The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Manhattan Avenue Street End’ Category

drowsy realisation

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Newtown Creek, where all things are possible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, I’m hanging out with a photographer friend of mine, and she’s got a car. Therefore, since she’s become quite enamored with my beloved Creek, I decide to show her a few of the less than obvious locations where interesting shots can be attained. One of these spots is one that I seldom visit, the Maspeth Avenue street end on the Brooklyn side.

The Maspeth Avenue street end on the Queens side is the Maspeth Avenue Plank road, as a note, which I’m at quite frequently. The Brooklyn side is a pain in the neck to get to on foot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason it’s a pain in the neck is that there really aren’t any sidewalks, one side of the street is defined by the fences of the National Grid site, and it’s a long “road to nowhere” which doesn’t offer any possible “escape route” should anyone take issue with a photographer wandering around – which happens occasionally. The other side of the street hosts a series of waste transfer stations, vehicle impound lots, and concrete plants. All of those businesses are defined by Maspeth Avenue on the street facing or western side of the street, and by the English Kills tributary on the eastern side of their lots. In recent years, there’s been an abundance of homeless folks living out of their cars camping out along the National Grid side. If I get in trouble on this section of Maspeth Avenue while on foot, I’m pretty much screwed as I’d have to walk or run to get away from it. Since my friend had a car, we could zip down to the water and do our thing, then zip back out.

It’s pretty desolate and lonely back there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The water quality is abysmal in this section, which is one of the narrowest points on the Newtown Creek. It’s where Furman Island used to be, just across the water on the Queens side, and the DEP has installed an aeration system in the narrow which creates weird lipid jellies of foamy garbage and sewer solids that collect up along the bulkheads.

The industrial people use the street itself as a private lot, storing materials and heavy equipment wherever they want to.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One climbed up on a giant pile steel beams for the shot above, which gave me a vantage over to the Queens side.

Someone has been using these steel beams as a shelter wall, and the signs of occupancy were all over the place at the Maspeth Avenue street end – clothing, suitcases, chairs, bedding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This suitcase in particular caught out attentions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

‘Nuff said. 

Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 25, 2018 at 1:30 pm

The 2013 Spring and Summer Tours Schedule

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle


– photo by Mai Armstrong

Want to see something cool?

Odds are that a bunch of the folks who will be reading this might have no idea who Mitch Waxman is, why they should come along with him on a tour of some weird neighborhood in Brooklyn or Queens or Staten Island, nor what a Newtown Creek or Kill Van Kull are- let alone where. Who is this weirdo?

Check out the “bio” page here at Newtown Pentacle, or this profile of me from the NY Times published in 2012. My tours of Newtown Creek have garnered no small amount of interest from the fourth estate- whether it be, Queens, the 22blog,, or Queensnyc, and I’ve turned up in a bunch of media reports, documentaries, and been interviewed for multitudinous reports on the lamentable history of the Newtown Creek.

Most recently, it was National Geographic and Curbed. Attendees on my tours come from a variety of backgrounds- photographers, history and rail buffs, maritime enthusiasts, and there always seems to be an odd and welcome concentration of elected officials and journalists about.

What is with this guy?

I’m the Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, Official Photographer and Steering Committee member of the Working Harbor Committee, a member of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee and the Newtown Creek CAG, and am also a member of the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee. Newtown Pentacle, this blog, has been steadily published since 2009. I live in Astoria, Queens with my wife and our little dog, Zuzu.

In just the last few years, I have exposed thousands of people to the Newtown Creek, and its incredible history. This is where the industrial revolution actually happened, along this 3.8 mile long waterway that defines the border of Brooklyn and Queens.


– photo by Mai Armstrong

In 2013, continuing relationships with Atlas Obscura, Newtown Creek Alliance, and the Working Harbor Committee (as well as friends like the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and others) allow me to offer the following schedule. Live ticketing links will be made available as they come online, and all dates are subject to cancellation or rescheduling due to weather or unforeseen circumstance. There are 6 unique walking tours listed here, and one boat trip in which I will be the principal speaker.

Private tours are possible, schedule permitting, and can be arranged by contacting me here. Last year, for instance, several private University classes engaged me for a day at the Creek, as did a few private groups. As mentioned, contact me and we will figure something out if you’ve got a meetup group, college class, or special request.

Here then, is my official schedule as it stands right now. There will likely be a few additions as time goes on, which I will let you know about as they occur. Best to subscribe to this blog (top right, email subscription)  or “follow” me on Twitter @newtownpentacle for news.

In April, 2013- There will be a brand new tour  of Greenpoint debuted, which I call “Glittering Realms.”

Glittering Realms Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

In May, 2013- We start off with 13 Steps around Dutch Kills, go to the Insalubrious Valley, visit DUKBO, and finish off the month with a Working Harbor boat tour.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

NCA Birdwatch Bus tour- June 24, 2012

– photo by Mai Armstrong

In June, 2013- We visit the Poison Cauldron, return to the Insalubrious Valley, and check out the Kill Van Kull.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

In July, 2013- We visit Queens’s Hunters Point with a brand new tour. I might have another offering or two for you, but nothing I can speak about quite yet.

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.


– photo by Mai Armstrong

In August, 2013- We return to the Poison Cauldron, repeat the 13 steps, and the Kill Van Kull walks.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, August 24, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

There are a few other dates coming in the fall, and a couple of more summer events which are still being discussed, but I’ll let you know more about them in coming posts.

Also, I will definitely be onboard but not on the microphone during the Working Harbor Committee “Beyond Sandy” Hidden Harbor tours on Tuesday nights, all summer. Hope you can come along.

Click here for more on “Beyond Sandy.”

massing around

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

An arrangement was made to meet up with some of my North Brooklyn chums to hash around a few ideas and discuss the news of the day at the thankfully reopened Ashbox restaurant in Greenpoint. A bit early for the assignation, your humble narrator drifted down to the street end, and former bulkhead of the Vernon Avenue Bridge, whereupon the Iron Wolf motored by.



– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long have I wished that my parents had been avid motorcyclists and named me Iron Wolf, but alas. In fact, anything even remotely canid would satisfy this urge, but this could have resulted in my name being “Laddie”, “Butch”, or “Spot.” Iron Wolf sounds like a metal band from the early 1980’s, the sort that would have headlined at L’Amour’s over in Bay Ridge.



  • O/N: 0653661
  • Tug, Length: 50
  • Width: 16.7
  • HP: 400
  • Built Year: 1983
  • Built At: New Bedford, Ma.
  • Builder: Bear Marine Service
  • Home Port: New York, NY

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All I could find online about Iron Wolf was terse, straight to the point, and in “all caps.” I suppose that’s appropriate. IF YOU NAME SOMETHING IRON WOLF, YOU SHOULD USE ALL CAPS TO DESCRIBE IT. TERSE GREETINGS AND A MARITIME SUNDAY SHOUT OUT TO THE IRON WOLF. WELCOME TO NEWTOWN CREEK.

from wikipedia

A tugboat (tug) is a boat that maneuvers vessels by pushing or towing them. Tugs move vessels that either should not move themselves, such as ships in a crowded harbor or a narrow canal, or those that cannot move by themselves, such as barges, disabled ships, log rafts, or oil platforms. Tugboats are powerful for their size and strongly built, and some are ocean-going.


Remember that event in the fall which got cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy?

The “Up the Creek” Magic Lantern Show presented by the Obscura Society NYC is back on at Observatory.

Click here or the image below for more information and tickets.


fevered state

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze in wonder upon the fabled Newtown Creek of the 21st century, whereupon a tug of the Poling and Cutler towing organization wrestles a fuel barge in a westerly course toward the East River. A famously repeated phrase offered by your humble narrator boldly states that “in the late 19th and early 20th century, Newtown Creek carried more commercial traffic than the entire Mississippi River”, a statement which often causes listeners to roll their eyes. It is inconceivable, given the modern appearance of the Creek and its banks, to believe this statement. Some ask me whether or not tugs and barges even operate along the Newtown Creek in this dystopian future we have all found ourselves living in.

– photo by, September 11, 1903

Gaze, thereby, upon the Newtown Creek of 1903. This is roughly the same spot, with the Chelsea fiber mill (modern day Manhattan Avenue and GMDC) on the southern (left) or Greenpoint bank and the Newtown Creek towing company docks on the right or LIC bank (modern day Vernon Blvd. street end). Another shot emanating from the NYC Municipal Archives, this is one of the few extant photographic records of the Newtown Creek’s zenith as the “workshop of America” at the height of the second industrial revolution.

gleaming image

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

It should be mentioned that under normal circumstance, the narration recited on board one of the Newtown Creek boat tours which I’ve been a part of in the recent past has been “the straight story”. By that, I mean that the normal narrative which readers of this blog have grown used to is toned down a bit, and a more mainstream presentation is offered. There are still plenty of “night soil and offal dock” stories, but as I have a relatively short amount of time to tell the story of Newtown Creek, a lot of the more… colourful… stuff gets trimmed out. Luckily, the Newtown Creek Alliance is producing a “spooky” Halloween tour this Saturday (October 27), and I get to go to town on this one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In addition to weaving the Blissville Banshee, Maspeth Gypsies, and witch panics into my speech- there are two other factors which make this tour special. First and foremost is the price, subsidized by grant money from the NYCEF fund of the Hudson River Foundation – which allows NCA to offer the trip at an amazing price of just $25. Secondly, the time at which we will be embarking is late in the afternoon, which should offer spectacular sunset lighting of the Creek for photographers and sensitives alike.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a two hour excursion, leaving from Manhattan’s South Sea Seaport on board a comfortable NY Water Taxi (which, yes, has bathroom facilities). NCA is encouraging the wearing of seasonal costuming to celebrate and acknowledge the Halloween holiday. Scheduled speakers include your humble narrator and NCA Executive Director Kate Zidar. Whatever there is, which cannot possibly exist, lurking in the Black Mayonnaise which underlies the cursed waters of that cataract of agony known as the Newtown Creek has refused to make an appearance sans ritual sacrifice- something NCA cannot have any involvement with due to the intricacies of its 501/3c non profit status. The thing in the megalith will be watching, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The question of what sort of costume I will be wearing is still up in the air. Attempts to borrow a death cloak have so far been unsuccessful, despite the fact that several people I know own such raiments. Click the banner just below this paragraph for ticketing information and fulfillment. Do you dare to enter this nightmare world of the Newtown Creek, or will you instead cling to the illusion of sanity which exists beyond its banks?

Also- Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

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