The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for August 12th, 2020

moldering structure

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Let me tell ya, I really seem to freak out the security guards when I whip out the tripod and set up the camera. It’s always surprised me how people react when they see a camera. I once got chased by a group of old ladies here in Astoria, who saw me taking a picture of St. Irene’s church and then logically concluded that I was a terrorist. Luckily they were pretty old, so I lost them after a few blocks. Homeland Security indeed.

In the case of the rather innocent shot above, depicting the former offices of Irving Subway Grate, I got to say “Hi” to somebody providing security services for the UPS shipping center across the street. At this particular time of night, UPS parks a good amount of its truck fleet in the street and on the sidewalk, and he must’ve figured I was screwing around with their illegally parked trucks. My retribution for this interruption of my photography “flow” involved a full 25 minute history of Irving Subway Grate and a more generalized 10 minute lecture about Newtown Creek. I could have hit him with a 25 minute history of the United Parcel Service company and the Teamsters, but decided to be merciful.

Mess with the bull, you get the horns. Mess with Mitch, you get a long ass historical lecture about something you never wanted to know anything about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Empty Corridor is the name I’ve given to the lonely streets you encounter under the 106 foot high steel truss bridge that carries the Long Island Expressway over LIC and Dutch Kills. There’s actually a lot going on down here, but the street scape is bare and unforgiving, hence the cognomen. Any vegetation you might encounter here is self seeded, “weed trees” as we would call it back in the old neighborhood. The street is pockmarked and broken, the sidewalks are shattered, and many times are impassable as businesses just take them over to store equipment or park trucks.

There’s also a smell, best described as “hot food garbage,” that permeates. High above, a constant mechanical tumult rings out, broadcasting vibrations down through the steel and singing a cacophonous din into the auditory realm. What can I tell you, it’s an expressway up there carrying millions of vehicle trips a year to and from Manhattan.

You think that’s going to be quiet?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Montauk Cutoff at the top of the shot above, an abandoned set of Long Island Railroad tracks which connect across Dutch Kills to the Lower Montauk tracks along Newtown Creek on one side, and the Sunnyside Yards on the other. At least, they used to do so, but the connection to Sunnyside Yards has been demolished and the bridge over Dutch Kills is now fenced off and is scheduled for demolition itself.

Several of us at Newtown Creek Alliance have been working on turning the Montauk Cutoff into public space for a while now, but… y’know… MTA.

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, August 10th. 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 here, 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 12, 2020 at 11:00 am

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