The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for July 14th, 2022

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

…Staten Island… sits at the risible edge of the known universe. An event horizon congeals just beyond its western shore. Here – you are existent upon the archipelago, found at the heart of the East Coast Megalopolis, which is known as New York City. On the other side of this existential barrier, which is mercifully demarcated by the waters of the Arthur Kill, is found the continent – and America.

Fresh Kills used to be the largest manmade object on the planet, but I think Three Gorges Dam in China wears that crown now. From 1948 to 2001, this was where the archipelago metropolis buried its waste. When you see pipes sticking up out of the ground here, it’s to vent off the methane gas produced by the decaying firmament below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Much of the vegetation that grows here is self seeded, I’m told. The Parks Dept. people have – of course – been guiding the evolution of the place with specific plantings and earthworks. There’s roads, for instance, and wetlands. The roads we were driving on were gravel.

The last time I was at Fresh Kills – described in these 2014 posts: old garden, grassy bank, and shewing much – the procedure saw us leave the private cars outside of the park’s borders in a lot, and then we moved around the place in a Parks Dept. Van. This time around, because of Covid, the private cars were allowed inside the border and we followed the Parks employees from place to place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That power plant on the horizon is in New Jersey, which is found across the Arthur Kill. In 2019, I got to ride along Arthur Kill with the United States Army Corps of Engineers on one of their harbor inspection operations, as detailed in this post – magnitude of. The fourth image in that post, depicting a tugboat in front of a grassy mound, imparts an idea of how high an elevation Fresh Kills offers. The shot above is more or less captured from that area.

The section of New Jersey that’s found along the Arthur Kill is the part of I-95 where you roll your car windows up when you’re driving through, due to all of the petroleum processing plants there and their stink. It’s colloquially known as “The Chemical Coast.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All told, we had about 90 minutes to get busy up here with the cameras. There were probably about 10-12 of us, all photographers. As is the case with people who obsess about cameras, there was very little in the way of conversation while the light was good. Everybody was a “clickin and a whirring” with their gizmos.

The Department of Sanitation still maintains some operations here, as a note. The reason that there are hills and valleys is due to how they historically tipped out municipal garbage. When Parks entered the mix back in 2001, layers of clay and composted soil were brought in which began the process of creating the modern day landscape at Fresh Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Kill” is Old Dutch for “creek,” which is why you see it all over the maps of NYC’s waterways. They used to call Newtown Creek “Mispat Kill,” for instance, and the naming convention stuck into the English speaking period with English Kills and Dutch Kills. Staten Island has Arthur Kill and Kill Van Kull and Fresh Kills.

In the distance, that’s the newly constructed Goethals Bridge over Arthur Kill. Just beyond it is a railroad bridge, which connects the NY Container Terminal at Port Ivory to Port Elizabeth’s Liberty Line tracks in Bayonne nearby Newark Airport.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Parks people designed the 90 minute excursion to give us roughly 20-30 minutes each at three locations. That gave me time to pull off some “fancy pants” shots with tripod and filters.

More tomorrow.

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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

July 14, 2022 at 11:00 am

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