The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for December 2021

sweat beaded

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My walk home from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Astoria was governed by proximity to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and the conscious intention followed was to never let it out of my sight. After entering Williamsburg, the theoretically high speed road runs in a trench surrounded by some of the most valuable real estate in New York City. A few decades ago, when I was in High School, this section of Brooklyn was analogous to Batman’s Gotham City – crime wise.

How crimey? Back in the 1980’s, if smoking cocaine was your deal, you’d either be “basing” as in “freebasing” or “doing flake.” A news crew for ABC’s 20/20 show did a feature on a local drug distribution racket in this part of Brooklyn. The gangsters interviewed offered that they called their “flake” by a different name – Crack. That’s literally where the national “crack epidemic” started, on tv, which fueled the “war on drugs” rhetoric and ultimately provided a legal pretense for Police officers to enter schools and search for drugs without warrants. That was also when the militarization of the local cops got started, as well as draconian measures like “three strikes” laws.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scare the shit out of people and they’ll rip up the Constitution for you. Crack, crackheads, war on drugs. Terror, terror wars, homeland security. There’s a play book.

Truth be told, back in the day, this was a pretty dangerous part of Brooklyn. It was one of those zones where my Dad would say “lock the doors” while driving through. The old man was a house painter by trade, and one of his suppliers was based somewhere around here. My Dad and one of his brothers used to work out of a store on Grand Street in the 1970’s, but the familial legend passed to me was that my Uncle lost the business to a Mafioso in a card game. My dad and his brothers would bet on which color car was going to pass the corner next, so that tale holds water for me. The old man got a job working for the “catlicks choich” doing maintenance at a kid’s hospital in the City. Not sure what my Uncle did afterwards, but he drove a Cadillac, whereas my Dad drove a Plymouth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An artifact of that era was encountered on the way, a firebox that has a two way speaker in it, which theoretically connects you to a 911 operator. This sort of device is called an “ERS” or Emergency Response System alarm box. The City began deploying these in the 1970’s, seeking to modernize the older spring wound alarm boxes which – believe it or not – still (as in today) use telegraph wires. ERS boxes are connected to telephone wires, specifically the fairly blackout proof system installed by “Ma Bell” which translates in modern day to the Verizon corporation. The City has been attempting to eliminate alarm boxes utterly since first Giuliani, but court orders have precluded their removal.

Anyway, that’s it for 2021. Back next year with more, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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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

December 31, 2021 at 11:00 am

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grisly claws

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not like this in other cities. Not even Philadelphia. After having ridden on the NYC Ferry from Astoria to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a humble narrator began a long scuttle northwards back towards Queens. One followed the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and used its shadowed under vaults to escape the deleterious brightness of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself. Shadow and filth.

This is a horrific corridor, as a note. Abandoned cars, mystery trucks without license plates, camp sites. Above are legions of fowl, and splattered below is their collective foul. Garbage turns in wind driven vortexes, stagnant pools glimmer with slime, the residue of spent petroleum coats everything in soot. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is figuratively the sort of New York City which Jakob Riis wrote about, where the toll of political corruption is writ large. This is literally the New York City spoken of by Robert Caro, and since 1939 this has been the House of Moses. Robert Moses, that is.

Hey… wait a second… did you notice… I was almost starting to care again. Woah. Glad I caught myself. “Nothing matters and nobody cares… Nothing matters and nobody cares… Nothing matters and nobody cares.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Don’t believe me that “Nothing matters and nobody cares”? Just look at that one above, Bro.

There’s a runoff pipe from the BQE, positioned right over a sewer grate that empties into the East River without ever entering a sewer plant first. It’s packed in with garbage, in one of the few open parking spots, where any random person can park a panel truck without license plates indefinitely. Think that nobody who works for the City or State has spotted this? Worried about “homeland security concerns” the way they would under the FDR Drive? Answer is yes, but it doesn’t matter to them and they don’t actually care.

Hey, do you know who the current President of the Borough of Brooklyn is? Do you suppose this sort of scene matters to him, and whether or not he cares about it? Within the next 48 hours, he’s got a new first name – Mayor.


“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

December 30, 2021 at 11:00 am

feeble pages

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, one needed to get a picture of a NYC Ferry entering the Brooklyn Navy Yard for a freelance gig, and what was described to me as being the ideal image is only possible at sunrise or shortly thereafter. That’s why I boarded a NYC Ferry while it was still dark and headed over to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, from Astoria.

After accomplishing my goal, and let me tell you – meteorology was not on my side for at least nine full days before this particular morning – one decided that “what the hell, might as well walk home.” On my way out of the Navy Yard, I was very much in “lookitthat” mode and couldn’t help but crack out a few shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody I know has a story about getting hassled while waving the camera around at the Navy Yard, but nobody ever bugs me here. I walk with a purpose, and project an aura of rectitude… that’s what I tell myself… but the security people probably just think I’m just some homeless guy who found a camera and is wandering around with it.

My plan for the walk back to Queens was simple. I’d hang a left when leaving the Navy Yard, then a right and another left. That would put me under the BQE, which runs on an elevated truss in this section of Brooklyn, and I’d follow it back through Williamsburg and Greenpoint where I’d cross Newtown Creek on the Kosciuszcko Bridge and enter Queens. A mere stroll, I tell’s ya, a wee walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This isn’t the shot I came to Wallabout Bay for, above, but it gives you an idea of the sort of light my assignment required. The pinks and oranges on the white hulls of the ferry boats were the stage lights I needed to get what I was asked to photograph. There’s a ferry conference next year, and the shot I came for is meant to be the program booklet cover – so no pressure there.

Tomorrow, we make a left, a right, another left, and then head north.


“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

December 29, 2021 at 11:00 am

harmlessly mad

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A client of mine recently asked for a very specific shot, one that would require me to leave HQ in the dead of night and catch the first ferry out of Astoria just as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself began to peek out from behind Nassau and Suffolk counties. Coffee was quaffed, a humble narrator was bathed and soon clad in his black sackcloth, and the camera gear was vouchsafed as ready to deploy. A man up early and on a mission, I was there as that first ferry boat arrived at Hallets Cove, and thusly was it boarded with a jaunty step.

The assignment involved the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the NYC Ferry, specifically to get a shot of the latter entering the former at sunrise. The sunrise deal wasn’t part of the original brief/conversation, but from the description of what they wanted, that’s what they wanted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What? I’m going to get up at 4:30 in the morning for a job and not get a few in for myself, too? Sheesh, who ya talking to here? Yeah, it was chilly up there on the top deck. Kee-reist, why not just stay at home in your warm bed and whine about the winter? If Marcus Aurelius was here, he’d “tsk tsk” at you. Lazy bones. Sleep when you’re dead.

That’s the Roosevelt Island Bridge at the center of the shot, with the Queensboro in the distance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Astoria line NYC Ferry makes a few stops after leaving its former terminal stop nearby the NYCHA Astoria Houses campus at Queens’ Hallets Cove. Former terminal stop, actually, since there’s now a stop on the extremely Upper East Side in Manhattan that supersedes. After the Hallets Cove stop, where I usually board the service, the Ferry goes to Roosevelt Island, LIC North, 34th st. in the City, then Brooklyn Navy Yard, and finally Manhattan’s Pier 11. The ferry ride is a little bit more than a half hour, going from Astoria to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

I’d offer that this is the one thing that the NYC EDC has done right in the last ten years, the ferry. I won’t give credit to De Blasio, as I personally witnessed the plans for it circulating near the end of third Bloomberg. Word has it that the Dope from Park Slope asked for something “ready to go” when he came into office and they handed him the plan which ended up being called “NYC Ferry.”

More tomorrow, from an early morning on the East River.


“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

December 28, 2021 at 1:00 pm

invasive specie

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Monday

– photo by Valerie DeeBee

I’ve mentioned “My Pal Val” more than once here at Newtown Pentacle, and after discussing our recent visit to the Montauk Cutoff in Queens’ Long Island City Section, I invited her to guest blog about it today. The photos are hers, and after this – so are the words. Lords and ladies, meet Valerie DeeBee.

The Montauk Cutoff is truly fascinating to me, but never more so than in autumn, and at Mitch’s suggestion, we journeyed there as sunset was drawing near. An outstanding combination.

The silhouette of the water tanks was actually captured just before we began our ascent. It spoke to me of the time of day we were about to photograph, and seeing those shapes against the lowering sun in the sky made me feel that a wonderful adventure was at hand. It turned out that I would not be disappointed.

– photo by Valerie DeeBee

As we walked the Cutoff, the contrast of the overgrown, abandoned rail with the vibrant skyscrapers in the background caught my eye. Looking as though they occupy almost the same space, they are at the same time worlds away from each other.

– photo by Valerie DeeBee

A little further walk, we arrived at the object of my photographic desire: the flora, and especially the burnished gold trees growing in between and out of the deserted rails. This was what I had come to see and capture, and in so doing, take hold of another contrast: the “dead” rails and the dying trees. The contrast of these objects, their diverse colors, the innate beauty of the multiple layers made the trip a success for me.

– photo by Valerie DeeBee

As darkness would soon be upon us, we didn’t have the opportunity to shoot the various trains that pass nearby. Maybe another time … ?

Sometimes going out camera in hand can yield few – if any – worthwhile images, and upon viewing the day’s work at home, deletions can rule the day. Not so after this trip. The images taken were what I had hoped for and more.


“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

December 27, 2021 at 1:00 pm

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