The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Hells Gate’ Category

damnable resemblance

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A bit more Triborough, and some thoughts on the current crisis…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ok, here’s the way things are going to go here at the old Newtown Pentacle “for the duration.” I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. 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. That’s the reality right now, it’s all a craps shoot. As of right now, all of my tours and summer events are on hold until we see the way this shakes out.

Also, if anything truly critical happens which needs to be broadcast, I’ll augment the regular blog schedule with news posts. If you’re in any kind of trouble and need help, here in Astoria or in LIC, contact me here and I’ll try to make the powers that be aware of your situation. This isn’t 911 or anything, but I’ve got a line of communication or two with officialdom that most people don’t have, so consider me as a resource.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speculative logic, as in purely speculative – Epidemiological playbooks for the United States Government can and might take the form of soldiers deployed on our streets. Their mission might and will probably include maintaining law and order (the cops are going to be overwhelmed, and will get sick too), as well as vouchsafing and handling the delivery of essential supplies, and possibly handling mortuary practicalities. Border control between the States might happen too. I’ve already seen some goofy things happening on the streets here in Astoria, including some jack ass beating up his girlfriend in front of my house a couple of nights ago. You REALLY don’t want to be incarcerated right now, so best behavior, all.

The traditional American sophistry says that “we’ll get through this together,” whereas the Coronavirus pandemic utterly negates the concept of “together.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So… I hope you’re all doing what you can to stay safe and healthy. Saying that, an aerosol based virus is a very difficult thing to control and contain. If you encounter a situation where you can be kind as opposed to cruel in the coming weeks, please consider enacting the former behavioral set. Check in on your family and friends, via phone rather than just text, especially those in your circle who suffer from mood disorders and other psychological bad weather. Tell people you love that you love them. Don’t start a witch panic by sharing obvious malarkey on social media.

If Newtown Pentacle stops updating, and a humble narrator is no more, please look in on Our Lady of the Pentacle occasionally and make sure that she has enough milk for her tea.


“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 17, 2020 at 11:00 am

universal belief

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Supermoon in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had yet another of the seemingly endless series of community meetings he is obliged to attend occur, and afterwards a friend gave me a lift over to Astoria Park so that I could wave the camera about for an interval. It was that unseasonably warm day we all experienced, and the celestial calendar indicated that a “supermoon” was going to occur. I had already decided, before getting to my location, that I wasn’t going to be trying to record the “astro” shot palaver where you can see all the details on the moon as well as a clear back and foreground, and was instead going to be shooting more of a landscape dealie with a glowing orb lighting up the sky.

To wit, above is the supermoon framed by the Triborough Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “palaver” mentioned above requires multiple exposures which are then combined in a photoshop composite. You expose one shot for the moon, which is actually as bright as the sun to the camera. Then you expose for the sky, and finally for the other elements in the composition. I’ve done this a bunch of times, so I’m quite familiar with the technique. One of the snags you hit with this however, is that despite what the perception of the human eye indicates, the moon is actually traveling at quite a clip through your frame. Depending on where it is in your frame, you’ve got between 2 and 8 seconds to “get it” before it’s movement causes motion blur. Since it’s night time, you need to calculate the other exposures and when compositing the final shot, compensate for the movement of the orb through the shot.

It is possible to “get it in one” of course, but that’s fraught with technical issues as well. I just went for the “ambience” instead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing is, I wasn’t feeling terribly secure as far as my personage when shooting these images. As is the usual case on nice nights, every “Astoria Boy” in the neighborhood was on station along Shore Blvd. There were hundreds, possibly even a thousand, of impulse control challenged post adolescents milling around down there. Their music, played at top volume, was terrible. The clouds of weed smoke rising from their assemblage and drifting across Astoria Park was intoxicating. If you like the “wacky tabacky,” save yourself a few bucks by just sitting downwind from this crowd.

Just to make sure I’m perfectly clear about this most salient of points – their music was computer generated (badly), irredeemable, and unabashedly terrible. Gah.

Teenagers… brrr.


“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 16, 2020 at 11:00 am

starved monsters

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The darkness of Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Why the Amtrak people have never sprung for a lighting system for the Hell Gate Bridge, I cannot imagine. It’s like owning a luxury car and never washing or polishing it. Might have something to do with not disturbing those battrachian things, that cannot possibly exist, which live on the bottom of the Hell Gate section of the East River. Peter Stuyvesant is rumored to have left behind a message scrawled onto a piece of yellowed parchment, which every Mayor of NYC has received on their first day in office, advising that there are things in NY Harbor which are best left alone. The Lenape knew that it is best not to delve too deep, nor stare too long into the abyssal water hereabouts, lest that which dwells below takes notice.

Do you honestly believe that the United States Army Corps of Engineers set off the greatest explosion in human history here back in 1885, a detonation whose force was only exceeded after the emergence of the Atomic Bomb, merely to aid navigation?

Fools ye be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, it was the promise of a foggy night which drew me to this spot. It’s not exactly industrial Maspeth, Astoria Park and the associated properties surrounding it, so it’s the very definition of off my beaten path as it’s “nice.” I hung around the zone for about an hour or so, occasionally climbing over a fence for a POV as in the shot above.

There wasn’t much movement in the water, but I was prepared to bolt just in case. I’ve heard tell of an orthodox priest named Kiriglou that would spend his evenings along this stretch of Hells Gate back in the early 1980’s. Rumors and stories, myths and legends, that’s what the native Astorians routinely offer in return for a shot of whisky. Supposedly this Kiriglou fellow would toss some kind of charm, attached to a stout cord, into the water and mutter words described to me as a rough sort of Cretan dialect, one which the teller believed to originate in the rugged Sfakia region of that ancient island. Nobody knew if Kiriglou was associated with one of the wholesome Orthodox churches frequented by the local Hellenic community, or was some sort of heretic or ascetic. What happened to him, and what he was doing with that charm, is just another Astoria story.

Ever hear the one about the child molester who lived in the Queens side tower of the Hell Gate Bridge, behind that iron door found under the dedication plaque?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the mists were beginning to precipitate, a humble narrator decided that it was time to begin the journey back to HQ. Before long, a driving rain set up, and one arrived in the Broadway area just in time to avoid a drenching.

Just out of curiosity, have any of you out there got an Astoria Story you’d like to share? Haunted house, lizard man, next door neighbor chanting at the moon on Hallomass? Kids playing bad music loudly? I want to hear it.


“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 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

unnamable now

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From Hells Gate, I stab at thee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wow, did we ever get caught in the rain last night on the Infrastructure Creek walking tour. Managed to not destroy my camera and gear, but holy moley. Sheets of rain, lightning, and I had to stick around until all the guests were on their way in ride shares or subway. Drenched. Single shot today, from Astoria, of the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridges. Back tomorrow with some more substance.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


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 18, 2019 at 2:00 pm

final monosyllables

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Hangin at Hells Gate, on a hot night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First, there’s a couple of tour announcements at the bottom of the post, both of which are this week – Thursday and Saturday.

It’s been a good few weeks since the last time I was able to get down to the waterfront at night, due to a concurrence of event, weather, and unpleasant circumstance which has plagued one’s efforts in June of this year, but as always a humble narrator perseveres. Last week, a short hop over to Hells Gate here in Astoria gave me a few opportunities to wave the camera around and even set up the tripod for some long exposure shots. That fellow on the phone just kind of wandered into my frame, and then stood as motionless as a statue except for a few wiggles of his arm, for something like a minute or two.

Something which drives me nuts is the way that people will see me there with a tripod and camera, and without even shrugging their shoulders, just go and stand in front of the lens. In the case of the photo above, it actually “made the shot,” but jeez… I stop walking when I see people are about to shoot one of those stupid selfies… common courtesy, like shame, seem to be something people have forgotten about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had arrived at the Astoria Shoreline (the Hells Gate section of the East River, found between Queens and Randalls/Wards Island and defined by the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridges above and Astoria Park and the R/W island shoreline below), shortly before sunset. Despite the light being good and strong, I used an ND filter to allow for a long exposure of the shoreline, as in the shot above. I’m actually a bit disappointed in this one, and wish I used a polarizer as well as the ND filter here. I wanted that water to be more translucent, but that could also be a time of day and oblique angle of light issue. Probably want to use a polarizer at solar maximum, when the angle of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is acute rather than oblique.

Luckily, this spot is only about a half hour walk from HQ, so I’ll be back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I find the shot of mighty Triborough, above, fairly fetching so the disappointment over that shoreline shot is abated somewhat. Interesting lighting to consider in this one as well, as the MTA Bridges unit (TBTA) still uses old school sodium lights on the bridge roadway which cast off a familiar soft orange glow. NYC, on the other hand, is using LED heads for their street lights which offer a radius of illumination that is both cold and bright.

Back tomorrow.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Upcoming Tours and Events


Thursday, July 11, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

“Infrastructure Creek” Walking Tour w Newtown Creek Alliance

If you want infrastructure, then meet NCA historian Mitch Waxman at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, and in just one a half miles he’ll show you the largest and newest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, six bridges, a Superfund site, three rail yards with trains moving at street grade (which we will probably encounter at a crossing), a highway that carries 32 million vehicle trips a year 106 feet over water. The highway feeds into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and we’ll end it all at the LIC ferry landing where folks are welcome to grab a drink and enjoy watching the sunset at the East River, as it lowers behind the midtown Manhattan skyline.

Click here for ticketing and more information.


Saturday, July 13, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

“Exploring the East River, From General Slocum Disaster
to Abandoned Islands” Boat Tour w NY Adventure Club

Onboard a Soundview route NYC Ferry – Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

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 8, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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