The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Hudson River’ Category

parenthetical ideation

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s no secret that we live in an age of real estate mega development, and that the skyline of NYC has been undergoing massive changes which we haven’t seen the like of since the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Unfortunately, so much of what is being built is uninspiring, and banal. Glass rectangles designed to maximize profit which offer no sense of wonder, inspiration, or esthetic joy. 

The exception to this modern rule is actually found in Manhattan, where what I consider to be the most interesting new building in NYC is found. It’s on West 57th street at the Hudson River – Bjarke Ingels’ W57. Check out this article at the Atlantic for all the details on it. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been watching this one go up from the water for a couple of years now, and it’s made me think a bit. I’m in a constant argument with both friends and enemies over rhetorical tone and grammar when it comes to political terminology. “Gentrification” is a bugbear word for me, especially when it refers to LIC or Greenpoint. What’s going on there isn’t gentrification – we haven’t coined a name for what’s happening along the East River coast of Long Island, yet. 

What happened in East Harlem and Park Slope in the 90’s – that was “gentrification.” Similarly, there’s no such thing as a “liberal” or a “conservative” or a “progressive” anymore, our culture is just stuck in a grammatical paradigm which was coined by an earlier generation (one which refuses to retire, much like the so called establishment it sought to replace in the 60’s)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Where NYC architects went wrong was the embrace of inhuman and emotionless architecture like the so called “international style,” which imparted a soulless and somewhat fascist countenance to the city. Ask a native New Yorker, and we will always point to the Chrysler, Empire State, and Woolworth buildings as the ones to embrace. Soulful and inspiring, these sorts of mega structures are loved and welcomed by communities rather than reviled. 

Hopefully, W57 will offer a lesson and act as a harbinger to the real estate shit flies out there. It’s not some “NIMBY” sentiment which activates community protests against their projects, rather it’s about avoiding the building of yet another banal glass rectangle whose singular purpose is “stealing the sky.” 


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

natural history

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Happy 50th Brithday, Riverkeeper.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I finally got to shoot a Kennedy. 

In this case, it was Robert Kennedy Jr., while onboard a NY Water Taxi celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Riverkeeper organization. Mr. Kennedy, who in addition to being an environmental attorney and President of Riverkeeper, has a degree in history – offered the assembled group an absolutely fantastic encapsulation of the history of the Hudson River and spoke about the role and history of Riverkeeper in NY Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before I continue, my continuing practice of listing my conflicts of interest and personal prejudices must be enacted – Newtown Creek Alliance has had a LONG and deep connection with Riverkeeper. Current DEC Commisioner and former Riverkeeper official Basil Seggos, and Riverkeeper Attorney Philip Musegaas are both former board members of NCA.

Additionally, I have enjoyed the company and tutelage of Riverkeeper’s patrol boat Captain, John Lipscomb, on more than one occasion, and Riverkeeper’s current representative in my part of the world – Sean Dixon – is both a friend and ally of Newtown Creek Alliance and our goal to “reveal, restore, and revitalize” Newtown Creek.

Riverkeeper, as an organization, are the “good guys” in my opinion and I consider being in the company of the organization on this important milestone for them both an honor and a privilege.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Kennedy Jr. – suffice that whatever you want to say about the storied political dynasty from which he descends, when this fellow starts speaking – you pay attention. Kennedy described the formation of Riverkeeper from the Hudson Fisherman’s Association, and its role in cleaning up the notoriously polluted Hudson River over the last half of the 20th century and its expansion into other domestic waterways and now international efforts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, as someone who has always identified with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, a humble narrator was absolutely stoked just to be in the same room (or cabin) with him. That’s an actual leader you’re looking at above, and a bit of rock star at that. I’m not alone in this view, of course, and several of my colleagues from Newtown Creek and activists from the larger Harbor of New York and New Jersey were also invited onboard to celebrate the anniversary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another “actual leader” is Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper. Mr. Gallay assessed Riverkeeper’s current efforts and made a cogent case against the continuing operation of the shoddily constructed and badly managed Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant which is just 45 miles from Manhattan.

He also discussed the so called petroleum “bomb trains” which have begun populating the rail system in upstate New York, and Riverkeeper’s ongoing battle to ensure a swimmable and fishable state for all of New York’s waterways – big or small.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, it was quite rainy and cold when we were out on the NY Water Taxi. I managed to crack out one shot of the surrounding scenery, as evinced above.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Walking Tour – Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

First Calvary Cemetery Walk.
Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman at First Calvary Cemetery, found in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood along Newtown Creek. Attendance limited to 15 people.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

stay and sing

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Just a short one today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently captured, and one of the first shots acquired with my replacement camera, the John J. Harvey Fireboat upon the Hudson River. The Harvey was saluting the memory of Working Harbor Committee’s own Capt. John Doswell with a water monitor display.

Also, to all of you who offered to help me with the crushing financial burden of replacing the destroyed camera and lens, I’ll have some sort of avenue set up by tomorrow’s post for you to do so. Cannot begin to tell you how much these offers mean to one such as myself.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

impelled to

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As promised, shots from the Tug race in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, the Working Harbor Committee organized this years iteration of the Great North River Tug Race and Competition. A multi pronged assault on the brain’s fun center, it starts with a race that begins at the 79th creek boat basin on the Hudson River. The finish line is at 42nd street, and this year the Robert McAllister tug won. Someday, I’d like to win something, but the only thing I’ve ever been good at winning is being a good loser.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fun center of the brain is something which I’m fairly sure has withered away within my own skull, likely due to some unheralded ischemic event. Suspecting that my fun center has been “stroked out” of operation, it’s no surprise that the dull and quite existential horrors which typify my days were only briefly punctured by the “tug of war” nose to nose pushing competition segment of the event. It’s all so depressing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, this sort of thing would have caused my mouth to form into a horrible gap toothed shape which could be roughly interpreted by others as being a smile. Now, there is only a flat affect and an abundance of dull eyed staring, I’m afraid. At least I can still work the camera, but can’t seem to distinguish the difference between sweet and sour tastes anymore. It takes sewerage or burning plastic for me to take notice of smell or taste these days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The part of the Tug Race which I’ve always loved photographing, if that’s an emotion I can still experience, is the line toss. The various tugs form a queue and then hurtle at the pier, whereupon they hurl a rope at a bollard. The goal is to loop the rope onto the bollard and the throwers are rated for time and accuracy. I wish I could tell you who won, but a group of teenagers scared me so I headed home and locked my doors securely, back in Astoria where I belong.

The entire race set can be viewed at this flickr page.

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This weekend-

Saturday, September 6th, The Insalubrious Valley of the the Newtown Creek
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 5, 2014 at 12:29 pm

enervated experience

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies for the mid day update, lords and ladies. Today’s Maritime Sunday post focuses in on an event which occurred several years ago. Mundane and ordinary, it all started when I saw the Carnival Miracle cruise ship maneuvered up the Hudson by the tug Miriam Moran.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The cruise ship piers on the Hudson, which are analogous to the West 40’s street grid in Manhattan, offer berthing opportunity to the gargantuan vessels of the modern cruise industry. Like a game of horizontal Tetris, however, these ships have to be rotated into position before they can lock into place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Functionally, this is not unlike wrestling a floating Chrysler Building into place, while fighting not just wind but river current as well. Such is the life of a tug captain and harbor pilot, of course, and their long experience in such matters make it seem commonplace.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the Miriam Moran post facto on the Hudson, after having accomplished its task.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm

mountain freedom

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mayan Apocalypse Countdown: just 5 days left until the 13th b’ak’tun ends, initiating the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st. Tick, tock.

Luckily, since the world’s end is upon us, America is possessed of an enormous military capability. Even our littoral fleet is larger than most national navies, armed heavily, and staffed by expert marksmen. It is comforting to know that if the Mayan Apocalypse proceeds on schedule- we go down fighting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here at Newtown Pentacle HQ, preparations are under way. Our Lady of the Pentacle is sharpening knives, the dog has grown used to the bladed Kevlar body armor, and your humble narrator has crafted a quite fashionable series of tin foil hats. Of course, a recent announcement made the case that such chapeaus actually increase the efficacy of broadcast spectrum mind control radiation rather than providing prophylactic effect. Regardless, they are quite comfortable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down in the vast sub astorian bunkers excavated by Our Lady (during the really hot months of the summer), she used teaspoons for this endeavor by the way, we have a pretty nice set of digs. It was simple to dispose of the tailings from her mining using the “Great Escape” method. We opted out of the “Zion esthetic” from the Matrix movies and went for a “Hobbiton” Lord of the Rings sort of thing. Lots of faux wood and sconce lighting, with stacks and stacks of canned beans and dog food. The bunker is quite sound, and on the hatch is a sign that says “Gas, grass, or ass- no one survives for free”.

Obviously, this penultimate Maritime Sunday post is dedicated to Americas fighting men and women, and all our ships at sea.

groveling obeisance

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, a short interval of puffy individual shots is being presented over the holiday weekend. Partially, this is owed to a debilitating back injury suffered last week which has reduced your humble narrator to the uniform of the house bound invalid- sweat pants and bathrobe- the other is that every now and then an individual image presented earlier in the year got swallowed by the post it was published in. To wit, the storied John J. Harvey fireboat upon the Hudson during the Op Sail event in late spring of 2012. A bizarre atmospheric light is captured therein, wherein storm clouds literally opened around the procession of ships and provided a somewhat eerie atmosphere. Those of us in the Working Harbor Committee ascribe such events to the otherworldly abilities of our own Captain Doswell, referring to the phenomena as “The Doswell Effect”.

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