The Newtown Pentacle

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another moment

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Lots and lots going on in Queens and Brooklyn this week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Aviation High School, tonight, the NYC EDC will be presenting the latest iteration of their outlandish and quixotic plan to deck over the Sunnyside Yards. This municipal boondoggle has been going on for years now. Community opposition to this monster has grown and grown even as EDC has doubled down on it. The estimated numbers for what this project is currently projected to cost are on the order of waging a small war. I’ve got intel on what the internal estimates which are being floated at EDC for the cost of just building the deck itself. I don’t want to say them out loud since that might “out” some of the people internally at the organization who secretly oppose the Sunnyside Yards project, but let’s just say this:

If you were able to save $100,000 a year, it would take you 220,000 years to save enough for this decking project. You’d alternatively be able to purchase 733,000 cars at $30,000 a pop. If dollars were miles, you’d be able to enjoy 46,044 thousand round trips to the moon. If dollars were tax refunds, you’d be able to write a $66.77 check to every living American citizen (all 329,467,210 of us).

The Sunnyside Yards meeting will be held at Aviation High School (45-30 36th St., corner of Queens Blvd., in Long Island City, NY 11101) tonight between 5 and 8 p.m.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a personal note, I’m a little bit behind schedule as this week starts, and am struggling to keep up with the various “have to’s” which are upcoming. A few pretty exciting, to me at least, opportunities are coming up in coming weeks. I’m going to get to ride on a freight train, and inspect Port Newark with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There’s also a couple of swell parties coming up.

This Saturday; Newtown Creek Alliance, Broadway Stages, NOoSPHERE Arts, Greenpoint Innovations and Alive Structures will be offering the Kingsland Wildflower Festival in Greenpoint between 2 and 6 in the afternoon.

Details for the event can be found here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you want to watch me pretending to be an adult, and a responsible member of society, Astoria’s Community Board 1 will be gathering tomorrow night (Tuesday the 17th) at Astoria World Manor (25-22 Astoria Boulevard) at 6:30 p.m. to discuss issues of the day and resume the monthly meeting schedule after the summer hiatus. I don’t think anything earth shattering will be happening, but you never know, and if you haven’t attended a community board meeting… well, why not? That’s how republics die – apathy.

The Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group – or CAG – will also be resuming its meeting schedule with the various powers that be on Wednesday (the 18th) night over in Brooklyn and also at 6:30 p.m. at PS 110 auditorium (124 Monitor Street).

October 3rd will see a Newtown Creek Alliance benefit event – the “Tidal Toast” – occur at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint. Want to help us do what we do? Support the “reveal, restore, revitalize” work that NCA does? Grab a ticket. There’ll be food, and drinks too! Click here for more info.


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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

September 16, 2019 at 12:00 pm

shuddering violently

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Palpable, redolent, and exhausting – that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It has been one heck of a couple of weeks for a humble narrator, and boy oh boy am I beat up. There’s the proverbial “burning the candle at both ends” and then there’s just throwing the candle into a campfire. The latter is what I’ve been up to, and I’ve finally arrived at a short interval whereupon I can relax for a couple of days and “chill.” Busy is better than having nothing to do, but… I like to break words down to reveal their true meaning, and “recreation” is a literal and tangible requirement at the moment. Time to re-create.

I’ve got a book or two which I want to put together, and I’m hoping to have one or the other ready and available for Christmas. Meeting season is also upon me, and it’s time to start annoying the Government people again. Community Board, Superfund, and a new hopeless cause right here in Astoria which I’ve been laying the groundwork for are about to kick into gear. Anything y’all want me to rattle on about with officialdom? Leave me instructions and so on in the comments, and I’ll see if I can get your pet peeve considered and in front of the right people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a mean season in politics coming, what with all the three term incumbents term limited in both Brooklyn and Queens. On both sides of the Newtown Creek, the “powers that be” are all about to change seats after a long period of predictability. New factions and interest groups will be manifesting themselves and pushing their particular apple carts. As is always the case with “sharp elbows,” things are already starting to get ugly, and we’re nowhere near an election at the moment.

It’s going to be an interesting if mean interval, I think. Epic bullshitting is what I expect to hear and see, in our ongoing ideological war between the “Know nothings” and the “Whigs.” As I’m wont to remind and chide – Civilizations end, but life goes on. Also, the war between the Cowboys and the Arabs has been going on for 18 years now, and there’s no end in sight, but nobody talks about that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what sunrise on the new Kosciuszcko Bridge looks like, as a note. Captured this last Sunday morning, which feels like it was a month ago to me. Back Monday with something else that I can’t imagine quite yet.

Don’t know what I’m doing with my time off this weekend, but I’ll have the camera with me. Can’t wait to find out where I’m going to go and what I’m going to see, but you’ll see it here – at your Newtown Pentacle.


“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

September 13, 2019 at 1:00 pm

dominant concern

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Green v. Gray, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Me and my mates at Newtown Creek Alliance, and in the larger environmentalist community, are always rattling on about Green versus Gray infrastructure. So – what does that mean? Basically, it comes down to taxes and “bang for the buck.” That magnificent new Wastewater Treatment plant in Greenpoint, pictured above, cost billions and billions of dollars. It also took literally decades to build. Technological marvel notwithstanding, the cost of that thing was borne by raising water tax and rates on property owners, who passed it on to their tenants in the form of higher rents. The plant is, after all, owned and operated by a City agency, the Department of Environmental Protection or DEP. DEP also handles delivery of drinking water, the upstate reservoirs which supply it, and a few other things (noise complaints, for instance). The agency was created in a 1983 City charter revision which combined multiple offices, including the various sewer systems of the Boroughs, into the current monolithic organization. They inherited a chaotic situation, with sewerage pipes in the ground that combine the flow of sanitary and storm water which were laid out by the independent cities of Brooklyn, Richmond, or LIC/Newtown as early as the 1860’s. During rain events, the storm water pipes introduce vast overages of water into this combined system, and outfalls – there are 400 of them in NY Harbor – act as release valves for the increased flow. That means that untreated sanitary sewerage is released into area waterways along with the storm water. It’s why you can’t go swimming at the beach in NYC after it rains, and is part of the reason why inland waterways like the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek are Federal Superfund sites. The Superfund situation is costing DEP money as well, which means that taxes and fees on water will continue rising, and so will the rent.

Gray infrastructure – as epitomized by the 7+ billion dollar sewer plant pictured above – is expensive to build and maintain. That plant can handle an astounding 800 million gallons of wastewater a day, but in the concretized landscape of NYC, a quarter inch of rain falling citywide translates to a billion gallons of storm water entering the system. Newtown Creek alone receives (estimates vary) between 1.4 and 1.8 billion gallons of untreated “combined sewer outfall” annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Green infrastructure, on the other hand, is fairly cheap to install and maintain. Green roofs, rain gardens, and open land with plantings either drink up rain or allow it to flow down into the ground and feed into the water table. Additionally, Green Infrastructure ameliorates another consequence of having paved over everything with impermeable material – the so called “Maspeth Heat Island” effect.

Heat islands occur in urban spaces devoid of trees and greenery. Masonry and concrete tend to “hold” heat and radiate it back out. Even at night, the industrial neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are demonstrably 5-15 degrees warmer than the residential ones which are generally well planted. This causes area businesses to spend more on climate control for their spaces, increasing their energy usage footprints and the cost of doing business in NYC. Green roofs, like the one pictured above in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section, change the equation. They divert storm water and keep the structure below the roof a few degrees cooler.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It can be heinously expensive to retrofit existing building stock’s rooftops to handle the loading weight of a green roof, and since there’s little to no tax incentive to do so offered by City or State, most building owners like the idea but pass on it. Given that we’re in the middle of a building boom here in NYC, and particularly so in LIC and North Brooklyn, you’d think that all of these “Green New Deal” types would be demanding that new construction incorporate “Green Infrastructure” technology into their projects. Sadly, this isn’t the case, as everything is false and a deception in the worlds of Politics and Big Real Estate.

Me? I’m realistic about life in the big City, the bottom line, and personally won’t do anything which I don’t want to do unless I know there’s a hefty fine I can avoid by doing it. The City currently meters the water going up the pipe into apartment buildings, but doesn’t meter what’s coming back out. Maybe if we did the latter, it would encourage the developers of 40, 60, or even 80 story apartment towers to embrace the Green Infrastructure concept and lessen the impact of their projects on the combined sewer system. It’s probably possible to engineer a net positive on the outflows, which might mean rebates from DEP for providing capacity. Who knows?

Or, we can just keep on building giant multi billion dollar sewer plants which cause your landlord’s water bill, and your rent, to continually rise.


“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

September 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

endless shelves

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Tunnel visions, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Absent friends. That’s all I’m going to say about today’s anniversary of 9/11, other than that we have been at war for eighteen years now, in six different theaters of operation, with no end in sight, and nobody ever talks about that. We also don’t ask where all that homeland security money goes, and why – despite all that funding – you can still just wander into any number of supposedly secure locations in Brooklyn and Queens unimpeded. It’s a different story in Manhattan, of course, but there you are.

Raise a glass to those absent friends tonight, hug your kids, and continue on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Me? I’m too busy and stressed out at the moment to indulge in anything resembling a normal thought process. I’ve got a big project which will have matured and been accomplished by tomorrow night about 9 p.m. at which point I’ll be able to relax for a minute and gather my thoughts. Today, I’m busy “herding cats” and “managing expectations.” A minefield is where I’m at right now.

Seriously, all I ever set out to do was take pictures of Newtown Creek and the document the season of change in the watershed communities surrounding it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big project which is stressing me out is a private event, so I can’t really talk about it. There’s been a couple of major projects in the works throughout August which are coming to fruition, but since the universe demands that when I’m focusing on something a cloud of biting insects will appear to torment and distract…

It’s so busy this week that I’m actually dreaming about tasks that I need to crush out, and upon awakening from those little snatches of death… Man, I really need a vacation from Home Sweet Hell.


“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

September 11, 2019 at 12:00 pm

ruins retained

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Just another day in paradise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One forced himself to sleep early on Saturday last several hours earlier than is customary, given that a humble narrator is legendarily a night owl, and I set my phone’s alarm sound to Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman.” If you want to ensure that you don’t sleep through an early alarm, Curtis is your boy, and Pusherman starting playing at 4 a.m. Having prepared my gear bag and laid out clothing the night before, all I had to do was take a quick shower, dress, and drink a cup of coffee. I hit the street at 4:30 a.m. A cab was called, and I was up on the middle of the Kosciuszko Bridge bike and pedestrian pathway by about 5:10 a.m. with a deployed tripod and camera.

A few things got in the way of all this ambition and “chasing the sunrise shot.” The most notable thing was that despite the theatrics surrounding the opening of the span, the NYS DOT is nowhere near done with the construction of the thing and temporary wooden breastworks and walkways with orange construction netting has returned. Said works obscure a significant part of the incredible views up there. Mustn’t grumble, though, still plenty to see and photograph.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Initial forays up on the bridge have revealed a few spots where natural compositions are available for recording, and a bit of early trial and error has indicated what one should watch out for as far as setup of equipment goes. A big issue to conquer involves light pollution coming from below, as the big field lights used by industrial property owners to illuminate their properties cause a lot of scatter which in turn lights up the omnipresent dust and vehicle exhaust hanging about in the atmosphere.

This contrast of bright and dark has been a constant bother throughout the night shooting process at Newtown Creek which I’ve been working on for a while now. It’s also a bit of a chore managing and being conscious of lens flare, but that’s quite normal for me these days. Focusing the lens in pitch darkness is also challenging.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself finally popped out from behind Ridgewood and Maspeth to the east, it looked like things were finally going my way. Unfortunately, as it was a cloudy morning, the directional light was soon obscured behind an enormous flat cloud which stretched from the horizon to mid sky just as the illumination became sculptural. The shot directly following the one above was flat, and bluish in cast, due to that giant cloud bank.

There’s three anticipated shots from up here that I’m chasing. As soon as they remove the temporary construction works and the sky is right, I’ll have them. It just might take a while though. Luckily, I’ve got Cutis Mayfield to wake me up at all hours of the night, and when I’ve got my triptych of shots completed, I’ll feel like Superfly.


“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

September 9, 2019 at 1:00 pm

gradual provisions

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Staying low, and minimal like, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It isn’t easy to avoid other people these days, as the City has become rather crowded. That’s part of the reason I’ve been doing “my thing” at night so much in recent years, I suppose. Avoiding encounters with other people, and their radicalized political views of the world, is nepenthe. My current pet peeve is a phenomena called “virtue signaling,” wherein you’re supposed to espouse sympathy or something for some aggrieved fellow traveler based on their affiliation or perceived membership in some group that receives more than its fair share of societal abuse. This abrogation of the individual is disgusting to me, and my antipathy for modern day “identity politics” is something which a humble narrator has not been shy about.

Just because you’re a homeless poet doesn’t mean you’re not a dick too. I’m sympathetic towards your existential horror and the mean treatment you receive, but all your other qualifiers don’t buy you any special consideration if you’re kicking a dog, breaking into my apartment, or holding up a bodega. Life sucks, toughen up. We’ve all got it bad – disappointments, tragedy, and ennui are part of the human experience. Bah!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More than ever, one’s generational status has been coming up over and over. My older friends who are “Baby Boomers” decry the “Millennial” crybabies. The “Millennials,” on the other hand, are fairly sure that they invented (amongst other things) alternative lifestyles and bicycle riding. Both groups, whose population cohorts dwarf my “Generation X,” like to lecture and comment about society’s perceived sins and injustices. Both groups start sentences with “You can’t say that,” or “You have to.”

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? How many grains of sand are there in the ocean? Let’s throw a handful of rice in the air and try to count the grains before they fall? How much time do we have to waste discussing crap? To my older peeps – what happened to your empathy? To my juniors – nobody really cares about anything, it’s all a god damned game.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What’s the point of trying then? If the deck is stacked against you, why not curl up into a ball in some ditch and just cry yourself to death? If some group you’re a part of is being oppressed by some other group, do you just sit and complain about your lot?

Or do you get angry? Remember – the world only makes sense when you force it to, and you’re not a part of some larger group, you’re an individual. Knock it off with this group identity crap, folks. You’re not a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian. You’re not white or black or trans or whatever. If you willingly join into the groupthink mentality, you’re just a number. Also, the most successful identity politician of the 20th century was Hitler.

It’s not easy to find a place devoid of people these days, as the human infestation has gotten out of control and “colony collapse” disorder seems to be on the horizon.


“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

September 5, 2019 at 1:00 pm

uncovered pit

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Getting high over Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saturday last, a humble narrator scuttled southwards towards that lugubrious ribbon of urban neglect which the children of Brooklyn and Queens call the Newtown Creek. My destination was the Kosciuszcko Bridge, with its new pedestrian and bicycle lane offering spectacular and formerly impossible to capture views of the waterway and the industrial zone surrounding it, framed up by the heroic skyline of the Shining City of Manhattan. One will be spending quite a bit of time up there in the coming months, and at different times of day. In the case of the shots in today’s post, they’re from the last two hours or so prior to sunset, with the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself transiting to the southwest – late summer and early fall skies.

It was an unimpressive sunset on Saturday, and I plan on handling that set of shots when the weather and sky is right. My next outing will be early in the morning, for sunrise with the light coming from the east behind me, and the bridge casting shadows on the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other people go to the beach on Labor Day weekend, or BBQ. Me? I walk back and forth over bridges for a few hours with a tripod and a camera. Literally, there were hundreds of photos on the camera’s memory card when I came home from this exploratory outing. Exploratory? Why, yes.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you have to chase after photos, and that preparation and expectation are critical. You have to be “prepared” in terms of your gear being ready for duty, and “expectation” is all about having some sort of pre scouted plan in place as far as time of day, point of view, and conditions you need to work around. The new K Bridge does have a bit of vibration transmission from the BQE traffic, for instance, so… steps are taken.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The vantage point of these shots is roughly two miles from the Newtown Creek’s intersection with the East River. The original Penny Bridge landings at the end of Greenpoint’s Meeker Avenue and Blissville’s intersection of Laurel Hill Blvd. and Review Avenue are more or less at the center of the shot. The white tanks on the left hand, or Brooklyn side, are at Apollo Street. The green space on the right side of the shot is First Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section. Manhattan is on the horizon, with the Empire State building prominently at center top.

Whew, this is probably the happiest I’ve been in a year or two. Thanks NYS DOT.


“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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