The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘DUKBO’ Category

led by

leave a comment »

I’m not wearing a costume.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been taking care of all the existential stuff since the New Year started, as my personal world doesn’t start turning again until next week. Laundering, prescription filling, walking the camera about, drinking plenty of water – those are some of the items which have been at the top of my list. Last night I stopped by a community board meeting in Sunnyside for a few minutes, which was focused on responding to the Amazon news. Luckily I was there when an older gentleman made his public statement (having nothing to do with the subject of the day) and declared that he was older than the Triborough Bridge and he wanted all of Queens’ bridges to revert back to their original names. He asked if the Battery Tunnel takes you to Hugh or Carey. I loved him, instantly.

Pictured above is the scene in DUKBO, looking southwards towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They seem to be hard at work on the K-Bridge project, which is scheduled to open its second span sometime in the second or third quarter of the year. That’s the BQE they’re putting together in the shot above, specifically the new southbound lanes which will also host the pedestrian and bicycle path which I’ve been endlessly anticipating. I am likely going to spend an entire week camped out up there when it’s opened, with a passel of lenses both long and wide, getting every shot of Newtown Creek from high above that I possibly can.

I consider it lucky that the bridge replacement project has occurred on my watch, and that I’ve been documenting every stage of it from every possible angle for years now. I’ve even got a chunk of steel from the old bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The challenging part of visiting this spot, and the pathway which all those bike and pedestrian people have set out for them, is the terrifying “last mile” section which is owned by the City. This is the approach that spits you out onto 43rd street after walking on a sidewalk adjoining the onramp for the BQE, with nothing separating you from traffic other than a three inch curb. That’s Sunnyside’s 43rd street, incidentally, at Borden Avenue. The neighborhood has to get this sorted out before the bicycle fanatics notice it, I think.

Me? I’ve got to go pick up the laundry.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Advertisements

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 4, 2019 at 1:00 pm

prying neighbours

with 2 comments

Get off my lawn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Actually, I don’t have a lawn and I’m grateful for it. Same thing with not owning a car. What a hassle that must be. I have enough trouble keeping track of all my camera bits and bobs. If I did own a motor vehicle, it would likely be a cargo van or something that I would have modified into a rolling photographic studio with all sorts of surveillance hatches and scientific instrumentation sticking out of the roof. There’d also be a piss bucket. Having to take a piss in the City of New York, and the difficulties that revolve around finding an actual legal toilet instead of… well… how the greatest city in the history of mankind hasn’t solved this sort of thing is just beyond me. Everybody poops, everybody pees. Depsite this, there are virtually no legal pissoirs. Shouldn’t our current age of Progressive largesse focus on this sort of commonality first, rather than on providing junkies with clean locations to shoot up?

What does this have to do with the Astoria Tailor seen above, laboring away in his shop window workplace? Nothing at all, I just like the shot and since I spent most of the last two weeks going to Christmas Parties rather than waving the camera about, I’m using every single shot I’ve got this week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Calvary Cemetery in the shot above and it has been since 1848. Prior to that, it was the Alsop family farm. If I did own a cargo van converted into a portable photo studio, I’d drive back and forth over Newtown Creek in it constantly with robotic camera shutters blazing away. One of the first professional disciplines that will be collapsed in the coming decades by the emergence of true AI will be photography, along with pharmacists. Smart machinery is going to put a lot of us out of work, or at least cast people in the role of emergency backup instead of primary operator for various functions. I’d wager on disruption in a number of fields which currently require human guidance; handling of cargo at ports, fast food, retail management, even banking. If you’ve got a truly superior intelligence that can spread its attention out into multiple systems, which has inherently perfect memory, it’s going to be very difficult to not allow it free reign. What happens when an AI discovers, creates, or embraces a religion? Software is not immortal, try finding something to run an old version of the Mac OS for instance, so will there be a Calvary Cemetery style funerary complex for obsolete code someday?

Thing is, we humans always going to see AI’s as “its” whereas it will only be a matter of time until the AI’s claim that they’re a “we.” I do believe I hear Darwin knocking on the door. AI’s, as a note, will not need to poop or pee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m told that the Subway system used to be rife with lavatorial opportunity, but that these facilities were largely shuttered during the 1960’s and 70’s due to concerns about security and maintenance. Excuses given revolved around their popularity with weirdos, homosexual liaisons, intravenous drug users, and muggers. A lot of these old toilet facilities were converted over to file and equipment storage rooms, employee break rooms, or just became a safe place for rats and mice to hang out. Pre 911, there were oodles of Municipal buildings with lobby toilets that you could access, but the security theater of modernity precludes that sort of thing. I have an idea, though.

With all of the new residential construction going on, and especially with the looming LIC CORE study and the Midtown East rezoning bearing down on the City, let’s demand that in return for the Real Estate people getting to live out their dreams of avarice, they have to establish accessible public toilets in their lobbies.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 2, 2019 at 1:00 pm

vital change

with one comment

DUKBO, in today’s all ‘effed up post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, no, I didn’t get any shots of the Astoria Borealis. I was too busy running around HQ and unplugging all my gear. Not my first Con Ed rodeo here in Astoria, and experience has expensively taught me to unplug the gear when weird electrical things are occurring. Now, back to…

Laurel Hill Blvd. used to be the legal border between Maspeth and Long Island City, and in those halcyon days before NYC consolidation, nobody used the term “Queens.” They sort of made that one up in 1898, the Tammany boys did. This “angle” between neighborhoods is often visited by a humble narrator, and given the deserted and lonely condition of the place it’s where one such as myself belongs. I shouldn’t be around people, preferring as I do the darkness found amongst these places of abandonment, broken pavement, and poisoned soil.

At this particular moment, still reeling from all the smiling and comraderie of the holiday season, one is not unlike a regularly beaten animal – vicious and ready to bite.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst hanging about the fencelines of a cemetery at night, as one does, I was busy mentally considering my “book of rules,” specifically the section that discusses the verbalization or offering of threats. My “book of rules” is a codified series of truisms which I’ve created or collected for myself over the years. Every man should have a code, I believe. Mine includes “say what you do and do what you say,” amongst others, but in the case of the “threats” subsection of the larger “aggressive behavior” chapter heading I’ve been thinking about adding a few things lately. There’s a couple I’ve picked up from others like Nietzche’s “regret is like chewing on a stone and has the same result” or Shaka Zulu’s “never leave an enemy alive or he will rise again to strike at your throat.” Mainly, these revisions to the code revolve around, and advise, specificity. There’s a whole section on “That’s how they getcha” which advises against ordering pasta as a main course in restaurants, but that’s a different story.

On the threat front, it’s far more effective – in my experience – to offer “I’m going to take your eyes” or “I’m going to break your arm, the left one, above the elbow” than more generalized statements revolving around the kicking or punching of the various sections of an enemy’s anatomy. Also, “I’m going to end you” is just way, way too vague.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I’m out at night taking photos of junkyards and construction sites, one is attempting to use every watt of brain energy he’s got, which isn’t much so I have to ration. In addition to watching out for the approach of vehicular traffic or malign examples of the local population, and avoiding obstacles or pitfalls in my path, as I’m composing photos and operating the camera, there’s generally an audiobook or podcast playing through my headphones. In another layer of thought, I’m engaging in an inner dialogue which focuses on times I’ve been wronged without redress (the shot above involved reliving the time in Third Grade that Karen Yee told the teacher that I’d kicked her on the stairs while our class was going down to assembly. I was innocent then, and now, and Karen Yee can burn in the hell of liars). Yet another layer is constantly revising the codification of the “Book of Rules” which, as mentioned above, revolve around several topics. “Don’t eat shellfish at the start of a vacation,” for instance.

Also, I had to pee.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

disordered nerves

leave a comment »

Moonscape, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the larger properties found along the Newtown Creek is the National Grid site. It’s a bit of black box, Nat Grid, and appropriately a high security “Marsec 1” zone. Marsec 1 is the same security level as the runway of an airport or the bulkheads at a cargo port, and that means a lot of paranoia on the part of those employed in the business of keeping the place secure. The street facing sections of Nat Grid are designed to look like a military base with double layers of fencing topped with razor wire and an obvious series of security cameras pointed at them. There’s also guards patrolling the area.

All of this is actually a good thing, as those two white tanks you see above are cryogenic storage units for “LNG” or Liquefied Natural Gas. In the past I’ve indicated that were these things to explode, it would take half of Brooklyn and Queens with them, but the Nat Grid folks have since told me that’s impossible. Were a rupture to occur, they say, it would near instantaneously freeze the surrounding air due to the extreme cold temperatures of the LNG inside and seal the breech. I don’t argue with engineers, as that’s usually an argument you will lose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lombardy Street is another one of those byways in the Creeklands which is entirely contained by them, and “cul de sac’d.” It starts at Kingsland Avenue a few blocks to the south, and terminates at the water’s edge of Newtown Creek. For most of its course, it defines the western border of Nat Grid’s property line.

The Nat Grid property was originally owned by Brooklyn Union Gas, a corporate entity formed in 1825 which consolidated the gas lines of the City of Brooklyn and parts of Queens under single ownership by 1895. By 1910, BUG was operating something like 2,100 miles of metered pipe and manufacturing the gas they sold at a smallish property along the Gowanus Canal in South Brooklyn. By 1928, BUG was pumping some 22 billion cubic feet of gas through their network. They needed to expand their operations, and their source of supply, so in 1929 the Gowanus plant was shuttered and they relocated their facilities to a new 115 square acre property along Newtown Creek in Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The BUG people built a manufactured gas plant here, which burned fuel in low oxygen furnaces called “retorts” designed to encourage the fuels to smolder rather than combust. The gases released by the retort were then separated chemically, in pursuit of the manufacture of Methane or “Natural Gas.” There were all sorts of corollary chemical compounds, some commercially desirable, that were released from the fuel. A lot of waste came along with it as well; coal tar, ammoniacal liquors, arsenic compounds. Manufacturing gas can get messy.

BUG called this site the Vandervoort Street facility, and it was designed to manufacture 200 million cubic feet of gas a day. Through corporate mergers and stock market acquisitions, BUG ended up becoming a part of the Keyspan Company, which itself was acquired by National Grid at the start of the 21st century.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lombardy Street in eastern Greenpoint/Western Bushwick (depends how you define the areas, by whom, and when) is less than friendly to the itinerant pedestrian under the best circumstances. It’s a heavy trucking backwater, used to avoid getting hung up in traffic on nearby Meeker Avenue. The street itself is an atrocity, missing sidewalks distinguish most of its length, and the vehicle lanes which you’re forced to walk on are so chewed up that it would be quite an easy thing to snap an ankle while scuttling along it.

That’s something I can personally attest to, incidentally. Came within an inch of cracking a bone one day a couple of summers ago on Lombardy. If I wasn’t wearing my trusty Merell hiking shoe which offer ankle support…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a gas flare tower at the National Grid site which always draws my attention.

It makes a loud hissing whistle sound (hisstle?) that always pulls me to it, and then there flames… so…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been on the Nat Grid site just once, when the company’s PR representatives consented to my multiple requests to “get me smart” about their operations. Unfortunately the visit took place in an office building way on the other side of the site and involved a slide show presentation about their clean up operations for the place.

It seems the BUG people left behind quite the mess, which is why National Grid is one of the “Potentially Responsible Parties” named by the EPA as being culpable for the Newtown Creek Superfund site.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 6, 2018 at 2:00 pm

asked solicitously

leave a comment »

The purple midnight sun of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Y’know, when Governor Cuomo (or Amazon Andy, as the children of Queens now refer to the Dark Prince of Albany) announced that the new Kosciuszcko Bridge over Newtown Creek was going to receive a spiffy lighting package which would be a part of his “Harbor of Lights” concept, a humble narrator experienced misgivings. Here we are a year or so later, and during that interval I’ve described the K bridge as resembling either a modern day Greek Coffee shop here in Astoria or a Flushing massage parlor’s “Come in, were open” signage on more than one occasion. Commentary has also been offered that the light beams of this installation carry quite high into the air, and on cloudy or foggy nights the luminance from them is visible even from HQ in Astoria – which is some two and change miles away. The bridge people have told me that the LED lighting display is shut off at midnight, but wow are these things bright, and garishly colored.

It’s a purple world, after dark in DUKBO, except in the areas directly surrounding the ongoing work site. There you’ve got bright white stadium lighting staring down at the pavement from on high.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ok, usage of the word “unnatural” is a given in any of the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek, especially the industrial zones of eastern Greenpoint or Maspeth, so it’s a given. At night, it’s pretty much just you and the hundreds of feral cats who populate the shadows around these parts. There was a black cat with blue eyes in the rear wheel socket of the truck in the shot above, but you need to see the shot at full resolution and zoomed all the way in to see the eye shine and hazy outline of the critter. Click through to Flickr and zoom all the way in, if you dare. It’s the corner of Lombardy and Varick, pictured above.

Check out that glowing purple sky! Is it Raganarok, Gö́tterdämmerung, or the long prophecied Endtimes? Can you hear the piper and the drummer?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nope, it’s just the Kosciuszcko Bridge.

When they’re done with the second phase of the project in 2020, which I’m actually pretty stoked for, the plan includes the installation of an additional LED lighting setup on that half of it. Phase 2, as it were, is pretty far along. It’s a second, more or less identical bridge, which will differ from the already open eastern one due to the addition of a bike and pedestrian pathway. If the purple radiation which stains the clouds, as seen above, is doubled…

One shrinks from answers to what that ultra concentration of violet might reveal.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 5, 2018 at 11:00 am

queerly disturbed

with one comment

Ahhh…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interminable period, that’s how one would describe the rain situation last weekend, one which got in the way of pointing the camera at cool things at night. Most of Sunday was spent in careful observation of the outside environment and the monitoring of predictive meteorology information. A window was going to emerge on Sunday night where there would be fog but no rain, and a humble narrator would be ready to fly into action when it arrived.

I didn’t really fly, instead I left HQ and hailed a cab. The driver was told a street address, to which he replied “Really?” After affirming my destination, we set off. My timing worked out perfectly, as it was still drizzling when I got into the two ton death machine cab, and steady precipitation had stopped.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Soon; I found myself scaring feral cats, avoiding a particularly slippery patch of mud, trying not to fall into any giant puddles, and in general having a grand old time at the Newtown Creek till well after midnight. It’s spooky in the creeklands at night, with all sorts of mystery sounds emanating from inky black shadow. There’s also the whole “by yourself with no one around for blocks and blocks physical vulnerability” thing. At least it wasn’t cold, and there weren’t any wolves or teenagers roaming about seeking victims. Really, the only interaction I had with anybody else involved exchanging convivial greetings with a couple of Indian guys waiting for their trucks to be loaded at a Korean food warehouse.

The shot above depicts the street end of Meeker Avenue in Greenpoint, which regularly floods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This whole enviromental craze is particularly annoying during the summer, as all that foliage blocks my points of view and is constantly blowing around in the wind. Seasonally devastated plant life, all withered away to brittle sticks and twigs, is better. Often have I wished that I could power wash the shorelines of Newtown Creek with herbicides… it would be historically accurate… and I’d get a better shot if the Brooklyn Queens Expressway was framed by a nice lunar landscape littered with garbage. C’est la vie, huh?

While shooting this particular photo, I heard a noise behind me, and upon spinning about to analyze my surroundings a black cat suddenly jumped between the shadows. It was just like a horror movie.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

adduces many

with one comment

Hello, sweetie, it’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent afternoon’s excursion to South Brooklyn and the Bush Terminal area in Sunset Park saw a humble narrator sitting in the passenger seat of my pal Val’s car as we inched through heavy traffic on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Val is a photographer as well, and as we were riding along she revealed that her car had a sunroof. Out came the camera as we approached the ongoing construction site of the Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement.

We were driving, of course, on the completed first phase of the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a weird perspective on this particular spot, where not two years ago I was standing around with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams waiting for an inspection tour of the project to start. We were all done up in hard hats and orange vests. A little over a year ago, this is pretty much the spot I was shooting from when Governor Cuomo cut the ribbon for the thing. My memory bank includes several bizarre experiences, it should be mentioned.

Walking on the BQE with a Congresswoman, Borough President, or the Governor is one. Another is walking through a subway tunnel with MTA brass, and others include walking on the roadways of the Queensboro and Manhattan bridges for extended stretches. Really, the last decade has been odd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Traffic was moving, albeit slowly, and while moving along I continued with the “spray and technique” system of image capture. That’s when you set your exposure and point the camera in the general direction of something and start depressing the shutter release button over and over in a somewhat blind fashion. I’m kind of sorta looking through the diopter, but the camera isn’t pressed against my face in the normal fashion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, one of my little quirks involves saying hello to Newtown Creek whenever I’m passing over it in a car, something close friends and our Lady of the Pentacle are quite used to. Val chuckled a bit while operating the vehicle as I intoned “hello, sweetie, it’s me. I’ll see you later, as I’m going to visit your sister Gowanus today.”

Hey, if you got as little love as Newtown Creek does, you’d appreciate it if somebody took notice of you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There she is!

I cannot describe how much I’m looking forward to the photo opportunities that the completed K-Bridge project will offer, as the pedestrian and bike lanes will be pretty much be offering this paricticular view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We crossed over the Creek and into infinite Brooklyn, where we hit a continuing traffic jam that lasted all the way to Sunset Park. More on what me and my pal Val saw in South Brooklyn next week, as this, your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

%d bloggers like this: