The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

quickly anyhow

with 2 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 30th of July offered a brief climatological break from the bake of mid summer in NYC, a season which is affectionately referred to as “swamp ass” by we aficionados of the local milieu. Accordingly, one set out for a walk to take advantage of the pleasant atmospherics.

Shortly after leaving HQ, one encountered a fairly traffic free Broadway here in Astoria, which is actually noteworthy in its own right, and the maneuvering of an MTA Q104 line bus. Couldn’t resist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My destination for the evening was Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, and the area surrounding it. This was a Saturday evening, and since I desired solitude and an extended period of time during which I was not involved in conversation with anyone about anything, I went to where no one else would be.

To get from “here” to “there,” the pathway leads through an area known as the Degnon Terminal. The large brick building on the left side of the shot is a prison (different units inside offer varying levels of security, but it’s classified as a minimum security facility by Corrections Dept.) known as the Queensboro Correctional Facility. It opened in 1975, is designed to house 424 inmates, and is found on the corner of Van Dam Street and 47th Avenue. It’s an “intake and processing” center, I’m told, wherein convicted inmates are classified and categorized on the way to whatever upstate hellhole they’re permanently headed to for the duration of their sentences. Except for the barbed wire and constantly swiveling security cameras, you’d barely notice the place as being a jailhouse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Degnon Terminal was constructed in more or less the same time period as the nearby Sunnyside Yards. It offered rail connections, and barge to rail connections at Dutch Kills, and to Pennsylvania Rail Road/Long Island Railroad trackage infrastructure at Sunnyside Yards. Built by a company headed by Michael Degnon, the terminal had its own railroad system – the Degnon Terminal Railway. Said railway ended up being folded into the MTA property portfolio when that agency was created.

I’m told that rail companies seldom allow their unused tracks to be dug out of the ground as they’d never be able to reacquire the precious “right of way.” Even if the tracks haven’t been used in 50 years, they still pay tax on it to the Federal rail authorities to maintain the right of way. You see these relict tracks everywhere in this area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The buildings which composed the Degnon Terminal, despite long 20th century decades of degeneracy, have been coming back to life in recent years. The elimination of hundreds of square acres of industrial space in the name of “affordable housing” in recent decades has reversed a trend that began shortly after the Second World War which saw heavy industrial or “M1” zoned space devalued because there was so much of it laying fallow and empty. Rezonings in East New York, South Brooklyn, Greenpoint, and even here in Long Island City have allowed for the razing of the old factories and for their replacement with tower apartment buildings.

The operative period for the creation of Sunnsyide Yards and the Degnon Terminal developments is during the first 20-30 years of the 20th century. That’s also when the United States Army Corps of Engineers oversaw the canalization of Newtown Creek’s tributaries, and land reclamation efforts that eliminated their wetlands, into what we see today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Dutch Kills, here I am at 29th street again. The red, white, and blue self storage warehouse – and the television studio next door – used to be the factory HQ of an outfit that called itself “U.S. Cranes.” You can guess what their line of business was, I imagine.

Both the TV Studio and the Storage warehouse are situated on a pier, which sits on stout concrete and steel columns driven down into the Newtown Creek mud. Tracks of the Degnon Terminal Railway are visible on 29th street, which is technically classified as a “railroad access road” and MTA property – which is why MTA is holding the modern bag for the collapsing bulkhead along Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like a vampire, I need to be invited in before I do my work. This is the standard line I offer if I’m ever accused of illegal trespassing. After that press conference I told you about a couple of weeks backs, I’ve actually got a handshake agreement regarding one of those invitations I require.

I mention this in advance of what I’m going to show you over the next couple of posts, so stay tuned.

“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

August 22, 2022 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Very interesting post. Thank you.

    Daniel Katzive

    August 22, 2022 at 4:51 pm

  2. Interesting information!

    The Queensboro Correctional Facility. “The six-story, stately brick building was built in the early-1930s as a YMCA … In the 1950s it was converted to a warehouse for a New York City electrical supply business … In 1968 […] the warehouse was acquired by the state as a Community Rehabilitation Center …”

    “the television studio next door” Thank you for making me look up Broadway Stages. Interesting! I wonder if their building in your photo is pictured here in Queens:

    “so stay tuned” 🙂


    August 22, 2022 at 9:12 pm

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