The Newtown Pentacle

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obviously recent

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End to end, and where your poop goes, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a view of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant over in Greenpoint, the newest and largest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants. The eight egg shaped structures which define the facility are bio digesters. What that means is that they contain cultures, in industrial amounts, of the same bacteria that the human gut carries. After undergoing several stages of filtration – mechanical, aeration, and so on – NYC’s brew of sewage and storm water is pumped into those eggs whereupon the bacteria go to work. The micro critters consume what’s left of nutrients in the “honey” (which is how the wastewater engineers of the DEP refer to the stuff) and both the digestive process and their biologies sterilize the stuff. The DEP spends a lot of time making sure that the environment inside the eggs is conducive to this biological action, which includes maintaining a constant interior temperature that matches that of the human body.

It seems that we humans have a remarkably inefficient gut, which is why we fart when consuming too much food. So too, does the sewer plant get gassy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those four cylinders burn off the waste gases produced within the eggs, which largely take the form of Methane. As this turns the sewer plant in Greenpoint into one of the largest point sources of “greenhouse gases” in NYC, the DEP is working with the National Grid company in pursuance of harvesting the methane, which would be chemically modified a tad and added to National Grid’s “natural gas” supply and sold to customers. One is fairly familiar with both this partnership and the process, and the wheelings and dealings behind it, and it’s pretty problematic.

The alternative, however, is to do nothing and continue pumping millions of tons of methane into the atmosphere annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Manhattan, at the corner of East 13th and Avenue D, is the Manhattan Pump House. If you’re in the City and flush a toilet anywhere south of 79th street, your “product” is coming here. I’ve been inside this structure, which plunges multiple stories down into the ground (it’s actually deeper than it is tall). All of the “flow” goes into that cylindrical structure on the left side of the facility, which is called a “surge tower.” There’s a black maelstrom visible from the catwalk, which spirals down into a pipe laid across the bottom of the East River and then eastwards deep under Greenpoint and to the plant.

So, that’s where your poop goes.


“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

June 24, 2019 at 1:00 pm

reluctant glimpse

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Tomorrow, tomorrow… it’s only…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The weather has a humble narrator down, man. This constancy of daily thunderstorms has really thrown a wrench into the works, and I find myself wistfully thinking of the anthem from the Broadway Musical “Annie” – tomorrow, there’ll be sun… its only a day away. Problem is that “tomorrow never comes,” which leads me from Broadway hopefulness back to mid 1980’s punk. We haven’t seen the sun in so long at this point that mushrooms are growing on my back. I don’t even want to think about the conditions on my beloved Newtown Creek at this point, which must be historically swollen with sewage runoff by now.

Is it just me, or has this been the wettest couple of months in the last twenty years?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of this weather has really gotten in the way of things for me. I’m not entirely sure that you haven’t seen at least one of the shots in today’s post before, which is symptomatic of some of the dramatic issues thrown down in recent weeks by the various service providers used for delivering the blog. The whole flickr issue has been nothing but a pain in the neck, and I’m quite resentful of having to fork over a bunch of money to the site host in return for them not populating my posts with lowest common denominator advertising. The final straw on that front was the arrival of one of those javascript traps you commonly see at the NY Post website that takes over the screen and is designed to ensure that you have to click on it to get your screen back.

Congratulations, Apple user, you’ve won the day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The forecast for the weekend seems to be looking up, however, so perhaps Annie is wiser than you’d normally expect. One plans on being “out there,” as I have no obligations other than to myself for a few days. I’m anxious to get out in the dark with the tripod as well, and resume the night photography work.


“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

June 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm

curious designs

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Jarring, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing I love about traveling around NYC on the water is the perspective offered. When you’re on the streets, alleys, or highways of the megalopolis it’s hard to see the big picture. The fact that the Real Estate Industrial Complex has never managed to convince the Mayors of NYC to pave over the rivers (the developers have tried, several times over the centuries, as a note, and have occasionally succeeded as with “Battery Park City”) allows the opportunity to observe the changing skyline. In the last twenty years, there’s been so much change – both by unfortunate circumstance as in the case of the Freedom Tower World Trade Center above, or through avarice as in the case of that weird apartment building with the leaky windows situated just to the right of it.

Before you ask… there was a plan floated in the 1930’s to pave over the Hudson and create an airport. The fellow running the design process for the quixotic Sunnyside Yards deck proposed filing in the East River between Lower Manhattan and Governor’s Island during the Bloomberg years in pursuance of creating a new neighborhood called “Lolo,” and the current Mayor of NYC wants to expand Manhattan into the Hudson and East River by about a half mile in the name of climate resiliency. A protective wall of condominiums to protect the Financial District.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The skyline of LIC is one of the most altered places in the entire City. Ten years ago, when I started consciously documenting the place, there were four large residential buildings in Hunters Point, and there was the Citibank Sapphire Megalith. Today, it’s hard to point out the megalith to passerby, as it’s been obscured in its primacy by new construction. There’s no talk, yet, of expanding the land into the water in LIC, but that’s because a compliant political establishment here in Queens welcomes the presence of Real Estate Industrial Complex activity in upland properties. Keep an eye on Northern Blvd. between Steinway Street and Woodside Avenue in the coming years.

Just the other night, somebody I know who’s a “player” here in Queens was opining that the recent alteration in rent regulations law that occurred in Albany signaled the end of big development and an impending cessation of new construction. He said that “all the big projects are going to stop, and the developers would be pulling out of preexisting arrangements.” Pfah.

As if.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I look forward to some future era when it doesn’t rain every day – but I find it difficult to believe that after expensively manipulating the City Planning process, and striking deals with every donation hungry advocacy and political organization you can imagine, paying architects and engineers – you’d pull out of the chance to reap the dreams of avarice. You invest a dollar in pursuance of it turning into a thousand dollars overnight, and then pull away from the deal because you’re only going to make $999 off the project?

There’s no crying in baseball.


“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.

dread induced

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Better late than never?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the late post, and for the lack of meat on the bone. Back tomorrow with something decidedly more substantial than an abstraction of the superstructure of the Grand Street Bridge over my beloved Creek.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“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

June 13, 2019 at 3:17 pm

swiftly followed

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Picking up after yourself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You know things have gone “over the top” when a humble narrator is the one telling everybody else that it’s time to police the area, grab a broom or a sponge, and start cleaning things up. I’m notoriously uncaring about such matters, other than when hygiene and food safety are involved. You should see my office desk. Saying that, there’s just junk and crap scattered everywhere these days and it’s depressing. It’s also recursive. If you see a lot of garbage lying about, your societal cue to avoid adding to it is cancelled out. Might as well chuck that beverage container into the pile over there, or toss some other discard about. Leave some construction debris, illegally dumped yes, on a street corner in Queens and watch it multiply almost as if by magic.

Remember, in NYC, legality is determined by the proximity of the Police. Things you shouldn’t do according to statute are illegal only when the Cops are around, when they’re not… well… how’s that “war on drugs” going these days? Speed limits for traffic? There any cops around? Ride my bike on the sidewalk and against traffic? You get the idea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The photo above and the one below were captured on the Eastern side of the Newtown Creek last Monday. The after effects of that week long banding of thunderstorms is on display in the one below, showing the garbage pile along the shoreline, deposited into the water column by the “CSO” or Combined Sewer Outfall system. The shot above is from right alongside the Grand Street Bridge, where the NYC DEP has been operating part of their newly installed aeration system. Basically an aquarium bubble wand, the aeration system is designed to increase oxygen levels in the water and promulgate the biologies one would expect and hope for from a local waterbody – fishies, shrimpies, crabbies, birdies, and so on. Anoxic conditions in the water caused by bacterial invasions from the CSO’s have plagued Newtown Creek since the American Civil War. Ship’s Captains used to sail into the Creek to rid their wooden hulls of worms and barnacles, after all.

What the aeration system has done, which I do not believe was anticipated by those who promoted and engineered it – as well as forcing DEP into building the thing (I’m looking at you, Gary from DEC) – is creating a “meringue” of cooking oils, grease, petroleum, and garbage which has formed into a filmy foamy skin on the water’s surface and all along the littoral zone shorelines. This meringue is now choking out anything it manages to coat, which brings us back to the fishies, shrimpies, and crabbies. Best laid plans of mice and men, and Gary from DEC, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is from the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road shoreline, captured on the same day as the one above. Notice how the meringue border is forming an edge with the surface water of Newtown Creek, and the way that the garbage and “floatables” are being constrained by it and pushed against the shoreline? Right in the center of the channel is the aeration system, which causes big belches of bubbles to break the surface. It’s reminiscent of the storytelling from old Godzilla movies in appearance, showing the ocean boiling right where the big G was about to appear from. The kinetics of the water breaking and bubbling up in the center of the channel are designed to increase oxygenation by introducing surface turbulence. What they’re doing, however, is carrying the bottom waters (and likely the Black Mayonnaise sediment bed) up. Theoretically, they’re also introducing bacteria and viruses into the air column. Demonstrably, the currents created by the system are driving the meringue and garbage into the littoral zone along the sides of the channel.

So, why’s that an issue? The shallows and tidal areas are where you’d expect to find shellfish attaching themselves to anything they can. Filter feeders like the oyster or the ribbed mussel can process hundreds of gallons of water a day. They literally eat the organic materials out of the polluted water and piss out clean water. In terms of “energy” and expense spent in cleaning the water up, and counteracting our societal tendencies towards pouring raw sewage into inland waterways like Newtown Creek, seeding the littoral zone with millions of filter feeders is the way to go. Unfortunately, the aeration system is now creating a shoreline blanket of greasy filth which precludes that.

Oysters won’t do squat where plastic bottles are concerned, of course. For that you’d need a platoon of specially trained Raccoons.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“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

June 6, 2019 at 1:00 pm

grinding halts

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Problems not of my making are annoying.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One continues to struggle against changes made without my consent or direction to paid services like WordPress and Flickr, but those are just the tip of a personal iceberg that offers a continually shifting footing. The trick to being productive in the digital age involves consistency on the part of the content creator, which is dependent upon the predictability of technologies used to bring the content forward and present it. The sudden insertion of advertising into this page, which I don’t see a dime from and is the digital equivalent of a business card stuck into your door jam, just annoys me as it breaks up the narrative offered and introduces a coarse visual esthetic. What I see being inserted involves a series of banner ads which revolve around some quack selling snake oil for sufferers of stomach issues. You? Leave a comment and let me know, I would beg of you.

Extortion is what’s at work, as WordPress is essentially blackmailing me into forking over some filthy lucre to them in order to make the ads stop, and causing the site to work and look the way it used to. It’s not like I’m freeloading, Newtown Pentacle is already, and has been, coughing up money annually for the privilege of publishing with WordPress. WordPress just wants more. They want to monetize me, and by extension – you. Apologies are offered, I should have this situation solved soon but it means forking over extortion monies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The service which serves the photos here is Flickr, which has been owned by Yahoo for more than a decade and was recently purchased by an outfit called Smugmug. The Smugmug people are modernizing a lot of things at Flickr right now, but a particularly annoying “gotcha” they’ve introduced bars me from logging into my paid account via the desktop computer which I use to process and deliver photos via. This has added to my workload in several annoying ways, making even the rather straightforward task of setting up posts from a template labor intensive. My desktop is a few years old, but still quite capable at doing what I need it to. The technology companies seeking to monetize me, however, are all fairly insistent that I should buy a new box, which would aid them in their profit seeking. A new box would see me paying a monthly subscription fee to Adobe, give Apple further opportunities to isolate me into their walled garden, and remove any vestige of control over the desktop environment that I currently have.

Today’s post was constructed using three different devices, when I used to use just one. That’s how many “workarounds” are now involved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can’t fight City Hall, don’t be a luddite and embrace change, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, right?

As a note, I remember installing Adobe Illustrator off of about a dozen floppy discs onto one of the first Macs with a color screen at a Madison Avenue agency back in the early 90’s. I’ve been around the digital world since it emerged, and have profited off of my technical acumen and understanding of it over the last three decades. Tech companies have always been somewhat predatory, but we seem to have entered a new era in this regard. I don’t mind paying out for technologies, but forced upgrades accompanied by a diminishment of services enrages a humble narrator.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“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

June 3, 2019 at 1:30 pm

ahead indefinitely

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Which seat should I take? It’s Friday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 24, 2019 at 11:30 am

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