The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Maspeth’ Category

luring skylines

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Only the lonely…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Girt in filthy black outer wear, with camera dangling, recent endeavor found a humble narrator scuttling in the general direction of Bushwick from Astoria. Crossing the Newtown Creek at just the right spot is critical, as the various street grids of the ancient communities which surround it are often at odds with each other and can be described as dangerously heterogenous. Walk over the wrong bridge and you could have easily added a half hour to the journey.

In the case of walking from Astoria to Bushwick, the best path to follow is actually one through Sunnyside, Woodside, and Maspeth. You want to aim yourself at the Grand Street Bridge, where you’ll get a nice view of the Koscisuzcko Bridge if you get there at the right time of day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Using knowledge of the old municipal grids which signified the borders of the independent towns and villages, one threw himself inexorably south and east. Crossing the former Thomson Avenue, now called Queens Blvd., nearby its intersection with Greenpoint/Roosevelt Avenue vouchsafed me passage out of the street pattern of the Middleburgh section of Long Island City now known as Sunnyside. The natural turn one would make at this point is about ten blocks eastwards at 58th street nearby the so called “Big Six” buildings, which is less than pedestrian friendly and visually “meh.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Instead, one cut through the funereal properties of the Roman Catholic Church called “Second Calvary Cemetery,” a path which guaranteed one a bit of quietude and solace. One always feels at home amongst the tomb legions, for their condemnations and judgment are always silent. There are four Calvary Cemeteries, by the way, which share common supervision under an organization called “the Trustees of Old St. Patrick’s cathedral.” The local manager – over the groundskeepers, interments, office, and all other existential issues is provided by a fellow named Joe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is the case with many cemeteries in Queens, a highway bisects the property. In this case, it’s the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and although the local street below it has no street signs or other demarcations – it’s Laurel Hill Blvd. The Calvary’s on the southern extent of the highway are Calvary #’s three and four. You end up on 58th street anyway, at the end of this street, where a southern or right turn is exacted. You’re still in Woodside at this point, incidentally.

The sidewalks stop about halfway between 58th street’s two corners, and it’s a long block between the BQE and the Long Island Expressway, I tell ya, and there ain’t no sidewalks for most of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along 58th, on the east side of the street, is Mount Zion cemetery. Third Calvary is across the road, on the west side. Mount Zion is a Jewish cemetery, and was primarily set up for folks who lived on the crowded Lower East side of lower Manhattan. This graveyard uses every possible square inch of space for interments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was on 58th street, along the wrought iron gates of Mount Zion Cemetery, that the latest trophy of the Queens Cobbler was observed. The Queens Cobbler is – of course – a local serial killer who leaves behind single shoes as ghastly trophies of his or her nefarious activities.

One couldn’t linger though, as a particular form of psychological torment was awaiting me in Bushwick and I didn’t want to be late.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 6, 2018 at 2:30 pm

small village

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Literally in a dark place, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, over the weekend one was trekking through Industrial Maspeth. After catching up with a couple of old friends in Ridgewood later in the day, one began scuttling back to Astoria well after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had disappeared behind New Jersey. There’s only one efficient way to get “here” from “there” on foot, but luckily the walk is figuratively and literally all downhill from Ridgewood. My path carried me back into the hoary shadows of Industrial Maspeth, my happy place.

By the way, if you want to do something daring and scary – try to cross the intersection of Metropolitan and Flushing Avenues at night… brrr…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One always feels vulnerable in this place, even when the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself still hangs wanly in the sky. There’s always someone – or something – watching as I scuttle by. Paranoid wonderings pollute the thoughts of one such as myself in these times. Delusional visions of getting grabbed and dragged, shuttled off to some storage vault or basement room and left to expire by some nefarious character, abound in the area between the ears and behind the eyes. There’s also sharp pieces of metal protruding from the pavement in random spots which you need to watch out for, as well as some of the watery eyed derelicts who establish temporary camps at the edges of habitability.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden around here?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eerie and deserted by its diurnal army of laborers, industrial Maspeth nevertheless still serves as a thoroughfare for vehicular traffic preparing to exchange the streets of Queens for those of North Brooklyn, but in this lawless no man’s land of nighted warehouses they seldom offer anything other than a reluctant acknowledgement to traffic law. They eschew lane ordinances, roll through stop signs at speed, and can be observed laughing hysterically while blowing through traffic signals and ignoring intersectional regulations while traveling at cyclonic velocities.

The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume, which wouldn’t be forgotten.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are homes hereabouts, wholesome structures populated by those both stout and stubborn, and families whose multigenerational presence at the edges of Industrial Maspeth defy the impressions gathered by one such as myself. With the filthy black raincoat flapping about behind me, the arrangement of my sweatshirt hood and raised coat collar combinine with a usually shaved pate, and one lends no other impression to a casual viewer than that of a corpulent and aged vulture hybrid scuttling by in the dark. Essentially, who am I to cast the first stone? I’m some weirdo who likes wandering around in the dark with a camera while imagining that monsters, and witches, and a serial killer are chasing after me.

The reason that I love this area so much is its distinct lack of reflective surfaces, wherein true horror is revealed.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 23, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Maspeth, newtown creek

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trips for

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Twirling, ever twirling, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The venerable Grand Street Bridge is pictured above, as seen from the northern fork of the East Branch tributary of Newtown Creek. The East Branch doesn’t seem like much of a tributary today, terminating as it does in a supermarket parking lot (for the north fork) and at an open sewer on Metropolitan Avenue (the southern fork). Once upon a time…

As a note, one of my colleagues recently informed me that a high ranking DEP official complained to him about our common use of the term “open sewer,” and opined that modern day wastewater engineers feel that the term demeans their trade and is offensive. One point eight billion gallons of untreated sewage being released annually into Newtown Creek offends me, let alone the totality of NYC’s entire wastewater output in the harbor. Engineer that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Trekking through industrial Maspeth for the first time in a few weeks, obvious indications that the Queens Cobbler has been busy in the first month of 2018 were apparent. For those of you new to the story, a theorized serial killer is active in the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek who leaves beyond trophies of their kills on area streets. The trophy is always a single shoe, seemingly cast aside in the tidal surges of garbage and litter which abound in these parts.

Western Queens is full of dark secrets. The vampires of Queens Plaza, the thing unearthed beneath Burger Jorissen’s grist mill during the construction of the Sunnsyide Yards… Curly Joe knew the score.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the particular day these shots were captured, industrial Maspeth was busy defrosting itself. The sidewalks became slippery again as formerly gelatinous petroleum products that are regularly spilled hereabouts regained their liquid state, due to the higher atmospheric temperatures, and that odd combination of smells which the area is known for began to nebulously recombine forming a mephitic olfactory profile. The smell of fine marijuanas, roasting on open fires, was omnipresent as well, but it was late afternoon on a Saturday. If a man works hard, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of stress relief after the work day has ended, right?

It ain’t Jack Frost nipping at your nose in Industrial Maspeth, its hydrogen sulfide.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving inexorably south east, a humble narrator again encountered the calling card of the Queens Cobbler, displayed pretty as you please on those concretized devastations which form the flood plane for all the existential horror found in these parts. One does not allow himself to forget the rumors handed down to me by the Slavic centenarians of Maspeth, which hint at certain events in the early 1950’s that drew the attention and a deployment of certain United States Marine Corps specialized units.

As the story goes, something colossal rose from the Newtown Creek after nightfall, an abominable and mutated reptilian thing said to be capable of swallowing a horse in one gulp. Federal authorities conspired with the office of the Queens Borough President (Maurice A. FitzGerald) to keep things quiet until the Marines arrived, saying that there had been a gas leak and an explosion which required a temporary evacuation of residents and laborers. That’s how the BP explained away the artillery fire, saying it was just a gas leak. Hang around in the bars of Maspeth, or at the Clinton Diner, and you might hear a different telling of what went down at the United Enameling and Stamping Co. property on that summer night in 1950. Some that you’d ask, and certainly every Government official, will deny such an event ever happened.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried in the mud and sediments of the Newtown Creek?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the biggest hazard to the mammalian way of life along the Newtown Creek in Industrial Maspeth isn’t actually the possible presence of a serial killer who leaves single shoes in his wake, rumors of a giant mutated turtle called Creeky, the probable witch cult who cast off numerous artifacts in area cemeteries, or the endemic environmental pollution and ongoing release of billions of gallons of untreated sewage into the waterway every time it rains. It’s the trucks.

Pictured above is a fairly indestructible safety cone, whose purpose is the visual indication of “no go” areas for drivers, smashed flat and torn asunder by truck tires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Later that same day… over in Ridgewood.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

furnace tending

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It’s National Gazpacho Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometimes one will catch a glimpse of himself in a store window or other reflective surface, and even a humble narrator is known to flinch at the sight. Loping along in a filthy black raincoat, a wandering mendicant burdened down with a heavy sack of lenses and other photographic accoutrements, the ravages and scars of a half century in a City affectionately referred to as “home sweet hell” are scribed deeply into his flesh. Corpulent and corrupted, disliked and denounced, egomaniacal and estranged, feckless and forgettable, ghoulish and ghastly… all of these words fail to fully and generally generate the hateful, hopeless, idiotic image obvious to all but revealed to a humble narrator only as he passes by a pane of silvered glass on area streets.

No wonder children burst into tears, dogs growl, cats haunch up, women clutch at their purses, security cameras swivel and follow when one appears. Police and security personell always watch me closely, with their hands resting upon the weapons they’ve been issued.

from komatsuamerica.com

Move more material with less fuel and a more comfortable operator’s environment! The WA500-8 has a newly designed bucket with increased capacity and improved digging performance to maximize production. The EPA Tier 4 Final certified engine incorporates enhanced controller logic for lower fuel consumption. A new high capacity, heated, air suspension seat provides premium comfort.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does not visit “the country” for fear of spreading an infection of blight. Like a pellet of some radioactive metal displayed in the midst of an otherwise verdant forest, one’s presence causes other living things to wither away. It has always been this way, for one such as myself.

The memories of childhood should be of summery afternoons spent in joyful pursuits, rather than locked rooms with tightly shuttered, and barred, windows decorated with atavist hangings. Sitting in the shadows of spare apartments, watching idle shafts of atmospheric dust lit by those few rays of light offered by the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself which somehow managed to permeate the barrack – these should not be the only recollections one is able to summon regarding those days. There was no joy, just tedium punctuated by wild and unpredictable furies erupting amongst those who cared for my needs.

Visitors to my caretakers were always of an advanced age. Often they brought plastic offerings obtained on a pilgrimage to some eastern land, formerly held by the Ottoman Turks. These plastic things often carried religious idioms written in English but rendered in a hebraized script. The visitors would carry on conversations in a language familiar only to the parts of Europe that have historically bordered Russia, and indeed within the Tsar’s former holdings. Sometimes these conversations would erupt into anger, others laughter. It was all very puzzling, but ultimately pedantic and boring.

from wikipedia

The expressway begins at the western portal of the Queens–Midtown Tunnel in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan. The route heads eastward, passing under FDR Drive and the East River as it proceeds through the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority-maintained tunnel to Queens. Once on Long Island, the highway passes through the tunnel’s former toll plaza and becomes known as the Queens–Midtown Expressway as it travels through the western portion of the borough. A mile after entering Queens, I-495 meets I-278 (the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway) at exit 17. At this point, I-495 becomes the unsigned highway NY 495, although it is still signed as an Interstate Highway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The psychic plague which one was infected with at an early age is that nothing which is good or joyous or in any way positive stays with me for long. Others remonstrate the negative experiences of their lives, blocking out trauma, and do not realize that their lives are subconsciously shaped by avoiding similar pain. A humble narrator, on the other hand, gleefully rips away at his scabs every chance he gets, and likes to scratch away at scars. One has quite a bit of time for reflection, on my long scuttles around the concrete devastations of the Newtown Creek. Just the other day, one grew furious over an event which occurred in the Second Grade when I was accused of kicking someone in the leg as our class was on the way to Assembly in the school auditorium.

“My list” goes all the way back to before Kindergarden. All the good stuff thats ever happened to me? That one started when I woke up this morning, and it’s been a shitty day so far. What can I tell you, I’m all ‘effed up.

also from wikipedia

A portion of the path of the Long Island Expressway was along the former road path and right of way of a streetcar line that went from the southern part of Long Island City to southern Flushing.

The Long Island Expressway was constructed in stages over the course of three decades. The first piece, the Queens–Midtown Tunnel linking Manhattan and Queens, was opened to traffic on November 15, 1940. The highway connecting the tunnel to Laurel Hill Boulevard was built around the same time and named the “Midtown Highway”.  The tunnel, the Midtown Highway, and the segment of Laurel Hill Boulevard between the highway and Queens Boulevard all became part of a realigned NY 24 in the mid-1940s. In the early 1950s, work began on an eastward extension of the Midtown Highway. The road was completed to 61st Street by 1954, at which point it became known as the “Queens–Midtown Expressway”. By 1956, the road was renamed the “Long Island Expressway” and extended east to the junction of Queens (NY 24 and NY 25) and Horace Harding (NY 25D) Boulevards. NY 24 initially remained routed on Laurel Hill Boulevard (by this point upgraded into the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway) and Queens Boulevard, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately for my self loathing, while these shots were being gathered, my attention was taken up by a conference call with environmental officialdom and hotly discussing Newtown Creek, so I didn’t have a chance to really work myself over about that thing in Second Grade, nor the debacle that was my ninth birthday, or any of the humiliations suffered but left unanswered in Junior High School. On the plus side, my left foot was giving me a bit of trouble, so at least there was some tangible physical pain I could enjoy, rather than the psychic kind I relish.

Such reveries, wherein a humble narrator spends his mental capacity on beating himself up, are a little luxury I like to enjoy. The internal soliloquy also has other tasks to work on – wondering about what’s making a certain smell, plotting vengeance, planning future walking tours, working the camera, avoiding getting squished by a truck. I hate getting squished more than anything. Regrets… I’ve had a few.

from wikipedia

The first known construction cranes were invented by the Ancient Greeks and were powered by men or beasts of burden, such as donkeys. These cranes were used for the construction of tall buildings. Larger cranes were later developed, employing the use of human treadwheels, permitting the lifting of heavier weights. In the High Middle Ages, harbour cranes were introduced to load and unload ships and assist with their construction – some were built into stone towers for extra strength and stability. The earliest cranes were constructed from wood, but cast iron, iron and steel took over with the coming of the Industrial Revolution.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long Island City’s Hunters Point and Degnon Terminal (LaGuardia Community College zone) areas have become positively infested with humans since this whole real estate frenzy has set in. Manifest, motley mobs of mankind now occupy these precincts of Queens’ rookeries. Lonely Island City is no more, if it ever was. The only place one can be truly alone, and avoid the shocking countenance of his own reflection, is industrial Maspeth. There are zero reflective surfaces hereabouts, except on the steel bumpers of newly washed heavy trucks. All is caked in grit, and clods of unknown substances. The waters in this section of the Newtown Creek offer a certain perfume, hinting at the respiratory or digestive processes of unknown biological or bacterial entities. Vast puddles of rancid water line the broken streets. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume.

A humble narrator is probably the only person on this entire Long Island, or one of the lesser islands of the archipelago, who actually longs for chances to visit Industrial Maspeth. Other than somebody who has something they need to illegally dump into the water or leave some junk on the street, of course. Most of the folks who come here do so simply to earn their keep, notably those who have to deal with the rest of us being slobs.

Me? I love the place.

from wikipedia

The Bureau of Cleaning and Collection is responsible for collecting recycling and garbage, cleaning streets and vacant lots, and clearing streets of snow and ice. BCC assigns personnel and equipment to standard routes while managing the weekly allocation of personnel to address litter and illegal dumping.

The Cleaning Office oversees the removal of litter and debris from city streets, collects material for recycling and garbage from public litter bins and coordinates with Derelict Vehicle Operations to remove abandoned vehicles. The Lot Cleaning Unit cleans vacant lots and the areas around them, and around city-owned buildings in order to meet the city’s Health Code standards.

The Collection Office oversees regularly scheduled recycling and garbage collection services to the city’s residential households, public schools, public buildings, and many large institutions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I really like to do around here, however, is creep down to the shoreline and hide in the bushes. One will really let loose hereabouts, and start laughing maniacally, instead of my usual hissing and basso growling. The stoutest cord long broken, my crazy laugh will shortly turn into a sobbing cry and then wailing lament, before transitioning back to the hilarity. I’ll cycle through this a few times. Once a flock of geese came to investigate the racket, another a laborer came sniffing around thinking that somebody was drowning a pig in Newtown Creek. There’s a reason I hide in the bushes, along with all the other monsters I’ve seen.

I don’t get too close to the water though, due to an irrational phobia revolving around my whole “seeing ones own reflection unpreparedly, with all its sudden and dire implications” disorder.

As a note: You should never look too deeply, or too long, into a mirror lest a piece of yourself become trapped within it. At least that’s the opinion amongst certain occultists. In the case of the lugubrious Newtown Creek…

from wikipedia

Laughter is not always a pleasant experience and is associated with several negative phenomena. Excessive laughter can lead to cataplexy, and unpleasant laughter spells, excessive elation, and fits of laughter can all be considered negative aspects of laughter. Unpleasant laughter spells, or “sham mirth,” usually occur in people who have a neurological condition, including patients with pseudobulbar palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. These patients appear to be laughing out of amusement but report that they are feeling undesirable sensations “at the time of the punch line.”

Excessive elation is a common symptom associated with manic-depressive psychoses and mania/hypomania. Those who suffer from schizophrenic psychoses seem to suffer the opposite—they do not understand humor or get any joy out of it. A fit describes an abnormal time when one cannot control the laughter or one’s body, sometimes leading to seizures or a brief period of unconsciousness. Some believe that fits of laughter represent a form of epilepsy.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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unhallowed wizardry

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It’s still National Creme Brulee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We’re breaking with normal Newtown Pentacle tradition today, and there will be multiple posts coming your way, devoted to the seismic events on Newtown Creek which saw the central truss of the Kosciuszko Bridge first lowered and then carted away over the last couple of days. This second post carries some proper shots of the lowering action. In this morning’s post, a time lapse video of the lowering of the Kosciuszcko Bridge’s central truss was offered. What follows will be everything else I shot, basically all the stills.

There’s a third post that’ll be coming your way tonight, btw., so keep an eye on this – your Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had arrived at the Meeker Avenue street end, aka Penny Bridge, by about ten in the morning. Not too much was happening, and word reached me that the lowering process – originally scheduled to begin at ten, would be delayed several hours due to an engineering issue which needed to be solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were several tugs buzzing about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above, you can see the two flat top barges which were married together by a steel superstructure which would accept and support the bridge section.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

The truss itself was no longer supported, structurally speaking, by the approaches or towers which had cradled it for the last seventy eight years. Instead, it was the four “strand jacks” which were holding it up. Those yellow bits were the shoes on which the truss’s girders sat.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY and NYPD harbor units were on scene, with different units arriving and departing all day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The barges were continuously maneuvered, throughout the day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

About two in the afternoon, the truss began to lower. It was moving so slowly, about twenty feet per hour I’m told, that to the eye it appeared entirely static.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was using two cameras, if you’re wondering. One was on a tripod, the other handheld.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself dipped behind Manhattan, and the Newtown Creek grew dark, the crews were still lowering the truss. The garish lights of the new bridge activated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was quite a crowd gathered all around the Newtown Creek, and especially so at the Penny Bridge site where I was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By about 9:30 or so, the truss was almost resting on the barge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A groaning sound of buckling steel echoed out across the Creek as the weight of the truss was suddenly taken up by the superstructure on the barges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent about twelve hours at Penny Bridge, or the Meeker Avenue Street End, on the 25th of July in 2017. I would have to come back to Newtown Creek the next day, of course, to get shots of the thing leaving. That’s tonight’s post, however, as I’m still finishing up the shots for that one as you’re reading this.

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 Kosciuszko 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 Kosciuszko 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.

Most recently – 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, and a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Lastly, here’s some night shots from early July of 2017.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.


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phenomenal boldness

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It’s National Peaches ‘N’ Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, the Open House NY organization created an event with the NYC Department of Sanitation at the latter’s enormous “General Repair Shop” on 58th street, right on the hazy border between Woodside and Maspeth. The shop handles vehicle maintenance for DSNY and for several other city agencies, as well as building maintenance for the various Sanitation facilities scattered throughout the 5 boroughs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the City’s snow removal equipment takes quite a beating during the winter, and part of the job for the working stiffs here is to recondition and repair it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The amount and kinds of equipment on display in the various shop sections was staggering, which included the chassis straightener pictured above. A couple of the folks on the tour were mechanics, and they looked like kids in a candy store.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are multiple floors in the General Repair Shop building, which was erected in 1964.

Everything I’ve shown you so far was from one of the upper floors, which is accessed by the vehicular ramps found on 58th street. Downstairs, we visited several smaller shops, including this one which was dedicated to woodworking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The section pictured above is a sheet metal, and general metal working, shop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An abundance of inventory was available, and I can’t imagine the logistic difficulties of keeping the army of labor employed in this giant facility armed with everything they’d need to do their jobs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This lathe caught my eye, if for no other reason than its scale. Apparently, they can fabricate axles for trucks with this gizmo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sort of esoteric industrial age equipment found hereabouts was incredible, and the sort of stuff you might be able to find on a WW2 era Navy ship. That’s a “turret lathe” if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An engine mechanic’s shop was visited, where truck engines were being broken down and rebuilt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It goes without mentioning that the Sanitation Department keeps a clean house.

Despite all of this material, and its occupation, the place was clean as a whistle. We were told that the “Commish” had been there earlier in the day, so maybe that’s why, but in my experience the folks who handle our collective mess are generally “obsessive compulsive” about staying clean. Never known an off duty Sanitation worker who wasn’t sweet smelling and perfectly groomed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t resist a close up on those gear heads.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Open House NY tour lasted a couple of hours, and our last stop was at a “clean room” with a vehicle emissions testing lab. An MTA Bus was secured in place by stout chains, and positioned over steel cylinders set into the flooring.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bus was actuated, and its engine roared into action. If the wheels had been able to gain purchase, it would have likely been moving at thirty to forty miles an hour.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All sorts of scientific “tackle” had been attached to its exhaust system, which gathered its emissions and ran it through filtration materials to test what the thing breathes out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The OHNY tour ended, and we tourists were released back into the darkness of industrial Maspeth. It was time for DSNY to get back to work. Me too, and I had to evacuate the area before the night gaunts and ghasts at the nearby Mt. Zion and Third Calvary Cemeteries realized that I was in the neighborhood after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had dipped behind the Shining City of Manhattan.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

strict silence

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It’s National Ice Cream Soda Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you found yourself in Queens, between two cemeteries and two highways and at the angle between Woodside and Maspeth (technically Woodside, according to the US Postal Service), at 52-35 58th street – one would be hard pressed not to notice the gargantuan building that’s operated by the NYC Department of Sanitation – which is labeled as being “Department of Sanitation Central Repair Shop.” I’m told that the interior of this industrial facility holds about a million square feet of space, and long have my eyes wished to view that which does transpire within.

The earliest mention I could find of the Central Repair Shop, incidentally, dates back to August of 1955 when the Sanitation Department Commissioner requested that the City Planning Commission include $15 million smackers in their 1956 budget to build the place. The building opened during the tenure of Commissioner Frank J. Lucia, but I’m not certain if he’s the fellow who oversaw its construction.

Wishes come true if you want them hard enough, lords and ladies, for both Commisioners and Humble Narrators.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may recall that there was a bit of a hullabaloo here at the Central Repair Shop back in 2011 which made the news.

The building was designed, btw, by the architecture and engineering firm of Fellheimer and Wagner. By me, it’s quite an attractive structure, but I do like my “modernism” and the exterior of this structure would look very much at home if it was found in Batman’s Gotham City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The purpose of this facility, which opened during the Mayoralty of Robert Wagner and the Borough Presidency of Mario Cariello in August of 1964, is to service the vast fleet of trucks and other heavy equipment used by the Department of Sanitation. Coincidentally DSNY also handles fleet maintenance for several other City agencies here – and you’ll notice examples of the DEP, Buildings, DOT and other municipal fleet vehicles scattered throughout today and tomorrow’s posts.

I was lucky enough to score a ticket to visit this spot on a tour created by the Open House NY outfit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Central Repair Shop is immense, with literally hundreds of heavy trucks occupying maintenance bays almost as far as the eye could see. Before you ask – no, it didn’t smell. All the garbage trucks receive a power wash before they enter the building, and there was an elaborate ventilation system in place which vented the shop floors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t catch his last name, but the fellow with the shaved head pictured above was named Bob, and he was one of the managers of the shop building. He conducted the tour for the OHNY group, which hosted a fairly substantial number of folks. As is usually the case with such tours, everybody was waving around expensive camera setups.

Given the amount of low light photography which a humble narrator has been engaging in during recent years, I surmised two things rather quickly – a) I was going to have to use a flash and b) wide open apertures weren’t going to cut it in here given the levels of foreground detail and long sight lines. I angled my flash at the white ceiling for “bounce light,” and set the camera to f5.6 at ISO 6400 for pretty much the whole endeavor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lighting situation was complex within the Central Repair Shop, with combinations of sodium and flourescent overhead light fixtures above and street facing windows carrying in bright sunlight. Coupling that with metallic and reflective surfaces that ran the entire spectrum from black to white, the flash provided a fill light that brought everything together under one overarching color temperature. The narrowed aperture allowed for a certain hyper focal distance to be achieved.

Normally, I’d just shoot using ambient light and a wide open lens (f2.8 or faster) but that wasn’t going to work this time around. When the shots came off of the camera, they required a bit of tweaking, contrast and color temperature wise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, I’ve personally never seen a garbage truck up on a lift before.

More tomorrow from inside the Department of Sanitation’s Central Repair Shop, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 20, 2017 at 11:00 am

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