The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Grand Street Bridge’ Category

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.


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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.

portentous morning

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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

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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.


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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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2020 at 11:00 am

drastic directions

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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

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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

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