The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Blissville’ Category

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.


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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.

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

watching sentinels

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One more bit of Creekery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even at three or four in the morning, it’s hard to find a thirty second interval on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge during which heavy trucks or buses aren’t passing over the double bascule drawbridge and causing it to quiver and quake. Getting any sort of usable long exposure shot from up there is a matter of luck for most. Since I give it a go every time I’m walking over it at night, the law of averages states that I’m occasionally going to be able to time it right.

That’s the new Kosciuszcko Bridge in the distance, poking its head up over the industrial zone found along Railroad Avenue in LIC’s Blissville section. That enormous smokestack is all that’s left of Van Iderstine’s fat rendering operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If “over yonder” means the Greenpoint, Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek, then over yonder that’s what used to be called the BP Amoco yard. It’s a distribution hub for petroleum products, and those tanks contain various flavors of refined products. It sits in part of the footprint of the old Standard Oil Sone and Fleming refinery complex which would one day become Mobil Oil. Across Apollo Street to the east was another Standard refinery operation – Locust Hill. Apollo Street is the epicenter of the Greenpoint Oil Pill discovery and remediation process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is actually a handheld one, looking roughly westwards across Greenpoint towards Manhattan. Remember that heavy traffic I mentioned? Never, ever stops.

Back Monday with something different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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 15th, 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 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

clutching inkiness

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Simple things, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amongst the first things that one of my neighbors in Astoria wants to know is what zodiac sign you were born under. When you indicate where your birthday lands on the wheel of the year, she shoots a knowing look at you and acts like you just revealed the code you use for the ATM terminals at the bank. It’s made up, astrology is. Bunk.

Another neighbor loudly pronounces that “he doesn’t give a ‘eff” before doing something stupid or self destructive. He’s part of a whole crew I know that doesn’t give an ‘eff about this or that. At my age, the single thing that I’ve gleaned about life is to give lots and lots of ‘effs. Not giving an ‘eff can get expensive, consequence wise. I’ve gotten to the point these days to proactively give ‘effs, just to save some dough.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something I use as a gauge of intellect in the people I meet and encounter is whether or not a stressor will cause the phrase “I don’t care, call the Cops, I don’t care” to emerge from their face hole. The statement is meant to elicit fear in the listener, and indicate how “thug,” “street,” or just plain “bad ass” the petitioner is. Usually, the statement is offered as part of a series of aggressive primate display behaviors, with a lot of hand waving and other declarative statements (see paragraph above) wound in.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, doesn’t care when the Cops arrive. If you don’t care when they get there, NYPD will ensure that you do. Me? I do not wish for encounters with people who believe in the efficacious nature of dime store astrological advice and who do not “give an ‘eff” to escalate into requiring the mediating presence of the gendarmes. Seriously… what is wrong with our culture these days?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody you see is under constant pressure… the rent is due next week, tick tock. This thing is wrong, and that thing hurts for no reason, and the subways, and now that his Presidential Campaign is done the Mayor is going to get back to doing stupid things again… Washington, and the Executive Branch in particular, is currently being staffed by comic book villains. Everybody is under constant existential pressure, and the ropes tighten up a bit every single day. I can see the appeal of embracing the pseudo scientific, supernatural, and behaving as if you were a mafioso when you are… in fact… a dry wall installer or drive a truck or something.

The question I always ask is “what do you want to achieve,” or “what result do I think this particular set of things I’m doing and saying will cause to happen”? Was it my status as a Virgo that caused me to break a car window while screaming “Call the Cops, I don’t care, I don’t give an ‘eff” and did it cause me to act like an asshole when I got my wish and get all aggressive towards them when they show up? Smart move is to give up. A cop on the street has the legal right to kill you, they are god on the street. Starting from the minute that the cuffs go on, and progressing through the arrest process, the street cop becomes less and less godlike. Be smart.

I just don’t understand people. Really don’t. Better to spend my time alone, wandering through the concrete devastations. There are no fortune tellers there, nor vainglorious fools shouting “worldstar.”


“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.

dual formula

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Never know what you’re going to find…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Saturday last, one attended the Newtown Creek Alliance “Kingsland Wildflowers” event at 520 Kingsland Avenue over in Greenpoint. Sort of a block party set up in a TV studio’s parking lot, it was quite successfully attended by the Greenpoint “nose ring” crowd, and I stuck around until the light got nice and then set off to walk back home to Astoria. As is my habit, Greenpoint Avenue in LIC’s Blissville section was chosen as my path, and since the light was indeed “nice” I got busy on the way.

The security patrol at Calvary Cemetery had already locked the gates of the their Polayandrion Necropolis up, but the regular apertures in their stout iron fencing nevertheless allows one to grab a shot or two from the sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst scuttling along, the red envelope pictured above was noticed.

If I was a fish, this is exactly the sort of thing you’d bait your hook with in pursuance of making a dinner out of me. “You never know what you’re going to find at First Calvary Cemetery,” I always say, and the only thing surer to draw me in than a big red envelope saying “help” would be a big red button that says “do not push.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dare I look within? I darest.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Within the envelope was a hand written index card bearing some liturgical nonsense, a phone number, and a street address resolving back to Roosevelt Avenue between 68th and 69th streets in Woodside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the particular joy one takes in deflating people’s religious beliefs, (I once talked a Jehovah’s Witness into tossing his Watchtower stock into a trash bin and head straight to a bar for his first drink) the sort of language on the card immediately said “Prosperity Gospel” to me.

The term refers to a certain facet of the evangelical and pentecostal paths in which the Church you belong to espouses the religious requirement of tithing 10% (and in the particular case of the organization at the address above, gross pre tax earnings 10%) to them. Tithe honestly and regularly, and god will return the investment, or so the prosperity gospel adherents believe. It’s like a celestial scratch off lottery ticket.

Hey, I don’t care what you do with your money or believe in. As long as you can sleep at night and aren’t hurting anyone other than yourself…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I believe that Jor El sent his only begotten son to live amongst us, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. I believe that the savior pretends to be one of us, lies to all of his friends, and continually gas lights his lady love. This is pointed out simply to state that all kinds of people have all sorts of goofy ideations.

The church which the Calvary Card is meant to lead you to is the Iglesia Universal del Reino de Dios, or the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in english. A Brazilian founded order, which dates back to 1977, the UCKG claims 8 million global adherents. They operate out of a mega church building modeled after and called the “Temple of Solomon” in São Paulo, Brazil. The founder of the church, and its Bishop, is a fellow named Edir Macedo. Macedo is a billionaire, owns what seems to be the Brazilian version of Fox News, and is heavily involved in Brazilian politics. Poor people in Queens give this fellow ten cents on every dollar they earn, before tax.

There you are.


“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

September 23, 2019 at 1:00 pm

endless shelves

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Tunnel visions, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Absent friends. That’s all I’m going to say about today’s anniversary of 9/11, other than that we have been at war for eighteen years now, in six different theaters of operation, with no end in sight, and nobody ever talks about that. We also don’t ask where all that homeland security money goes, and why – despite all that funding – you can still just wander into any number of supposedly secure locations in Brooklyn and Queens unimpeded. It’s a different story in Manhattan, of course, but there you are.

Raise a glass to those absent friends tonight, hug your kids, and continue on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Me? I’m too busy and stressed out at the moment to indulge in anything resembling a normal thought process. I’ve got a big project which will have matured and been accomplished by tomorrow night about 9 p.m. at which point I’ll be able to relax for a minute and gather my thoughts. Today, I’m busy “herding cats” and “managing expectations.” A minefield is where I’m at right now.

Seriously, all I ever set out to do was take pictures of Newtown Creek and the document the season of change in the watershed communities surrounding it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big project which is stressing me out is a private event, so I can’t really talk about it. There’s been a couple of major projects in the works throughout August which are coming to fruition, but since the universe demands that when I’m focusing on something a cloud of biting insects will appear to torment and distract…

It’s so busy this week that I’m actually dreaming about tasks that I need to crush out, and upon awakening from those little snatches of death… Man, I really need a vacation from Home Sweet Hell.


“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

September 11, 2019 at 12:00 pm

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