The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘NY 11103’ Category

black smoke

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What a nightmare.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning from a short constitutional walk the other night, a sudden explosion of FDNY activity drew my attention to the corner of Newtown Road and 45th street here in Astoria. A structural fire was consuming one of the older homes in the neighborhood, a wood framed one set back from the property line. It soon became an all hands fire, it seems, and FDNY units from both Woodside and Astoria were present, as was Rescue Unit 4.

I also captured a bit of video on my phone, which can be accessed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighbors were all coming out of their houses to see what was happening, and lots of them were breaking out in tears over the spectacle. I suddenly realized that dozens if not a hundred people were forming a crowd and one beat it out of there quickly in the name of social distancing. Cooties.

I don’t know anyone who lives in that house, thought I, but as it turns out that wasn’t true. Somebody from the outer ring of my social circle did indeed live there and was now homeless. Under normal circumstance, this is plain horrible, and the normal systemic response would involve the Red Cross setting you up in a hotel for a couple of days while the insurance people figure out next steps. Fire insurance will usually pay for temporary lodging until the house is determined to be fixable or a total loss, at which point repairs are made or you have to find a new apartment.

During the current crisis – this is a nightmare scenario.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I posted the video of the fire to a couple of social media platforms, and made sure that City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer was aware of it, since this is not only his district but the neighborhood he grew up in. The next morning, a message was sent to me from a friend informing that the aforementioned “outer ring” acquaintance of ours was in fact now homeless and sleeping on their couch, and I made sure that JVB’s office had their contact information. Apparently, some sort of shelter for the poor fellow was arranged.

Structural fires are one of the things which I am worrying about more and more with all of us trapped inside. Be careful in your kitchens lords and ladies, and with those extension cords, and if you don’t have a fire extinguisher or two in your house – get some.

Also, on this date in 1909, the Queensboro Bridge opened for traffic. That’s your NYC history trivia of the day.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

March 30, 2020 at 11:00 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

bright again

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An accidental encountered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst perambulating to the gustatory battlefield which is the Thanksgiving ritual feast table, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself encountered an “accidental” along the way. We missed the moment of kinetic contact betwixt the two motor vehicles, but the aftermath was spread out along the intersection of 45th street and Broadway, here in Astoria, for all to see. By all appearances, at least one of these vehicles – possibly both – were moving at quite a clip where they collided. There didn’t seem to be any obvious injuries, or at least there weren’t any pooling puddles of blood or other human juices.

I’ve always wondered if human blood could be called a juice. Maybe it’s a broth, or a gravy? I guess it depends on your dietary preferences, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not a fan of the archaic yellow cab industry, and display zero sympathy for either drivers or medallion owners. A half century lived in NYC has imparted a sour taste in my mouth towards these stalwart livery service workers and the oligarchs they work for. Saying that, I hope the driver didn’t suffer any injuries other than losing the day’s earnings and what will end up being a substantial repair bill at the auto mechanic.

I recognize the white car from the neighborhood. One of the many vehicles which have been tuned up to make as much noise during normal operation as possible – it’s part of what we’ve come to refer to as the “fast and furious” crowd here in the local zone. Alterations of the proper functioning of the carburetor and fuel injection systems increase engine noise, often resulting in backfires as they sit in traffic. This crackling explosive sound must somehow excite the females in their social circles, and encourage them into mating with the drivers, which must be why the males who perform these noisy alterations risk the concurrent damage to their expensive automobile’s engines and exhaust systems.

The endless permutations of primate display behaviors offered by the human infestation hereabouts is fascinating to one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We didn’t stick around to see the cops show up, nor the tow trucks and ambulances which usually follow the constabulary into situations such as this. Our grandiose feast and celebration of American abundance awaited.

One was busy cooking for most of the morning, assembling the contributions to the Thanksgiving meal which Our Lady and myself were participating in. I was trying to avoid all social media on Thanksgiving, since my friends who are “woke” were passing the time waiting for their feast to emerge from the kitchen reminding all who might listen about just how shit the world is, was, and will be. Additionally, they needed to remind the universe about the Native American genocide as well as imparting the importance of composting the inedible portions of the feast. Bah!

Take a day off, I say.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 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

December 4, 2019 at 1:00 pm

striated skin

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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

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debased attainments

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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.”


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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

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nervous coordination

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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 , ,

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