The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Corlears Hook’ Category

wailing grew

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In the end, we’ll always have Wednesdays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Single shots will greet you this week, as a humble narrator plays catch-up and also spends his time exploring and shooting rather than worrying about the weather and delivering posts. Regular posts will resume next week.

Pictured above is the Williamsburg Bridge, as seen from Corlears Hook in Manhattan, at night.

“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 for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 3, 2019 at 11:00 am

victoriously swept

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If the bridge wasn’t there, it would be impossible to recognize Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mephitic vapors, the effluent of furnaces and forges, a vague scent of molasses, and the smell of freshly smoked crack cocaine used to be all you needed to recognize where you were when visiting Williamsburg. These days, all you’ve got is the visual cue offered by its eponymous bridge and the vague scent of high end Marijuana.

Occasion found me in the ancient village, and as I was headed for Manhattan to meet up with a boat later in the day, a scuttle across the bridge was called for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of people think this span is an architectural travesty, but I’ve never thought it was bad enough to to create a Municipal Arts Society over. There are “separate” pedestrian and bicycle paths, which aren’t really segregated from each other in any cohesive manner, but as one such as myself enjoys playing things “by the rules” – I found myself climbing the surprisingly steep ramp leading up from Brooklyn to the bridge itself. At least it provides for some fairly good “cardio.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in art school, the conventional wisdom imparted to me by a generation of instructors was that you can’t go wrong when there’s an umbrella in your shot. The reasoning is that the umbrella is an inherently interesting shape, and it breaks up the otherwise pedestrian points of view one normally encounters. It wasn’t raining, of course, and the umbrella was simply there to shield its wielder from the particularly powerful emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself whose gaze seemed fixed upon the bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All the tourists seem to flock to the Brooklyn Bridge, and its pedestrian path offers one a frustrating and crowded experience. It’s a bit like a lunch line at a buffet, that walk, a slow shuffle while trapped in a queue. Vast preference for the less popular bridges like Queensboro, Williamsburg, and Manhattan is offered by your humble narrator. Crowds suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For this walk, I used my “crappy lens” – a 70-300 consumer level zoom. After the great camera disaster of July, wherein both camera body and my “best lens” were destroyed, I’ve been making it a point of mixing things up a bit. Thanks to many of you who donated money for replacement equipment to this blog, and both body and “best lens” have been replaced. Regardless, one tries to keep things fresh and the extra reach which the imperfect but serviceable “long lens” provides for slightly different perspectives and color rendition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be utterly pedantic to go into the technical details on this subject, so suffice to say that each and every lens interprets the light moving through it in different ways. Certain lenses are great for portraits, others for landscapes. Camera settings can also affect color rendition as well – for instance, narrow apertures render the color blue in a certain way due to the clipping of upper and lower limits found in the blue light wave.

As I said, technical and pedantic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, at Delancey Street, and looking back towards the infinity of Brooklyn.

The Williamsburg Bridge is 7,308 feet long (measuring between the cable anchor terminals) and the deck is some 118 feet wide. The height at the center of the bridge is 135 feet and each tower is 310 feet in height as measured from the East River’s high-water mark. It was originally called East River Bridge #3 when opened in 1903. Its architect was Henry Hornbostel, and the chief engineer who oversaw its construction was Leffert L. Buck.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

abysmal descent

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I’ve got 99 problems, here’s three.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At least once a day, and moreso as the years have advanced, your humble narrator finds himself unable to maintain consciousness and suddenly finds himself unconscious. During these intervals of helpless autonomic writhing, vast hallucinations occur, and immediately upon reacquiring cogency an enormous disorientation is experienced. Physical symptoms, apparent to all witnesses, include a display of clumsiness and overt muscle stiffness. Additionally, unpleasant expulsions of waste products are urgently required upon a return to regency over the body, which is worrying. This has been happening to me since early childhood, and one wonders how long this condition will last.

I endeavor to increase the resiliency of my psychological infrastructure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tender pink envelope in which my viscera and skeleton are contained has- on more than one occasion- been found punctured, blistered, crushed, torn, or slashed open by environmental interactions. Additionally, enormous nervous system signal activity, which I understand as being commonly called “pain”, has been generated by this skinvelope when overexposed to the damaging radiation which emanates from the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself. This too is a problem which has afflicted me for decades.

It is my goal to install some sort of armor about myself, before the next assault is offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Little trust exists for my perceptions, either, as I’m all ‘effed up. Some sort of damage exists in the wiring between those sensors which adjoin the outside world and which transmit environmental data into the skull with its underpowered central processing unit. Inability and organic weakness cause one to experience odd intuitions and bizarre ideations, no doubt due to limits and defects in the CPU’s wetware. Perhaps this is why I slavishly record everything I see, an attempt to visually catalog and contain those torrents of information which assault and inform, and explain away that which is witnessed.

Were it only possible to fix and fortify the brain.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

Kill Van Kull Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 7, 2013 at 10:47 am

printless road

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Know my wisdom.

A geologic formation located in the present day beneath the Williamsburg Bridge, called Corlears Hook by cartographers, is where the ship building industry of New York City would have been centered just after the Revolutionary War. Vast yards stretched from here to modern day 23rd street, and enormous piles of wood- white oak, live oak, cedar- would have been observed lining the shore. Everywhere would be plumes of smoke and the ringing sound of hammers and the groaning of strained rope, the smell of tar and pitch would pervade. The yards of Cheeseman, Charles Browne- and others- would shortly form the greatest concentration of ship building to be found anywhere in the newly christened United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A concentration of labor, sailors, and all the ancillary trades of the ship building industry created a huge demand for saloons, bars, hotels, and above all else- brothels. The concentration of prostitutes found nearby the Hook was infamous by the 1830’s, and from Corlears Hook a new and distinctly American slang term for the worlds oldest profession -still in usage today- emerged.

It’s why we call sex workers “Hookers”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Always the guardians of decency, the powers that be in Albany demanded that a permanent, incorruptible, and salaried Municipal Police force be sent to clean up and prosecute the situation. Fears of a uniformed militia in the politically unstable atmosphere of the young republic were acknowledged by the decree that these policemen would dress in plain clothes and identify themselves only by a simple badge, fashioned into the shape of a six pointed star.

The badge was made of Copper, and that’s where the slang term, still in use for the gendarme- Cops- comes from.



June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “Obscura Day” Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills tour proved that the efficacy and charms of the Newtown Creek’s least known tributary, with its myriad points of interest, could cause a large group to overlook my various inadequacies and failings. The folks at Atlas Obscura, which is a fantastic website worthy of your attentions (btw), have asked me to repeat the tour on the 23rd of June- also a Saturday.

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boat Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman will be leading a walk through the industrial heartlands of New York City, exploring the insalubrious valley of the Newtown Creek.

The currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and the place where the Industrial Revolution actually happened, provides a dramatic and picturesque setting for this exploration. We’ll be visiting two movable bridges, the still standing remains of an early 19th century highway, and a forgotten tributary of the larger waterway. As we walk along the Newtown Creek and explore the “wrong side of the tracks” – you’ll hear tales of the early chemical industry, “Dead Animal and Night Soil Wharfs”, colonial era heretics and witches and the coming of the railroad. The tour concludes at the famed Clinton Diner in Maspeth- where scenes from the Martin Scorcese movie “Goodfellas” were shot. Lunch at Clinton Diner is included with the ticket.

Details/special instructions.

Meetup at the corner of Grand Street and Morgan Avenue in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. on July 8, 2012. The L train serves a station at Bushwick Avenue and Grand Street, and the Q54 and Q59 bus lines stop nearby as well. Check as ongoing weekend construction often causes delays and interruptions. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your vehicle in the vicinity of the Clinton Diner in Maspeth, Queens or near the start of the walk at Grand St. and Morgan Avenue (you can pick up the bus to Brooklyn nearby the Clinton Diner).

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic as we move through a virtual urban desert. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed-toe shoes are highly recommended.

Clinton Diner Menu:

  • Cheese burger deluxe
  • Grilled chicken over garden salad
  • Turkey BLT triple decker sandwich with fries
  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce or butter
  • Greek salad medium
  • Greek Salad wrap with French fries
  • Can of soda or 16oz bottle of Poland Spring

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

Many people know about the environmental issues facing Newtown Creek, but did you know that the Creek was once the busiest waterway in North America, carrying more industrial tonnage than the entire Mississippi River?

You’ll learn much more when Working Harbor Committee’s maritime historians and harbor experts
put it all in context during a Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek Exploration.

The heart of industrial New York, Newtown Creek was home port to hundreds of tugboats (one of which is the historic WO Decker). It was also an international destination for oceangoing ships and a vast intermodal shipping and manufacturing hub that employed hundreds of thousands of people. Forming the border of Brooklyn and Queens for nearly three miles, five great cities grew rich along the Newtown Creek’s bulkheads — Greenpoint, Willamsburg, Bushwick, Long Island City and Manhattan itself. The waterway is still a vital part of the harbor and the Working Harbor Committee (WHC) is proud to present this tour as part of the celebration of their tenth anniversary year.

Mitch Waxman, a member of WHC’s steering committee and the group’s official photographer, also serves with the Newtown Creek Alliance as its group Historian. In addition to working on WHC’s boat tours of the Creek, Mitch offers a regular lineup of popular walking tours, and presents a series of well-attended slideshows for political, governmental, antiquarian, historical and school groups. His website — — chronicles his adventures along the Newtown Creek and in the greater Working Harbor.

He was recently profiled in the NY Times Metro section, check out the article here.

Upcoming tour: Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek Exploration.

On July 22nd, Mitch shares his unique point of view and deep understanding of the past, present and future conditions of the Newtown Creek as the narrator and expedition leader for this years Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek exploration.

Our NY Water Taxi leaves from South Street Seaport at 11 a.m. (sharp) on a three hour tour of the Newtown Creek. From the East River we’ll move into the Newtown Creek where we’ll explore explore vast amounts of maritime infrastructure, see many movable bridges and discover the very heart of the Hidden Harbor.

Limited seating available, get your tickets today.

Tickets $50, trip leaves Pier 17 at
South Street Seaport at 11a.m. sharp.

We will be traveling in a comfortable NY Water Taxi vessel with indoor and outdoor seating. There will be refreshments and snacks available for purchase at the bar.

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