The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Dutch Kills’ Category

boyhood antiquarianism

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East side, west side, all around the town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A third arm would come in handy when shooting in the rain, as managing both umbrella and camera is a bit of a chore. I’ve spent my life waiting for a “disruptive new take” on umbrellas, but the current generation of engineers seems obsessed with reinventing key chains instead. The giant golf umbrella I’m currently using is huge and sturdy, and came into my possession as a bit of branded “shwag” manufactured by some non profit group. It’s a bit of a carry though, and has a tendency to catch the wind due to its immense circus tent like size. Have we reached “peak umbrella” or is there a revolution in handheld rain shelter on the horizon? I’m talking to you, Elon Musk.

Often, a humble narrator finds himself dreaming about an umbrella that is deployed along the spine and straight up out of my backpack, which would leave both of my arms free for other tasks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with umbrellas ultimately come down to their tendency to catch the wind, so the perfect solution to shooting in the rain would involve the deployment of some Star Trek or Dune style personal shielding of the electromagnetic type. You’d just need a gizmo that could pump out a massive amount of electromagnetic radiation and another that formed a magnetic bottle around yourself. Of course, this would destroy your personal electronics, likely disrupt the bio electrical functioning of the body, induce instant cancer in both you and everybody within a few hundred yards, but you’d be dry and the lens wouldn’t be spotted with rain drops.

On a related note – a general consensus, arrived at by the squad of morons and malcontents whom I spend my time with, states that googling any health concern you might be experiencing returns a result that it’s likely some type of cancer. Also, the cancer isn’t regular cancer, it’s super cancer. That’s the kind of cancer where the tumor rips itself free of your body and then prowls around in search of new victims, usually puppies and young children. The Super Cancers can attach themselves to infrastructure, throwing out whip like tentacles that snatch birds out of the air mid flight and plucking fish from the sea. Funnily enough, the only known method for killing Super Cancer, which is bullet and fire resistant, is Monsanto’s Roundup Weed Killer. Go figure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Engineers are depressingly grounded in the laws of the physical universe, I find. One discovered this several years ago when I was espousing the use of heat guns in place of shovels for wintertime sidewalk snow and ice clearance. Despite my brilliant moment of transcendent realization, all that my engineer friends could talk about were the laws of energy conservation, Isaace Newtwon, and that the amount of energy required to melt ice in subzero temperatures would be incalculable. Next thing you know, they were telling me that my other dream of creating my own race of Atomic Supermen by exposing tank dwelling fetuses to gamma rays would just result in filling an intensive care ward with handicapped children afflicted by Super Cancer were they to be birthed. Pfah.

Shit on my parade? Go design a better umbrella, kid.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 3, 2019 at 2:30 pm

no triumph

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Freaking Tuesdays…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s part of the Degnon Terminal industrial park in LIC seen in the shot above, a complex which is a smidge over a century old. It originally had companies like Ever Ready Battery, American Chicle Gum, Loose Wiles Bakery, and warehouse operations for Manhattan department stores like Bloomingdales and Sterns (my mom called the latter Stoynes). The Real Estate Industrial Complex has done a fantastic job of repopulating the area with smaller corporate entities in recent years, rebranding several of these behemoth structures as “The Factory LIC” or “The Falchi Building” and attracting startups and smaller companies to the cavernous spaces within. LaGuardia Community College occupies one or two of the historic buildings, and a third rate modern one as well. As you move west towards Skillman Avenue along 47th avenue (known 100 years ago as Nelson Avenue, and as Nott Avenue before that, and as the salt meadows or “boueries” of the Payntar Family prior to that), the artisinal and fancy pants face of modernity drops away and you encounter the remains of the real LIC.

Crummy, crumbling, crusty. Hey, unlike in North Brooklyn, at least the Real Estate people didn’t just burn everything down and endanger the lives of the Fire Department people to get to the future.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I checked in on that widening bulkhead collapse on 29th street, at the turning basin of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary. Nothing has been done, whatsoever, to ameliorate it or the inevitable collapse of 29th street into the poison mud. It’s all kind of depressing, and presuming the thing doesn’t collapse over Thanksgiving weekend, I’m going to have to start annoying the Deputy Commissioners at the city DOT here in Queens about it as soon as the holiday is over. #Carnage gets you a bike lane? How about #MitchinvitesNY1toLIC really soon after the Amazon announcement to talk about literally crumbling road infrastructure and multiple bulkhead collapses along Newtown Creek’s LIC coastline?

Godalmighty, I hate everyone so much because of this kind of stuff. Why am I the only one…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a strange feeling that 2019 is the year when the bottom will break on this particular bucket of trouble called Long Island City. There’s so many individual problems and issues here – enviromental, municipal infrastructure, transit, the Sunnyside Yards Deck, ludicrous levels of traffic, hospital beds, police capability, FDNY resources… A strong wind blows through these parts and the whole house of cards will come falling down, I tell’s ya.

The Chinese Zodiac informs that 2019 is the year of the pig, but I’m feeling entirely like a different kind of critter will typify the action hereabouts in the coming year.

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”

“No, no, by the hair on my chiny chin chin.” 

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 20, 2018 at 1:33 pm

lapsed joy

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Night time, right time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few more shots from a nocturnal walk earlier this week are on offer today. That’s the Pulaski Bridge in the shot above, as seen from a street end in LIC adjoining a colony of squatter boats which enjoy a total lack of will on the part of law enforcement as far as their occupation of both municipal and private property.

What I’d like to share with you today, however, is that Newtown Creek Alliance is holding a benefit party on Saturday night at 520 Kingsland Avenue to raise funds for our operations in 2019. It’s going to be a pretty cool party, I think.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NCA was formed in 2002, as an ad hoc community group, by an amazing woman named Katie Schmid. Katie stepped back shortly after I started to get involved with NCA back in 2008, and another amazing lady named Kate Zidar took over. Kate carried NCA from being community group to “official status” as a non profit 501/3c corporation. Kate Zidar moved on to other projects, and the big chair was then filled by Willis Elkins, who serves as NCA’s executive director today.

A humble narrator is the group’s Historian, and as you all know, I’m on the “reveal” side of the mission conducting tours and lectures. All of us in NCA serve in one capacity or another on a multitude of citizen committees which revolve around the Creek – notably the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee (re: the sewer plant in Greenpoint), The Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group (re: EPA’s Superfund designation). We also attend gatherings and meetings with other organizations whose territory touches the Creek; North Brooklyn Boat Club, HarborLab, Maspeth Industrial Business Association, Evergreen, St. Nick’s Alliance, Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, Hunters Point Civic Association, Blissville Civic Association, NAG, GWAAP, OUTRAGE… all are buddies of ours and part of the “Alliance” in one way or another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In recent years, NCA has worked with Riverkeeper to create an extraordinary visiting document for the future of the Creek, and our volunteers have cleaned up and created multiple points of public access to the water at street ends like the Maspeth Avenue and Meeker Avenue street ends. We’re just getting started.

On Saturday, November 3rd, were asking the community to join us in Greenpoint for a benefit party to support the continuing work. Link below.

Upcoming events


Saturday, November 3rdTidal Toast, a fundraiser party to support Newtown Creek Alliance in our mission to “Reveal, Restore, Revitalize” the Newtown Creek. Since 2002 the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) has been the voice of Newtown Creek; working with industry, agencies, and residents alike to promote awareness, remediation, access, resilient businesses and ecological restoration. This celebration will champion the Vision for the future of the waterway and those that have contributed their time, energy and effort to it.
More information and tickets here. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 1, 2018 at 11:30 am

attic realm

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Aftermath, LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may have heard that there was a rather large fire in Long Island City over the weekend, which saw an auto body shop consumed in what ended up being a five alarm blaze. Multiple FDNY units were sent to LIC from other boroughs, and despite their efforts the fire raged for hours and hours. The roof of the structure collapsed, and I’d be willing to bet that it’s going to be declared a total loss somewhere down the line by insurers.

On Sunday I walked over to get some shots of the scene, and given that this area is kind of “my stomping grounds,” knew where to go for an efficacious angle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The FDNY had two units on hand in case anything flashed back to life, and NYPD was also on hand controlling the intersection and keeping “lookie-loos” like me from getting into trouble. FDNY had Rockaway’s Tower Ladder 155 unit, as well as Engine unit 289 from Corona, on point. The coppers were from the 108 pct.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I say it all the time, “Newtown Creek has a history of large industrial site fires.” When I say that, I’m thinking of actual history – the 1882 and 1919 Standard Oil refinery fires in Greenpoint or the Pratt Varnish works fire just down the block here in LIC. Just in the last decade there’s been two major fires, both in Greenpoint, which took nearly a week to put out. Also in Greenpoint, there was the Greenpoint Terminal Market fire about 15 years ago which saw the largest FDNY deployment since 911.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 2, 2018 at 2:00 pm

rotting ossuaries

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A dollar short and a day late…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I seem to be about twelve hours behind on my scheduling today, due to a very busy week. Thusly, a single image of a DonJon Tug moving barges about on Newtown Creek greets you in this very late post. Back tomorrow with something decidedly meatier for you to sink your teeth into, lords and ladies.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2018 at 1:59 pm

cyclopean ruinations

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Bulkhead collapse at Dutch Kills! 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First off, these are shots from my iPhone (which I had to use instead of the usual DSLR for a variety of reasons). Secondly, my intention yesterday was to just wander around LIC for a while while it was still foggy, set up the tripod here and there and get busy with the camera. Walking down 29th street (between 47th avenue and 49th/Hunters Point Avenue), you’re able to spy the turning basin of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, and this is part of my regular route around the area. 

When I got to 29th street, however, I found this scene. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometime between last Saturday and yesterday (Wednesday the 12th) a not insignificant stretch of the bulk head collapsed into the water. Those trees used to be at street level, and from the look of it, when the debris fell in the water it displaced a long abandoned fuel barge from the spot it’s been in for a decade or two. The barge is now riding up against an adjacent building on one side, and a second sunken fuel barge on another. It’s been pushed several yards from its former resting place, in the direction of the center of the channel. 

As a note, this is the second bulk head collapse on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek watershed in recent years, with the other occurring not too far away at the Vernon Avenue Street end. Disturbing portent, no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, when encountering some profound alteration to the Newtown Creek watershed, I rang up my colleague Willis Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance. He happened to be nearby, and we both puzzled over who to speak to about this situation. Two pronged, we decided, and got busy with the photos. Willis reached out to a few contacts whom he knew had regency over the spot (29th street is not a NYC street at all, it’s in fact a “railroad access road” owned by the LIRR) and I contacted Jimmy Van Bramer’s office, hoping they might be able to figure out what to do about this. 

Saying that, I’m a bit concerned about hydrological undermining on 29th street now, which a lot of very heavy trucks use regularly. Disturbing subsidences indeed. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 13, 2018 at 11:00 am

was sane

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Odds and ends from LIC, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, a photographer friend of mine came out to LIC, and I introduced her to a few interesting points of view along Skillman Avenue and the Degnon Terminal section of Long Island City. Whereas I’m nowhere near as jaded as those who grew up in the area are, it was still fun hearing her gasp in wonder at the marvel of it all. I see this when I do tours as well, when ordinary people find themselves in this extraordinary place found along the loathsome Newtown Creek. Often, I analogize it to the time that I visited a friend who was working as an animator for Disney in Florida. He instructed, as we were moving through one of the parks, to step over towards what appeared to be a solid white wall. When you were within a couple of feet of the structure, a hidden aperture appeared, and with a side step or two you suddenly found yourself backstage where the guy who plays Goofy had his head off and was smoking a cigarette.

Is the rest of NYC actually the customer facing part of Disneyworld, with industrial LIC the back lot where they store the compressed gas cylinders for the soda machines? Maybe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom? We do have rides and attractions hereabouts. There’s a lot of rules, you’re almost always on camera, and there’s lots of people either pretending to be or acting like fictional characters they saw in some old movie. There’s underground networks of tunnels used by a secretive workforce, long suffering municipal employees involved in an elaborate kabuki show put on for the tourists and real estate customers… the only thing that really distinguishes modern day NYC from one of the Disney parks would be the lack of political “cosplayers.”

Hi kids, I’m Progressive Pigeon, meet Diversity Doggo and Equity Eagle. Watch out for that nasty old Conservative Kitty Cat and Counter Revolutionary Rat, they’re on the wrong side of that protected bike lane over there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned hundreds of times at this point, I really need a vacation. Literal “recreation” as in re-create. Unfortunately, I’ve arrived at that stage of life in which it is impossible to enjoy anything, and even going to sleep is a pain in the ass. Anhedonia is the medical term for this, a total physical and emotional numbness which I fear even a visit to the Magic Kingdom cannot cure. Nothing’s easy, and even if I cured Cancer, the result would be everybody telling me I’m an asshole for doing so. I have become an assassin of joy in my old age.

At least I can bring others to the back stage at NYC’s 5 theme parks, and talk about things which are – in fact – amazing. It seemed to make my photographer friend happy the other day, so at least there’s that. Bah.


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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 2, 2018 at 11:00 am

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