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curious designs

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Jarring, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing I love about traveling around NYC on the water is the perspective offered. When you’re on the streets, alleys, or highways of the megalopolis it’s hard to see the big picture. The fact that the Real Estate Industrial Complex has never managed to convince the Mayors of NYC to pave over the rivers (the developers have tried, several times over the centuries, as a note, and have occasionally succeeded as with “Battery Park City”) allows the opportunity to observe the changing skyline. In the last twenty years, there’s been so much change – both by unfortunate circumstance as in the case of the Freedom Tower World Trade Center above, or through avarice as in the case of that weird apartment building with the leaky windows situated just to the right of it.

Before you ask… there was a plan floated in the 1930’s to pave over the Hudson and create an airport. The fellow running the design process for the quixotic Sunnyside Yards deck proposed filing in the East River between Lower Manhattan and Governor’s Island during the Bloomberg years in pursuance of creating a new neighborhood called “Lolo,” and the current Mayor of NYC wants to expand Manhattan into the Hudson and East River by about a half mile in the name of climate resiliency. A protective wall of condominiums to protect the Financial District.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The skyline of LIC is one of the most altered places in the entire City. Ten years ago, when I started consciously documenting the place, there were four large residential buildings in Hunters Point, and there was the Citibank Sapphire Megalith. Today, it’s hard to point out the megalith to passerby, as it’s been obscured in its primacy by new construction. There’s no talk, yet, of expanding the land into the water in LIC, but that’s because a compliant political establishment here in Queens welcomes the presence of Real Estate Industrial Complex activity in upland properties. Keep an eye on Northern Blvd. between Steinway Street and Woodside Avenue in the coming years.

Just the other night, somebody I know who’s a “player” here in Queens was opining that the recent alteration in rent regulations law that occurred in Albany signaled the end of big development and an impending cessation of new construction. He said that “all the big projects are going to stop, and the developers would be pulling out of preexisting arrangements.” Pfah.

As if.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I look forward to some future era when it doesn’t rain every day – but I find it difficult to believe that after expensively manipulating the City Planning process, and striking deals with every donation hungry advocacy and political organization you can imagine, paying architects and engineers – you’d pull out of the chance to reap the dreams of avarice. You invest a dollar in pursuance of it turning into a thousand dollars overnight, and then pull away from the deal because you’re only going to make $999 off the project?

There’s no crying in baseball.


“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.

godless sound

with 4 comments

Well, it’s Monday again, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found one marching home from Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, via LIC’s Blissville section, to the gently rolling hills of Astoria here in the Borough of Queens. The connective tissue, as it were, between the two boroughs for this particular perambulatory pursuit takes concrete form in the shape of the JJ Byrne Memorial Bridge – a double bascule drawbridge spanning the notorious Newtown Creek, which is known colloquially as the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Having fully armed myself before leaving HQ with photographic ephemera and tools, some time was spent in pursuit of recording the scene.

To wit, the shots above and below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been attempting to pull off a thirty second long exposure of the scene visible from the center of the bridge for months and months, at the center spot where the cyclopean roadway bascules meet, but have been constantly frustrated by the abundance of heavy traffic crossing the bridge. Even the passing of a normal automotive sedan will cause ruinous vibrations to transmit into the camera, blurring the shot, whereas the quaking cavitations offered up by the passage of a heavy truck or city bus over the bridge have more than once caused my hand to grasp my top heavy tripod in order to vouchsafe against it falling over. What I’ve gleaned from this experience is that you cannot find a thirty second interval in which traffic is not passing over this bridge, other than when it opens to provide passage east or west for maritime traffic.

That’s goofy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On another night last week, one was involved in a different endeavor in the financial district if Lower Manhattan when one of the many bands of precipitation which have been painting the City in recent weeks erupted. This event was one of the two or three times a year when you might observe a humble narrator wearing ritual garb. “Ritual Garb” is what I call a suit and tie. I often wish that our society favored feathered headdresses or Maori style piercings, as western formal wear is stupid. It’s composed of easily damaged fabrics, uncomfortable to wear, unsuitable for any sort of actual work or activity other than standing still or sitting down, involves wearing shoes that provide zero ankle support, and you’ve literally got a noose tied around your neck. Also, secure pockets are not part of the equation.

I like a good (velcro sealed or buttonable) secure pocket. Actually I like a whole lot of them.


“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

May 20, 2019 at 11:00 am

slightly abated

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A city of fortresses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing which bugs me so much about the conceptual model evinced by the City Planning crowd and the so called “urbanists” is how much they actually detest the chaotic streets and the “hustle and bustle” side of NYC. Everything they can do to eliminate the “unplanned” or the “unsightly” is on display over in Manhattan. Long blocks without street benches or other “friendly” features, a lack of interesting mid block street level buisness which might draw you away from the corner. The preservation of “sight lines” in favor of planting trees or other greenery… favoring certain kinds of commerce – high end retail and or office space – over needed businesses like supermarkets and laundromats. Modern Manhattan looks more and more like Marie Kondo has swept through it and thrown out all the stuff that doesn’t bring the “urbanists” crowd “joy.”

I’ve offered this thought before, but it seems that the crew running NYC’s regulatory environment regarding municipal preferences on street life don’t like cities all that much. They want order, and predictability. They want midwestern shopping malls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A comment often offered by a humble narrator to companions and sometimes passerby strangers involves me gesturing towards something and saying “Look, it’s just like an architects drawing. All the people in this scene are two dimensional, notice all those massing shapes and wayfinding infrastructure.” I once had a City Planner indicate to me, when I pointed out that a certain section of LIC’s street design was creating bottlenecks for pedestrians that necessitated walking multiple blocks just to find a place to cross the street, that “well, we don’t want people crossing the street there.” Thing is, people ARE crossing the street there, and what somebody in City Hall WANTS New Yorkers to do will always be trumped by what New Yorkers HAVE to do. Best laid plans, mice, men, all that.

I’m reminded of a conversation I once had with some NYS officials from Albany who told me that since they wouldn’t issue a fishing license for Newtown Creek, nobody would fish there because it would be illegal so there was no need for signage cautioning against the practice around the waterway. I inquired as to how the war on drugs was going, and proceeded to make my appeals to a different agency for signage. The Federal EPA saw my point, and there’s now signage around the creek stating the obvious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Old New York” and “New New York” used to refer to the era of modernist skyscrapers coexisting with and alongside the 19th century town houses and brownstones or tenements of an earlier age. These days, at least in my mind, it refers to the differential qualities of areas which the City Planning crowd has “fixed” versus those it hasn’t. Luckily, there’s large sections of Queens which their tender mercies haven’t been applied to. Yet.

Look at Astoria, with it’s vibrant street life and retail economy of mom and pop shopping. “Disturbingly heterogenous” and “chaotic” is probably how the City Hall people would describe things, and they’d ask “is this the best use of the land”? The bulldozers would be sitting on Northern Blvd. idling while they wait for the answer they want to hear coming back from people who think just like they do.


“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

May 9, 2019 at 12:00 pm

indubitably evoked

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On this day in 1931, the Empire State Building opened for business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy 88th Birthday, old friend.

For a bunch of the particulars regarding the Empire State Building – builders, timeline, how much it’s thought to weigh – check out this 2018 Newtown Pentacle post. My favorite of NYC’s great buildings from the twentieth century, the Empire State Building is literally one of the two or three pole stars by which I navigate my way through the City of Greater New York, and when I see it poking up from behind a tree line on a New Jersey highway or appearing from behind canyons of lesser structures when I’m on a ship or boat, I know for a fact that I’m coming home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From a photography point of view, there’s no other structure in our megalopolis that says “New York City” as loudly as the Empire State Building does. If you’ve got it in frame, you’ve got a shot that just shouts “I’m walkin here.” Even abominations like Hudson Yards, or the actually interesting Copper Building, which interfere with the sight lines of the ESB cannot diminish the prominence of the structure in my eyes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite time to capture images which the Empire State Building is found somewhere in the background of are at night, and in particular foggy ones. That’s when it’s literally scraping the sky, and its theater lit spire is glowing.

The Progressive era of the American Story didn’t build cathedrals… instead they built skyscrapers. The Empire State Building is ours.


“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

May 1, 2019 at 11:00 am

disordered condition

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Don’t like it, but I have to leave Queens occasionally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had to go into the City to visit the accountant the other day, one of the few ties I still have to my old neighborhood in Manhattan. For over a decade a humble narrator was centered in a small apartment with very cheap rent on the corner of West 100th street and Broadway, a white walled box which served my needs when I was working as a corporate drone in the advertising salt mines. NYC was just getting started on its current vector back then, when a series of NBC sitcoms presented Manhattan as a viable or desirable option for midwesterners to consider. Come to the City, where you’ll have “Friends” and meet quirky characters like “Kramer” or get lucky and have some “Sex in the City.” I blame “Seinfeld” for kicking off this whole gentrification business.

I’ve always been fascinated by media portrayals of New York City, and the pop cultural interpretations thereof. Beginning in the 1960’s, Hollywood began telling you that this was a place you didn’t want to be. Fun City indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A mostly forgotten but well done Police procedural series offered in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was called “Naked City.” It’s tag line was “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Heavy handed on the social justice storylines, Naked City nevertheless is the prototype for later procedurals like “Law and Order” and like that long running production, was shot on location all over NYC. If you can find it, check out a few episodes and pay attention to the background landscape details. Shot during the era of urban renewal and slum clearance, Robert Moses’s various initiatives can be seen in the backgrounds, with the foreground filled by soon to famous actors playing their first major roles. There’s one with Al Pacino in it, who’s climax occurs with the raw steel of the United Nations building visible in Manhattan’s former “Blood Alley” section.

Fascinating window into the past, televised fiction can be. At the rate which NYC constantly demolishes and rebuilds itself, you have to take anything you can get in terms of what once was, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My beloved Creek is picture above, from the pigeon poop encrusted stairways of the Pulaski Bridge in LIC. Speaking of “demolishing and rebuilding itself,” let’s just say that I have seen the plans for what’s coming next, and that the area between LIC’s 2nd Street and the Pulaski/Borden Avenue and Newtown Creek (including the LIRR station) is – indeed – next. You’ll hear about it soon, I believe.

Get your pics now, lords and ladies. Tick tock.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 17, 2019 at 1:30 pm

eccentric behavior

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Federal Hall, Manhattan

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has nothing new to show you this week, so archived shots are on offer. Fear not, as you’re receiving this, one is running about the City whilst the camera is clicking and whirring away. In the meantime, enjoy yourself, as it’s probably a lot later than you think.

When did “middle of the road” become a metaphor for safety?


“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 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

mere nerves

with 2 comments

One in the chamber, safety off, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

How I love watching the humans dance. The jockeying for position, the desire to be recognized and loved by their “betters”… their sincere belief that you can reason with the unreasonable and make lemonade when life gives you lemons. Trying to make the best of a bad situation? Seeking to find common ground with somebody who wants to kill or replace you? Is the knife at your throat clean at least?

Maybe there’s still too much Brooklyn in me, but when someone tries to hurt me I hurt them first, and in a way that they will remember. Maybe there’s too much inheritance in me from the side of my family descended from the Jews of Russia, but when the Cossacks arrive you can either make them disappear and send riderless horses back to the barracks or they will make you disappear. They were sent to harm you, and no amount of talking to the Cossacks will bring them over to your side. They will cut your head off and play polo with it in the village square, then rape your mother. You mean nothing to Cossacks, employed as they are by a foreign despot, and they will make a game out of destroying you and yours for their own advantage in the eyes of their god king.

When the Cossacks come and announce they want to deck over the Sunnyside Yards, you fight them. End of parable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is continually dismayed by those who dismiss the memories of the last hundred encounters with the Cossacks, thinking that since there’s a new Tsar on the throne that this time things will go differently. Mounted Calvary soldiers sent by a despotic regime to visit distant peasant villages seldom arrive bearing either gifts or good news. Neither do real estate industrial complex employed governmental development teams have the best interests of long established communities in mind when they announce the desire to construct mega projects.

As a note, the Sunnyside Yards people have been walking this project around in Manhattan. A group of architecture students I met, who were taking a theoretical stab at the project, included a kid from China who commented to me that “this project would be so easy to do in Beijing, since you wouldn’t have to worry about community sentiment or input.”

Cossacks. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have you noticed how much the city planners seem to hate cities?

They abhor the chaos, the organic growth, the unpredictability of it all. They want to create shopping mall corridors instead of streets, lined with neat panes of glass. They are Cossacks, who pine for depostism.


“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 5, 2019 at 2:30 pm

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