The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Lower Manhattan’ Category

understand dimly

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Shabbos… a haaa… shabbos

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Saturday, one had a lunch date with a few friends on Manhattan’s Lower East Side… well, actually the extremely Lower East Side. The only part of residential Manhattan that’s still remotely interesting is found between the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges, East of Bowery. That’s where you find architectural variation in the building stock, weird counterpoints, and an actual working class neighborhood. Don’t worry, the City and the EDC will likely declare the entire area a slum soon and knock it down in favor of glassine towers. They’re in the early stages of doing to Manhattan what they did to Brooklyn and Queens over the last few decades. Ugh.

What’s so interesting, you ask?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Going back to the Civil War, when this section of Lower Manhattan was the center of NYC and Manhattan was still quite industrial, groups of do-gooders and reformers have shown up in every generation who had the answer to “how you help the poor.” You had Jakob Riis and his reformers – and there’s still “Old Law” and “New Law” tenement buildings extant from their solution. A generation later, the Settlement House people showed up, then came the (actual) Progressives like FDR with an enhanced education system, then Robert Moses with his urban renewal money brought highways and Section 8 housing, and then Moses and the NYCHA people built the Rutgers and Al Smith Houses and the rest. These days the do-gooder’s hustle involves “affordable housing” for the well off and screw the poor. The fossil skeletons of these behemoth movements and trends litter the streets here. A history book in brick and mortar and steel.

All of these brilliant and connected people who have tried to solve the intractable problem of urban poverty over the centuries, here in Lower Manhattan, and never did it occur any of them to just give some of the cash they were spending to the actual poor people. The core issue of poverty is that you don’t have any money, which means your babies are hungry. When you have hungry babies, you do desperate and often violent things as that makes sense in the circumstance. America’s overlords have always felt threatened by poor people, and worry that actual cash in their pockets will be drank, smoked, or gambled away. There’s a puritanical side to charitable impulses in our country. God forbid somebody on Welfare might use the money to buy their kids an ice cream cone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wish that you could see through time like I can. A fire escape bolted to the front of a New Law Tenement on East Broadway? Well, that’s symptomatic of Jakob Riis and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as the formation of the FDNY after NYC consolidation in 1898 and the creation of a uniform fire code. The East Side of Manhattan’s “Chinatown” occupies a space that has long housed ethnic populations who regularly spoke languages other than English at home. German, Gaelic, Yiddish, Italian, Spanish. I wonder who made that fire escape, where was the foundry, and who got handed the license by the Tammany appointed Fire Inspectors to design and install it. Love it down here, I do, as it’s thought provoking in a way that a glass walled condo tower ain’t.

Speaking of seeing through time… what are you doing on August 7th? I’ll be conducting a WALKING TOUR OF LONG ISLAND CITY with my pal Geoff Cobb. Details and ticketing available here. Come with?


“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

July 30, 2021 at 11:00 am

exotic delicacy

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Wednesday? Now you’re talkin…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, occasion found one standing atop a NYC Ferry heading towards Lower Manhattan. Along the way, two Vane tugs were noticed as they moved in opposite directions along the East River. Both were towing fuel barges, and you’ll notice that the background one is riding considerably higher in the water than the foreground one. The one in the background, heading south, had therefore already delivered its cargo, whereas the barge being towed by the Charleston Tug in the foreground is full. Whether the tug is pulling or pushing, it’s called “towing.” It was all very exciting.

I like a good tugboat shot, I do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This senior citizen of the harbor was docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard when the ferry made its stop at the facility.

I ended up taking the subway home from Manhattan for a variety of reasons. Partially it was due to going fairly far afield of the River in pursuit of luncheon, a journey which carried me all the way to East Broadway for some pretty Dyn-O-Mite Chinese food at a sit outside table somewhere in the surviving tenements of the lower east side. Good times, we’re lucky to have them, good times.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was nice being in Manhattan again, for a change. That’s not something I’d normally say, given my antipathy to the place in recent years.

The extant tenements of lower Manhattan, found south east of Bowery and north of the Brooklyn Bridge, absolutely fascinate me. A general wander trough this neighborhood is definitely in the cards for me sometime in the next month. Planning stage, me. I’m going to hit the same Chinese place again for lunch, I think. Tastiest meal I’ve had in months.

Back tomorrow, with something different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, September 21st. 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 here, 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 23, 2020 at 11:00 am

individual feature

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Billious is what it’s called when you’re full of bile.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking northwards along the FDR Drive in Lower Manhattan towards the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge with the first of 5 skyline destroying residential buildings dominating the horizon, my point of view in this shot was from the very foot of Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. The financial capital of the planet, this part of NYC is where people give their money to rich folks who then gamble with it. The South Street Seaport complex, and the museum ships it maintains, are on view in the Central right section of the shot. Did you know that the reason that the Seaport exists at all is because it’s the site originally chosen by Port Authority’s Austin Tobin and the Rockefeller brothers for the World Trade Center?

The highway is the work of everybody’s favorite NYC historical bogeyman, Robert Moses. The only good thing I can say about it is that when it’s raining outside, the FDR Drive acts as a megalithic umbrella. I often wonder what will become of it in the near future when privately owned automobiles are banned from Manhattan Island below 125th street. If you think that’s hyperbole, it’s ok. Goofy sophistry rules the roost these days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one is looking southwards towards the Staten Island Ferry, and at the upper left hand side of the shot you can just make out the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, another product of that rascally Robert Moses. Speaking of sophistry, I’ve been greatly enjoying the conversations offered by some of the bicycle people regarding that span recently. The usual umbrage they offer has been focusing on the lack of a bike lane up there. What doesn’t seem to strike them are the physics of the gargantuan bridge, and the fact that vehicular traffic crossing it experience wind speeds – with some regularity – that negate the passage of trucks or buses over the thing due to concerns of them tipping over. What could go wrong with a bike lane twenty two stories over the open waters, anyway?

Man, I just hate everybody and everything at the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having accomplished my pedantic goals in Manhattan, one descended back into the slime caked cement tunnels of the MTA and returned to the World’s Borough. On my way, as the train entered into Queens Plaza, I noticed the shop keep at the platform news stand eyeing me all suspicious like through the open door of an R line train.

I’ve often thought that anyone who spends their entire working life underground in the Subway system is actually a damned soul consigned to burn off a lifetime of sin in purgatory. That’s the way I feel for the brief intervals when I’m onboard the train. Imagine waking up early on a Monday morning and heading out for work with the expectation of spending the next 9-10 hours in a subway station. If that’s not some sort of punishment for your sins…


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

December 11, 2019 at 11:00 am

rough generalization

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Into the Shining City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular circle of hell which one had to navigate into recently involved heading down to Lower Manhattan in pursuance of particular shot for a client/friend of mine. Luckily, Our Lady of the Pentacle’s offices overlook the subject which needed to be recorded, so at least I didn’t have to sneak into an office building in the Wall Street area to get it, instead I was invited in. Like a vampire, that gave one leave to work freely. Saying that, one still had to negotiate the stinking concrete bunkers of the subway system, during the height of cold and flu season. All is darkness.

As you may have gleaned by now, lords and ladies, a humble narrator is in a bit of a mood at the moment. Frustration, Cronenbergian body horror, frustration.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lower Manhattan, as in the Financial District, is inhuman. Every architectural detail and street facing bit is designed to remind you of institutional permanence and the futility of individualism before the fiery event horizon of corporate collectivism. It’s not about “you,” and in fact, you don’t matter. Even the glowing emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself cannot permeate down to the pavement here. The sidewalk isn’t even the ground in the financial district, rather it’s just another level of a vast complex of concrete and steel. As above, so below. At the top are the titans of industry and the Chief Executive Officers. Down here am I, an ant who is the Least Executive Officer. If I actually had two pennies to rub together, they would be used to start a trash fire in pursuance of creating warmth and illumination.

What this City needs, really needs, is a good plague – followed by a torrential rain which would carry away our filth and wash it out into the sea.

Did you know that it once rained every single day for 5.5 million years? That’s part of the process by which the Atlantic Ocean was formed. At the bottom of the Atlantic is the Marianas Trench, where untold monsters are thought to dwell. There are also gigantic and fairly primitive invertebrates down there in the pressurized deep, which consume all the dead flesh raining down from above. If any of these chitinous ghouls are dragged up to the surface, where the atmospheric pressure is comparatively slim to that of the deep, they swell up and pop in the manner of meat balloons. That’s your trivia fact of the day. Lords and Ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, for a bottom feeder such as myself, the POV offered by the offices of Our Lady aren’t differentially high enough from my normal elevations to cause any physical symptoms other than nose bleeds. The shot above isn’t the one I went to the City to get, but since the East River was just sitting there like a revealed whore – I couldn’t resist.

Back tomorrow with another “ring ting tingling” dirge. Bah. Humbug, all that.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

December 10, 2019 at 11:00 am

was unmistakably

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Minimalist Wednesday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have a whole category of photos which bear the key words “dead things.” Composed entirely of the various cadavers encountered during my travels, it’s overwhelmingly populated by ex birds. Sure, there’s a few dead raccoons, rats, and other mammalians, but NYC seems to be a bird extermination machine. Spotted this poor bastard on the streets of Lower Manhattan recently, for instance. I’m not a bird person, so I won’t even attempt to identify specie or type. It’s a bird, and it’s dead.

Morbid? Maybe. In my mind, I’m documenting the extinguishing of a life which passed without comment or notice. Also, stop being so sensitive to the abject realities of life and death in the big city. Someday, that might be a photo of you up there, lying dead on the sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That Soundview Ferry tour I’ve been doing is a lot of fun for me, and the route is fantastic. Problem is that in order to get to the meetup spot on time from Astoria via the Ferry, I end up in Lower Manhattan a good hour before I need to be there. I try to make some productive use of the time after reviewing my notes, waving the camera about. Unfortunately, since Manhattan’s spit and polish modern incarnation is so visually uninteresting to me, I have to wander far afield to find something I’d like to shoot. Rusty stuff is always a win.

Luckily, Pier 11 is owned by the EDC, who love building stuff but don’t like maintaining it. Uncoated steel and salt water don’t mix. Paint, fellas, paint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As opined earlier in the week, one is in the midst of a whole lot of have to. Yesterday, I participated in a conversation with other members of the Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group (superfund) Steering Committee figuring out an agenda for the next public meeting and discussing the latest twists and turns in the story. Then down to Greenpoint to conduct a night time Infrastructure Creek walking tour (which will happen again on October 29, see link below) and afterwards came back home to Astoria.

Today, I’m meant to participate in some fancy pants symposium taking place in the Shining City. On my way home, I’m planning on doing a bit of photographing at Grand Central Station before getting on the train. Doesn’t look like it’s going to be an “outside day” according to the weather people.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 16, 2019 at 11:00 am

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