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cannot give

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Another set of shots from the Newtown Creek frozone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week I showed you what it looks like when Brooklyn’s English Kills freezes over, today it’s the polar paradise which Dutch Kills in LIC became after that recent spell of super cold weather that’s in focus. Both waterways are tributaries of the fabulous Newtown Creek, and the “kills” bit is Old Dutch for “creek.” The English and Dutch parts of the names are meant to indicate where the various ethnicities of European settlers sited themselves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills, as we know it today, is a canalized post industrial waterway surrounded by stout factory and warehouse structures and crossed by multiple bridges, with the current shape of things dating back to the creation of the surrounding Degnon Terminal in the late nineteen-teens. It attained its modern characteristics by 1921, and the last big addition to Dutch Kills was the installation of the Midtown Tunnel and Long Island Expressway way back in 1940.

That’s the LIE, or at least the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the it, pictured above. Close to 90,000 vehicle trips a day pass over the water here, yet most people you meet say they have never heard of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like English Kills in Bushwick, Dutch Kills here in LIC was contained nearly completely by a layer of plate ice when I visited it last Wednesday. The ice was already “rotting” as the air temperatures returned to seasonal norms, and the weak tidal action witnessed in Dutch Kills was breaking it into distinct floes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just like English Kills, certain areas which have been observed as being highly biologically active due to the presence of sewage sediment mounds during warmer climes were fully melted and flowing. The status of those unknown things which slither and slide and slop about in the bottom sediments during these unfrozen times remains a mystery.

There are some things you really do not want to know, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on the Borden Avenue Bridge, just to the south of the vantage point in the previous shots – which is offered by the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge – the rot of the ice was a bit more pronounced. An analogous appearance vaguely reminiscent of an otherwise wholesome slice of Swiss Cheese came to mind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The structure pictured in the first shot of today’s post, as well as in the last one presented above, is called a “dolphin.” It’s rooted deeply in the substrata of Dutch Kills and constructed of creosoted lumber piles. The purpose of these things is to protect the movable bridges they adjoin from an allision, accidental contact with passing maritime traffic. If both the boat and bridge were moving it be a collision, allision is if a moving object strikes a stationary one. 

For me, they provide essential design elements and focal points for the framing of photos at a frozen superfund site, hidden at the very center of New York City.


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Project Queens is a work in progress, and always has been.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It often seems as if everyplace I find my heels clicking upon the sidewalks of Western Queens is a construction zone. This one got my attention the other day when I noticed a shaft of sunlight while riding a train, somewhere between the 46th Street and Steinway Street stops on the venerable R line tracks. After returning to the ancient village from points west and south, a brief investigatory wander revealed it to be a crew from the MTA construction division hard at work on Astoria’s Broadway. I walked up on the end of this process, but it seemed that they had cut a hole in the street in order to deliver bundles of lumber and other heavy materials to the sweating concrete bunkers below the street.

I know, that sounds ridiculous, cutting a hole in the street. Why go to such lengths and expense, inconveniencing an entire neighborhood, when you could just use a work train to transport materials to the job site… but… I did say “MTA” didn’t I?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can you imagine the sort of existential horror that would ensue if the current Mayor of NYC’s mad plan to deck over the Sunnyside Yards happened? Often have I contemplated the nightmare scenario of materials laden heavy trucks criss crossing through Woodside, Astoria, Dutch Kills, Hunters Point, and Sunnyside while carrying tonnages of construction equipment and materials. The noise alone…

It would be less instructive, IMHO, if they were to just extend the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek a couple of blocks to the north and bring it all in via a maritime shipping channel. That is, in a scenario in which this Queens killing abomination actually happens, of course.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst marching about on Skillman Avenue nearby Queens Plaza, a work train crew was spotted on the overhead tracks. Presumptively, these folks were working on the long overdue CBTC signals project on the 7 line. This project, which seems like its been going on for decades (it has been) and must be millions over budget (it is) will allow the estimable scions of the MTA the opportunity to run one extra train per hour on the 7 line. Will the perfidy displayed by Jay Street ever end?

One of the military industrial complex concepts, which I wish the MTA would adopt in planning and spending, is the “resource to kill ratio.” In layman’s terms, that call that “bang for the buck.” You don’t use a million dollar missile to kill a guy on a camel, essentially. You use a sniper instead.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

hurled consequentially

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No matter where you go, there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“How are ya?” is usually greeted wth “just another day in paradise,” whenever a humble narrator is queried by friends and acquaintances. It’s nice to have a catchphrase, and it took me years to come up with one that didn’t involve verbiage that could be considered a threat, hate crime, or offer a string of profane words randomly strung together. For a while, I liked “gaze upon the dragon and despair” but it’s difficult to pull that one off with the proper theatrics before coffee.

Here in paradise, one has been quite inert due to the weather. That sucks, but the good news is that “the project” has been moving along nicely. Allow me to explain…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“The project” which was slowly chipped away at throughout 2017, is cataloging photos. It all started last winter when I realized that I needed to print up new business cards. I use a printing company called “Moo” for this, and their services allow for variable color fill on one side of the card (photos) and a single BW layout for the other. Essentially, it’s up to twenty shots for the photo side. Thing is, while hunting through something like sixty thousand photos, I realized that it was time to start organizing and separating the wheat from the chaff. That means that I’ve had to comb through the entire archive, just in the name of “doing it right.” I literally finished the process on December 30th, and am in the early stages of arranging shots into categories – harbor, bridges, people etc. Believe it or not, I’ve consciously avoided inclusion of Newtown Creek or NY Harbor oriented shots, as those will be getting their own individual processes. There’s a reason this project has taken so long to get done.

The end of this grueling procedure will be a godsend, and will be spawning several byproducts. I still haven’t printed any new business cards, incidentally, that’ll be the first thing I do. 2018 is going to be something of threshold year I hope, which will lead into the tenth anniversary of this – your Newtown Pentacle – in June of 2019.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I plan on doing in 2018 is creating more video essays like the “A Short History of the Sunnyside Yards” or “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern” ones I’ve offered in the past. I’m also planning on creating a few pamphlet sized publications exploring various subjects, which would be offered for sale as both digital and physical items. Suffice to say that there are other goals for the end product of this project, but that’s still something I’m scribbling down in my notebooks and thinking about.

“Just another day in paradise” might be a worthy title for a photo book about Western Queens, one believes.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 3, 2018 at 1:00 pm

peeling coats

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s amazing, the way people can find a way to form up battle lines around just about anything these days. At the moment, I’m really enjoying the farcical arguments playing out in NYC regarding bicycling. How, on earth, anything as simple and wholesome as riding a bike has became so politicized is symptomatic of everything wrong with us as a society. A) Bikes aren’t the answer to everything transit, and B) Bikes aren’t the reason that were all going to hell in a handbasket. This one, it ain’t that complicated.

It vexes, you’ll have to understand.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First, everybody in NYC orders in food periodically – Pizza, Chinese, whatever. Generally speaking, the person doing the delivery will likely arrive at your house on a two wheeled vehicle of some kind. Might be one of those newfangled electric jobs, or it could be a human powered bicycle. Could even be a velocipede, depending on whether or not you live in a hipster neighborhood. Let’s refer to the delivery people, the messengers and so on as “working bike riders.”

There’s a place which the politicians have been leading the vociferous and quite vocal “bicycle lobby” towards for several years now, by the way, and the working bicyclists are going to get there first.

Inevitably – there will be a municipal requirement for every bike and bike rider to be able to produce an operators permit, insurance, and display tags (license plates) – just like every other vehicle in NYC – when they interact with the NYPD. The politicians will eventually be setting up a fee based regulatory environment around bike riders soon enough, and it’s just a matter of time before they start hitting bicyclists with the sort of parking tickets and fines they do motorists to pay for the regulatory system.

Ten years at the most, in my opinion, before you need a drivers license to ride a bike in NYC. The Mayor is currently having the NYPD blitz the delivery riders with tickets as you read this, and a scheduled period of confiscation for the electric bikes is coming in the New Year. It’s already begun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Secondly, bikes are a pretty good choice to get around in fair weather, if you’re young and healthy enough to use one. Part of the argument which biking proponents miss is that for some of our neighbors, the only way to get around is by automobile. Your walking or stair climbing abilities may be compromised by any number of random medical factors, after all, and it’s not appropriate for many of us to show up at work slaked with sweat after a summertime commute.

You miss that sort of detail if you’re a member of the landed gentry who has decided to do a course of “public service” at City Hall, where the taxpayers maintain shower stalls for you to rinse off with before sitting down in front of your mahogany desk. Speaking of – I haven’t observed many of the City Hall people riding bikes to work, they use the train or drive City vehicles.

Practice what you preach, I always say, and as to that time I saw a former DOT Commisioner ask a limo driver to pull her bike out of the trunk a few blocks away from a press event (she wanted to be seen riding a bike to it) still ticks me off.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Third – the anti bike people would point out the sort of dumbass behavior on display in the shot above as being emblematic of all bicycle enthusiasts. Bicycle proponents will describe stories of automobiles running roughshod throughout the City, purposely squishing and fracturing the populace. Both of these narratives have truth to them, but are overstated.

Why do we always jump to absolutes, and proclaim the impending arrival of the apocalypse over every little issue?

The “protected bike lanes” which the NYC DOT are pushing on us all are another one of those political terms, as they are not at all protected from other vehicles and still spit naked bike riders out into heavily travelled intersections. Given that bicyclists generally ignore traffic signals…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These days, I’m a dedicated pedestrian, but I used to ride my bike all over the City just like any other Brooklyn kid. I was the worst kind of biker, incidentally, riding at speed both on and off the sidewalks and blowing through lights. Saying that, one was always fully in control of the thing, and never found myself in “trouble” with other moving objects on the road. That’s because, just as I do when I’m walking around, attention is paid to my surroundings. This is what is known as confirmation bias, incidentally. Just because you’ve done something risky once – or a hundred times – and gotten away with it, doesn’t mean your luck will continue.

You don’t want to be shooting selfies while riding along a busy street in LIC, as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you are indeed hell bent on selfie shots, I’d point out the hundreds of so called “ghost bikes” which the Bicycling advocates have installed along our city streets, which are meant to memorialize those who have lost their lives in collisions with motor vehicles and chide the populace. The one above is on Rust Street in Maspeth nearby the Newtown Creek industrial zone, which is notorious for heavy trucking and is a poor choice to ride a bike through. It’s one of the few places in the City that I literally beg people to use the sidewalk when riding their bikes.

Thing is, a lot of these new bike lanes are actually accelerating the amount of interaction between human powered and motor vehicles – especially around the industrial areas. As a note, I’ve observed that a LOT of the lower pay scale laborers in these areas ride their bikes to work. Bosses drive, workers pedal, it would seem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In western Queens, the ghost bikes aren’t even safe on the sidewalk, nor is the signage admonishing vehicular operators to slow down or obey some of the rules of the road. This particular one sat alongside a “protected bike lane” sited on the LIE overpass at Greenpoint Avenue in Blissville. The turn lane for westbound traffic exiting the highway, as well as the turning lane for entering the east bound section, exists on this short block. It’s always a nightmare spot for traffic with 24/7 congestion, but despite this, the DOT decided to delete a traffic lane for bike usage. Bikes don’t actually use the lane, they wisely utilize the sidewalk instead, and there’s ghost bikes on both the north and south corners.

An anecdote: A few years ago, when a party of NY State environmental officials were queried as to why there weren’t any “No Fishing” signs along Newtown Creek, they said “well, you can’t fish there without a license, that would be illegal.” I asked them how the war on drugs was going, and reminded them that literally everything is legal in NYC if there aren’t any cops hanging around. The Albany people were aghast.

This sort of narrow bureaucratic thinking is precisely how we’ve found ourselves in the societal spot we’re in, arguing about everything in apocalyptic tone, because there aren’t gray areas anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’d point to the very expensive solution DOT installed on the Pulaski Bridge as being what a protected bike lane should look like. Concrete barriers were set up to keep bikes, pedestrians, and trucks away from each other in distinct lanes. Thing is, just like every other half hearted process undertaken by officialdom, these “jersey barriers” end where the bridge ends in bothe LIC and Greenpoint, where turn lanes for vehicular traffic leaving the span cross right through the bike lanes and the helter skelter rules of NYC traffic begin. I guess this is the NYC way, however, lulling you into a false sense of security before dropping an air conditioner out of an eighth story window on you.

I’m also a fan of the experiments in Manhattan, along Broadway in the 30’s and 20’s, where the parking lane has been relocated to about 15-20 feet from the curb and the parked cars serve the purpose of protecting the bike lane. This particular plan has not been popular with drivers, however, who have lost a lane of travel and gained even more congestion at what has always been a traffic choke point between Herald Square and the Flatiron district.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was a kid in Canarsie, one of the neighbors was an old sailor (part of the fishing fleet at Sheepshead Bay) named Joe who had one of the most well developed Brooklyn accents I’ve ever encountered. Now, my Dad’s mutterings often included “terlet,” “icewhole,” “boid,” and “glass a whatah,” but this old Irish guy named Joe next door was just magic. Joe would often opine “dat opinyeons ahrr likes iceholes, evrie botties gots one’s.” Personally, a humble narrator has little skin in this particular bicycle game, and as my old neighbor would have said – “koodint gives toose chits, one ways orz da uthher.”

Be like Old Joe, and share what ya got in the comments? What’s the way forward on this bike argument? Want to argue with other Newtown Pentacle readers? Click the comments link below and spout off.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 28, 2017 at 11:00 am

defeated aspirations

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It’s National Roast Suckling Pig Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, I mentioned to a friend that I had no reason to get up in the morning, and he inquired as to whether or not I was depressed. My statement had nothing to do with mood or mental state, instead it was factual – my daytime calendar is fairly empty between the first week of December and middle January. Part of this is my peculiar vulnerability to cold weather which necessitates a certain amount of hermitage, another part of it is that this is the time of the year when I’m hitting the books and doing research into this or that, and working on presentation materials (working on the 2018 photo portfolio, me). This has really hampered photo gathering – as a note – which is a negative, but I’ve got to get my house of cards together for the new year. You’re only as good as the last provable shutter flop.

Since I don’t have to necessarily be “somewhere” at 8 in the morning most days, what’s the point of maintaining a farcical kabuki and simulating adherence to the “ole nine to five”? I’m often up at the hour of the wolf this time of the year. If you’re sacking out at four or five in the morning, you ain’t getting up at seven, if you know what I’m saying.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing that’s emerged in my searching through multiple archives of photos, which number in the tens of thousands at this point, is that I seem to have fallen into a bit of a rut over the last year and a half. The other is that a bunch of my friends have died along the way. There’s a few long term projects which will be reaching fruition in the next twenty four months, and the stuff generated by this “rut” has become noticeably more refined, but it seems I need to get out more. That’s my New Years resolution, by the way.

“I been everywhere, man” is a bit of generalization and I certainly haven’t been “everywhere.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my annual habit, I plan to wallow in laziness and turpitude for another couple of weeks and get it out of my system. By the new year, boredom and self hatred will have expanded sufficiently to force me into action. Some pedantic and utterly banal explosion of activity inspired by Marcus Aurelius will form up and despite my ennui – me and the camera are going to be “out there” every single day.

For now, though, I still don’t have much of a reason to wake up in the mornings.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 18, 2017 at 2:15 pm

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It’s National Hot Cocoa Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is quite amazing, really, the stuff you find scattered around the streets of Western Queens. Intentionally castoff manufactured items, or simply lost ones, abound. Recent effort found one wandering home via Sunnyside and this anamorphic headgear was simply staring me down as I approached.

Can’t blame it, I mean… look at me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the same day, this little assortment was encountered. This is clearly NOT the work of the Queens Cobbler, a local serial killer who leaves behind single shoe totems to mark their ghastly activities, as the shoes are in a pair and the Cobbler has never been known to leave behind kitchenware.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Captured a few weeks ago, the shot above does seem to bear all the evidentiary trademarks of the Queens Cobbler, however.

Someday, the Cops will batter down a storage room gate somewhere in LIC and find the lair of this footwear obsessed predator.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 13, 2017 at 1:05 pm

sinister matters

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting the most photogenic of NYC’s Subway lines entering the Queensboro Plaza station in LIC.

Tomorrow night, at Jackson’s Eatery Bar in LIC (which sits atop the Vernon Jackson stop of the 7 line at 10-37 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101), Newtown Creek Alliance’s holiday party will occur between 6 and 8:30 p.m. Come with?

 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 12, 2017 at 12:45 pm

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