The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Dutch Kills’ Category

monstrous arch

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Monday gnashes into toothsome view again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well, here we are in Long Island City again, wandering about in the depths of a frozen nightscape. For the last year, my personal stations of the cross have included several prominent and photogenic spots here in the still quite industrialized sections of LIC which are surrounded the waters of Newtown Creek and its tributaries. What have I learned during this pandemic year?

First, I’ve learned that my mind has been reduced to jelly and that I now have an attention span which only an insect would be envious of. Secondly, my body has turned to jelly as well, and I’ve put on a bunch of weight which needs shedding. Third, that circumstance is actually far more tenuous in these United States than it should be and that once this crisis is receding in the rear view mirror we need to start addressing that fact. Haven’t we been spending trillions for more than 75 years on National Defense and “readiness” and when the shit hit the fan we couldn’t figure out a way to feed old and poor people during an emergency?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the stations of the cross for me has been the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, and my search for “it.” I’ve been scanning the water for “it” but haven’t witnessed or photographed any visual phenomena. I have heard inexplicable splashes and seen odd movement in the surface waters, but so far – no “It.”

These shots were captured on a particularly cold night in early February. It was “what the hell am I doing this for” cold. My fingers were numb inside of the gloves I was wearing, and I was wearing a thermal under layer beneath the normal “outside clothes” and filthy black raincoat outer. Marcus Aurelius’s recommendations for a proper life advise one to wear different clothes within the domicile than one does without. This was good stoic advice, even if it has come down to us from a long dead Roman Emperor. A humble narrator offers this – grasping at crumpled up paper towels, stored in your coat pockets during a cold snap, is a quick remedy for warming up the hands. Paper is an excellent insulator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One looks forward to next week, when the second stage of my COVID vaccination will occur. I’m already making plans for the “after times,” and whereas I never thought that I’d be looking forward to descending down into the sweating concrete bunkers of the MTA to ride the Subway – there you are. One has already ordered and received a new pair of hiking shoes, and the first part of my plans involve stitching back and forth across the East River on its various bridges. I’m going to ride the Roosevelt Island Tram, and visit the Empire State Building Observation deck at night, and do all the “tourist” stuff before the tourists reappear. Probably going to ride on one of those double decker buses too. I’m going to eat at a restaurant and drink beer at a bar.

In short, when this bat escapes his cage…

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 15th. 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 15, 2021 at 2:00 pm

terrestrial scenes

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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

apoplectic snort

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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

outside absolute

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Staggering in fear amongst the darkened streets of Long Island City, with its peculiarly utilitarian angularities of cyclopean masonry thrusting rudely at the sky, a humble narrator was experiencing quite a bit of pain at this stage in his evening. The left ankle is currently malfunctioning, which is a bodily component just uphill from that big toe which one discovered to be broken – due to the action of gravity and a planting trough – at the end of 2019. Instinct would suggest one first punches the painful ankle a few times, then use an ace bandage on the hinge, and eventually make a decision between lopping it off with a cleaver or making a Doctor’s appointment. One normally waits until it is absolutely necessary to engage Medical Professionals, Legal Professionals, or really any of the Professions, unless you have to. Gets expensive. Painful ankle after walking five miles? Find a spot to sit down for a few minutes. Good god, I’ve gotten to the age where you have to sit down for a few minutes every now and then…

“Bah! One such as myself can bear all, pain is neurological like the brain is and the brain is you so if you have control over your self you control the brain and the nervous system and you don’t feel pain… there is no spoon, nothing is real!”

That’s what I was thinking when I stood up after sitting down for a few minutes. My ankle felt better after a quick rest period, and I stopped mentally picturing the bruised and swollen toe, and resumed pointing the camera at stuff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can’t know “everything” about something, quite obviously, unless you were there before it and will be there after it. Saying that, I can do an improv lecture about this corner that would easily fill an hour’s worth of your time – Montauk Cutoff, Long Island Railroad, Long Island City, NYC Consolidation, Bob Moses, Long Island Expressway, New Real Estate Development – those are the bullet points just off the top of my head. There’s a whole story just with those empty sign boards that involves Organized Crime, the Feds, Court Cases.

I’d offer a second hour on the Graffiti culture of LIC, but I have to get a third or fourth party to do the actual lecture. I’m a casual fan, but not part of the street art scene and am not that knowledgable.

I’ll tell you what, though. There’s a LOT more graffiti flying all over the place than I’ve seen in 30 years. A lot of it is also, coincidentally, pretty good. There’s kind of a postmodernist vibe going on, even with just tags.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obviously, I’ve seen panel trucks graffiti’d on all over NYC my entire life. Saying that, this sort of vehicular graffiti pictured above seems to be on an uptick. Of course, my geographic “range” has been limited and the sample area largely heavy industrial, but the scene is similar to dozens of others I’ve photographed in the last year. Maybe I wasn’t “seeing it” in the past, but the frequency of panel truck graffiti definitely seems tuned up. Truth be told, I like the “custom wrap” look of this particular vandal’s artwork.

It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. Neither hot nor cold. Nothing is real.

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 22nd. 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 23, 2021 at 11:00 am

nether earth

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With great solemnity and a terror quickened gait did a humble narrator dance along the Borden Avenue Bridge, spanning the Long Island City constrained Dutch Kills waterway (tributary of an aqueous ribbon of Municipal neglect and malignant reputation known as the Newtown Creek), scanning the poison depths for any possible sign of “it.” My inquiries regarding “it” initially pointed me in the direction of certain tales told by the aboriginal inhabitants of the Dutch Kills area. Back then, prior to the arrival of the European Colonialists, this section looked quite different. Sub tributaries, tidal streams and pools, swamps, marshes, and all of it teeming with the sort of life that bites and flies and wriggles and lays its eggs in your skinvelope. Of course, we only know this because of the surviving reports of the colonialists who witnessed it, and from scientific studies of geographical bores and depositional stratigraphy offered by their descendants.

While pointing a lens at the waters, with my camera’s sensitivity to ambience turned up quite high, a sudden smacking sound and an energetic splash of water gathered my attentions. Surely, my mind – wrecked from months of quarantine and the worries of societal tumult – was telling me what I wanted to hear. I saw nothing. I did not see “It.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another bridge, same Dutch Kills tributary of that loathsome cataract of urban industry which the children call Newtown Creek, this time it was the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge – same scanning the putrid surface of the water looking for “It.”

There’s often a mucosa of unknown slimes right on the surface of Dutch Kills in this section, no doubt due to the presence of several high volume open sewers or “Combined Sewer Outfalls.” The pipes found here at Dutch Kills are part of NYC’S wastewater disposal system, extending for miles and miles under and into Queens. Perhaps that’s where “It” goes, which makes me wonder if “It” might be a strictly local phenomena or is it occurring on grander scales in terms of both geography and scale.

Will have to make inquiries – contact and cajole Professional Mariners, gossip with the Dock Workers, shoot the shit with friendly Sewer Smithys…

Wonder if “It” might have any connection to what’s living at the bottom of the East River at Hells Gate in Astoria? If so, “It” might represent something far older than the aboriginal stories encountered by the Colonialists. “It” might even connect with the original human population of the harbor, the so called “Clovis Point” culture whose remains have been observed in the hinterlands of Staten Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With my palpitant heart all a flutter at the canonical heresies now liberally circulating through the cerebellum did a humble narrator stagger forth into the Long Island City night. Along the way, a car carrier truck was noticed and I thought it looked cool so I took a picture of it. That’s what I told the driver when he rolled down his window and asked me I was taking pictures of him for. We both laughed, or at least I did… I think that happened but maybe it didn’t. It’s been so long since I’ve interacted with other people regularly that I’m not sure what I’m saying or doing or what’s even real these days. I’ve got a photo, so at least that’s evidence.

The good news is that despite the weather I’ve been maintaining my regular cycle of photo-walk nights, burning up and grinding down the soles of my shoes. Last week saw an Apocalypse of Zoom meetings (3 Zoom’s = A Holocaust, 6 Zoom’s = An Apocalypse. Don’t do 9 Zoom’s, you don’t come back from 9 Zooms) pop up out of nowhere which I had to attend. I even had to get up early for one of them!

To be seen by so many diminishes one.

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 22nd. 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 22, 2021 at 11:00 am

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