The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Dutch Kills’ Category

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. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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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

threat level

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Either go clean your room or go outside and play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll go gather some proper shots of it next week, but as you can see from the shot above the second phase of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge project is coming along nicely. Those two new towers are rising from industrial Maspeth, right at the border with LIC’s Blissville, and are in the footprint of the old K-Bridge which was “energetically felled” last year. I’m going to be asking the K-Bridge team about an official update on the project sometime soon, but probably won’t hear back from them until the fall. Not too much happens in officialdom during the middle and late summer, as people who work for the government usually enjoy a 1950’s style work schedule that includes summer vacations and getting out of work at four or five. This is part of the disconnect between the citizenry and their Government these days. They have no idea about how corporate America operates in modernity, and what life is like for the rest of us.

It’s why they constantly design boxes to fit us all into that seem too small and constraining, just like our friends and family do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hallets Cove in Astoria, pictured above.

Boxes are what others want to build around you, in my experience. Folks want to quantify their friends and family, coworkers and neighbors, defining acceptable behavioral norms and expectations for others. Speaking as somebody who avoids doing this, as it always leads to disappointment and conflict, and personally speaking it can be quite annoying when somebody gets after me about not fitting in one of their “slots.” I’m not a player on anybody’s stage other than my own.

It’s funny how often I get accused of egomaniacal braggadocio. Is it bragging if you’re just stating things that you’ve actually done, and recounting the tales of your adventures? There’s never been a box offered that can actually contain me, and at least for the last decade the life of a humble narrator has been lived in pursuit of “envelope pushing.” What that means is that when I’m asked if I want to do something that makes me uncomfortable, or nervous, I say “yes.” People close to me will often tell me “you can’t,” mainly because it threatens the envelope of expectation they have formed about you. Just do it, and screw what others say, life is short and it’s your life you’re living, not theirs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills, LIC, pictured above.

What I’ve discovered is that whereas I do have physical limits, their boundaries are far beyond anything I believed they were. Board a boat at four in the morning in January? Sure. NYC Parade Marshal? Why not? Testify in Federal Court about Newtown Creek and or Western Queens? OK. Advocate and argue for esoteric points of view with Government officialdom? Sounds good. The box I used to live in a decade ago before all of this madness began?

Shattered. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

vast armful

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Artsy fartsy at Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the derisive things people say about me is that it often seems like I’m exploring some random tangent with no apparent goal. This cannot be further from the truth, as there are overarching strategic goals which can sometimes take years and years to play out and are expressed by following various tactics along the way. Part of the reason that you have seen so much in the way of long exposure night photography in recent months, here at your Newtown Pentacle, has been in pursuit of familiarizing myself with the techniques and foibles associated with this particular discipline.

I’ve also been slowly accumulating “kit,” on a tight budget.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent addition to my camera bag is a ten stop ND filter. For those not familiar with such photographic nitty gritty, an ND filter is essentially a very dark sunglass for your lens, which allows you to slow – or stop – down the daylight exposure process to something approximating night time exposures. Thirty second or longer exposures are made possible with the little chunk of semi opaque black glass.

Of course, the day after I picked up the filter, that heat wave we all so enjoyed kicked into gear. This sort of thing happens to me all the time… get a new lens?… weeklong blizzard… tripod?… two weeks of rain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I finally was able to make the time and endure the weather, I took the ND filter and the rest of my camera bag over to my happy hunting grounds at the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek and got busy. I kept on having to shoo away angry geese, as a note, but I’m pretty happy with my initial results and look forward to drilling down into and exploring what I can do with this new tool.

Geese are dicks. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Research is essential when purchasing anything camera related, otherwise you’re going to end up spending a fortune. All camera tripod mounts use a twenty turn quarter inch screw, for instance. If you buy that screw at a camera shop, it’s going to cost you $5-7 for just one screw, whereas the same amount of cash will buy you a bag of fifty of them at Home Depot. At home, I’m constantly improvising this or that for table shots and other needs rather than buying something expensive from BH Photo that I’ll use just once.

I bought a screw on type filter, rather than the filter holder arrangement of the type offered by the Lee company. I avoided the variable type, instead getting a “regular” ND filter manufactured under the ICE brand name for about thirty bucks. The thing you have to watch out for with these devices is color cast. They’ve all got a color cast, I’m told, whether they cost $30 or $300, so I opted for the most affordable option after doing my research. As a note, the BH Photo and Adorama organizations have uploaded hours and hours of video to YouTube that discuss the usage and nature of the gear they sell. Some of these are instructional videos, for those possessed of all levels of photographic acumen. Worth a look.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with something this dark on the front of your lens is in composition and focusing, but that’s where some of the online research came in handy. The traditional manner (and best practice, admittedly) to handle the ND process is by doing a filterless “master shot” and then calculating the extra exposure time needed when the filter is applied. Instead, on the advice of a vlogging landscape photographer, I activated the live view screen on the camera (which I almost never do) and this gave me a somewhat inaccurate preview of the shot which also allowed me to set the point of focus. The trick is in setting the screen to show you the histogram of the shot while you’re composing and fiddling with settings. Since these shots were gathered at narrow apertures (f8-f18) the only thing I really had to worry about was “hyperfocal” distance, focus wise.

Hyperfocal distance is the theoretical field of acceptable sharpness which starts at five to seven feet from the lens and then extends out to infinity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a fairly full schedule for this coming week, but I’m anxious to find myself at an opportune point of view with flowing water to take advantage of the time stretching aspects of this ND filter. First chance I get, I’m heading to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Park, with my fingers crossed that the fountains will be turned on.

I’m glad that there are no fountains on the Newtown Creek, actually.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Saturday, July 14th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.

Sunday, July 15th – Penny2Plank – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

There are eleven bridges crossing the modern day Newtown Creek and its tributaries, nine of which are moveable bridges of one kind or another. Other bridges, forgotten and demolished, used to cross the Creek. The approaches to these bridges are still present on the street grids of Brooklyn and Queens as “street ends.” Newtown Creek Alliance and a small army of volunteers have been working to transform these “street ends” from weed choked dumping grounds into inviting public spaces. This walk with NCA historian Mitch Waxman will take you there and back again, discussing the history and current status of these street ends and the territory in between.

The tour will start in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, and end in Queens’ Maspeth nearby the Grand Street Bridge.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

started upstairs

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Strewing manufactured items behind yourself, the Queensican way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator gives a hoot, and tries not to pollute. Others do not feel this way, and seem to believe that they’re providing work for some unfortunate by leaving a debris field of garbage behind themselves. I am known to carry my various “on the go” waste products with me in anticipation of encountering a trash receptacle eventually. With the notable exception of the nation of China, I’m fairly certain that littering or throwing garbage out of your car window is fairly unacceptable in every country on the Earth, so don’t give me that “diversity rap.” (China operates under a completely different set of rules, and famously it’s kosher and custom to just squat and crap in the street over there.)

The world ain’t gonna change for me, I fear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In anticipation of a “press event” which I’m told is going to occur this week in Long Island City, involving high ranking City Environmental Officialdom, a work crew was observed collecting garbage in the Degnon Terminal area on Saturday. This was the first time I’ve seen such a municipal crew performing this task since the last time high ranking City Environmental Officialdom was in the area with reporters concurrently in tow. The “bosses” don’t pay much attention to the industrial zones when reporters aren’t around, which is why you see streets (29th at Hunters Point Avenue pictured above) that are all busted up and hosting permanently standing water.

No one actually cares, it’s all a game.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The best quality illegal dumping is reserved for the hidden shorelines of the fabulous Newtown Creek, I’d offer. The funny thing is that all that metal you see is worth serious money for the recycling trade. Prior to Hurricane Sandy, there was a Mexican guy I called the “Blue Crow” who lived in a shack back here and he would have likely harvested all of this stuff.

I seriously need a vacation, to go somewhere nice where there aren’t many other people, and garbage is found only in cans or bins.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Saturday, July 14th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.

Sunday, July 15th – Penny2Plank – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

There are eleven bridges crossing the modern day Newtown Creek and its tributaries, nine of which are moveable bridges of one kind or another. Other bridges, forgotten and demolished, used to cross the Creek. The approaches to these bridges are still present on the street grids of Brooklyn and Queens as “street ends.” Newtown Creek Alliance and a small army of volunteers have been working to transform these “street ends” from weed choked dumping grounds into inviting public spaces. This walk with NCA historian Mitch Waxman will take you there and back again, discussing the history and current status of these street ends and the territory in between.

The tour will start in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, and end in Queens’ Maspeth nearby the Grand Street Bridge.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

every limit

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LIC at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking a short break this week, and single images will be greeting you through the July 4th Holiday week while I’m out shvitzing and photographing things.

Today is July 5th, and just like the rest of the calendar, there’s always a series of events that occurred over the centuries which seems to suggest that history might not be all that random. Alternatively, it probably is, and it’s the nature of human beings to attempt to form ordered patterns out of chaos.

  • 1810 – P. T. Barnum, American businessman, co-founded Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was born.
  • 1937 – Spam, the luncheon meat, is introduced into the market by the Hormel Foods Corporation.
  • 1954 – The BBC broadcasts its first television news bulletin.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 5, 2018 at 11:00 am

calloused outlook

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A few shots from the Degnon Terminal, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Modernity knows the complex of cyclopean factory buildings along Thomson Avenue in Long Island City as the campus of LaGuardia Community College. If – like me – you can see through time to earlier ages, you know that Thomson Avenue was named for the guy who used to own the Neptune Water Meter company over on Jackson Avenue, a recently demolished building which in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries was the home of 5ptz. You’d know that until the start of the 20th century, this area was a pestilential mosquito breeding swamp known as the waste meadows, and that it wasn’t until the Pennsylvania Railroad decided to site their Sunnyside Yard nearby that the swamp was drained and filled in.

The waste meadows were owned by the estate of a former Governor of New York State named Roscoe P. Flowers, and their acreage was bought up by the Degnon Terminal Realty company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Michael Degnon was a contractor who could accomplish the impossible during the age of “progress” in the newly consolidated City of Greater New York. He came to prominence installing the masonry cladding of the Williamsburg Bridge and finishing the subway tunnels which August Belmont and William Steinway had started. The rock “spoils” which were produced when mining the subway tunnels connecting Queens and Manhattan were brought here to LIC, raising the land to a high and dry condition. Degnon began to sell his land off to large industrial concerns, and constructed their factories for them. His Degnon Terminal offered a “terminal railway” which allowed for shipping connections to maritime barge and cargo ships at Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, as well as direct connections to the Long Island Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad trackages on the LIRR’s Lower Montauk and Main Line. Additionally, connections to the New York Connecting Railroad and the Hell Gate bridge were possible as well. Degnon is buried in First Calvary Cemetery if you’d like to leave him some flowers.

As the Queens Chamber of Commerce called it contemporaneously, Queens was the “Borough of Homes and Industry” a hundred years ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just this last week, a meeting of the “Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group” was held at one of CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College buildings in the former Degnon Terminal, and as is my habit – the camera was deployed before and after the meeting. The shot above looks north in the direction of the Sunnyside Yard and you can just see the arch of the Hell Gate Bridge on the horizon. That yellow streak is the IRT Flushing Line – or 7 train – moving through the shot while the shutter was open for about fifteen seconds.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

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