The Newtown Pentacle

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nervous overstrain

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On July 5th, I had rented a car from the Avis outfit for a couple of days in pursuance of visiting people and places well outside of the normal study area. During the daylight hours, I was driving around the neighborhoods that made me in Brooklyn, with Our Lady of the Pentacle and my pal Armstrong along. When the sun began to set, a brief interval of rain began, but I wasn’t willing to just let a rental car sit in front of HQ. I packed up the camera and drove over to the fabulous Newtown Creek.

My plan for the night involved visiting a few of the less pedestrian friendly areas which I normally skip when on foot for various reasons. Distance, cul de sacs, danger… lots of reasons. All of that is negated by having a set of wheels to scoot about with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a long dead end street on the Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek called Maspeth Avenue. Industrial in nature, it’s found directly opposite the Maspeth Plank Road site on the Queens side. Maspeth Avenue follows the course of the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek along the hazy border between Greenpoint, Bushwick, and East Williamsburgh.

For many years, the spot I had driven over to and was shooting in was known as “Gaseteria,” which was a fuel depot hosting gasoline tanks. Secretly owned by mobsters and operated at the behest of a Capo Regime named Michael Franzese, Gaseteria went out of business when the FBI found out about their diversion of millions or possibly billions of dollars of NYS taxes into the pockets of the Colombo Family. Franzese has given up “the life” and now works the evangelical circuit as a speaker and author. He’s got a YouTube channel where he discusses his misadventures and eventual (self claimed) redemption.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Gaseteria site became the address of the NYS Marshall’s Office for a while, and this is where they would tow your car to if NYS was the entity impounding it. One of the most absolutely hilarious things NYS and NYC do is siting and or establishing tow yards or impound lots in remote places that you can’t get to without a car. To wit – here’s where this spot is on a Google map.

The car I was in – with its roof – came in handy, as it had started to rain. I set up my tripod on the passenger seat and rolled down the window on that side. Cannot tell you how suspicious I must have looked.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I never cross a fenceline while on foot if I can help it. If you get into trouble while on foot, you’re just plain screwed. Given that I was behind the wheel of a rental car for a change… also, it was raining, and NYC never looks as good as it does when it’s raining. Thereby, forward!

That large tank in the background is one of the two Liquefied Natural Gas holders which the National Grid people maintain on their enormous properties in Brooklyn. This site in Greenpoint used to belong to the Brooklyn Union Gas Company, which manufactured gas there for nearly a century (creating an environmental nightmare in the process which poisoned both land and water), and is the former home of the “Maspeth Holders” which were imploded in 2001. The LNG contained within the modern system is held at cryogenic temperatures. I should mention that whereas the other energy companies along the Newtown Creek are generally pretty open about what they do and make regular attempts at “public relations” with the surrounding communities, National Grid is a “black box” and they don’t want you to even notice them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had been driving more or less constantly since about 8:30 in the morning. I was in parts of Brooklyn and Queens which I haven’t visited since the Reagan Administration, and my energy was waning. I made one last stop on my way back to Astoria, at Apollo Street in Greenpoint.

Apollo Street used to be part of the Standard Oil/Mobil operation in Greenpoint. It was the dividing line between two operational petroleum refining units – Locust Hill and Sone & Fleming. These days, it’s an abandoned street end where a lot of illegal dumping takes place. After grabbing the shot above, I rigged the camera back over to “hand held” mode and packed up my gear. The camera was sitting on the passenger seat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home, while waiting for traffic lights to change, I couldn’t help but pop out one or two more.

Luckily, just as I arrived back at HQ, a spot opened up directly in front of the place. I headed up stairs, set the camera battery to charge, and got ready for my 6-7 hours of unconscious hallucinations. The 6th was going to be another fun day, during which I’d be driving a lot and visiting places normally inaccessible to the dedicated pedestrian.


“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

August 8, 2022 at 11:00 am

watching sentinels

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One more bit of Creekery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even at three or four in the morning, it’s hard to find a thirty second interval on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge during which heavy trucks or buses aren’t passing over the double bascule drawbridge and causing it to quiver and quake. Getting any sort of usable long exposure shot from up there is a matter of luck for most. Since I give it a go every time I’m walking over it at night, the law of averages states that I’m occasionally going to be able to time it right.

That’s the new Kosciuszcko Bridge in the distance, poking its head up over the industrial zone found along Railroad Avenue in LIC’s Blissville section. That enormous smokestack is all that’s left of Van Iderstine’s fat rendering operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If “over yonder” means the Greenpoint, Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek, then over yonder that’s what used to be called the BP Amoco yard. It’s a distribution hub for petroleum products, and those tanks contain various flavors of refined products. It sits in part of the footprint of the old Standard Oil Sone and Fleming refinery complex which would one day become Mobil Oil. Across Apollo Street to the east was another Standard refinery operation – Locust Hill. Apollo Street is the epicenter of the Greenpoint Oil Pill discovery and remediation process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is actually a handheld one, looking roughly westwards across Greenpoint towards Manhattan. Remember that heavy traffic I mentioned? Never, ever stops.

Back Monday with something different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

virtually beyond

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My beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has always indulged in the habit of taking periodic breaks from visiting that flooded valley of wonder called the Newtown Creek, in pursuance of occasionally allowing my immune system to scale back a bit to normal NYC levels. Now, New York is a pig sty, and often these days it feels like it’s dirtier than it’s been in decades. As a culture, we’ve done a great job of using “Public Service Announcements” to convince the citizenry of the the efficacy of condom usage, smoking cessation, and to get teenagers in the habit of not getting pregnant as often as in generations formerly. What we’ve stopped doing, however, is convincing people that littering is bad.

Street litter ends up in the sewer grates, and then into the water. It causes the NYC DEP, who operate that science fiction like sewer plant in Greenpoint – pictured above – no end of problems. They have to strain the solids from the otherwise liquidic flow which they refer to as “honey.” These solids become landfill, ultimately, which they would have anyway if just placed in those garbage baskets on nearly every street corner – they just wouldn’t be biohazardous waste as well, having been mingled with poop and sewage in the pipes.

That’s a lot of “funk.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That is what’s referred to as the “BP Amoco” tanks in Greenpoint, pictured above, although the facility has recently changed ownership. For the life of me, while I’m writing this I can’t remember the name of the new corporate entity who bought it. That’s a distribution yard. Petroleum products are barged in by a tugboat, off loaded into those tanks you see, and then pumped into delivery trucks for the proverbial “last mile.”

That’s also just about the dead bang center of the Greenpoint Oil Spill, in relation to the bulkheads of Newtown Creek that you’re looking at, at Greenpoint’s Apollo Street. Just east of here is the spot where the US Coast Guard spotted oil oozing from the bulkheads in the 1970’s, kicking off a decades long process which would eventually result in the entirety of Newtown Creek being named as a Federal Superfund site.

There’s a sediment bed down there under the water which contains a lot of gunk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one is looking across the Newtown Creek at Long Island City from the bulkheads at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, where Newtown Creek Alliance is now headquartered. That’s Sims Metal Recycling on the Queens side. From a maritime point of view, this is still an acutely active and well navigated section of the Newtown Creek. There’s multiple daily visits to the nearby Whale Creek tributary by NYC DEP sludge boats, tug and barge activity due to the presence of Sims in Queens, and Allocco Recycling in Greenpoint.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – a single barge carries the equivalent cargo of up to thirty eight semi trucks. That’s a lot of junk!

As you may have guessed by now, break time is over, and I’m once again communing with my beloved Newtown Creek.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 12, 2019 at 1:30 pm

grim party

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Merry merry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking this week and the first half of next off, so singular images will be greeting you through the week. Have a joylessly laconic Festivus, a Merry Christmas, and a Kwazy Kwanzaa.

Be back on the 27th to finish up the year at this. your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 26, 2018 at 11:00 am

living possessor

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The nighted Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, wanderlust invited one out into the foggy night along Newtown Creek, once it stopped raining on Sunday last. I packed up my tripod and other night kit gear, starting at the DUGABO area in Greenpoint. My walk carried me up the Brooklyn side of the middle Creek. I hit all of my “spots” along the way, in pursuit of some long exposure night photography. Along the way, I hit what seems like an occasional light drizzle, but it was just precipitation from the mist rather than actual rain.

The shot above looks west, roughly across the route.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s lonely along the Newtown Creek at night, but luckily my buddy Will from Newtown Creek Alliance was similarly bored after enduring the rain soaked weekend, and he came along for part of the walk. It’s nice having somebody around to watch your back when you’re literally focused in on the camera tasks at hand. My habit, when doing tripod shots, is to use narrow apertures. That’s why you’re seeing that starburst pattern around the bright lights, which is literally formed by the shadow of the aperture blades within the particular lens I was using.

If the lens was “wide open” you’d see more of a ball shape.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wasn’t just shooting the water, as a note.

One is possessed of a firm conviction that NYC is never as beautiful as it is when it’s just stopped raining and everything is covered in a sheen of moisture. Of course, it takes a particularly perverted sense of esthetics to describe these industrial zones found in North Brooklyn as “beautiful” but that’s just me.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm

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