The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

chittering scavenger

with 2 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is colossally bored, and wandering around the Newtown Creek is basically all I’ve got these days. Recent endeavor found a humble narrator on the Queens side of DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. The difference between the two fencelines in the shot above is profound, with the chain link section rooted in the Blissville section of Long Island City and the iron fence planted firmly in the soil of Maspeth. Once upon a time, this was a municipal border, rather than a bit of geographic trivia.

When Robert Moses built a bridge, or highway viaduct, he often did so along these sorts of borders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bob Moses 1939 version Kosciuszcko Bridge went bye bye in 2017, of course, and that’s the spanking new Andy Cuomo 21st century style one pictured above, from a bit further back along the Newtown Creek than I usually show you. I got to meet the security guy at Restaurant Depot just prior to this shot being captured, and I can tell you he was a heck of a nice guy once we established that I wasn’t a graffiti artist, skateboarder, or illegal street racing enthusiast. Unique set of problems this particular fellow has in his daily round, thought I. Also, the sound of generators was omnipresent, since this is one of the sections of western Queens which lost power entirely after that recent storm. The air was vibrating.

This section of the Newtown Creek – east of DUKBO, south of the Maspeth Creek tributary, and west of the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road – is called the “Turning Basin.” It’s an intentionally wide and fairly deep area that allows shipping to reverse course.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Turning Basin is far and away the most chemically contaminated section of the waterway, if degree matters when discussing Newtown Creek. The black mayonnaise – which is the goo found at the bottom – is a devils brew compound of coal tar, petroleum, organocoppers, and a whole lot more. This is where the amount of time for “benthic survival,” as the environmental professionals would call a fishie’s chances of making it from one side to the other alive, is surprisingly narrow. A copper refinery and a manufactured gas plant, an enameling factory and an oil refinery, fertilizer mills and rendering plants, a night soil dock. That pretty much describes the Turning Basin shorelines of about a century ago. They all were pretty sloppy with the industrial waste, and there’s a lot of that Black Mayonnaise down there.

The oil guys, the gas guys, and the copper guys are all on the hook here with the Feds to clean the Turning Basin. They have to scoop out the yuck, and cap what’s left over to keep whatever they missed sequestered away. The argument right now is about how deep a depth they will need to dredge to. The deeper you go, the more money gets put into the water.

Personally, I won’t be happy until they’re bringing up arrowheads and tomahawks.

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 14, 2020 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Fences make good neighbors.

    PS I love Restaurant Depot. Great place to wander about in. You ever go into Win Depot off of Northern?

    georgetheatheist . . . don't fence me in

    August 14, 2020 at 11:46 am

    • I have, made one of the best purchases I ever made there – custom made stainless steel countertop on wheels. It’s been with me in two counter space poor Astoria apartments so far.

      Mitch Waxman

      August 14, 2020 at 12:01 pm

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