The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Montauk Cutoff’ Category

doubly terrible

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So, what have we learned?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a view of the Montauk Cutoff above, one which took me a bit of time to line up and shoot, so there it is. While I was carefully manipulating the camera, so too was a humble narrator being closely observed by the local gendarmes, who subtly drove back and forth past me a few times. Same cops, before you ask. They didn’t stop, but wanted me to notice that they had noticed me. Meh.

One thing which I had to reconcile early on in my life was that people notice me. Old ladies clutch their purse, children whimper, men curl their fists when I near. The monster I see in silvered glass reflections hints at why.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s some sort of art installation under the Long Island Expressway, where the 19th street footbridge leads to, and it’s found on a short walkway which connects to 21st street on the north. The artwork is motion activated and involves the use of LED lights which cycle through several primary colors. For what used to be a dark and fairly scary choice, night time walking path wise, all that bright light is nice and welcome.

It’s the furnace light of the gentrification engine though… and it’s coming to Borden and Hunters Point Avenue’s next. Mark my words, the process has already started on what the City Planning crowd calls the “Borden Avenue Corridor.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was actually handheld, rather than using a tripod for camera support as I did in the first two photos. Stay nimble, say I.

Another set of scenes from a quarantine, next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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, May 25th. 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 as we move into April and beyond, 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.


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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

May 29, 2020 at 11:00 am

those miniscules

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Getting a clean shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered during an interval of trespass, something which I advise everyone who asks against doing. In the foreground above is an inactive MTA rail bridge’s trackway, with the 1908 Borden Avenue Bridge at center frame and the 1939 Queens Midtown Expressway’s 106 foot tall truss bridge over the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek at top. It’s not easy getting the camera into position for a shot of the entire Borden Avenue span, I’ll offer, nor entirely legal to stand where it’s possible to do so. That’s why I was up here just before 8 in the morning on a Sunday, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another shot for which one was risking a fine for is above, depicting a quite active Long Island Railroad Bridge called DB Cabin which is the gatekeeper to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. LIRR facilities in Long Island City go back 1870, and the 1893 vintage DB Cabin is meant to function as a movable swing bridge. When I first showed up on Newtown Creek about fifteen years ago, my pal Bernie Ente told me that he hadn’t seen it open in twenty years, so I guess that makes it thirty five non functioning years now.

DB Cabin connects the Lower Montauk tracks of the LIRR across the water. On the western side of the bridge is the Wheelspur Freight Yard, and on the east it feeds into the Blissville Yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the sort of view normally offered, gathered from the Borden Avenue Bridge.

Having gotten away with my naughty little mission, I headed towards the spot I was meant to meet the NCA crew at over on Skillman Avenue.

Tomorrow, something else, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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.

multifarious items

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Dutch Kills at sunrise, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Breaking off in a generally northern direction, from the main course of the Newtown Creek, is its Dutch Kills tributary. Just under a mile in length, Dutch Kills is encountered about 3/4 of a mile into Newtown Creek from its junction with the East River, in Long Island City. Dutch Kill is crossed by five bridges – the railroad bridges DB Cabin and Cabin M, Borden Avenue Bridge, the Queens Midtown Expressway truss, and the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

Recent obligation found one scheduled to meet up with my chums from Newtown Creek Alliance at 9 am on a Sunday nearby Dutch Kills, in pursuance of us walking it and discussing the near future hereabouts.

Since I set the standard for sanity in this world, much like Caligula once did, I got there four hours early, and some two hours before sunrise. I set up the tripod and started getting busy roughly 5:30 a.m.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, and photographers don’t normally say things like this, I was unhappy with how abundant the ambient light was. I’ve been spending so much time working in near total darkness of late that it’s almost become rote. Having to constantly figure out new exposure triangles every ten minutes got annoying.

Pictured are Cabin M, in the foreground, and DB Cabin. They are two of those five bridges mentioned above, and are both railroad bridges owned by the Long Island Railroad. Cabin M, which these days carries mostly graffiti, is meant to be demolished according to this year’s MTA capital budget plan. It connects the Blissville Rail Yard and the very active Lower Montauk tracks along Newtown Creek to the deactivated Montauk Cutoff tracks leading to the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north east from another span over Dutch Kills – the Borden Avenue Bridge – towards the 106 foot tall Queens Midtown Expressway truss bridge. In the distance is a Fed Ex ground shipping center and the Degnon Terminal IBZ.

Even though the light was becoming uncomfortably stronger, one hung around and kept on shooting all morning waiting for the Newtown Creek Alliance crew to arrive for our appointed round. More tomorrow.


“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.

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.


“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.

baffling lack

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It’s Setsubun Day, in the nation of Japan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in yesterday’s post, the 21st of January was a pretty foggy day, which is something I consider pretty. One made it a point of visiting several distaff locations around Long Island City to capture the scene. The shot above is something that all of you reading this will be able to personally enjoy sometime in the very near future, when the Smiling Hogshead Ranch expands its operations up to the abandoned trackway of the Montauk Cutoff.

The photo above depicts the most photogenic of NYC’s subway lines – the IRT Flushing, or 7 line – exiting the elevated tracks of the Court Square Station and traveling on its way to Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent a bit of time up on the tracks, as I ran into an old friend while making my way up there and we spent some time catching up while I waved the camera around. The cutoff is brutally bare during the winter months, as all of the self seeded vegetation surrounding it is deep in hibernation. During the warmer months, it’s positively verdant up here – an island of green amidst the concrete devastations of Western Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Disturbingly, the Queens Cobbler seems to have visited the Cutoff recently, leaving behind one of the totemic “single shoes” signaling that he or she was here. The “Queens Cobbler” is the name I’ve assigned to a likely serial killer who claims human lives all around the Newtown Creek watershed, leaving behind a single shoe to announce that their latest hunt has been successful.

Someday, the NYPD will happen upon a hidden warehouse room in LIC or Maspeth filled with footwear and gore, and on that day – the metaphorical and literal “other shoe” will truly fall. Back next week with something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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