The Newtown Pentacle

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city guard

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Happy Day, Veterans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A single shot of the United States Coast Guard on patrol today, as a reminder to not forget that they’re out there right now in the wet and the cold as you’re reading this. It’s not about sentiment and then, it’s about existential and now.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 12, 2018 at 12:17 pm

denizens of

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The horror…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Halloween, Lords and Ladies. The shots in today’s post were actually captured last night, so the pixels are still wet on them. One had a sudden desire to “get out,” and wander through the night. Such sudden callings to commune with the darkness are impossible to ignore, and often it seems as if some other intelligence has taken possession of my actions when such moods suddenly manifest. The filthy black raincoat flapping in the oil stained breeze, a humble narrator often hears the call of the children of the night in the concretized devastations surrounding the loathsome Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not a smell you encounter during low tide at Dutch Kills, rather it’s an aroma that greets you when the black mayonnaise is exposed to the air. That’s when the things which slither and slide through its greasy melange can be observed, and when other things best left uncommented upon are revealed. One is never concerned about those lower intelligences which feed upon and live in the toxic mud, as if you leave them alone they will ignore you in return, rather it’s the shadowy forms moving and chittering beyond the chain link fences which should raise concern.

Given the time of the year, Queens Plaza is avoided assiduously, for autumn is ideal vampire weather and the steel rafters of the elevated subways are infested with the things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Coelacanths have not been spotted in the East River, yet. Saying that, other ancient forms of aqueous life are said to squirm about on the bottom. Were these impossibly intelligent and impressively ancient amphibian things ever motivated to do so, they would rise from the depths to strike down our civilization in order to teach mankind new ways to revel and enjoy ourselves. It’s happened in great cities before, elsewhere.

What do you think happened to the Mayans? Climatological collapse? Feh.


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often waylaid

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If you want spooky, Industrial Maspeth at night is your best bet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s nothing spookier than a feeling of personal vulnerability, a discernment of solitude, and the certainty that there’s no escape should trouble or danger arise. Most avoid finding themselves in this sort of situation, a humble narrator instead seeks them out. After attending a performance art event at a friend’s house nearby which was both artsy and fartsy, one headed in the direction of that notorious cataract of municipal indifference called the Newtown Creek and got busy with the camera, Saturday last. It was sort of late, about ten p.m. I’d wager, and fairly comfortable climatically so a short scuttle into the nighted concrete devastations found me headed towards the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road.

The streets were empty, except for a few security guards sleeping in their security guard boxes at the MTA’s Grand Avenue Depot, or Sanitation workers enjoying weekend overtime shift work and smoking cigars in front of a DSNY garage. A humble narrator, filthy black raincoat flapping about, pretty much had the place to himself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was no sign of any sort of life other than the aforementioned municipal employees and errant geese, the latter of whom were heard rather than seen. Every now and then, I’d spot the eye reflection of feral felines prowling about in the darkness. For once, I was carrying a fairly ok consumer level LED floodlight, so I waved it around a bit while shooting. It’s pretty bright up close, as a note, but once you get past six or so feet from the thing it’s emanations begin to diffuse out to nothingness.

One of the many things which I “nerd out” about are flashlights. There’s two ways to describe the output from a “torch.” The first involves the actual light output of the thing, which is measured in “lumens,” the second is “throw.” Throw involves how far the light travels as a cohesive beam. The particular flood light I have is great on the lumen count, just not so great on the throw. With a long exposure night shot, however, it’s really about producing just a little foreground detail in what would otherwise be a field of blackness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wave the camera around at Plank Road all the time, but for some reason I had the distinct sensation that somebody was both nearby and watching me. There were occasional sounds coming from the brush surrounding the clearing at the water’s edge, but as mentioned – geese, and cats. I’m sure that there was some watership down action involving rats going on as well, but those sneaky little bastards are great at not being seen or heard.

This is what was behind me, which I kept on craning my neck around to check on due to paranoid imaginings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last time I published a shot similar to this one, which included a lens flare just like the one seen above, a whole thread of comments was unleashed about the visual artifact and its coloration. I was advised to retouch it out, which I rejected. Despite the many years I spent professionally engaged as a Madison Avenue Advertising Photo Retoucher, perhaps because of that, I tend to try and do everything “in camera.” There is a slight bit of alteration in the shot above, other than normal adjustments for brightness, contrast, and color temperature to the “raw” file – an exposure gradient is laid into the extreme top of the shot to darken up the otherwise fairly blown out concrete plant and sky.

I’m not against monkeying with the shot, obviously, but given the level of manipulation that’s possible these days I try to maintain the integrity of the original photo as much as possible whenever possible. If a lens flare manifests in camera, it’s part of the scene as I shot it and it stays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking to the west along Newtown Creek from the Maspeth Plank Road, with the Kosciuszcko Bridge all lit up like some strumpet, or a Greek coffee shop. That purple beam rocketing up out of the bridge’s lights is visible from a couple of miles away back in Astoria. One cloudy or rainy nights, there’s a giant luminous blob of unnatural color visible in the sky.

I’m still debating whether or not I like this part of the new bridge, but I can tell you that the saturated colors produced by its powerful LED lighting wreaks havoc when developing night shots and it’s a real challenge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “tripod section” of my night accomplished, one affixed a “bright lens” to the camera and began scuttling back towards Astoria. The walk home to HQ was uneventful, but I didn’t find my way inside the domicile until well after midnight.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 23, 2018 at 11:45 am

sordid waylaying

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I don’t like Mondays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s your historical trivia fact of the day, to start – on October 22nd in 1879, Thomas Edison electrified the first carbon filament electric light bulb, which stayed lit for some thirteen and a half hours before burning out. This was the first practical light bulb, and demonstrated the underlying technology which would change everything everywhere for the human race, and solidify Edison as both a historical figure and as a wealthy man. Another one of the technological predicates which those of us born afterwards have taken for granted since, October 22nd is one of those days when everything suddenly changed and the ground rules for “possible” shifted.

The supply chain needed to power the Edison bulb, involving the generation “of” and delivery of electrical current “to,” began as well. Power Plants, ceramics factories, copper mines… the mind boggles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few weeks ago, I got invited to tour NY Harbor with the United States Army Corps of Engineers on their annual harbor inspection, and part of the excursion explored their efforts in Jamaica Bay regarding the maintenance and outright creation of sandy barrier islands designed to provide shoreline resiliency in terms of storms, and wildlife habitat the rest of the time. While rolling through the surf, somebody riding a horse decided to let the great beast wander into the water, which I was lucky enough to get a shot of.

That’s the Belt Parkway in the background, and this had to be somewhere between Canarsie and Howard Beach.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The MTA has been quite busy recently here in Astoria on the weekends. This shot is from Steinway Street, where a bunch of construction workers have been operating some fairly esoteric kit. That’s an electrical cable playing off of the spool above, which was being drawn down into an access shaft and pulled towards a very similar truck and crew which I had spotted a few blocks south of this one. The second truck was pulling a thick yellow rope out of its shaft, so presumptively that rope was affixed to the end of the electrical cable and they were traction pulling the new electrical cable that way.

MTA has stated that there is going to be a terrific amount of this sort of work occurring on the IND lines in Western Queens to prepare for the oncoming L train shut down. If you think that is just going to be a “Brooklyn thing,” you’re wrong. They’re planning on pushing around ten thousand displaced riders through the Court Square station and need to make sure that the E and M lines don’t experience equipment related breakdowns, hence the sudden squall of weekend outages and labor both here, and further “up the stream.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 22, 2018 at 1:30 pm

forbidden tithing

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Rhapsodic ecstasy, that’s what it’s all about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, a humble narrator needed to get to the financial district in Lower Manhattan and soon found himself in hell’s third circle, which is my pet name for the 59/Lex subway interchange. Hell’s ninth circle, where you’ll find Satan chewing on Judas Iscariot, is the 34th street Herald Square complex – in case you were wondering (that’s why it’s always ninety degrees in there, even during the winter, as it’s literally a portal to hell.) If you’re a Queensican, however, there really is no way to avoid the third circle. My habit is to ignore the wailing desires of those ghastly entities who run the system found below, and not ride the local R line from Astoria all the way to lower Manhattan. Instead, a quick transfer to the Lexington line express is accomplished, which gets me to lower Manhattan in short order. The former journey, using the oft delayed Broadway line local service can take up to an hour, whereas my composited route and transfer only takes about a half hour.

The “A” in MTA is for “adventure,” lords and ladies, so live a little and transfer often. The less time spent in the sweating concrete bunkers below the better, I say. Also, take MTA’s route suggestions for what they are, and be nimble. Dante had Virgil, you’re stuck with me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My preference would have been to take a ferry, but the United Nations General Assembly was underway, and the Coast Guard had interrupted service due to security concerns. Given that I had to go “adventuring” through the circles of Hell, I padded out my time of arrival in Lower Manhattan. My obligation was to do a short talk about Newtown Creek for a group of esthetes and intellectuals, which is a task gladly embraced. Unfortunately, it involved the chore of going into the City.

Since I had arrived about forty five minutes ahead of my scheduled arrival time, a short walk about Battery Park and Castle Clinton ensued. The weather has been absolute junk for what seems like weeks now, but all that atmospheric activity has at least been producing dramatic and enigmatic skies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A quiet weekend is ahead for a humble narrator, during which I hope to be brandishing the camera about. Monday the 1st is an “Infrastructure Creek” walking tour I’ll be conducting for Atlas Obscura (ticketing link below). On Thursday, I have an actual adventure scheduled, which will unfortunately mean that I have to repeat my journey through the Third Circle at something like seven in the morning… but as mentioned – the “A” in MTA is, in fact, for “adventure.”

There’s also a couple of big projects I’m working on at the moment, as a note, which I’ll let y’all know about next month.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2018 at 11:00 am

rotting ossuaries

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A dollar short and a day late…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I seem to be about twelve hours behind on my scheduling today, due to a very busy week. Thusly, a single image of a DonJon Tug moving barges about on Newtown Creek greets you in this very late post. Back tomorrow with something decidedly meatier for you to sink your teeth into, lords and ladies.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2018 at 1:59 pm

cluster around

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Happy Labor Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking a break this week, and single images will be greeting you sans the verbose drivel they’re normally accompanied by. It’s a rather busy week that I have ahead of me, but look for a strange old man wandering about the concrete devastations of the Newtown Creek with a camera. That’ll likely be me.


Tours and Events


Dutch Kills Dérive. Free!
Saturday, September 8, 2018, 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM with Flux Factory

Drowning in our own muck and mire, modern society must transmute its existence into that of an allegorical baptism in order to emerge a society of water protectors. The historic facts of exactly how our civilization has transformed the historic Dutch Kill waterway into a sewershed will act as both a numbing analgesic and a point of illumination. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 3, 2018 at 1:00 pm

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