The Newtown Pentacle

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horror forcing

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The empty corridor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue, or at least the section of it pictured in today’s post, was officially designated as such in 1868, after an engineered “plank road” was erected through the swampy low lands surrounding the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. It was primarily designed as a commercial corridor, connecting the upland farms and dairies of Maspeth and Woodside with the docks in Hunters Point at the East River. Borden… Borden Milk… Roads were named for where they went back then.

The wetlands of Dutch Kills were filled in at the start of the 20th century, and the railroad took advantage of all the new dry land to hurl spurs out to the various industrial buildings which were erected on the reclaimed flatlands. LIRR still crosses Borden Avenue several times a day at street grade, about a mile west of where these shots were gathered.

The Long Island Expressway truss defines the section of Borden between Greenpoint Avenue and Review Avenue, and the blighted area beneath it is something I refer to as the “Empty Corridor.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills itself was rendered into its current form and course at the start of the 20th century, shortly after NYC consolidation in 1898. A huge land reclamation project was being conducted by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company – the creation of the Sunnyside Yards – was occurring about a half mile to the north and west and a construction magnate named Michael Degnon began buying up the wetlands surrounding Dutch Kills from the estate of a former Governor of New York State. Degnon used excavated fill from another one of his projects – the East River subway tunnel which carries the modern day 7 line train – to create dry land around Dutch Kills. Concurrently, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was busy creating industrial bulk heads and “canalizing” the entire Newtown Creek and its tributaries.

That’s the Borden Avenue Bridge pictured, the existing version of which was erected in 1908. It’s not the first Borden Avenue Bridge, but it’s the one that’s stood the test of time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While all this tumult and “terraforming” was going on, the Long Island Railroad was investing in the LIC area as well. The Lower Montauk trackage, as it’s known today, connects the Fresh Pond Yard with the East River along the northern shore of Newtown Creek. There are two railroad bridges spanning Dutch Kills. One is DB Cabin, a turnstile bridge which is still quite active but cannot turn or open, and it provides a direct track link between the Blissville and Wheelspur Yards on the lower montauk right of way. The other is Cabin M, which leads to the Montauk Cutoff elevated tracks that formerly connected to the LIRR Main Line tracks at the Sunnyside Yards. Before all this end of the world stuff started, MTA indicated it was going to demolish Cabin M. Somehow, I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon.

As I always say, despite the fact that I call it the “empty corridor” there’s quite a lot going on down here and lots of interesting things to see on a walk in LIC.

Also, on this day in NYC history: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire occurred in 1911.

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.


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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

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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

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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?


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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.

some curse

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Twirling, ever twirling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From HQ in Astoria, I’ve got several approach vectors to the various sections surrounding the Newtown Creek. Walking south on 39th street and making a right on Skillman Avenue takes me to Dutch Kills in LIC, for instance. 43rd street carries me across Sunnyside and towards the Kosciuszcko Bridge. South on 48th street will point my toes at Maspeth Creek and or the Grand Street Bridge. In all the cases above, one walks downhill out of Astoria to cross a low point at Northern Blvd. and then up a shallow hill and the ridge which Sunnyside sits on. After crossing a certain point, the declination of the land begins to slope back down towards the flood plains surrounding Newtown Creek.

Then there’s the Woodside Avenue/58th street path, which is what I call “good cardio.” What makes it good is that you are pretty much pulling up hill towards the Maspeth Plateau the entire way. On this path, you get to stop and consider the place marker on 58th street and Queens Blvd. installed by the Dept. of City Planning denoting the geographic center of NYC, walk along the walls of Calvary Cemetery’s second and third divisions, and dodge a lot of traffic. Fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Theoretically, the street pictured above is Laurel Hill Blvd., which is overflown by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway on an elevated ramp. Calvary 2 is on the north side of the street, Calvary 3 on the south. Both sections of the funerary complex sport high masonry walls which are somewhat oppressive, and are oddly free of graffiti. My understanding is that there is a street racing scene hereabouts on Laurel Hill Blvd., but I’ve never observed it. Recent experience has revealed that the fast and furious crowd currently prefers Review Avenue in Blissville, nearby Calvary 1, for their antics. To the North and East is the Woodside section, West and North is Sunnyside, and heading South brings you to Maspeth.

Oddly enough, this section of road is terrifically well travelled, even at night. It seems to be a bit of a shortcut for drivers, and the Q39 bus enjoys a couple of stops down here. As mentioned from a post a couple of weeks back, the State controlled highway which the street lamps are mounted on has not switched over to LED luminaires as the City has and old school sodium lights offer a now nostalgic orange glow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

58th street itself, between the BQE and the Long Island Expressway, is essentially a trench running between two cemeteries – the aforementioned Calvary properties to the west and Mt. Zion to the East. Truly terrifying for a pedestrian, what passes for sidewalks are essentially earthen berms piles up against the cemetery walls.

Not everybody walks past a cemetery fence at night wishing that the property was open 24 hours, and regretful that the photographic splendors therein are out of reach, but I do. One couldn’t resist getting a few shots through the fence of Mt. Zion while picking my way along the rough hewn berm. Oh, to gain purchase within and spend time with the night gaunts and tomb legions.


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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

February 25, 2020 at 1:00 pm

utter extirpation

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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.


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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.

uncouth time

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Death. Annihilation. Hatred.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All night long, on my trek to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, I was noticing and recording the unnatural colour offered to the sky vault by the Kosciuszcko Bridge’s bizarre lighting system. It’s like no earthly colour, rather it’s like something out of space, in my opinion. Darth Cuomo, in his infinite wisdom and bowel quaking power, has decreed that this prismatic display must occur.

Soon, we shall all know the colour, and it will be a part of us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A rare vertical or portrait format shot, the photo above was devilishly difficult to capture. There’s the super bright campus of the Federal Express shipping depot, which was absolutely and positively not part of a quid pro quo for their lost facility at what’s now Hudson Yards. You’ve also got the out of gamut color spectrum offered by the aforementioned lighting system installed at the order of the Governor by the New York State Department of Transportation. Everything else in the shot was cast into fuligin shadow, and what I wanted was to find a middle point between the extremes.

I guess “middle point between extremes” describes the general desire one has for his life, but has always been denied.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Borden Avenue Bridge was the midpoint in my mission for the night, where a humble narrator reoriented himself back towards Astoria, Our Lady of the Pentacle, and my little dog Zuzu. Checking my phone, it was realized that I had again lost track of time, and it was quite a bit later than my perception would have indicated. One or two last shots of the Long Island Expressway’s “Queens Midtown Expressway” truss were executed before I made my way back to civilization in Blissville.

Well after midnight, one summoned a ride share cab home. NYC’s sardonic sense of humor manifested then, as two yellow cabs and a bus appeared while I was waiting for a fellow named Singh to arrive in his minivan.


“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.

correlated causeways

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Eleven bridges, one creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pulaski Bridge is the first span you encounter, when you’ve left the East River and embarked on a journey down the fabulous Newtown Creek. A double bascule drawbridge, and electrically powered, the Pulaski Bridge connects 11th street in Long Island City with McGuinness Blvd. to the south in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint. Built in 1954, the Pulaski Bridge is owned and operated by the New York City Department of Transportation or “NYC DOT.” The Pulaski Bridge carries five lanes of traffic, plus a dedicated bicycle lane and a separate pedestrian pathway. It overflies the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Long Island Expressway, as well as active railroad tracks found on Borden Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DB Cabin acts as a gatekeeper to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. It’s a railroad swing bridge owned by the Long Island Railroad, and connects two rail yards – the Wheelspur Yard (to the west, or left in the shot above) and the Blissville Yard – across the water. Both rail yards and the bridge itself are part of the LIRR’s Lower Montauk tracks. DB Cabin dates back to the 1890’s and is in a terrible state of repair. The swing bridge’s motors are nonfunctional, which isolates the Dutch Kills tributary from maritime traffic, and from the rest of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cabin M is just to the north of DB Cabin on Dutch Kills, and the single bascule drawbridge connects the Montauk Cutoff with the Blissville Yard mentioned above. The Montauk Cutoff is an elevated track which used to provide a connection between the LIRR’s Main Line tracks at the nearby Sunnyside Yards with the Lower Montauk tracks along the north (or Queens side) shoreline of Newtown Creek. The 2020 Capital Plan just released by the Long Island Railroad’s owner – The MTA – includes funding to demolish Cabin M.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue Bridge is owned by the NYC DOT, and is one of just two retractile bridges in NYC (the other being the Carroll Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal). Built in 1908 to replace an earlier wooden drawbridge (1868) at the intersection of Borden Avenue and Dutch Kills, Borden Avenue Bridge received extensive upgrades and structural repairs in 2010 and 2011, and had its electronic components destroyed by flooding during Hurricane Sandy. Another round of repairs and upgrades began in 2019, which included asbestos abatement work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Expressway is 71 miles long, and is operationally managed in three sections. The Queens Midtown Expressway is how it’s owners, the New York State Department of Transportation, refer to the section found between the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Greenpoint Avenue in Long Island City. This section is elevated, rising to 106 feet above the waters of Dutch Kills. The LIE truss pictured above handles some 87.7 thousand daily vehicle trips, or 32 million annually, to and from Manhattan,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunters Point Avenue Bridge is due north west of Borden Avenue Bridge and the LIE truss. It’s a single bascule drawbridge, owned by the NYC DOT. Replacing an earlier wooden draw bridge that was opened and closed by a donkey walking on a wheel, the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge was built in 1910. Back then, it was a double bascule bridge, but a rebuild in the 1980’s simplified the mechanism to a single bascule. The masonry of the bridge is original to the 1910 design.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is found some 1.37 miles from Newtown Creek’s intersection with the East River, and roughly a half mile from the mouth of Dutch Kills. It’s a double bascule bridge, built in 1987, and owned and operated by the NYC DOT. There have been many Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, dating back to the first one built by Greenpoint’s town father Neziah Bliss back in 1850, but that one was called the “Blissville Bridge.” The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is a traffic machine, carrying 28.3 thousand vehicle trips a day, or about ten million a year. Most of that traffic takes the form of heavy trucking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The brand new Kosciuszko Bridge(s) replaced a 1939 vintage truss bridge that carried the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek and are found some 2.1 miles from the East River. The NYS DOT is busy putting the finishing touches on the new cable stay bridge’s construction. In addition to the… ahem… high speed traffic lanes of the BQE, there is also a pedestrian and bicycle pathway found on the new Kosciuszko Bridge which connects 43rd street in Queens’s Sunnyside section with Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Grand Street Bridge is a swing bridge connecting Maspeth’s Grand Avenue in Queens with East Williamsburg/Bushwick’s Grand Street in Brooklyn. 3.1 miles back from the East River, in a section of Newtown Creek once called “White’s Dock,” the NYC DOT have recently announced plans to replace this 1909 beauty – which is actually the third bridge to occupy this spot. Damage from Hurricane Sandy, and the narrow roadways with height restrictions that the bridge offers, have pretty much sealed its fate. It will be missed.

This is where the main spur of Newtown Creek ends, as a note. Directly east is a truncated tributary called the East Branch, and another tributary called English Kills makes a hard turn to the south just before you encounter Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is a double bascule drawbridge that crosses the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, and is owned by the NYC DOT. Metropolitan Avenue was originally built as a private toll road in 1813, and the first bridge here was a part of the “Williamsburg and Jamaica Turnpike.” The current Metropolitan Avenue Bridge was built in 1931, although it has received significant alterations in 1976, 1992, 2006, and again in 2015. The 2015 alterations?

You guessed it, Hurricane Sandy strikes again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge is the final crossing found over the waters of Newtown Creek and its tributaries. Some 3.7 miles back from the East River, it’s the property of the Long Island Railroad and used for freight service on their Bushwick Branch tracks. A truss bridge, or trestle if you must, my understanding of things are that whereas the trackway and parts of the rail bridge date back to approximately 1924… there has been quite a lot of work done on the thing which I have not been able to fully document so rather than fill in blanks with assumptions – I’m just going to say that I don’t know everything… yet.

It’s an active track, it should be mentioned.


“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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