The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘NY 11103’ Category

striated skin

with one comment

Bored, bored, boredity, bored.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pain and I are old pals, so whereas the broken toe dealie has indeed been less than a pleasant experience, it’s certainly something which my particular wheelhouse has a checklist for dealing with on a clipboard. What’s been really getting under the skin has been the inaction and lack of capability. Not being able to push away from the dinner table and announce “I’m going out for a walk” is a manifestation of the very worm that gnaws for me. Normally I’m a pretty active fella, and all this sitting around with my foot up is driving me nuts with boredom. The thing with a busted bone (or any medical condition, actually) is that “you have to be patient when you’re a patient” and it takes six weeks at the minimum for a bone to heal.

The toe pain thing is really getting in the way, though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I’ve only had to conduct two walking tours during the last few weeks, and there’s only been one photo gig which required me to be on my feet the whole time. Everything else has been revolving around writing stuff, so at least there’s that. Problem is that I’ve been fairly isolated down to my little stretch of Broadway here in Astoria since the last weekend of October, and both me and the camera are keen to get out there and do some work. When I’ve limped out of the house, I’m trying to carry my minimum kit in an attempt to reduce the amount of weight I’m dragging around.

Wish I could say that my time has been productively spent otherwise, but I’ve mostly been sitting around with the left foot elevated and watching a lot of TV.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, I’ve missed out on a lot of cool atmospherics and conducive to photography weather conditions during my hermitage. For those of you who have asked, the toe is recovering nicely. I’m no longer wearing the weird orthopedic sandal dealie, and no longer require the phalange to be wrapped up in gauze and a stiffening bandage. It still smarts when I’m walking about, but I’ve managed to navigate the subways at rush hour in the last week, and seem to be able to walk for several blocks at a time before being reminded of the broken bone. I won’t be kicking anybody’s ass with it prior to Christmas, however. Soccer is not going to played anytime soon either, but that’s ok as I don’t actually play soccer but I like to have options and right now I don’t.

Sigh. My creek is calling and I cannot answer.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

Limited Time 25% off sale – use code “gifts25” at checkout.

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

November 18, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, NY 11103

Tagged with , ,

debased attainments

with 2 comments

The ole 11103.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given my current limitations, let’s just say that one of my normal pedestrian based travelogues through industrial Maspeth isn’t going to be on offer for a bit. One is more or less confined to a very narrow slice of almond eyed Astoria, and unless it’s directly related to a “have to” or work I’m not going to mess around with the healing process for the broken big toe. Luckily, Astoria is seldom boring.

Yesterday, my “have to” related to limping over to my optician to get the lenses in my spectacles updated with a new prescription. While waiting for the process to finish, I noticed this artifact of the recent holiday displayed vulgarly atop a fire hydrant.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning towards my side of Steinway Street along Broadway, laborers were busy clearing out the remains of the Duane Reade which has occupied the corner of Broadway and Steinway for the entire time I’ve lived here. Duane recently announced that their landlord had raised the rent for this cavernous space to usurious levels and the corporation decided to shutter this location.

Man, if Duane Reade can’t pay the rent…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t title photos, since I’ve always hated the ego which such a practice displays. Back when I was a retoucher working on Madison Avenue, a standard refrain one might hear being shouted from my cubicle was “I HATE PHOTOGRAPHERS.” The level of preciousness attached to imagery by some of us just drives me crazy. It’s not an oil painting, despite the amount of skill and practice it takes to produce quality shots. Studio or big outdoor shots with props and lighting equipment do not change the equation all that much, in my mind. I know comic artists and fine art painters who don’t treat their works as preciously as some photographers do. The only members of the discipline whom I’ll grant the preciousness thing to are the photo journalists who work in war zones, capturing scenes of combat from “within the trenches.” That shot up there is a “snapshot” of a garbage can on 43rd street in Queens, and it doesn’t deserve much in the way of preciousness.

So, as mentioned, I don’t title photos. If I did, the one above would be called either “Childhood’s End,” or “Mommy and Daddy don’t live together anymore.”


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come to the library!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek – The Roosevelt Island Historic Society has invited me to present a slideshow and talk about my beloved Newtown Creek at the New York Public Library on Roosevelt Island, on November 14th, 6 p.m. Free event!

Click here for more information.!

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

November 5, 2019 at 11:03 am

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, NY 11103

Tagged with ,

nervous coordination

leave a comment »

Wet, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots aren’t from yesterday’s rainstorm, instead they’re from last week’s deluge. My little dog Zuzu and I were eagerly awaiting the eventual return of Our Lady of the Pentacle from a social engagement last Wednesday when the sky opened up and biblical amounts of rain began to fall. What was odd about that particular storm was that the airborne droplets seemed to be swirling on their way down to the mean streets, negating any chance of finding a “rain shadow” to record the scene from. Even setting up my camera on a windowsill inside HQ didn’t really provide the lens with much cover as the rain seemed to be falling sideways. Weather is weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the interesting things that has come out of all the long exposure stuff I’ve been doing for a while now has been the revelation that you can visualize traffic patterns moving through urban streets using this technique. Head lamps, and running or brake lights, leave behind tell tale trails. For some reason this is fascinating to me, and since anything that isn’t standing still in the frame for at least fifteen to twenty seconds is effectively “ghosted” those trails are the only indication of where a vehicle was and what its path was. The reduction of item based distraction allows one to record actual “desire paths” chosen by the driver.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of these days, I’ve got to do a series of these and then blend them into a time lapse video. I’d love to somehow take up position thirty to forty feet over the double yellow line, of course, but you’d need one of those mobile oppression platforms used by NYPD or a cherry picker basket on a telecom maintenance truck to do so. The mobile oppression platform would be best, of course, since it’s got a solid cop roof on it.

I spent a lot of time shooting stuff in the rain this last week, and it’s going to be a moist five days here at the Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, NY 11103

Tagged with , ,

corner pivot

leave a comment »

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, anyway?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may think the delivery truck pictured above represents some sort of madness. This is not madness, this is Sparta…

I’ve been waiting about two years to make that joke, so thanks for indulging a humble narrator in his puerile goals. I notice this particular truck all the time in Astoria, making deliveries of flour and other whatnots to the local bakeries and bagel shops. They’re a local business, Sparta is, operating out of a building opposite Rainey Park on Vernon Blvd. One is resisting the further urge to make a thousand jokes revolving around the movie “300,” write a detailed history of the Laconian Peninsula over in Greece, or describe the many attempts to penetrate the Astoria markets which the Persian Bakery Supply people have been denied over the years by these Spartans.

The Persian Bakery Supply people have said that “if we can get a single bagel shop to use our services, we could take over the entire neighborhood and expand our empire.”

Spartan Bakery Supply always replies to the Persians, laconically, with “if.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the quirky things about Astoria is the habit that early 20th century real estate developers had in creating “courts.” A court, in this context, is an open space designed either for the entryway of a large building or one that exists between two distinct structures, and it provides for light and air circulation in residential units that would otherwise have none. The one pictured above is on Steinway Street between 34th Avenue and Broadway, and the shot was captured during a doctors visit for Zuzu the dog. Just a checkup for my increasingly elderly pup, whereupon she got a fairly clean bill of health. Zuzu is getting old, is a bit plump, and seems to have some sort of issue going on with her back – according to the doc. Since dogs are “all back” that’s a worry, but both the ravages of advancing age and the conqueror worm are inevitable, so there you are.

Personally speaking, I’m feeling the decades more than ever these days. Luckily, Zuzu and I have gone gray at the same time so we match. She looks like a giant possum, though, whereas I’m starting to look like Dr. Zaius from “Planet of the Apes.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Long Island City, where new construction driven by the fiendish avarice of the Real Estate Industrial Complex has finally burst through the barriers long provided by the Pulaski Bridge on one side and the LIRR tracks on the other, this trio of feral predators was observed the other day. I’ve mentioned a few times the novel approach to controlling vermin on industrial properties which I’ve observed in LIC, wherein one omits the expense and consequence of employing an exterminator – with their noxious chemicals – and instead embracing the presence of the omnipresent feral cat. Most of these wild kitties have been sterilized by “TNR” (trap, neuter, release) services. You can tell that because they have had the tip of one their ears clipped.

The “bird people” hate this concept, since the particular speciation which they advocate for are predated by these cats. Personally, I’m willing to take a few dead pigeons in return for not having watered down chemical weaponry like Malathion spritzed all over the place. Using cats to control rats and mice is part of what I mean when opining that smartly using natural mechanisms to control the urban environment is the way forward. There’s unintended consequence, of course.

Remember that Daffy Duck cartoon where Daffy has a mouse in his hotel room? The one where Porky Pig is the manager? Porky first sends a cat up to the room to get rid of the mouse. Then a dog to get rid of the cat, a lion to get rid of the dog, and an elephant to get rid of the lion. How to get rid of the elephant? Send the mouse back in. Someday, before Zuzu and I age off of this planet, I’d like to see herds of wild elephants roaming around LIC. Word has it that Persian Bakery Supply once deployed delivery elephants in their never ending quest to cross the Spartan Bakery Supply lines but it didn’t go well for them.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“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

June 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

seemed baffling

leave a comment »

Astoria scenes, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m always impressed by the daily dedication of the local “canners,” which is what we call the folks that walk about with shopping carts searching for redeemable deposit cans and bottles, towards making a buck. For some of these canners, this is an existential practice, and how they earn the money to keep their apartments or eat regularly. For others, it’s a “side hustle” and they’ll express their amazement at the American habit of “throwing money out with the trash.”

The more you have, the less you care about it, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Steinway Street at 34th Avenue, it seems that the corner furniture store is either giving up the ghost or just changing out their awning. In the meantime, an old timey bit of signage has been revealed.

“Auto Parts Place” is from before my time in the neighborhood. Any of you life long Queensicans who are reading this remember it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If memory serves, we had to start dialing area codes back in the early 1980’s, so the lack of a “718” on the sign indicates that the advertised phone number dates back to at least the first or second Koch administration.

Personally, I live in what used to the second floor office of an appliances store a few blocks away, and my porch used to be the roof of a barber shop. The Barber Shop is now a studio apartment, and the office is now Newtown Pentacle HQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The population of drunkards along Astoria’s Broadway in the ’40’s has become quite attenuated in recent years. There used to be, just 5 years back, between 30 and 50 of these guys hanging around in various states of inebriation.

Somebody who shall remain nameless… ahem… pretty much embarrassed the local precinct into practicing the sort of subtle Policing which NYPD is famous for, and the cops made it uncomfortable for these fellows to be seen hanging around all day. Many of these guys have drank or drugged themselves into an early grave, and others have moved on to plague other neighborhoods, but we’ve still got a small core group of them hanging around all day and getting pass out drunk.

This poor guy passed out on the sidewalk and fell asleep with his back against the wall of a shop. The shop was closing up and when the steel gate came down it cracked him one on the gulliver and trapped his shoulder under it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this particular scenario play out, and the inebriate tried to salvage his pride by demanding that the shop owner give him a few bucks to not make a big deal of things. A word of advice I’d offer is to not try a “slip and fall” grift or attempt to con a Greek owned business in Astoria.

The remaining Hellenes don’t play.

The shop owner simply grabbed the guy by his collar and pulled him forward, signaled to his worker to finish lowering the steel gate, and then left the fellow sitting there with his back against the gate with an electronic keyboard (which had apparently been harvested from some trash pile) in his lap.

The scene will repeat itself again and again. Just watch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every day in Astoria can be a bit operatic. I like to sit and observe the neighbors. Just the other night, three spanish speaking gentlemen got into an argument in front of my door at about two in the morning, an altercation which resulted in fisticuffs and harsh talk. It was all very exciting.

These humans, here in Astoria, are endlessly fascinating.


“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 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

increasing pallor

with one comment

I like when the DEP brings the show to me, saves a lot of walking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighborhood is abuzz at the moment, here in Astoria, over a water main replacement project which has been going on for a month and change now. There’s been a tearing and a wrenching, lots and lots of noise and activity involving heavy equipment, and a somewhat random series of notices taped to the front door promising that DEP water service will be temporarily interrupted. My block’s turn for the latter occurred yesterday, and just down the street from HQ, the DEP and their contractors (Tully) finally opened up the hydrants and got busy with the underground stuff. 

I was hanging around the home office yesterday, developing shots from last weekend’s Tugboat Race on the Hudson, but found an interval when it wasn’t raining to grab the tripod and get a few shots of the flowing water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual construction is “up the pipe” from HQ, thank goodness. You should see what the next block over looks like, they’ll be repaving that for months. 

Ever notice the way that significant road work and infrastructure repairs only seem to happen when Election time nears? I’m told by those whom this tsunami of backhoes and construction workers have already washed over that a second wave of Con Edison gas main contractors followed the water people, and there’s been a protracted occupation by the NYC DOT nearby as well – who seem to be grinding down and then resurfacing the roads. The Zero Vision people can’t be far away, but it suddenly makes sense as to why the Department of Buildings forced all the local property owners to replace their sidewalks in the last couple of years. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a bit difficult to actually lock down on actual government sourced numbers on this, as the DEP continually treats its most mundane capabilities and public facing infrastructure as a state secret. 

There’s approximately 109,000 fire hydrants in NYC which are maintained by the NYC DEP for the FDNY’s usage. There’s also an uncountable number of hydrants maintained by other entities both private and public, and notably the NYC Parks Dept. has a large number of them installed on their property which are connected to DEP’s pipes but are Parks’ problem to maintain. DEP’s system uses two basic types of hydrant, the kind pictured above which is an “O’Brien Style Model, Series S,” and the “Dresser 500 Style.” 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason that the hydrant above was left open was to allow the construction crews to bleed out the water flowing through the water main they were replacing. The maximum flow of one these O’Brien models is about 1,000 gallons an hour, I’m told. The water in the hydrants is the same stuff delivered to residences, good old NYC drinking water from the Croton Resovoir system. 

There’s two pipe fittings on the hydrants, one is for normal water hookup by FDNY, the other is for use by their pumper trucks. Since the 1980’s, when DEP shut down the old “High Pressure” network that dated back to the dawn of the 20th century, the hydrants have been installed with a street level flange that intersects them to the main. Prior to this, were a car or truck to back into the hydrant (which was directly connected to the buried pipe) it tended to damage the underground pipe and necessitate a messy and expensive repair job that involved opening the street. The flange connection instead allows the hydrant to get knocked about without the buried main pipe getting damaged. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That 1,000 gallons an hour flow was pouring out all day, or at least from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a couple of coffee breaks and a lunch hour thrown in. Since I had the camera mounted on the tripod anyway, and my block here in Astoria was closed to traffic because of the construction so I could stand in the street without getting squished by trucks, I decided to follow the flow down to the corner where it was all pissing into the drain.

As a note, DEP doesn’t like to use the word “sewer” ever. They call these bits of their system “street drains.” It’s also not “sewage,” it’s wastewater, they say. I’ve been lectured by one of the high muckety mucks over there about this, being told that the word “sewer” or the term “sewer plant” is offensive to modern day “Wastewater Management Engineers.”

I fear that Louie the garbageman is going to want to be called a “solid waste collection executive” or something soon. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gazing into the abyssal “street drain” in the shot above, one wondered how much of this flow was going to the somewhat archaic “Bowery Bay Wastewater treatment Plant” on the forbidden northern shore of Queens and how much of it was traveling down Astoria’s Broadway to 43rd street where an underground intersection is found that feeds directly into the Dutch Kills tributary of my beloved Newtown Creek over in LIC.

Hey, at least it’s clean water flowing into Dutch Kills for a change, a thousand gallons an hour worth. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

another report

with one comment

Dinner and a show!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Friday nights, my neighborhood friends and I regularly gather for a “pub night,” at a bar which is found at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway. Now, since I’m all knowing, I can tell you a few things about this particular corner but for the purposes of this post – the NYC DEP has a storm sewer under the street here which leads directly to Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary. That’s important in terms of the totality of things, but what’s also important is that several of the local sanitary water sewer pipes conjoin into a junction at this corner as well.

Apparently, there was a “priority one” repair order sent out to DEP’s maintenance crews, regarding something involving the storm sewer having developed a leak.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our little pub night gatherings involve sitting outside at the sidewalk cafe tables, and as always I have the camera ready and in my hands even when socializing. As the DEP crew got to work, so did I. Here they are noticing me.

Everyone at my table started waving and I started a chant of “DEP, DEP.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unsung, these municipal heroes seemed to enjoy the respect they were being paid as they got busy. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The notoriously impatient drivers of Astoria, who seem to believe that their cars do not have a gear which allows them to reverse, turned the sidewalk into a vehicle lane for a short while. This stopped after a few minutes and presumptively the DEP crew set out cones at the northern corner of the block of 42nd street that they were working on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being the gregarious fellow I’m known for being, I walked across the street and introduced myself. This fellow was busy digging a hole. The head of the operation told me the circumstance of their tasks, which would involve exposing a broken pipe and replacing a section of it.

I congratulated him on the Friday night overtime, wished him luck, and headed back to my gathering across the street as it started raining.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYPD was called in, and towed a car which was perilously close to the job. The tow truck reparked this car around the corner on Broadway, and my friends and I were anxious to see the confused driver find their car somewhere else than where they had parked it, but alas…

At this point, everyone at my table started chanting “NYPD, NYPD.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heavier equipment began to show up and set up shop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the fellow who was digging the hole, and who was now guiding the operator of the excavator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More and more DEP crews kept appearing, carrying supplies and esoteric equipment. From what I could discern, one of them was a mobile welding unit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It turned into quite a party, happening across the street from my regularly scheduled Friday night party. Deciding that I couldn’t miss a minute of this, I ordered food and another drink.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rain really set up in earnest at one point, but I was sitting in a carefully chosen spot under one of the pub’s awnings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You really have to hand it to these folks. As much shade as I throw at DEP’s management during Newtown Creek oriented posts and in person at meetings, I have nothing but respect for the folks that do this essential, difficult, and dirty job on behalf of the rest of us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A section of pipe was removed, another one welded in, and then the street was closed back up. Sated with food, drink, and a free bit of municipal dinner theater – a humble narrator then headed home to my little dog Zuzu.

You just have to love it. I do.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Friday, August 3rd, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

If you want infrastructure, then meet NCA historian Mitch Waxman at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, and in just one a half miles he’ll show you the largest and newest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, six bridges, a Superfund site, three rail yards with trains moving at street grade, a highway that carries 32 million vehicle trips a year 106 feet over water. The highway feeds into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and we’ll end it all at the LIC ferry landing where folks are welcome to grab a drink and enjoy watching the sunset at the East River, as it lowers behind the midtown Manhattan skyline.

Tix and more deatils here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2018 at 11:02 am

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, NY 11103, NYC DEP

Tagged with , ,

%d bloggers like this: