The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘DUGSBO’ Category

portentous morning

leave a comment »

Socially distant, now more than ever.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“We here at the Newtown Creek family send our best wishes to you and your family, in these troubling times. New Yorkers have always weathered storms together, but now we have to stand together apart. Now, more than ever…”

Is there a script distributed to advertising agencies and charities during disasters? If just one more well wisher appears on my television and says “Now, more than ever.” Grrr. Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself are considering turning it into a drinking game.

I have been annoyed by usage of this phrase since it emerged twenty years ago after 9/11. The politicians got in front of the same verbal chestnut after Hurricane Sandy, I recall, and soon after the used car dealers were incorporating it into their spiel. Thing is, all of the bad actors in our society will use it to justify whatever hogwash they’re selling. What does “now, more than ever” actually mean? The logic of the phrase doesn’t manifest or indicate any sort of temporal interval.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After visiting the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road the other night, my scuttling proceeded over to other sights and attractions in the general vicinity. That’s the Grand Street Bridge photographed above. The image was created using multiple exposures all captured with a wide open f1.8 aperture setting and then “focus stacked” together during the developing process. This sort of technical stuff fascinates me, and forces one to continually reconsider how to record the wonders of Newtown Creek in different ways. I know it probably doesn’t excite those of you who aren’t photography people, but what can I tell you – there aren’t exactly a lot of adventure opportunities for me to describe to you right now.

The best use of my time, as I see it, involves sharpening up my skills and acquiring new ones. Presuming survival of the pandemic, which is a big “if,” a humble narrator wants to be able to hit the ground running in the new normal. “New Normal” sits alongside “Now, more than ever” on my annoyance chart.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That concrete plant pictured above is more or less sitting on the county line between Brooklyn and Queens. The section of Newtown Creek it sits along is technically a tributary, called the East Branch.

While I was shooting these images, the sound of incredibly loud music was echoing along the streets. I followed it, the sound I mean, and discovered that one of the local hot rod clubs was having an illegal party on Onderdonk Avenue. There had to be a hundred or more people milling around and admiring highly souped up automobiles.

Mark my words, there is going to be a massive spike in hospital visits in the May 15-20 period, based on how many people broke quarantine and pretended everything was ok during the warm weather of the last (May 2-3) weekend.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 4th. 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.

regrettably enough

with 3 comments

Industrial Maspeth is my happy place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above is what I consider to be my “shot of the night” from a recent nocturnal scuttle. Those wobbly streaks of light were offered by a passing truck or two while the shutter on my camera was hanging open. Mentioned in the past, one is fascinated by the result of setting the camera to record thirty seconds, or even a minute, of time passed. It’s the opposite of film or video, where 30 frames a second are recorded creating the illusion of movement when played back. In the shot above, you can actually discern the imperfections in the paving of the road, for instance, based on the bobbing around of the vehicle running lights. I wonder if Angels and Demons see time this way.

I intend to inhabit a spot similar to this sometime soon and execute a long series of shots in pursuance of building a time lapse video. Theoretically this means I’d have to take up station for a couple of hours, and since thirty photos would produce just one second of video, I’d need to actuate the camera at least 180 times over the course of an hour for a minute long end product. I’m going to do this, but when it’s a bit warmer. Even though this has been a warm winter, the chill nevertheless begins to penetrate through the filthy black raincoat, and manifests deleterious effects on the camera battery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing out of Queens and into Brooklyn via the Grand Street Bridge, the sounds of Canada Geese were heard coming in from the darkness of the Newtown Creek. Geese are dicks. I have spoken.

You may have heard about the latest tragedy involving my beloved Newtown Creek, wherein some lady suffering from dementia disappeared from a mass at St. Stanislaus in Greenpoint. Her body was found a couple of days later floating in the Creek nearby the Kosciuszcko Bridge on the Queens side. Condolence is offered to the family.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long suffering, Our Lady of the Pentacle was back at home while I was wandering around the Creek and as the hour was growing late I called her to say good night and offer that I hadn’t been squished by a truck yet. One was on the phone with her while this shot of a municipal waste truck was being gathered (part of a fleet of trucks parked on area streets, filled to the brim with sewer solids, which the Commissioner of the DEP has assured me are not there and must be a mirage). During my brief chat with Our Lady, I was fending off the attentions of an overly aggressive rat, so my conversation with her was punctuated periodically with loud exclamations of “leave me alone, rat” and “rat, I will kill you with this tripod.”

Of course, the notion that I had the right to be unmolested by the rodent was an example of me asserting and enjoying hominid privilege.


“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

February 26, 2020 at 11:00 am

drastic directions

with one comment

Happy 117th birthday, Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As part of the nocturnal survey of Newtown Creek one is in the midst of undertaking, a recent evening found the camera perched atop the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and a humble narrator lost in a paroxysm of appreciation for the venerable Grand Street Bridge. Not long for this world – as the powers that be have decreed that it shall soon be expensively replaced – this beauty was erected in 1903, replacing an earlier iteration described by the United States Coast Guard as a “hazard to navigation.” The first bridge here was built in 1875, the current version is the third Grand Street Bridge.

Grand Street Bridge is the property of the City of New York, specifically the Department of Transportation. It connects Grand Avenue in Queens with Grand Street in Brooklyn. It’s found 3.1 miles back from the East River’s junction with Newtown Creek, sits at the demarcation point of two Newtown Creek tributaries – the East Branch and English Kills – and is a movable “swing bridge” which sits on a mechanical turntable that rotates the bridge ninety degrees to allow maritime egress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The western sidewalk of the bridge doubles as a bike path, which few bicyclists actually use, seemingly preferring to just use the vehicle lanes. Heavily trafficked by MTA buses going to and from their Grand Avenue Bus Depot on the Maspeth, Queens side, the bridge is narrow and a causal factor in many of the traffic problems experienced in Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and eastern Greenpoint. This is due to the narrowness of the thing, which modern trucks cannot cross two abreast. Instead, drivers wait for traffic to clear the span, which causes backups that stretch for multiple blocks.

Even late at night, when these shots were gathered, it was quite a bother finding a 30 second interval without a heavy vehicle crossing. The Grand Street Bridge shakes and shimmies when even a passenger car crosses it, whereas the passing of a bus or a garbage truck triggers a local bridge quake. Said vibration is ruinous for a tripod mounted camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up on my 2020 survey of the Newtown Creek will be the extreme eastern side of the waterway, followed by a series of walks down the visually miserable Brooklyn side of it. The reason it’s miserable is that are so few places where you can access or even view the water, as opposed to the Queens side where – as you’ve seen in recent weeks – there are multiple points of view worth looking at. Hopefully this is something I can find the time and opportunity to accomplish in the next couple of weeks.

Tomorrow, something different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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.

monstrous fruit

with one comment

Better late than never, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies, single shot today. One from the archives of the Grand Street Bridge. Back tomorrow with more substantial messaging, complaints, and shaking of fists against the moon.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 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

December 12, 2019 at 2:00 pm

correlated causeways

with 2 comments

Eleven bridges, one creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pulaski Bridge is the first span you encounter, when you’ve left the East River and embarked on a journey down the fabulous Newtown Creek. A double bascule drawbridge, and electrically powered, the Pulaski Bridge connects 11th street in Long Island City with McGuinness Blvd. to the south in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint. Built in 1954, the Pulaski Bridge is owned and operated by the New York City Department of Transportation or “NYC DOT.” The Pulaski Bridge carries five lanes of traffic, plus a dedicated bicycle lane and a separate pedestrian pathway. It overflies the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Long Island Expressway, as well as active railroad tracks found on Borden Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DB Cabin acts as a gatekeeper to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. It’s a railroad swing bridge owned by the Long Island Railroad, and connects two rail yards – the Wheelspur Yard (to the west, or left in the shot above) and the Blissville Yard – across the water. Both rail yards and the bridge itself are part of the LIRR’s Lower Montauk tracks. DB Cabin dates back to the 1890’s and is in a terrible state of repair. The swing bridge’s motors are nonfunctional, which isolates the Dutch Kills tributary from maritime traffic, and from the rest of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cabin M is just to the north of DB Cabin on Dutch Kills, and the single bascule drawbridge connects the Montauk Cutoff with the Blissville Yard mentioned above. The Montauk Cutoff is an elevated track which used to provide a connection between the LIRR’s Main Line tracks at the nearby Sunnyside Yards with the Lower Montauk tracks along the north (or Queens side) shoreline of Newtown Creek. The 2020 Capital Plan just released by the Long Island Railroad’s owner – The MTA – includes funding to demolish Cabin M.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue Bridge is owned by the NYC DOT, and is one of just two retractile bridges in NYC (the other being the Carroll Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal). Built in 1908 to replace an earlier wooden drawbridge (1868) at the intersection of Borden Avenue and Dutch Kills, Borden Avenue Bridge received extensive upgrades and structural repairs in 2010 and 2011, and had its electronic components destroyed by flooding during Hurricane Sandy. Another round of repairs and upgrades began in 2019, which included asbestos abatement work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Expressway is 71 miles long, and is operationally managed in three sections. The Queens Midtown Expressway is how it’s owners, the New York State Department of Transportation, refer to the section found between the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Greenpoint Avenue in Long Island City. This section is elevated, rising to 106 feet above the waters of Dutch Kills. The LIE truss pictured above handles some 87.7 thousand daily vehicle trips, or 32 million annually, to and from Manhattan,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunters Point Avenue Bridge is due north west of Borden Avenue Bridge and the LIE truss. It’s a single bascule drawbridge, owned by the NYC DOT. Replacing an earlier wooden draw bridge that was opened and closed by a donkey walking on a wheel, the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge was built in 1910. Back then, it was a double bascule bridge, but a rebuild in the 1980’s simplified the mechanism to a single bascule. The masonry of the bridge is original to the 1910 design.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is found some 1.37 miles from Newtown Creek’s intersection with the East River, and roughly a half mile from the mouth of Dutch Kills. It’s a double bascule bridge, built in 1987, and owned and operated by the NYC DOT. There have been many Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, dating back to the first one built by Greenpoint’s town father Neziah Bliss back in 1850, but that one was called the “Blissville Bridge.” The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is a traffic machine, carrying 28.3 thousand vehicle trips a day, or about ten million a year. Most of that traffic takes the form of heavy trucking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The brand new Kosciuszko Bridge(s) replaced a 1939 vintage truss bridge that carried the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek and are found some 2.1 miles from the East River. The NYS DOT is busy putting the finishing touches on the new cable stay bridge’s construction. In addition to the… ahem… high speed traffic lanes of the BQE, there is also a pedestrian and bicycle pathway found on the new Kosciuszko Bridge which connects 43rd street in Queens’s Sunnyside section with Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Grand Street Bridge is a swing bridge connecting Maspeth’s Grand Avenue in Queens with East Williamsburg/Bushwick’s Grand Street in Brooklyn. 3.1 miles back from the East River, in a section of Newtown Creek once called “White’s Dock,” the NYC DOT have recently announced plans to replace this 1909 beauty – which is actually the third bridge to occupy this spot. Damage from Hurricane Sandy, and the narrow roadways with height restrictions that the bridge offers, have pretty much sealed its fate. It will be missed.

This is where the main spur of Newtown Creek ends, as a note. Directly east is a truncated tributary called the East Branch, and another tributary called English Kills makes a hard turn to the south just before you encounter Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is a double bascule drawbridge that crosses the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, and is owned by the NYC DOT. Metropolitan Avenue was originally built as a private toll road in 1813, and the first bridge here was a part of the “Williamsburg and Jamaica Turnpike.” The current Metropolitan Avenue Bridge was built in 1931, although it has received significant alterations in 1976, 1992, 2006, and again in 2015. The 2015 alterations?

You guessed it, Hurricane Sandy strikes again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge is the final crossing found over the waters of Newtown Creek and its tributaries. Some 3.7 miles back from the East River, it’s the property of the Long Island Railroad and used for freight service on their Bushwick Branch tracks. A truss bridge, or trestle if you must, my understanding of things are that whereas the trackway and parts of the rail bridge date back to approximately 1924… there has been quite a lot of work done on the thing which I have not been able to fully document so rather than fill in blanks with assumptions – I’m just going to say that I don’t know everything… yet.

It’s an active track, it should be mentioned.


“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.

%d bloggers like this: