The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Maspeth’ Category

intimate circle

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Bulging and watery… eyes staring in from the darkness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

How I’ve missed industrial Maspeth, at night, with its creepy unlit streets and often nonexistent sidewalks. The blind turns, the odiferous hint of marijuana oozing from the windows of passing cars, the discarded liquor bottles and illegal dumping… its been way too long, Queens.

Speaking of too long, as I mentioned at the start of this four day travelogue, I had left HQ in Astoria and scuttled over to the Kosciuszcko Bridge in pursuit of communion with my beloved Newtown Creek. As I was shooting the particular image above, it was noticed that my camera battery had only one bar of charge left in it. Additionally realized was that the first few drops of a prophesied rain event were beginning to pitter and patter into the automotive soot and finely shattered glass which forms those dusty dunes adorning the broken pavement of industrial Maspeth.

That’s odd, thought I, regarding the battery. Ok, I had been doing long exposure tripod shots for a bit, and it was medium cold out, but I so seldom have to change a battery “in the field” that it struck me as weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

No matter though, as a few quick actuations saw me sliding a fresh battery into the camera. I’ve always got at least one extra battery with me, one in the camera sack and another in a pants pocket. I got back to shooting, here along that malignant saraband which carrying automotive traffic between 43rd and 48th streets known as 54th Avenue, which intersects with an off ramp of the Long Island Expressway. This is a corner which the NYC DOT has missed changing the luminaire head of their street lamp over to the modern LED type, and an old style sodium lamp is pushing out orange illumination contrasting with the cold blue light of the newer system. Colormetrics! What fun. Go Mets, huh?

This is when I realized that all of the aches and pains which have been bedeviling me for the last few months had receded into an anhedonic amnesia. If you saw a creepy old guy in a black raincoat on the side of the road last week, cackling to himself briefly while working a camera, that was me feeling like me again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Making way towards Sunnyside, the rain began to drizzle insistently and I decided to had back to HQ in Astoria. One last shot of industrial Maspeth was recorded… that’s actually the corner where an Orthodox Yeshiva stood at the start of the 20th century. For some reason, the presence of a religious academy of that persuasion being based here/then is incongruous to me, and it’s story is something that’s on my research list. More to come at some point hence.

By the time I arrived at Queens Blvd., the drizzle had begun to set up into a proper rain and I decided to pull out my phone and summon a ride for the remaining interval. Somehow I had lost track of time, or perhaps I’m experiencing some sort of Newtown Creek induced missing time, as the clock revealed that it was 3 in the morning.

I was out and alone at the witching hour, in the rain, on a moonless night… and this too was… nepenthe.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 9, 2020 at 11:00 am

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.


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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.

inherent deficiency

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From the archives…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As detailed in recent posts, a humble narrator is recovering from a crush injury suffered by the big toe of my left foot, a situation which has put a serious crimp in my plans. Despite the best efforts of the loquacious Mt. Sinai Astoria hospital staff to introduce a series of corollary illnesses into my life when I had the thing “checked out” I’m doing fine and the injury is healing nicely. Saying all that, one hasn’t been out wandering the concrete devastations for the last couple of weeks, so I’m reaching into the Newtown Pentacle archives I maintain at Flickr for this week’s content.

Luckily, I’m fairly prolific so there’s lots to choose from. Today, the focus chosen is on construction equipment, a subject which I seem to return to a lot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of western Queens and North Brooklyn seem to be a construction zone, and my eye is often drawn to the gear used to annihilate the glories of the past in favor of setting the stage for glass and steel monocultural residential towers to be erected. The equipment used in pursuance of this by the Real Estate Industrial Complex is invariably dressed up in bright primary colors.

We are all living in a comic book now. The President of the United States is a James Bond villain, and has surrounded himself with a cabinet populated by “The Legion of Doom.” Closer to home, the Governor of New York State can give you cancer by staring at you for too long, and the Mayor of Gotham is a farcical character straight out of a Tim Burton film. If peanut butter agreed to build “affordable housing,” our Mayor would happily make jelly illegal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, I got to take credit for coining the moniker “Dope from Park Slope” with one of the Mayor’s City Hall insiders. I instructed said insider to let the big guy know it was me. One cannot tell you the joy I feel when I see news photos of people carrying signs at protests which have “Dope from Park Slope” on them. Any joy is welcome these day, as the throbbing of the broken toe’s healing process sings opera to me at night. It’s the little things, right? Said throbbing has gotten in the way of lots and lots of stuff.

Sitting at my desk and actually getting things done has become a no more than two hours at a time thing for the last couple of weeks, which is annoying as I’m trying to accomplish one more print publication before the end of the year.

Also, check out the links below, I’ll be speaking at the Roosevelt Island New York Public Library on Thursday night, which is a free event.


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Come to the library!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek – The Roosevelt Island Historic Society has invited me to present a slideshow and talk about my beloved Newtown Creek at the New York Public Library on Roosevelt Island, on November 14th, 6 p.m. Free event!

Click here for more information.!

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

November 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

uncanny noise

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I got to ride on a New York and Atlantic Freight Train!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the New York and Atlantic’s newest ride – Engine 400. Before I say anything else, I want to acknowledge my pal David Silver and his encyclopedic knowledge of all things rail for pointing me in the right direction on the original make and model of this particular locomotive engine. Originally built in 1966 for the B&O railroad, this model GP40 locomotive’s original configuration offered some 3,000 HP.

NY&A has recently (2018) had the thing rebuilt at Knoxville Locomotive Works to bring it in line with modern day Tier 4 emissions standards. It lost 700 HP in the conversion, it seems, but NY&A operates on fairly level terrain (by rail standards) in NYC and Nassau and Suffolk Counties. NY&A are a private company contracted by the Long Island Railroad to handle their freight duties, as a note.

Also as a note, I’ve actually photographed this unit before, at night in Maspeth at the Haberman tracks in March of 2019. Check that out here.

from wikipedia

The GP40 is a 4-axle diesel-electric road-switcher locomotive built by General Motors, Electro-Motive Division between November 1965 and December 1971. It has an EMD 645E3 16-cylinder engine generating 3,000 hp (2,240 kW).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ride itself was offered by NY&A, the Waste Management Company, and the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. A small group of invitees assembled at Waste Management’s Brooklyn waste transfer station on Varick Street, and there were three opportunities to ride on the thing along the Bushwick Branch tracks leading through East Williamsburg into Ridgewood and then Maspeth. I rode it twice, sitting out the middle trip so I could get shots of the thing coming and going.

This was actually pretty exciting for me, since my oft repeated “I don’t trespass” stance has often found a humble narrator staring wistfully at some trackway which I was dying to explore. Today’s post is proof of my pudding that eventually I will get to go where I want, in the company of the people who own the thing, and that I will be able to publish the photos publicly. A number of the officers of NY&A were onboard, notably the NY&A’s president James Bonner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hampering the efficiency of the line are the multiple “at grade” street crossings which the route follows. There are no signal arms or even flashing lights and bells to warn motorists or pedestrians or even – god forbid… bicyclists – that the train is about to cross the street along this section of the route. Procedure dictates that the conductor (apparently that’s what you call the guy, even though there’s usually no passengers) gets off the train and walks ahead of the engine, stopping approaching traffic the NYC way – standing in the middle of the street and waving his arms around.

James Bonner told me that this situation is something that the company is trying to fix with some haste, but for now the train moves through this section of the Creeklands at the limited speed which a conductor can walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train carried us roughly a mile into Queens and then reversed back towards the Varick Street location. A humble narrator got quite busy with the camera on this trip. Most of what I shot were pretty boring photos, which were recorded in a simple documentarian manner depicting and detailing the otherwise forbidden rail tracks. During the excursion, I was allowed to walk around on the engine’s catwalks. There were a couple of other photographers along for the trip, as a note. Assemblyman Joe Lentol of Greenpoint was onboard as well, along with other notables from Brooklyn. At one point, the Commissioner of the NYC Dept. of Sanitation showed up and she made a speech.

The notables were riding in a little caboose at the back of the train set. I rode in the caboose on the last ride of the day, but during the first trip I was on the locomotive section. In between the two, there was a “slug,” which I’m told acts as a purely mechanical augment to the locomotive engine providing additional tractive effort assistance and extra braking capability.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The engineer driving the train was a pretty good humored fellow, but I never did catch his name. He was seated at a console offering multiple digital indicators and gauges. I don’t have room for what the console looked like in this post, but if you want to get an idea of it – check out this photo of the setup over at flickr.

Of course I had to be a jackass at least once during the trip, and while standing on the engine’s catwalk at a street grade crossing in Maspeth, I spotted an attractive woman waiting for the train to pass. I shouted out “hey, what do you think of my ride?” to her, and she smiled and then winked her eye at me. It was probably just the sun, or dust, or a seizure, but I’m holding on to it being a wink – thank you very much. I’ve still got it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train returned to the Waste Management facility at Varick Street, where bags of NY&A shwag were waiting for us. I got a neat baseball hat with a NY&A logo on it, and a pen with a logo too. Just behind the train, you’ll notice a fence line with some green material affixed to it. Right on the other side of that bridge is the loathsome terminus of the Newtown Creek’s English Kills tributary, some 3.8 miles from the East River. The water is crossed by, and the Bushwick Branch tracks are mounted upon, the Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge, which is roughly 3.7 miles from the East River.

I don’t come back here very often – remember that “I don’t trespass” thing? Also, this is a pretty far walk from Astoria. Saying that, check English Kills and the Montrose Avenue Bridge out at night in this 2019 post, during the day in this 2017 one, and for more on the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch tracks click through and all the way back to a simpler time in this 2012 post.

What a week I had!


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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.

surprising sort

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Minimalist Wednesday, it affects us all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s me on the sign above, or at least it is in my personal construct of reality. I’m on every corner in NYC, as is my arch enemy, whom I call “the Red Hand.” It’s been an interesting week with lots and lots of meetings and things to do, but at least I’ve been amongst people. They seemed nice.

Last night’s Community Board 1 meeting was largely procedural. The NYC Conflicts of Interest guy gave us a refresher course on how not to get prosecuted for corruption. He reminded us that we can only take bribes under $50 as Community Board members. It’s the most Queens thing in the world, by the way… not “don’t take bribes,” but instead “don’t take bribes over this amount.” Wonder what the price is set at for Elected Officials or District Managers. sigh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The protests at the EDC’s Sunnyside Yards meeting came up a couple of times, and a number of the more “institutional” players in Astoria were upset that the protestors had interfered with EDC’s narrative and presentation. I made the case to any that would listen that they were complaining about free speech and the exercise thereof. If the crowded theater you’re in is actually burning, you SHOULD shout “fire.” Also, you should do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to discourage the younger members of our society from expressing their dissatisfaction and anger by protesting.

The people complaining about it last night are probably cashing checks for $49.99 today at lunch. The bad actors acted, the annoying people annoyed, and it was long and drawn out nearly three hour meeting dealing with protocol and procedure. My head nearly fell off the back of my neck several times out of boredom. Luckily, I sit next to a pal of mine from the neighborhood who is another old school outer boroughs guy and we whispered wisecracks to each other all night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The procedural niceties of this CB thing are something I’m slowly learning. All these years, as an activist in Queens, my methodology has been to strike fast when opportunity presents. Grab the elected, their people, any other concerned parties and make a deal on the street to get a new green space or something rolling when the time is right. Bang, boom, bang. Advertising and comics industry new business techniques, learned at hundreds of cocktail parties over the decades. Sell, sell, sell.

This “Roberts Rules” stuff flies directly in the face of how things actually get done in Western Queens and North Brooklyn. Protocol? What?

Tonight, I’ll be at the Newtown Creek CAG meeting at PS 110 in Greenpoint on Monitor Street for an update on the Superfund situation. Afterwards, I’m going to return to the utility poles and engage in my eternal battle with the Red Hand.


“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 18, 2019 at 11:00 am

ruins retained

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Just another day in paradise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One forced himself to sleep early on Saturday last several hours earlier than is customary, given that a humble narrator is legendarily a night owl, and I set my phone’s alarm sound to Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman.” If you want to ensure that you don’t sleep through an early alarm, Curtis is your boy, and Pusherman starting playing at 4 a.m. Having prepared my gear bag and laid out clothing the night before, all I had to do was take a quick shower, dress, and drink a cup of coffee. I hit the street at 4:30 a.m. A cab was called, and I was up on the middle of the Kosciuszko Bridge bike and pedestrian pathway by about 5:10 a.m. with a deployed tripod and camera.

A few things got in the way of all this ambition and “chasing the sunrise shot.” The most notable thing was that despite the theatrics surrounding the opening of the span, the NYS DOT is nowhere near done with the construction of the thing and temporary wooden breastworks and walkways with orange construction netting has returned. Said works obscure a significant part of the incredible views up there. Mustn’t grumble, though, still plenty to see and photograph.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Initial forays up on the bridge have revealed a few spots where natural compositions are available for recording, and a bit of early trial and error has indicated what one should watch out for as far as setup of equipment goes. A big issue to conquer involves light pollution coming from below, as the big field lights used by industrial property owners to illuminate their properties cause a lot of scatter which in turn lights up the omnipresent dust and vehicle exhaust hanging about in the atmosphere.

This contrast of bright and dark has been a constant bother throughout the night shooting process at Newtown Creek which I’ve been working on for a while now. It’s also a bit of a chore managing and being conscious of lens flare, but that’s quite normal for me these days. Focusing the lens in pitch darkness is also challenging.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself finally popped out from behind Ridgewood and Maspeth to the east, it looked like things were finally going my way. Unfortunately, as it was a cloudy morning, the directional light was soon obscured behind an enormous flat cloud which stretched from the horizon to mid sky just as the illumination became sculptural. The shot directly following the one above was flat, and bluish in cast, due to that giant cloud bank.

There’s three anticipated shots from up here that I’m chasing. As soon as they remove the temporary construction works and the sky is right, I’ll have them. It just might take a while though. Luckily, I’ve got Cutis Mayfield to wake me up at all hours of the night, and when I’ve got my triptych of shots completed, I’ll feel like Superfly.


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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

September 9, 2019 at 1:00 pm

uncovered pit

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Getting high over Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saturday last, a humble narrator scuttled southwards towards that lugubrious ribbon of urban neglect which the children of Brooklyn and Queens call the Newtown Creek. My destination was the Kosciuszcko Bridge, with its new pedestrian and bicycle lane offering spectacular and formerly impossible to capture views of the waterway and the industrial zone surrounding it, framed up by the heroic skyline of the Shining City of Manhattan. One will be spending quite a bit of time up there in the coming months, and at different times of day. In the case of the shots in today’s post, they’re from the last two hours or so prior to sunset, with the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself transiting to the southwest – late summer and early fall skies.

It was an unimpressive sunset on Saturday, and I plan on handling that set of shots when the weather and sky is right. My next outing will be early in the morning, for sunrise with the light coming from the east behind me, and the bridge casting shadows on the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other people go to the beach on Labor Day weekend, or BBQ. Me? I walk back and forth over bridges for a few hours with a tripod and a camera. Literally, there were hundreds of photos on the camera’s memory card when I came home from this exploratory outing. Exploratory? Why, yes.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you have to chase after photos, and that preparation and expectation are critical. You have to be “prepared” in terms of your gear being ready for duty, and “expectation” is all about having some sort of pre scouted plan in place as far as time of day, point of view, and conditions you need to work around. The new K Bridge does have a bit of vibration transmission from the BQE traffic, for instance, so… steps are taken.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The vantage point of these shots is roughly two miles from the Newtown Creek’s intersection with the East River. The original Penny Bridge landings at the end of Greenpoint’s Meeker Avenue and Blissville’s intersection of Laurel Hill Blvd. and Review Avenue are more or less at the center of the shot. The white tanks on the left hand, or Brooklyn side, are at Apollo Street. The green space on the right side of the shot is First Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section. Manhattan is on the horizon, with the Empire State building prominently at center top.

Whew, this is probably the happiest I’ve been in a year or two. Thanks NYS DOT.


“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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