The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for August 2019

mysterious archways

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Kosciuszcko Bridge opening ceremony, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All the fancy people showed up along my beloved Newtown Creek on Wednesday. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office had sent out the invitations, and I was lucky enough to receive one. Our Governor really knows how to put on a show, it should be mentioned, and what a show it was. The invitation discussed him “cutting the ribbon” on the deck of the brand new Kosciuszcko Bridge, and along with a few hundred onlookers and a gaggle of media people, that’s just what he did.

For a whole lot of Brooklyn and Queens people, this event signaled the end of a long process, including myself. I’ve been taking pictures of this operation for nearly a decade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszcko Bridge.

Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things.

There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Here’s a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’ssome night shots from early July of 2017. A series of posts focused in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

More recently, in late September of 2017, a final series of shots of the old bridge were captured in this post. Acquisition of a souvenir chunk of steel from the 1939 bridge was described in this post, and a video of the “energetic felling” of the approaches on October 1st was offered in this one. Still shots and views of the aftermath from the waters of Newtown Creek from later in the day on Oct. 1 are found in this posting, and the aftermath of the demolition as seen from Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section in this post from October 5th. This post from December of 2017 closed out an event filled year in DUKBO, and a visit to the site at night is described in this March of 2018 post. Another progress report was offered in June of 2018. A nocturnal visit occurred in December of 2018, a short post from January of 2019, and also one from February of 2019. Most recently, in August of 2019, I made another night time visit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were speeches from familiar faces – NYS Assemblymembers Cathy Nolan and Joe Lentol spoke. The audience included a series of political “powers that be,” including political bosses like Frank Seddio and Congressman Greg Meeks. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was there, as were Council Members Steve Levin and Bob Holden. There were a bunch of politicians there whom I’ve never associated with Newtown Creek in the past, but there you are.

Andrew Cuomo draws a crowd, and he brought his Mom along as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rain threatened, but the skies held out during the speech making section of the event. Experience has taught me not to sit down during these sort of things, as you get stuck in the chair and all of your photos will end up being from the same point of view. My constant milling about earned some “hairy eyeball” action from the dozens of NYS Troopers and Gubernatorial Security people, but they must’ve figured that a humble narrator was harmless.

Truth be told, I kept on thinking about how I was just standing there on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you include planning and funding this project – decades in the making – the various elected officials finally gathered to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the final stage of the K Bridge project. The ceremony ended, although there would be a celebratory cocktail hour later that night, and the crowd began to disperse.

I didn’t take a single picture at the afterparty, btw., having decided that I just wanted to enjoy the moment for once. There was a light show highlighting the new bridge, and Billy Joel was simulcast from a live concert at Madison Square Garden. Mr. Joel mentioned the bridge, his affection for the Governor, and then played his anthemic “New York State of Mind” while the light show was presented.

Luckily, a friend gave me a ride home from Maspeth afterwards, and I didn’t have to walk or spend money on a cab.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pedestrian and bicycle section of the Kosciuszcko Bridge is everything which I’ve been hoping it would be, visually speaking. One will be spending a LOT of time up there in the coming weeks as I’ve been hungering for unhurried access to this vantage point for literally years.

One made his way back to Laurel Hill Blvd. and eventually Astoria by walking northwards along it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, I did have to hurry, as shortly after the ceremony ended, the clouds did indeed burst and rain began falling.

In actuality, it was more of precipitating mist when the photos above and below were captured. That’s when the clouds are scraping along the roof and tree tops and there aren’t raindrops – per se – but the air is full of droplets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yessiree, I’m going to be inhabiting this walkway for most of September. Can’t wait to do a walk through at night as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Frankly, it’s been a lucky stroke for me that this project has occurred practically in my back yard. Even more so that it crosses my beloved Newtown Creek.

Now… what’s next?


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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 30, 2019 at 11:05 am

firmly determined

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Sunnyside Yards, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned earlier in the week, one has been utilizing a severely limited photo bag for the last half of August, containing two small lenses and a novel form of camera support called an Ultrapod. The latter is basically an aluminum plate with machined screw holes of various sizes punched through it and there’s a tripod head screw mount welded onto it too. A bit of customization is called for, but due to the ubiquitous nature of the screw holes (.25 inch, 20 turn), I mounted latex furniture casters onto it – for friction. The whole thing weighs just a few ounces, even with the tripod head.

That’s Skillman Avenue up there in the shot above, and some monster has left a shopping cart nearby the bike lane. Surely a crime against humanity, and a terroristic act, this shopping cart abandonment must rate up there with the crimes of Mao and Stalin… just ask the bicycle people and they’ll tell you so. #carnage

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the fun things which I’ve been able to do with this minimal sized setup is to exploit some of the holes in the security fencing surrounding the Sunnyside Yards and get the camera lens into a steady position looking through the chain link. The smaller of the two lenses I’ve been using is a pancake lens, the Canon 24mm STM, which has a tiny little piece of glass that it peers through. That itty bitty POV is just small enough to look through these defects in the fencing, and the ultrapod gives me the stability to pull off longer exposures. Right tool for the right job, huh?

The illuminated structure in the upper right of the shot above is the Acela maintenance building, and there’s two trains inside the thing. Just to the right of that is a regular Amtrak trainset which was stopped on the tracks, and the brightly lit white building is the Standard Motor Products structure found on 39th street and Northern Blvd. The shot was gathered from the Honeywell Street truss bridge over the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also gathered on the Honeywell Street truss, the shot above looks southwest across a Amtrak holding yard for what I imagine to be Northeast Corridor rolling stock, but that’s strictly an educated guess as to what they are. Sunnyside Yards is a rail coach yard – meaning that trains cross through, change crews here, stop for maintenance and cleaning – but that you can’t actually catch a train here. The irony of that never ceases to amuse one such as myself, but it is an important reminder that if you want to get technical about railroad stuff – I’m an enthusiast and know more than the average bear – but I’ve never called myself an expert on the subject.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 29, 2019 at 11:00 am

previously noticed

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Minimalist Wednesday is difficult.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Feature rich and cluttered is how I describe the visual environment that one dwells in. A gauntlet I’ve thrown down for myself is to produce three shots a week which aren’t long focal, do not depict some urban landscape in all of its complexity, and which are somewhat reductive in nature. This ain’t so simple in Queens.

As mentioned in Monday’s posting, a good way to stay interested in what you’re doing is to set a few rules and limitations for yourself, so in the tradition of Newtown Pentacle “series posts” like “Project Firebox,” “Maritime Saturday,” and so on – you’ve got “Minimalist Wednesday.” Something to do, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is an obvious solution tot he problem, optically speaking, which is to use a shallow depth of field aperture setting to isolate out an object from its background. The object above was a bit of heavy chain attached to a utility pole, but you get the idea. The shot above is cheating, imho.

What I’m looking for… man, I don’t know what I’m looking for but I know it when I see it. Or at least, I hope I will.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To wit, this little scenario encountered in Greenpoint. I have no idea what the purpose of this array might be, but that – that’s what I’m looking for.

Anyway, that’s Minimalist Wednesday for you.

This post is being written on Monday, btw, and as you’re reading this, I’m ostensibly down at the Kosciuszcko Bridge opening ceremonies and taking lots and lots of very complicated pictures involving the Governor. My plan is to get all of that to y’all in Friday’s post, as I’m sure that I’m coming back home with hundreds of pics from the K Bridge event(s).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 28, 2019 at 11:00 am

burned out

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Hey, what’s with all this Northern Blvd. stuff?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know what is to come. In recent years, the NYC Dept. of City Planning was working on something they called “LIC Core,” a planning document centering around Northern Blvd. between 31st street and Woodside Avenue. My understanding is that the planning document has been abandoned, and that the Real Estate Industrial Complex will just be allowed to do whatever they want under the proviso that a politically viable number of “affordable” apartments are a part of their plan. The whole “affordable” thing, and the arithmetic by which the concept of affordability is determined, is a bugbear of political deception which I don’t want to get into.

As mentioned in the past, I’m now a member of Community Board 1 here in Astoria, and before the summer break, a humble narrator was obliged to vote for or against a couple of these projects. Now, when you’re on a community board – and I seem to be the only person in Queens who adheres to this – it’s meant to be like serving on a jury. The petitioner presents their facts, you make inquiries, and then you vote. In the case of two large projects just a few blocks from my own home, I voted yes. Here’s why…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Close to transit, shopping, and City services? Check. Best use of the land? Well, I don’t think used car lots are the best use of the land within one to two miles of the East River. How densely populated is the area already? Well…. let’s just say that when the kids want to experiment with cannabinoids well outside the purview of their parents or just see how loud their car stereos are, the side streets along Northern Blvd. are where they go, as it’s a ghost town at night after all the car lots and mechanics shutter their doors. People sleep in their cars along these blocks, or on cardboard boxes piled up against the walls.

Just like when you’re on a jury, your CB vote is supposed to be based not on personal prejudices or preconceived notions, rather it’s meant to be guided by the presented facts and informed by your personal knowledge of the area. Saying that, my queries and comments to the various entities seeking to develop residential properties in the neighborhood revolved around topics that longtime Newtown Pentacle readers will find familiar – green roofs, truly public space, stormwater capture, hospital beds, school desks, and transit. Also, what are you going to plug the building into, since our electrical power system hereabouts… frankly… sucks.

Also – since this has come up a few times during the summer when I was talking to the press about unrelated Newtown Creek business – I in no way speak for CB1, and if you want an official opinion of the group on anything, talk to the Chair or call the office and ask for one. I’m still new to the Community Board, and getting to know not just my fellow members but also the procedural norms under which it operates. My plan for the next set of sessions, which begin again in September, is to show up and observe the way things work and then vote my conscience on the various issues presented. What you read here is from my personal POV, and all opinions are my own. If I’m speaking “officially” on behalf of any of the groups which I work with, I’ll state that. Otherwise, it’s just some schmuck with a camera mouthing off again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, and I’m still startled at the number of people who have willingly made their homes in Queens Plaza, living along Northern Blvd. seems like a poor choice. You do have fairly regular bus service, but the closest subway stops (other than the 36th street R/M) are all several blocks to the north – in Astoria proper – along Broadway. I’ve long called this stretch of Northern Blvd. the “Carridor” as it’s a super wide primary automobile and truck route that offers some of the scariest street crossings in all of Queens. Really, Steinway at Northern… brrrr…

At the moment, I’m spending some effort on recording what’s found on the Carridor right now, in order to create some kind of record before it all gets swept away by the forces of modernity and the rapacious hunger of the Real Estate Industrial Complex. The history of NYC is a story of wrenching, and quite sudden, change. Take a picture when something catches your interest, as it might not be there tomorrow.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 27, 2019 at 11:00 am

hastily filling

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Back in session.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has enjoyed his self allotted time off, if you’re the curious type. Given the tropical clime and frequent rainstorms, the last two weeks haven’t exactly been a wonderland of joy, but evening hours when the temperatures were a bit more tolerable were exploited. During these nocturnal scuttlings around the various neighborhoods I keep an eye on, it was decided to severely limit the amount of “kit” one carried and utilized in my pursuits.

The normal “everyday carry” of heavy zoomable lenses, tripod, and all the other crap I normally drag around was left at HQ. Leaving the house, all I had on me were two prime lenses – a 24mm pancake lens and the 50mm “nifty fifty.” For camera support, I was carrying a gizmo called an “ultra pod,” which is a metal plate with a tripod head on it and four latex furniture caster feet. Beyond that, all I had on me was an air blower and a couple of lens cloths, a flash light, and a cable release. The camera bag weighed more than what was inside it. Perfect for roaming around on sultry August evenings, here in the Borough of Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the worst things you can tell any kind of artist is “do whatever you feel like.” Limitations are important, as that’s where challenge lies. The tyranny of the blank page has demolished the aspirations of many, whereas forcing oneself to write or draw or photograph within set limits is an invitation to “get creative.”

The cool thing about the ultrapod and the tiny and extremely light lenses I was using was that this setup forced me to slow down a bit and really put some thought into where the camera was placed, rather than just zooming in on a subject. Additionally, it put me back into the mental space I used to operate in back when I first got serious about shooting and was using a Canon G10 mounted on a magnetic tripod. My camera has been sitting on top of fireboxes, on the sidewalk, windowsills – you name it – for the last couple of weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, the one thing I was constantly wishing for during this particular two week long exercise was a more modern camera body with one of those neato keen flip out screens. Composing the shot above found a humble narrator lying prone and belly down onto the pavement on the corner of 38th street and Northern Blvd., which was kind of gross.

The Canon 7D is a champion camera body – tough, resistant to the constant physical and emotional abuse I inflict on it, and quite the omnivore as far as the number of common tasks it can handle ably. Saying that, I’m quite attracted to the new Canon mirrorless R series cameras, but everyone I know recommends getting a Sony A7 series with a third party adaptor for my lenses instead. This is all intellectual, of course, as a humble narrator doesn’t have two pennies to rub together. I’d need several hundred thousand rubbable pennies for a new camera.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 26, 2019 at 1:00 pm

various candles

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Zuzu the dog!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m continuing my little summer vacation this week, which actually hasn’t been much of a vacation – truth be told. A couple of projects have landed on my desk, which is good, as my landlord likes it when I pay my rent. Bad, however, as I really just wanted to go out and aimlessly wander around Queens and have some fun for once. There you are. Being busy is a problem you actually want to have.

Single images will be found here, refreshed daily, until Monday the 26th when I’ll resume my complaining and kvetching.


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2019 at 11:00 am

Posted in animals, Astoria

Tagged with , ,

nightmare labyrinths

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Zuzu the dog!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m continuing my little summer vacation this week, which actually hasn’t been much of a vacation – truth be told. A couple of projects have landed on my desk, which is good, as my landlord likes it when I pay my rent. Bad, however, as I really just wanted to go out and aimlessly wander around Queens and have some fun for once. There you are. Being busy is a problem you actually want to have.

Single images will be found here, refreshed daily, until Monday the 26th when I’ll resume my complaining and kvetching.


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 22, 2019 at 11:00 am

Posted in animals, Astoria

Tagged with , ,

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