The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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dyed aspect

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Sunlight, who needs it, gimme the night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Diurnalism has its benefits, sure. There’s the tan, of course, and the vitamin D production. The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself, however, often causes one to “shvitz.” Night time shvitz only occurs during periods of exertion. but the lack of ambient light is a bane for the photographically ambitious. Regardless, the shots captured which I seem to be drawn towards these days involve darkness. I’ve grown bored with dappled morning light and bold sunsets, it is feared.

Besides, night time is when true party animals come out to play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s always night in the sweating concrete bunkers offered by the MTA, which is a good place to practice low light photography. Lighting conditions are fairly uniform, and you’ve got a series of challenges to overcome down below – fast moving shiny things with bright lights moving through sooty black tunnels, weird depths of field, an abundance of signage printed on saturated color boards, and then there’s your fellow New Yorkers you have to contend with. Saying that, if you want to begin to understand low light photography, the relationship of captured color temperature with noise, and exactly how to fine tune your usage of the manual mode of your camera – use your Metrocard and get clicking.

Seriously, the MTA should hold workshops for photo people on the weekends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While this shot was being captured over by the Sunnyside Yards, a humble narrator was being assaulted by a plague of flies. Must have been something dead in the grassy knoll behind me. I also had to watch out for traffic, as there is no sidewalk on this section, which is one of those Queens things I will never understand.

How can there be no sidewalk on 43rd, a block from Northern Blvd.? Or 58th a block or two from Queens Blvd.? How did you people ever survive here in Queens before I showed up and started complaining about things to anyone who would listen? Sheesh. Growing up in Brooklyn, where “bitching” is weaponized, a sidewalk would have been complained into existence decades ago.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

provoking curiousity

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DUGABO, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have discerned by this point, one tends to circuit the Newtown Creek in its entirety about once a month.

Obviously, since I live in Queens, and specifically on the south eastern side of Astoria, the LIC and Maspeth zones are routinely visited when I stroll out for one of my constitutionals. The Brooklyn side is a bit more of a reach, especially the extant sections of English Kills which kiss up against the Ridgewood and Bushwick borderlands. The other night, while getting my gumption up in preparation of conducting a walking tour for Atlas Obscura, I wandered down to the Greenpoint Avenue street end to see what’s what and wave the camera around a bit. I find my time spent at the Creek and behind the camera to be rather introspective.

My beloved Creek never disappoints… thought I…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

then one laughed a bit after spotting this wry bit of signage adorning a parked car…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

commented to myself about the indomitable will to live that this patch of moss, found on the bulkhead’s edge, is possessed of…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

pondered my role in the universe, then I grew concerned about an itchy spot on my left leg, while spending way too much time framing this throwaway shot of some oil tackle…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

wondered if some new form of inorganic life was organizing itself here in the poison cauldron of the Newtown Creek…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

and that’s when I realized that time was growing short and that I had to get over to the meetup spot so that I could check everybody in for the tour.

Yes, my inner dialogue is that pedantic. My leg still itches a bit, and it’s possible that I may have picked up some poison ivy contamination on Sunday, or it’s just leg cancer. Who can say?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 3, 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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2018 at 1:59 pm

stifled oaths

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A bit more Creekery, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Middle part of last week, I had to get together with some of my colleagues at Newtown Creek Alliance to discuss and strategize about a project we’re involved with over in Long Island City, and we decided to do the meeting in the early evening at the NCA offices at 520 Kingsland Avenue over in Greenpoint.

It was a misty day, with crazy dark clouds blowing through the sky, which made for nice atmospherics and a couple of times during the meeting I excused myself and headed out onto the green roof to shoot some shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our topic of focus was the Montauk Cutoff project, which is a whole other story.

Me? I was fascinated by the contrast being offered by the illuminations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself setting to west and the restless clouds rolling through the sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east, and looking towards the Metro Fuel facility, you could see some sort of fiery industrial process at work.

I had an urge to find a really long stick and try to toast a marshmallow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking home afterwards via the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, on the Blissville side of the Newtown Creek, I noticed that the NY & Atlantic outfit were getting busy with the whole garbage train business. Shot this through a convenient hole in the fence on the bridge, and noticed that the train set was sitting there in a static position so I quickened my pace and got down to the dangerous intersection of Review Avenue and Van Dam street as quickly as possible.

Didn’t have the time to slip on my reflective safety vest, which is kind of stupid but I’ve always been fairly lucky as far as not getting killed by trains and trucks – so far.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For some reason, whenever I seem to get into position for this sort of shot, I instantly need to pee. I’m talking dancing around, shifting weight from foot to foot like a five year old need. Didn’t have an inkling of it on the bridge, and took care of business prior to leaving the offices not fifteen minutes prior.

Biology… it affects us all. Me moreso than others.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, the NY&A folks didn’t keep me waiting too long before the signal arms came down and they advanced along the tracks of the Lower Montauk branch, exiting the Blissville Yard and heading eastwards a short distance to the Waste Management company’s transfer station found a short distance away.

WM handles the curbside black bag, or putrescent, waste collected by the Sanitation Department.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For short distance hauling, the NY&A folks use this “critter” which is a slow moving but powerful engine unit. It’s job is to move empty cars into loading position at the waste transfer station and then move the full ones back to the Blissville Yard where they’ll be coupled to other full boxes. At some indeterminate time in the late night, a “proper” locomotive engine will arrive and haul the train set away.

Our garbage goes on quite a scenic journey, through the Fresh Pond Yard and over the Hell Gate Bridge via the NY Connecting Railroad. It heads up the Hudson after visiting the Bronx, and eventually crosses over onto the continent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By this point, it felt as if my bladder was about to explode, but I had to get in a couple more shots.

Exigent prioritization of such matters are the razors edge of a humble narrator’s existential experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, the operator of the train set moved out of eyeshot shortly, and a misdemeanor or two occurred.

At least there’s now a semi clean spot on the Blissville side of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, albeit one that smells slightly of urine.


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

drowsy realisation

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Newtown Creek, where all things are possible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, I’m hanging out with a photographer friend of mine, and she’s got a car. Therefore, since she’s become quite enamored with my beloved Creek, I decide to show her a few of the less than obvious locations where interesting shots can be attained. One of these spots is one that I seldom visit, the Maspeth Avenue street end on the Brooklyn side.

The Maspeth Avenue street end on the Queens side is the Maspeth Avenue Plank road, as a note, which I’m at quite frequently. The Brooklyn side is a pain in the neck to get to on foot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason it’s a pain in the neck is that there really aren’t any sidewalks, one side of the street is defined by the fences of the National Grid site, and it’s a long “road to nowhere” which doesn’t offer any possible “escape route” should anyone take issue with a photographer wandering around – which happens occasionally. The other side of the street hosts a series of waste transfer stations, vehicle impound lots, and concrete plants. All of those businesses are defined by Maspeth Avenue on the street facing or western side of the street, and by the English Kills tributary on the eastern side of their lots. In recent years, there’s been an abundance of homeless folks living out of their cars camping out along the National Grid side. If I get in trouble on this section of Maspeth Avenue while on foot, I’m pretty much screwed as I’d have to walk or run to get away from it. Since my friend had a car, we could zip down to the water and do our thing, then zip back out.

It’s pretty desolate and lonely back there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The water quality is abysmal in this section, which is one of the narrowest points on the Newtown Creek. It’s where Furman Island used to be, just across the water on the Queens side, and the DEP has installed an aeration system in the narrow which creates weird lipid jellies of foamy garbage and sewer solids that collect up along the bulkheads.

The industrial people use the street itself as a private lot, storing materials and heavy equipment wherever they want to.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One climbed up on a giant pile steel beams for the shot above, which gave me a vantage over to the Queens side.

Someone has been using these steel beams as a shelter wall, and the signs of occupancy were all over the place at the Maspeth Avenue street end – clothing, suitcases, chairs, bedding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This suitcase in particular caught out attentions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

‘Nuff said. 


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 25, 2018 at 1:30 pm

began negotiating

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A few shots from Penny Bridge, along Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a busy weekend for a humble narrator, and had to show my face in public for a couple of events. Had a bit of time afterwards that was productively spent, as a photographer friend and I hit a couple of “sweet spots” along that troublesome cataract of municipal neglect called the Newtown Creek whereupon I got busy with the tripod and the clicking.

Pictured above, the Koscisuzcko Bridge project is moving along nicely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One seems to be obsessed with longish exposures of rotting piles these days, can’t tell you why. Give me a centuried mass of lumber groaning with ship worms and wood lice sticking out of the water and I’m happy.

Other people like seeing family or friends, I’ve got decaying maritime infrastructure. What can I tel you, I’m all ‘effed up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking westward, towards the Shining City.

See y’all tomorrow, and check out the offer for the “Infrastructure Creek” walk I’ll be conducting on October 1st.


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 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

billious congestion

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few shots from my travels and travails over the last couple of weeks assail you today, lords and ladies. Pictured above, the NYC DEP has been working on a water main replacement project here amongst the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria for the last month or two, which has necessitated the occasional interruption of residential water service. The access, or manhole (as its called colloquially), cover which one of our municipal heroes is standing upon vouchsafes the subterrene valve which controls such service on the corner that Newtown Pentacle HQ is found on.

Who knew?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That bulkhead collapse on Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary I told you about shifted one of the derelict oil barges, long abandoned, from its decades long position. That’s the black mayonnaise sediment I’m always talking about exposed to the air in the shot above. The particular day I was shooting this was a dicey one due to a heavy rainfall and high atmospheric humidity which caused my camera to malfunction. A few of the mechanical controls on the back of the thing began to “stick,” which made me nervous as heck. Luckily, after returning home and throughly cleaning the device and then leaving it wrapped in a thick and thirsty towel, everything was back to normal the next day. Whew.

Rain + humidity = bad for camera. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is seriously tired of this summer humidity crapola. I do enjoy warm weather, but not when it’s accompanied by dew points in the 70 – 80th percentiles. It’s after Labor Day, and I’m still wearing white? Gauche, I. 

That’s one of the arches of the New York Connecting Railroad leading to the Hell Gate Bridge, which is one of the defining landmarks here in Astoria. HQ is to the south of the rail aqueduct, with Astoria Blvd. with the “Ditmars side” of Astoria found to the north. The rail tracks and the Grand Central Parkway form a physical and social barrier between the two sides of the ancient village.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 21, 2018 at 1:00 pm

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