The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for February 2020

reticent stranger

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High over Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One enjoys the walk over the new Kosciuszcko Bridge so much that I actually walked nearly a mile out of my way to use it the other night. A meeting required my attendance at Newtown Creek Alliance HQ, which is located in close proximity to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and afterwards I headed eastwards towards the pedestrian/bike path entrance for the Kosciuszcko span over Newtown Creek. I will opine that shooting from up there is a fairly complicated process at night, due to the contrast of the endemic shadow which the industrial zone in Greenpoint offers and the bright lights of Manhattan off in the distance, as well as the vibratory effects of heavy traffic hurtling along this section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

You’re looking downwards into Brooklyn, at the very intersection of Meeker and Varick Avenues, in the shot above. It’s a pretty unfriendly street scape down there, and the business on the lower left hand side of the shot with the high steel fencing still had guard dogs patrolling their lot until just a few years ago. The fencing isn’t exactly flush with the ground, and while walking by several years ago one of their Rottweilers had almost worked itself under the fence in pursuance of biting a humble narrator’s bottom. I’ve sort of avoided this section of Varick since, and have largely concerned myself with documenting the NYS DOT project of replacing the 1939 Kosciuszcko Bridge above.

I refer to this area as Brooklyn’s DUKBO – for Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a waste transfer station you’re looking at there, loading a municipal waste truck. Specifically it’s called the Brooklyn C&D Transfer Station, or Varick Avenue Transfer Station by its operators, a company called Waste Connections. Don’t know much about them, and I’ve never met anyone from the company. Apparently – and this is based on a single google search, so don’t hold me to it – they accept construction and demolition materials, asphalt, concrete, and “special waste.” The latter is an industry catch all term for waste materials that can include; Cement Kiln Dust Waste, Crude Oil and Natural Gas Waste, Fossil Fuel Combustion Waste, Mining and Mineral Processing Waste. It seems to be a 24 hour business down there on Varick Avenue, and I’ve never personally seen it closed. There’s usually a line up of privately owned dump trucks waiting to get in there and “tip” their collections.

Companies like this one process, separate, and then ship out all sorts of unwanted material to either other shipping outlets like rail or port facilities, or truck it out of NYC in huge vehicles like that pictured municipal waste truck. Waste handling is a big industry at the Newtown Creek, I tell you. Garbage industry folks, however, will often chime out the adage “It’s got to go somewhere.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They seem to have a separate yard for metals here, and luckily for the wandering photographer, one of the laborers was using some welding equipment while framed up all nice by a well lit materials handler. This is what recycling actually looks like, incidentally. Most people seem to think it’s an occupation populated by Hippies and Oompa Loompas dressed up in clean white uniforms, but it’s quite a heavy industry by definition. It’s also quite a dangerous industry for laborers. There’s all sorts of slippery material on the ground, heavy tools and machines rolling about, multi ton piles of stuff… easy place to get dead, a waste transfer station is. People who work here have to be very, very careful at work.

Back Monday… at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 28, 2020 at 11:00 am

local impressions

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East Branch, Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Geography indicates that I don’t hit the eastern sections of Newtown Creek as regularly as I do the western side. It’s quite a walk from Astoria to Ridgewood, after all. The East Branch is absolutely disgusting all the time, due to the presence of a gigantic seven vaulted sewer which drains parts of Brooklyn as far away as Canarsie. There is virtually zero laminar “flow” back here due to tidal influence, and the water instead exists in a vertical column with the poison sediment suspended in gradient horror.

God, how I love it all. The smell… it’s like rotting ham floating in watery mayonnaise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is constantly amazed at the willful littering encountered all over Queens. People standing next to a corner trash can will opt to toss garbage in the street rather than using the bin. Got a tire or two you’re done with? Why dispose of it properly when you can just haul it up to chest level and then throw it over a fence into an area waterway?

Don’t take my chides the wrong way, I’m no saint, but doesn’t it take more effort to get rid of your tire this way than it does to just leave it in the corner by the DSNY bin? Both are illegal, of course, but seriously… it takes a lot more effort to toss the thing in the water than it would to roll it to a corner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That structure on the right hand side of the shot is the MTA’s counting house, a fortress like building where they process all the cash from bus boxes, metro card machines, and subway fare control booths. All those armored cars and armed guards you see in the subway? Yup, this is one of the places they report to work.

I’ve actually met people who work here. They described what life is like inside. It seems that to ensure nobody pockets any of MTA’s cash, a pocketless jumpsuit with a padlock on the zipper is worn by the workers. If you need to use the bathroom, your supervisor has to unlock your coverall and you are searched before and after using the facility. My reaction to this was to ask if it was anything like the drug operation in the movie “New Jack City” in there.

The answer was “yes.”


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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

February 27, 2020 at 11:00 am

regrettably enough

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Industrial Maspeth is my happy place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above is what I consider to be my “shot of the night” from a recent nocturnal scuttle. Those wobbly streaks of light were offered by a passing truck or two while the shutter on my camera was hanging open. Mentioned in the past, one is fascinated by the result of setting the camera to record thirty seconds, or even a minute, of time passed. It’s the opposite of film or video, where 30 frames a second are recorded creating the illusion of movement when played back. In the shot above, you can actually discern the imperfections in the paving of the road, for instance, based on the bobbing around of the vehicle running lights. I wonder if Angels and Demons see time this way.

I intend to inhabit a spot similar to this sometime soon and execute a long series of shots in pursuance of building a time lapse video. Theoretically this means I’d have to take up station for a couple of hours, and since thirty photos would produce just one second of video, I’d need to actuate the camera at least 180 times over the course of an hour for a minute long end product. I’m going to do this, but when it’s a bit warmer. Even though this has been a warm winter, the chill nevertheless begins to penetrate through the filthy black raincoat, and manifests deleterious effects on the camera battery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing out of Queens and into Brooklyn via the Grand Street Bridge, the sounds of Canada Geese were heard coming in from the darkness of the Newtown Creek. Geese are dicks. I have spoken.

You may have heard about the latest tragedy involving my beloved Newtown Creek, wherein some lady suffering from dementia disappeared from a mass at St. Stanislaus in Greenpoint. Her body was found a couple of days later floating in the Creek nearby the Kosciuszcko Bridge on the Queens side. Condolence is offered to the family.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long suffering, Our Lady of the Pentacle was back at home while I was wandering around the Creek and as the hour was growing late I called her to say good night and offer that I hadn’t been squished by a truck yet. One was on the phone with her while this shot of a municipal waste truck was being gathered (part of a fleet of trucks parked on area streets, filled to the brim with sewer solids, which the Commissioner of the DEP has assured me are not there and must be a mirage). During my brief chat with Our Lady, I was fending off the attentions of an overly aggressive rat, so my conversation with her was punctuated periodically with loud exclamations of “leave me alone, rat” and “rat, I will kill you with this tripod.”

Of course, the notion that I had the right to be unmolested by the rodent was an example of me asserting and enjoying hominid privilege.


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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.

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February 26, 2020 at 11:00 am

some curse

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Twirling, ever twirling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From HQ in Astoria, I’ve got several approach vectors to the various sections surrounding the Newtown Creek. Walking south on 39th street and making a right on Skillman Avenue takes me to Dutch Kills in LIC, for instance. 43rd street carries me across Sunnyside and towards the Kosciuszcko Bridge. South on 48th street will point my toes at Maspeth Creek and or the Grand Street Bridge. In all the cases above, one walks downhill out of Astoria to cross a low point at Northern Blvd. and then up a shallow hill and the ridge which Sunnyside sits on. After crossing a certain point, the declination of the land begins to slope back down towards the flood plains surrounding Newtown Creek.

Then there’s the Woodside Avenue/58th street path, which is what I call “good cardio.” What makes it good is that you are pretty much pulling up hill towards the Maspeth Plateau the entire way. On this path, you get to stop and consider the place marker on 58th street and Queens Blvd. installed by the Dept. of City Planning denoting the geographic center of NYC, walk along the walls of Calvary Cemetery’s second and third divisions, and dodge a lot of traffic. Fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Theoretically, the street pictured above is Laurel Hill Blvd., which is overflown by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway on an elevated ramp. Calvary 2 is on the north side of the street, Calvary 3 on the south. Both sections of the funerary complex sport high masonry walls which are somewhat oppressive, and are oddly free of graffiti. My understanding is that there is a street racing scene hereabouts on Laurel Hill Blvd., but I’ve never observed it. Recent experience has revealed that the fast and furious crowd currently prefers Review Avenue in Blissville, nearby Calvary 1, for their antics. To the North and East is the Woodside section, West and North is Sunnyside, and heading South brings you to Maspeth.

Oddly enough, this section of road is terrifically well travelled, even at night. It seems to be a bit of a shortcut for drivers, and the Q39 bus enjoys a couple of stops down here. As mentioned from a post a couple of weeks back, the State controlled highway which the street lamps are mounted on has not switched over to LED luminaires as the City has and old school sodium lights offer a now nostalgic orange glow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

58th street itself, between the BQE and the Long Island Expressway, is essentially a trench running between two cemeteries – the aforementioned Calvary properties to the west and Mt. Zion to the East. Truly terrifying for a pedestrian, what passes for sidewalks are essentially earthen berms piles up against the cemetery walls.

Not everybody walks past a cemetery fence at night wishing that the property was open 24 hours, and regretful that the photographic splendors therein are out of reach, but I do. One couldn’t resist getting a few shots through the fence of Mt. Zion while picking my way along the rough hewn berm. Oh, to gain purchase within and spend time with the night gaunts and tomb legions.


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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

February 25, 2020 at 1:00 pm

hung indefinitely

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Great galloping Jehoshaphat, it’s Monday again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was required to attend a Community Board function recently, which utterly angered me since the evening was particularly photogenic and atmospherically offered a thick blanket of fog. This whole “participating in the Democracy of our Republic” thing gets old sometimes, man. It also eats up a lot of time.

Thing is, I can’t “not show up” since life has taught me that any set of rules which everyone else gets to break are always rigidity enforced when it comes to me – people love making an example out of me. It’s been like this since I was a little kid, and experience has taught me that whereas the rest of you get to be as nasty, corrupt, and venal as you want to be, I don’t. Saying that, realizing what sort of photo opportunity I was going to miss, I left HQ a bit early so I could fit in some “me” time. That’s mighty Triborough, of course, as seen from the edge of Astoria Park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The cadre of liquor enthusiasts who populate the corner of Broadway and 42nd street here in Astoria like to rummage through people’s trash in search of cash convertible treasures. Often, they’ll find cast off children’s toys like the plushie ones pictured above. More often, they arrange these toys in interesting ways after discovering that neither the thrift store nor random passerby want to purchase the things. There’s a script for Pixar in all this, I tell you.

I’m really into this whole democracy thing, and would only support a dictatorship if the penultimate citizen was me. Who wouldn’t want to be a dictator? It ends badly, but if you play your cards right it’s likely you’ll get ten to twenty years at the top of the heap. If that’s how my story ends up playing out, there will be no abandoned toys, by edict. It’s just too sad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also on my list, in that dystopian future where people will fearfully chant my name, are the assholes pictured above. They are part of the neighborhood crew who have modified the exhaust systems on their vehicles – in this case motorcycles – to emit as much sound as possible. This is a subject I recently discussed with a member of the gendarmes, in a side conversation at the aforementioned Community Board meeting. It seems that this noisy vehicle fad is yet another one of the things which the current Mayor has made legal – as in abandoning the prohibition against the kits which modify the exhaust systems on both automobiles and motorcycle to make as much noise as possible. NYPD is aware of the problem, and is seeking jurist approval for an interpretation of using a different statute to squash out the racket offered by these fast and furious assholes, apparently.

Everyone is an asshole to me at the moment, as I’m a sick of it all humble narrator. Happy Monday.


“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

February 24, 2020 at 1:00 pm

resident alienists

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Friday bits and bobs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week and here in Astoria, just as a humble narrator was about to succumb to that daily interval of involuntary unconsciousness during which wild hallucinations occur, the windows at HQ began to strobe with a scarlet hue. Thinking that the Astoria Borealis might be occurring again, one rushed to the porch. It seems one of my neighbors was having a visit from both the NYPD and the FDNY, and since both of the municipal vehicles were quite static while the City’s preeminent staffers were busy within, one decided to get a couple of shots for the archive.

I do love seeing an unnaturally colored series of lights. A recent query offered by a passerby nearby Queens Plaza which was a variation on the standard “why are taking pictures of that”? My answer was “Y’know those old photos of NYC that people share on the internet? Somebody like me took those, and whereas these photos are new, someday they’ll be old.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luyster Creek is a lonely industrial waterway found on the forbidden northern coast of Queens, here in Astoria. A humble narrator is drawn to things forbidden, lonely, and industrial so a scuttle from HQ on the Broadway side of the neighborhood was enacted. Timing was key in this walk, as I wanted to get there just as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was dipping down beyond the western shore.

There’s a pretty active industrial driveway leading to the aforementioned western shore, leading to what’s soon going to be a new Department of Sanitation New York (DSNY) maintenance garage and salt dome complex. The City is moving operations from 21st street nearby the Ravenswood NYCHA campus over to the IBZ (industrial business zone) found on the north side of Astoria. DSNY is planning on spending a ball park number of $131 million back here.

Did you know that NYC has a 1% for art requirement in all new municipal construction projects? It’s how the Newtown Creek Nature Walk in Greenpoint got funded. Been on the books since 1982, the 1% for art requirement. You know who must have gotten that into the books, back in 1982? I’ll bet it was Astoria’s own Peter Vallone, senior. Hmmm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One stuck around at Luyster Creek for a while as the tide was coming in. Saying that, Luyster is a lot like my beloved Newtown Creek in terms of there being a vertical rather than laminar or horizontal flow related to the tide. There’s a bunch of indeterminate muck in the water and its sediment bed due to industrial pollutants as well as a large CSO or Combined Sewer Outfall (BB-041) maintained by the DEP at the head of the canal. As a matter of fact, the shot above was gathered while standing on the pipe’s outfall weir.

NYC has a combined sewer system, meaning that sanitary and storm water use the same underground pipes to travel to the 14 sewer plants. A quarter inch of rain, City wide, means a billion gallons have suddenly surged into the system, and the agency responsible for wastewater management and the 14 plants – the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection, or DEP – is forced to release the overage into area waterways.

The nomenclature of “BB-041” is explained thusly; the BB stands for Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant” which is just a few blocks away, the 041 indicates that this is number 41 of the 1936 vintage Bowery Bay plant’s 47 outfalls. BB-041 experiences an average number of 61 weather related discharges into Luyster Creek annually, and pours roughly 84 million gallons of untreated sewage per year directly into the water. Fun times.


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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

February 21, 2020 at 11:00 am

those miniscules

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Getting a clean shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered during an interval of trespass, something which I advise everyone who asks against doing. In the foreground above is an inactive MTA rail bridge’s trackway, with the 1908 Borden Avenue Bridge at center frame and the 1939 Queens Midtown Expressway’s 106 foot tall truss bridge over the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek at top. It’s not easy getting the camera into position for a shot of the entire Borden Avenue span, I’ll offer, nor entirely legal to stand where it’s possible to do so. That’s why I was up here just before 8 in the morning on a Sunday, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another shot for which one was risking a fine for is above, depicting a quite active Long Island Railroad Bridge called DB Cabin which is the gatekeeper to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. LIRR facilities in Long Island City go back 1870, and the 1893 vintage DB Cabin is meant to function as a movable swing bridge. When I first showed up on Newtown Creek about fifteen years ago, my pal Bernie Ente told me that he hadn’t seen it open in twenty years, so I guess that makes it thirty five non functioning years now.

DB Cabin connects the Lower Montauk tracks of the LIRR across the water. On the western side of the bridge is the Wheelspur Freight Yard, and on the east it feeds into the Blissville Yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the sort of view normally offered, gathered from the Borden Avenue Bridge.

Having gotten away with my naughty little mission, I headed towards the spot I was meant to meet the NCA crew at over on Skillman Avenue.

Tomorrow, something else, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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.

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