The Newtown Pentacle

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shuddering violently

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Palpable, redolent, and exhausting – that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It has been one heck of a couple of weeks for a humble narrator, and boy oh boy am I beat up. There’s the proverbial “burning the candle at both ends” and then there’s just throwing the candle into a campfire. The latter is what I’ve been up to, and I’ve finally arrived at a short interval whereupon I can relax for a couple of days and “chill.” Busy is better than having nothing to do, but… I like to break words down to reveal their true meaning, and “recreation” is a literal and tangible requirement at the moment. Time to re-create.

I’ve got a book or two which I want to put together, and I’m hoping to have one or the other ready and available for Christmas. Meeting season is also upon me, and it’s time to start annoying the Government people again. Community Board, Superfund, and a new hopeless cause right here in Astoria which I’ve been laying the groundwork for are about to kick into gear. Anything y’all want me to rattle on about with officialdom? Leave me instructions and so on in the comments, and I’ll see if I can get your pet peeve considered and in front of the right people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a mean season in politics coming, what with all the three term incumbents term limited in both Brooklyn and Queens. On both sides of the Newtown Creek, the “powers that be” are all about to change seats after a long period of predictability. New factions and interest groups will be manifesting themselves and pushing their particular apple carts. As is always the case with “sharp elbows,” things are already starting to get ugly, and we’re nowhere near an election at the moment.

It’s going to be an interesting if mean interval, I think. Epic bullshitting is what I expect to hear and see, in our ongoing ideological war between the “Know nothings” and the “Whigs.” As I’m wont to remind and chide – Civilizations end, but life goes on. Also, the war between the Cowboys and the Arabs has been going on for 18 years now, and there’s no end in sight, but nobody talks about that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what sunrise on the new Kosciuszcko Bridge looks like, as a note. Captured this last Sunday morning, which feels like it was a month ago to me. Back Monday with something else that I can’t imagine quite yet.

Don’t know what I’m doing with my time off this weekend, but I’ll have the camera with me. Can’t wait to find out where I’m going to go and what I’m going to see, but you’ll see it here – at 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

September 13, 2019 at 1:00 pm

dominant concern

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Green v. Gray, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Me and my mates at Newtown Creek Alliance, and in the larger environmentalist community, are always rattling on about Green versus Gray infrastructure. So – what does that mean? Basically, it comes down to taxes and “bang for the buck.” That magnificent new Wastewater Treatment plant in Greenpoint, pictured above, cost billions and billions of dollars. It also took literally decades to build. Technological marvel notwithstanding, the cost of that thing was borne by raising water tax and rates on property owners, who passed it on to their tenants in the form of higher rents. The plant is, after all, owned and operated by a City agency, the Department of Environmental Protection or DEP. DEP also handles delivery of drinking water, the upstate reservoirs which supply it, and a few other things (noise complaints, for instance). The agency was created in a 1983 City charter revision which combined multiple offices, including the various sewer systems of the Boroughs, into the current monolithic organization. They inherited a chaotic situation, with sewerage pipes in the ground that combine the flow of sanitary and storm water which were laid out by the independent cities of Brooklyn, Richmond, or LIC/Newtown as early as the 1860’s. During rain events, the storm water pipes introduce vast overages of water into this combined system, and outfalls – there are 400 of them in NY Harbor – act as release valves for the increased flow. That means that untreated sanitary sewerage is released into area waterways along with the storm water. It’s why you can’t go swimming at the beach in NYC after it rains, and is part of the reason why inland waterways like the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek are Federal Superfund sites. The Superfund situation is costing DEP money as well, which means that taxes and fees on water will continue rising, and so will the rent.

Gray infrastructure – as epitomized by the 7+ billion dollar sewer plant pictured above – is expensive to build and maintain. That plant can handle an astounding 800 million gallons of wastewater a day, but in the concretized landscape of NYC, a quarter inch of rain falling citywide translates to a billion gallons of storm water entering the system. Newtown Creek alone receives (estimates vary) between 1.4 and 1.8 billion gallons of untreated “combined sewer outfall” annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Green infrastructure, on the other hand, is fairly cheap to install and maintain. Green roofs, rain gardens, and open land with plantings either drink up rain or allow it to flow down into the ground and feed into the water table. Additionally, Green Infrastructure ameliorates another consequence of having paved over everything with impermeable material – the so called “Maspeth Heat Island” effect.

Heat islands occur in urban spaces devoid of trees and greenery. Masonry and concrete tend to “hold” heat and radiate it back out. Even at night, the industrial neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are demonstrably 5-15 degrees warmer than the residential ones which are generally well planted. This causes area businesses to spend more on climate control for their spaces, increasing their energy usage footprints and the cost of doing business in NYC. Green roofs, like the one pictured above in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section, change the equation. They divert storm water and keep the structure below the roof a few degrees cooler.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It can be heinously expensive to retrofit existing building stock’s rooftops to handle the loading weight of a green roof, and since there’s little to no tax incentive to do so offered by City or State, most building owners like the idea but pass on it. Given that we’re in the middle of a building boom here in NYC, and particularly so in LIC and North Brooklyn, you’d think that all of these “Green New Deal” types would be demanding that new construction incorporate “Green Infrastructure” technology into their projects. Sadly, this isn’t the case, as everything is false and a deception in the worlds of Politics and Big Real Estate.

Me? I’m realistic about life in the big City, the bottom line, and personally won’t do anything which I don’t want to do unless I know there’s a hefty fine I can avoid by doing it. The City currently meters the water going up the pipe into apartment buildings, but doesn’t meter what’s coming back out. Maybe if we did the latter, it would encourage the developers of 40, 60, or even 80 story apartment towers to embrace the Green Infrastructure concept and lessen the impact of their projects on the combined sewer system. It’s probably possible to engineer a net positive on the outflows, which might mean rebates from DEP for providing capacity. Who knows?

Or, we can just keep on building giant multi billion dollar sewer plants which cause your landlord’s water bill, and your rent, to continually rise.


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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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

uncovered pit

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Getting high over Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saturday last, a humble narrator scuttled southwards towards that lugubrious ribbon of urban neglect which the children of Brooklyn and Queens call the Newtown Creek. My destination was the Kosciuszcko Bridge, with its new pedestrian and bicycle lane offering spectacular and formerly impossible to capture views of the waterway and the industrial zone surrounding it, framed up by the heroic skyline of the Shining City of Manhattan. One will be spending quite a bit of time up there in the coming months, and at different times of day. In the case of the shots in today’s post, they’re from the last two hours or so prior to sunset, with the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself transiting to the southwest – late summer and early fall skies.

It was an unimpressive sunset on Saturday, and I plan on handling that set of shots when the weather and sky is right. My next outing will be early in the morning, for sunrise with the light coming from the east behind me, and the bridge casting shadows on the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other people go to the beach on Labor Day weekend, or BBQ. Me? I walk back and forth over bridges for a few hours with a tripod and a camera. Literally, there were hundreds of photos on the camera’s memory card when I came home from this exploratory outing. Exploratory? Why, yes.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you have to chase after photos, and that preparation and expectation are critical. You have to be “prepared” in terms of your gear being ready for duty, and “expectation” is all about having some sort of pre scouted plan in place as far as time of day, point of view, and conditions you need to work around. The new K Bridge does have a bit of vibration transmission from the BQE traffic, for instance, so… steps are taken.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The vantage point of these shots is roughly two miles from the Newtown Creek’s intersection with the East River. The original Penny Bridge landings at the end of Greenpoint’s Meeker Avenue and Blissville’s intersection of Laurel Hill Blvd. and Review Avenue are more or less at the center of the shot. The white tanks on the left hand, or Brooklyn side, are at Apollo Street. The green space on the right side of the shot is First Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section. Manhattan is on the horizon, with the Empire State building prominently at center top.

Whew, this is probably the happiest I’ve been in a year or two. Thanks NYS DOT.


“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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Kosciuszcko Bridge opening ceremony, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All the fancy people showed up along my beloved Newtown Creek on Wednesday. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office had sent out the invitations, and I was lucky enough to receive one. Our Governor really knows how to put on a show, it should be mentioned, and what a show it was. The invitation discussed him “cutting the ribbon” on the deck of the brand new Kosciuszcko Bridge, and along with a few hundred onlookers and a gaggle of media people, that’s just what he did.

For a whole lot of Brooklyn and Queens people, this event signaled the end of a long process, including myself. I’ve been taking pictures of this operation for nearly a decade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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 Kosciuszcko 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 Kosciuszcko 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.

Here’s 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, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’ssome night shots from early July of 2017. A series of posts focused in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

More recently, in late September of 2017, a final series of shots of the old bridge were captured in this post. Acquisition of a souvenir chunk of steel from the 1939 bridge was described in this post, and a video of the “energetic felling” of the approaches on October 1st was offered in this one. Still shots and views of the aftermath from the waters of Newtown Creek from later in the day on Oct. 1 are found in this posting, and the aftermath of the demolition as seen from Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section in this post from October 5th. This post from December of 2017 closed out an event filled year in DUKBO, and a visit to the site at night is described in this March of 2018 post. Another progress report was offered in June of 2018. A nocturnal visit occurred in December of 2018, a short post from January of 2019, and also one from February of 2019. Most recently, in August of 2019, I made another night time visit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were speeches from familiar faces – NYS Assemblymembers Cathy Nolan and Joe Lentol spoke. The audience included a series of political “powers that be,” including political bosses like Frank Seddio and Congressman Greg Meeks. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was there, as were Council Members Steve Levin and Bob Holden. There were a bunch of politicians there whom I’ve never associated with Newtown Creek in the past, but there you are.

Andrew Cuomo draws a crowd, and he brought his Mom along as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rain threatened, but the skies held out during the speech making section of the event. Experience has taught me not to sit down during these sort of things, as you get stuck in the chair and all of your photos will end up being from the same point of view. My constant milling about earned some “hairy eyeball” action from the dozens of NYS Troopers and Gubernatorial Security people, but they must’ve figured that a humble narrator was harmless.

Truth be told, I kept on thinking about how I was just standing there on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you include planning and funding this project – decades in the making – the various elected officials finally gathered to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the final stage of the K Bridge project. The ceremony ended, although there would be a celebratory cocktail hour later that night, and the crowd began to disperse.

I didn’t take a single picture at the afterparty, btw., having decided that I just wanted to enjoy the moment for once. There was a light show highlighting the new bridge, and Billy Joel was simulcast from a live concert at Madison Square Garden. Mr. Joel mentioned the bridge, his affection for the Governor, and then played his anthemic “New York State of Mind” while the light show was presented.

Luckily, a friend gave me a ride home from Maspeth afterwards, and I didn’t have to walk or spend money on a cab.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pedestrian and bicycle section of the Kosciuszcko Bridge is everything which I’ve been hoping it would be, visually speaking. One will be spending a LOT of time up there in the coming weeks as I’ve been hungering for unhurried access to this vantage point for literally years.

One made his way back to Laurel Hill Blvd. and eventually Astoria by walking northwards along it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, I did have to hurry, as shortly after the ceremony ended, the clouds did indeed burst and rain began falling.

In actuality, it was more of precipitating mist when the photos above and below were captured. That’s when the clouds are scraping along the roof and tree tops and there aren’t raindrops – per se – but the air is full of droplets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yessiree, I’m going to be inhabiting this walkway for most of September. Can’t wait to do a walk through at night as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Frankly, it’s been a lucky stroke for me that this project has occurred practically in my back yard. Even more so that it crosses my beloved Newtown Creek.

Now… what’s next?


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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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 30, 2019 at 11:05 am

dissecting room

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This little piggie went to the urgent care?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somehow, a humble narrator broke a toe last night while conducting a tour of Newtown Creek. No crack or pop was sensed, but upon returning to HQ, the sort of purplish red bruise one associates with a broken bone was present, and this morning the spreading hematoma flower on my left foot confirms it. Of course, that means that tonight’s walking tour will be very interesting indeed. Not too much you can do for a busted toe, I’d mention, you just use tape and splint it up to the one next to it.

Luckily, it’s a minor toe, and is basically the Delaware or Luxembourg of the foot. Sigh… I’m just falling apart these days, a delicate flower lost in the concrete devastations of Western Queens and North Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, one has always had the ability to psychologically isolate pain and “put it in my pocket” when it’s inconvenient, with the notable exception of dental issues. Can’t escape from tooth and mouth problems, they’re wired too closely to the brain. A life of disappointment, resentfulness, and emotional tumult coupled with an all too human physique which often lets me down has also caused one to actively cultivate “anhedonia” – a bodily and emotional numbness – as a defense mechanism.

Anhedonia keeps you even in an ever changing and often hazard rich world, I tell ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that the toe doesn’t hurt much at all. It just feels like I’ve got something stuck to it, due to the swelling. The bruise looks awful, but is pretty cool actually, as far as internal bleeding goes. Let’s see what happens to old Mitch today…

Maybe one of my ears will just fall right off, or a pinky finger will spontaneously combust. Take a guess. There’s still some spaces open for tonight’s Greenpoint Walking Limping Tour available, so for those of you who enjoy watching me suffer – a value add on the ticket price.


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Upcoming Tours and Events


Thursday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Greenpoint Walking Tour w NYCH20

Explore Greenpoint’s post industrial landscape and waterfront with Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman.

Click here for ticketing and more information.


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

July 25, 2019 at 1:00 pm

obviously recent

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End to end, and where your poop goes, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a view of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant over in Greenpoint, the newest and largest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants. The eight egg shaped structures which define the facility are bio digesters. What that means is that they contain cultures, in industrial amounts, of the same bacteria that the human gut carries. After undergoing several stages of filtration – mechanical, aeration, and so on – NYC’s brew of sewage and storm water is pumped into those eggs whereupon the bacteria go to work. The micro critters consume what’s left of nutrients in the “honey” (which is how the wastewater engineers of the DEP refer to the stuff) and both the digestive process and their biologies sterilize the stuff. The DEP spends a lot of time making sure that the environment inside the eggs is conducive to this biological action, which includes maintaining a constant interior temperature that matches that of the human body.

It seems that we humans have a remarkably inefficient gut, which is why we fart when consuming too much food. So too, does the sewer plant get gassy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those four cylinders burn off the waste gases produced within the eggs, which largely take the form of Methane. As this turns the sewer plant in Greenpoint into one of the largest point sources of “greenhouse gases” in NYC, the DEP is working with the National Grid company in pursuance of harvesting the methane, which would be chemically modified a tad and added to National Grid’s “natural gas” supply and sold to customers. One is fairly familiar with both this partnership and the process, and the wheelings and dealings behind it, and it’s pretty problematic.

The alternative, however, is to do nothing and continue pumping millions of tons of methane into the atmosphere annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Manhattan, at the corner of East 13th and Avenue D, is the Manhattan Pump House. If you’re in the City and flush a toilet anywhere south of 79th street, your “product” is coming here. I’ve been inside this structure, which plunges multiple stories down into the ground (it’s actually deeper than it is tall). All of the “flow” goes into that cylindrical structure on the left side of the facility, which is called a “surge tower.” There’s a black maelstrom visible from the catwalk, which spirals down into a pipe laid across the bottom of the East River and then eastwards deep under Greenpoint and to the plant.

So, that’s where your poop goes.


“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

June 24, 2019 at 1:00 pm

who wouldst

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Happy Memorial Day, y’all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted these stout iron doors and old timey giant padlock here in Astoria one recent evening on my way home from a thing. The thing in question was a Community Board meeting revolving around noise and “quality of life” complaints leveled against a couple of bars on my side of the neighborhood so although I’m not officially a member of that particular committee I showed up to see what’s what and learn how that particular process works. Turns out that like everything else governmental, it’s fairly pedantic and there’s a well worn procedural pathway from “A” to “B.”

Another well worn pathway, one that I scuttle along, is where I encountered this lock and iron door combo, which seemed newly installed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another night, another meeting, this time in Greenpoint for some Newtown Creek business. My path home found me dragging the carcass down Norman Avenue, where this grocery store’s outdoor shelving caught my eye.

The meeting in question offered an analysis of all the sites along the Queens side of the Newtown Creek (and a few in Brooklyn) that are currently under the administration of the NYS DEC. Luckily, my calendar for the coming week is fairly open for serendipity and doing things that I actually want to do. What that means is that the weather will likely be unpredictable, since God hates me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yet another occasion which I was obliged to attend recently found one marching through the still industrial side of Long Island City, and along the bulkheads of the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek – where this shot was recorded.

Back tomorrow with more things I’ve seen in places I’ve gone.


“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 27, 2019 at 11:30 am

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