The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Dutch Kills’ Category

ritualistic innocence

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So off schedule these days…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies offered for inconsistent timing on these posts, but my rather nocturnal lifestyle these days means that I’m constantly out of sync with the rest of the world. What can I tell you, I’m basically living on Asia Pacific time. The thing in the megalith doesn’t care, it just laughs instead. Mortals and their foibles, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a whole lot going on, including a free walking tour or two coming up that I’m sealing up the details on, and which I’ll let you know about later on in the week. Meanwhile, I’m wandering around with the camera while you’re sleeping, capturing some of the wonders of Long Island City before they’re swept away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tomorrow, something a bit different, which I got the other night in Maspeth. Meanwhile, why not buy a photo book at the link below and help me support myself? I’ve got bills to pay, y’know.


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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.

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secretive days

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Darkness and cold, it’s all darkness and cold.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just last night, I was menaced by a raccoon over in Industrial Maspeth, but that’s another story for a different day. Last week, on the other hand, I was on Borden Avenue in LIC where I discovered that the Borden Avenue Bridge is undergoing an asbestos remediation project that nobody in Queens seems to know anything about. Unlike asbestos jobs I’ve seen elsewhere, there was no plastic sheeting on the scaffolding and nothing in place to guard against bits and pieces from falling into the water.

Multiple inquiries were made. Even the NYC DOT (the people I’m supposed to ask are at Deputy Commish level, suppose I’m going to have to use back channel sources to find out), whose bridge this is, were stumped as to what’s going on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It often startles me how close the Newtown Creek and its tributaries are to the very center of NYC, both geographically and politically, yet it often feels like you’re in a foreign country when talking to Manhattan based “officialdom.” The actual geographic center, according to NYC City Planning, is at Queens Blvd. and 58th street – if you’re the curious type. I am.

It’s funny, actually. Land in LIC is worth more now than its ever been, or at least more than its been valued at in at least a century, but just 3/4 of a mile from the East River at Dutch Kills you’re in a black hole.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Irving Subway Grate iron works site pictured above. Long abandoned, it was immolated about eight or nine years  ago and has been standing fallow ever since. This is huge footprint site, just a few blocks from the red hot Degnon Terminal area on Thomson Avenue and a ten minute walk from the white hot Court Square zone. The dreams of avarice are being realized for real estate industrial complex speculators in Court Square, yet this gigantic patch of ground sits febrile.

Go figure.


“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.

nocturnal meetings

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Back in session.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One wishes he could tell you that all sorts of cool adventures occurred during my week off, but I mainly ended up going to meetings and engaging in “no fun zone” activities. I did manage to find one night to wander about in LIC during the evening hours, specifically in the Degnon Terminal area found nearby Borden Avenue. One does enjoy his concrete devastations, after all. So, what have I been up to?

Working on the summer tour schedule, figuring out my next set of moves, and cleaning house to prepare for the busy part of my year which occurs between April and November. Mainly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Long Island Expreessway framing the Empire State Building, as seen from Borden Avenue in Long Island City, in the shot above. At night it’s a desolate and lonely spot, which is what I seem to gravitate towards. Don’t judge.

Last Sunday, I spoke to a crowd in Sunnyside about the proposed Sunnyside Yards project. Monday found me at a meeting of the Kosciuszcko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee getting an update on the construction project from the chief engineer and discussing some of the ongoing issues associated with the effort. Tuesday found me on a call in meeting for the Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group steering committee, and Wednesday I had to shoot over to Greenpoint for the reception event for the Brooklyn Public Library’s Greenpoint Oral History project. Thursday and Friday were mine to fill, which I basically did nothing with. I had every intention of Friday being an “on the water” day, but weather reports scared me off the idea. As it turned out, it was a beautiful day and a missed opportunity, as the promised thunderstorms didn’t arrive until well into the evening.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s even more Sunnyside Yards action happening this week and next. As mentioned, the NYC EDC has shrugged off their Amazonian humiliations and seem to be doubling down on the “next big thing.” Accordingly, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on the principals involved with their project. If any of them are reading this right now, I’m sure their bowels are loosening at the sound of that sentence.

That’s not thunder, that’s me. Something wicked your way comes.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 18, 2019 at 2:00 pm

slackened metabolism

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Borden Avenue, Long Island City

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has nothing new to show you this week, so archived shots are on offer. Fear not, as you’re receiving this, one is running about the City whilst the camera is clicking and whirring away. In the meantime, enjoy yourself, as it’s probably a lot later than you think.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Regular posts resume next Monday, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 15, 2019 at 11:00 am

such odours

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Hiding in the dark, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sort of places I inhabit, and any physical description of me, are best analogized by early European folkloric accounts of a wild man living in the wasteland and hiding in the shadows. That’s where I like to menace passerby and scare children from, the scrabbly edges of civilization. Sometimes I like to howl, which booms alongst the bulkheads. Hurling rocks at isolated dwellings, allowing photographers to get blurry shots of me moving through the brush, tearing up vegetable gardens in the dead of night… Maybe it’s more of a Native American legendarium that I belong to.

I’ve become a Creeksquatch. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These are all handheld shots in today’s post, not the long exposure type which I’ve been displaying for awhile. The cold patch of the last month or so has really gotten in my way, and the only reason I was on scene to capture these was because I was helping someone out. This fellow I met on one of my tours last year was desirous of doing audio recordings around the Creek using a super sensitive microphone and recording device, and he asked if I’d take him around the creek at night to do his thing. We donned our reflective vests and went for a short walk after one of the many Newtown Creek Alliance oriented community meetings which I religiously attend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The path I chose to take this fellow on was a fairly safe one, centered in on Long Island City and Blissville.

Above is the garbage train, moving around under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in Blissville.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 6, 2019 at 2:30 pm

less than

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Another day, another bridge across Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are five bridges crossing the Dutch Kills tributary of that lugubrious ribbon of urban delight called the Newtown Creek, here in Long Island City. You’ve got two movable railroad bridges, the retractile Borden Avenue Bridge, the high flying truss which carries the Long Island Expressway and then slopes down into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and the good old Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. There’s been a bridge of one kind or another here since about ten to twenty years after the Civil War, with one notable span made of wood whose opening and closing was powered by ropes and a donkey. The current bridge was installed in 1910, when Michael Degnon was building his industrial terminal around Dutch Kills, and the Pennsylvania Railroad was finishing up their construction of the Sunnyside Yards.The Hunters Point Avenue Bridge was originally a double bascule drawbridge, but back in the 1980’s, the City rebuilt the roadway and replaced the mechanism with a single bascule version, which is the one featured in today’s post.

Apparently, Hurricane Sandy did quite a job in the electrical equipment that operates the thing, and since the City is required by the United States Coast Guard to maintain the HPA Bridge as a movable structure there’s been folks working “down below” in the gears and gizmos of the thing. It’s on one of my main routes when I’m out for a walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, Dutch Kills was frozen into a giant plate of ice. This isn’t surprising, since the hydrology of the canal displays very little in the way of laminar or horizontal flow. The water rises and falls with the tide, obviously, but the shapes and angles of the bulkheads in addition to zero sources of flowing water at its terminus other than a couple of open sewers cause the waters of Dutch Kills to mimic the behaviors of a stagnant lake rather than a flowing creek.

A few years ago, I started reading up on hydrology and talked to some of the powers that be about using “shaped” concrete forms to cause zones of compression and expansion which would passively move the water around a bit, but nothing really came of it. I still think this sort of engineering is the way to go, however. As I understand the concept, rounded shapes act as “brakes” in fluid systems, whereas narrowing the width and obliquing the angle of channel walls causes water to flow (think river rapids). Essentially, large bodies of water can’t rise that much above the level of surrounding water bodies they’re connected to, so when the volume hits a point of compression it gets “squeezed” and pressurized which causes it to begin moving towards a point where it can expand again. As an example, the same water pressure in your kitchen faucet is what feeds into your garden hose, with the only difference between the wildly dissimilar behavior of the same water pressure being that the stuff in the hose has been compressed all the way through the nozzle and the sink faucet flow can just expand into the basin.

Design in enough points of compression and expansion, you’ve got “flow.” Or at least, that’s my theory. What do I know, I’m a schmuck with a camera, not an engineer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another hypothesis I can offer is that the Newtown Creek is far more biologically active at night than it is during the daytime. All the time I’ve spent around the waterway in the last year at night has revealed an otherwise hidden world that comes out in the dark. There’s higher mammals, both feral cats and raccoons, which are occupying the predator and scavenger niches. You can see and hear vast numbers of fish splashing around in the water, and there’s all sorts of critters crashing around at the littoral edges and along the bulkheads.

The shots in today’s post were exposures of about thirty seconds, so you won’t see what I saw when shooting them unless it held stock still for that interval of time. What I saw was a big fat raccoon foraging around at the water’s edge, scooping up shell fish and other horrible wriggly things to eat for dinner. Actually, it was probably for breakfast, as the trash pandas are nocturnal – just like me.


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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

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