The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Blissville’ Category

pitiable tones

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My Creek always welcomes my triskaidekaphobia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shlep, shlep, shlep. That’s my game. As an old Christmas cartoon used to musically opine – “put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door.” Why it is that when I leave the house I inevitably end up in places like this is somewhat mysterious. What draws a creature like me out into the public sphere in the first place, as I belong in a catacomb or dungeon awaiting unwary travelers like some great spider? All interaction with others is strained and painful for me. My countenance causes children to cry, dogs to yelp, and induces startled reactions from adults. When I begin to speak, the croaking notes and gurgling exhalations are often described as being scented by and carried aloft on a bilious breeze. If I could get away with it, I’d wear naught but prophet’s robes, but come close with the filthy black raincoat and hooded black sweatshirt. Every now and then I catch a reflection of myself in a shop window and even I’m scared at what I see.

I’ve arrived at an age where pieces are about to start falling off as if I’m some sort of a biblical leper. Truly objectionable am I, ask anyone. God hates me, but to be fair, that’s probably my fault.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

People have always enjoyed making an example of me, or holding me to a higher standard than others despite my low social status. As a child, I’d be sitting in a school auditorium reading a book quietly while my classmates were all acting like irradiated monkeys and pyromaniacs. The Principal would surmount the stage and scream “WAXMAN” into the loudspeaker, whereupon my daily humiliations would resume.

I can’t help it that I stand out. I was born this way. These experiences, and many more, have caused me to become quite “vengeance” based in my thinking. I’m going to make the world pay, and pay dearly, for what’s been done to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My beloved Newtown Creek is the same way – reviled, ruined, lonely, lost. She and I have an understanding with each other, and since we are kindred spirits, the Creek never disappoints when I’m visiting. I feel like I should throw in a “verily” here.

Look at my sweetie, the way she opened the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge for me just as I happened to be passing by. She’s a good old girl, the Newtown Creek.

Enjoy your Friday the 13th, lords and ladies, especially so since there’s a full moon tonight. As a note, Sunday marks the “ide of March” as well as being National Egg Cream day.


“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.

altered youth

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Like every other piece of wind blown trash, I always end up at Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

God, how I love it so – the wastelands of Long Island City at night. One can just let it all hang out, laugh maniacally without scaring the neighbors, and embrace the dissolution and horror of it all here at the titular center of the great urban hive. The Coronavirus wouldn’t last two seconds around here, as far nastier and better established pathogens would beat the crap out of the newcomer. Hand sanitizer? Look where I like to hang out on a Saturday night. Hand sanitizer would bubble, boil, and froth if you poured it on the sidewalk here in Blissville.

The good news about all this pandemic panic is that I finally have an excuse to not have to shake hands or exchange hugs with the humans. Nepenthe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Green Asphalt pictured above, a company whose raison d’être is the 2010 Solid Waste Management Act, dictating that NYC can no longer use landfills to dispose of road surfacing materials. When the contractors working for the NYC Department of Transportation scrape away a road’s armor, the milled materials are transported to Green Asphalt or a similar operation where the stuff is heated up and mixed with a small amount of new product. The resulting mass of steaming goo is then used to repave a street, often the very same street it’s was just milled off of.

That’s called recycling, baby, recycling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Green Asphalt is found on one of my very favorite streets in Queens, Blissville’s Railroad Avenue. Why do I like it so very much? Could be those jet black cats with the glowing yellow eyes. Also might be the railroad tracks which give the street its name, or the ghosts of industrial titans like Fleischman’s Yeast, Van Iderstine’s rendering plant, or even the lesser branches of the Haberman family tree which used to stretch out hereabouts. I like darkness, and solitude, so there’s that too.

It’s hard to find a place in NYC where you can be truly alone, but one such as myself is always alone, even in a crowd.


“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.

cosmic fear

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My continuing tour of the worst places on earth, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the spot where the Long Island Expressway off ramp feeds into the local street grid in LIC, specifically at the intersection of Borden Avenue and Van Dam Street. For some reason the FDNY routes ambulances through this traffic choked lane, so in addition to the rumble and exhaust of thousands of cars an hour, there’s also sirens to listen to and flashing lights to enjoy. What with all the artificial light cascading about, and the low ceiling of the Queens Midtown Expressway truss above – this is about two blocks from Greenpoint Avenue, for reference – it’s actually quite beautiful as far as environmental and urban planning disaster areas go. What can I tell you, I like places of this sort. It’s where I belong.

Not exactly pedestrian friendly, though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Behind all the colorful tumult pictured in the shot above, there’s a small wooded area adjoining an on ramp for the LIE, which the local Queensicans have designated as a great place to engage in the native art form of the World’s Borough – illegal dumping. For quite some time, there was a sizable homeless colony back here which would better be described as a homeless village. In many ways, it looked like a galactic refugee set piece from the Star Trek series, with shanty structures and people engaging in an off the grid mercantile economy.

All that is gone, and these days the little stand of trees back here are merely a knoll. If it wasn’t state owned land, I’m sure the Mayor would be trying to build affordable housing here, or maybe a homeless shelter. Dotting the “i”‘s and crossing the “t”‘s is what the horde of loathsome sentience in City Hall is going to be up to until December 31st of 2021, I predict. That’s how much longer we have to wait until Citizen De Blasio is powerless again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a lot of wasted space in LIC, I would point out to the First Citizen’s team.

This patch could easily be used to store municipal vehicles, or perhaps establish a small office park for the NYC EDC to work out of. Ever wonder why these clowns get to work in skyscrapers owned by the City, rather than empty strip malls in Nassau County? MTA has 2 Broadway in the City, and a rather handsome structure on Jay Street in Brooklyn. Real Estate rules the roost these days, so why do our civil servants get to occupy prime value locations? Wouldn’t it make sense for them to work out of a transit desert? Go to work in East New York, or the northern Bronx, or western Staten Island, just to give them a bit of perspective on what the rest of us experience?


“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.

into life

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Back in the saddle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Infirmity is conquered… sort of… and a humble narrator is back on the beat.

The first 2020 nighttime photowalk saw me scuttling southwards from the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria all geared up and ready to go. To make it official, I keyed up one of my favorite audiobook iterations of “The Call of Cthulhu” on my headphones as I left Astoria about 9 in the evening. The chosen path carried me across a Robert Moses widened stretch of Jackson avenue which modernity calls Northern Blvd., up Laurel Hill Blvd. (now known as 43rd street), through Middleburgh (aka Sunnyside) and over to Blissville’s border with Berlin (West Maspeth). My goal was to arrive at the modern day version of the Penny Bridge, the Kosciuszcko if you must, and commune with that loathsome ribbon of municipal neglect and hidden history known simply as the Newtown Creek.

For too long have I been missing her. My path was chosen for its lines of ley, and carried me past the great polyandrion of the Roman Catholics, called First Calvary Cemetery. Why the lines of ley, you ask? Simply, my batteries are low.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual eastern border of historic Long Island City – on the southern side of the Long Island Expressway, Laurel Hill Blvd. – retains its ancient nomen, rather than masquerading as “43rd street” as it does on the northern side. Laurel Hill is the landform into which the farm and homestead of the Alsop family were built, and its geological prominences were reduced by Irish and German laborers not too long after the Roman Catholic Church purchased the Alsop properties in 1848. On the eastern side of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which sits firmly upon the pre consolidated border, is industrial West Maspeth, once known as Berlin. There is a 43rd street in Maspeth, but it doesn’t concur with the southern iteration of the street, for which you can thank Robert Moses and the adoption of the so called Philadelphia plan in the early 20th century. Maspeth’s 43rd street was once called the shell road, and was paved with crushed oyster carapace. That’s before the forgotten Yeshiva, or Phelps Dodge.

The closer I got, the more I felt it calling. Like some great subterrene drum, whose emanations burst within my chest in inimitable sense impacts… a sound which certain groupings of the aboriginal Lenape would have pronounced “Hohosboco,”or the “Bad Water Place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Upwards on the path went a humble narrator, ever upwards.

Like every other piece of wind blown trash, discarded toy, or intestinal discharge in New York City, Newtown Creek is where I belong and end up. No destination is more final, nor more desirable for one such as myself.

Here amongst the ghosts, and in the night wind, belong I.


“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.

correlated causeways

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Eleven bridges, one creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pulaski Bridge is the first span you encounter, when you’ve left the East River and embarked on a journey down the fabulous Newtown Creek. A double bascule drawbridge, and electrically powered, the Pulaski Bridge connects 11th street in Long Island City with McGuinness Blvd. to the south in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint. Built in 1954, the Pulaski Bridge is owned and operated by the New York City Department of Transportation or “NYC DOT.” The Pulaski Bridge carries five lanes of traffic, plus a dedicated bicycle lane and a separate pedestrian pathway. It overflies the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Long Island Expressway, as well as active railroad tracks found on Borden Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DB Cabin acts as a gatekeeper to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. It’s a railroad swing bridge owned by the Long Island Railroad, and connects two rail yards – the Wheelspur Yard (to the west, or left in the shot above) and the Blissville Yard – across the water. Both rail yards and the bridge itself are part of the LIRR’s Lower Montauk tracks. DB Cabin dates back to the 1890’s and is in a terrible state of repair. The swing bridge’s motors are nonfunctional, which isolates the Dutch Kills tributary from maritime traffic, and from the rest of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cabin M is just to the north of DB Cabin on Dutch Kills, and the single bascule drawbridge connects the Montauk Cutoff with the Blissville Yard mentioned above. The Montauk Cutoff is an elevated track which used to provide a connection between the LIRR’s Main Line tracks at the nearby Sunnyside Yards with the Lower Montauk tracks along the north (or Queens side) shoreline of Newtown Creek. The 2020 Capital Plan just released by the Long Island Railroad’s owner – The MTA – includes funding to demolish Cabin M.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue Bridge is owned by the NYC DOT, and is one of just two retractile bridges in NYC (the other being the Carroll Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal). Built in 1908 to replace an earlier wooden drawbridge (1868) at the intersection of Borden Avenue and Dutch Kills, Borden Avenue Bridge received extensive upgrades and structural repairs in 2010 and 2011, and had its electronic components destroyed by flooding during Hurricane Sandy. Another round of repairs and upgrades began in 2019, which included asbestos abatement work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Expressway is 71 miles long, and is operationally managed in three sections. The Queens Midtown Expressway is how it’s owners, the New York State Department of Transportation, refer to the section found between the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Greenpoint Avenue in Long Island City. This section is elevated, rising to 106 feet above the waters of Dutch Kills. The LIE truss pictured above handles some 87.7 thousand daily vehicle trips, or 32 million annually, to and from Manhattan,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunters Point Avenue Bridge is due north west of Borden Avenue Bridge and the LIE truss. It’s a single bascule drawbridge, owned by the NYC DOT. Replacing an earlier wooden draw bridge that was opened and closed by a donkey walking on a wheel, the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge was built in 1910. Back then, it was a double bascule bridge, but a rebuild in the 1980’s simplified the mechanism to a single bascule. The masonry of the bridge is original to the 1910 design.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is found some 1.37 miles from Newtown Creek’s intersection with the East River, and roughly a half mile from the mouth of Dutch Kills. It’s a double bascule bridge, built in 1987, and owned and operated by the NYC DOT. There have been many Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, dating back to the first one built by Greenpoint’s town father Neziah Bliss back in 1850, but that one was called the “Blissville Bridge.” The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is a traffic machine, carrying 28.3 thousand vehicle trips a day, or about ten million a year. Most of that traffic takes the form of heavy trucking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The brand new Kosciuszko Bridge(s) replaced a 1939 vintage truss bridge that carried the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek and are found some 2.1 miles from the East River. The NYS DOT is busy putting the finishing touches on the new cable stay bridge’s construction. In addition to the… ahem… high speed traffic lanes of the BQE, there is also a pedestrian and bicycle pathway found on the new Kosciuszko Bridge which connects 43rd street in Queens’s Sunnyside section with Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Grand Street Bridge is a swing bridge connecting Maspeth’s Grand Avenue in Queens with East Williamsburg/Bushwick’s Grand Street in Brooklyn. 3.1 miles back from the East River, in a section of Newtown Creek once called “White’s Dock,” the NYC DOT have recently announced plans to replace this 1909 beauty – which is actually the third bridge to occupy this spot. Damage from Hurricane Sandy, and the narrow roadways with height restrictions that the bridge offers, have pretty much sealed its fate. It will be missed.

This is where the main spur of Newtown Creek ends, as a note. Directly east is a truncated tributary called the East Branch, and another tributary called English Kills makes a hard turn to the south just before you encounter Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is a double bascule drawbridge that crosses the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, and is owned by the NYC DOT. Metropolitan Avenue was originally built as a private toll road in 1813, and the first bridge here was a part of the “Williamsburg and Jamaica Turnpike.” The current Metropolitan Avenue Bridge was built in 1931, although it has received significant alterations in 1976, 1992, 2006, and again in 2015. The 2015 alterations?

You guessed it, Hurricane Sandy strikes again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge is the final crossing found over the waters of Newtown Creek and its tributaries. Some 3.7 miles back from the East River, it’s the property of the Long Island Railroad and used for freight service on their Bushwick Branch tracks. A truss bridge, or trestle if you must, my understanding of things are that whereas the trackway and parts of the rail bridge date back to approximately 1924… there has been quite a lot of work done on the thing which I have not been able to fully document so rather than fill in blanks with assumptions – I’m just going to say that I don’t know everything… yet.

It’s an active track, it should be mentioned.


“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.

lacquered patinas

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Signs and portents.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody wants to tell you what to do, all the time. Signage adjures, cautions, forbids, and demands attention wherever you look. If you’re literate, your brain instantly begins putting together the messaging on signs and you have no choice but to receive the intended messaging. For years, I’ve wondered about whether or not there’s some combination of words which could render you instantly insane upon receiving them, in the manner of a magick spell. Could a campaign of signage designed to transmit a “very bad idea” or incantation end civilization itself, and reduce mankind to atavistic savages in the process? We can only hope so.

Personally, I’m reduced to reaching into the archives today, as the whole busted toe drama has reduced my productivity to nearly zero.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I won’t fill you in on how to interpret the sign above, in the language of NYC’s street culture, but if you are literate in slang it’s quite a funny message.

One did manage to attend two CB1 community board functions this week, both of which saw me using a taxi to get to the meetings. The first was held by the “land use” committee, which I’m not a member of but we are encouraged to attend all committee meetings whether or not we are officially a member thereof. I’m trying to visit with each one of the groupings at least once, in pursuit of meeting all the other CB1 members and also learning the operational side of things. Personally, I’m on the “transportation” and “environmental” committee groups.

“Land use,” which was on Wednesday night, seems to focus in on zoning and other niceties of the City Planning process. Discussed was the status of Rikers Island. It seems that despite Rikers being officially and politically part of the Bronx, Queens CB1 has regency over the island and facility. The Dept. of City Planning was seeking board consensus for two items – redefining the island as a “public place,” and secondly the effort to create a locked down deadline of December of 2026 for when detention would no longer be allowed on Rikers Island. Discussion of what comes after occurred, but that was shelved as it’s functionally impossible to predict what the next Mayor and the next City Council coalition would want to do with it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, the “transportation” committee met. We received a presentation from Revel, a private company offering “last mile” electric moped services. With an app and smartphone based business model which feeds customers to their moped fleet of 1,000 units (currently), the Revel people were quite nice and prepared for questions and answers. In general, I’m liking their service (which I don’t use, but several of my friends do), and the conversation with their reps centered around safety and operational issues. My questions for them centered around privacy issues, how long trip data persists on their servers, and so on.

It was nice to be amongst people, for a sheltered invalid such as myself.


“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 8, 2019 at 11:45 am

oaken construct

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Frustrated, bored, plagued.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered last week – before, during, and after the Newtown Creek walking tour which I conducted in the dark and rain with a freshly broken toe. One of the more frustrating parts of my life since the emergence of the fractured phalange has involved that the atmosphere looked like this. Voluminous fog, wet streets, a generally distasteful and uncomfortable climate offers ideal conditions for the sort of long exposure urban nightscape photos which I crave to create.

There I was, stuck in the house watching netflix with my swollen foot elevated, and draped with an ice pack. It’s like that time I missed the Fourth of July.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I rarely take shots during tours, but for various reasons, I cracked this one out on the preternaturally dark and aptly named Railroad Avenue in Blissville.

By this stage of the recovery process, I’ve grown tired of trying to entertain myself. Haven’t read any of those books I said ai was going to, as I’m essentially crawling the walls at this point. There’s a community board meeting tonight, for a committee I’m not on, which I might attend just to have something to do. That’s how bored I am. I’ve got a college group scheduled for a Newtown Creek excursion on Thursday morning, and then a meeting for a committee I’m on the same night, so at least Thursday will offer some distractions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Plague thing involves a horde of flies which enjoys buzzing about on my porch. A few of them have made it inside the house, and they’re all haughty because I’m unable to chase them around. Instead I’ve set traps. Another week like this one, and I’ll be in full “Jigsaw” mode (The “Saw” horror franchise) and setting ironic torture traps out for them. If I’m still hobbled two weeks from now, I’ll start working on a battalion of tiny murder drones to patrol the living room ceiling. Zuzu the dog doesn’t pay attention to anything smaller than mice, and I’ve got one of those living on my porch too.

Life is a cabaret, old friends.


“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 6, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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