The Newtown Pentacle

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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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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It’s National Sacher Torte Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The concrete devastations of Newtown Creek, after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself has slipped behind and become occluded by the state of New Jersey, are spooky. During daylight, they’re just a cautionary tale with occasional glimpses of terror and wonder, but after darkness settles in on the soot stained masonry offered by the warehouses, factories, and the Great Wall of Calvary Cemetery – one finds himself constantly looking over his shoulder. In the case of the furtive glance captured above, my apprehension was directed towards the spot where Review Avenue transmogrifies into Laurel Hill Blvd. nearby the old and nearly forgotten Penny Bridge. The masonry of the 1894 Penny Bridge is still extant, despite the actual span having been demolished around 1940. The first Penny Bridge, which was little more than a rope walk, opened thereabouts in 1803. It is at Penny Bridge that the presence of the spectral Blissville Banshee was first reported in 1884, as she glided across the oily waters of the Newtown Creek.

I mean – this ain’t Queens Plaza – where legions of vampires are known to drop from the steel rafters of the subways when night comes – but… Blissville after dark is just plain weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not just me who feels this way, either. Last Spring, a buddy of mine – who’s fairly fearless – was walking along this stretch with me at night. He began to ask insistently where we were, and opine that he was completely disoriented despite being in his native borough. Paranoid ideations began to blossom in his mind, and despite my insistence that we were on very familiar ground, anxiety began to overwhelm his reason. A distinct sigh of relief escaped his cranial breathing holes when we emerged onto Greenpoint Avenue after walking down shadow haunted Review Avenue in a generally northern direction.

Perhaps he was experiencing the sort of chronal tunnel vision that I often do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Could he have subconsciously known that Van Iderstine’s used to be here, or about Fleischmann’s Yeast with their stable of pneumoniac cattle. The unhealthy condition of these cattle, which attracted the attention of newspaper reporters, hygenicists, and State Board of Health Inspectors from Albany back in 1879, was attributed to being fed only fermented grain produced by the yeast brewers, which slid into their feeding troughs still steaming and straight from from the distillery process. The milk these cows produced was blueish in coloration, and nearly 1% alcohol by volume. This so called “swill milk” was not considered fit for general human consumption, as it was the lowest grade of dairy product commercially available in that era, but was considered a fitting protein source to serve to the orphans and prisoners confined on Blackwells Welfare Roosevelt Island. Nellie Bly might have spent ten days in a madhouse, but I don’t think she mentioned drinking swill milk in her famous exposé.

Van Iderstine’s, for those of you lucky enough to it have never heard of the business which used to inhabit these parts, ran a fat rendering mill hereabouts that was extant until the latter half of the 20th century. Animal parts, spoiled meat, rotten eggs, barrels of butchers blood – all were boiled down in open copper vessels here in Blissville in pursuance of the manufacture of tallow. Ghastly business, that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the atmospheric temperatures being low enough to allow one the usage of his full armor – the filthy black raincoat and a stout hat coupled with durable clothing woven from ruggose fibers – one is always aware of his vulnerability and obsequiousness to malign elements of society due to conducting my excursions on foot. It would be a simple matter for one or two stout men to overpower one such as myself, known for his physical cowardice and nervous temperament.

Others with stronger constitution might venture into the shadows of rumor haunted Blissville, but a humble narrator chooses instead to acknowledge his lurking fear and remain naught but a passing outsider and scuttling stranger.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Upon arriving at the inverse end of Review Avenue, a quick glance over my shoulder revealed a small group of stocky men forming up and pointing in my direction. They were clad in shadow, but the outlines of their group against the sodium lit walls of masonry revealed shapes which did not seem “right.” Discretion being the better part of valor, a humble narrator engaged the services of a passing taxi and made haste for the locked doors of HQ back in Astoria.

The world is a scary place, and the concrete devastations of Western Queens can be scarier than even the pathless deserts of Arabia, where the secrets of cities lost await discovery by the scientifically curious. What might be found… in those wisely abandoned metropolises… if occult rumors are to believed… could easily spark another dark age, and retard the forward progress of mankind – or possibly end civilization itself and condemn mankind to an endless era of ape like barbarity.

As far as the Blissville section of LIC goes – who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden down there?


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

familiar rookery

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It’s National Eat a Red Apple Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The holiday season arrives at Newtown Creek in a manner alien to the neighborhoods surrounding it.

Hereabouts it’s truck tires roasting on a open fire, and that ain’t Jack Frost nipping at your nose kiddo, it’s benzene. Reviewing my year end list of; all the mistakes I’ve newly made, people I’ve offended, stupid things I’ve said in public, or generally humiliated myself somehow – it occurred that I hadn’t checked in on things in DUKBO (Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp) in about a month.

That’s the scene, above, at the spot where Review Avenue transmogrifies into Laurel Hill Blvd. at Penny Bridge, in the Blissville section of Long Island City, in the Borough of Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long time readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you that this bridge replacement project has been explored before.

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 Kosciuszcko 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 Kosciuszcko 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.

Here’s 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, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’s some night shots from early July of 2017. A series of posts focused in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

Most recently, in late September of 2017, a final series of shots of the old bridge were captured in this post. Acquisition of a souvenir chunk of steel from the 1939 bridge was described in this post, and a video of the “energetic felling” of the approaches on October 1st was offered in this one. Still shots and views of the aftermath from the waters of Newtown Creek from later in the day on Oct. 1 are found in this posting, and the aftermath of the demolition as seen from Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section in this post from October 5th.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They’re still hard at work demolishing the rubble left behind by the “energetic felling” of the 1939 model Kosciuszcko Bridge at the start of October. These shots were captured from the hills of Calvary Cemetery, if you haven’t already figured that one out yet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reinforced concrete piers that carried the roadway are being demolished using traditional means. That involves the yellow thingamabob being equipped with a chisel hammer, and the guy on the orange lift is spraying water on the concrete to mitigate dust.

The shots of the Queens side of DUKBO in today’s post were shot on November 17th, a Friday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the following Sunday the 19th, a humble narrator scuttled over to the Poison Cauldron in Greenpoint.

That’s my pet name for the section of DUKBO that begins at Kingsland Avenue and heads east past Meeker Avenue to the National Grid fencelines at Lombardy Street. It’s ugly in the Poison Cauldron, I tell you, ugly. Things can’t “get from bad to worse” because they’re already there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Similar industrial demolition and scrap removal practices to those in Queens are also occurring on the Brooklyn side. Unlike the Queens side, however, I was able to walk right up to and on the job site. I even used one of the Porta Potties they had stationed to blow some internal ballast (hey, it’s a fairly long walk from Astoria).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is odd for me to see light in this spot… this was always an area permeated by shadows, which I now long for.

Additionally, not being chased, threatened, or harassed by the questionable managers of a local waste transfer station as to “whatchu takin pictchas of asshole, getdafukouttaherre” – said operation having been displaced by the construction activity – was not missed at all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thing going through my mind was that this scene looked like a battle had been fought here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m sure I’ll have a bit more to tell you about the Kosciuszcko Bridge shortly, as there’s supposed to be a meeting of the Stakeholders Committee coming up in early December.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was only so far I wanted to go, as this was and is an active demolition site.

Luckily, that’s what zoom lenses are for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The things you see along the Newtown Creek…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

… if you don’t take pictures of them, nobody would believe you.

How can such a place be real, and that so few people even know it exists, this omphalos of New York City?


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

strange chemicals

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It’s National Harvey Wallbanger Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My colleague at Newtown Creek Alliance, Will Elkins, does a formal survey of Newtown Creek and its tributaries about once a week from the vantage point offered by a small boat outfitted with an electrically driven motor. Will collects water samples which are sent off for laboratory analysis to ascertain bacterial levels in the water, and looks around at the shorelines for evidence of this or that. I do a less formal survey of the creeklands, which is performed on foot, and documented using a camera. Will is NCA’s Navy, which I guess makes me a Marine? I dunno, just some shmuck with a camera is all I’ve ever claimed to be.

Last week, a humble narrator was perambulating around Dutch Kills, in Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing I can tell you about LIC that’s seriously changed in the last decade is the presence of large groups of people. Ten years ago, this stretch of 29th street (which is technically not a city street, but rather a “railroad access road”) bordering the turning basin of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek was absolutely deserted except for me and the folks who work in the surviving industrial buildings hereabouts. These days, 29th street has become the de facto spot for students from the various charter high schools, and LaGuardia community kids, who attend school nearby in the former “Degnon Terminal” to go “smoke a bowl.” There were about five or six distinct groups of them when these shots were being captured, whom were carefully not framed in to my shots.

Personally, I’ve got zero issues with people getting stoned on weed – I went to art school, after all, and grass smells a whole lot better to me than Dutch Kills does – but one is concerned ultimately about youthful inebriates ecstatically mucking around in an area known for its environmental degradation, lack of sidewalks, and heavy trucking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was low tide when I was walking the bulkheads – and if I can say that I have a favorite sediment mound – the one pictured above is it. This shot, and the ones following, were captured from the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

For those of you not clued into the Newtown Creek story, the natural bottom of the waterway is anywhere from thirty to forty feet below the surface. A lack of “flow” and the presence of several large “combined sewer outfalls” has built up a bed of sediments which lie some 15-20 feet thick. These sediments – which are a layer cake of municpal horrors that include heavy industrial runoff, as well as everything that has ever been swept into the sewer grates of Brooklyn and Queens, are commonly referred to as “black mayonnaise.” The specific mission of the Federal EPA, regarding the Superfund situation, is to remove or remediate this sediment bed found in the waterway.

In certain places – especially along the “dead end” tributaries like Maspeth Creek, English Kills, and Dutch Kills – the black mayonnaise shoals up along the bulkheads and at low tide ends up becoming exposed to the air. Doesn’t matter how pungent the weed being smoked nearby is when these sediment mounds are upwind, they’re soon all that you can smell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the angle of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is right, the water column is illuminated at Dutch Kills, which was canalized into a more or less north/south trajectory about a hundred years back. Prior to that, it was a compromised but still natural wetland environment with flood plains and swampy edges. Vital wetlands, we’d call ’em – back in the 19th and early 20th centuries they were called “Waste Meadows.”

Visible in the shot above are some of the queer jellies which form just under the surface along Dutch Kills’ bulkheads, which are likely bacterial or fungal mats suspended in the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the western shoreline, enormous electrical cables emerge from the masonry of the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, whose purpose is to power the single bascule drawbridge. I’ve seen Army Corps of Engineers reports stating that sampling of the shoal and sediment in Dutch Kills revealed the presence of Typhus, Cholera, and Gonnorhea extant in the mud down there. I haven’t seen that confirmed during the Superfund process, but there’s so much data about the biota of the Newtown Creek emerging that I could have missed it.

More sediment “mounding” is apparent, along with something fairly unexpected – evidence of “high” mammalian wild life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m a city boy, of course, but those tracks in the poisonous mud of Dutch Kills look like raccoon to me. I found a disembowelled raccoon on this span not too long ago, which is why I was thinking about the “trash pandas” while observing these paw prints, but again – City Boy.

For any of you “country kids” reading this, what would you say that track was left by?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A curious new addition to the black mayonnaise was noticed on this particular walk around Dutch Kills, a series of terra cotta dishes or pots, some of which were adorned with an intricate pattern.

The question of “why would somebody make the effort to travel all the way to this odd corner of NYC just to discard terra cotta pots with intricate patterns into the waters of Dutch Kills, instead of just putting them out on the curb with the rest of their household garbage” must be discarded. There are things you just don’t want to know the answer to, and mystery in the age of Google is something to be preserved and embraced.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 8, 2017 at 11:00 am

couched cipher

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been between the proverbial road and a hard place for the last few weeks, as a series of rapidly unfolding projects have demanded full time attention. Accordingly, the whole wandering around and photographing has suffered due to a lack of time and opportunity. Of late, a humble narrator has been possessed of a certain bit of wanderlust, desiring to see things new and unexplored. Luckily, November is now here, with its truncated day light and decreasing temperature (supposedly). Of course, I was wearing shorts yesterday on November 2nd, but climate change is a conspiracy made up by the Chinese in order to crush the American Coal industry, right?

At this writing, one cannot tell you where he will be as you’re reading this, but it’ll be “somewhere” in the greatest metropolis which the world has ever seen. Today, our metropolis has been diminished due to yesterday’s announcement of the death of both DNAinfo and Gothamist, and the wiping of their archives at the orders of some billionaire scumbag.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obligation and employment have been keeping me solidly in the North Brooklyn/ Western Queens zones surrounding Newtown Creek for the last few months. I’m happy to say that there are precious few times in any given week that I need to visit Manhattan. I’m unhappy to say that there’s whole swaths of the City, and even the Newtown Creek, which I haven’t paid much attention to so far this year. Now that summer has come and gone, that will be rectified.

The good news is that Newtown Pentacle isn’t owned by some billionaire scumbag who hates unions and decided to punish his employees by closing the shops in retribution, putting 140 young journalists out of work. Also, the Chicago Cubs completely suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Look for me in places like the ones pictured in today’s post – waste transfer stations, rail yards, skittering along under highways. That’s where I want to be, all alone, and far away. A wandering mendicant in a filthy black raincoat, taking pictures of the deserted concrete devastations… telling the truth of our times in lurid color and florid prose.

Somebody has to do it, after all…


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2017 at 1:00 pm

uncanny library

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is an example of the ultimate reason as to why the proposed BQX trolley line is infeasible, what with the blinking signal arm barriers and the train horn blowing – which rail is required to do at grade crossings such as the Borden Avenue location adjoining the Pulaksi Bridge and Queens Midtown Tunnel pictured above in LIC. One doesn’t want to deep dive on that topic today, however, as thinking about the Mayor depresses me and I don’t want to be “blue.”

A humble narrator was on his way to a “thing” in LIC when this train began to move across Borden Avenue, an occurrence which caused him to utter something which sounded like “squeeeee,” drop to one knee in the middle of the street, and laugh maniacally while waving the camera around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad uses their nearby Hunters Point Yard to stage train sets for rush hour duty, and the tracks lead across Borden Avenue over to the Hunters Point Avenue stop at the southern extant of the Sunnyside Yards. From there, the trains head into the City and Penn Station, before heading out to Woodside, Jamaica, and then Long Island.

At least, that’s what I think happens. I’m not a rider of the LIRR except for rare occasion, and mainly I just like taking pictures of trains moving around in crowded urban settings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that tour season is just about over, and my weekends are my own again, plans for how to spend my time are being laid. I’ve got more than a few things to shoot on my list, which I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to.

It really bakes my muffins when I don’t get to regularly wave the camera around at cool things, and despite the amazing places I’ve been this summer, I’ve generally been the tour guide or if onboard a vessel – on the mike – and I’ve barely been able to “do my thing.” I’ll sneak the occasional photo in when conducting a tour, but it’s a snapshot, not a photograph (there’s a difference).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Good news is that the weather is finally in the “filthy black raincoat” range of temperatures, and since I don’t have to maintain my summertime “early bird” schedule quite as stringently – late night shooting is back on the menu.

Where will I go first? Things to do, things to see, people to avoid – here in the great metropolitan city…


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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It’s National Boston Creme Pie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you want to know what the end of the world looks like, I can take you there. It’s about 3.8 miles from the East River, in an area of Brooklyn that is clearly Bushwick but which the real estate people refer to as East Williamburg. The end of the world is surrounded by heavy industry and waste transfer stations, and is crossed by a railroad bridge. It’s defined by a waterbody called English Kills, which is a dead end tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek.

Just last week, a visit was paid to this paradise of nihilism.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The open sewers are just one of the apocalyptic factors back here, as is the enormous waste transfer station operated by a transnational conglomerate that handles about a third of the black bag (or putrescent) garbage collected by the Department of Sanitation. There is virtually zero laminar flow to the water here, which means that the rising and falling of the tide is a vertical affair rather than a horizontal one, creating stinking shoals along the banks and allowing sediment mounds to rise from the channel. It often smells like rubber cement thinner along this stretch of English Kills, the waters are greasy, and they commonly exhibit an uncommon and unnatural coloration highlighted by patches of weird iridescence.

Men and women seem to become possessed by the spirit of the place, wildly dumping garbage into the shallows with a gleeful abandon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

References in the historical record refer to distinct periods in English Kills’ existential course. Once, a mostly fresh water stream fed by the springs and streams of a Bushwick that drew German beer Brewers to the area, which bled sweet water into the main body of Newtown Creek, just a decade after the American Civil War English Kills began to be described as the “industrial canals of Brooklyn.” By the time that the Army Corps of Engineers oversaw the WW1 era shaping of the Newtown Creek watershed into something we would recognize on a google map in modernity, English Kills had open pipes carrying industrial and chemical waste products into the water from acid factories and the other dirty industries surrounding it. The upland springs and steams which drew the brewers here were paved over or turned into sewers, and the only naturally occurring liquid entering the narrow channel afterwards was a tepid trickle of brackish East River water (which was itself terribly compromised) weakly pulsing in with the daily tide, or storm runoff from the streets.

Brooklyn legend suggests this area was used as a graveyard by mobsters, but that’s just a legend. Gangsters dump bodies into fast moving or oceanic water bodies like Jamaica Bay or the Hudson River. The idea is to get rid of the evidence, not to leave something incriminating in a place where it can be found.

Whatever enters English Kills stays in English Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The structure pictured above is the Montrose Avenue Railroad Bridge, part of the Bushwick Branch lead tracks of the Long Island Ralroad. The bridge, and adjacent fencelines, are covered in odd graffiti which is in English but drawn with characters that betray a runic influence. The screeds warn of witches and other mythological creatures.

This is what the end of the world looks like, if… like me… the borders of your world are defined and bisected by that lugubrious ribbon of urban neglect known as the Newtown Creek.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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