The Newtown Pentacle

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pencilled notes

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To distraction, it drives me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the dodges often offered by the governmental crowd is the avoidance of specifics when they’re trying to sell you the latest flavor of kool aid they’ve been cooking up in City Hall. To wit, the Green Infrastructure/bioswale/rain garden story which the NYC DEP “sells and tells” is scientifically valid, but they refuse to prove it so by using numbers. In short – the various wastewater treatment plants which NYC owns and operates, there are 14 of them, have a set engineered capacity for how many gallons of wastewater that they can handle. Given that it rains more than it used to, and there’s also a lot more toilets flushing than there used to be, one option for handling the design capacity overage would be to finance and build a series of additional sewer plants. That particular choice would be expensive, both fiscally and politically. Another option is to increase the amount of open soil in the drainage area serviced by the existing 14 so that instead of going into a sewer, rainfall and other precipitation soaks into the ground and soil. Problem there is that the ground in NYC is largely coated in cement and concrete. What’s the answer then? Rain Gardens, right?

You open up some of the soil, as in thousands of acres citywide, and you’ve extended the design capacity and service life of your 14 sewer plants for another couple of decades. Those thousands of acres would be aggregate, of course, tap holes of small size, scattered around the various neighborhoods in strategic spots which would drink up “x” number of gallons of rain.

You add the open spots up, you’ve achieved the vast acreages. Simple, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the building guides used by architects who want to construct things in the megalopolis, a square acre of land in NYC can be expected to accumulate (if memory serves) 22.7 inches of rain per year. Don’t expect one such as myself to accurately calculate the number of gallons that represents, but the idea here is that there is actually a calculable number which can be arrived at. Rain Gardens, which in their current form are about a yard (or meter) long on the short side and about three meters (or yards) on the long side, are engineered structures which Government employees are designing and installing. Government employees – and in particular Civil Engineers – do not “guess” when they’re spending your tax money. There is a calculation somewhere which dictates that “x” number of bioswale/rain gardens equate to “y” number of gallons being diverted from the sewers. DEP has instead constantly told me that they are essentially crossing their fingers and hoping for the best with their “Green Infrastructure” initiative. Even in private meetings, they say this.

That’s when I opine that they are lying to my face, that engineers do not cross their fingers and hope for the best, and I ask them why they are treating this like a state secret. Funnily, I believe that the Green Infrastructure program is fantastic, and represents the sort of lateral thinking which I espouse. Gordian Knot, anyone?

A bit of quick Google fu indicates that a single inch of water covering a square acre would represent roughly 27,154 gallons, and multiplying that amount by 23 gives you roughly 624,548 gallons per square acre. I suck at math, so this is probably off, but “State secret,” right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other than wanting to run the shots that were captured during last Friday’s rain storm, the thing that set me off on this topic was actually where I was going on Friday night. The CB1 Astoria Community Board Environmental Committee – which I’m a member of – invited representatives of an outfit called “Solar One” to come and discuss the requirements and nuances of a new series of local laws that address climate change and carbon emissions here in NYC. When queried about how many theoretical acres of NYC rooftop which the new law required for conversion to solar, and what number of kilowatt hours that acreage would result in as far as harvesting power from passive collection, the answer was “it depends” and that “we haven’t calculated that.” Sound familiar?

Why treat it like a state secret? I’m certainly “for this,” and being evasive with answers is not how you create allies who will help sell this plan to their neighbors.


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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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 9, 2020 at 1:00 pm

hung indefinitely

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Great galloping Jehoshaphat, it’s Monday again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was required to attend a Community Board function recently, which utterly angered me since the evening was particularly photogenic and atmospherically offered a thick blanket of fog. This whole “participating in the Democracy of our Republic” thing gets old sometimes, man. It also eats up a lot of time.

Thing is, I can’t “not show up” since life has taught me that any set of rules which everyone else gets to break are always rigidity enforced when it comes to me – people love making an example out of me. It’s been like this since I was a little kid, and experience has taught me that whereas the rest of you get to be as nasty, corrupt, and venal as you want to be, I don’t. Saying that, realizing what sort of photo opportunity I was going to miss, I left HQ a bit early so I could fit in some “me” time. That’s mighty Triborough, of course, as seen from the edge of Astoria Park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The cadre of liquor enthusiasts who populate the corner of Broadway and 42nd street here in Astoria like to rummage through people’s trash in search of cash convertible treasures. Often, they’ll find cast off children’s toys like the plushie ones pictured above. More often, they arrange these toys in interesting ways after discovering that neither the thrift store nor random passerby want to purchase the things. There’s a script for Pixar in all this, I tell you.

I’m really into this whole democracy thing, and would only support a dictatorship if the penultimate citizen was me. Who wouldn’t want to be a dictator? It ends badly, but if you play your cards right it’s likely you’ll get ten to twenty years at the top of the heap. If that’s how my story ends up playing out, there will be no abandoned toys, by edict. It’s just too sad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also on my list, in that dystopian future where people will fearfully chant my name, are the assholes pictured above. They are part of the neighborhood crew who have modified the exhaust systems on their vehicles – in this case motorcycles – to emit as much sound as possible. This is a subject I recently discussed with a member of the gendarmes, in a side conversation at the aforementioned Community Board meeting. It seems that this noisy vehicle fad is yet another one of the things which the current Mayor has made legal – as in abandoning the prohibition against the kits which modify the exhaust systems on both automobiles and motorcycle to make as much noise as possible. NYPD is aware of the problem, and is seeking jurist approval for an interpretation of using a different statute to squash out the racket offered by these fast and furious assholes, apparently.

Everyone is an asshole to me at the moment, as I’m a sick of it all humble narrator. Happy Monday.


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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

February 24, 2020 at 1:00 pm

resident alienists

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Friday bits and bobs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week and here in Astoria, just as a humble narrator was about to succumb to that daily interval of involuntary unconsciousness during which wild hallucinations occur, the windows at HQ began to strobe with a scarlet hue. Thinking that the Astoria Borealis might be occurring again, one rushed to the porch. It seems one of my neighbors was having a visit from both the NYPD and the FDNY, and since both of the municipal vehicles were quite static while the City’s preeminent staffers were busy within, one decided to get a couple of shots for the archive.

I do love seeing an unnaturally colored series of lights. A recent query offered by a passerby nearby Queens Plaza which was a variation on the standard “why are taking pictures of that”? My answer was “Y’know those old photos of NYC that people share on the internet? Somebody like me took those, and whereas these photos are new, someday they’ll be old.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luyster Creek is a lonely industrial waterway found on the forbidden northern coast of Queens, here in Astoria. A humble narrator is drawn to things forbidden, lonely, and industrial so a scuttle from HQ on the Broadway side of the neighborhood was enacted. Timing was key in this walk, as I wanted to get there just as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was dipping down beyond the western shore.

There’s a pretty active industrial driveway leading to the aforementioned western shore, leading to what’s soon going to be a new Department of Sanitation New York (DSNY) maintenance garage and salt dome complex. The City is moving operations from 21st street nearby the Ravenswood NYCHA campus over to the IBZ (industrial business zone) found on the north side of Astoria. DSNY is planning on spending a ball park number of $131 million back here.

Did you know that NYC has a 1% for art requirement in all new municipal construction projects? It’s how the Newtown Creek Nature Walk in Greenpoint got funded. Been on the books since 1982, the 1% for art requirement. You know who must have gotten that into the books, back in 1982? I’ll bet it was Astoria’s own Peter Vallone, senior. Hmmm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One stuck around at Luyster Creek for a while as the tide was coming in. Saying that, Luyster is a lot like my beloved Newtown Creek in terms of there being a vertical rather than laminar or horizontal flow related to the tide. There’s a bunch of indeterminate muck in the water and its sediment bed due to industrial pollutants as well as a large CSO or Combined Sewer Outfall (BB-041) maintained by the DEP at the head of the canal. As a matter of fact, the shot above was gathered while standing on the pipe’s outfall weir.

NYC has a combined sewer system, meaning that sanitary and storm water use the same underground pipes to travel to the 14 sewer plants. A quarter inch of rain, City wide, means a billion gallons have suddenly surged into the system, and the agency responsible for wastewater management and the 14 plants – the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection, or DEP – is forced to release the overage into area waterways.

The nomenclature of “BB-041” is explained thusly; the BB stands for Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant” which is just a few blocks away, the 041 indicates that this is number 41 of the 1936 vintage Bowery Bay plant’s 47 outfalls. BB-041 experiences an average number of 61 weather related discharges into Luyster Creek annually, and pours roughly 84 million gallons of untreated sewage per year directly into the water. Fun times.


“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

February 21, 2020 at 11:00 am

deeply initiated

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Woh, it’s Wednesday again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you lords and ladies may have figured out by now, one hasn’t seen too much of the sun in the last few weeks, preferring instead to wander around Queens in the dead of night. What’s awesome is that the sweatshirt I’m usually wearing under the filthy black raincoat this winter has an extra large hood which is voluminous enough to tuck over the bill of my baseball hat. This provides a structure to the hood and all you see of my face is a bearded chin poking out of the shadow, making me look extra creepy. Based on the reactions of passerby, I’m cutting quite a sinister figure, apparently.

A recent walk found me wandering in the general direction of Queens Plaza again, and I couldn’t help myself from capturing a hand held shot of one of our many, many Astorian taco trucks along the way. The self proclaimed “King of the Tacos” was in its regular spot several blocks to the East along Broadway, of course.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path meandered down 31st street, and the sound of an approaching N line subway to the north was causative in the setup of the tripod and camera for a longish exposure. A surprising amount of light gets cast down from on high, illuminating one of the otherwise dark and scary stretches of sidewalk that 31st street is notorious for offering in between its elevated train stops. It’s always surprised me that despite the commercial avenues intersecting it being so busy and bustling, 31st is the opposite – dark, lonely, and guilty of imparting a sensation of exposed vulnerability to the itinerant pedestrian.

Of course, I live for that sort of feeling. I like looking over my shoulder, lurking about in fear, and wondering if I’m being stalked by some sort of urban predatory mammal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills isn’t just a tributary of Newtown Creek, as a note, it’s also the name of a section of Long island City. Nestled between Astoria, Ravenswood, Queensbridge, and Hunters Point – Dutch Kills is where you’ve noticed all of those Eurocentric hotels going up. It’s a mixed zoning area, with lots and lots of small homes standing right next door to warehouses, taxi yards, and factories.

The construction project in the middle of the shot is that gigantic Durst Organization building going up in Queens Plaza, if you were wondering.


“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

February 12, 2020 at 11:05 am

sealed up

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Better late than never?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the single shot today, but my schedule got the better of me. Back tomorrow with something that won’t leave you hungry an hour later.

Pictured is thirty seconds of recorded light and time on Astoria’s Broadway.


“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

January 14, 2020 at 2:30 pm

invocation addressed

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Rain, rain, hold still while I take a picture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One didn’t get out too much over the week between Christmas and New Years due to a variety of reasons, amongst them was that spate of drenching rain which hit the neighborhood here in Astoria, Queens. Regardless, inactivity and I don’t enjoy each other’s company, so I set up the camera and experimented a bit right here at home.

If you were making your way down Astoria’s Broadway and saw the silhouette of a weird old guy and a camera up on a tripod in a window, you should have waved. That was me.

Since I’ve lived in this neighborhood, that bodega has had three owners and never changed its name. The first set of owners were brothers, ones whose family had a farm back in Lebanon. Back then, they had great produce, and either brother was your go to for finding out whether or not a pomegranate was ripe or not. They sold it to another Lebanese family, one which had a large group of sons that were all fitness fanatics. I used to call them the “Lebanese Olympic Weight Lifting team” and it was always fun watching what would happen when someone tried shoplifting at the bodega. Older brother Gazi once punched a crook so hard that the fellow lifted about four feet into the air and traveled about six feet horizontally, making a quite satisfying “slap thunk” sound upon his landing. The current owners are South East Asians (Indian or Bangla, I’m not sure), who don’t carry much in the way of produce you’d want to buy, and are not obsessed with going to the gym, but are otherwise nice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever it rains for an extended period, my thoughts always drift toward my beloved Newtown Creek. One of the curses suffered by my favorite waterway involves the “combined sewer outfalls” which transport excess storm water mixed with untreated sewer water directly into it. These NYC owned pipes are often at least a century old, and use a pre modern era approach to waste water management summed up by the old adage “the answer to solution is dilution.” I know way too much about NYC’S sewer system, as a note.

That sewer grate, which is on my corner, is connected to a large pipe found under Broadway which connects all of the corner grates. That large pipe connects to an even larger pipe found at 42nd street called an interceptor. If you stand on the north side of 42nd and a Broadway in Astoria, you can hear water roaring through it through the access or manhole cover. This pipe goes to Northern Blvd. where it takes a right and follows the slope of the street through Queens Plaza, then goes diagonally under the Sunnyside Yards and towards the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek where it outfalls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I dream of dropping rubber duckies into the drain during a roaring thunderstorm, then racing over to Dutch Kills to catch a photo of them popping out of one of the outfalls. I’ve also fantasized while in the grip of somnambulant hallucinations, about pouring tons and tons of gelatin into the sewer, just to see what happens. Yes, I literally dream of such things.

Last night – for instance – I had a dream that I had adopted a gigantic French Bulldog the size of an ox, and that I was able to put a saddle across its back and ride it around. I mention that in an attempt to dissuade you of wondering why I dream about sewers, and to point out that rubber ducky fantasies are hardly the weirdest thing my brain manufactures.


“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

January 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

torturing appliances

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Why are you people always sleeping.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometimes, a humble narrator suffers from insomnia, so what’s a man to do but pack up the camera and wander around the streets in the middle of the night until he’s tired enough to fall asleep? Recently, one left the house at 4 a.m. on a Monday morning. It was the first time in a couple of months that I was carrying the “whole magilla” with me, as in the largish knapsack filled with camera lenses and all the other junk which one likes to have available when out and about. For the last couple of months, due to the broken toe you’re all so sick of hearing about, I’ve been traveling as light as possible. Now that the medically advised “take it easy” period is over, one is rattling the bars of his cage and is ready to go.

Funny thing is that I barely used all the crap I had with me, but I knew that when leaving the house. Wanted to see how my foot reacted to carrying the extra load on my back, and also start the process of getting back some muscle tone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My eventual destination was the BH camera shop on 34th street, so by leaving five hours earlier than they open, even the MTA wouldn’t be able to hamper my progress. One shlepped down Broadway through the urine and vomit puddles (the bars had just closed) towards the Astoria line tracks in expectation of riding an N or W into Manhattan, but while waiting for my chariot to arrive, I was puzzled at the presence of a J train sitting – seemingly abandoned – on the center track. I know, the J line icon in the shot above is all glowed out and unreadable. It was a J, here’s another shot of it which I executed in a different fashion.

Most of the people I saw waiting at the station seemed to be construction workers and people wearing security guard uniforms, which answers the question about who is taking the Subway from Astoria into the city in the wee hours. Them, and a wandering mendicant with a camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I transferred at Queensboro Plaza to the 7, which was just entering the station as I debarked the N. That’s the first missed shot of the night, and there were a few. One can not explain the logic behind a certain thought process, but sometimes a “little bird” starts singing to me about either not lingering someplace or just coming back another time. Call it “Spidey Sense” but… something was just telling me to go and not wait for the next 7. Over the years I’ve learned to listen to that voice in my head, and ignore the other ones. I actually didn’t have my headphones stuck in my ears all night, due to my desire to maintain “situational awareness” while shooting. Also, I had Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” playing in my head. A little paranoia is a good thing, in the dark of night. So’s a little Rush “ear worm,” every now and then.

New York City, folks, New York City. Pay attention to what’s going on around you.


“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

December 30, 2019 at 11:00 am

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