The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for July 13th, 2021

baffling region

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

About a hundred and change years ago, roughly a hundred horses a day would die of exhaustion and overwork somewhere in the greater NYC area every single day. Common practice was to just abandon the corpse on the street, and an entire industrial sector operated around the collection and disposal of the beasts. Van Iderstine’s in Long Island City and other rendering operations happily accepted the bodies, and they’d melt them down into tallow. The hides, hooves, and bones had other destinations. Leather manufacturers, Neet Oil distilleries, and fertilizer mills took those parts.

What about the horse poop, you ask? If you’ve got a predictable bunch of dead horses turning up every day, imagine how many living ones there were spraying fecal matter onto the streets? Well, the Long Island Railroad had a manure dock at Newtown Creek where the collected “stuff” would be piled up, but there were lots of takers for the brown gold. Fertilizer mills, remember? I’ll bet our grandfathers and great grandfathers would have killed for a piece of construction equipment like the one pictured above, spotted on Astoria’s Broadway, back then.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunnyside Yards is always in focus here at the Newtown Pentacle. HQ is just a few blocks away from the 183 square acre 1909 vintage property, and I’ve got an inventory of holes in the fences through which I can focus the camera. Given that I end up crossing this area at least once every couple of days, I use those fence holes a lot.

That’s an Amtrak train which is coming off of the turnaround track at the eastern edge of the rail complex. That eastern edge is along 43rd street, and this shot was gathered on the Harold Avenue Truss Bridge, or 39th street as the dross commoners of Queens might call it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I happen to quite enjoy the company of those dross commoners, as a note. If you’re involved with all the high fallutin crap I am, one of the things that’s easy to lose is perspective. You forget that the things you’re fighting for and about are barely on anyone else’s radar. You spend your time battling with people who are flying some activist flag, or want to demolish your neighborhood in the name of “insert today’s cause here,” and that have long lost any track of a reality beyond their own. As I like to remind myself, these are people who eat pizza with a knife and fork, who have never been punched in the nose. You end up becoming as alienated as they are from reality when arguing with them. What’s the quote – when you fight monsters, be wary of becoming one your self – or something? I dunno, think that was in a book or whatever.

The shot above is from Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside. It was an unbelievably hot and humid evening when this was captured, and I was taking advantage of the shade offered by the elevated tracks of the 7 line to try and cool off. Seriously, my fingers were sweating and I had to keep on wiping my hands on my shorts to handle the camera. Yuck.


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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

July 13, 2021 at 11:30 am

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