The Newtown Pentacle

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bearded stranger

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Long shadows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found one sheltering from a passing band of precipitation over on the normally sunnier side of the neighborhood, and once the atmospheric wave had passed through a humble narrator began kicking his heels around in pursuance of returning to HQ. My northward path was a familiar one, as was the pensive and self reflective mood I was in. The odor of a not unpleasant smelling strain of marijuana which those two teenagers crossing the street above were smoking mingled with the musty smells of a wet and cold evening. The trees and gardens of Sunnyside Gardens added to the bouquet, as did the wet but creosoted wood of the railroad tracks and the oily street. I can capture audio and images, but I’ve got no methodology for transmitting the experience or quality of “smell,” other than describing it with words.

Is smell the new technological frontier, I wonder? Just imagine if I could deliver the smell of Newtown Creek or its tributaries, after a thunderstorm, to your inbox.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The forgotten sense, smell is. Humans are essentially audio visual beasts, I suppose, which is why there’s so much technology available out there that allows us to transmit what we see and hear. Personally, when the olfactory region isn’t too clogged up by seasonal allergies, I like to take a ripping “shnort” of the ambient. There’s a whole memory center associated with smell that’s almost never accessed. I can imagine something I’ve seen in the past, conjure up a sound or series of sounds, but can’t seem to tell my brain that I’d like to imagine the smell of toast or whatever.

Funny that, ain’t it? Life’s rich pageant and all this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scene above was encountered nearby Northern Blvd., and I can offer two possible explanations for it. One is that somebody was making a meal of a watermelon and drinking water from a red plastic cup when they were raptured.

The other is that the foul serial killer whom I have named as the “Queens Cobbler” has returned to the neighborhood and is leaving behind their gruesome trophies as a taunt to community and the Gendarmes alike.


“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

May 3, 2019 at 1:00 pm

helpless resignation

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Getting to Flushing Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the mouth of a waterway, or so I’m told, which is called Flushing Creek. As a note, I’m not going to be going all “history boy” on Flushing for a bit. The reasoning behind that particular statement involves not wanting to kill the fun of discovery for me, as I’m willfully coming at this waterway “cold.” Haven’t read up on it, talked to the locals in any sort of detailed fashion, pored through dusty old books, or even hit the Wikipedia page for it. This stance is assumed in the name of not having any preconceptions regarding the place, and is an attempt to preserve some sort of joy before getting all “heavy” with the researched facts and details that I inevitably will get curious enough to learn. At the moment, I’m rolling on “vibe.” Like most of the water found on the forbidden northern coast of Queens, Flushing Creek requires you to display some level of “intent” to consciously reach it.

There’s a point of pedestrian access, however, which I stumbled across.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing through an open gate under the Northern Blvd. bridge, there’s a well worn footpath which allows some access to the sandy beach and grassy marsh shoreline. The first thing encountered down there, between the highways and overpasses, was a singular shoe. It would seem that the Queens Cobbler has also felt a bit of wanderlust during the winter months of 2019, and got here first.

Previous conversations with (the few) people I know that live in Flushing indicate that there is zero access to the shorelines, which is something that I can now report isn’t true. Zero “official” access is more accurate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the shoreline found alongside the Van Wyck and its off ramps, and between Northern Blvd. and Roosevelt Avenue. As mentioned above, there was a pretty well worn footpath down here. There was also evidence of habitation at various points along the footpath, including a shredded hammock and other bedding. Under the highway ramps, there were coolers and other indications that somebody was living down here. I did spot some fellow sleeping one off with his back up against the highway retaining wall, but I got the sense that he was just enjoying an afternoon siesta. I’ve been told about insalubrious gatherings occurring down here which I definitely don’t want to be a part of, but that’s just rumor for me at this particular moment so… pfahh.

More tomorrow. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2019 at 1:30 pm

to escape

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Rabbit Holes!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was scuttling along Jackson Avenue in Hunters Point recently, and this MTA (unit 559) Street Sweeper caught my eye. Built onto a GMC 5500 HD frame, this vehicle is technically a Stewart Amos Equipment Company Mechanical Broom Street Sweeper. The invention of the first mechanical street sweeper, recorded as such, dates back to the 1840’s in Manchester, England by a notable fellow named James Whitworth. It was a horse drawn affair, with rotating brushes actuated by road wheels. A similar device was patented in the United States, in 1849, by a fellow named C.S. Bishop. Variations of theme and function saw hundreds of patents filed for this sort of technology but things settled down when the Elgin Sweeper Company and James Murphy were granted a patent in 1917. The basic form and function of street sweepers has evolved since, but the underlying technological and engineering systems of  what you see above comes from inventor and developer James Murphy. According to environmental officialdom, the best thing that you can do as far as the health of nearby waterways is to have a robust street sweeping schedule. Also, it’s MTA Bridge and Tunnels unit operated, as you can tell from its service dress and branding. The “A” in MTA is for “adventure,” I would remind.

Rabbit hole number one, accomplished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of MTA Bridge and Tunnels, their pals at the New York State Department of Transportation are in charge of the Long Island Expressway, which feeds some thirty million vehicle trips a year into the Queens Midtown Tunnel where that street sweeper in the first shot is no doubt employed. Greenpoint Avenue is carried over the L.I.E. by a pedestrian and vehicle bridge, and that’s where the latest trophy of the Queens Cobbler (probable) serial killer was recently discovered.

This time around, it was a size 10 Nike brand high top sneaker. Nike was founded in Oregon in 1964 by two guys, originally called Blue Ribbon Sports. They rebranded with the current name and swoosh logo in 1971, and these days Nike has 74,000 global employees and the company is valued at nearly $35 billion buckaroos. Rabbit hole two, folks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is no greater joy than finding yourself alongside that fabulous cataract of maritime industrial splendor which the happy children of Brooklyn and Queens call the “Newtown Creek” when it’s just started raining. Is it the smell of camphor and burning electrical insulation, the way that the raindrops impact the powderized glass sand on the asphalt, or the rust colored water that flows from the waste transfer stations? I love it all.

What you’re looking at up there is the theoretical street end of North Henry Street at the Unnamed Canal tributary basin of the Newtown Creek, looking north towards Queens. North Henry used to connect to the street grid of Greenpoint prior to the modernization of the sewer plant, but what I’ve always wondered about is the significance of it being called “North Henry Street.” Regular Henry Street runs from “Downtown Brooklyn” in the DUMBO zone all the way down to the Henry Street Basin in Gowanus Bay. North Henry goes from Newtown Creek, through the sewer plant (they’ve still got street signs in there), and east(ish) to Richardson Street on the Bushwick side of Greenpoint near St. Cecilia’s on the south side of Meeker Avenue. What’s the occulted connection between the North and Regular Henry Streets?

Rabbit hole, third.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

abstract malingering

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A sudden explosion of cast off gloves, observed, makes one wonder if the Queens Cobbler has been joined by a new fiend whom I’ve been referring to as the “Queens Gaunter.” The name “Gaunter” is derived from a fairly archaic English, incidentally, and it’s from the same root of the word which “Gauntlet” comes from. In the Industrial Age, the name of the profession became the rather plain “glove maker” in the case of male oriented hand coverings, whereas lady gloves were prepared by milliners. That’s a work glove pictured above, which is unisex, and it was found in Maspeth. Perhaps the “Maspeth Milliner” rather than “Queens Gaunter,” with the latter having a bit more of a salubrious “roll off the tongue” should be used for this recently discovered companion to the Queens Cobbler? You can record your preferences in the comments, Queensicans.

One doubts that this red handed glove is in anyway related to the Ulster based “Red Hand Commandos” of West Belfast, incidentally, but you never know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down at my beloved Newtown Creek the other day, one grew fascinated by these derelict piles along the former Phelps Dodge property’s waterfront. One whipped out the tripod, lowered the camera’s ISO and narrowed the lens’s aperture to its absolute in pursuance of “slowing the shot down.” This is the exact moment when I decided that I have to buy an ND filter next time I’m at “beards and hats” over in the city, incidentally. I really, really wanted to turn the water into a milky smear with perfectly glassine reflectivity here.

These piles supported a heavy pier which had rail tracks on it, once. Most of the property which Phelps Dodge used to operate on is fill. There’s a congressional act, whose name escapes me at this writing, which allows for corporate entities to buy underwater property along industrial waterways like Newtown Creek as long as they “improve” it by filling it in. This process was usually accomplished by building heavy timber box frames that were then submerged and loaded up with whatever material the industrial concern wished to use. In the case of Phelps, it was industrial slag from their copper refining operation mixed with rock and soil.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Industrial Maspeth, which one has repeatedly described as being his “happy place,” seldom disappoints the wandering mendicant and itinerant shutterbug. Encountered at the Kosciuszcko Bridge construction site, this array of spent coffee cups embedded in the chain link of a hurricane fence entranced me.

Next week, I’ll update y’all on the progress that the NYS DOT is making on phase 2 of the bridge project, so there’s something to live for.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

blind courage

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Luggage, shoe, gloves – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since I am a vast physical coward, and feckless quisling, the normalized habit of a humble narrator is to avoid the horror of meeting another’s gaze by staring down at the pavement while scuttling along his path. This helps one pretend that others are not pointing, laughing, or otherwise reacting in shocked horror as he waxes and wanes through their visual field. The plus is that I seldom miss the discarded items which others strew across the public way. Most modern New Yorkers seem to leave a debris field of manufactured items behind in their wake, much like a torpedo stricken merchant ship would as it steams inexorably forward into the open sea with a crew of dead and dying men onboard.

The suitcase pictured above… what redolent cargo might it have hidden? The fetus of an albino Gorilla? A fortune in narcotics? A few pairs of dirty socks and a t-shirt? Never will I know, having been too wracked with terror to investigate any further than by recording its presence photographically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On 31st Avenue at Crescent Street in Astoria, just a few days after encountering the portentous luggage, evidence of the latest outrage by the Queens Cobbler was observed. A likely serial killer whose ghoulish delight is leaving behind a singular shoe as a taunt to law enforcement and wholesome community members alike, the Queens Cobbler has been mentioned many times at this – your Newtown Pentacle. Last Christmas, the monster signaled that he or she knew where my home address was – as described in this post. This isn’t the first time that I’ve found a child’s shoe, as a note.

I fear you no more than every other living human being, Cobbler, which is absolutely and completely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough, I’ve been seeing a lot of gloves lately, positioned neatly on the sidewalks upon which they were evulsed.

You don’t suppose that there’s a Queens Gaunter running about as well?


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 31, 2018 at 11:00 am

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