The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘East Branch’ Category

gray veined

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last shot of the NYC DEP’s aeration system at Newtown Creek’s East Branch in operation, with the MTA’s fortress like counting house in the background.

That’s one of the facilities which the transit agency uses to count the money from bus boxes and subway token booth collections. I’ve been told that workers who do this within the fortress are compelled to wear jumpsuits with padlocks on the zipper to discourage theft. The only theft allowed at MTA is at Jay Street in Brooklyn, or in Albany’s corridors of power.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving Brooklyn, reentering Queens, one last look at the venerable Grand Street Bridge was enacted. This span is going to be replaced in the next few years, and there’s a considerable amount of work that the NYC DOT needs to do before that process can fully begin. There’s a long list of weekends and evenings during which the bridge will be closed to both vehicular traffic and to pedestrian or bicycle access this autumn and winter, so if you cross it on the regular like I do – plan alternate routes.

Industrial Maspeth, which I’ve long described as my happy place, was echoing with Mexican music on this particular night. One found himself pursuing the sound, which led me towards the Haberman section of the Lower Montauk tracks maintained by the Long Island Railroad.

It sounded great.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I won’t snitch on the various illegal parties, raves, concerts, and gatherings I’ve witnessed in the industrial zone during the pandemic months. As an old fart, I’ve actually been enjoying the opportunity to spend a lot of quality time at home with Our Lady of the Pentacle. We’ve been cooking at home, spending leisurely and sometimes boozy nights talking about things which concern and inform our days, and in general making the best of it all. My sympathies during this interval have been applied to those who are going it alone, and to the young.

I cannot imagine what it’s been like to be in your late teens or early twenties and endlessly trapped in the house with your parents. Somewhere out there – hidden in the preternatural darkness of the happy place, young people were finding ways to enjoy themselves.

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, September 28th. 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 here, 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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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.

was whining

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Thursday’s sextuplet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have you ever encountered a standing wall of sound so intense that your visual field begins to narrow? One which causes your teeth to hurt? How about one which is actually painful to be in the way of? Well, if you desire this sort of novel experiential stimulus, I’d suggest paying a visit to the Grand Street Bridge on a warmish evening when the NYC Department of Environmental Protection has its aeration systems for the Newtown Creek operating.

The pump house for this ill conceived system is nearly a half mile away, across the water in Maspeth, and is the latest shape which environmental pollution has taken here at the fabulous Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking westwards from the Grand Street Bridge, you’ll notice schools of predatory fish splashing about in the lit up area of the shot above. The aeration system is theoretically operated for the benefit of benthic organisms like these. In actuality, it’s to comply with a court order that the DEP is forced to oblige due to their releases of billions of gallons of untreated sewage into the waterway, which carry a bacterial charge so intense that the microorganisms contained therein consume all the oxygen from the water column which in turn suffocates the fish.

Not dumping raw sewage into the water? That’s crazy. Build a multi million dollar aeration system that generates jet engine levels of noise to overcome your inability to fulfill the mission laid out for you in the NYC charter? Check!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been working around several different photographic approaches to capturing the aeration system, with its churning tumult and maelstrom of surface whipped mucosa meringue for a while. I finally hit upon the right exposure triangle and settings, one which illustrates what’s happening here. These shots are from the Grand Street Bridge, looking more or less along the Brooklyn/Queens border towards Ridgewood, Bushwick, and Maspeth.

Notice that frothy meringue? Sewerage, whipped.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular section of Newtown Creek you’re looking at here is called “The East Branch” and one arm of it used to flow east all the way to Onderdonk Avenue. Today, it’s truncated by a gigantic seven vaulted sewer that drains neighborhoods as far away as Canarsie into the canalized waterway.

Look at all the energy being pumped into the water here. That’s the Department of Environmental Protection at work, burning fossil fuels to power electrical generators to overcome the effect of the 2.1 billion gallons of raw sewage they release into these waters annually, while producing a standing wall of noise louder than that of an approaching subway train. Dichotomy much?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Makes for interesting pictures though, huh?

Here’s one of my urban parables – I used to have neighbors that were Police Cadets. Like all young cops, they liked swinging their dicks around when I or any of the other neighbors were doing something they didn’t like. When they would have a party however, it was mainly other cops who showed up. When the party went on too long, or got too loud, they’d tell you to go ‘eff yourself if you complained that it was four in the morning. If you called the cops to complain, then you’d just have more cops showing up to join their party.

In the case of the DEP, guess who hands out tickets for noise complaints? Guess who polices the dumping of hazardous material into area waterways? Watchmen? who watches them?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s really quite a shit show.

See what I did there? Shit show?

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, September 28th. 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 here, 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.

local impressions

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East Branch, Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Geography indicates that I don’t hit the eastern sections of Newtown Creek as regularly as I do the western side. It’s quite a walk from Astoria to Ridgewood, after all. The East Branch is absolutely disgusting all the time, due to the presence of a gigantic seven vaulted sewer which drains parts of Brooklyn as far away as Canarsie. There is virtually zero laminar “flow” back here due to tidal influence, and the water instead exists in a vertical column with the poison sediment suspended in gradient horror.

God, how I love it all. The smell… it’s like rotting ham floating in watery mayonnaise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is constantly amazed at the willful littering encountered all over Queens. People standing next to a corner trash can will opt to toss garbage in the street rather than using the bin. Got a tire or two you’re done with? Why dispose of it properly when you can just haul it up to chest level and then throw it over a fence into an area waterway?

Don’t take my chides the wrong way, I’m no saint, but doesn’t it take more effort to get rid of your tire this way than it does to just leave it in the corner by the DSNY bin? Both are illegal, of course, but seriously… it takes a lot more effort to toss the thing in the water than it would to roll it to a corner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That structure on the right hand side of the shot is the MTA’s counting house, a fortress like building where they process all the cash from bus boxes, metro card machines, and subway fare control booths. All those armored cars and armed guards you see in the subway? Yup, this is one of the places they report to work.

I’ve actually met people who work here. They described what life is like inside. It seems that to ensure nobody pockets any of MTA’s cash, a pocketless jumpsuit with a padlock on the zipper is worn by the workers. If you need to use the bathroom, your supervisor has to unlock your coverall and you are searched before and after using the facility. My reaction to this was to ask if it was anything like the drug operation in the movie “New Jack City” in there.

The answer was “yes.”


“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 27, 2020 at 11:00 am

monstrous fruit

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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

adhered to

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Grand Street Bridge, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, no, I won’t be talking about Amazon HQ yet. Suffice to say that everybody I know is talking about the news co-announced today by the Dark Prince of Albany and the Dope from Park Slope that the internet giant will be based in LIC at future superfund site Anable Basin, but at this point in time I don’t have enough information about the plan to speak intelligently about its ramifications. Instead, a few night time shots of the venerable Grand Street Bridge connecting Maspeth with East Williamsburgh/Bushwick are on offer.

People argue with me about the Bushwick thing all the time, claiming that the section of Grand Street between Newtown Creek and Vandervoort Street is either Greenpoint or “East Williamsburgh,” to which I respond that it’s not. East Williamsburgh does have historical precedent, but it’s a term popularized by real estate interests. According to the old Ward maps of pre consolidation NYC (prior to 1898), Greenpoint ends at Meeker Avenue which is nearly a mile to the west of Grand Street. Yes, Greenpoint Hospital is indeed in Bushwick. Remember that “Bushwick” is synonymous with 1960’s racial unrest, 1970’s era riots, and a 1980’s crime hotspot during the Crack Wars to certain generations (Ridgewood residents fought like wildcats to have their own zip code that they didn’t share with their Bushwick neighbors, for instance, as their home and car insurance rates were higher than they should have been due to endemic crime). When gentrification came to North Brooklyn, “Bushwick” was not a “desirable brand,” hence the Real Estate Industrial Complex popularized the “East Williamsburgh” moniker for this area instead. That’s changed now, and Bushwick is now a “hot” neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is paying a bit more attention to the Grand Street Bridge these days than formerly, as the NYC Department of Transporation has announced their intention to replace it with a more modern structure purpose built to handle current traffic needs. The current Grand Street Bridge is the 1903 model, and the third iteration of a crossing between Brooklyn and Queens on this spot. The section of Newtown Creek it crosses is considered a tributary, and it’s called “The East Branch.”

Once upon a time, the East Branch flowed into Ridgewood, where it was fed by freshwater streams and springs trickling down the “ridge” which you’ll discern when walking along Onderdonk Avenue and other eastern destinations. Ridgewood is the beginning of actual geologic rock formations, with all the land west of it being elluvial fill deposited by glacial and riverine flooding. That’s why the zones around Newtown Creek are so flat, if you were wondering. The actual terminal morraine of Long Island begins a bit to the north east at Mount Olivette Cemetery, in proper Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been attempting to get as much night shooting around Newtown Creek in as possible before the weather turns bitter cold, which is why you’ve been seeing so much of it lately. I’ve been noticed by a few people wandering around the concrete devastations with a ridiculous yellow safety vest draped over the filthy black raincoat, setting up the tripod and all the other necessary gear needed for the pursuit. With the exception of few encounters with bored but zealous security guards, it’s been a fairly solitary pursuit, although in a couple of locations I opted to bring somebody along with me to watch my back. Frequent commenter and persistent curmudgeon Don Cavaioli was with me at English Kills last week, for instance, but for the shots in yesterday and today’s posts I was on my own.

I’ve been asked about personal security by a few people, but it’s not something I worry too much about. My biggest safety concerns have been centered around not getting squished by a truck, or snapping my ankle on a hidden sinkhole or fallen branch while picking my way around in the dark. If I had to call 911 for help in an emergency, I’d likely have a devil of a time describing where I am to them as I don’t think “Maspeth Plank Road” or “former Phelps Dodge” is necessarily reflected in the municipal system. My plan for such an eventuality would actually involve first calling one of my colleagues at Newtown Creek Alliance, beseeching them to aid in sending rescuers to a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 14, 2018 at 11:00 am

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