The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Empty Corridor’ Category

low toned

with one comment

Holy smokes, the FreshDirect building is toast!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just at the point where one traditionally turns back towards HQ and begins the journey from the LIC Dutch Kills “zone,” I suddenly stopped in my tracks at the realization that I could see the sky. The gigantic building with yellow painted corrugated steel walls that used to house the FreshDirect operation here in LIC has been demolished. Tectonic!

This was a HUGE footprint building, five or six stories tall, with both refrigerated and shelf stable warehousing as well as several food preparation workshops. There were interior driveways large enough for multiple semi tractor trailers to reverse into, and smaller loading bays that could handle about ten or so of the FreshDirect local delivery trucks at the same time. Gone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as an aside for the thousands of people who have interrupted me while photographing over the years to ask “why are you taking pictures of that” while looking at me suspiciously and asking if I like hummus, this is exactly the reason. Creating some sort of record of what was there prior to it being replaced by something new. The “new” thing will have all sorts of government and corporate effort attached to it whose singular goal is the obfuscation of the site’s history. Ask the people in Queens Plaza if they know about the chemical factory, or lead foundry, which used to occupy the site of their shiny new condominium building. That’s the FreshDirect facility pictured above, as seen from a few blocks east.

A big part of the mission here at Newtown Pentacle is to create a record of this era of transition and rapid change in Western Queens for posterity which is independently held and not beholden to the political or business order. Whatever goes up on the site of that FreshDirect building… well… what used to be there?

Glad you asked.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big historic factory here was owned by the American Druggist Syndicate, who made pharmaceuticals – so essentially a chemical plant. There were a couple of varnish factories as well, so petrochemical processing. Then a few of the smaller lots were occupied by metal working and refining companies involved mostly in iron working, so that means heavy metals and coal retort residues. The statement above comes from a cursory scan of a 1919 fire insurance map in my possession. Did the 20th century bring in plastics? Garbage handling? Good questions.

Right behind the FreshDirect lot is a set of tracks used by the LIRR which have been liberally doused with rodenticides and herbicides over the centuries, and the soil they sit on hosts lakes of PCB’S, PAH’S and other electrical insulating oils beneath the surface which has bled out of their trackside equipment. Newtown Creek itself is about 2,000 feet away from the Borden Avenue sidewalk pictured in the first shot of this post.

Note: 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.


“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.

alien shadow

leave a comment »

Seeing the big rigs in Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One encountered a lonely semi truck on my recent scuttle across a still quite industrial section of LIC. It’s a “class 8” heavy truck, and manufactured by the Kenworth company. “Class 8” are vehicles which serve vocational applications – heavy dump trucks, concrete pump trucks, and refuse hauling – as well as including long-haul 4×2 and 6×4 tractor units such as the one pictured above. Washington state based, Kenworth has been in the truck business since 1912. Don’t ask me to identify what model of truck this is, as I’m sure there’s a gear head reading this who can help with the ID (share in the comments section) and will know far more than I about it. Like taxis and tugboats – when you see a vehicle like this just sitting there parked on the street, the owner is losing money.

I have always been fascinated with this idea of perpetually moving vehicles. Certain vehicles are meant to be operated continuously by multiple crews of drivers, and meant to never stop moving. Police cars and ambulances, subways and trains of all types… cargo ships… all are meant to rest only when undergoing maintenance or changing work crews and operators. That’s interesting, no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A graffiti crew had obviously taken fairly recent advantage of the expansive warehouse walls (a “building trade” lumber operation) on this particular block in LIC, but I was more interested in the sickly trees lining the sidewalk than the fairly inexpert tags. In these industrial zones, trees are scarce, and often fall victim to the hustle and bustle of getting things done. In this sort of area, the DEP and FDNY have to erect bollards around their fire hydrants to vouchsafe them from getting knocked over or down, and you’ll often notice utility poles which have had huge swaths carved out of them by careless truckers moving multi ton loads about. Stop signs and lamp posts are regularly snapped off their stanchions as well.

As I tell the people who have just discovered Newtown Creek – all the time – be careful, it’s easy to get dead around here if you don’t know the lay of the land. Luckily, I’ve been obliged to sit through literally days of the safety training which the “union guys” get in order to legally enter job sites and facilities with the camera, and I “sprech the deutch” of their acculturations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the Long Island Expressway in the upper left, and it’s been towering over Borden Avenue in LIC since 1939. The LIE rises from ground level at Greenpoint Avenue all the way to 106 feet over the waters of Newtown Creek’s nearby Dutch Kills tributary before beginning its descent into the Queens Midtown Tunnel in Hunters Point. I refer to the zone underneath the LIE as “the empty corridor,” but there’s actually quite a lot going on down here.

More from the empty corridor tomorrow, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

Note: 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.


“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.

cosmic fear

with one comment

My continuing tour of the worst places on earth, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the spot where the Long Island Expressway off ramp feeds into the local street grid in LIC, specifically at the intersection of Borden Avenue and Van Dam Street. For some reason the FDNY routes ambulances through this traffic choked lane, so in addition to the rumble and exhaust of thousands of cars an hour, there’s also sirens to listen to and flashing lights to enjoy. What with all the artificial light cascading about, and the low ceiling of the Queens Midtown Expressway truss above – this is about two blocks from Greenpoint Avenue, for reference – it’s actually quite beautiful as far as environmental and urban planning disaster areas go. What can I tell you, I like places of this sort. It’s where I belong.

Not exactly pedestrian friendly, though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Behind all the colorful tumult pictured in the shot above, there’s a small wooded area adjoining an on ramp for the LIE, which the local Queensicans have designated as a great place to engage in the native art form of the World’s Borough – illegal dumping. For quite some time, there was a sizable homeless colony back here which would better be described as a homeless village. In many ways, it looked like a galactic refugee set piece from the Star Trek series, with shanty structures and people engaging in an off the grid mercantile economy.

All that is gone, and these days the little stand of trees back here are merely a knoll. If it wasn’t state owned land, I’m sure the Mayor would be trying to build affordable housing here, or maybe a homeless shelter. Dotting the “i”‘s and crossing the “t”‘s is what the horde of loathsome sentience in City Hall is going to be up to until December 31st of 2021, I predict. That’s how much longer we have to wait until Citizen De Blasio is powerless again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a lot of wasted space in LIC, I would point out to the First Citizen’s team.

This patch could easily be used to store municipal vehicles, or perhaps establish a small office park for the NYC EDC to work out of. Ever wonder why these clowns get to work in skyscrapers owned by the City, rather than empty strip malls in Nassau County? MTA has 2 Broadway in the City, and a rather handsome structure on Jay Street in Brooklyn. Real Estate rules the roost these days, so why do our civil servants get to occupy prime value locations? Wouldn’t it make sense for them to work out of a transit desert? Go to work in East New York, or the northern Bronx, or western Staten Island, just to give them a bit of perspective on what the rest of us experience?


“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.

utter extirpation

with 2 comments

I had to make pee pee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While wandering around Dutch Kills, Long Island City’s (surviving) tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek, one suddenly felt the call of nature. It was about six a.m. as I recall, when tolled the telltale alarum that it was time for a tinkle. Luckily, one had already secluded himself in a hidey hole along the banks of the waterway, one which offered both privacy and open unpaved soil. Why do I mention this, you ask? Because the City of New York completely and utterly disregards human biology in its various machinations and zoning decisions and has for better than fifty years. Why there isn’t a public pissoir found every mile or so is something that just escapes me. Luckily, as a bloke with an “outie,” the world offers lots of shadowed corners, spaces in between trucks, abandoned industrial canal bulkheads, and so on. I imagine the problems which proper renal function causes are more difficult for those of you with “innies.”

Anyway, as the sign in the shot would adjure – there’s meant to be “No Swimming’ here in Dutch Kills. Probably because of the millions of gallons of untreated sewage which the City dumps into every year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of all the sections of Newtown Creek which one visits regularly, Dutch Kills is most frequently seen. It’s not too far from Astoria by foot. Most of the time I come here, however, is definitively later in the day than the one these shots were gathered – which was just as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was rising in the east. I kept on debating whether or not to use a lens filter to “slow down” the rising light levels a bit, but the actual scene was just so beautifully lit that I didn’t want to screw around with it too much. I did have the camera up on the tripod though. The settings for this one were f18, iso 100, and .6 of a second.

Why am I telling you that, just like why talk about having to take a piss? I’ll let you know pretty soon. That’s coy of me, ain’t it?

Also, ever think about that phrase “taking a piss”? If anything, you’re “giving” rather than taking one. British English uses “having” for the act, as a note. Doesn’t make sense to me, just like the flammable/inflammable conundrum.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My eventual destination was going to be over on Skillman Avenue, where I was supposed to meet up with the Newtown Creek Alliance crew at nine. I still had plenty of time before that, so it was decided to shlep over to another hidey hole spot along Dutch Kills, one which is decidedly less private than the one so recently moistened by a humble narrator.

More tomorrow at this – 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.

stout pillars

with 2 comments

DUPBO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To begin with, when I was on site in Long Island City’s DUPBO section shooting these photos the other night, something so unique and novel occurred that I’m doubting the experience, so I’m going to be heading back sometime over the next few days when it’s light out to “get scientific” about the matter, and I’ll report it to you after a second observation and proper photo cataloguing but for now let’s just leave it hanging.

Mundane and material, that’s a late model Long Island Railroad engine sitting on a siding of the Lower Montauk tracks, awaiting orders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the spot I was in when the weird thing happened, a location I found myself in due to the attentions of an over zealous and probably bored security guard who decided that my activities were impeding on the grounds she protects. I wish she’d spend some time on the illegal dumping, homeless camps, or the flotilla of RV’s serving as domiciles here in DUPBO, but focusing in on middle aged men with cameras and tripods standing in a parking lot is clearly at the top of her threat chart.

This shot is looking northwards, towards the LIE and Queens Midtown Tunnel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shlepping towards HQ, and exiting the industrial area in pursuit of getting to the train station, the 19th avenue footbridge carried me over the LIRR tracks leading from Hunters Point into the Sunnyside Yards and then under the Long Island Expressway. This is quite a well used footpath, as a note, which connects Borden Avenue with 49th or Hunters Point Avenue where a stop on the #7 train can be accessed.


“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.

attic realm

leave a comment »

Aftermath, LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may have heard that there was a rather large fire in Long Island City over the weekend, which saw an auto body shop consumed in what ended up being a five alarm blaze. Multiple FDNY units were sent to LIC from other boroughs, and despite their efforts the fire raged for hours and hours. The roof of the structure collapsed, and I’d be willing to bet that it’s going to be declared a total loss somewhere down the line by insurers.

On Sunday I walked over to get some shots of the scene, and given that this area is kind of “my stomping grounds,” knew where to go for an efficacious angle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The FDNY had two units on hand in case anything flashed back to life, and NYPD was also on hand controlling the intersection and keeping “lookie-loos” like me from getting into trouble. FDNY had Rockaway’s Tower Ladder 155 unit, as well as Engine unit 289 from Corona, on point. The coppers were from the 108 pct.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I say it all the time, “Newtown Creek has a history of large industrial site fires.” When I say that, I’m thinking of actual history – the 1882 and 1919 Standard Oil refinery fires in Greenpoint or the Pratt Varnish works fire just down the block here in LIC. Just in the last decade there’s been two major fires, both in Greenpoint, which took nearly a week to put out. Also in Greenpoint, there was the Greenpoint Terminal Market fire about 15 years ago which saw the largest FDNY deployment since 911.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 2, 2018 at 2:00 pm

mental atmosphere

with 3 comments

Drama, drama, drama.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Why one ever tries to engage socially with others remains a question that has no answer. Generally speaking, it never ends well, and one finds himself in a “situation” at the moment which has – in fact – confirmed his worst suspicions and general presumptions about the humans. Fickle, feckless, and basically fearful are they. Not worth the effort.

Best that I retreat to my wastelands.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Accordingly, like some slime dwelling bivalve I am going to snap my protective covering shut and avoid interaction entirely. There is no point, no future, no nothing. All is worthless, and the world spins to inevitable doom.

I have had it. Done.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This dark cloud I’m under will inevitably pass, of course. I’m too personally weak to ever fully engage in hermitage. Saying all that, I want nothing to do with anyone for a bit. Just leave a message, I probably won’t be answering the phone.

Avoid me.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 17, 2018 at 1:00 pm

%d bloggers like this: