The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for October 2019

ultimate abomination

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Hullabaloos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, whilst enjoying an autumnal afternoon with the neighbors at the local pub, a sudden explosion of noise and tumult occurred when the FDNY suddenly arrived at a call on 42nd street right off of Broadway here in Astoria. Given that – despite my advancing age – I still run down the street yelling “Firemen, Firemen” when the big red trucks are screaming past, one couldn’t help but get excited and start waving the camera at them.

Predictably enough, it was the engine and hook and ladder you’d normally associate with Astoria who answered the call – Engine 263 and Ladder 117 – who are based out of a house on Astoria Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure what the emergency was, based on what I was seeing and what they were carrying with them, I’d guess that somebody had reported smelling gas or something. They didn’t stay too long, which usually indicates that the emergency conditions were overstated and that the talents of the FDNY weren’t required to ameliorate it. Not pictured was one of those red big jeep vehicles which the FDNY brass ride around in, but which was present. There were no ambulances either, so it must have been purely a structural call. We get a whole lot of FDNY personnel showing up whenever a drunk is being scooped up by EMS units for some reason.

A few people at the bar were grousing about overkill. I offered one of my little aphorisms about not questioning the appropriateness of what professionals think is correct, and especially so in the case of FDNY. If they think it’s right to show up with a small army…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thankfully, the emergency – whatever it was – was resolved quickly. The normal pattern of life in Astoria resumed, and as the photo above can confirm, delivery bicycles began to flow freely about without impediment again.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 17, 2019 at 1:00 pm

was unmistakably

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Minimalist Wednesday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have a whole category of photos which bear the key words “dead things.” Composed entirely of the various cadavers encountered during my travels, it’s overwhelmingly populated by ex birds. Sure, there’s a few dead raccoons, rats, and other mammalians, but NYC seems to be a bird extermination machine. Spotted this poor bastard on the streets of Lower Manhattan recently, for instance. I’m not a bird person, so I won’t even attempt to identify specie or type. It’s a bird, and it’s dead.

Morbid? Maybe. In my mind, I’m documenting the extinguishing of a life which passed without comment or notice. Also, stop being so sensitive to the abject realities of life and death in the big city. Someday, that might be a photo of you up there, lying dead on the sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That Soundview Ferry tour I’ve been doing is a lot of fun for me, and the route is fantastic. Problem is that in order to get to the meetup spot on time from Astoria via the Ferry, I end up in Lower Manhattan a good hour before I need to be there. I try to make some productive use of the time after reviewing my notes, waving the camera about. Unfortunately, since Manhattan’s spit and polish modern incarnation is so visually uninteresting to me, I have to wander far afield to find something I’d like to shoot. Rusty stuff is always a win.

Luckily, Pier 11 is owned by the EDC, who love building stuff but don’t like maintaining it. Uncoated steel and salt water don’t mix. Paint, fellas, paint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As opined earlier in the week, one is in the midst of a whole lot of have to. Yesterday, I participated in a conversation with other members of the Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group (superfund) Steering Committee figuring out an agenda for the next public meeting and discussing the latest twists and turns in the story. Then down to Greenpoint to conduct a night time Infrastructure Creek walking tour (which will happen again on October 29, see link below) and afterwards came back home to Astoria.

Today, I’m meant to participate in some fancy pants symposium taking place in the Shining City. On my way home, I’m planning on doing a bit of photographing at Grand Central Station before getting on the train. Doesn’t look like it’s going to be an “outside day” according to the weather people.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 16, 2019 at 11:00 am

animal smell

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I’m so jaded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has begun to understand the literary trope of Vampires acquiring new human familiars every fifty or so years so as to remain connected to the world around them in some way. That picture above is a pretty normal sight for me to witness, so much so that I’ll often pass by the scene above without bothering to photograph it. When you hang around with the crowd that I do, unless it’s a shot of some hidden subway tunnel that has sixteen inches of undisturbed dust on the floor with a satanic altar in the middle of the shot, sights like the one above are just “meh.” Jaded.

This thought occurred to me a couple of weeks ago when I was hanging out with some of my Newtown Creek peeps watching a tug wrestle a few barges into place. We watched the show with some disinterest, as such sights have become ultra mundane to us over the years. There was a young kid on the boat with us, and his jaw was pinned wide open while his eyes were as big as saucers. Bringing new people to the show, and seeing the wonder play out on their faces, is critical in remembering just how amazing all these things actually are. Like I said, Vampires and human familiars.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This week’s minor injury has involved a sprain in my right foot, which compliments a chronic bit of pain in the left one. There’s little to be done for the left one, given that it’s the after effect of having snapped a bone or two in it around thirty years ago. The right one has been all wrapped up in an elastic compression bandage and is seemingly on the mend. Should make tonight’s “Infrastructure Creek” walking tour fun for me.

There’s still space available if you’re desirous, and it would likely allow this Vampire the ability to feel emotions again. Walk ups are always welcome, and I’ll be on the corner of Greenpoint and Kingsland Avenues in Greenpoint no later than 6:30.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a rather full schedule this week, and I’ll be scuttling all over the city, but I fear not too much in the way of fun will be on the menu. The third week of October, however, isn’t exactly packed yet, and I’m hoping for the opportunity of interesting things to take photos of occurring. Who can guess what the weather will be, or what injury I might be inflicted with next?

That’s what I call excitement, anticipating the next random abrasion or puncture of the skinvelope or an unheralded structural issue emerging from the ossuarial or ligamentary systems. If I was actually a Vampire, I’d be able to instantly heal like Wolverine, which would be cool and also allow me to win bets at bars.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 15, 2019 at 11:00 am

dreaming friend

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Tugboat, baby, tugboat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found me riding north, and home to Astoria, on the NYC Ferry. The commuter boat passed by the Ruth M. Reinauer tug as it transited southwards beneath the Manhattan Bridge and down the East River. Ruth M. Reinauer is a relatively new tugboat by NY Harbor standards, where it’s not uncommon to spot tugs which have been in service since the Vietnam War, having been launched in 2009.

Rated at 4,720 horsepower, the Ruth M. is the first of a new class of Tug for Reinauer. Check out this page at tugboatinformation.com for all of her technical specs and so on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ruth M. Reinauer was towing an articulated fuel barge, which was fairly empty (an assumption based on how high it was riding in the water). As is often mentioned, whether a tug is pulling, pushing, or has barges riding “on the hip” it’s called “towing.”

That barge that the Ruth M. is towing was also built pretty recently, 2008 in fact, and it’s called the RTC 102. RTC 102 is a smidge over 413 feet long, has a capacity of 100,000 gross tons of liquid cargo, and weighs some 6,545 gross tons when unloaded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the general heading which the Ruth M. Reinauer was on, and were I a betting narrator, I’d say that it was heading to the Kill Van Kull between Staten Island and Bayonne, New Jersey for a fill up. Might be going further afield, as Port Elizabeth Newark and the Arthur Kill are found beyond the KVK.

Petroleum enters NYC – mostly – by either pipeline, ship, or barge. The latter methodology involves towing fuel barges like the RTC 102 to a shoreline tank farm somewhere along the coast. The fuel is pumped from barge to shore whereupon it’s loaded into trucks for delivery to gas stations, or other end customers (heating oil etc.). That single barge is the equivalent of thirty eight heavy trucks which would otherwise need to cross through the City using arterial and local streets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

watching sentinels

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One more bit of Creekery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even at three or four in the morning, it’s hard to find a thirty second interval on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge during which heavy trucks or buses aren’t passing over the double bascule drawbridge and causing it to quiver and quake. Getting any sort of usable long exposure shot from up there is a matter of luck for most. Since I give it a go every time I’m walking over it at night, the law of averages states that I’m occasionally going to be able to time it right.

That’s the new Kosciuszcko Bridge in the distance, poking its head up over the industrial zone found along Railroad Avenue in LIC’s Blissville section. That enormous smokestack is all that’s left of Van Iderstine’s fat rendering operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If “over yonder” means the Greenpoint, Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek, then over yonder that’s what used to be called the BP Amoco yard. It’s a distribution hub for petroleum products, and those tanks contain various flavors of refined products. It sits in part of the footprint of the old Standard Oil Sone and Fleming refinery complex which would one day become Mobil Oil. Across Apollo Street to the east was another Standard refinery operation – Locust Hill. Apollo Street is the epicenter of the Greenpoint Oil Pill discovery and remediation process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is actually a handheld one, looking roughly westwards across Greenpoint towards Manhattan. Remember that heavy traffic I mentioned? Never, ever stops.

Back Monday with something different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

spiritual dread

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My beloved Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered while I was riding on a hybrid ferry boat, which at the time was running on its electric mode. This was a novel experience, I must say. Beyond the whole environmental thing, what was fascinating about this vessel was how quiet it was, and how the deck plates weren’t vibrating with transmitted engine oscillations. Can’t tell you much about the thing, as it wasn’t my “show.”

Saying that, my “show” will be once again opening its curtains on Wednesday October 15th, with an Atlas Obscura/Airbnb “experience” offering my “Infrastructure Creek” walk to a very limited group of 12. This will be an evening/night walk, which should be pretty exciting. Link is both above and below, so please come with if you can. The same tour will be repeated on October 29th. These tours are part of how I keep a roof over my head, so any and all tickets sold essentially feed me, and fund the various technologies which allow me to bring you Newtown Pentacle five days a week and fifty two weeks a year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria Community Board 1 will be gathering at Astoria World Manor on Astoria Blvd. tonight at 6:30. It promises to be an interesting meeting. The Transportation Alternatives organization (Bicycle people) will be offering a presentation pushing for their latest advocacy position which asks the City to create a protected bike lane on Crescent Street connecting the Triborough and Queensboro Bridges. This is sure to be the subject of much conversation and gnashing of teeth in the coming months here in the ancient village, so… Additionally, there is a proposal to develop two currently industrially zoned properties on the Ditmars side of the neighborhood on 45th and 46th street into largish apartment houses.

Discussion of the latter has obsessed the frequent commenters found at Facebook’s Astoria discussion group for the last week. That particular cadre of opinion offerers seem to be composed largely of people who moved out of Astoria in the 1980’s that offer an overly sentimental picture of the “good old days” which has little resemblance to reality. For instance, somebody who is in their mid 60’s in 2019 that says “you could leave your doors unlocked back then” is referring to the late 1970’s in NYC. That’s the midst of an era when you not only triple locked your door, you also installed iron bars on both first AND second story windows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That aphorism about leaving your door open is something I’ve encountered my entire life. My maternal grandparents offered it when referring to living in the “Shtetl” or Lower East Side of Manhattan during the 1920’s when they first got here. My mom and dad also repeated the refrain when referring to East New York’s Brownsville or Brooklyn’s Borough Park where they respectively grew up (the Waxman family’s ancestral property holdings are now a part of the Maimonides Hospital parking garage). You heard this in the neighborhoods which I grew up in, and the saying was always tinged with a certain amount of racism, with the underlying implication that things were better during a more segregated era (red lining was a practice in the real estate world which only allowed certain ethnicities to live in certain areas. It’s part of the “how and why” which NYC’s “ethnic” enclaves were formed by – African American Bed Stuy and Bushwick, Hispanic North Brooklyn, Jewish Midwood and Crown Heights, Italian Bensonhurst and so on).

Back tomorrow with something else. See you tonight at CB1 if you want to come watch the show. Me, I wish I was going to be on a boat tonight during the storm, electric or not. I spend too much of my life in meetings.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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.

calmed himself

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What if every day was your day of Atonement?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for being late today, my efforts of the last few weeks have caught up with me in terms of fatigue, and truth be told I’ve been up late the last couple of days binge watching the “Apocalypse” season of American Horror Story. Today is Yom Kippur, which means that my blogging will send me to hell, but I’ll just add that to my list of things to atone for at some future date.

That’s the DonJon tug Sarah Ann, having just left the Newtown Creek and towing a couple of barges of recyclable metals. The building with the four smokestacks in the background is the one you saw explode during Hurricane Sandy, and it’s a ConEd substation that steps down the high current electricity entering the City to the more usable frequencies delivered to homes and businesses here in the Shining City.


“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

October 9, 2019 at 1:30 pm

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