The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Maspeth Creek’ Category

border of

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Devastations, concrete and plastic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Broken, abused, cast aside. That’s me. Like every other bit of wind blown trash in NYC, I find myself staring into the abyssal darkness which is the Newtown Creek. Poisoned, polluted, and abandoned. That’s me too.

Here in the wasteland, where dissolution and disease can be found, this is where I belong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shouting at bureaucrats, angrily decrying the injustices of municipal apportionment, demonstrating that the sky is indeed falling to those who can stop it. Demanding not justice, but a simple admission of culpability for the collapsing heavens. That’s me too. Doesn’t make me popular with officialdom, but there you are. Somebody has to do it, and as with a lot of other sections of my life – you gotta do whatcha gotta do.

Assailed from all sides, by do gooders who would rather complain than actually do anything to change this catastrophe we live in, by cocktail party scholastics, by the politically correct. That’s me too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Periodically, the bile rises in my throat, and rage clouds my eyes. Rhetorical flourish and clever retort gives way to a growling and wild eyed sermon which demands acknowledgment that a dangerous storm is forming in front of the lucky recipient.  It is in these moments that I remind people, and myself, that I am – in fact – not a nice guy by nature and especially by nurture.

What would Superman do? That’s what pulls me back from the edge, when I remember what I aspire to, rather than what I am.

In fact, I can be quite an asshole when I don’t hold myself in check, and remind myself about Superman.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s at these times that a humble narrator picks his way over to his beloved Creek, musing on his private fantasies of visiting exquisite vengeance upon those who have angered him. It’s also when he finds himself thinking of himself in the “third person” and decides that it’s time to get a grip. Superman always keeps his grip, lest all those things which he gazes upon, and through (x-ray vision, which would be handy), burst into flame. He lives in a world made of paper, of course, but hey – you can have your Jesus, my ideal being and eidolon has heat vision and can fly. He’s also highly resistant to bullets and temperature extremes, but has an aversion to shiny green rocks.

It’s not so easy, living between my ears, but shiny green rocks bring me back to Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What this city needs is a good plague, I’ve always thought. That’s the sort of thing Superman never thinks. Newtown Creek, what it really needs are the direct attentions of Superman, but he’d probably avoid the place because it’s covered in shiny green rocks. Superman could probably solve every little Newtown Creek problem in an afternoon, mainly because there would be no one who could say “no” to him.

All Newtown Creek’s really got is me and a few of my friends, I’m afraid. It’s also likely where that plague mentioned above might come from.

We will have to do, until someone better comes along.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 4, 2015 at 11:00 am

betraying myself

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Like the ghouls and ghasts, loosed upon the night wind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in yesterday’s post, one decided to take advantage of the atmospherics offered by temperature inversion last week and proceed to hike over to Newtown Creek from Astoria at four in the morning. As also mentioned in the prior posting – the manifestations of high humidity like fog and mist, coupled with spring like temperatures, created a physically arduous environment. Perspiration offered an abundance of skin secretions for my clothing to absorb, which, combined with worries about condensation on camera and lens – caused a rather uncomfortable series of existential challenges to endure. No one ever promised me a rose garden, however, so your humble narrator soldiered on into the night.

The apex of this part of Laurel Hill, sitting alongside a shallow valley through which a lost tributary of the lugubrious Newtown Creek which was known as “Wolf Creek” once flowed, is always that moment when a humble narrator comments to himself that the creeklands have been reached.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Calvary Cemetery’s newer sections are on the left side of the shot above, and the “House of Moses” occupies the center. That’s the Long Island Expressway at center and above, with industrial Maspeth to the right.

This is where 48th street, whose gradual climb in altitude I had been ascending since Northern Blvd., begins to slope roughly towards the elluvial flood plains of the Newtown Creek. Once, this ancient road was paved with crushed Oyster Shells. That colonial era surface would have been replaced with horse and carriage friendly Belgian Blocks (colloquially known as cobble stones) shortly before the Civil War, and later in the 19th century by tar and Macadam. The modern road is formed out of a concrete bed underpinned by steel rebar and is paved in a petroleum industry waste product called “Asphalt.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Industrial Maspeth never knows sleep. 

There are vast fleets of trucks, locomotives, and shifts of laborers converging at all hours of the day and night on this area, and on every day of the year (except Christmas and Thanksgiving, mostly). Sodium street lamps lend the place a sickly yellow glow, and the harsh illumination of passing heavy trucks provides for occasional blinding white blasts of light.

One has received “safety training” from Union laborers and corporate entities over the years, so a certain amount of confidence in how to handle oneself in locales such as this informed my actions. Donning an orange safety vest with reflective strips was one of the preparations made before leaving Astoria, incidentally. Night time in an M1 zone is one of the few times when the wandering photographer definitely WANTS to be noticed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are lots of giant machines moving around in industrial Maspeth, and 21st century industrial America operates within and promulgates a certain cultural imperative. That culture is called “workplace safety” and it’s important to understand the “lingua Franca,” customs, and mores which these laborers operate within – and their expected cultural normatives – as one moves about.

As a rule, never walk in front of a truck or any sort of machine without its operator acknowledging your presence, and if possible indicate to them which way you will be going and wait for them to further acknowledge that before proceeding – that’s one of them. Another is to not just wander across a driveway without looking. These hard working people aren’t expecting some idiot with a camera to be wandering around at 4:30 in the morning, after all, and the cops don’t exactly enforce the 25 mph speed limit around these parts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the bottom of the hill into which 48th street was carven, the grid of the streets is broken, and you can either head west towards Blissville in Long Island City or deeper into industrial Maspeth to the east or south. The Long Island Railroad tracks are found just beyond the fence line pictured above. That’s Review Avenue/56th Road/Rust Street you’re looking at. This is the very definition of a “not pedestrian friendly” intersection and is a dangerous crossing when on foot or a bike.

How dangerous is it, you ask?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another one of the thousands of ghost bikes is found here, a roadside memorial to someone who got squished. Every time you find a ghost bike, you find a human life cut short.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing the LIRR tracks. It should be mentioned that the “Haberman” section of these tracks are quite active these days, and that the signals are in terrible condition. Over the summer, just east of here, a truck crossing the tracks was swept away by a freight train. The exact spot which this shot was captured saw a similar incident occur a couple of years ago. In both cases the barriers never came down, the bells and flashing lights never sounded, and unlike the summer 2015 event to the east – this is where a fatality occurred.

In the distance, the Kosciusko Bridge project lights the horizon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a bit of lens flare present in the shot of the Ferrarra Brothers Concrete trucks above, but there’s little one can do about that in context. The shots in today’s, and yesterday’s, post are almost entirely handheld. High ISO settings, coupled with a “wide open” aperture, and compensating for the counterpoints of bright artificial light and enveloping darkness make for quite the technical challenge. It’s all about technique, shooting postures, and being able to force the camera into “seeing the light.”

Sometimes that means light is bouncing around inside the lens, producing flares. “Work with it” as my pal Bernie Ente used to say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heading towards Maspeth Creek along 49th street. I’ve been told that this, the section of 49th pictured above, is actually one of the lowest places in NYC – in terms of altitude relative to sea level and the sewer shed that feeds into the Newtown Creek. It’s a guarantee that you’ll alway see some flooding here every time it rains, which is something I can say with authority, and based on observation.

An apocryphal story offered by one of my many neighborhood informants stated that during a Hurricane Sandy, geysers of water were erupting from the sewer grates and manhole covers in this spot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, depicting Newtown Creek’s tributary “Maspeth Creek” on a foggy night in November of 2015, was actually the first tripod shot which I popped off last Thursday.

I bagged the dslr momentarily, and employed my trusty old Canon G10 with its magnetic tripod and a remote shutter release. The magnet allows me to “clang” the camera onto fences, fire hydrants, anything ferrous. The shot is a 15 second long exposure, which characteristically causes water to assume a mirrored glass like appearance. In the distance – the Kosciusko Bridge, with Manhattan’s skyline lost in the mist rising from that malign example of municipal and corporate excess known only as the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

Tomorrow – more.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 10, 2015 at 11:00 am

heavy boots

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Yeah, Happy Earth Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another Earth Day rolls around, wherein large numbers of happy little sophists will gather together in Manhattan Parks and congratulate themselves for separating their trash into “recycling” and “garbage” parcels. They will pat each other on the back, and claim that NYC is the “greenest” and most “resilient” of American cities. You won’t see any of them visiting LIC, or Greenpoint, Maspeth, or Bushwick, or Ridgewood. They won’t think about what happens after they flush their toilets, either.

Few, if any, will find themselves having arrived at the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They won’t see the black waters of Newtown Creek’s tributary Maspeth Creek, or smell the battery acid odor of raw sewage as it is entering the waterway. They won’t comment on the illegal dumping, or the true nature and environmental impact of the recycling industry. Greater good, they would say, were they to leave Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Few will visit Dutch Kills at low tide, over in LIC. If they did, they would be forced to rationalize the rotten egg smell as being produced by anaerobic microbes. They wouldn’t puzzle over the neon colors of this tributary of Newtown Creek, whose mouth is .75 of a mile from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They won’t wander through the borderlands of Brooklyn and Queens to Ridgewood, and witness what the recycling process actually looks and smells like. They won’t worry about what they are breathing either.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Manhattan people like to feel as if they’re doing something to help the environment, and will do so in front of television cameras. They will make a show of discussing the banning of plastic grocery bags, or demand that NYC begins to compost its organics. They won’t realize that this composting has to be done somewhere within throwing distance of their Borough, and that it will carried by truck to some central receiving facility where it will be collected and stored whilst awaiting processing. They don’t know that this area will be somewhere along the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They certainly won’t visit the tracks of the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch line, and see the hundreds of filled cargo boxes that compose the “garbage train.” They won’t care that the concentrating point of roughly 30-40% of NYC’s garbage is found on the corner of Varick Street and Johnson Avenue, nor about the thousands of trucks which descend upon it daily.

So – Happy Earth Day, from Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

braying donkeys

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Regrets, I’ve had a few.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption.” There’s been an awful gnashing of teeth and a clash of cultures going on around the Newtown Creek of late, and a season of controversy has begun. My pal Bernie Ente always warned that as soon as the money began to flow from the various environmental lawsuits, you’d see the carpet baggers and opportunists assert themselves, and the one thing which everyone would forget about is the Newtown Creek itself as they fought over the scraps offered by the Politicians. I’ve been asked, dozens of times now, for my view on the current conflict and – uncharacteristically – I’ve stayed out of it and refused comment. Why? Because it really has nothing to do with me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew.” Your humble narrator knows all the warring parties personally, some of them are even friends. I know that this means I’m trying to be like Sweden, and that the American way is to pick a side, but unlike everyone else – I can recognize a conflict of interest when it crosses my desk and won’t get involved in a war that doesn’t directly affect me. My interest is in the Newtown Creek itself, and telling its historic story, as well as recording the events of the early Superfund era for posterity. Are the factions vying for the control and future of the waterway, and their conflicts, going to matter in the long run? Only time will tell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“For what is a man, what has he got?” There’s a side which believes that Brooklyn is invading Queens, and attempting to inflict a Hipster invasion upon it. There’s a side which visualizes a vast conspiracy, the “Non Profit Industrial Complex” as it were, which will insure that all public monies flow through the hands of a chosen elite. There’s a side which just wants to be left alone to pursue their own goals along the Creek, whether it be splashing around in the water or planting gardens along its banks, however sophist these projects may be. What’s been forgotten, in my mind, is the economic engine that the Newtown Creek was, is, and always will be. Also, the real modern villain of the Creek – the sewer system – which dumps millions of gallons of Manhattan’s untreated filth into the water of Brooklyn and Queens every year, continues to operate in the same manner as it did a century ago, and is seldom mentioned anymore.

Of course, I’m just some guy with a camera and a filthy black raincoat, who doesn’t have advanced degrees in urban studies or whatever, so what do I know? I just see things “my way.”

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm

exhalations penetrate

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If it looks like this, can you imagine what it smelled like?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A short break, wherein offerings at this, your Newtown Pentacle, will consist of lighter fare than that normally served is underway. Obligation and a series of deadlines have dominated all attention, and accordingly – for the next few days, singular images with a pithy yet abbreviated description will be supplied. One must render unto Caesar, after all.

There are now four public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn and two that walk the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

Plank Road, with Newtown Creek Alliance, on April 19th. This one is free, click here to get on the list.

Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura, on April 26th. Click here for more info and ticketing.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd. Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th. Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 18, 2014 at 11:30 am

peopled with

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Today’s post is for the birds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One remembers that time when the world was not frozen, an era when water ran freely, and there were wholesome creatures which existed in the open air. Some of these entities were classified as birds, holdovers and descendants of the mega saurians who ruled the planet in antiquity, and these bird things were actually capable of flight. This was, of course, before Ithaqua was given regency over the planet, and before New York City began to resemble the Plateau of Leng.

from wikipedia

Ithaqua is one of the Great Old Ones and appears as a horrifying giant with a roughly human shape and glowing red eyes. He has been reported from as far north as the Arctic to the Sub-Arctic, where Native Americans first encountered him. He is believed to prowl the Arctic waste, hunting down unwary travelers and slaying them gruesomely, and is said to have inspired the Native American legend of the Wendigo and possibly the Yeti.

Ithaqua’s cult is small, but he is greatly feared in the far north. Fearful denizens of Siberia and Alaska often leave sacrifices for Ithaqua—not as worship but as appeasement. Those who join his cult will gain the ability to be completely unaffected by cold. He often uses Shantaks, a dragon-like “lesser race”, as servitors. A race of subhuman cannibals, the Gnophkehs, also worshiped him, along with Rhan-Tegoth and Aphoom-Zhah.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We dwell within now, building walls thickened by ice, cowering in the glow of electrical lights – and the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself occluded by frozen clouds. In the gloom and slush outside, shapes move about. Some are huddled masses of textiles wrapped around stiffly articulated ape things, others are vast encrustations of sodium with metallic endoskeletons and four robustly cylindrical rubber feet. The latter spews noxious gas which paints the ice black, and the former have been observed attacking the precipitants with curious tools and devices.

Remember the birds, remember the birds.

from hplovecraft.com

Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places. For them are the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries. They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia. The haunted wood and the desolate mountain are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister monoliths on uninhabited islands. But the true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Televisual news and information services operate in a fever pitch, describing roof collapses and downed power lines, informing and feeding a populace anxious for elevated states of emotion and experience. A new dark age is upon us, perhaps, and the foolish notion that the titans retreated out of weakness is proven out. Woe to you, mankind, for the great old ones of primal myth – those towering, all conquering masses that once ruled this planet have been awoken from their icy tombs and are on the move. The birds have survived them before, and likely will again, what of humanity however?

Leviathan, Jörmungandr, Tiamat – whatever your culture describes them as – these frozen giants whose very body can swell to continental levels – the Glaciers are returning. Lament!

also from hplovecraft.com

It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm

too acute

with 3 comments

The concrete devastations are nepenthe to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This past weekend was a rather busy one, with a trifecta of tours completed. On Friday, a short walk around Dutch Kills with a group from LaGuardia Community College, a Saturday tour with the Obscura Society explored the Insalubrious Valley, and Sunday found me leading a group from the Brooklyn Brainery through the Poison Cauldron. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- to be seen by so many diminishes me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post were gathered while I was headed for last weekend’s excursion- a Newtown Creek Alliance sponsored event which was conducted as part of the Open House NY weekend event on October 12. This was a novel concept, a “surf and turf” wherein my walking tour met up with a party of rowers from the North Brooklyn Boat Club at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road. Along the way, I noticed this Yeshiva bus parked in a bus stop. The driver must have literally interpreted what “bus stop” means. This was a Saturday morning, so the chances that this vehicle was still in place on Sunday morning are pretty high, but I wasn’t there to see it moved so I can’t comment authoritatively. As the saying in my old neighborhood used to go- now Hasidim, now ya don’t.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All over the upper Creek, there seems to have been some sort of bloom going on for the last couple of weeks, as the water had assumed a chalky green coloration. Last year, while onboard the Riverkeeper boat, just such a happenstance was witnessed. Captain Lipscomb, who operates the boat and scientific equipment onboard, investigated the phenomena and offered the theory that this was a bacterial bloom rather than the effects of an industrial spill or leak. It seems that there are lakes in upstate New York which also suffer from low oxygen levels in the water, and that they exhibit a similar coloration and turbidity as witnessed at the Maspeth Creek tributary in the shot above.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 21, 2013 at 8:02 am

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