The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for November 2018

adhered to

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Grand Street Bridge, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, no, I won’t be talking about Amazon HQ yet. Suffice to say that everybody I know is talking about the news co-announced today by the Dark Prince of Albany and the Dope from Park Slope that the internet giant will be based in LIC at future superfund site Anable Basin, but at this point in time I don’t have enough information about the plan to speak intelligently about its ramifications. Instead, a few night time shots of the venerable Grand Street Bridge connecting Maspeth with East Williamsburgh/Bushwick are on offer.

People argue with me about the Bushwick thing all the time, claiming that the section of Grand Street between Newtown Creek and Vandervoort Street is either Greenpoint or “East Williamsburgh,” to which I respond that it’s not. East Williamsburgh does have historical precedent, but it’s a term popularized by real estate interests. According to the old Ward maps of pre consolidation NYC (prior to 1898), Greenpoint ends at Meeker Avenue which is nearly a mile to the west of Grand Street. Yes, Greenpoint Hospital is indeed in Bushwick. Remember that “Bushwick” is synonymous with 1960’s racial unrest, 1970’s era riots, and a 1980’s crime hotspot during the Crack Wars to certain generations (Ridgewood residents fought like wildcats to have their own zip code that they didn’t share with their Bushwick neighbors, for instance, as their home and car insurance rates were higher than they should have been due to endemic crime). When gentrification came to North Brooklyn, “Bushwick” was not a “desirable brand,” hence the Real Estate Industrial Complex popularized the “East Williamsburgh” moniker for this area instead. That’s changed now, and Bushwick is now a “hot” neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is paying a bit more attention to the Grand Street Bridge these days than formerly, as the NYC Department of Transporation has announced their intention to replace it with a more modern structure purpose built to handle current traffic needs. The current Grand Street Bridge is the 1903 model, and the third iteration of a crossing between Brooklyn and Queens on this spot. The section of Newtown Creek it crosses is considered a tributary, and it’s called “The East Branch.”

Once upon a time, the East Branch flowed into Ridgewood, where it was fed by freshwater streams and springs trickling down the “ridge” which you’ll discern when walking along Onderdonk Avenue and other eastern destinations. Ridgewood is the beginning of actual geologic rock formations, with all the land west of it being elluvial fill deposited by glacial and riverine flooding. That’s why the zones around Newtown Creek are so flat, if you were wondering. The actual terminal morraine of Long Island begins a bit to the north east at Mount Olivette Cemetery, in proper Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been attempting to get as much night shooting around Newtown Creek in as possible before the weather turns bitter cold, which is why you’ve been seeing so much of it lately. I’ve been noticed by a few people wandering around the concrete devastations with a ridiculous yellow safety vest draped over the filthy black raincoat, setting up the tripod and all the other necessary gear needed for the pursuit. With the exception of few encounters with bored but zealous security guards, it’s been a fairly solitary pursuit, although in a couple of locations I opted to bring somebody along with me to watch my back. Frequent commenter and persistent curmudgeon Don Cavaioli was with me at English Kills last week, for instance, but for the shots in yesterday and today’s posts I was on my own.

I’ve been asked about personal security by a few people, but it’s not something I worry too much about. My biggest safety concerns have been centered around not getting squished by a truck, or snapping my ankle on a hidden sinkhole or fallen branch while picking my way around in the dark. If I had to call 911 for help in an emergency, I’d likely have a devil of a time describing where I am to them as I don’t think “Maspeth Plank Road” or “former Phelps Dodge” is necessarily reflected in the municipal system. My plan for such an eventuality would actually involve first calling one of my colleagues at Newtown Creek Alliance, beseeching them to aid in sending rescuers to a humble narrator.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 14, 2018 at 11:00 am

immediately arranged

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Maspeth Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was an unusually low tide last Sunday night, discovered upon my arrival at the Maspeth Creek tributary of the larger Newtown Creek, and if one were to describe the exposed mud flats as being aromatic… that would be a bit of an understatement. Luckily, a humble narrator was alone in the concrete devastations, which provided for an opportunity for derring do and risky behavior. Soon, I found myself perched on a crumbling concrete ledge with a tripod and camera and a two story drop into the stinking mud just one stumble away, with a chain link fence directly behind that my free hand was clutched to. You want to be, always, on the other side of that fence.

This is exactly the sort of thing which I advise others not to do, as it’s stupid and foolhardy, but… I got my shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once upon a time and just a few blocks away from this spot, DeWitt Clinton sat on his porch and watched a meandering Maspeth Creek flow past his house, when the waterway was navigible half of the way to Elmhurst, and dreamt up the Erie Canal. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Maspeth Creek was described by contemporaries as a “stinking swamp, surrounded by pestilential industries and ugly to the ultimate degree.” By the time WW2 came along, this was where you’d access the bulkheads of the United Enameling and Stamping Co.

In the first quarter of the 20th century, Maspeth Creek was canalized and truncated, with its eastward or landward side being entirely taken over by a large combined sewer outfall concrete vault, and its once upon a time course towards Elmhurst buried into a sewer. In fact, the concrete ledge from which these shots were gathered is the roof of that sewer vault, known to Newtown Creek enthusiasts and Government regulators alike as “NC-077.” This drain reportedly allows about 289 million gallons of untreated wastewater a year to saturate into the tributary and deposit filth into it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were all sorts of critters moving around in the darkness; Geese, Rats, and Raccoons were all personally spotted, but there were other unseen but hinted at forms of life in both the water column and crawling about and along the shorelines. Something fairly large was crashing around in the bush found on the southern bulkheads, but that could have just been some of the Raccoons, or maybe some Opossums. I did not observe anything with tentacles, but I’ve always had certain suspicions about Maspeth Creek, revolving around old Lenape tales suggesting this area as “not being right.”

As far as what might be tunneling, wriggling, or sliding about in the exposed Black Mayonnaise sediment beds… who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 13, 2018 at 11:00 am

city guard

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Happy Day, Veterans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A single shot of the United States Coast Guard on patrol today, as a reminder to not forget that they’re out there right now in the wet and the cold as you’re reading this. It’s not about sentiment and then, it’s about existential and now.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 12, 2018 at 12:17 pm

shattered nerves

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English Kills, at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So this is where a humble narrator found himself last evening, but as I had good company with me, one was only mildly terrified by the solemnified majesty of Newtown Creek. This is near the end of all things, where Newtown Creek’s tributary English Kills flows into a sewer which also flows into English Kills. Dichotomies notwithstanding, that’s the Montrose Avenue Railroad Bridge in the left of the shot, which carries the tracks of the Long Island Railroad’s Bushwick Branch over the waterway, and into the luminance of Waste Management’s Varick Street location. It was windy.

This is Brooklyn, roughly 3.7 miles from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were rats.

As my pal Bernie Ente used to advise “the rats at Newtown Creek are well fed and won’t bother you, they don’t care that you’re there, but they might run over your feet.” That didn’t happen, foot wise, but my companion and I did spot a few plump specimens skittering between the shadows. The biggest issue encountered, actually, was when we followed a trod upon path around the borders of the canalized waterway. The brush is still thick, and there were a few fallen trees to contend with, but we were determined to gain access to the spot where the story of Newtown Creek suddenly stops.

That spot has a designation: NC-015.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mounds of litter and garbage that mix with and provide firmament to a tangle of self seeded vegetation and fallen trees can simply be described as “a trip hazard,” but there were more than a few spots encountered on the way to this location that could have easily ended with a broken ankle. It was quite dark, being night time, it should be mentioned. A portable light was used to illuminate the foreground in the shot above, but prior to that it was a silhouette against the water.

3.8 miles from the East River, the western facing point of view above is from above Combined Sewer Outfall #NC-015. It’s the 20th largest of the 400 such outfalls in NY Harbor, in terms of volume, releasing 344 million gallons of untreated wastewater into English Kills a year (last time I checked).


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firmly sustained

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DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, one ventured forth with two goals; first: get a decent night shot showing as much of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge as I could get into frame, second: try and get some equally nocturnal shots of the trains moving around on the Queens side in Blissville. While I was shooting the former, the GPA Bridge suddenly opened to allow a tug and barge through, which is how I got those light streaks in the shot above – they’re the running lights of the tug. Yay.

By the time I got to the Queens side, the railroad guys seemed to have done all the moving stuff around they needed to do for a while, but I hung around for about 45 minutes and waved the camera and tripod around at a few things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, this spot in DUGABO is likely not where Amazon is going to base itself. A humble narrator received several phone calls about the subject yesterday, but I’m as clueless as to that tale as everyone who is not Gubernatorial staff is. The ways of the Dark Prince of Albany are subtle, and manifest in secret. Do not try to peer too deeply at the abyss that the Dark Prince dwells within, for he may notice and fix his gaze upon you. When the Dark Prince reveals his intentions, the children will rejoice, but prior to that only lament will be theirs and ours.

Seriously, not a clue. I’m reading the papers too, that’s all I’ve got. I also have no opinion on “good or bad” yet, since I have no information at all to work with. I’ve asked around as well, and have received a universal “dunno.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home, this odd little monument to workplace safety was encountered in Blissville in front of the world’s largest Fortune Cookie Bakery, a distinction which Long Island City has long enjoyed being the home of.


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public sentiment

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#twotondeathmachines

– photos by Mitch Waxman

“Two Ton Death Machines” is the term which the bicycle fanatics use when discussing automobiles and their murder happy drivers. If I played guitar and was starting a metal band, Two Ton Death Machine would be what I called the outfit, and my first album would be called #CARNAGE. C’est la vie.

The big project I’ve been alluding to for the last several months, which has been actually been distracting me for more than a year, is beginning to come to fruition. This involves the pulling together of tens of thousands of disparate photos, separating them by typology and subject matter, and then stringing them together into some sort of coherent form. The “Cool Cars” YouTube video above is one of the initial attempts. I’d love to put some sort of soundtrack to it, but as mentioned above, I’m no musician. If any of you are, and would be interested in riffing a track for me to include (I’ve got zero $) I wouldn’t say no.

I’m going to figure out how to include narration on forthcoming videos, as a note, but for now there’s no audio – so, be very quiet, the two ton death machines and their death hungry drivers are rolling about and hunting human victims to squish into the pavement and they might hear you. #vrooom


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 7, 2018 at 11:00 am

quiet denizens

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How I’m voting today, and why.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Andrew Cuomo, the Dark Prince of Albany, is terrifying in many ways. His management of the MTA is the biggest mark against him in my book, but in terms of the issue central to my life – Newtown Creek – he’s been perhaps the greatest champion that the waterway has ever had in high state office. As Attorney General, he forced ExxonMobil into court and beat them around the head and neck over the Greenpoint Oil Spill, and was a major player in terms of the waterway being named a Federal Superfund site back in 2010. His Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement project has been absolutely on schedule and budget. For no other reason than Newtown Creek, the big guy gets my vote. I hope he legalizes recreational Marijuana in his third term, as he hinted at when Cynthia Nixon pulled him to the left during the primaries, which will be a first step towards ending the mass incarceration of victimless criminals. Additionally, NYS really needs the revenue to first shore up the MTA, and then to pay the Medicare and Medicaid costs of the baby boomer generation.

Did you see the video of our Governor visiting Cynthia Nixon’s campaign HQ and congratulating her campaign volunteers on the night of his primary win? Click here for it. (note: the Governor appears 42 seconds in).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tish James gets my vote for NYS Attorney General. She’s got a proven record of standing up for the little people, and I’m a fan. One hundred and one years ago today, women finally had their legal right to vote in NYS acknowledged – after a long and often bloody struggle by the Suffragist movement – and I will take particular joy in voting for a lady to hold the second most powerful position in the state today. The NYS Attorney General’s office is considered to be the second most powerful prosecutor’s office in the country, after the Federal AG seat currently held by Jeff Sessions. That’s because the NYS AG has de facto regulatory authority over Wall Street. Given that Tish James is African American, that makes for a pretty interesting moment, historically. Normally, identity politics are something I abhor, but… Tish is sort of the person whom Dr. King was talking about back during the Civil Rights era.

Brian Barnwell is my NYS Assemblyman, and he’s done a great job in his first term for Woodside/Astoria, earning my vote for a second. I expect great things from Brian down the road, as he’s a young guy and just getting going in his career.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez will get my vote as well, since I think it’s time to let somebody new take the wheel in Congress, and start shifting power to a different generation of people who couldn’t care less about Viet Nam or Freedom Fries. She’s electorally electrified my younger friends, waking them up out of a haze, and I’m interested in seeing what happens next with her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The three charter revisions all come out of a lame duck City Hall, and are a wish list offered by the Mayor intended to eliminate criticism of his sophist policies. Can you trust anything that the Dope from Park Slope wants to happen? Three “no’s” and here’s why;

  • The Community Board term limits thing is meant to clear away “dead wood” from the CB’s. Community Board members are currently proposed by the local Council member and then nominated to the Borough President’s office. Should the BP decide to place a candidate on the board, they can serve as long as they wish to – officially. In the unofficial but true reality, the Council person or BP can bounce you out whenever they decide to. Every political action committee allied with the Mayor, from the “Bicycle Fanatics” to the “No Bail” and “Build Tall Buildings Everywhere” crowds, support this resolution. Ask yourself why? Can it have anything to do with the current CB’s regularly opposing the edicts of City Hall?
  • The Community Engagement Committee thing is another patronage mill for the Manhattan elites, which would take the form of a blue ribbon panel for political insiders and the children of the well off (or well connected) appointed by the Mayor’s office which which choose “friendlies” to staff the community boards. In addition to being yet another one of the Mayor’s spending sprees, it would cut the actual community off from decisions regarding their neighborhoods and replace them with recent transplants. Additionally, it would continue the emasculation of the Borough President’s already largely ceremonial offices and weaken the City Council’s options when the Executive Branch in City Hall makes a bad decision.
  • As far as the Campaign Funding item, do we really want to reinforce the franchise to elected office exclusively enjoyed by members of either of the Democratic or Republican parties, which is the only thing that the two organizations can actually agree on? That’s what this would do, by lowering the financial threshold at which they can fundraise before receiving your TAX MONEY to buy political advertising. The wording of this thing does nothing to close the LLC loopholes, PAC funding, or advocacy ads paid for by “concerned citizens.” All it does is lower the contributions which individual citizens can offer to a campaign, which diminishes the importance of individual citizens to the Political Industrial Complex. It also will tend to keep people from the Green Party, Libertarians, and other groups from ever managing to get their foot in the door.

A vote against all three is a rebuke of our vainglorious Mayor, who is likely to announce he’s running for President of the United States at some point in the near future.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 6, 2018 at 11:00 am

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