The Newtown Pentacle

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Wednesday Kosciuszcko.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp – has been regularly visited during this pandemic period. It’s both photogenic and within walking distance, and offers the plus of being a fairly unpopulated part of NYC during an era of respiratory plague. Back in March, one had finally figured out the magic formula for photographically capturing the lighting display of the bridge, camera settings wise. Hopefully this means that I can “port” the camera settings into other situations where garish LED lighting has been installed.

I still say the lighting design of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge over Newtown Creek looks like the exterior displays of a certain Greek coffee shop in Astoria, but there you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not officially open yet, there’s a new “park” on the Queens side of the bridge, specifically at the corner of Review Avenue and Laurel Hill Blvd. which has already become quite well used by Blissvillians, Sunnysiders, and Maspethians, as well as visiting Greenpointers. The park, which is a series of brutalist concrete blocks arranged around various plantings, is slightly elevated over the surrounding area (Newtown Creek industrial business zone, First Calvary Cemetery) and offers a nice view of the bridge. That’s where these shots were captured.

I’m still carrying the ultra busted down lightweight mini camera kit, by the way. The two prime lens one which I started hauling around last year after having severely injuring the big toe of my left foot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lovely set of zoomable lenses have been awaiting being called back into service again, but I’ve really been enjoying the limitations. Worst thing you can say to a creative person is “do anything you want.” Best thing you can do is lay out a bunch of things not to do, make them stand on one foot while doing it, and throw in a gotcha. Limitation forces lateral thought and problem solving, I always say.

Back tomorrow, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, June 29th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

recent notes

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Still no rat hordes, but I’m a-hoping.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, a recent walk found one on the western end of Railroad Avenue in the Blissville section of Long Island City. Some people ignore the 10,000 or so industrial jobs and the businesses which employ them along the bulkheads of the Newtown Creek. That’s where I come in, My name’s Waxman, I carry a camera. The weather in NYC was cool, and I was working out of Newtown Creek Alliance’s Queens Division. Reports from Federal Authorities have warned about hordes of ravenous and cannibalistic rats of unusual size, so I was patrolling the tracks of the Long Island Railroad Lower Montauk Line in search of them. The garbage train parks here.

Thankfully, things were uneventful, and I moved on. This is based on a true story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home to the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria, one eschewed the normal path back and instead proceeded northwards from Blissville through the “Crane District” of industrial Maspeth. Neither the Dept. of NYC Planning nor Google Maps have caught up with my daring nomenclature quite yet, still referring to the “Crane District” as “West Maspeth” or “Laurel Hill,” and only a few esthetes and scholars use the archaic “Berlin.” Savages.

Why do I call it the “Crane District”?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A heady mix of socialism and an indignant vendetta against societal norms have infected me with the need to tear away at the foundations of society, and rename places according to whatever whim strikes me. There are no cranes here, that’s fake news.

In all seriousness, though, people still live hereabouts, in the Crane District. There’s private homes all over the place.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, June 8th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

mental disturbance

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Flowing water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, I was just saying to a friend of mine that I’d really like to find some flowing water and photograph it. This was part of me pining for a walk in the woods, or the sort of natural setting which I’m currently unable to reach due to the shut down. Pedestrian distances, for me, involve a lot of interesting things to photograph, but flowing water? Not so much.

My beloved Newtown Creek must have heard me, as I discovered during a recent midnight walk through my happy place – Industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the industrial lots seemed to have a broken water main or something, and what must be hundreds of gallons of water an hour are pouring out from under their fenceline onto the street. The DEP sewer grates in this area are nearly always clogged up, and street flooding is fairly ubiquitous here on the corner of 58th road and 47th street, nearby the DSNY’s Queens West 5 Garage.

At the end of the street is the Maspeth Plank Road historic site, which I had walked over from Astoria to visit this particular evening.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The flowing water was following its natural gravity driven course, towards Newtown Creek. Not wishing to soak my shoes, a short scuttle saw me on dry land along… the temporary tributary? Let’s call it Furman’s Creek for now.

About three people are going to get that reference, so here you are – this part of Maspeth used to be an island called Furman’s Island. Another island in Newtown Creek called Mussel Island was demolished at the start of the 20th century, and its spoils were used to connect Furman to Maspeth.

Below is a section from an undated map of smell nuisances that was likely drawn in the 1890’s depicting Mussel Island, Maspeth Creek, and Furman’s Island. As you can see, the coastline of Queens was VERY different in the relatively recent past.

Just as a point of interest for my fellow NYC history nerds, the shaded in smell nuisance site labeled as #17 was Peter Cooper’s Glue Factory in Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here, I negotiated my way over to the flowing water which I had so desired to photograph, and set up the camera in what was fairly pitch darkness. From the look of it, this flow of water has been going on for a while. Normal rainfall flows have long created a hydrologic “shape” in the ground at Plank Road through which street precipitant runoff has been flowing for years.

The constant flow of water off of the industrial compound has deepened that “shape” into sort of a gorge. There really isn’t any sort of firmament to the soil here – it’s rip rap, boulders, gravel, and the only thing holding all that together are the shallow roots of self planted weeds and grasses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Furman’s Creek, now flowing through Furman’s Gorge, was carrying a lot of street litter in its flow towards Newtown Creek. This is normal, unfortunately, but until we start putting social pressure on each other not to litter…

There was a soothing sound coming from the flowing water though, so that was nice. Quite tranquil, really. I said Industrial Maspeth is my happy place, and I mean it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have noticed, there’s a lot of photos on offer today, as opposed to the usual trio. Just couldn’t stop myself. As mentioned, I was desirous of finding a bucolic waterfall in the middle of some pristine forest to point the camera at.

Then along comes Furman’s Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The flow, as mentioned, had created a gorge of sorts for the flowing water. Unfortunately, the gorge has made getting down onto the concrete bulkhead at the Maspeth Plank Road impossible without the usage of rubber boots. There was a good 4-8 inches of rapidly flowing earth juice moving towards the fabulous Newtown Creek in this section, surrounded by either gravel or super slippery mud.

Super slippery, not just slippery. Also – Now, more than ever.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From what I could see, there seemed to be a buildup of material in the mud flat to the right of the shot above. Saying that – it was dark, after midnight, and I was as socially isolated as you can get here at the Plank Road, so the discretion/valor internal discussion I had with myself determined that I wasn’t going to try and negotiate a path down to the edge to find out.

Under normal circumstance, I’d probably have tried, but given that I still had to walk back to Astoria…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I did scuttle over to the eastern side of Plank Road for the shot above, looking roughly westwards towards Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section and the Kosciuszcko Bridge. The large tanks in the center of the shot are on the National Grid property, and the dark shape in lower right foreground are pieces of wood that have somehow survived there since 1875, during the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.

No, really, here’s an illustration of this scene from Harper’s Weekly in 1881.

I’m fairly sure I’ve got other shots of the Plank Road throughout the decades, but just can’t seem to find them at the moment. Back tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 4th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 6, 2020 at 12:00 pm

stamped out

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Maspeth!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That recent long walk I mentioned found me over in industrial Maspeth, experimenting with various camera settings, as regarding capturing photos of the Kosciuszcko Bridge and its weird illumination. LED lights, architecturally speaking, are insanely bright. They also produce unnatural colors which wreak havoc on the color theory algorithms in digital cameras. Since the Governor literally flipped a switch turning on the bridge’s lighting system a couple of years ago, I’ve been fairly bedeviled by its idiosyncrasies.

A big part of the problem is that the bridge’s lights rotate through a chroma key, turning yellow, green, blue, red, violet… when all those colors add up on your camera sensor it equals bright white – as you see in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not wanting to sacrifice the sharpness of the captured image at my lens’s hyper-focal “infinity” setting, one has been playing around with length of shutter speed and sensor ISO sensitivity all winter and into the spring. The shot above, depicting both the Kosciuszcko and the Empire State Building flashing red and showing Newtown Creek as well, represents a set of trade offs which I’m kind of happy with.

When you’ve got a bunch of time on your hands, and all of your summer gigs have been cancelled due to a pandemic, you might as well figure out new ways to configure and work with the camera – right?

That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, with the notable exception of polio. Polio makes a mess out of you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A different set of experiments are at work in the shot above, which is actually three separate images combined into one in a Photoshop process called “focus stacking.” You set up a stable camera base – a tripod or whatever – and then move the shot’s focus point around. One focus point is on the distant Kosciuszcko Bridge, another on the mid ground tomb stones, and the third is on the trunk of that tree. These are narrow aperture shots, so all these elements would have been sharply rendered anyway, but the stacking technique is a skill I’ve been meaning to understand and use for a while, and since I essentially have no there reason to wake up I might as well hone some of my lesser used skills. Also, the “stacking” assures a uniform level of sharpness throughout the image.

Back Monday, or whatever, with something else. I don’t know what exactly, I’m just hoping to still be alive by then.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, April 27th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

convulsive cry

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Getting used to living with the tyranny of the now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One recalls all of the angry men who drove these yellow cars, and their frustrations. The angry men would have vastly preferred not having to drive you anywhere you needed to go, instead they’d have liked you to just toss a few bucks in their open window when they drove off after hearing that you didn’t want to go into Manhattan. These yellow cars were always dirty, uncomfortable, and the drivers generally bad tempered. When the ride share corporations began to chip away at the exclusive franchises of medallion taxi’s, nobody really cared about the drivers of the yellow cabs, since one of the commonalities of life in NYC involves a story about some asshole cab driver who… fill in the blanks.

Functionally speaking, there is no such taxi industry right now. The ride share drivers have been reduced down to making food and supply deliveries, but at least they’re working. Everywhere I go, entire fleets of yellow cabs are being stored in the parking lots of closed businesses, along the curbs, or anywhere you can park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The MTA buses are still operating, as are the subways. Both options are ones you could not pay me to take right now. Since the start of all this, a thought which has been optimate and repeated like a mantra revolves around “dwell time.” It’s one thing to risk exposure to infection in terms of a quick trip to a shop – you’re in, you’re out. It’s another to “dwell” in a biologically hazardous environment. This is something I’ve learned over the years along the Newtown Creek. Don’t misunderstand me, you can still catch a viral load if all you’re doing is buying a pack of gum at a bodega and you’ve only been in there for a quick minute, it’s just that the odds of inhaling something malign are somewhat lessened if you’re not in that bodega for a half hour or hour. The longer you dwell in an air mass with people who aren’t your “quarantine buddies,” the more epidemiological mathematics begin to work against you. “Quarantine buddies” you ask? That’s your family and or domestic partners, and all of the people with whom both you and they interact with. The bigger the buddy group, the better the chance you have of getting sick.

If you’re riding on a bus, like the Q32 pictured above, everybody on the bus and everybody they interact with are now your buddy. Theoretically, so is everyone else who rode that bus since the last time it was fully disinfected – which should include the internals of the heating vents – but – MTA, so…

I think we should pay a lot of attention to filters on HVAC systems, moving forward.

Saying all that, I’m just a schmuck with a camera who likes talking about NYC history, not a doctor or an epidemiologist, and the paragraphs above represent an opinion not a fact. Do whatever the hell you want. Bleach, estrogen, fire, whatever.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Right now, a humble narrator is wishing that he had access to a private vehicle – a car, truck, or even an electrically powered bike. Under normal circumstance in the past, the cost and effort has been something I eschewed, but during those intervals one had access to the entire MTA system, ride share services like Uber and Lyft, and those angry fellows driving the yellow cars to rely upon. I’d love to jump behind the wheel right now and pop over to Plumb Beach or Rockaway and sit on a large rock while staring at the sea. C’est le vie, no?

Could be worse, of course, at least I live in a place that’s visually interesting and am surrounded by other areas which are similarly idiosyncratic and within walking distances. Also, still alive and not sick yet, so…

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, April 27th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

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