The Newtown Pentacle

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dark figures

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If only I could be laconic, if.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday last, I conducted a tour for the NY Transit Museum onboard an NYC Ferry. The narrative was governed by the history of ferries in NYC, with a general historical overlay of the East River corridor. There’s a lot of information to pass on, and I will admit that it’s a bit of struggle to fit it all in. The tour left from Pier 11 in Manhattan, and we debarked the boat in LIC. Given that it’s a transit museum group, the last third of the tour focuses in on the former ferry services of the Long Island Railroad offered out of Hunters Point and then I take the group a few blocks into LIC. I can usually produce a LIRR engine sitting on a sidetrack thereabouts, and there’s always the Sunnyside Yards to talk about as well.

It was really, really cold for April last Sunday, in the 30’s when I left HQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the second time I’ve narrated this particular tour, and hopefully will be presenting it again in the near future. Saying that, now that it’s been spoken aloud a few times, I’ve got some rewriting to do in the name of brevity and clarity. It’s so easy to bog down in historical minutia when discussing the East River, you have to be careful when narrating lest you lose the audience’s attention in a swirl of details. I never structure what I’m going to say as a dry recitation of facts and dates, which is the worst possible way to relate historical data, in my view. It’s a story, so tell it like a story, with a beginning/middle/end.

The cool thing about the Transit Museum is that they outfit me with a little closed circuit radio microphone and all the tour participants get these little radio headsets, so I don’t need to yell the whole time. That took a bit of adjustment time for me, as I’m used to using a booming voice and certain style of pronunciation on tours. Speaking into a mike is more a “radio  situation” where you want to get all mellifluous in terms of vocalizations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suffice to say that shortly after the Civil War there were as many as 21 seperate “official” ferry lines crossing back and forth between Brooklyn and Queens and Manhattan. Like a lot of 19th century industries, a politically connected monopoly emerged out of a company founded by Livingstone and Fulton which made regulation and inspection by Government officialdom go away, creating a lassez faire system whose excesses eventually led to the General Slocum disaster in 1915 1904 which made the idea of getting on a ferry rather unpalatable to early 20th century New Yorkers in the same way that entering a giant office building in the years following 9/11 was an unsettling experience. The Coast Guard was put in charge of safety matters, and they began to enforce strict safety regulations and practices on the ferry industry.

Then came Robert Moses…


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – 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.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

fearsome combination

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It’s been a busy couple of weeks, I tell ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been preternaturally busy for the last couple of weeks, with lots to do and all sorts of people to see. Unfortunately, couple that with the unpredictable sort of weather NYC has been throwing at us all, and a humble narrator has been playing a lot of photographic catch up. Before you ask, it’s mainly been a schedule of evening and weekend meetings that I’ve had to be present at, pertaining to issues affecting Western Queens that I’m interested in or involved with.

I’ve been obliged to annoy politicians and policemen, priests and potentates, and various members of both the proletarian and plebeian classes recently.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One never wants to be one of those people who is involved with “everything,” rather there’s just three or four causes which I’m instead laser focused in on. You’ve got your Newtown Creek, your mass transit, your “No, Mr. Mayor, we don’t want you to deck over the Sunnyside Yards,” and of late – the horrible tale of what NYC is trying to do to Blissville.

The shot above was captured in Roosevelt not too long ago, while waiting to attend a meeting to discuss transit. The puppy was cute and a bouncing ball of husky energy, but the items it was reacting to were a roadside memorial for a teenager who was struck and killed by a hit and run driver.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Flurries of activity wherein I have to act like a “reg’lar hooman” such as these involve a lot of traveling about the great urban hive. Part of the reason that I have become so interested in transit issues in recent years involves the fact that whereas I don’t have a regular commute, I actually have to figure out the different connections and routings for getting to and from unfamiliar locales from Astoria on a routine basis. A realization about MTA’s core issue thusly emerged.

MTA was formed by New York State to consolidate multiple bankrupt light commuter railroads and bus services into a government run entity about fifty years ago. In that time, MTA has sought to maintain and preserve these inefficient and money losing operations more or less in the exact state and manner as private capital failed to do prior to the “nationalization.” The IND and IRT systems which make up the Subway system are still treated as two seperate entities, as if these were still the days of the dual contracts. There is no plan, moving forward, to find ways to combine the system or find savings from the concurrence. It gets worse when you look at Metro North and Long Island Railroad.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – 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.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 2, 2018 at 1:00 pm

uneasy peace

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Happy Easter, Passover, whatever you’re into.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A single bunny greets you on this Good Friday, which for a humble narrator is merely a so-so Friday. Enjoy your holidays, lords and ladies, see you Monday.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – 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.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 30, 2018 at 1:51 pm

assured by

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Critters I’ve met over the years… they all hated me, even the dead one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in 2010, I scared the hell out of this rat in an Industrial Maspeth warehouse by setting off a camera flash. It said “Eep.” Then, it scurried behind a giant bale of cardboard just as the place returned to near darkness. The next time my flash went off, the rat was back, with a bunch of his pals. I skeddaddled, you can’t mess around with a squad of rats in the dark and expect to come home without some lasting physical or psychic scar tissue.

You don’t fool around in Industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In 2016, this skeletonized cat was encountered up on the Montauk Cutoff railroad tracks. In recent years the number of carcasses I’ve been spotting along the streets has noticeably diminished. I’d estimate 2011 as being the recent high water mark for encountering “dead things” on the streets of Brooklyn and Queens. Lots of pigeons, and other birds too. Scores of what we’d call “flat rats” back in the old neighborhood. A few cats, one or two possums, or the odd raccoon.

You don’t see stray dogs anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In 2013, this Rooster was encountered in upstate New York. He was kind of a jerk, if you ask me.

A recent bout of Flu has left a humble narrator a bit worse for wear, and short on new content this week. Accordingly, shots from the archives have been pulled and will be presented thusly, as this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 29, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in animals, Photowalks, Pickman

Tagged with ,

yellowed paper

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Reaching into the archives, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sidelined as I’ve been for the last few weeks by holiday obligations, food poisoning, and my vulnerability to extreme cold – a humble narrator has little new to share with you today but the show must go on. Reaching into the archives, the shot of a Night Heron above was gathered while in the company of the Audubon Society on North Brother Island in 2012.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A pod of Dolphins surfacing was witnessed while onboard one of the inaugural “Whale watching” trips offered by the American Princess boat company, which hails from Breezey Point, back in 2010.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In 2013, I met this kitten who was living in the rip rap shoreline of Staten Island, not far from the Staten Island Ferry terminal. Back tomorrow with something a bit more in depth, I hope, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 4, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Posted in animals, birds, cats

Tagged with , , ,

hidden picture

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It’s National Hamburger Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If my plans work out properly, while you’re reading this post, I’ve actually managed to drag myself away from the slothful indifference to all things which have distinguished the last couple of weeks and I’m somewhere in Manhattan pointing my camera at things and humans. The shots in today’s post are from the archives.

That’s a juvenile Red Tail Hawk at Calvary Cemetery in LIC, as seen on a wintry morning a few years back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I like all the seabirds, but will be damned if I can tell you with certainty what speciation they are. Everytime I try, I’m wrong, which somebody gleefully points out and then all my credibility is shot. It’s like that game “Jenga,” pull out the wrong brick and the whole tower crashes down, credibility is. It’s best to say “I don’t know” and muster up my Brooklyn accent for “Issa Boid.”

I enjoy taking pictures of birds, it’s rather challenging. The ones above and below are from this past summer, at Hallets Cove in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Actually… come to think of it, the one above of the murmurating flock was gathered on 48th street in Sunnyside, nearby that shopping center off of Northern Blvd. There’s always a lot of seabirds thereabouts for some reason. Maybe the birds are passing on some genetic or inherited memory of where there used to be water to their kids. Maybe they’re just hanging around the Stop and Shop parking lot because they’re in a gang. Who knows?

That whole zone used to be quite swampy, as a note, prior to the whole Sunnyside Yards happening.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This little war monster decided to die on my porch in Astoria. It still had a little life left in it when I found it, so I scooped it up on a piece of paper and let it die while lying on soil in the shade offered by a potted plant. What can I tell you, I’m a giant softie for well armored pollinators. I also didn’t want the dog to get too interested in it either.

The next morning, after having poked at it with a pencil to assure that it had met its demise and wouldn’t vaingloriously sting me as part of some futile last stand, I had my way with its corpse. Photographically, I mean… sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason that Red Tail Hawk was hanging around Calvary Cemetery in the first shot is exemplified by the subject of the one above. There’s a population of these groundling burrowers which exist in the loam at the polyandrion. Groundling Burrowers is what I call ’em, of course, but the kids all just say “Bunny!”

I’ve seen what happens when the aforementioned birds of prey achieve their intentions, regarding these burrowers, and it ain’t a pretty sight – I’ll tell ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is actually a fairly old photo, depicting one of the yellow eyed black cats which manifest sometimes as I scuttle along and around the Borough. The one above used to live on 29th street in LIC, and I often saw it hunting along the bulkheads of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary. When I see one of these golden eyed swivel eared shadow beasts, I know it’s going to be a productive day photographically, and Queens has something special in store for me.

I just have to keep walking and find it. Queens is coy like that.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

sojourn abroad

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It’s National Sardines Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A variety of obligations and impediments have caused one to come up short on content this week and last. Additionally, given that we are sidling towards Thanksgiving, and historically speaking there will be less of you reading the Newtown Pentacle this week than any other during the year, I’m going to continue on with my little vacation.

As is my custom, accordingly, single shots which I like for one reason or another will be presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle. Regular programming will resume on Monday the 27th after the holiday weekend.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in birds

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