The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Manhattan’ Category

rat bitten

with 4 comments

Manhattan just stinks, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I did two things which I had been looking forward to for a bit. The first was the purchase of a new lens to fit into the camera, one whose specific occupation and design revolves around low light and night time photography (the shots in today’s post were captured with the thing), and the other was narrating a Working Harbor Committee “Newark Bay” excursion. Having the former with me, and having completed the mission for the latter, one headed for the Subway to make a hasty retreat back to the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria .

My path carried me through the stinking warrens of the financial district. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For many years did a humble narrator live on this island called Manhattan, which one used to refer to as “Home sweet Hell.” At night, the garbage collects on the concrete in front of office building and apartment block alike. The vermin rise from the sewers, drawn by the scent of festering food and moldering coffee grounds. Sidewalks narrow, and oddly colored rivulets of khaki colored liquid ooze into the gutters through rodent chewed apertures in the bags of filth. Sidewalk pavement and roadway asphalt both seem to be covered in a layer of rancid cooking grease, which gets tracked around by a thousand pairs of shoes an hour. It was a hot night, humid.

And they say Newtown Creek smells…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was heading for the Fulton Street stop for the 5 line. The 5, an express, is the preferred method for me to escape the municipal and financial center of the greatest city the world has ever known. The line traverses the spine of the island, and allows for a connection to a Queens bound train in just a few stops. The less time spent on this island, especially the southern third of it, the better.

That’s where I spotted this mountain blocking the cross walk and spilling into the street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has many friends who call Manhattan home – and as confessed earlier – I used to do so myself. My cliff dwelling pals tend to get hot under the collar when a humble narrator begins to discuss his disdain for the unsustainable civilization of Manhattan. My points are all “matter of fact,” and I usually advocate for something like “Brexit” but involving Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn breaking away from the center and forming a new political entity which is a bit less vampiric than the one we’ve had since 1898 – which is centered around a Beaux Arts building that we unfortunately keep Bill De Blasio in that stands (partially) on what was once a colonial era garbage dump known as the “Collect Pond.”

“Consume, consume, consume, flush, throw it out, let it be somebody else’s problem” – that should be the Borough Motto over in the City.

I would hazard a guess that within six hours of the above shot being captured, the entire mountain of trash pictured above was actually being sorted somewhere along Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a fellow at the center of the midden, peeking into bags and removing items of value like recyclable deposit bottles and bits of copper wire. Got to hand it to the “canners” for their industry and hustle, you really do. The streets are literally paved with gold in America, or at least there’s money lying around in the stinking streets.

What many don’t know is that canners have their own territorial “routes” in the City, and that violating another canner’s turf can result in a physical confrontation. I discovered that there’s also an organized crime aspect to this industry, or at least there used to be over on the West Side, back when I lived in Manhattan about fifteen years ago. Mystery trucks would show up at predetermined times and locations, paying cash at three to four cents per bottle, as opposed to the little chits that you get from the recycling machines at supermarkets which you need to redeem within. The canners are happy to settle for the lesser number, as they don’t have to waste hours feeding the machines which take one can at a time, or deal with the manager of a supermarket for whom they are less than a priority.

Something very similar to this collection spot has been observed in Sunnyside, incidentally, on 43rd street beneath the Long Island Railroad Tracks. There’s a Spaniard with a van… but, of course, the scale of business that the canners of Queens operate at for an entire week would be dwarfed by a single night’s worth of collections for these financial district guys.

Wall Street versus Main Street, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In addition to the rats and canners scurrying about, the sewer grates hereabouts also crawl with roaches and water bugs migrating in and out of Manhattan’s underworld. Those little black “drain flies” are also abundant in the air. The smell, which I attempted to define earlier, could be best described as “yellow.”

As an aside, I’ve always found it interesting that in English there are so few words, comparatively, for descriptions of smells. There thousands of visual adjectives, plenty for sounds, lots for the touch and feel category, but relatively few for smells. Accordingly, I ascribe colors to the descriptions of smells, and after dark – Manhattan smells yellow. I have spoken.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The worst part of lower Manhattan, to me at least, is that for the people who work hereabouts – this all must seem normal. Unfortunately, most of the people who spend their professional lives in this area can be best described as financial titans, realtors, politicians, and an army of government bureaucrats. Spending their time in this stinking, shadowy warren of imposing buildings and narrow sidewalks – which only occasionally allow a glimpse of the sky or a breeze – has made them think that this is what the entire city should look like and that they’ve somehow failed the rest of us until it does.

It’s why when they visit Queens or Brooklyn, their first instinct is to demolish some property and erect large buildings on it. Those large buildings can then be used for affordable housing people who “don’t fit” in Manhattan. These people can then support themselves by collecting cans, or whatever, as long as it’s somebody else’s problem.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 31, 2016 at 11:00 am

acrid smoke

with 2 comments

Tremulous skies and clean underwear, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That crazy heat wave which we all suffered through last week produced a series of powerful afternoon and evening thunder storms here in Astoria. The skies were so interesting and dynamic that one felt compelled to record the scene.

Pictured above was a worrisome looking funnel cloud that formed up to the east, and on the right hand side of the shot you can see the wall of rain pushing in from the west.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another day (or night actually), and another thunderstorm formed up. For this one I was at home on my porch. Psyched to actually capture the bolt of lightning seen above (it’s harder than you would think to photograph lightning without certain specialized trigger devices) one suddenly realized that I was standing next to a chain link fence during a lightning storm and was in a particularly exposed position.

Suddenly, my underwear didn’t feel so clean.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I found myself a slightly safer spot, under something, and continued to crack out shots of the approaching deluge. Likely, I was deluding myself as to being safer, but regardless I felt a bit less exposed to the elemental fury that was approaching.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a completely different note, while in the financial district of lower Manhattan last week, the van pictured above was spotted.

Clean underwear on demand is its promise, which is something I think we should all aspire to, especially during stormy weather.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

prodigious grasp

leave a comment »

From high atop Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The eight anaerobic digester eggs of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant in Greenpoint gather a lot of attention. At the very top of these stainless steel vessels are catwalks which connect them together into two groups of four. You’re something like 140 feet up, and the entire assembly is wrapped in blue green glass.

The shot above looks southwest, across Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On top of each of the individual eggs, you’ll find all sorts of plumbing and control mechanisms. There’s also a view port through which you can observe the bubbling sludge as its “cooked” by the biological processes within.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just for perspective, here’s a look at the things from outside the plant. The shots in today’s post were captured from the catwalk closest to the camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually fairly challenging to shoot from the catwalks, as that green glass screws around with the camera’s light meter and sensors. There’s also reflections to deal with, which you’ll see a few of in these shots, and needless to say – the glass ain’t exactly super clean.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down at Kingsland Avenue and Allocco Recyling, over the methane jets which burn off the mephitic gas produced by the digester eggs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking towards the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, towards Blissville in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking west, over the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s grounds, towards Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another perspective on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, this time with Blissville’s former Van Iderstine property, Calvary Cemetery, and the Kosciuszcko Bridge at the Maspeth border in frame.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement project is in the background, with a “green asphalt” plant and a Waste Management transfer station in the fore. That’s Newtown Creek flowing on the right side of the shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A wider view of the scene, this time you’ve got the ExxonMobil 400 Kingsland Avenue property in view as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tomorrow – Creek Week continues, but from an entirely different perspective.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Wednesday, August 3rd, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking Tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Saturday, August 6th, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. –
Insalubrious Valley Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

following day

leave a comment »

puzzling things, general weirdness, and an update on that transformer fire in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Out on the water in NY Harbor recently, the scene above was observed.

Famously, one of those “harbor advocacy” statements which one is oft heard announcing on my walking and boat tours is that “maritime is the greenest way to transport cargo, with a single barge carrying the equivalent of thirty eight trucks worth of stuff,” but you seldom see it literally expressed by a barge carrying an actual truck. My rhetorical statement is actually built around a full sized flat top barge carrying cargo containers and guided by harbor sized tugboat type of scenario, rather than a smallish work barge that’s carrying a dump truck and being towed by a little push boat.

The push boat is the TJ Miller, btw, which operates of Staten Island’s Millers Landing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing by the Fuller Brush, or Flatiron building if you must, recently – I couldn’t get the whole 23 Skidoo stuff to exit my brain. I went to college a few blocks away at the School of Visual Arts, and Manhattan’s 23rd street was – and remains – one of the main thoroughfares of my life. Post college, most of the advertising agencies which I worked for were located somewhere within a few blocks of the Flatiron for some reason. I seldom photograph along its route, however, as the School of Visual Arts is – as mentioned – just down the block. They have a world class photography program there, and the 23rd street corridor is probably one of the most “captured” spots on the planet. While I was at SVA, I was in the illustration program, so unfortunately I haven’t got much in the way of documentation of the 1980’s version of it as I was drawing comics and painting and stuff back then.

It makes me wonder, however. Taking the Flatiron as an example, which is one of the most photographed buildings in NYC, and has been for a century… one ponders what information about our environment could be gleaned from assembling the decades long recordings of its appearance. Weather patterns, erosion, particulate levels in the air?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Astoria, after that transformer explosion I described to you a couple of weeks ago, it took the Con Ed guys about three days – working 24 hours, mind you – to put things back in order. There’s still crews working around two to three blocks north and to south, as presumptively wherever the wires connected to that failed equipment led to must have been also been damaged or affected by the event. That’s my guess anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It took the Con Ed crews just under a day to get the blacked out block of 44th street between 34 avenue and Broadway back on the grid, but that’s when their real job began. I don’t know too much about their operation, but I can describe how it played out. First there were emergency crews who arrived in red trucks who “put out the fire.” They were followed by a far larger contingent of blue truck crews who arrived with a variety of equipment and what seemed like a third party contractor. As the project went on, the cable trucks arrived, one of which is in the shots above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The (seemingly) third party contractor got busy digging up a pretty sizable trench leading from the transformer and following the curbline. The blue truck guys were moving in and out the manholes and had a substantial amount of equipment deployed. They were all working during the sweltering July heat, incidentally.

About three days after the transformer fire, they all suddenly left.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just another blackout in Astoria, Queens, I guess.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

violet litten

with 2 comments

Seriously, how much can one guy take?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often, and in excruciating detail, have I been told how annoying my company actually is. Noticing every little detail as I move around is one reason I’m so aberrant a fellow, forcing people to listen to me rattling on about my trivial observations is another. More often than not, it’s a habit of relaying unpleasant facts about activities which my companions and myself are engaging in which pisses folks off. Talking about my mother’s cousin Melvin, whose grisly death occurred after he fell off a moving boat and was sliced up by the propellor back during the 1960’s, or the actual process of drowning, described while riding onboard a boat are two. Talking about human decay processes while in cemeteries is yet another.

You never want to hear me say anything about escalators, btw. Deadly things – my buddy Hank the elevator guy shudders whenever the subject comes up, and he’s a guy who regularly dangles from ropes in elevator shafts. Long story short – hamburger meat. Escalators are meat grinders. Brrrr. Don’t ask.

Here’s a few other things nobody asked me about…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A scene from de Blasio’s New York, specifically the foot of the Pulaski Bridge on Jackson Avenue in LIC. The guy with his hat out has turned up in recent days, and made this the spot at which he goes to every car that’s leaving Brooklyn asking for spare change.

It is only a matter of time before we click fully back into the Dinkins era and this dude finds himself a squeegee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighbors hereabouts in Astoria all seem to hail from places where the accepted custom is to hurl any unwanted or used items directly into the street. When it rains…

Jesus, what the hell is wrong with you people? Give a hoot, don’t pollute. Find a god damned trash bin, they’re all over the place, even if they’re filled with household trash from illegal sublets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one actually blew my mind when it was explained to me. It’s the window of a fancy shmancey supermarket over in the newly built up waterfront section of Hunters Point – tower town, as I call it.

The “out of respect for our customers” prohibitions against “photography” and “organized tours” got me curious. My thoughts of “are Jack Eichenbaum or Kevin Walsh doing LIC supermarket tours now? Wow, wonder if I can get in on that?” were immediately quashed by a long time friend who lives nearby.

She explained that realtors will often bring groups of prospective condo buyers into the local supermarkets and shops to demonstrate that there are – in fact – places to shop in Long Island City. So many buyers have moved through their doors that the shops and supermarkets have had to set rules.

Sigh…

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

insider knowlege

leave a comment »

Happy July.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a short one today, with an archive shot depicting a car accident I caught nearby Union Square. Back tomorrow with something a bit more in depth, and I’ve got a couple of exciting events to tell you about as well.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 5, 2016 at 11:00 am

reptilian devils

with 2 comments

I want to believe…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The world would be so much more interesting if all the nutty and paranoid stuff was true. How I do wish that the Queen of England was actually a human alien hybrid, that Kennedy was killed by the CIA and a cabal of militarists, that Area 51 was anything except for a place where exotic fighter jets and stealth aircraft are tested. “Chem trails,” “banksters,” and the rest of the fantasy scenarios are all built around an elaborate mythology that paints the government of the United States as some great machine which operates with impunity and precision.

Have you actually interacted with the government? Try it out, and that should sunder all notions of the “hidden hand.” These people can barely tie their shoes, cannot keep a secret, and are more concerned with getting approval for overtime than they would be in conspiring with alien overlords (unless they were hiring). If anything, officialdom would start applying for grant monies to form committees to study the alien overlords.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last week or so, I’ve been telling people I meet that “Holy Crap, just the other night, Obama himself kicked in my door looking for guns to take.” The general reaction has been either “well, at least he did something” or “it took him long enough.” I don’t have any guns – I’m more of a blunt force trauma guy – but the point I’m trying to make is that the whole notion of this sort of conspiracy is sophomoric.

Try arranging a lunch date for five people to meet up at the same time and place, purposely excluding someone inside your social circle. The excluded person WILL find out about it, and loudly proclaim their resentment. Magnify that out to any topic associated with conspiratorial secrecy and do the math.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always believed that the reason people cling to conspiratorial fantasy is the utter banality of real life. Perhaps it’s the nihilist philosophy that I cling to, which renders everything I experience as shades of cold gray. If you were a member of some cabal, there would have to be some sort of bank account associated with it to cover costs and handle payroll. There would be paperwork which someone would have to administer, and an excel spreadsheet generated to track the project.

Even Mafiosos and ISIS keep paper records. Nixon did, and that’s what did him in. Ollie North did. Bill de Blasio does. There’s no such thing as a secret if somebody other than you knows about it.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 23, 2016 at 12:00 pm

%d bloggers like this: