The Newtown Pentacle

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loosely paved

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Tower Town, and wandering through it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A visceral need to “do my thing” will sometimes drive one out in search of interesting things to point the camera at. More often than not, I’ll find myself in Long Island City. Given the less than enjoyable climate offered in the last month or two, this activity has been curtailed, so whenever the universe is cooperative I’m out for a scuttle. After a rather busy recent day, I hopped on the train and took it to the Court Square stop to save myself some sweaty walking, emerging from the underground at the foot of the Sapphire Megalith. A short scuttle was engaged upon, and soon I was down at the East River waterfront.

Have to say, I’m really missing the old days when LIC was a desolate and unpopulated wasteland at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Hunters Point South Park, these two old utility poles are embedded in the shoreline. Decorative, they have the look and feel of former railroad signal poles, but I can’t say for certain if that’s what they actually are or not.

I got “fancy” with this one, setting up the tripod and using an ND filter in pursuance of a long exposure. That’s why the water has that weird misty look. The lavender cast isn’t from the filter, instead this shot was actually from the end of my walk in LIC, about an hour after the first and second were shot. Sunset does lovely things, colorimetric wise, to the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure where I’m going next, but LIC is always my “go to” when I’m looking for someplace that offers long horizons and interesting views. The H shaped thing blocking the Empire State Building is called the Copper Building, and you can see one of the hideous Hudson Yards buildings ruining ESB’s silhouette just behind it.

Doesn’t Hudson Yards look just like space borne debris that rained down and embedded itself on the west side of 34th street?


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Upcoming Tours and Events


Saturday, July 13, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

“Exploring the East River, From General Slocum Disaster
to Abandoned Islands” Boat Tour w NY Adventure Club

Onboard a Soundview route NYC Ferry – 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.

Click here for ticketing and 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

July 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

mahogany cabinet

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Ad free?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Extortion monies to WordPress have been paid out, and ostensibly, you should be enjoying an “advertising banner ad insertion free” experience here at Newtown Pentacle. If you see ads inserted into the flow of the post, in between paragraphs or drop down ads, please let me know. This cost me a few bucks to do, so if you want to help out with the cost, buy one of my books (link at bottom of post). I apologize for the annoyance over the last couple of months, and as mentioned, I was neither responsible for the ads nor profited off of them. So, there you are.

Also, man oh man, just check out the exhaust coming off of the NYC Ferry boat in the shot above. Why the design spec for these vessels didn’t include using LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) as a fuel source, I’ll never be able to guess. Well… that’s disingenuous, I actually know exactly why they used #2 fuel oil, but it still boggles that they didn’t adopt a fuel source that pumps out fewer airborne particulates for the ferry service.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s so many point sources for airborne pollution in NYC, they’re virtually uncountable. When I was a kid, it was still common practice for large apartment houses to operate trash incinerators. You’d routinely see black palls of smoke rising into the sky. There were also municipal incinerators at work, including the notable one in Greenpoint along my beloved Newtown Creek. Schools, City buildings, and a lot of private residences still used coal to power furnaces and boilers. At P.S. 208 on Avenue D in Brooklyn, we’d often grab bits of coal that spilt out of the coal shoot during the delivery process and sprawl obscene messaging on the sidewalks with it. Well… if “up your nose with a rubber hose” is considered obscene. It was then. This was the late 1970’s and 80’s, btw, not some distant depression era dystopia.

There was a big effort in New York State early in the first Pataki administration to replace this coal powered world with an oil based one. The next step is going to involve replacing the oil burners with gas powered ones. There’s a fractional difference in the amount of CO2 which burning these different fossil fuels puts into the atmosphere, but there’s a difference (which is measured in tonnages) in terms of how much black particulate ash and dust enters the air and then precipitates down onto the ground and into the water. Coal particulates, in particular, are pretty high in antibiotic metals, notably arsenic and lead.

With LNG, you’ve got all the manufactured gas problems, of course. One of the best bits of branding in the corporate and political arena – ever – is usage of the term “natural gas.” The current Presidential administration has recently coined the term “Freedom Gas” for manufactured gas, as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, the best near term strategy for not choking to death on our success as a culture seems to be either figuring out how to beat the laws of physics as far as new electrical battery technologies go, or the adoption of LNG fuel cells for powering our various heavy vehicles. I have a friend who’s working on a pilot project at the Port, testing out the deployment of LNG powered semi trucks. Right now, as you’re reading this, there’s hundreds and hundreds of trucks idling at the Port waiting for the cargo cranes to unload one of many cargo ships. The shipping containers will be loaded onto the trucks, at which point they will be on their merry way, but until they’re loaded up, the trucks are sitting there idling – sometimes for 8-12 hours at a pop. This goes on 24/7 and 365 days a year.

LNG is a commonly used fuel source for ferries and other heavy vehicles, – right now- and particularly so in East and South East Asia. For some reason, it’s considered “novel” and dangerous in North America as we consider “gas” in our cars as being safer than “gas.” LNG is still a hydrocarbon based fuel, of course, but compared to burning oil or coal…


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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

June 19, 2019 at 2:30 pm

half forgot

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Is there a “usual” anymore?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is notoriously a creature of habits. If I find something enjoyable, I’ll repeat the experience over and over until it’s either no longer available or all the joy has been sucked out of it. Rinse, wash, repeat. I’m that way with certain points of views too. It’s an absolute imperative that I grab certain shots when passing the POV by, which is the case with the photo above from the Brooklyn Navy Yard perspective. You never know if “today’s iteration” is the last time you’ll see something, given how fast change occurs these days. To wit, notice how that new construction of yet another glass box residential tower is screwing up the primacy of the Empire State Building?

Additionally, whereas we’ve had wet and rainy years in the past, 2019 seems to be the year that NYC has become the Seattle of the East Coast. I’d prefer London fog to rain, myself, but I like it all atmospheric like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, before conducting a tour and whenever possible, I like to run the route a couple of days in advance and get my thoughts together. Accordingly, having ridden the Astoria line of the NYC Ferry to Wall Street/Pier 11, I transferred onto the Soundview line that goes north along the East River to the Bronx. After hugging the eastern coastline of Manhattan to East 90th street, the ferry heads into the Hells Gate section of the River. That’s the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridge pictured above, with Randalls/Wards Island on the left and the Shore Blvd. side of Astoria Park on the right.

I often wonder why there isn’t a ferry stop on Randalls/Wards. There’s such an abundance of playing fields and parkland there. Perhaps with future expansions of service there will be. Let’s just say that a certain someone is whispering into a few of the right ears about that one, every chance he gets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something you might notice, when riding the ferry, are units of the NYPD Harbor Patrol. I’ve ridden the boats with officers onboard, or seemingly at random, an NYPD vessel will shadow the Ferry along its route – as was the case last week. Obviously, this is connected to NYPD’s Homeland Security mission, an appropriately so.

That’s a SAFE “response boat medium” pictured above, which are increasingly long in the tooth vessels that first started populating the fleets of the “services” a little more than a decade ago. Every service has its own flavor of SAFE boat.

On a site maintenance note, I should be rectifying this ad banner insertion bullshit that WordPress has been inflicting on this site shortly.


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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

June 18, 2019 at 1:30 pm

ahead indefinitely

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Which seat should I take? It’s Friday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, finally broke the long streak I’ve been on for a couple of years without missing a post due to Flickr upgrading their systems. Had no access whatsoever to my big library of photos for over 48 hours during their planned “12 hours” of downtime. Additionally, I can’t seem to log in to my account anymore from my desktop, which is where I upload the new photos from… I’m a big fan of software and site upgrades as you can tell. Every time some software developer joker gets the bright idea to “fix” something, I end up losing time and effort to developing workarounds. All this makes me feel special and loved, so I thought I’d share.

We’ll always have the NYC sunsets, lords and ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My very busy two weeks are finally at an end, wherein every single day of them has seen me attending a meeting of one kind or another. By last night’s Community Board meeting here in Astoria, I had grown as honery as Moe Howard, desiring to “knock ’em one” in the coconut. To be fair, that’s in my familial tradition though, as I’m distantly related to three of the four main Stooges (I consider the two other Curly’s less than). Curly, Shemp, and Moe were brothers – the Horvitz’s, and although I never met any of them – third or fourth cousins on my Mom’s side. For many of you reading this who know me in real life, does it not explain everything? Nuk, nuk, nuk.

Saying all that… whoof… lots and lots of meetings and goings on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today’s the day that the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, as a note.

I’m likely going to be forced into doing some single shot posts at the start of next week, due to the rolling out annoyance at flickr, but it’s Memorial Day week anyway. I’m going to be figuring out the tour schedule for this summer and announcing it directly, but hold Saturday, June 15th – in the morning – for something special I’m going to be doing on a boat. Have a nice weekend Lords and Ladies, it looks like it’s going to be a nice warm holiday weekend for the City that never sleeps (but appreciates a nap, now and then).


“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 24, 2019 at 11:30 am

quintessential loathsomeness

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Got to remember to click all the clickie things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I headed over to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Nature Walk in Greenpoint to play around with the camera a bit. It’s a fairly controlled environment, the Nature Walk, and my desire was simply to set up the tripod and attach a certain filter to my lens in pursuance of doing long exposure daylight shots. The benefit of this particular filter, a ten stop neutral density model which is nearly as opaque as welding glass, is that it cuts the amount of light hitting the lens precipitously and allows you to leave the shutter open for long intervals. Problem with it is that you need to set up the camera in a few highly specific ways, which I normally follow a mental checklist to satisfy. If you miss a single one of those steps on the checklist, bad things happen to your images.

I spent about an hour shooting what I thought would be pretty neato keen images, but later discovered that I had skipped a critical step. Managed to get lucky with the shot above, everything else was tossed. Note to self: Don’t forget to turn off the image stabilizer on the lens when you’ve got the camera on the tripod.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as I was breaking down the rig and reinserting my gear into the bag for the walk back home, this tug showed up. I had already stowed the filter and cable release and all the other “chazzerie” but the camera was still up on the tripod. A few quick adjustments brought my settings back into accordance with “normal” shooting. Since these shots were at “normal” shooting speeds measured in fractions of a second, the image stabilizer issue didn’t screw me up.

That’s DonJon Towing’s Emily Ann, maneuvering two bucket barges into Newtown Creek and heading over to their clients at SimsMetal in Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What went wrong with the tripod long exposure shots that I had intended to gather was leaving the lens image stabilizer on, as stated. What that means is this: an image stabilizer is a bit of technology which compensates for shaky hands and moving objects that can offer up to a couple of stops of exposure compensation by wiggling the lens elements around. You’ve got one in your phone camera, so it’s not an esoteric thing. Problem is that it doesn’t sense when you’re mounted on a tripod for an exposure of thirty seconds or more, so despite the camera being stock still, the lens elements are still wiggling. This wiggling introduces blur into the image, which screws the proverbial pooch.

Human error, huh? Human, all too human.


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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.

cylindrical drop

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the discount Chinese restaurant near your house is doing some sort of repair job in their basement, it’s best to remain ignorant of what they’re doing. This is related to the old adage about not wanting to know how sausages are made. It’s preferential to pretend that whatever is happening down there is salubrious, and doesn’t resemble the movie “Ratatouille” at all. Personally, I’ve sworn off the nasty variant of Chinese take out available in Astoria, as I’ve been to Flushing quite a few times in the last six months and what we’ve got locally just doesn’t compare to the good stuff that’s found to the east.

Still, as far as my current desire to shoot a few “minimalist” shots a week, this one fits the bill. I don’t want to imagine what’s going on down there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those are collapsed docks and piers at Shooters Island above, a landform which sits at the junction of Arthur Kill, Kill Van Kull, and Newark Bay. For a little spit of land, Shooters Island is a fairly interesting spot. George Washington’s spy network would use the place for meetups during the American Revolution (British HQ was on Staten Island), it used to be owned by Standard Oil, and legendarily – Teddy Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhelm once started a yacht race with a couple of the Vanderbilt Brothers from it “back in the day.”

These days it’s a bird sanctuary owned by the NYC Parks Dept.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I had to go to Queens Borough Hall to get sworn in as a member of Astoria’s Community Board 1. I’ve since been informed that I’m being assigned to the Environmental and Transportation Committees, which kind of makes sense. As part of the swearing in ceremony, which was led by BP Melinda Katz, we were given a multi hour series of presentations and training sessions by various members of the City government. One of the things that stuck with me was when they were describing an exact dollar figure at which point a gift is considered a bribe or inducement ($50) which would then trigger an investigation by the ethics people. They also discussed “talking to the press” and public statements, so…

As those of you who have come on my various tours over the years have heard me state at the start of the excursion – unless I’m specifically stating “Newtown Creek Alliance says” or “Access Queens wants” or whatever, the words coming out of my mouth are my words. Views and opinions are my own and do not represent the official opinions or stances of organizations or groups with whom I work or I might be a member of.

As an example; if I describe Mayor De Blasio as “the Dope from Park Slope” or describe him as an atavistic and dangerous throwback to Tammany Hall style corruption, or deride his vainglorious Presidential ambitions by pointing out his campaign pledge to “Make America Late Again,” or mock his desire to eliminate America’s Ground Hog infestation once and for all…

Well, you must presume that’s me talking as your neighbor and friend, and not describing an official position of NCA, or AQ, or the Community Board. If that’s not the case, I’ll let you know.


“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 10, 2019 at 12:00 pm

modern delving

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I was on a boat yesterday!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Waterfront Alliance hosts an annual conference for shoreline focused people and whereas I couldn’t afford a ticket, my friend who works on the other side of the Newtown Creek Superfund table at ExxonMobil (who purchase a large parcel of tickets for this event) offered to include me on his guest list, so a humble narrator found himself in Manhattan and then on the water yesterday. That’s called disclosure, btw.

The affair is fairly swank, and there is a nice lunch served. For the morning session (there are multiple panels discussing this and that, and this year’s theme revolved around climate change and rising sea levels) the boat is at dock. Shortly after lunch, the boat leaves the dock and heads off into NY Harbor. This year, Kill Van Kull was the destination, which is a waterway that long time readers will remind you that a humble narrator is quite familiar with. Tugboat alley, I call it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The boat, which was the Hornblower Infinity if you’re curious, went all the way back to the junction of Kill Van Kull, Arthur Kill, and Newark Bay nearby Shooters Island on Staten Island’s northern shore.

In the shot above, those transfer cranes on the horizon are the ones at the NY Container Terminal, which is where the whole “containerization” concept now universally adopted for international trade was first unveiled.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On our way back to the pier in Manhattan where we started, a shift change must have happened at McAllister towing, as three of their tugs had just got underway and were leaving their Staten Island dock in formation.

In the distance is the Port Authority’s Bayonne Bridge.


“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 8, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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