The Newtown Pentacle

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My weekly visit to the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek, found in the Degnon Terminal section of the Long Island City industrial zone here in Queens, was perpetrated recently. My pandemic long investigations into the presence of “it” continue, here in the former “Workshop of America.”

What is “it”? It is likely people having some cruel fun with my credulous nature, and taking advantage of the boredom and anxiety which the pandemic has induced in a humble narrator. Regardless, most of the stories I’ve received about “it” revolve around the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge section of the waterway so I keep on finding myself here. I’m also kind of obsessed with the indomitable nature of that tree in the shot above, and have been making it the focal point of various photos all year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been forced into using certain esoteric practices behind the camera to properly record the darkness down on the water. Next up in my bag of tricks will be the use of polarizing filters to reduce the reflectivity of the water and allow the device to peer down into the gelatinous fathoms. It’s actually only about a single fathom, maybe a fathom and a half, here at Dutch Kills. It is fairly gelatinous, however.

One way or another, what I can say is that I didn’t see “it” but had the definite impression that there was something odd going on in the water. There were all sorts of splashes and ripples being caused by one critter or another down there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The streaks in the water are the reflections of fish scales moving around during what ended up being a thirty second exposure. I’ve actually become quite fascinated by the artifacts of movement which turn up in these shots. Can’t tell you what sort of fishies were swimming around down there, but it’s likely these were Mummichogs.

Mummichogs (Fundulus heteroclitus) are essentially the bottom of the vertebrate food chain at Newtown Creek, but in a larger sense that’s the niche they occupy in the brackish and environmentally compromised waterways of the northeastern United States. They are omnivorous, and can thrive in fairly awful conditions. A bit of pescatarian trivia is that a Mummichog was the first fish to go to Space, having been studied on NASA’s Skylab back in 1973. Environmental scientists use these fishies as an indicator specie, meaning that you catch a bunch of Mummichogs and then grind them into a goo. The goo is then analyzed for the presence and concentration of certain chemical compounds like pcb’s or heavy metals.

The search for “it” continues.

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, August 10th. 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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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.

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Tuesday searching for “it” at Dutch Kills

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other night, one began to wonder about “it” again and a walk over to the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek ensued. My first stop was nearby the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, found in the remains of the Degnon Terminal.

As mentioned in the past, the modern day shaping of Dutch Kills occurred in the first decade of the 20th century at the same time that the Pennsylvania Railroad Company was building the Sunnyside Yards. Michael Degnon was a construction magnate whose company completed the Williamsburg Bridge’s masonry, and famously finished the construction of the subway tunnels which carry the 7 line from Queens to Manhattan. Digging out the subway tunnel generated a lot of rock debris which he needed to dispose of, which was accomplished when Degnon purchased the estate holdings of former Governor Roscoe Flowers here in LIC, an area referred to as the “waste meadows.” The fill was used to reclaim and raise dry land from the wetlands, and Dutch Kills was canalized under supervision from the United States Army Corps of Engineers into its current form. That’s when the modern Hunters Point Avenue and Borden Avenue Bridges we’re built. Degnon built an industrial park surrounding the canal which offered rail to barge infrastructure and attracted enormous concerns like the Loose Wiles bakery, Chicle Gum, and Ever Ready Battery to Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

21st century industrial degeneracy aside, Dutch Kills was an absolute mirror on the hot and humid night which I most recently visited it during. There is little to no laminar flow in Dutch Kills, which causes sedimentation and shoaling. Rumors from my network of local informants and Creek watchers have reached me in recent months describing something which strains credulity, but since I have very few things to occupy my time otherwise during this interminable pandemic, one is on the hunt for “it.” I won’t bore you with the rumors, as I don’t pass on stories which I either can not verify or that I don’t have photos to back up.

On this particular night, one spent a bit of time shining a green laser into the depths, which excited the schools of small fishies that nocturnally shelter from predators here. Since “it” would likely occupy the niche of a top predator, exciting the prey animals might have drawn it to me, hence the laser.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As above, so below, the saying goes. Never is the case more so on Dutch Kills on a night when the poison winds are quiet and the gelatinous fathoms are calmed.

The thick humidity hanging in the air made this particular walk perspiratory in the extreme. While shooting these shots, I encountered employees of the NYC Department of Transportation’s Bridges unit, a nearly invisible organization which has been curiously present in recent months during the pandemic. You normally never see these folks unless a bridge needs to open for passing maritime traffic, but for some reason I’ve encountered them repeatedly at both Borden Avenue and here at Hunters Point Avenue in the dead of night.

Perhaps they have heard about “it” as well?

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, July 13th. 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.

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Dutch Kills Monday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has had occasion to ask the right person the wrong question over the years, and the answers are usually not comforting. Should, during the routine investigations surrounding the Newtown Creek Superfund investigations, human remains be discovered in the muck and mire adoring the bottom of the waterway the procedure would be to invoke the investigative arm of the NYPD and the services of the NYC Coroner’s Office. Apparently, NYPD would look at its list of “cold cases” to try and assign an identity to the remains, whereas the Coroner would attempt to describe “cause of death” and confirm or damn the Gendarmes’ assignation. Depending on what state the body is in – whole, decaying, or skeletonized – this process could conceivably take days, weeks, months, or it might be impossible to ascertain whom these bits used to belong to due to decomposition. Dental record searches, DNA recovery, or other alienist techniques might be used, but… don’t fall into Newtown Creek if you’re having a heart attack while not carrying a wallet.

Other queries to the powers that are have involved the recovery of firearms and other weapons, the bodies of various animals, or more esoteric items from the font of Black Mayonnaise lining the canal’s depths. 1940’s cash registers, slot machines from the 1920’s, boxes of light bulbs, fifty gallon drums of some mysterious goo?

Who can guess… all there is… that might be buried down there?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One almost got a shot of it the other night, alongside the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

Ever since rumors of its’ presence here reached me, I’ve been keeping an eye out, but it is stealthy. I’m still not saying what “it” might be, since a humble narrator cannot stand the idea of accusations of credulity. When a shot of it appears here, though…

Whatever “it” might be swam under the bridge and one ran to the other side in the manner of some obsequious and allegorical chicken following it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those dashes in the water in the shot above aren’t “it,” but they might have been swimming away in response to its presence. Those dashes are fish – likely Mummichogs and Menhaden for the smaller ones and Bunker for the larger – moving close enough to the surface of the water for their scales to catch and reflect the street lighting. Like all predated creatures, I too stick to the shallows when I can, and often hide behind large wooden things when hungry creatures with sharp teeth ply the deeper waters just like these fishies.

It seemed to heading towards the Borden Avenue Bridge on this particular night, so one double timed towards that span about one really long block away.

It lives? If you closely observe the shorelines of Newtown Creek, you might see it, just like I’m trying to do.

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, June 29th. 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.

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LIC and Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since the Quarantine bubble seems to have autonomously popped last weekend due to the arrival of warm weather, with thousands taking to the streets after the long hermitage, one decided to direct a recent constitutional walk towards the deserted precincts of Newtown Creek. The sidewalks of Astoria were teeming with people, but once I had moved southwards to Northern Blvd. the only traffic encountered was vehicular. That is, until I got to the corner of Honeywell street and Northern, where a wild eyed wackadoodle suddenly appeared who seemed desirous of confrontation with a humble narrator. Either high on goof balls or demented due to a feverish state of mind, the fellow meant me no good, and luckily I managed to brush him off.

As the wackadoodle was walking away, he called me “Pops.”

One continued along his own path, heading towards the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek with the intention of gathering images specifically intended for the focus and exposure stacking techniques which I’ve been experimenting with. To wit, the image above and those below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like any other software process involving the capture of raw data using one device which is then processed using a computational algorithm on a second one, reliable result is dependent on predictability. Predictability is formed by experiment. Ideally – You shoot images A, B, C, and then execute steps 1-4 with them on the computer, then you get something you had in mind for the final result. Getting to predictable result, however, requires experimentation, experiential trial and error, etc.

The image above represents something like 24 individual exposures, 12 for the water and 12 for the land, welded together. It’s not a home run, image quality wise. There’s an “uncanny valley” feel to it, but that’s what a learning process often looks like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wide open aperture used in all 3 of these shots, wherein the focus point is moved into different areas of the frame, allows for a softer capture of ambient light with “truer” color capture than a narrow aperture does. By combining multiple shots with that point of focus moved through the frame, you can additively assure tack sharp focus through the image, as I’ve discovered. Again, not a home run, but I got on base and possibly stole second.

Normally you’d use this technique in woodland or seaside landscape, or macro photography, and I’m working on making it predictable – as in “I shoot this, I get that.” That predictability is the name of the game, behind the camera.

I’m Pops Waxman, signing out for today. See you tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle. May all your wackadoodles be merry, and all your photos in focus.

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 18th. 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.

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Scuttle, scuttle, scuttle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One keeps on finding himself at the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek, here in Long Island City, for some bizarre reason. Partially, it’s the lack of people one might encounter along the way. On the other hand, it’s a familiar place to me and therefore comforting. Pictured is the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

Dutch Kills, as the United States Army Corps of Engineers so rendered it in the early 20th century, averages about 150 feet of space between its bulkheads. It’s spanned by several bridges, and this particular single bascule drawbridge – which it’s owners at the NYC Dept. of Transportation will tell you – is the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. Replacing an earlier wooden drawbridge powered by a donkey walking on a wheel, the modern HPA Bridge was originally erected in 1910 as a double bascule drawbridge with electric motors. The masonry, bridge house, and basic structure of the thing are original to that effort but in the 1980’s a retrofit of the bridge eliminated the double bascule mechanism with a simpler to maintain single bascule one.

What’s a bascule, you ask?

That’s the section of a draw bridge’s roadway which tilts upwards to allow egress to a passing vessel. See? You learned something in Quarantine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What is a man? What has he got? Frank Sinatra asked that.

When is a road not a road, and a city street is not technically a street? When it’s 29th street between Hunters Point and 47th avenues in Long Island City. There are several roads and streets around here which are on the NYC map, host NYC street names and signs, and you can get mail delivered to structures which use those designations as addresses, but they aren’t actually city streets. Railroad access roads, they are called, and are the actual property of the MTA/Long Island Railroad. 29th street is one of them. If you know what to look for, beyond tracks rising up out of the asphalt, these streets are easy to spot. Long gentle curves between the corners, rather than straight as an arrow, and if the distance between the corners is curiously long… you’ve found a good candidate for “railroad access road.” You have to check the official record, of course, but 29th street alongside Dutch Kills is definitively part of this classification.

Back in the early 20th century, there used to be a “terminal railway” setup in these parts which provided “last mile” service to the factories and warehouses of “America’s Workshop” as LIC was known. This “Degnon Terminal railway” split off from the Lower Montauk tracks along Newtown Creek via the Montauk Cutoff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of blocks from Dutch Kills is the former Waldes Koh-I-Noor four building complex, which used to be able to accommodate a train set running between its various buildings. Waldes were manufacturers of milliners supplies – pins and needles, buttons, snaps. The metal pants zipper was innovated here during the First World War, I’m told. During the Second World War, Waldes ceased production of clothing items and retooled their factory for war production, manufacturing the internal components of artillery shells for both the Army and Navy.

Boy, do I love LIC. I guess this is part of the reason I find myself wandering around here so often. The stories I can tell… and wish I was telling… but somehow I don’t think that I’m going to be leading many walking tours this year.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. 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.

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