The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Maspeth’ Category

regrettably enough

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Industrial Maspeth is my happy place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above is what I consider to be my “shot of the night” from a recent nocturnal scuttle. Those wobbly streaks of light were offered by a passing truck or two while the shutter on my camera was hanging open. Mentioned in the past, one is fascinated by the result of setting the camera to record thirty seconds, or even a minute, of time passed. It’s the opposite of film or video, where 30 frames a second are recorded creating the illusion of movement when played back. In the shot above, you can actually discern the imperfections in the paving of the road, for instance, based on the bobbing around of the vehicle running lights. I wonder if Angels and Demons see time this way.

I intend to inhabit a spot similar to this sometime soon and execute a long series of shots in pursuance of building a time lapse video. Theoretically this means I’d have to take up station for a couple of hours, and since thirty photos would produce just one second of video, I’d need to actuate the camera at least 180 times over the course of an hour for a minute long end product. I’m going to do this, but when it’s a bit warmer. Even though this has been a warm winter, the chill nevertheless begins to penetrate through the filthy black raincoat, and manifests deleterious effects on the camera battery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing out of Queens and into Brooklyn via the Grand Street Bridge, the sounds of Canada Geese were heard coming in from the darkness of the Newtown Creek. Geese are dicks. I have spoken.

You may have heard about the latest tragedy involving my beloved Newtown Creek, wherein some lady suffering from dementia disappeared from a mass at St. Stanislaus in Greenpoint. Her body was found a couple of days later floating in the Creek nearby the Kosciuszcko Bridge on the Queens side. Condolence is offered to the family.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long suffering, Our Lady of the Pentacle was back at home while I was wandering around the Creek and as the hour was growing late I called her to say good night and offer that I hadn’t been squished by a truck yet. One was on the phone with her while this shot of a municipal waste truck was being gathered (part of a fleet of trucks parked on area streets, filled to the brim with sewer solids, which the Commissioner of the DEP has assured me are not there and must be a mirage). During my brief chat with Our Lady, I was fending off the attentions of an overly aggressive rat, so my conversation with her was punctuated periodically with loud exclamations of “leave me alone, rat” and “rat, I will kill you with this tripod.”

Of course, the notion that I had the right to be unmolested by the rodent was an example of me asserting and enjoying hominid privilege.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2020 at 11:00 am

some curse

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Twirling, ever twirling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From HQ in Astoria, I’ve got several approach vectors to the various sections surrounding the Newtown Creek. Walking south on 39th street and making a right on Skillman Avenue takes me to Dutch Kills in LIC, for instance. 43rd street carries me across Sunnyside and towards the Kosciuszcko Bridge. South on 48th street will point my toes at Maspeth Creek and or the Grand Street Bridge. In all the cases above, one walks downhill out of Astoria to cross a low point at Northern Blvd. and then up a shallow hill and the ridge which Sunnyside sits on. After crossing a certain point, the declination of the land begins to slope back down towards the flood plains surrounding Newtown Creek.

Then there’s the Woodside Avenue/58th street path, which is what I call “good cardio.” What makes it good is that you are pretty much pulling up hill towards the Maspeth Plateau the entire way. On this path, you get to stop and consider the place marker on 58th street and Queens Blvd. installed by the Dept. of City Planning denoting the geographic center of NYC, walk along the walls of Calvary Cemetery’s second and third divisions, and dodge a lot of traffic. Fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Theoretically, the street pictured above is Laurel Hill Blvd., which is overflown by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway on an elevated ramp. Calvary 2 is on the north side of the street, Calvary 3 on the south. Both sections of the funerary complex sport high masonry walls which are somewhat oppressive, and are oddly free of graffiti. My understanding is that there is a street racing scene hereabouts on Laurel Hill Blvd., but I’ve never observed it. Recent experience has revealed that the fast and furious crowd currently prefers Review Avenue in Blissville, nearby Calvary 1, for their antics. To the North and East is the Woodside section, West and North is Sunnyside, and heading South brings you to Maspeth.

Oddly enough, this section of road is terrifically well travelled, even at night. It seems to be a bit of a shortcut for drivers, and the Q39 bus enjoys a couple of stops down here. As mentioned from a post a couple of weeks back, the State controlled highway which the street lamps are mounted on has not switched over to LED luminaires as the City has and old school sodium lights offer a now nostalgic orange glow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

58th street itself, between the BQE and the Long Island Expressway, is essentially a trench running between two cemeteries – the aforementioned Calvary properties to the west and Mt. Zion to the East. Truly terrifying for a pedestrian, what passes for sidewalks are essentially earthen berms piles up against the cemetery walls.

Not everybody walks past a cemetery fence at night wishing that the property was open 24 hours, and regretful that the photographic splendors therein are out of reach, but I do. One couldn’t resist getting a few shots through the fence of Mt. Zion while picking my way along the rough hewn berm. Oh, to gain purchase within and spend time with the night gaunts and tomb legions.


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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

February 25, 2020 at 1:00 pm

drastic directions

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Happy 117th birthday, Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As part of the nocturnal survey of Newtown Creek one is in the midst of undertaking, a recent evening found the camera perched atop the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and a humble narrator lost in a paroxysm of appreciation for the venerable Grand Street Bridge. Not long for this world – as the powers that be have decreed that it shall soon be expensively replaced – this beauty was erected in 1903, replacing an earlier iteration described by the United States Coast Guard as a “hazard to navigation.” The first bridge here was built in 1875, the current version is the third Grand Street Bridge.

Grand Street Bridge is the property of the City of New York, specifically the Department of Transportation. It connects Grand Avenue in Queens with Grand Street in Brooklyn. It’s found 3.1 miles back from the East River’s junction with Newtown Creek, sits at the demarcation point of two Newtown Creek tributaries – the East Branch and English Kills – and is a movable “swing bridge” which sits on a mechanical turntable that rotates the bridge ninety degrees to allow maritime egress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The western sidewalk of the bridge doubles as a bike path, which few bicyclists actually use, seemingly preferring to just use the vehicle lanes. Heavily trafficked by MTA buses going to and from their Grand Avenue Bus Depot on the Maspeth, Queens side, the bridge is narrow and a causal factor in many of the traffic problems experienced in Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and eastern Greenpoint. This is due to the narrowness of the thing, which modern trucks cannot cross two abreast. Instead, drivers wait for traffic to clear the span, which causes backups that stretch for multiple blocks.

Even late at night, when these shots were gathered, it was quite a bother finding a 30 second interval without a heavy vehicle crossing. The Grand Street Bridge shakes and shimmies when even a passenger car crosses it, whereas the passing of a bus or a garbage truck triggers a local bridge quake. Said vibration is ruinous for a tripod mounted camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up on my 2020 survey of the Newtown Creek will be the extreme eastern side of the waterway, followed by a series of walks down the visually miserable Brooklyn side of it. The reason it’s miserable is that are so few places where you can access or even view the water, as opposed to the Queens side where – as you’ve seen in recent weeks – there are multiple points of view worth looking at. Hopefully this is something I can find the time and opportunity to accomplish in the next couple of weeks.

Tomorrow, something different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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.

cracked voice

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Maspeth Plank Road, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent walk through the sunless corridors of Industrial Maspeth found a humble narrator at the Maspeth Plank Road site. The City of Greater New York, in its infinite desire to complicate the environmental cleanup of Newtown Creek, has recently been working on a plan to replace the Grand Street Bridge. That’s a good thing, as Grand Street Bridge is a causal factor in terms of the bumper to bumper traffic one experiences on Metropolitan Avenue in East Williamsburg, Flushing Avenue in Maspeth and Ridgewood, and so on. Unfortunately, a particular and long standing dream of some yahoo at the NYC DOT has been to build a crossing of Newtown Creek at the end of 54th road which would connect to Maspeth Avenue in Brooklyn.

Beyond obliterating whatever historicity remains at the Plank Road, this new drawbridge would only make things worse, in terms of heavy traffic. That’s a lesson Robert Moses refused to learn. It would be a cannon firing fleets of heavy trucks directly at the NYCHA Cooper Houses campus in Greenpoint, and at New York City Parks’ Cooper Park. This would also need to be a drawbridge so it’s extra expensive.

Don’t worry, I’m on it, and have already laid down the law with a deputy commissioner or two. There’s a couple of City Councilmembers who are about to hear from me as well, and I’m getting ready to cause everybody involved a lot of trouble.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pals at Newtown Creek Alliance have spent a not inconsiderable amount of effort on cleaning up, planting, and performing maintenance at the Plank Road. There’s actual historical signage there now, believe it or not, describing the site. Unfortunately, during the winter months, hydrological deposition carries a literal “shit ton” of garbage down the hill to Plank Road. The place is currently a real mess.

I’ll let y’all know when we plan a clean up party, and arrange for one of our partners to land a dumpster nearby. This is one of the things NCA does on the regular, street end cleanups with crews of volunteers – who are often college students – that pulls tons and tons of garbage off of the banks of Newtown Creek.

If you think the imminent plastic bag ban in NYC is some sort of “libtard foolishness to further the climate lie,” come down to Newtown Creek with us sometime for one of these clean ups and you can start peeling carrier bags off of the rocks and trees. We will argue afterwards about fake news and libtards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A friend of mine… well, an online friend as we’ve only met once in the flesh… recently posted something to the effect of the plastic bag ban as being foolish policy and some sort of plot to tax the populace. The requirement in the new ban for the return of paper grocery bags is actually a jobs bill, when you get down to it. Recyclable in the extreme, the paper bags economic supply ecosystem will become a source of needed blue collar employment if it’s handled correctly. By creating a government mandated market for the things, private interests will compete to profit from said market. It will also raise the per ton value of recyclable paper and cardboard pulp. Nothing survives in the United States which doesn’t make money, profit, or dangle the lure of avarice.

Environmentalist people reading this, pay attention to that statement.


“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

February 4, 2020 at 11:00 am

taking form

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Industrial Maspeth, how I’ve missed you…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent adventure found a humble narrator stumbling and scuttling along the broken sidewalks of industrial Maspeth one recent evening. One gathered much in the way of chagrin and suspicion from the various wage slave security guards who sit within heated boxes while watching television, but a wave or a smile sufficed to scare them back into their labor cubes. As a rule, I do not trespass, instead I need to be invited in like a vampire. Saying that, the security services of Newtown Creek’s industrial hinterlands are slipshod and the only thing preventing my egress through the properties these box dwellers vouchsafe is the vampire rule stated above.

I’ve got a lot of personal rules which govern my behavior. If my natural inclination was that of a good man, I wouldn’t need so many rules. Concurrently, Government officials and employees – who are historically given to corruption and epic levels of indifferent and institutional incompetence – operate under an even more extensive set of rules for the same reason, and must legally stand exposed when queried about policies and budgets. Except when it comes to “security,” which exists in a black box which neither the public nor the press is ever allowed to peer into or critique. I refer to the Homeland Security budget as “Schrödinger’s Billions.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Time and opportunity is what the shot above represents, and I’d ask you where the Homeland Security money supplied to the MTA by the National Security establishment have ended up, accordingly. You’ve all likely seen the video of graffiti covered subway trains in recent weeks. Time and opportunity are well represented there as well. Remember, when the Government tells you that they cannot discuss how they are spending your tax dollars because of security concerns, they are pissing it away on speculative technologies and militaristic toys. NYPD – for example – has a couple of tanks, one of which lives in a garage on 22nd street in Manhattan. I’ve seen the cops washing it with a garden hose and soapy mops. Try and get a picture of them washing the thing, which occurs on the sidewalk, and you’ll get to meet a lot of cops. Tanks for the memories, huh?

Mobile oppression platforms like the cop tanks, or the fleet of airborne drones they also possess, are overkill for the specific mission of the department. Some chief or other brass wanted them, found some budgetary angle to buy and maintain them, and furthered the paramilitarization of the gendarme accordingly. No money for a motion detector triggered camera at grade level rail track ways in Queens? Ran out of budget for hiring some schmuck to lock the gates at Sunnyside Yards? Can’t keep a group of hooligans from painting an entire Subway train in the dead of night in supposedly secure tunnels under Manhattan?

If you see something, say something, right? Not if it involves black budget expressions of the Homeland Security budget.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bah.

Industrial Maspeth, particularly at night, is my happy place. It represents truth and a lack of varnish to me. Pictured above is one of the theoretically lowest spots in the entire City, in terms of relationship to sea level. A concrete plant just up the block has a steady stream of water charged up with dissolved cement flowing out of it, which gravity carries to the sewer grate at the bottom of that puddle you see. The sewer is caked with concrete, and plugged up most of the time. The sewer discharges directly into Maspeth Creek, when it’s flowing. That’s why I don’t do anything about the concrete people’s effluent and flow. Someday, all the poisons in that mud will hatch out, but not on my watch.

Today I’m just here to capture photos of the wonder of it all.


“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

February 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

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.


“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

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.


“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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