Bridge, which is one of the defining landmarks here in Astoria. HQ is to the south of the rail aqueduct, with Astoria Blvd. with the “Ditmars side” of Astoria found to the north. The rail tracks and the Grand Central Parkway form a physical and social barrier between the two sides of the ancient village.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 21, 2018 at 1:00 pm

disproportionate orders

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What if peace broke out? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given my love of hatred and conflict, it’s an odd thing that I found myself at the East River last weekend to attend a solemnified ceremony led by an international team of Spitiual Industrial Complex employees and sky father worshippers devoted to “peace.” Additionally, since my entire spiritual path and moral compass is built around the “Adventures of Superman,” the only way to achieve a lasting peace on this planet might just be the presence of an extraterrestrial savior possessed of powers and abilities greater than those of any ordinary man. Disguised as one of us, and working at a great metropolitan newspaper… well, you know the rest – leaping tall buildings, mighty rivers, locomotives. Truth, Justice, and the “American Way.”

The American Way ain’t peace. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, there are others out there who live in a more hopeful stat of awareness, and work towards achieving a goal which I’m convinced you’d need laser vision and the ability to walk across the surface of the sun unscathed to do. They gathered last weekend in Gantry Plaza State Park to meditate, and speak in public, sharing their points of view and offering curative advice to halt the epic suffering of their fellow humans by causing a cessation of armed conflict and violence. 

To this end, they inscribed prayers and other missives on a series of floatable lanterns. Some of my friends were driving the kayaks which hauled the things into position. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apparently, this is an annual event, one which my friend Erik Baard is centrally involved with. Erik is a deeply annoying friend, I would mention, as he sets forward examples in his lifestyle, politics, and behavior that few can actually measure up to. Many people in the environmental community “talk the talk,” but few “walk the walk.” They’ll yell and scream about oil and the modern world in a meeting, then get into an SUV and drive into Manhattan. Not this bloke.

I know three, maybe four, of the “real things” and it’s important to acknowledge them when they’re around. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, Erik and his group of paddlers hauled the lanterns out and affixed them to a wire of something anchored on the bottom of the East River. I started getting bored at this point, and decided to play around with the camera a little bit.

Me? I ain’t the real thing, I’m just some schmuck with a camera. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I set the thing up for some longish exposures, about thirty seconds each. Luckily, the displacement waves from passing NYC Ferries were splashing in and around the rip rap shoreline.

Technically speaking, this isn’t Gantry Plaza State Park’s shoreline, it’s NYC’s Hunters Point South Park. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s what I did on Sunday night. 

TLDR; Peace lanterns, musing about Superman, pictures. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 20, 2018 at 1:00 pm

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