The Newtown Pentacle

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

August 3rd marked the beginning of a protracted heat wave here, in a City that never sleeps but certainly appreciates the value of a quick nap. Having seen the dire predictions of a week long spell of heat coupled with sky high levels of atmospheric humidity, one desired to get one walk in before things got truly life threatening. I also wanted “something to do” while waiting out the weather, and since I enjoy developing photos…

Saying all that, the dew point when I was shooting these photos was up in the high 60’s and it was truly a shvitzy night. The “urban heat island effect” coupled with high humidity levels – even at night – is an absolute killer and super difficult to do anything during. Accordingly, I opted for a short walk, one which carried me past “hole reliable” at Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I got fairly lucky. They’re doing all sorts of track maintenance further east of Sunnyside Yards, the Long Island Railroad people are. That means that the train dispatchers are grouping east and west bound traffic much closer together than normal, in order to maximize the length of the intervals between, when the track workers can do their thing.

Normally, it’s one train every twenty minutes or so. On August 3rd, there was a gaggle of traffic flowing through the Harold Interlocking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Difficult and technical, that’s how I describe my methodology for getting shots at “hole reliable” at night. The train is cooking along at a good clip, it’s dark, and where the scene is bright – it’s super bright.

F2, ISO 256,000 (!), and 1/125th of a second is the formula I used for these. As usual, you shoot for the edit, and I noodled these a bit during the developing process for contrast and managed to gain back about a stop of light by being careful with how the contrast ended up in the final render of the camera’s RAW file.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m quite happy with the way that the light from the train showed up in the gravel surrounding the tracks. I’m also pleased as punch that you can see the engineer driving the train behind the windshield.

The shot above was composed with the idea that “you need to do a few that leaves room for setting type into, for presentations and videos.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The heavy industrial ballet just kept on coming, and as LIRR 421 was leaving the frame, another train appeared and was making its way east.

Sometimes you get lucky, even when it’s a steamy August night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rest of my walk was pretty uneventful. I scuttled up the hill to Queens Boulevard, hung a left, and then walked back to HQ in Astoria along 43rd street. These were the last shots I accomplished before the heatwave set in and the 85 degree temperatures at midnight began for a week. I hate “reverse blizzards,” so I hung around the air conditioner for several days.

Something different tomorrow – at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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.

watcher’s window

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Firstly, as I’ve “caught up with myself,” Newtown Pentacle is returning to the familiar three images a day format for an interval. One had quite an abundance of photos to display from before and after the recent trip to Pittsburgh. Back home just in time for the Omicron surge, a humble narrator has resumed his “every other day” schedule of long and short walk around Western Queens.

Recent endeavor found one scuttling about Long Island City’s Court Square section, which has come to resemble Manhattan in terms of population density and building typology. One will point out – again – that despite this massive build out and investment in converting the “mixed use” zoning of LIC over to high density residential zoning, there has not been a similar investment in municipal services. Cops, fire, sanitation, hospital beds, transit. What that means is basically more mouths to feed with the same amount of bread as before. What could go wrong?

Nothing matters, and nobody cares.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The stolen sky of Long Island City is now populated by dormitories for the aspirant class and the already well heeled. One question that continually nags is why the new people don’t have or use window coverings. Drapes, Venetian Blinds, curtains – they seem to prefer letting it all hang out and displaying their lives to each other. I was visiting a friend a couple of years back who lives in Hunters Point, and was looking out of the windows of his tower apartment and noticed a guy across the street, clad only in his underwear, who was doing the dishes. I wondered why he didn’t have curtains, and more importantly – why you’d pay $3,000 plus a month in rent for a “luxury apartment” which didn’t have a dishwasher appliance installed. Weird.

Pictured above is what they call Five Pointz. Personally, I’d rather that the old Neptune Meter company building with its amazing artwork which the tower apartments have stolen the name of was still here, but that’s big real estate for you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My neighborhood in Astoria is about to be similarly destroyed by a project called “Innovation Queens.” Proposed by Kaufman Astoria and Larry Silverstein, this monstrous ideation will decimate the south eastern section of Astoria by erecting a series of 20-30 story tall towers in a triangular section defined by 38th street and 35th avenue on one side and 43rd street and Northern Blvd./36th avenue on the other.

For those of you who know the area – the movie theater, PC Richards, the pool hall, Malbin Pipe, Harley Davidson, and all of those mechanic and used car businesses are toast. All of the blue collar “walk to work” jobs hosted by these businesses are similarly going to go bye-bye. If you want to make an easy $5,000 bucks, contact the Innovation Queens people and tell them you’ll advocate for the project.

You’ll have to get in line, though, since they’ve already bought off a local bar owner, the driving school people on Steinway, a couple of the NYCHA tenant association presidents, and a “community leader” to flack for them.


“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 7, 2022 at 11:00 am

wide scattering

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another night, another walk around Long Island City in the wind and cold. Another shot of the same gas station in the dark. One thing about this pandemic time… it enforces you being in a rut. Same old, same old, nothing matters, nobody cares. Meh.

I want to see waterfalls and mountains. Vast forests, full of critters, and experience the novel, the new, the unexpected. Right now, I’ve got traffic and gasoline tanker trucks though, so I can’t justify the ennui. Better than nothing, or homogeneity and sprawl. As the now classic song by TLC would advise – Don’t go chasing waterfalls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One reminds himself that he’s actually grown quite jaded over the years, here in Western Queens. When you’ve got a high school with a fighter jet in its parking lot just a short walk from the house, which you pass by on your way to what used to be the world’s most valuable maritime industrial zone, not finding “something worth taking pictures of” speaks to your own lack of imagination more than anything.

I was going somewhere specific this particular evening, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s 29th street, between 47th avenue and Hunters Point Avenue, in the Degnon Terminal section of Long Island City. Just beyond the chain link fence in the shot above is found the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. Specifically, it’s the “turning basin” of Dutch Kills. If you look at an overhead map, this is the hammer head shaped area.

There’s been a slow moving shoreline collapse happening for about three years now. When the original collapse began, NYC DOT came out and inspected the roadway for signs of instability. They pronounced it safe for travel and traffic, three years ago. Subsequent collapses have not drawn them back out to take another look.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thanksgiving weekend of 2021, about 25-30 feet of land collapsed into the water, and just about the second week of 2022 the rest of it gave way. Now, this area was a wetland/swamp just over a hundred years ago and the land was “reclaimed” by a developer named Michael Degnon, hence the dub of “Degnon Terminal.”

The way they used to do this, back in the day, was to build out a network of timber box cells. These timber structure boxes, with piles driven into the water and muck, were then filled with rubble and fill which created dry land that they could build on. It’s that hundred year old timber which is giving way, allowing the contained fill to excavate into the water. Unfortunately, 29th street is sitting on top of this and the street itself has started to sag downwards.

As mentioned – nothing matters, and nobody cares. This, however, matters to me and I’m working on making “them” care.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nothing is natural here, it’s all built environment.

This land was once owned by a Governor of New York State – Roscoe P. Flowers. Gov. Flowers passed away in the late 19th century, and Degnon purchased the so called “waste meadows” of Long Island City from his estate shortly before the Pennsylvania Railroad announced that they would be developing the adjoining marsh and swamp land into the Sunnyside Yards.

Degnon was either incredibly lucky or he had the inside scoop, but either way that’s how the Degnon properties came to be and how they were “reclaimed” from the tidal wetlands of Dutch Kills. Dutch Kills was canalized, and at the end of the turning basin there used to be infrastructure that could load rail cars onto barges and vice versa. This connected to a series of tracks known as the Degnon Terminal Railway, which offered connections to the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks at Sunnyside Yards and to the nearby Long Island Railroad Lower Montauk tracks along Newtown Creek. When the PRR and LIRR assets became “nationalized” by Nelson Rockefeller in the late 1960’s and the MTA was created, the properties here in the Degnon Terminal were part of the property portfolio that the agency was thereby born with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

29th street isn’t a proper NYC street, thereby. It’s a “railroad access road” which the NYC DOT surfaces and sets parking rules on, as well as deciding traffic patterns, and they get to erect signage over it. MTA/LIRR still owns the land below, and the bulkheads which touch the water. Thing is, this NYS land is regulated by another agency – the DEC, and NYC DOT, and the Army Corps, and the Coast Guard, and the EPA because of superfund and…

Calgon, take me away


“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 3, 2022 at 11:00 am

ceaseless poring

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another day, another walk. As mentioned, one is increasing the frequency of his exercises in the name of reducing his body weight. Thereby, a lot of “not too far from home” scuttles are underway.

That’s a section of the Sunnyside Yards in Long Island City pictured above, as seen from a fence hole along Thomson Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before the recent spike in Covid numbers, one had been enjoying the option of using mass transit again, but c’est la vie.

That’s an M line subway entering the Court Square station, heading into Queens from Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I laugh a bit whenever I encounter this particular food truck, which proclaims itself as being “The Boss of The Tacos.” I wonder if there’s any consensus between the food trucks as to who’s boss. Are there Taco factions, rivals, or breakaway Birria enthusiasts? Tacos are artisanal by their nature, since you’ve got to touch all of the components with your hand to assemble them.

Los Tacos, soy el Jefe!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve mentioned my recent fascination with photographing gas stations. It’s a damned difficult shot to get the exposure right, and also a real task to handle the photoshop/RAW processing on them. Bright lights, contrasting, saturated colors that want to go all comic book on you.

This one’s on Northern Blvd. and Newtown Road, nearby the Woodside Houses NYCHA campus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A similar set of issues occur with car washes. This operation is a couple of blocks east of the gas station pictured above. The difficulty encountered with this shot is that I was standing across Northern Blvd. on the opposite sidewalk, and finding a fractional shutter interval without a vehicle moving into frame takes a while.

As you may have guessed, this particular evening’s walk was headed east rather than west. I like to mix things up occasionally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a small industrial zone found at the border of Astoria/Woodside/Sunnyside which I like to wander through. It’s a little too “populated” for my taste, surrounded as it is by a residentially zoned area. Check out that graffiti van though. That’ll teach this guy not to park here anymore, huh?

Back tomorrow with more.


“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 11, 2022 at 11:00 am

oddly corrobative

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The routine one currently ascribes to involves a schedule of “one day out, one day in.” What that means is that if I’m out with the camera on Monday, Tuesday is the day I’m at HQ developing whatever I shot and delivering it to the Internet. One opines that internally lubricated parts like the knee or hip joints require regular flexion lest they lose function. Scuttling, always scuttling, that’s me. As a point of interest, the way that this shakes out this week is that tonight I’ll be out and scuttling.

One appears to be little more than a pile of filthy black fabric caught in a stiff breeze to most passerby, but for some reason I’m catching people’s eyes these days and I don’t like that. Some of the humans want to talk with me, whilst others are suspicious of my presence. Unfortunately, there are also those whom have seemingly developed a taste for human meat during the pandemic, and they gaze at me and my possessions hungrily.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Things have become odd out there, in this second winter of Covid. A winnowing of patience, the thinning of empathy, an acceptance of “that’s how things are now” has been arrived at. You can feel “the vibe” if you’re the sensitive type. Personally, I miss the illegal fireworks.

I’ve been observing the sort of things which hint at the continuing unraveling of civil order, encountered malign actors on the deserted streets, and have taken to swiveling my head around more than previously. Blame whatever you want to for this, I don’t care what others say, and I’m sure there’s a political narrative you’ll find comfort in. It’s going to be a real shit show when the Cops start doing their jobs again, which I predict as coinciding with the arrival of a new local political regime in January. It’s likely too late for that to have any real meaning, however, as the Djinn has escaped its bottle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a frontline of next year’s political bullshit here in Astoria. A mega project offered by the Kaufman Astoria people called “Innovation Queens” is slated to begin paying off local “voices” to sing the song of gentrification. If you want to know what it costs to buy off these voices – it’s about $5,000 a head. You’ll get all the usual characters – the street minister who’s secretly a gangster, the well thought of community leader who’s secretly the secret gangster’s mistress, the odd local business owner who was planning on selling his bar soon anyway. These sort of characters were all in for the LIC rezonings, the BQX, Amazon, etc. – whatever big idea City Hall and the EDC were flacking at the time and writing checks for. That’s why I can tell you what and how much they cost, because that’s what they cost the bosses last time, and the time before that. Five grand isn’t even bagel money for the real estate people.

The Innovation Queens people describe this little industrial zone along Northern Boulevard as “dark, deserted, dangerous.” In actuality, it didn’t used to be, but ever since they started acquiring/emptying/blighting the properties hereabouts…


“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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