The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Photowalk’ Category

low toned

with one comment

Holy smokes, the FreshDirect building is toast!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just at the point where one traditionally turns back towards HQ and begins the journey from the LIC Dutch Kills “zone,” I suddenly stopped in my tracks at the realization that I could see the sky. The gigantic building with yellow painted corrugated steel walls that used to house the FreshDirect operation here in LIC has been demolished. Tectonic!

This was a HUGE footprint building, five or six stories tall, with both refrigerated and shelf stable warehousing as well as several food preparation workshops. There were interior driveways large enough for multiple semi tractor trailers to reverse into, and smaller loading bays that could handle about ten or so of the FreshDirect local delivery trucks at the same time. Gone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as an aside for the thousands of people who have interrupted me while photographing over the years to ask “why are you taking pictures of that” while looking at me suspiciously and asking if I like hummus, this is exactly the reason. Creating some sort of record of what was there prior to it being replaced by something new. The “new” thing will have all sorts of government and corporate effort attached to it whose singular goal is the obfuscation of the site’s history. Ask the people in Queens Plaza if they know about the chemical factory, or lead foundry, which used to occupy the site of their shiny new condominium building. That’s the FreshDirect facility pictured above, as seen from a few blocks east.

A big part of the mission here at Newtown Pentacle is to create a record of this era of transition and rapid change in Western Queens for posterity which is independently held and not beholden to the political or business order. Whatever goes up on the site of that FreshDirect building… well… what used to be there?

Glad you asked.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big historic factory here was owned by the American Druggist Syndicate, who made pharmaceuticals – so essentially a chemical plant. There were a couple of varnish factories as well, so petrochemical processing. Then a few of the smaller lots were occupied by metal working and refining companies involved mostly in iron working, so that means heavy metals and coal retort residues. The statement above comes from a cursory scan of a 1919 fire insurance map in my possession. Did the 20th century bring in plastics? Garbage handling? Good questions.

Right behind the FreshDirect lot is a set of tracks used by the LIRR which have been liberally doused with rodenticides and herbicides over the centuries, and the soil they sit on hosts lakes of PCB’S, PAH’S and other electrical insulating oils beneath the surface which has bled out of their trackside equipment. Newtown Creek itself is about 2,000 feet away from the Borden Avenue sidewalk pictured in the first shot of this post.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. 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.

resident alienists

leave a comment »

Friday bits and bobs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week and here in Astoria, just as a humble narrator was about to succumb to that daily interval of involuntary unconsciousness during which wild hallucinations occur, the windows at HQ began to strobe with a scarlet hue. Thinking that the Astoria Borealis might be occurring again, one rushed to the porch. It seems one of my neighbors was having a visit from both the NYPD and the FDNY, and since both of the municipal vehicles were quite static while the City’s preeminent staffers were busy within, one decided to get a couple of shots for the archive.

I do love seeing an unnaturally colored series of lights. A recent query offered by a passerby nearby Queens Plaza which was a variation on the standard “why are taking pictures of that”? My answer was “Y’know those old photos of NYC that people share on the internet? Somebody like me took those, and whereas these photos are new, someday they’ll be old.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luyster Creek is a lonely industrial waterway found on the forbidden northern coast of Queens, here in Astoria. A humble narrator is drawn to things forbidden, lonely, and industrial so a scuttle from HQ on the Broadway side of the neighborhood was enacted. Timing was key in this walk, as I wanted to get there just as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was dipping down beyond the western shore.

There’s a pretty active industrial driveway leading to the aforementioned western shore, leading to what’s soon going to be a new Department of Sanitation New York (DSNY) maintenance garage and salt dome complex. The City is moving operations from 21st street nearby the Ravenswood NYCHA campus over to the IBZ (industrial business zone) found on the north side of Astoria. DSNY is planning on spending a ball park number of $131 million back here.

Did you know that NYC has a 1% for art requirement in all new municipal construction projects? It’s how the Newtown Creek Nature Walk in Greenpoint got funded. Been on the books since 1982, the 1% for art requirement. You know who must have gotten that into the books, back in 1982? I’ll bet it was Astoria’s own Peter Vallone, senior. Hmmm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One stuck around at Luyster Creek for a while as the tide was coming in. Saying that, Luyster is a lot like my beloved Newtown Creek in terms of there being a vertical rather than laminar or horizontal flow related to the tide. There’s a bunch of indeterminate muck in the water and its sediment bed due to industrial pollutants as well as a large CSO or Combined Sewer Outfall (BB-041) maintained by the DEP at the head of the canal. As a matter of fact, the shot above was gathered while standing on the pipe’s outfall weir.

NYC has a combined sewer system, meaning that sanitary and storm water use the same underground pipes to travel to the 14 sewer plants. A quarter inch of rain, City wide, means a billion gallons have suddenly surged into the system, and the agency responsible for wastewater management and the 14 plants – the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection, or DEP – is forced to release the overage into area waterways.

The nomenclature of “BB-041” is explained thusly; the BB stands for Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant” which is just a few blocks away, the 041 indicates that this is number 41 of the 1936 vintage Bowery Bay plant’s 47 outfalls. BB-041 experiences an average number of 61 weather related discharges into Luyster Creek annually, and pours roughly 84 million gallons of untreated sewage per year directly into the water. Fun times.


“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 21, 2020 at 11:00 am

utter extirpation

with 2 comments

I had to make pee pee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While wandering around Dutch Kills, Long Island City’s (surviving) tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek, one suddenly felt the call of nature. It was about six a.m. as I recall, when tolled the telltale alarum that it was time for a tinkle. Luckily, one had already secluded himself in a hidey hole along the banks of the waterway, one which offered both privacy and open unpaved soil. Why do I mention this, you ask? Because the City of New York completely and utterly disregards human biology in its various machinations and zoning decisions and has for better than fifty years. Why there isn’t a public pissoir found every mile or so is something that just escapes me. Luckily, as a bloke with an “outie,” the world offers lots of shadowed corners, spaces in between trucks, abandoned industrial canal bulkheads, and so on. I imagine the problems which proper renal function causes are more difficult for those of you with “innies.”

Anyway, as the sign in the shot would adjure – there’s meant to be “No Swimming’ here in Dutch Kills. Probably because of the millions of gallons of untreated sewage which the City dumps into every year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of all the sections of Newtown Creek which one visits regularly, Dutch Kills is most frequently seen. It’s not too far from Astoria by foot. Most of the time I come here, however, is definitively later in the day than the one these shots were gathered – which was just as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was rising in the east. I kept on debating whether or not to use a lens filter to “slow down” the rising light levels a bit, but the actual scene was just so beautifully lit that I didn’t want to screw around with it too much. I did have the camera up on the tripod though. The settings for this one were f18, iso 100, and .6 of a second.

Why am I telling you that, just like why talk about having to take a piss? I’ll let you know pretty soon. That’s coy of me, ain’t it?

Also, ever think about that phrase “taking a piss”? If anything, you’re “giving” rather than taking one. British English uses “having” for the act, as a note. Doesn’t make sense to me, just like the flammable/inflammable conundrum.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My eventual destination was going to be over on Skillman Avenue, where I was supposed to meet up with the Newtown Creek Alliance crew at nine. I still had plenty of time before that, so it was decided to shlep over to another hidey hole spot along Dutch Kills, one which is decidedly less private than the one so recently moistened by a humble narrator.

More tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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.

nameless hybrids

with 2 comments

In the end, there is only one question.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve asked it time and againwho can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there? A recent scuttle found one headed towards Queens Plaza and discovering that a subterranean parking garage had been recently constructed that offered one a partial answer to that question. Cars. There’s cars down there.

Y’know, if you’re moving to a high rise building located at the destination point of nearly every bus and subway line in the Borough of Queens, and a couple of blocks from the Queensboro Bridge, a question to ask yourself is “do I really need to have a car, instead of renting one when I need one, since I live one subway stop from Manhattan”? Pfagh!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One remains endlessly fascinated by the visual splendors of Queens Plaza. Long exposure shots such as the one above, which captured the quick passage of a bus past the camera, are the sort of thing I’m after these days. When I see a bus coming, an attempt is made to get the shot set up and framed before it passes me by, as a matter of fact. That streak of light in the middle of the shot above is actually an N train entering the Queensboro Plaza station on the elevated track, so for once my timing worked out perfectly, MTA wise. I always say “the A in MTA is for adventure.”

This was a particularly cold night, but the recent desire for a return to physical and photographic discipline after the long convalescence related to that broken toe at the end of 2019 is something which I cannot deny myself. Also, by staying busy in the slack time of my year, I’ve avoided the depressed mood and doldrums which normally afflict me during the winter months.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since the air temperatures were in the high twenties, and it was quite breezy, the only logical choice I could make was to visit the Queensboro Bridge bike and pedestrian path, since a cold January night is exactly when you want to find yourself about ten stories over the East River – right?

Used to be that I’d find myself walking over Queensboro a couple of times a week, but for the last few years not so much. I also never used to drink tea, but these days I look forward to a good “cuppa” now and again.


“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.

bewildered shakings

leave a comment »

Barren, broken, dispossessed… that’s me!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having successfully avoided garnering the attention of those vampires who conspire and dwell in the steel rafters of the elevated subways along Jackson Avenue, one found himself immersed in the tumult of Queens Plaza. Given my particularly medieval sense of criminal justice, I’ve always thought this area an excellent location for getting cruel and unusual as far as punishment goes. Rapist? Yup, we suspend the perp from the elevated in one of those iron cages which the Ottomans liked to use, naked. Jackson Avenue could become the Appian Way of Queens, with lines of crucified child molesters providing an ad hoc barrier shielding a protected bike lane. I’d want to see Corrections Officers dress properly for this task, however. Shirtless, with black hoods and leather wristbands, carrying flails and whips. Non violent offenders – the embezzlers, grifters, real estate agents, and other con artists – could be collared and team tied onto leads like oxen, to pull buses of commuters to and from Queens Plaza – a climate friendly form of incarceration and a transit improvement. Win!

Why not, everything is flippity flop crazy in this country right now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I like about Queens Plaza is that all of the plans which anyone in Manhattan have ever come up with for “fixing Queens” are on display. The ground isn’t the ground, rather it’s either the roof of a subway station or it’s part of a truss bridge overflying a rail yard. You’ve got a horrible excuse for a park stuck in the middle of a traffic nightmare caused by around 170,000 vehicle trips a day, a set of post industrial environmental nightmares which have recently seen high density apartment houses built atop them, and a dripping set of shrieking subway tracks where two distinct elevated lines converge. The rail yard, incidentally, is a New York State Superfund site, and has been named as a responsible party in the Federal Superfund site at Newtown Creek, which is about a half mile away.

Can you think of a better place to get “cruel and unusual”?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself suffers from a complete emotional and physical numbness, and is given to withdraw and isolate himself from social interactions due to the hopelessness of it all. I’ve always been poor at social adjustments, bad at handling life when it’s going well, and disappointed in the other humans and their silly ideations. This crushes any sense of compassion or empathy in me, except when it concerns the welfare of animals and small children. It’s why I prefer to wander the streets of Queens at night, and alone, cutting endlessly through the January dark. It’s why I’m drawn to Queens Plaza, where I can get psychologically cruel and unusual on myself.

Seriously, though, watch out for those vampires.


“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 21, 2020 at 1:30 pm

gradual provisions

leave a comment »

Staying low, and minimal like, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It isn’t easy to avoid other people these days, as the City has become rather crowded. That’s part of the reason I’ve been doing “my thing” at night so much in recent years, I suppose. Avoiding encounters with other people, and their radicalized political views of the world, is nepenthe. My current pet peeve is a phenomena called “virtue signaling,” wherein you’re supposed to espouse sympathy or something for some aggrieved fellow traveler based on their affiliation or perceived membership in some group that receives more than its fair share of societal abuse. This abrogation of the individual is disgusting to me, and my antipathy for modern day “identity politics” is something which a humble narrator has not been shy about.

Just because you’re a homeless poet doesn’t mean you’re not a dick too. I’m sympathetic towards your existential horror and the mean treatment you receive, but all your other qualifiers don’t buy you any special consideration if you’re kicking a dog, breaking into my apartment, or holding up a bodega. Life sucks, toughen up. We’ve all got it bad – disappointments, tragedy, and ennui are part of the human experience. Bah!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More than ever, one’s generational status has been coming up over and over. My older friends who are “Baby Boomers” decry the “Millennial” crybabies. The “Millennials,” on the other hand, are fairly sure that they invented (amongst other things) alternative lifestyles and bicycle riding. Both groups, whose population cohorts dwarf my “Generation X,” like to lecture and comment about society’s perceived sins and injustices. Both groups start sentences with “You can’t say that,” or “You have to.”

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? How many grains of sand are there in the ocean? Let’s throw a handful of rice in the air and try to count the grains before they fall? How much time do we have to waste discussing crap? To my older peeps – what happened to your empathy? To my juniors – nobody really cares about anything, it’s all a god damned game.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What’s the point of trying then? If the deck is stacked against you, why not curl up into a ball in some ditch and just cry yourself to death? If some group you’re a part of is being oppressed by some other group, do you just sit and complain about your lot?

Or do you get angry? Remember – the world only makes sense when you force it to, and you’re not a part of some larger group, you’re an individual. Knock it off with this group identity crap, folks. You’re not a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian. You’re not white or black or trans or whatever. If you willingly join into the groupthink mentality, you’re just a number. Also, the most successful identity politician of the 20th century was Hitler.

It’s not easy to find a place devoid of people these days, as the human infestation has gotten out of control and “colony collapse” disorder seems to be on the horizon.


“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

September 5, 2019 at 1:00 pm

numerous odds

leave a comment »

Which side are you on, boy, which side are you on?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Labor Day, although if you’re historically minded, you know that Labor Day isn’t really about celebration it’s about remembering blood spilt. Say “Sit down strike” or mention Frick, Carnegie, Rockefeller, the Pinkertons, or J.P. Morgan to a modern union worker and see if they spit at the ground and curse. They probably won’t.


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

September 2, 2019 at 12:00 pm

%d bloggers like this: