The Newtown Pentacle

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physician whispered

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Pedestrian unfriendly, I tell you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “angles’ between neighborhoods, which is the term I use for those “neither here nor there” spots you encounter around Queens, are seldom friendly to pedestrian pursuits. The corner of Northern Blvd. and 31st street, where Northern also transmogrifies into its ancestral name of Jackson Avenue, forms the angle between the Dutch Kills and Astoria zones. Y’know what? I’m not going to fall into the trap of describing the exact borders of Astoria, Woodside, Ravenswood, Dutch Kills, or Astoria.

If I did, somebody or group of bodies would excoriate and ridicule, scold or dismiss. One such as myself is too delicate of constitution to chance recrimination.

Fascination with the trails of light offered by automotive traffic continues. Additionally, given how dark and forbidding this section of Jackson Avenue normally is – due to a lack of street lighting at night and those overhead subway tracks during the day – the only time you get to visualize and marvel at the high flying structural steel is at night, due to those vehicle lights strobing about the utilitarian landscape.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured is the corner of Jackson Avenue and 29th street, where the head waters of Newtown Creek’s tributary Dutch Kills were once found, and the waterway lent its name to this section of Long Island City. That was before LIC separated itself from Newtown, and NYC consolidation, or the Queensboro Bridge, or Sunnyside Yards, or the Dual Contracts era of subway construction, or the highways – forever reshaped this fairly ancient part of Queens. There’s still a low point in the pavement where the waterway once collected into a pond, but in the deeps below all you’ll find are electrical cables, sewers, and the cut and cover tunnel which carries the tracks of the IND subways below. The tracks above, for those unfamiliar, carry rolling stock of the Astoria line subway emanating from the Queensboro Bridge towards a terminal stop at Ditmars Blvd.

In the distance is Queens Plaza, which is in the process of being converted over to high density residential usage from its former commercial and industrial zoning of the 20th century.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Realizing that I had missed a shot desired, one reversed course for a block to catch the illuminated passage of one of those Astoria line subways exiting the 31st street corridor and turning onto Jackson Avenue. Formerly, the Taxi Leasing company at the right of the shot enjoyed a gigantic parking lot for its fleet, but that lot has been developed into some new gargantua of a building. Might be rentals, or a hotel – I’m not sure. I met the fire safety director of a different hotel, while shooting this. He was out getting coffee, apparently. Nice guy.

More on Monday, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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

January 17, 2020 at 1:00 pm

Posted in newtown creek

nightmare pits

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Down the Carridor once more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found one desirous of some exercise with about two hours worth of time to get it. I left HQ and soon found myself scuttling down Northern Blvd. – or, as I call it: The Carridor. An abundance of used car lots, as well as a pernicious amount of automotive traffic, distinguishes the particular stretch of Northern Blvd., a section which one often inhabits. Until the 20th century, this part of the street was also called Jackson Avenue, just like the narrower continuation of it that snakes past the Queensboro Bridge and into LIC to its start at the corner of Vernon Blvd. The Carridor is part of NYS Route 25A, and continues eastwards from Vernon some 73 miles to Suffolk County’s Calverton. John C. Jackson is who the road was named for. The dates I’ve been able to track down for the creation of Northern Blvd., as a widened high speed road, start in 1927 and indicate that construction crews in Queens were busy throughout 1928 and possibly as late as 1929. This is hazy, though, and obscured by time.

Quite obviously, The Carridor is part of the House of Moses, as in Robert Moses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While scuttling along, this jaunty and quite cool car was encountered over on 42nd street, nearby a mechanic shop and a motorcycle dealership. This block is “one of my spots” where I often check to see if interesting automobiles might be parked along the curb. With all the car dealerships in this section, you’ll often see historic cars or even specialty kit units like the one above.

One had screwed up when leaving the house, due to having made an attempt at maintaining his personal hygiene. I was wearing my lucky “NCA” baseball hat, which had recently been washed. When donning the thing before leaving HQ, I absentmindedly adjusted the fitting on it two notches too tight. Mistake.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With my too tight hat cutting off blood flow, it soon induced a swooning vertigo in me, and the sort of mental state which normally occurs after a chance encounter with teenagers. Clear memory of the rest of my scuttle eludes, and I was forced to piece it all together after returning to HQ, from the contents of my camera’s memory card.

The horror…


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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

January 15, 2020 at 2:00 pm

Posted in newtown creek

intimate circle

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Bulging and watery… eyes staring in from the darkness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

How I’ve missed industrial Maspeth, at night, with its creepy unlit streets and often nonexistent sidewalks. The blind turns, the odiferous hint of marijuana oozing from the windows of passing cars, the discarded liquor bottles and illegal dumping… its been way too long, Queens.

Speaking of too long, as I mentioned at the start of this four day travelogue, I had left HQ in Astoria and scuttled over to the Kosciuszcko Bridge in pursuit of communion with my beloved Newtown Creek. As I was shooting the particular image above, it was noticed that my camera battery had only one bar of charge left in it. Additionally realized was that the first few drops of a prophesied rain event were beginning to pitter and patter into the automotive soot and finely shattered glass which forms those dusty dunes adorning the broken pavement of industrial Maspeth.

That’s odd, thought I, regarding the battery. Ok, I had been doing long exposure tripod shots for a bit, and it was medium cold out, but I so seldom have to change a battery “in the field” that it struck me as weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

No matter though, as a few quick actuations saw me sliding a fresh battery into the camera. I’ve always got at least one extra battery with me, one in the camera sack and another in a pants pocket. I got back to shooting, here along that malignant saraband which carrying automotive traffic between 43rd and 48th streets known as 54th Avenue, which intersects with an off ramp of the Long Island Expressway. This is a corner which the NYC DOT has missed changing the luminaire head of their street lamp over to the modern LED type, and an old style sodium lamp is pushing out orange illumination contrasting with the cold blue light of the newer system. Colormetrics! What fun. Go Mets, huh?

This is when I realized that all of the aches and pains which have been bedeviling me for the last few months had receded into an anhedonic amnesia. If you saw a creepy old guy in a black raincoat on the side of the road last week, cackling to himself briefly while working a camera, that was me feeling like me again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Making way towards Sunnyside, the rain began to drizzle insistently and I decided to had back to HQ in Astoria. One last shot of industrial Maspeth was recorded… that’s actually the corner where an Orthodox Yeshiva stood at the start of the 20th century. For some reason, the presence of a religious academy of that persuasion being based here/then is incongruous to me, and it’s story is something that’s on my research list. More to come at some point hence.

By the time I arrived at Queens Blvd., the drizzle had begun to set up into a proper rain and I decided to pull out my phone and summon a ride for the remaining interval. Somehow I had lost track of time, or perhaps I’m experiencing some sort of Newtown Creek induced missing time, as the clock revealed that it was 3 in the morning.

I was out and alone at the witching hour, in the rain, on a moonless night… and this too was… nepenthe.


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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

January 9, 2020 at 11:00 am

surprising volume

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A whole lot of garbage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The high flying pedestrian and bike lane section of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is something which I’ve been waiting to explore and exploit since I first learned of the bridge replacement project years ago. The bridge(s) officially opened last year, and I personally witnessed our Sith Lord Governor cut the ceremonial ribbon on the project with that red laser sword of his, but Darth Cuomo was fibbing when he said construction was done. The Governor would likely offer that he finds my lack of faith disturbing.

Principal construction, yes, but the contracts for this project don’t end until at least the end of 2020. Within two days of the official opening, vehicle lanes were blocked off by jersey barriers vouchsafing construction equipment and tool sheds, and orange netted wooden breastworks were once again hugging the bridge’s superstructure and perfectly visible to the children of Blissville and Maspeth. While I was on the bridge last week, for instance, a crew of Union electricians were working on perfecting the street lights illuminating the roadway. That’s the Sith way, I guess.

I’m still trying to figure out how to photograph that series of unearthly LED generated “colours out of space’ which the decorative lighting systems produce.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

See that Waste Transfer Station pictured above, found in Greenpoint?

Hostile reaction to the presence of wandering mendicant photographers over the years at this site have marked my general preoccupation with recording its splendors. Once, a brusque exchange with some hard hatted fellow driving a pickup truck resulted in a humble narrator being actively pursued as he walked quickly away from a threatened physical encounter. I lost the guy after darting across Meeker Avenue, but for a minute there I was sweating. It was August, so I was sweating anyway, but…

Don’t mess with the garbage guys, they specialize in making things disappear and go away. Newtown Creek, especially back here, isn’t Disneyworld and it’s real easy to get hurt if you don’t know the lay of the land. Say it with me – BROOKLYN.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite it all, I do love a good mound of trash.

A problem our City has, though, revolves around trucks being the primary means for transporting this material out of the City after it’s processed. Big players in this industry like Allocco Recycling and Sims Metal use maritime industrial resources to float our recyclable waste away on barges, towed by Tugboats. Waste Management has two giant facilities along the Creek which are serviced by railroad, providing the putrescent cargo which the infamous “Garbage Train” hauls through the Fresh Pond Yard and out of Queens over the Hell Gate Bridge. In either example, however, local collection trucks operated by DSNY or private carters focus their routes in on narrow corridors and intersections around the Newtown Creek, logarithmically increasing traffic in the surrounding residential neighborhoods, on their way to and from any or all of these “waste transfer stations.”

As I remind the “bicycle people” all the time, their quest for safer streets is directly related to reducing the personal waste flow of every New Yorker. According to officialdom, the average New Yorker produces about 1,300 lbs. of garbage a year. Reduce that by even a single percentile, and you’ve taken some of these trucks off the streets. Garbage, lords and ladies, will bury us all.

One wishes Darth Cuomo could fix that.


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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

January 8, 2020 at 11:00 am

faded from

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The fabulous Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The otherworldly light cast from the Koscisuzcko Bridge is like no earthly color, instead it’s like some colour out of space.

Its frequencies the other night, gauche and tacky, were magenta and near ultraviolet, and generated by LED luminaire heads mounted on the bridge’s superstructure. The richly saturated color of this radiation wreaks havoc on digital camera sensors, whose engineered color science doesn’t account for wavelengths of such an unnatural hue. The bridge light is the frequent subject of social media conjecture – on overcast nights in neighborhoods as far as ten miles away – with light pulses and coruscates soaring up to impact and stain the clouds.

Often have I seen queries and postulates offered from Queensican or Brooklynite alike as to why the vaulted cloudbanks over that legendarily undefended border between the two boroughs appears pink, purple, or red. Some theorize about extraterrestrials, others about a returned “Astoria Borealis.” I offer that the lighting design takes its cues from certain greek owned coffee shops here in Astoria, which are not noted for their decorative restraint in the area of lighting design.

Here, at the epicenter of the unearthly radiance, is the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

2.1 miles from the East River is where this volcano of LED generated light erupts nightly. The industrial zones of Blissville in Queens and eastern Greenpoint in Brooklyn are painted in whorish coloration by it, and even the preternatural darkness of Calvary Cemetery is punctured by the brightly colored display.

Darth Cuomo seeks to connect the new bridge’s lighting system to other facilities for something described as “the harbor of lights,” which will coordinate the lighting on all the structures which the Governor’s mailed fist controls for special events. If the Mets ever win a pennant, for instance, count on seeing a strobing blue and orange pattern pulsing from of the Empire State Building and then out to all of the NYS owned bridges and tunnels. It should be quite a bizarre sight, as the colour out of space here at Newtown Creek permeates out to the entire megalopolis.

Soon, we shall all know of the colour, and it will be a part of our lives just as we will be a part of its.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is actually a surprising amount of vibration, flexibility, and movement engineered into the new Kosciuszcko Bridge. This is somewhat problematic for my pursuits, regarding long exposure night time shots from its walkway. I can tell you that the fenceline on the bridge has vertical bars that are about 90mm apart from each other, and that my favorite camera lens is about 87mm in width. I would also suggest that I had absolutely nothing to do with this fact, and that I didn’t make it a point of injecting myself into the construction project’s community advisory group in the hope of avoiding the installation of a chain link fence in favor of some other design a bit friendlier to camera work. Saying that, there’s a lot of vibration and sway to deal with when a heavy truck blasts by on the BQE doing 50mph.

Unnatural light and swaying vibration, automotive exhaust, waste transfer stations, the vaporous emanations of a Federal Superfund site on a January night… nepenthe.


“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

January 7, 2020 at 11:00 am

into life

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Back in the saddle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Infirmity is conquered… sort of… and a humble narrator is back on the beat.

The first 2020 nighttime photowalk saw me scuttling southwards from the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria all geared up and ready to go. To make it official, I keyed up one of my favorite audiobook iterations of “The Call of Cthulhu” on my headphones as I left Astoria about 9 in the evening. The chosen path carried me across a Robert Moses widened stretch of Jackson avenue which modernity calls Northern Blvd., up Laurel Hill Blvd. (now known as 43rd street), through Middleburgh (aka Sunnyside) and over to Blissville’s border with Berlin (West Maspeth). My goal was to arrive at the modern day version of the Penny Bridge, the Kosciuszcko if you must, and commune with that loathsome ribbon of municipal neglect and hidden history known simply as the Newtown Creek.

For too long have I been missing her. My path was chosen for its lines of ley, and carried me past the great polyandrion of the Roman Catholics, called First Calvary Cemetery. Why the lines of ley, you ask? Simply, my batteries are low.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual eastern border of historic Long Island City – on the southern side of the Long Island Expressway, Laurel Hill Blvd. – retains its ancient nomen, rather than masquerading as “43rd street” as it does on the northern side. Laurel Hill is the landform into which the farm and homestead of the Alsop family were built, and its geological prominences were reduced by Irish and German laborers not too long after the Roman Catholic Church purchased the Alsop properties in 1848. On the eastern side of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which sits firmly upon the pre consolidated border, is industrial West Maspeth, once known as Berlin. There is a 43rd street in Maspeth, but it doesn’t concur with the southern iteration of the street, for which you can thank Robert Moses and the adoption of the so called Philadelphia plan in the early 20th century. Maspeth’s 43rd street was once called the shell road, and was paved with crushed oyster carapace. That’s before the forgotten Yeshiva, or Phelps Dodge.

The closer I got, the more I felt it calling. Like some great subterrene drum, whose emanations burst within my chest in inimitable sense impacts… a sound which certain groupings of the aboriginal Lenape would have pronounced “Hohosboco,”or the “Bad Water Place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Upwards on the path went a humble narrator, ever upwards.

Like every other piece of wind blown trash, discarded toy, or intestinal discharge in New York City, Newtown Creek is where I belong and end up. No destination is more final, nor more desirable for one such as myself.

Here amongst the ghosts, and in the night wind, belong I.


“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.

when interrupted

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When the weather outside is frightening…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heroic amounts of rain impeded one in his various goals last week, but after a long and unwanted orthopedic hermitage, I was not going to let a torrential downpour or five get in the way of things. There were Newtown Creek meetings to attend, holiday parties to show my face at, and all sorts of things which needed doing. Also, quite frankly, the level of boredom which the last month and half of sitting around has induced is nearly at a toxic level.

I decided that the narrowest amount of camera gear which I absolutely needed to carry around with me was going to have to suffice. Nothing that didn’t fit into the pockets of my filthy black raincoat or my hoodie sweatshirt was ultimately required for nocturnal movement in a wet city.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does not like employing umbrellas, given that I’ve only got two arms. Were one an arachnid rather a primate, I’d embrace the things. Every time I’m forced to use one of these portable rain yurts, it occurs to me that it would be efficacious to have it mounted somehow in the manner of a backpack. Having the handle of an umbrella affixed to the spinal column would allow me the use of both hands. I’ve tried various methodologies over the years to jury rig umbrellas to my torso, but no satisfactory solution to my problem has emerged, other than the realization that I would require additional limbs to manage the thing and operate the camera simultaneously.

Accordingly, my various endeavors last week saw me using no umbrella at all, and sticking to the “rain shadows” offered by structures. My camera was worn under the filthy black raincoat, and deployed at opportune moments. More often than not, I only had a single lens with me, the 24mm f2.8 pancake model which has been mentioned before. When I did carry a second, it was a 50mm prime, but I don’t recall using it all last week. It’s a challenge safely changing lenses in a driving rain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With the exception of the first shot in today’s post, I didn’t use a tripod or camera support mechanism at all during this rainy interval. It was nice, actually, to just wave the device around and not have to worry about the esoteric and highly specific checklist I normally observe during night shooting excursions.

One has been intending to sharpen up his wet weather camera technique anyway, so last week ended up serving me well.


“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

December 16, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Posted in newtown creek

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