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Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY Battalion 49 was established in 1928, are known colloquially as the Hellgate Firefighters, and the unit is housed on the northern side of Astoria over on 35th street. The assigned units are Ladder 163 and Engine 312, and the latter is pictured above as it was screaming down Steinway Street toward Broadway the other night. A few blocks to the East, a couple of other fire units were hurtling out onto Broadway and executing a left hand turn, lights and sirens on, and all of this FDNY capability was heading in the direction of the Woodside Houses NYCHA campus. Not sure what was going on, but they were in an awful hurry to get somewhere.

Firemen, firemen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has had an awful time trying to get out and about in the last week, what with all the rain and the sudden return to colder climes. Additionally, I’ve been struggling a bit with my mood, which has been generally sour. It has finally set in that the likelihood of conducting any of the walking or boat tours that I normally offer during the warm weather months, or collecting the significant percentile of my annual income which is derived from such activities, will be impossible while COVID 19 is still rampant. I’ve been holding off on producing virtual tours, but it looks like that’s going to be the only option as far as keeping Zuzu the dog well stocked with milk bones.

Additionally, I kind of miss riding the subway, which is something I never thought I’d say. Well, technically, I wrote that statement and didn’t say it out loud… but, you get my gist. Evolve or die, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing proof of my theory that the NYPD owns at least one vehicle of every type which has ever been manufactured was encountered recently nearby a training facility which the gendarmes have set up for their K-9 unit. On Northern Blvd. at Honeywell Street, you’ll notice tall green fences with concrete barriers set around them. The fences are adorned with admonitions warning passerby not to attempt entry to the gated lot as there are Police Dogs within. Occasionally, you will be barked at while walking past the fence, which hides a few buildings and is surrounded by a variety of parked police vehicles whose markings indicate that they belong to either training or transit division personnel (presumptively, one of those is what “TD” stands for) or are specific to the K-9 unit and it’s special needs. A few of the SUV type cop cars had decal lettering on their windows advising caution as to the presence of interior dogs.

What that truck pictured above looks like to me is a “kennel carrier,” and it’s designated as being TCU 7017. TCU 7018 was parked right behind it.

Now, about that Dermot Shea action figure…

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 11th. 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.


“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

May 11, 2020 at 11:00 am

judicial majesty

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CoronAstoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ambulance pictured above recently spent a fair amount of time in front of the apartment building next door to HQ, here in Astoria. The virus is everywhere. What can you do though? Take photos, that’s what I say! Don’t end up acting like Martin Sheen at the end of “Apocalypse Now,” use your camera to produce images instead! Show, don’t tell.

I’ve counted how many socks I own by this point, and it’s an odd number, which is disconcerting. Additionally, the thing which amuses me more than anything else at the moment is imagining Barack Obama doing a cover of the first Doors album in his particular speaking style. Also, I’d like to discourage those of you who want to attend one of those anti lockdown protests from doing so, but if you’re so hostile to science and medical expertise that you think it’s a good idea to do so… well… Darwin is calling.

Meanwhile, take some photos. Be like Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was going to rain during a recent evening, so my constitutional walk occurred in the late afternoon and I happened upon a firebox which some enterprising soul decided to raid for copper and other valuable metals. Anti social much?

Maybe we can blame the Chinese Government for this? Maybe it was Jared Kushner, or alternately the Democrats or the Mainstream Media, or Bill Gates? Are we supposed to be worried about a sudden infliction of Sharia Law anymore? Socialism? Maybe this is all France’s fault.

Get a grip, folks, go count your socks. Better yet, go take some photos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I get nervous whenever I’m walking past an entrance to the sweating concrete bunkers of the transit system, which I now refer to as the Covid well. God only knows what’s going on down there these days. Every time I’ve left the house, my travel has been on foot, and no small amount of care has gone into avoiding the presence of the humans. Luckily, they still tend to congeal in familiar spots, so I know where and where not to go. When you skulk about in the shadows during normal times, it’s fairly easy to social distance.

Down there… in those metal boxes…

Count your socks. I’ll take the photos.

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, April 20th. 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.


“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

April 22, 2020 at 11:00 am

phenomenal softness

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Back in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A longish night time walk from Astoria to the Pulaski Bridge spanning Newtown Creek, and then over the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge and back into Queens, was punctuated by FDNY activity at nearly every step of the way. A deployment at one of the homeless shelters in Blissville actuated not only the fire house on nearby Greenpoint Avenue, it also pulled in units from Brooklyn’s Greenpoint as well. Engine 238 (pictured) and Tiller Truck 106, if you’re curious about Brooklyn fire units. I can’t help but take photos when FDNY is doing their thing. Firemen, firemen!

This shot is from the corner of Greenpoint and Review Avenues, looking towards Brooklyn across the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pathway home took the shape of walking along Greenpoint Avenue, where the startling view of a Long Island Expressway with no traffic whatsoever greeted me. Earlier in the evening, one observed something similar at the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

Last time I saw anything like this was in the week or two following Hurricane Sandy. Should one be lucky enough to survive this pandemic business, I hope to be awarded a three disaster ribbon by the City. It’s been one heck of a couple of decades here in the megalopolis, hasn’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, just as I arrived back in the zone of HQ, an ambulance went screaming past. I’m not going to launch into some speech here, rather…

You want to underexpose for a passing ambulance, due to the strobing light. I already had the color temperature of the camera set to 3750K, my standard “go to” for modern day NYC street lighting at night. It’s f2.8, 1/200th of a second, and at ISO 6400. The shot did get noodled around with a bit in the developing process, but most of that involved dealing with sensor noise.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, April 6th. 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.


“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.

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What a nightmare.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning from a short constitutional walk the other night, a sudden explosion of FDNY activity drew my attention to the corner of Newtown Road and 45th street here in Astoria. A structural fire was consuming one of the older homes in the neighborhood, a wood framed one set back from the property line. It soon became an all hands fire, it seems, and FDNY units from both Woodside and Astoria were present, as was Rescue Unit 4.

I also captured a bit of video on my phone, which can be accessed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighbors were all coming out of their houses to see what was happening, and lots of them were breaking out in tears over the spectacle. I suddenly realized that dozens if not a hundred people were forming a crowd and one beat it out of there quickly in the name of social distancing. Cooties.

I don’t know anyone who lives in that house, thought I, but as it turns out that wasn’t true. Somebody from the outer ring of my social circle did indeed live there and was now homeless. Under normal circumstance, this is plain horrible, and the normal systemic response would involve the Red Cross setting you up in a hotel for a couple of days while the insurance people figure out next steps. Fire insurance will usually pay for temporary lodging until the house is determined to be fixable or a total loss, at which point repairs are made or you have to find a new apartment.

During the current crisis – this is a nightmare scenario.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I posted the video of the fire to a couple of social media platforms, and made sure that City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer was aware of it, since this is not only his district but the neighborhood he grew up in. The next morning, a message was sent to me from a friend informing that the aforementioned “outer ring” acquaintance of ours was in fact now homeless and sleeping on their couch, and I made sure that JVB’s office had their contact information. Apparently, some sort of shelter for the poor fellow was arranged.

Structural fires are one of the things which I am worrying about more and more with all of us trapped inside. Be careful in your kitchens lords and ladies, and with those extension cords, and if you don’t have a fire extinguisher or two in your house – get some.

Also, on this date in 1909, the Queensboro Bridge opened for traffic. That’s your NYC history trivia of the day.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. 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.


“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 30, 2020 at 11:00 am

ultimate abomination

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Hullabaloos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, whilst enjoying an autumnal afternoon with the neighbors at the local pub, a sudden explosion of noise and tumult occurred when the FDNY suddenly arrived at a call on 42nd street right off of Broadway here in Astoria. Given that – despite my advancing age – I still run down the street yelling “Firemen, Firemen” when the big red trucks are screaming past, one couldn’t help but get excited and start waving the camera at them.

Predictably enough, it was the engine and hook and ladder you’d normally associate with Astoria who answered the call – Engine 263 and Ladder 117 – who are based out of a house on Astoria Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure what the emergency was, based on what I was seeing and what they were carrying with them, I’d guess that somebody had reported smelling gas or something. They didn’t stay too long, which usually indicates that the emergency conditions were overstated and that the talents of the FDNY weren’t required to ameliorate it. Not pictured was one of those red big jeep vehicles which the FDNY brass ride around in, but which was present. There were no ambulances either, so it must have been purely a structural call. We get a whole lot of FDNY personnel showing up whenever a drunk is being scooped up by EMS units for some reason.

A few people at the bar were grousing about overkill. I offered one of my little aphorisms about not questioning the appropriateness of what professionals think is correct, and especially so in the case of FDNY. If they think it’s right to show up with a small army…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thankfully, the emergency – whatever it was – was resolved quickly. The normal pattern of life in Astoria resumed, and as the photo above can confirm, delivery bicycles began to flow freely about without impediment again.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 17, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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It’s National Chocolate Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one seems to have been hanging around in Astoria quite a bit recently. The long walks from the ancient village which a humble narrator is known for undertaking, carrying one from Astoria in North West Queens to all sorts of distant locales, require a bit of time to undertake and a variety of factors have limited the open windows of time needed to commit them. Fear not, for vast overland crossings through the concrete devastations are being planned and will be embarked upon shortly, whereupon description of said events will be presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Just in the name of getting some exercise, for myself and the camera alike, I’ve been perambulating about in a roughly two mile circle from HQ for the last few weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The world is a scary place. It’s full of wildly unpredictable people, some of whom just might be a part of some sadist doomsday cult who seek the world’s end. Others are just stupid, and you can see it on their faces when they try to think about something. The other day on the train, I sat there watching some woman visibly thinking. Her brow beedled, she silently mouthed words, and was apparently either rehearsing or reviewing an argument she either had lost or will lose when she has it. Occasionally, she would pull out her phone and fire off a text missive, which was angrily stabbed out with her digitus tertius or “curse” finger. Lip reading informs that she was upset at somebody she knew who had said hello to her “ex.” She kept on mouthing the word “ratchet.”

She had her two kids watching the display, one of whom was licking the subway seat. There really is no hope.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria is decidedly carnivorous, as a rule. Don’t get me wrong, “we gots our vegans ’round here’s,” but most of the people you meet in the neighborhood talk about some kind of meat when you ask “what’s for dinner?” I know I do, but when I came across this display of half pig in a butcher shop window, one became entranced by its gruesome spectacle and the illusion of some monstrous face screaming in terror.

Pareidolia (/pærɪˈdoʊliə/ parr-i-DOH-lee-ə) is what it’s called when your brain perceives facial structures in inanimate objects. According to studies of the psychological phenomena, if you’re like me and you see “faces” in a LOT of inanimate objects and every cloud reminds you of some esoteric critter, it’s sympomatic of a highly neurotic personality type. Me, neurotic?

Who knew? 


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 13, 2017 at 11:00 am

unhallowed wizardry

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It’s still National Creme Brulee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We’re breaking with normal Newtown Pentacle tradition today, and there will be multiple posts coming your way, devoted to the seismic events on Newtown Creek which saw the central truss of the Kosciuszko Bridge first lowered and then carted away over the last couple of days. This second post carries some proper shots of the lowering action. In this morning’s post, a time lapse video of the lowering of the Kosciuszcko Bridge’s central truss was offered. What follows will be everything else I shot, basically all the stills.

There’s a third post that’ll be coming your way tonight, btw., so keep an eye on this – your Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had arrived at the Meeker Avenue street end, aka Penny Bridge, by about ten in the morning. Not too much was happening, and word reached me that the lowering process – originally scheduled to begin at ten, would be delayed several hours due to an engineering issue which needed to be solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were several tugs buzzing about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above, you can see the two flat top barges which were married together by a steel superstructure which would accept and support the bridge section.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

The truss itself was no longer supported, structurally speaking, by the approaches or towers which had cradled it for the last seventy eight years. Instead, it was the four “strand jacks” which were holding it up. Those yellow bits were the shoes on which the truss’s girders sat.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY and NYPD harbor units were on scene, with different units arriving and departing all day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The barges were continuously maneuvered, throughout the day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

About two in the afternoon, the truss began to lower. It was moving so slowly, about twenty feet per hour I’m told, that to the eye it appeared entirely static.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was using two cameras, if you’re wondering. One was on a tripod, the other handheld.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself dipped behind Manhattan, and the Newtown Creek grew dark, the crews were still lowering the truss. The garish lights of the new bridge activated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was quite a crowd gathered all around the Newtown Creek, and especially so at the Penny Bridge site where I was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By about 9:30 or so, the truss was almost resting on the barge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A groaning sound of buckling steel echoed out across the Creek as the weight of the truss was suddenly taken up by the superstructure on the barges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent about twelve hours at Penny Bridge, or the Meeker Avenue Street End, on the 25th of July in 2017. I would have to come back to Newtown Creek the next day, of course, to get shots of the thing leaving. That’s tonight’s post, however, as I’m still finishing up the shots for that one as you’re reading this.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Most recently – a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, and a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Lastly, here’s some night shots from early July of 2017.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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