The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Degnon Terminal’ Category

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Concluding a late night scuttle around Long Island City in today’s post, my aching feet were kicking the dust about in the Degnon Terminal section. Pictured above is what I’ve come to refer to as the “Empty Corridor,” a post industrial hellscape of “used to be” and “once was” which has gotten sort of “crimey” during the pandemic year.

I’ve seen young men hammering at padlocks, been circled around by other young fellows, and wandered through what I later realized to be a big money drug transaction hereabouts. Luckily, having lived in NYC all my life, and specifically having grown up during the late 1970’s and 1980’s the maxim of “keep moving” is part of my general mindset. If somebody asks you for a quarter, what they really want is for you to put your hand in your pocket so your defenses are halved. Half of these “mofo’s” would boil you down to sell the elements if they had half a chance, so don’t give them a chance. Keep moving. It’s harder to hit a mobile target than a static one. In the high crime years of my “Ute” I was stabbed, shot at, beat up, and also chased by packs of feral dogs. No, really.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Accordingly, I steered myself past the empty corridor in pursuit of heading over to Hunters Point Avenue to check in on that brave little tree growing out from under a factory found on the shoreline of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary which I’ve become obsessed with over the last year.

Along the way, I couldn’t help but crack out a shot or two of a UPS last mile shipping center. Seriously, these folks – along with their competitors at FedEx – have become American Heroes over the last year. The economic picture would be a whole lot different, regionally and nationally, if it wasn’t for the efforts of the people who work for these companies. I’ll also mention the United States Postal Service in the same breath, and the people who work for the Amazon empire.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s my little baby. I’ve been paying this little cultivar a lot of attention over the last year. I’m told that it’s likely a “Tree of Heaven” or Ailanthus altissima. It’s the eponymous “a tree grows in Brooklyn” from the 1943 Betty Smith novel, if it is indeed that cultivar. An invasive species native to East Asia, Ailanthus altissima has a life span of 50-100 years and will grow back from its roots even if you cut it down.

Tenacity, bro, tenacity.

Speaking of, tomorrow is the one year anniversary of Darth Cuomo issuing the stay at home Covid order for NYC, on Friday the 13th of 2020.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, March 8th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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 12, 2021 at 11:00 am

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The endless marching about in a limited area constrained by how far I can walk on any given day is about to come to an end, thanks to the forthcoming second shot of vaccine juice I’m set to receive at the end of this month. Holy smokes, I never thought I’d miss the Subway, but there you are.

On the particular evening these shots were gathered, a humble narrator was in Long Island City’s Degnon Terminal zone. That’s Degnon as in Michael Degnon, a late 19th and early 20th century construction czar. Degnon enjoyed several lucrative Government contracts during the 20 years surrounding the year 1900, including installing the masonry cladding of the Williamsburg Bridge towers, completing the construction of the East River IRT tunnels which the 7 line subway runs through (which had been started by William Steinway and then August Belmont), and a massive land reclamation project surrounding the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in LIC. The Degnon Terminal, as he called the latter reclamation project, involved a concurrence of rail, road, and water freight infrastructure that was baked into a multi acre campus of gigantic factory buildings. The factories in this area were constructed using an at the time novel construction technique that used lumber “forms” and steel rebar to shape poured concrete into walls. The Loose Wiles biscuit company, Everready Battery, Chicle Gum and other mega factories in LIC were all a part of the Degnon terminal, which was built at the same time that the nearby Sunnyside Yards were being constructed by the Pennsylvania Rail Road Company. The Degnon Terminal had a rail system that interfaced with the Yards, so all of the PRR and their subsidiary Long Island Railroad tracks were de facto networked to it as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every culture since the beginning of civilization has had to develop a system for organizing and concentrating its resources towards some common goal. In Southeast Asia, you’ll find religious institutions which are older than the Roman Empire who still handle the water resovoir and canal delivery systems for rice paddies, for instance. Even the Soviets had a system for concentrating and focusing resources on their projects. In the United States, financial capital is concentrated via bond offerings and stock shares on one end, or by tax receipts and a combination of private and public banking and lending institutions on the other. The Degnon Terminal became a focus point for every sort of investment scenario available at the time.

That building in the shot above, the self storage warehouse with the green accent, used to be the largest part of the nine building General Electric Vehicle Company complex in LIC. That’s where they manufactured electric cars and trucks, in 1915. Like the Degnon Terminal, it was built and funded using private capital, meaning stock or bond market and perhaps commercial bank loans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The large steel truss in the shot above, however, which transverses the Degnon Terminal high over Borden Avenue was built with public capital and NY State “Authority” issued bonds. It’s the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the larger Long Island Expressway, which became folded into Robert Moses’s TBTA or a Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (the LIE terminates at the Queens Midtown Tunnel). The funding for this construction was arrived at by the issuance of municipal and TBTA bonds which were offered to investors through the purview of a commercial banking entity. The banks loved Robert Moses, since he always paid his many debts on time. To be fair, Moses was backed up by the river of dimes and nickels collected at the toll plazas of the Triborough Bridge and eventually at the QM Tunnel’s toll plaza.

This pedantry is offered in response to a recent conversation a humble narrator was privy to between some of the self identifying Democratic Socialists of Queens, who seem to think that Socialism means that money – where you get it, how you manage it, who spends it and on what – doesn’t matter and will matter less in their new dialectic. Even the citizens of the Soviet Union paid income taxes, and if the Marxist Leninists in Moscow wanted to build a new tractor factory they had to figure out a way to concentrate their financial and material resources to build the thing. It wasn’t straight up analogous to the Lord of the Flies type of capitalism practiced in the USA, of course, but they had a system.

Everybody has a system, even if it involves enslaving a subject nation to build you a pyramid, or tithing people to finance a cathedral. Socialist countries have central banks, investment methodologies, and an economy.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, March 8th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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 11, 2021 at 11:00 am

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A holocaust of Zoom meetings notwithstanding, one still finds the time to wander about Queens aimlessly in the dead of night with a camera. These shots have arrived in front of you due to one of my bimonthly visits to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, which can be found comfortably nested in with and amongst the concrete devastations of Long Island City. There’s a lot of science hereabouts, and not enough fiction.

The fiction is found a few blocks away, in the lobby offices of those shiny new luxury apartment towers, staffed by Real Estate Industrial Complex worker drones who never mention or instead misrepresent the heavy industrial/environmental history of LIC to their tenants prior to getting the rubes to sign on the proverbial dotted line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It shakes my basic faith in people. They’ll spend hours watching documentaries about where and how McDonalds produces and manufactures its gruel, or the mean reality of the production line for Hallmark Greeting Cards, but won’t bother trying to find out if the luxury condominium they’re entering into thirty years of debt for sits on the former site of a chemical factory. They’ll expound upon on the political issues of the day and adjure you to “do your own research” but don’t bother googling up an old map of the area where they’re investing in property to see what used to be where. Also, as a note, googling something is not research. It’s exactly the same thing as asking a librarian where to find a book. Reading the book isn’t even “research,” but it can be a part of that process.

Just last week, I attended a community board meeting in which a project was being offered to Astoria as a panacea to solve an intractable issue of affordable senior housing, by a highly politically wired developer. As soon as I saw the address, I said “Hey, that’s the Nelson Galvanizing Superfund site.” Why am I the only person in Queens who knows about and talks about these things?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Brooklyn or Manhattan, if you were to crumple up a gum wrapper and throw it in the gutter, before it hit the pavement somebody would have already formed a nonprofit group to combat the phenomena. In Queens, you could dissolve truck tires, with gaseous chlorine, in a hole you dug out of your yard and that’s not just peachy keen – it’s also cool. When the vapors kill your neighbor’s dog, also cool. When a kid gets killed, the Politicians will show up and christen a bike lane, and they’ll “tsk tsk” about your chlorinated tire habits but won’t actually do anything to stop you. Hell, the Queens Chamber of Commerce will probably show up and give you a trophy for being industrious and taking care of the old tire problem.

Clean your room. Do you want to get sick? Don’t buy a new construction condo without first inquiring what used to be there.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, February 8th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

February 8, 2021 at 12:00 pm

degraded parody

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Thursday, and hindsight is 2020.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Survivors, rejoice. You made it. New Year’s Eve. It’s been 293 days since the New York State lockdown orders of Friday the 13th of March were announced. That’s 7,032 hours if you’re the curious type. There’s a few things I’d like you to think about as we move forward into the future, here in these United States…

The photo above depicts the Sunnyside Yards, which is rumored to have been the actual target used by the Soviets for their thermonuclear bomb tipped missiles. The United States has ostensibly been preparing and spending an astronomical amount of money for more than 70 years preparing for the various shapes which the apocalypse might take. That includes, as George W. Bush reminded us when updating the spending program twenty years ago, preparing and updating responses to attack vectors for “nuclear,” “chemical,” and “biological” weapons.

Where has all that money gone, and why were was the greatest military power in history caught so flat footed by a predictable respiratory pandemic whose scope doesn’t begin to touch what an engineered bioweapon would do to us?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Governor Nelson Rockefeller and President Richard Nixon oversaw the nationalization of local and inter city transit systems in the early 1970’s. Bankrupt private capital railroad firms were turned into publicly owned and operated “authorities” and “corporations.” Nixon created Amtrak for passenger service, and Conrail for freight. Rockefeller combined the subways, buses, and commuter trains in New York State into the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The MTA’s annual budget is 17 billion dollars. If you were to stack individual dollar bills until arriving at the amount of 17 billion, you’d have a stack of money which is 1,154.3 miles high.

Fifty years later the MTA still operates its systems as if it was day one after the nationalization of the Subways, Buses, and Penn Central commuter services, with little or no interoperability having been achieved between its various divisions in the interim, and they operate in a state of perennial near bankruptcy. Conrail is largely irrelevant these days due to the private capital underlying modern rail shipping companies like CSX, whereas Amtrak has become a political football bandied about and abused by Congressional game players. Where does all that money go, and why hasn’t NYC’s regional transit system been modernized with interoperability and shared resources in mind?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can vow to wean your culture off of petroleum all you want, but without massive capital expenditures and tax breaks for those having to junk and replace their “installed base” of equipment you’re just blowing hot air. You can’t just quit heroin without withdrawal symptoms, can’t stop drinking without the “DT’s,” or just quit smoking the Crack without some sort of psychotic reaction. Petroleum is a drug, which you pour over your economy to make it go “vrooooom.”

Historically, any new or novel technology – let’s say that Star Trek style unlimited and non-polluting energy reactors appear tomorrow, for instance – it would be a good 50 years before they became commonplace. New fuel sources have historically had a long adoption period where the installed base of the last energy source is phased out and the new one is deployed. In the case of wood to coal in industry, it was about 150 years. Coal to Petroleum took around 75 years, and there are still several major industries (notably manufactured gas) which consume a magnificent amount of coal. Look to the United States Navy as the bel weather on this subject.

Happy New Year, ya filthy animals!

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, December 28th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

December 31, 2020 at 2:00 pm

scuttled across

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Wednesday, Montauk Cutoff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, recent adventure found me on the Montauk Cutoff tracks in Long Island City well after sunset. What drew me up there is the renewed effort on behalf of Newtown Creek Alliance to activate these abandoned rail road tracks as public green space. Imagine it, if we could add the roughly four acres of space up here to your portfolio of “places to go” in LIC?

Currently, visiting this spot is considered illegal trespass by the Governmental entity which owns it, specifically the MTA. Consider these photos my confession.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Montauk Cutoff leads to an inactive railroad bridge called Cabin M, which crosses the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek near its intersection with the main stem of the waterway. Just to the south, and pictured above, is a very active rail road bridge called DB Cabin, which connects the Wheelspur and Blissville Yards of the Long Island Railroad’s Lower Montauk tracks over the water.

As I tell everyone, there’s stupid – risking arrest for trespass on inactive tracks – and then there’s stupid – risking getting squished by a freight train by walking on active tracks. The former falls under the “ya plays ya cards, ya takes ya chances” whereas the latter is just dumb.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking roughly northwards towards the Borden Avenue Bridge and the Long Island Expressway at Dutch Kills, that’s how I would describe this shot to an editor.

I ran a daylight version of this a couple of weeks ago, and made a point of mentioning the huge number of inactive yellow cabs being stored here. The pathway along the Borden Avenue Bridge is one I’ve been positively haunting throughout the pandemic. It feels like I’ve been in this area at least once a week since March.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, December 14th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

December 16, 2020 at 11:00 am

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