The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for January 2019

youth’s madness

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East Elmhurst.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, I uncharacteristically rode a bus from Astoria to East Elmhurst in order to get into the right spot for some “waving the camera around” action, which deposited me a few blocks away from my destination. A scuttling I went, heading eastwards on Astoria Blvd. I was heading for the zone I describe as “where Boulevards collide” or “just so Robert Moses.” It’s where Ditmars, Astoria, and Northern Blvd. all smash together with the Grand Central Parkway and Citifield at the edge of Flushing. You’ll be walking down the sidewalk in certain spots, and all of a sudden find yourself walking onto an off ramp to the highway.

One of the least pedestrian friendly spots in Queens, I tell you, although I’ve only been through here a few times.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way, I spotted this tiny domestic survivor from long ago on Astoria Blvd. Itty bitty and wood framed, it had advertisements in its windows advertising a “Cuarto en renta” (room for rent). Something about the propert caught my eye, and instinct told me that “something has happened here.” Can’t tell you what, didn’t do the research on the property, but usually if something catches my eye the way this place did…

I’ll look into it. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s one of the entranceways to the Flushing Bay Promenade pictured above, which is actually a pedestrian bridge overflying the Grand Central Parkway with Flushing Bay beyond. LaGuardia Airport is to the west, Flushing Meadows Corona Park to the east. Directly north is Flushing Bay, and as you can discern from the shot above, I arrived right on time just as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had ducked behind Manhattan. The night time, it’s the right time, I say.

More tomorrow. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 22, 2019 at 11:00 am

meagre documentary

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Mind your yum yums, it’s cold outside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Intrigued by some of the sights observed and recorded at Flushing Bay recently, a humble narrator decided that a return to the premise was required. My goal destination was the corner of 31st drive and Ditmars Blvd., where the NYC Parks Department offers free passage over the Grand Central Parkway via a pedestrian bridge that terminates at the entrance to their “Flushing Bay Promenade” facility. Of course, waking up in Astoria introduces a lot of “how do I get there” questions when discussing the north eastern shorelines of Queens. I could always take the just walk or use the 7 line to get to Main Street in Flushing and then walk back in westerly direction thought I, but remembrances that I had publicly vowed to ride a variety of bus routes offered by the MTA here in Queens came to mind.

A short interval later, I had my route and schedule figured out and accordingly set off into the crisp January cold.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The walking to the bus thing could have been alternatively accomplished by using another bus – the Q101, I believe – which proceeds along Steinway Street. The bus which I was planning on traveling to East Elmhurst’s border with Flushing was the Q19, which stops at Steinway and Astoria Boulevard. Quite a pleasant walk through the neighborhood HQ is found in, however, involves the diagonal path of Newtown Road, which supposedly predates the street grid surrounding it.

Newtown Road intersects Steinway Street at 30th avenue, and from there it’s a three block walk to the bus stop. All told, it was about seven blocks from door to bus. Three if I’d taken the 101, of course, but seven blocks away is “around the corner” for one such as myself and it was quicker to just walk. I arrived at the correct spot with five minutes to spare for the arrival of a Q19 meant to arrive at about 4:12.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Roughly thirty minutes later, I was still waiting for the Q19. The printed schedule on the box thing mounted on the pole dictated (as did the MTA site) that there should have been two Q19’s passing this stop during that half hour interval. The 4:36 was there just about on time, but was packed with throngs of people. Other than the unpleasant jostling you’d expect in a crowded bus, the ride went smoothly and seemed to be on schedule. Apologies again, unknown lady, for the tripod incident.

At least I arrived at my destination just when I expected to do so at 102nd street and Astoria Blvd., about two and half miles from Steinway Street. More tomorrow.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 21, 2019 at 11:00 am

correlate every

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Artsy fartsy on Roosevelt Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, I was actually talking on a conference call about MTA with a couple of colleagues while shooting the shots in today’s post. Additionally, I was freezing my yum yums off, but what does a little existential discomfort matter when one is pursuing the muse? I had scuttled along this pathway on Roosevelt Avenue sometime in the last couple of weeks and decided there and then that I needed to come back with the intention of capturing the artificial light playing along the steel of the IRT Flushing or 7 Line elevated subway tracks above. These shots are from where and when I did so.

Last Monday and Woodside, which sounds sort of anticlimactic, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, during the day, the steel structure casts harsh shadows that are framed by extremely bright shafts of sunlight which reduces photo exposure options significantly. At night, however, traffic and street lights – even light spilling out of apartment windows – creates a random and often quite colorful luminance. Throw in passing auto traffic and illuminated shop signs? Yup, interesting place to do some long exposures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Roosevelt Avenue, however, isn’t exactly a backwater. It’s densely travelled by vehicles of all kinds and there’s lots of pedestrians as well. Luckily, the steel girders supporting the overhead trackage provide lots of places for you to set up and compose a tripod shot. Unfortunately, these girders seem to be favorite spots for illegal dumping or vomiting and are very popular with the canine population of Woodside. C’est La Vie, ay?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The path I decided on walking was, by necessity of climatological conditions, short by my standard. A quick subway ride on the M train from Astoria to the Roosevelt Avenue stop carried me to Jackson Heights, whereupon a southeasterly posture was assumed by turning onto Roosevelt and walking up the hill towards Queens Blvd. After finishing up my self appointed task, one walked down the hill at 48th street and back to HQ in Astoria.

Yes, I was tempted to cut things short and hail that cab in pursuance of warming up my yum yums.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The conference call I was on, as mentioned, revolved around the MTA and various issues surrounding it in Queens. Given the dearth of subway lines serving 75% of the Borough, and the fact that most Queensican commuters have to rely on Buses, I volunteered to begin using the bus system more and more to “get smart” about it. Back when I was full time advertising guy Mitch, one of the agencies I worked for was Ogilvy & Mather, founded in part by a fellow named David Ogilvy. Ogilvy was one of the first scientific marketers back in the “mad men” era, and wrote several books about his experiences and realizations. One of his bits of advice involved signing up for or using your customer’s products, to learn what the experience is of the said customer you’re trying to sell something to.

I’m not trying to sell you bus rides, of course, but within a year I’ll be able to speak a lot more intelligently than I can now (I literally live over a Subway line, so I’m going to have to go far afield of “my way” on this one) about what’s good or bad about Bus service in – at least – Western and Northern Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Baby, it was cold outside. Luckily, I arrived at my turnaround point at Queens Blvd., packed up the tripod and wide angle lens, refitted the camera to handheld settings and affixed a “bright” night lens. As it turns out, my yum yums survived the cold and are in fine fettle.

Next week – something completely different at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 18, 2019 at 11:00 am

much attention

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Woodside area, Roosevelt Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Throughout 2018, particularly from the end of the summer through the autumn and all the way into December, a nighttime photographic survey of Newtown Creek and its surrounding neighborhoods was undertaken. As regular readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you, every nook and cranny around the waterway saw me show up in the dead of night and set up the tripod. Because of this effort, I’m trying to take a Newtown Creek break and shoot other things for a bit. Sometime in the next couple of weeks I need to go shoot another progress report on the K Bridge project, but I’ll do that when I feel like it and have some time to kill. Right now, I’m really interested in the 7 train corridor.

Coincidentally, since the aforementioned corridor has a de facto roof on it provided by the elevated tracks of the IRT Flushing Line, it’s a bit less “chilly” than it is hanging around the waterfront in January.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always wondered about what it’s like living near the Woodside stop on the 7, where there’s both an elevated 7 line stop and a Long Island Rail Road station. Noisy, I’d imagine. Luckily for the folks that live here, it’s also on a primary approach to LaGuardia Airport which is found to the north. The folks that live on the block pictured above actually have an awesome Irish Bar on their corner, Saints and Sinners, so they can at least find solace or succor deep in their cups if the noise is keeping them awake at night. HQ back in Astoria sits atop a subway tunnel, the IND Broadway Local or R line. I barely even notice the vibrations anymore. You don’t hear anything, other than minor rattling emanating from the cupboards.

It’s best to just ignore the rattling, or any of the sounds which come from deep inside the walls, at Casa Mitch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

58th street, which at Roosevelt Avenue is just a few blocks from the dead bang geographic center of NYC at Queens Blvd. and 58th, is where I decided to start deploying the tripod and other long exposure gear to try and capture the amazing amount of light kicking around in the steel rafters after dark. During the day, it’s just a mass of hard shadows up there, and a fairly difficult place to get the right exposure due to the bright shafts of sunlight peeking through the steel. There aren’t a lot of middle tones, essentially, to meter against in such a contrasty environment.

More tomorrow. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 17, 2019 at 11:00 am

astute pupils

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into the cold waste…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Multiple layers of insulating clothing were draped off of the slowly rotting corpse which houses a humble narrator, just the other night, and out into the freezing temperatures did I go. As mentioned countless times in the past, one has a particular vulnerability to cold weather, which is at odds with and forms a comorbidity revolving about my aversion to boredom. Accordingly, my plan was to avoid the waterfront this particular evening and spend my time inhabiting the steel shadowed corridor of Roosevelt Avenue and limit my evening constitutional to just over two hours spent in the cold.

Strategically speaking, one needed to acquire imagery for this and other posts, and my tactics involved the usage of the NYCTA system to put myself in a fairly interesting place and then walk back to HQ the “long way round.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ever a stickler for grammatically annoying others, the different meanings of a strategy versus a tactic is something which drives me mad. While browsing a military surplus website, one came upon an offering for two items – a tactical briefcase and a tactical pen. The briefcase was merely a fairly ugly bag constructed from the sort of fabrics commonly found in military items like rucksacks, and the pen was designed and constructed in a manner where it could double as a stabbing weapon. What sort of tactic either of these items represented is beyond me.

A strategy is an overarching plan formulated to achieve a goal – “I shall conquer France, using my portfolio of mad scientist inventions, along multiple fronts in pursuance of causing their Government to collapse while stretching the capabilities of their military out.” A tactic is – “The race of Atomic Supermen I’ve been breeding in the jungles of the Amazon will invade from the Atlantic seaboard,” or “while my volcano cannons bombard their Mediterranean coast, freezes rays will shine on Paris and bury it in ice.” Actions committed are tactical, the overall plan is the strategy, and neither briefcases nor pens could be considered as being strategic nor tactical. Your goal in a game of Chess is to capture the opponent’s King, the strategy involves how you plan to do it, and each piece you move is tactic.

As a note, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about conquering France using science fiction weapons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m also obsessed with the word “Carpenter” at the moment. A carpenter doesn’t “carpent” at work, yet the job indicates that they do. The word entered the English language via Old French (which in turn got it from Roman Latin) around the time that the Normans took over in England. It replaced the Germanic sounding “wright” for the trade, although there are a bunch of distinctions in the carpentry world describing what you would do at work (joiner, cooper, finisher etc.) that also indicate skill levels. An interesting bit of linguistics that I recently got turned on to involves the Normans, actually, and how when they set themselves up as the Old French speaking Lords of the Manor in England the English language began to change. Common people ate mutton (Germanic English) whereas the Normans ate lamb (Old French) for example. In essence, if you’re saying a word in English and the tongue is lifting and hitting the frontal roof of the mouth (lightning, for example) it comes from Old French, and if the tongue is on the bottom of the mouth and bunched up at the back (woodworker) its from the Germanic influenced pre conquest language. I can’t speak too intelligently about this subject, as I’ve just encountered the topic, but it’s a pretty interesting one.

These are the sort of things one ponders (tactic) as I’m trying to stay warm (strategy) whilst wandering the streets of Queens in the January dark.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 16, 2019 at 2:30 pm

common tongues

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The angle between…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a long time, I’ve been using the term “angle” to describe those spots which form the borders of neighborhoods in Western Queens, which are actually historic remnants of the pre consolidated City of Greater New York. One of them is found where the steel of the elevated IRT Flushing line sweeps off of Queens Blvd. and instead overflies Roosevelt Avenue. This is the former border of Long Island City’ Middleburgh (alternatively LIC Heights) and the town of Woodside, and is today the border of the neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Woodside. Recent endeavor found a humble narrator negotiating his way home well after midnight, and just as it was starting to rain.

What sucked was that I didn’t have an umbrella.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I posted the shot above to a couple of my social media accounts, so sorry if you’re seeing it twice, but I stand by the text that accompanied it declaring that NYC looks best when it’s wet. Given my lack of an umbrella, and the startling amount of electronic devices affixed to my person, some care was exercised in my path down Queens Blvd. in the pursuit of not becoming soaked by the sudden downpour. There’s two ways to do this – one is to walk so fast that you’re actually dodging raindrops (which is illogical and doesn’t actually work), and the other is to utilize the “rain shadow” offered by the built environment. It had been around eight hours since my last meal at this particular moment, and given that I wasn’t going to be hitting the sack until the wee hours of the morning, the only option available at the particular time involved a fast food chain. Lemmee tell ya, Lords and Ladies, the denizens of the City who inhabit fast food restaurants after midnight in Sunnyside are an interesting demographic.

My high fat and calorie hamburger consumed (have you noticed what the fast food people consider a “small” coke is these days?), and with the rain actually having intensified, I decided to hire a taxi for the short jaunt across the Sunnsyide Yards and back to HQ in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having grown up in a solidly blue collar section of Brooklyn, my first instinct is always to support the working people rather than big corporations. That’s how I found myself standing in a bus shelter and trying to hail a cab. For the last couple of years, I’ve had a taxi app – Lyft – on my phone which I’ve been using for the occasional cab ride. I like it because the cab comes to me, and given the weird places and transit deserts like industrial Maspeth that I spend my time you’re not going to have many opportunities for street hails so Lyft is my go to for those sorts of spots. Queens Blvd. and 40th street, however? Use a yellow or green cab, one will be by in a minute or two. That’s what I thought, and when a yellow cab pulled up and rejected any other destination but Manhattan, I was reminded why I don’t care about the dying medallion cab industry nor its asshole drivers. Yellow cab drivers in particular would seem to prefer it if they just rolled down the window for you to throw money into the front seat before they spit at you and drive away.

I fired up the Lyft app and was home in about ten minutes.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 15, 2019 at 1:30 pm

present bungalow

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Flushing Bay, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week I attended a meeting thrown by the NYC Parks Dept. detailing their $35 million dollar upgrades to the World Fair Marina in Flushing Bay. The plans involved relocating and rebuilding one of the docks, installing a new facility house and refueling dock, and installing a bunch of new street furniture on the public sections of the marina (benches, lamp posts etc.) It was my kind of meeting, truth be told, where the government people deliver their information in a punchy and well organized fashion, and public commentary is offered in a businesslike and terse fashion. My main interest in attending revolves around a long term bit of advocacy for Newtown Creek’s Queens shoreline which I’ve been working on, namely the creation of a similar marina on the Newtown Creek coastline Long Island City, and I wanted to take a look at “how it’s done” in the modern era.

Afterwards, a bit of time was spent outside with the camera and tripod, shooting into foggy darkness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just like the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, the NYC DEP has been experimenting with the installation and planting of greenery, specifically Saw Grasses, in the littoral zones at Flushing Bay. Littoral means the intertidal area of the shoreline, and they’re engaged in the project for the same reasons that they are at Newtown Creek – mitigating the long term environmental consequences of an abundance of their Combined Sewer Outfalls on the waterway. DEP, or the New York City Department of Environmental Protection if you must, inherited a messy combination of underground pipes from precursor agencies when their organization was created during a 1983 City charter revision, many of which were installed in a hodge podge manner and prior to the Federal Clean Water act.

Due to the outfalls, a lot of raw sewage has historically found its way into area waterways, and the section of Flushing Bay nearby LaGuardia Airport and the World Fair Marina is notoriously and reliably smelly. The creation of these engineered wetlands is an attempt to harness the curative powers and mechanisms of nature in pursuance of fixing a manmade problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the section of the north shore of Queens which isn’t forbidden, as a note. There’s a NYC Parks property which sits between the water and the Grand Central Parkway called the Flushing Bay Promenade. It’s 1.4 miles long, starts at the equivalent of 27th avenue, and is a modern addition to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park facility whose creation was funded by the NYC DEP in return for Parks allowing them to build a sewer retention tank in the main park.

When it warms up a bit, I plan on bringing the camera back out here to the promenade and do some exploring.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

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