The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Vernon Avenue Bridge’ Category

tropical marks

leave a comment »

A quick look inside the Circus Warehouse in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the Newtown Creek side of LIC’s Vernon Blvd., you’ll find the Circus Warehouse. I’ve been desirous of doing a long post on them for a while, but this ain’t that. The organization instructs and trains for the athletic side of the circus world, teaching acrobatics and rope training. Occasion found me sheltering from the cold in there recently, for reasons which I’ll describe in a post next week.

Suffice to say that for the 15 minutes or so that I was in the space, I cracked out a few shots of interesting people doing cool things – what more could the wandering photographer ask for?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a level of physical strength on display in the shot above which astounds. We’re I to attempt something like this, I’d experience a body wide cramp which would collapse into a singularity and a black hole would form.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Circus Warehouse offers all sorts of programs and classes, which the athletic and physically sound types amongst you might consider. They are based in a 1960’s era warehouse that sits on the former Pigeon Street Yard of the LIRR in LIC, at the Vernon Blvd. street end where the Vernon Avenue Bridge once stood.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Written by Mitch Waxman

February 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

supercilious and sneering

leave a comment »

Sunset at my beloved Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around a week ago, my pal Gil Lopez was conducting a meeting of Newtown Creek Alliance’s Green Infrastructure Work Group over at the HarborLab location at the Vernon street end in LIC. Green Infrastructure, for those of you not in the loop, is a concept which seeks to use natural processes rather than mechanical ones (known as gray infrastructure) to handle issues such as flooding around waterways. Sometimes this “G.I.” manifests as bioswales, which are elaborately constructed tree pits that function as storm water retention tanks, in other cases it might mean using petroleum eating fungus organisms to clean up a brown field.

Pretty exciting stuff, actually, and the government types REALLY like it as it’s much cheaper to implement than gray infrastructure – which usually takes the form of sewer plants and expensive cut and cover projects like bending weirs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The event was well attended, I saw Jan Mun and Jason Sinopoli, whose NCA project involving fungal or mycoremediation at the ExxonMobil 400 Kingsland Avenue site in Greenpoint I had photographed a while back. Dorothy Morehead from CB2 was there as well, and Gil Lopez is one of the founders of the Smiling Hogshead Ranch – a community garden recently opened on MTA property over on Skillman Avenue. Lynne Serpe from the Green Party, and Erik Baard from HarborLab, as well as a bunch of people I had never met before.

We discussed a few things, and since I had brought my tripod – decided to squeeze out a few sunset exposures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is really going to miss the view from Newtown Creek, when the real estate industrial complex achieves their goal of stealing the sky and a shield wall of luxury condos is completed. The Green Infrastructure stuff is going to be increasingly important in coming decades, as we stack as many people as possible into LIC and North Brooklyn. Imagine what’s going to my beloved Creek every morning when all of these multitudes flush their toilets and bathe. Hopefully, we can imagine a solution, using nature to combat our ill conceived nurture.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

ragged purple

leave a comment »

My all time favorite tugboat shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was shot on November 17, 2010.

It’s a memorable date, as a fellow named Andrew Cuomo came to Newtown Creek to announce the formal settlement between NYS and ExxonMobil, concerning the Greenpoint oil spill. The Brian Nicholas entered the Creek at an optimal moment, lighting wise.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

The 2013 Spring and Summer Tours Schedule

with 3 comments

“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.”

illusion brought

with one comment

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cloudy days and colorless nights are all that one such as myself can look forward to, and it is only within the wasted devastations of the Newtown Creek where memories of succor and happiness might be found.

In such a spot, and for several months in fact, these trailers of automotive tires have been sitting. Seemingly abandoned, one knows not the purpose of their corporeal presence at the Vernon Street End here in Long Island City, but given the long history of dumping in the area- one presumes their status as circumspect. It should be mentioned that the trailers have license plates and identifying marks, which is unusual for such scenarios.

from wikipedia

Tire stockpiles create a great health and safety risk. Tire fires can occur easily, burning for months, creating substantial pollution in the air and ground. Recycling helps to reduce the number of tires in storage. An additional health risk, tire piles provide harborage for vermin and a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may carry diseases. Illegal dumping of scrap tires pollutes ravines, woods, deserts, and empty lots; which has led many states to pass scrap tire regulations requiring proper management. Tire amnesty day events, in which community members can deposit a limited number of waste tires free of charge, can be funded by state scrap tire programs, helping decrease illegal dumping and improper storage of scrap tires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Four of these trailers have been here since at least late January. You can see them in the background of this shot from the 22nd day of 2013.

At various intervals, the doors of more than one of these trailers have hung open before me, and they are all full of tires. Mayhaps there is some legitimate and wholesome purpose for their presence, which is beyond my reckoning.

It’s not as if 4 seemingly abandoned trailers, parked in proximity to the Buckeye Pipeline and directly over the G train tunnel (and within throwing distance of a rail yard and the Midtown Tunnel) would be noticed or investigated by the same security and law enforcement personnel who will regularly inquire “what are you taking pictures of” of me from their squad cars. This is Queens.

What could happen?

from wikipedia

Security theater is the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually achieve it. The term was coined by computer security specialist and writer Bruce Schneier for his book Beyond Fear, but has gained currency in security circles, particularly for describing airport security measures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you used to the Brooklyn point of view, these are the slabs of cement that the boat people are tied off to on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek, around a block from the LIRR yard. Nothing to worry about, go back about your business.

I’m told that the group of boats nesting along the shore here has taken to calling itself the “Hunters Point Boat Sanctuary.”

This was once the home of the Newtown Creek Towing Company, incidentally, right alongside the Vernon Avenue Bridge.

1908 image from “Illustrated History of the Borough of Queens, New York City By Georg von Skal, Flushing Journal, Flushing, N.Y” – courtesy google books. That’s Brooklyn on the right, Queens to the left.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The situation here continues to scare the hell out of me, but no one seems particularly concerned about it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To my admittedly age ravaged eyes, this doesn’t look so safe. The heavy concrete blocks which support the ad hoc moorings of these boats is clearly and inexorably being pulled toward the Creek. Never mind the fact that they are docking in the direct outfall of a combined sewer pipe.


Sometimes, during heavy rain and snow storms, combined sewers receive higher than normal flows. Treatment plants are unable to handle flows that are more than twice design capacity and when this occurs, a mix of excess stormwater and untreated wastewater discharges directly into the City’s waterways at certain outfalls. This is called a combined sewer overflow (CSO). We are concerned about CSOs because of their effect on water quality and recreational uses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s the scene at the ragged border of Queens known as Newtown Creek and the Vernon Avenue Street End in the early spring of 2013.

It has been decided to do an occasional series of posts which are strictly “here’s what is there” in nature, simply to document the place as it begins a season of tremendous change. Hunters Point South has begun, and the Kosciuszko reconstruction will be starting up this fall, Greenpoint Landing is not far away either.

This is the penultimate year for the Newtown Creek’s 20th century incarnation, which will be utterly altered, upgraded, and updated in the next decade.


Newtown Creek is a 3.8-mile long tidal water body located in the City of New York, having five main tributaries (Dutch Creek, Whale Creek, Maspeth Creek, East Branch and English Kills) and is itself a tributary of the East River. The creek is a part of the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary that forms the north-south border between the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

The Newtown Creek area has a history of widespread industrial development dating back to the 1800s. In the mid-1800s, the area adjacent to Newtown Creek was one of the busiest hubs of industrial activity in New York City. More than 50 refineries were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. Newtown Creek was brimming with commercial vessels. During World War II, the creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation. This historic development has resulted in changes in the nature of the Creek from a natural drainage condition to one that is largely governed by engineered and institutional systems.

%d bloggers like this: