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latent fright

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Review Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The property at the left handed side of the shot above is all that remains, original building wise, of Standard Oil’s Queens County Oil Works. Workers at Standard referred to this facility as the “Candle Factory,” I’m told, as their principal product output involved the handling and manufacture of materials which would be incorporated into road flares and other fuel “candles” made from petroleum derivates like naphtha and paraffin. The footprint of the old Queens County Oil Works site incorporates the properties of the first large oil works on Newtown Creek, but that’s another story.

On the right hand (or eastern side) of the shot is First Calvary Cemetery’s great masonry wall, which contains the tomb legions.

The (presumptively) Consolidated Edison people have been busy for the last six months or so on that eastern side of the street replacing a few utility poles and stringing new high tension electrical wires between them, as well as digging out underground vaults for and then installing new electrical transformers in.

The new wires they’ve arrayed interact with tree branches growing off of the masonry elevation’s crown at Calvary, the interaction thereof producing eerie sounds as they sway in the wind. There’s a “clacking” staccato when the branches strike the wires, and a deep basso sound is produced when the wires rub sonorously against the wooden boughs. It sounds a great deal like some grandiose orchestra is playing a weird and alien tune, and kind of freaks you out.

Again, not wearing headphones nor listening to music or an audiobook at the moment, in an attempt to be 100% aware of my surroundings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One often opines to elected officialdom and NYS regulator alike about the overload of weight that the utility people place onto those poles of creosoted wood, which carry the abundant wiring that keeps our civilization powered and connected here in Western Queens. I notice things, and this thing is concerning.

To wit, observe the bowing of that utility pole in the shot above, at the corner of 37th street and Review Avenue. The only thing keeping this wooden cylinder from snapping in half, as this is an older utility pole and not a newly installed one, is a conduit of iron piping which is acting like a spine.

A non emergency problem to solve in a different time, I say. Another reason to survive all this is looking forward to annoying the NYS Utility Board regulators on this topic – and looking forward to it, I am. One was conspiring with Assemblyman Brian Barnwell’s office on this topic, regarding the utility pole situation back in Astoria, before CoronAmerica manifested its ugly face and the world went to hell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Observationally speaking, I’m not sure how the medallion taxi industry is going to survive this crisis. Everywhere that I’ve been marching about, which as you’ve seen here are the abandoned industrial streets of Long Island City, entire fleets of yellow cabs are sitting inert. Whereas the FEMA people famously have their “Waffle House” index to gauge the impact of hurricanes and storms, I have a yellow cab index.

I also have a drug dealer index. Now, I’m not in that particular market, but I keep an eye on it and periodically check in with people I know who are narcotic enthusiasts about the supply and demand situation. I like to know commodity prices. It seems that a “weed drought” is on, and that the heroin people are literally climbing the walls trying to find a fix. Don’t know many coke people these days, but apparently that’s another imported commodity which is becoming ever harder to acquire.

Also, on a personal note, today is the day in 2011 that we lost my Newtown Creek Alliance pal Bernie Ente.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, March 30th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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.

malignity now

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Being careful.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is operating under the theory that a hang nail could end up being fatal right now, as could a fractured bone or infected pimple. Accordingly, one is being exceptionally “intentional” and paying attention to every action before executing it. Every footfall is considered, as are the various pathways I’m using on my “constitutional” walks. When I find myself heading towards a place where a population of humans might be encountered, an navigational alteration is instituted. Even while scuttling along the familiar 1848 vintage fence lines of First Calvary Cemetery here in LIC’s Blissville section, an area not exactly known for its crowds, one is wary.

Given my notoriously paranoid sensibilities, innate desires for solitude and isolation, and general distrust of the human infestation… well, let’s just say that I’m a bit better prepared for the situation we all find ourselves in than most. Saying that, I’m really worried about the folks for whom “normal” life is psychologically unbearable. There’s a saying which goes something like “in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.” I mentioned this to a friend of mine recently, a fine young fellow long diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (a population of people partially defined by innate social distancing and a severe desire not to be emotionally or personally engaged with or to be physically touched), and commented that he is now poised to lead us all into the future here in CoronAmerica.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The streets in the industrial zone were eerie quiet, but there was still a bit of activity amongst the so called “essential” trades – garbage, trucking, transit. I normally stick out like a sore thumb on purpose, hoping to not get squished by a truck or just being so obsequious while I’m photographing things that the various security guards and cops who notice me figure that I can’t possibly “be up to something.”

That’s the new Koscisuzcko Bridge pictured above, as seen from Review Avenue, with the fence of Calvary Cemetery behind me. Calvary, like most of the cemeteries in Western Queens and North Brooklyn, was created in response to a series of epidemics which swept through NYC at the start of the 19th century. See what I did there? Topical historical reference…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The drive to eliminate burials in the crowded city center, which were thought to be the cause of several of the Typhus and Cholera epidemics that scythed through the tenements of pre Civil War Manhattan, began with the Rural Cemeteries Act of 1847.

The new law demanded that the denominational religious organizations of the time acquire land outside of Manhattan in pursuance of creating cemeteries for,their flocks. First Calvary was established by the Roman Catholics in 1848, and their funerary operations continued to expand well into the 20th century here in Queens – there’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Calvary properties due east of Blissville, over in Woodside.

Pictured above is the former location of the Long Island Railroad’s Penny Bridge station, currently occupied by the green box cars of the so called Garbage Train, where mourners from Brooklyn would enter into Queens for funerary ritual and rite.

Tomorrow, a bit more from Blissville. Stay safe, lords and ladies, and leave some comments for a humble narrator as I could use the virtual company.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, March 30th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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.

ancient overmantle

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Walking in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent night found one scuttling about in the darkness while drawn towards the weird illuminations of the Kosciuszcko Bridge, which spans the fabulous Newtown Creek. Pictured above is the northeast corner of LIC’s First Calvary Cemetery, a photo which was shot using a somewhat different technique than the now tried and true methodology I use for night shots, which is why it looks a bit “different.”

An observation made during the walk, from Astoria to Blissville via Sunnyside, was that since all of the humans are staying in at night now, and automotive traffic is at an all time low, the normally furtive eidelons of nature are free to wander about.

Lots and lots of Raccoons, Opossums, and Rodents of all typologies were spotted along the way. Proof of what I’ve been saying for years, that if we were able to allow the mechanisms of the natural environment just a little bit of room, we’d lick the various problems facing our civilization pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, it’s taken the near collapse of that civilization to prove my point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Growing up in a home where the reaction to leaving a faucet dripping was greeted with the same emotional and tangential severity as having discharged a firearm, one developed a series of coping mechanisms which have served me well over the years and have gained me the reputation of being “good in a crisis.” Unlike most, when I see that the house is on fire, my first instinct isn’t to assign blame but rather to pick up a hose or fire extinguisher and fix the problem in the most expeditious fashion possible. “Plenty of time to freak out afterwards” I always say. I guess I learned something from my batshit crazy mother after all, which at least takes the form of how and when one should react to random stressors.

Saying that, even my legendary ability to subsume and bury emotional stress is fracturing. Periodic walks like the ones described in recent weeks are sanity inducing.

Just as I was shooting the image above, a couple of plain clothes NYPD officers rolled up on me and began asking the familiar “why are you taking pictures of the bridge” queries. The encounter was short and non eventful, but it actually made me feel “normal” for a few minutes. Afterwards, rumination revealed that whereas I’ve had this exact same conversation with private security dozens of times in the last few years, it had been a long while since I had to have it with a badge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not having the super bright lights of the new Koscisuzcko Bridge blow out the highlights of any night shot they’re in is still a challenge which I haven’t been able to conquer, in a single exposure, yet. The middle shot in today’s post was severely underexposed to compensate for the bridge lighting, as I wanted to get the “red, white, and blue” pattern it was displaying. The shadows were “pushed” during processing to allow for detail in the shot. One technique I’ve experimented with is to do two exposures and then marry them together, but it’s a lot of work to get them to look “right.” I prefer to “get it in one” and whereas I know all about HDR, that technique really isn’t the answer either.

Luckily, I have lots of time on my hands to experiment. How are you spending your Quarantine, Lords and Ladies?

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, March 30th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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.

snorting choke

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Concretized.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The head of Dutch Kills, the sole surviving tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek in Long Island City, hosts a concrete company called NYCON. This is pretty busy operation under normal circumstances and difficult to get photos of do to the hustle and bustle. Also, I generally avoid photographing the concrete guys, for certain reasons, including that they don’t seem to like being photographed – not one little bit. The nice thing about the Corona Virus quarantine, therefore, is that they don’t seem to have been rated as “essential” and my recent constitutional walk in LIC offered an opportunity to record a few of their industrial splendors.

This is from 47th Avenue and 27th street, if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quite a few people have asked me if I’m worried or scared or whatever when I’m out at night, and in particular during the Quarantine. A few have chided me for being out at all, but the reality of my life is that I’m under Doctor’s orders to keep moving. Without exercise, it won’t be long before my arterial system narrows and plugs, and then I’ll find myself having to spend time in a hospital during an epidemic. Not only do I never, ever, want to experience the cardiac ward of a hospital again – given the current circumstances I could easily find myself in one of the FEMA or USACE wards being set up around the City. I’d be lying if I don’t say I was a bit paranoid on the deserted streets, but paranoid is good during times of trouble and tumult. Stay frosty.

I am not going to find myself sleeping in a hospital bed at the Javitz Center if I can help it. Have you been to the Javitz Center?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever the risks, one must continue to turn the earth under his feet. I’m used to being lonely out here in the Creeklands. At night, in particular, there are so few humans about that it’s arguably one of the safest places to be when a deadly virus is being passed about. There’s also so much to see, and photograph. For a couple of hours, one is able to forget about the apocalyptic situation we are all suffering through. Get away from the news feeds and the constant dirge of nightmarish import.

I NEED that in addition to the exercise. It’s literally all I’ve got right now.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

April 2, 2020 at 11:00 am

only acquiesce

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Scuttle, scuttle, scuttle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One keeps on finding himself at the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek, here in Long Island City, for some bizarre reason. Partially, it’s the lack of people one might encounter along the way. On the other hand, it’s a familiar place to me and therefore comforting. Pictured is the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

Dutch Kills, as the United States Army Corps of Engineers so rendered it in the early 20th century, averages about 150 feet of space between its bulkheads. It’s spanned by several bridges, and this particular single bascule drawbridge – which it’s owners at the NYC Dept. of Transportation will tell you – is the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. Replacing an earlier wooden drawbridge powered by a donkey walking on a wheel, the modern HPA Bridge was originally erected in 1910 as a double bascule drawbridge with electric motors. The masonry, bridge house, and basic structure of the thing are original to that effort but in the 1980’s a retrofit of the bridge eliminated the double bascule mechanism with a simpler to maintain single bascule one.

What’s a bascule, you ask?

That’s the section of a draw bridge’s roadway which tilts upwards to allow egress to a passing vessel. See? You learned something in Quarantine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What is a man? What has he got? Frank Sinatra asked that.

When is a road not a road, and a city street is not technically a street? When it’s 29th street between Hunters Point and 47th avenues in Long Island City. There are several roads and streets around here which are on the NYC map, host NYC street names and signs, and you can get mail delivered to structures which use those designations as addresses, but they aren’t actually city streets. Railroad access roads, they are called, and are the actual property of the MTA/Long Island Railroad. 29th street is one of them. If you know what to look for, beyond tracks rising up out of the asphalt, these streets are easy to spot. Long gentle curves between the corners, rather than straight as an arrow, and if the distance between the corners is curiously long… you’ve found a good candidate for “railroad access road.” You have to check the official record, of course, but 29th street alongside Dutch Kills is definitively part of this classification.

Back in the early 20th century, there used to be a “terminal railway” setup in these parts which provided “last mile” service to the factories and warehouses of “America’s Workshop” as LIC was known. This “Degnon Terminal railway” split off from the Lower Montauk tracks along Newtown Creek via the Montauk Cutoff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of blocks from Dutch Kills is the former Waldes Koh-I-Noor four building complex, which used to be able to accommodate a train set running between its various buildings. Waldes were manufacturers of milliners supplies – pins and needles, buttons, snaps. The metal pants zipper was innovated here during the First World War, I’m told. During the Second World War, Waldes ceased production of clothing items and retooled their factory for war production, manufacturing the internal components of artillery shells for both the Army and Navy.

Boy, do I love LIC. I guess this is part of the reason I find myself wandering around here so often. The stories I can tell… and wish I was telling… but somehow I don’t think that I’m going to be leading many walking tours this year.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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.

queer noises

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Newtown Creek is always fabulous, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills splits off from the main stem of the Newtown Creek waterway about 7/10th of a mile from the larger water body’s intersection with the East River. Long Island City’s Dutch Kills is a fully canalized tributary, and proceeds on a generally northern trajectory. The water here is highly polluted with both industrial and sewage contaminants. Dutch Kills gets its moniker from the colonial era in NYC history. There’s another tributary of Newtown Creek in Brooklyn called English Kills. Simply, LIC is where the Dutch settled and Brooklyn is where the English put down stakes.

Dutch Kills used to have its own system of tributaries and tidal wetlands, and stretched back (as a navigable waterway) into Queens nearly all the way to Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wooden structures you might notice around bridges are called “Dolphins” and they are usually constructed from creosote treated lumber and galvanized steel rope. The job of these items is to keep a vessel from getting into an allission with the bridge. “Allission” you ask? Yes. That’s when a moving “thing” interacts with a static thing. When two moving “things” interact it’s a collision, so if two vessels were to smash into each other they “collide” whereas if you were to run a vessel up against the dolphin or bridge they would “allide.” Maritime law is quite specific about this.

The dolphins pictured today vouchsafe the 1908 Borden Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Borden Avenue, and the “Empty Corridor” thereof which I’ve been walking you through this week, one resumed his westerly course and continued on. That’s when I noticed something missing. Holy Moley!

More on that tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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.

horror forcing

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The empty corridor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue, or at least the section of it pictured in today’s post, was officially designated as such in 1868, after an engineered “plank road” was erected through the swampy low lands surrounding the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. It was primarily designed as a commercial corridor, connecting the upland farms and dairies of Maspeth and Woodside with the docks in Hunters Point at the East River. Borden… Borden Milk… Roads were named for where they went back then.

The wetlands of Dutch Kills were filled in at the start of the 20th century, and the railroad took advantage of all the new dry land to hurl spurs out to the various industrial buildings which were erected on the reclaimed flatlands. LIRR still crosses Borden Avenue several times a day at street grade, about a mile west of where these shots were gathered.

The Long Island Expressway truss defines the section of Borden between Greenpoint Avenue and Review Avenue, and the blighted area beneath it is something I refer to as the “Empty Corridor.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills itself was rendered into its current form and course at the start of the 20th century, shortly after NYC consolidation in 1898. A huge land reclamation project was being conducted by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company – the creation of the Sunnyside Yards – was occurring about a half mile to the north and west and a construction magnate named Michael Degnon began buying up the wetlands surrounding Dutch Kills from the estate of a former Governor of New York State. Degnon used excavated fill from another one of his projects – the East River subway tunnel which carries the modern day 7 line train – to create dry land around Dutch Kills. Concurrently, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was busy creating industrial bulk heads and “canalizing” the entire Newtown Creek and its tributaries.

That’s the Borden Avenue Bridge pictured, the existing version of which was erected in 1908. It’s not the first Borden Avenue Bridge, but it’s the one that’s stood the test of time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While all this tumult and “terraforming” was going on, the Long Island Railroad was investing in the LIC area as well. The Lower Montauk trackage, as it’s known today, connects the Fresh Pond Yard with the East River along the northern shore of Newtown Creek. There are two railroad bridges spanning Dutch Kills. One is DB Cabin, a turnstile bridge which is still quite active but cannot turn or open, and it provides a direct track link between the Blissville and Wheelspur Yards on the lower montauk right of way. The other is Cabin M, which leads to the Montauk Cutoff elevated tracks that formerly connected to the LIRR Main Line tracks at the Sunnyside Yards. Before all this end of the world stuff started, MTA indicated it was going to demolish Cabin M. Somehow, I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon.

As I always say, despite the fact that I call it the “empty corridor” there’s quite a lot going on down here and lots of interesting things to see on a walk in LIC.

Also, on this day in NYC history: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire occurred in 1911.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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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