The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

plumbed descent

with 3 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling, always scuttling. Camera in hand, filthy black raincoat flapping about in the poison wind, sometimes the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself hangs pregnantly in the vault of the sky.

I knew this was going to be kind of a long day for me, so my first steps involved using the Subway to cut a bit of walking off of the trip. The R carried me east to Jackson Heights, where a transfer to the 7 was enacted and one proceeded westward. My ultimate destination was the same place where every other bit of wind blown garbage goes – Newtown Creek. Specifically, the Dutch Kills tributary of the larger waterway found in Long Island City. One exited the Subway system at the Hunters Point Avenue stop and got busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My first stop was to check in on the collapsing bulkhead along 29th street. Said collapse is causing the underpinnings of the adjoining roadway, the aforementioned 29th street, to empty out into the waterway. This is called undermining.

So far, my pals at Newtown Creek Alliance and I have managed to activate every single elected official in western Queens, from Borough President to dog catcher, about this issue. Interested in reading the actual signed letter we sent to Janno Lieber at MTA about the bulkhead? Click here for a Google docs link.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The odyssey since has involved a bunch of lawyers and an admission from MTA that this is, indeed, their property. No tangible or material progress has manifested itself yet, because the lawyers are still lawyering, and luckily the street hasn’t collapsed in on itself while we’re waiting for them to finish all that stuff up. Yet.

Nothing matters, and nobody cares.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My “artsy fartsy” section of the day could commence, after having captured reference shots of the bulkhead to show to the various entities who might own it or have a regulatory stake in it, one headed over to the Montauk Cutoff. It was, after all, nearly time for sunset.

I’m not one of those photographers who only shoot during sunrise or sunset, but if the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is about to paint the sky with color, and you’re already out…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Cabin M, the “abandoned” railroad drawbridge which is part of the Degnon Terminal Railway – aka the LIRR’s Montauk Cutoff – a similarly “abandoned” rail spur that used to connect Long Island Railroad’s Lower Montauk tracks along Newtown Creek to the nearby Sunnyside Yards, and the LIRR Main Line leading to Woodside and Jamaica. The reason MTA owns that bulkhead on 29th street is due to the bankruptcy of the national Penn Central Railroad company, which by the 1960’s owned LIRR and all the other private rail spurs in Long Island City. Richard Nixon nationalized the assets of Penn Central, with its passenger service becoming Amtrak and its freight business becoming Conrail, and their intra city or commuter rail operation was given to the states. Philadelphia created SEPTA, Massachusetts established the MBTA, and here in New York – Governor Nelson Rockefeller created the MTA. Rockefeller combined the bankrupt New York City Transit Authority’s Subway and Bus operations, as well as the profitable bridges and tunnels which he stole away from Robert Moses, into what he dubbed as the “MTA.”

Believe it or not – the paragraph above is a quick summary. I did a video about Sunnyside Yards a few years ago that discusses this complicated saga in some detail – click here for a YouTube link.

Cabin M, like the 29th street bulkhead, is infrastructure which MTA didn’t design or build but they’re responsible for maintaining it – maybe. Like I said, lawyers are lawyering.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s DB Cabin, a swing bridge which sits at the mouth of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. Before you ask, “Cabin” is railroad talk, I don’t know. The bridge connects two Lower Montauk track rail yards – Wheelspur and Blissville. Best date I’ve been able to find for it being built was 1919, but this structure replaced earlier ones. There’s been railroad tracks in this zone since at least the late 1860’s. Definitively, the date for rail in this zone – connecting Jamaica to the east with the industrial heartlands of Newtown Creek in Maspeth, Bushwick, and Ridgewood to the East River in the west is 1870.

Back next week with more, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

The Newtown Creekathon returns!

On April 10th, the all day death march around Newtown Creek awakens from its pandemic slumber.

DOOM! DOOM! Fully narrated by Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of Newtown Creek Alliance, this one starts in LIC at the East River, heads through Blissville, the happy place of Industrial Maspeth, dips a toe in Ridgewood and then plunges desperately into Brooklyn. East Williamsburgh and then Greenpoint are visited and a desperate trek to the East River in Brooklyn commences. DOOM! Click here for more information and to reserve a spot – but seriously – what’s wrong with you that you’re actually considering doing this? DOOM!

“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

March 25, 2022 at 11:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. Very interesting, thank you! Your pic of the elevated highway section is interesting, too. Not being a structural engineer I wonder at the variety of choices the designers made for the vertical supporting structures and horizontal supporting beams.


    March 25, 2022 at 9:13 pm

  2. […] Bone,” 2022’s “wide scattering,” “expiring orb,” “harmless stupidity,” “plumbed descent,” “yellow rays,” “crawl proudly,” “nemesis mirror,” “ugly trifles,” “torture […]

  3. […] “hellish hours” detailed one of my frequent visits to Sunnyside Yards, “somnolent stillness” went to Flushing, “laminar dissection” is from Industrial Maspeth, and the less viewed sections of Dutch Kills were recorded in “plumbed descent.” […]

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