The Newtown Pentacle

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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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


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

with 7 comments

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!


“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.

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.


“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 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.

found filled

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Geese are dicks, don’t let them fool you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happenstance and scheduling have finally conspired to give a humble narrator a bit of summer time off, which I’m considering as being a lucky stroke, and which indicate that the universe wants me to take a week off. I’m out galavanting around the City, accordingly, waving the camera around and smiling sardonically.

Next week, I’ll show you what I captured, if it’s not crap.


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

August 13, 2019 at 11:00 am

palpably unfinished

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DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, one finally managed to find the time to take the camera for a walk during an interval of calm atmospherics and comfortable temperatures – a rare confluence for a humble narrator this summer. I had no destination in mind, and just followed my feet where they led me to, which ended up being the Kosciuszko Bridge reconstruction project on the border of LIC’s Blissville section and the far western section of Maspeth.

I set up the tripod and got busy. Of special interest to me was that ramp you see slouching roughly downwards from the Kosciuszko Bridge, which is going to carry the pedestrian and bicycle lane. I literally cannot wait for this to open, which I’m told won’t be too long at this point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszcko Bridge.

Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things.

There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Here’s a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’ssome night shots from early July of 2017. A series of posts focused in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

More recently, in late September of 2017, a final series of shots of the old bridge were captured in this post. Acquisition of a souvenir chunk of steel from the 1939 bridge was described in this post, and a video of the “energetic felling” of the approaches on October 1st was offered in this one. Still shots and views of the aftermath from the waters of Newtown Creek from later in the day on Oct. 1 are found in this posting, and the aftermath of the demolition as seen from Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section in this post from October 5th. This post from December of 2017 closed out an event filled year in DUKBO, and a visit to the site at night is described in this March of 2018 post. Another progress report was offered in June of 2018. A nocturnal visit occurred in December of 2018, a short post from January of 2019, and also one from February of 2019.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit with documenting the project, there are certain spots which I’ve returned to again and again during the process. This one is from the spot where Review Avenue bends around First Calvary Cemetery at the former LIRR Penny Bridge station. All the rain we’ve had this year has resulted in a bumper crop of everything that grows around the Newtown Creek, as you can see.

Who can guess what weird chemistries there might be, circulating through the capillaries of these feral cultivars?


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Upcoming Tours and Events


Thursday, August 8, 7 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. 

“Infrastructure Creek” Walking Tour w NYC H2O

If you want infrastructure, then meet NCA historian Mitch Waxman at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, and in just one a half miles he’ll show you the largest and newest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, six bridges, a Superfund site, three rail yards with trains moving at street grade (which we will probably encounter at a crossing), a highway that carries 32 million vehicle trips a year 106 feet over water. The highway feeds into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and we’ll end it all at the LIC ferry landing where folks are welcome to grab a drink and enjoy watching the sunset at the East River, as it lowers behind the midtown Manhattan skyline.

Click here for ticketing and more information.

Saturday, August 10, 10 a.m. 12.00 p.m.

Exploring the East River, From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
 here.


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

August 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

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