The Newtown Pentacle

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Empty Corridor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Were it not for political maneuvering and the inertia for which a certain NYS authority whose mandate involves metropolitan transit is famous for, you’d have some open space in Long Island City to visit during this interminable quarantine, namely the Montauk Cutoff. The cyclopean wall on the left hand side of the shot above supports a set of abandoned railroad tracks which several of my chums and I have been trying to turn into a public space for years at this point. Ennui abounds.

One found his way down here last week, to an area of LIC which I often refer to as “the empty corridor.” When the Long Island Expressway and the Queens Midtown Tunnel were installed here, eight decades of blight began. Devil’s advocate, though, says that the chemical and pharmaceutical factories, as well as the lead foundry and varnish plant which the LIE displaced weren’t exactly “not blight” but at least there were a lot of people with jobs hereabouts as opposed to a lot of people driving back and forth to office jobs in Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Empty Corridor is pure and utilitarian. Not a single thought was given to anything natural or “normal.” Anything green growing here is due to shrinking maintenance budgets on behalf of City and State authorities. It’s been decades since they sprayed herbicide, or sent in teams of arborists to clear cut the self seeded trees. Rodents walk around freely here, much to the joy of the residents of a nearby feral cat colony.

Illegal dumping is art. The streets are broken pavement, shattered automotive glass collects along the crushed curbs like rainwater, the air smells of burning wire insulation and automotive exhaust. The buzzing sound of failing electrical transformers echoes out from the manholes, infrequent local traffic rockets past at incredible speed, and half of the street lights are burned out.

I love it so.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When this whole “social distancing” thing started up, I thought of this particular scene and place.

The immense street level loneliness of places like the Empty Corridor belie their actuality. Whereas in my mind, I was totally alone with my personal biome, in reality I was surrounded by crowds of people. The Long Island Expressway is descending into the Queens Midtown Tunnel at the left of the shot, and just beyond the tunnel is the population center of Long Island City at Hunters Point. On the right is the New York City Housing Authority Warehouse, and most of the street parking is occupied by their fleet of trucks. Biome wise, therefore, there’s probably a couple million people’s worth of cooties floating around in the air down here, or they’re stuck to some greasy smear.

I’m going to get the Montauk Cutoff done, as we need some more open space. Or, at least I’m going to reduce the number of streets in Western Queens without sidewalks. There’s no sidewalk on the left side of the street in the shot above, for instance.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 25th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.

“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 for $30.

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