The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

he screams

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Kosciuszcko Bridge, crossing my beloved Newtown Creek, pictured above. One had scuttled here from the Brooklyn Navy Yard along Meeker Avenue, and since my trick left foot was acting up, I decided that this would be an excellent place to chill out for a bit. As mentioned yesterday, a bathroom break was also required. There’s usually an unlocked Porta Potty down here, so that was my first destination in and area I call DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp (the Porta Potty was a great experience, I gave it a three out of four stars Yelp review).

I set up the camera on the tripod and got busy, afterwards. Of course, I could have gotten away with just doing hand held shots here, as it wasn’t even close to noon o’clock yet. Saying that, I wanted to “slow things down” a bit and attached a filter to my lens to cut down on the amount of light entering it. Smooth out some of the distracting texture and reflection in the water, all that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One finds its fascinating, actually. When you’ve got the shutter open for 10-30 seconds, you can begin to visualize the currents in the water column. See how, and where, the flow goes, y’know’s?

My pals at Newtown Creek Alliance shake their heads “no” at me when I describe my desire to release hundreds of thousands of rubber duckies into Newtown Creek, just to see where they go and illustrate how the currents work. Something about “micro plastic” and illegal dumping pretty much describes their objections. They also don’t like my plan to seed pumpkins and or carnivorous plants into the shorelines in Maspeth. No fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You’ll notice structures like the one pictured above all over the harbor, and their purpose is to provide protection for shoreline features from passing maritime traffic. Called “dolphins,” they’re generally a bunch of wooden piles held together with galvanized steel rope. This is one of the ones which protect the piers of the Kosciuszcko Bridge, but it’s obviously associated with the 1939 version, rather than the newer one that’s currently extant.

The wood is likely creosote treated, which is why it hasn’t rotted away. Creosote is a chemical treatment for wood – usually coal tar creosote or petroleum creosote in a setting like this- which involves placing wood in a vacuum chamber to rid it of any water in the wood’s cellular matrix and then after introducing the creosote into the chamber, reversing the pressure to several atmospheres to force the creosote into the wood’s cellular lattice. This effectively makes the wood a hostile environment for micro and macro organisms. This process is used for railroad sleeper ties, dolphins, piers, utility poles and a host of other applications. Creosote is also a major component of a substance sold as a food flavoring additive called “Liquid Smoke.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on the Queens side of my beloved Newtown Creek, that’s the former site of the Penny Bridge. It’s also formerly a Long Island Railroad Lower Montauk line station called “Penny Bridge.”

Just to recap my day to this point, I left HQ in Astoria at about 4:30 in the morning and made it over to the NYC Ferry dock at Hallets Cove. From there, I captured shots for a photo assignment at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and then walked along and under the BQE through Brooklyn to this spot at Newtown Creek. The shot above was captured at about 10:30 in the morning on November the 21st, so I’d been “at it” for quite a while at this point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’d ingested a meal along the way, a standard NYC egg sandwich and a container of orange juice which I grabbed at some deli in Williamsburg. Saying that, I had become fairly dehydrated by this point and was regretting my normal prohibition against carrying bottles of fluid. This habit of mine, which is prosaic as I’m literally carrying high capacity batteries and electronic devices all around my person, has bit me in the ass several times recently. Have to work out a way to get around my physical needs, I always think.

Between my sweatshirt – which hosts 22 distinct and secure pockets – my usual pants – which have 13 pockets – and the filthy black overcoat with its two pockets, and the ubiquitous camera bag(s) – I’ve got to figure out some spot where I can secret away a pint of water. Of course, then you have to pee again, so it’s a recursive feedback loop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I made one more stop after this, and then abandoned the entire idea of walking the rest of the way home due to the operatic condition offered by the trick left foot which I’ve been complaining about for what feels like years now. Internal dialogue wise, I refer to my feet as “the roadway interface” and having a full 50% of this apparatus malfunctioning has become a bit more than an annoyance. It’s slowing a humble narrator down, damnit.

More tomorrow.

“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

January 4, 2022 at 1:00 pm

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