The Newtown Pentacle

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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.


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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.

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.

reticent stranger

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High over Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One enjoys the walk over the new Kosciuszcko Bridge so much that I actually walked nearly a mile out of my way to use it the other night. A meeting required my attendance at Newtown Creek Alliance HQ, which is located in close proximity to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and afterwards I headed eastwards towards the pedestrian/bike path entrance for the Kosciuszcko span over Newtown Creek. I will opine that shooting from up there is a fairly complicated process at night, due to the contrast of the endemic shadow which the industrial zone in Greenpoint offers and the bright lights of Manhattan off in the distance, as well as the vibratory effects of heavy traffic hurtling along this section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

You’re looking downwards into Brooklyn, at the very intersection of Meeker and Varick Avenues, in the shot above. It’s a pretty unfriendly street scape down there, and the business on the lower left hand side of the shot with the high steel fencing still had guard dogs patrolling their lot until just a few years ago. The fencing isn’t exactly flush with the ground, and while walking by several years ago one of their Rottweilers had almost worked itself under the fence in pursuance of biting a humble narrator’s bottom. I’ve sort of avoided this section of Varick since, and have largely concerned myself with documenting the NYS DOT project of replacing the 1939 Kosciuszcko Bridge above.

I refer to this area as Brooklyn’s DUKBO – for Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a waste transfer station you’re looking at there, loading a municipal waste truck. Specifically it’s called the Brooklyn C&D Transfer Station, or Varick Avenue Transfer Station by its operators, a company called Waste Connections. Don’t know much about them, and I’ve never met anyone from the company. Apparently – and this is based on a single google search, so don’t hold me to it – they accept construction and demolition materials, asphalt, concrete, and “special waste.” The latter is an industry catch all term for waste materials that can include; Cement Kiln Dust Waste, Crude Oil and Natural Gas Waste, Fossil Fuel Combustion Waste, Mining and Mineral Processing Waste. It seems to be a 24 hour business down there on Varick Avenue, and I’ve never personally seen it closed. There’s usually a line up of privately owned dump trucks waiting to get in there and “tip” their collections.

Companies like this one process, separate, and then ship out all sorts of unwanted material to either other shipping outlets like rail or port facilities, or truck it out of NYC in huge vehicles like that pictured municipal waste truck. Waste handling is a big industry at the Newtown Creek, I tell you. Garbage industry folks, however, will often chime out the adage “It’s got to go somewhere.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They seem to have a separate yard for metals here, and luckily for the wandering photographer, one of the laborers was using some welding equipment while framed up all nice by a well lit materials handler. This is what recycling actually looks like, incidentally. Most people seem to think it’s an occupation populated by Hippies and Oompa Loompas dressed up in clean white uniforms, but it’s quite a heavy industry by definition. It’s also quite a dangerous industry for laborers. There’s all sorts of slippery material on the ground, heavy tools and machines rolling about, multi ton piles of stuff… easy place to get dead, a waste transfer station is. People who work here have to be very, very careful at work.

Back Monday… 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 28, 2020 at 11:00 am

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.


“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 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.


“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 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

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