The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Photowalk’ Category

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

terrible movement

with one comment

A bit more on the tugboat scene.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Boy oh boy, it’s like the old days at Newtown Pentacle lately, huh? Tugboats, tugboats, tugboats… That’s a Bouchard articulated tug and barge combo motoring along under the Bronx Whitestone Bridge. This tug is heading out of the Westchester Creek inlet section of the East River and heading towards Manhattan. That’s the Throgs Neck Bridge behind the tug and Bronx Whitestone in the lower third of the shot. Both bridges were designed by the great Othmar Amman.

This is the view from the NYC Ferry’s Soundview landing, in the Bronx, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few years ago, I was seemingly obsessed with photographing tugs. Whereas I’m still drawn to the subject, and remain utterly fascinated by all things maritime industrial, there’s really only so many ways to shoot and frame a tug shot. Additionally, a few of my friends with whom I shared this fascination for towing vessels have passed away in recent years, and it feels sort of weird and not as much fun to be the “last man standing.” Used to be that shots like these would get sent around in late night emails to my little cadre of fellow enthusiasts, who would in turn send what they got that particular day to me.

Such is life, and death, in the big city – I suppose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is having a furiously busy week roll through the calendar as you’re reading this. Yesterday, I got to interact with some highly placed people at NYC DOT regarding the new pathways which will be introduced into Maspeth and Sunnyside by the soon to be finished Kosciuszcko Bridge bike and pedestrian path. One offered them the experiential thing, taking them for a walk around the place. Officialdom knows far more about the streets of NY than any regular person can, but generally they know these things from paper maps, politics, and spreadsheets. “Being there” in the flesh, seeing trucks parked on the broken sidewalks and crossing hazardous intersections, is a whole different thing. Last night, a friend of mine – Pat Dorfman – received the “Sunnysider of the Year” award from the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, so I had to show up and take a pic or two of the awards ceremony. My dogs were barking by the time I got home and settled in on the couch.

As you’re reading this, I’m probably at a polyandrion in Blissville, walking an ornithological enthusiast around. Then, I’ve got a call in meeting at 4… it never ends.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about two events I’m doing with Newtown Creek Alliance at the end of the month – but hold the dates of April 23 and 28th for now.


“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

April 3, 2019 at 11:30 am

present bungalow

with 11 comments

Flushing Bay, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week I attended a meeting thrown by the NYC Parks Dept. detailing their $35 million dollar upgrades to the World Fair Marina in Flushing Bay. The plans involved relocating and rebuilding one of the docks, installing a new facility house and refueling dock, and installing a bunch of new street furniture on the public sections of the marina (benches, lamp posts etc.) It was my kind of meeting, truth be told, where the government people deliver their information in a punchy and well organized fashion, and public commentary is offered in a businesslike and terse fashion. My main interest in attending revolves around a long term bit of advocacy for Newtown Creek’s Queens shoreline which I’ve been working on, namely the creation of a similar marina on the Newtown Creek coastline Long Island City, and I wanted to take a look at “how it’s done” in the modern era.

Afterwards, a bit of time was spent outside with the camera and tripod, shooting into foggy darkness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just like the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, the NYC DEP has been experimenting with the installation and planting of greenery, specifically Saw Grasses, in the littoral zones at Flushing Bay. Littoral means the intertidal area of the shoreline, and they’re engaged in the project for the same reasons that they are at Newtown Creek – mitigating the long term environmental consequences of an abundance of their Combined Sewer Outfalls on the waterway. DEP, or the New York City Department of Environmental Protection if you must, inherited a messy combination of underground pipes from precursor agencies when their organization was created during a 1983 City charter revision, many of which were installed in a hodge podge manner and prior to the Federal Clean Water act.

Due to the outfalls, a lot of raw sewage has historically found its way into area waterways, and the section of Flushing Bay nearby LaGuardia Airport and the World Fair Marina is notoriously and reliably smelly. The creation of these engineered wetlands is an attempt to harness the curative powers and mechanisms of nature in pursuance of fixing a manmade problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the section of the north shore of Queens which isn’t forbidden, as a note. There’s a NYC Parks property which sits between the water and the Grand Central Parkway called the Flushing Bay Promenade. It’s 1.4 miles long, starts at the equivalent of 27th avenue, and is a modern addition to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park facility whose creation was funded by the NYC DEP in return for Parks allowing them to build a sewer retention tank in the main park.

When it warms up a bit, I plan on bringing the camera back out here to the promenade and do some exploring.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

professional duty

with 2 comments

Friggin Wednesdays…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One suspects that this will be a seldom read post, given that the vast majority of New Yorkers will be going somewhere else today. I plan on staying in Astoria, just to defend the neighborhood against burglars and sneak thiefs.

I also plan on walking out into the concrete devastations of Newtown Creek a few times, in pursuance of more nocturnal shots like the ones in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The City has been replacing its street light heads with cold colored LED luminaires in recent years, which are meant to provide brighter and more directed light onto roadways. The State is still using the old school sodium lights which produce a warm yellow-orange light.

A humble narrator is often fascinated by the spots where these two different colors of artificial light mix, as in the case of the shots above which is in DULIE – Down Under the Long Island Expressway – here in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As it happened, when I surmounted the Pulaski Bridge in pursuance of gathering a shot from the span (a photo which was unfortunately blurry due to the transmitted vibrations of passing traffic), workers from the NYC DOT Bridges unit shooed me back along the walkway so that they could safely open the draw bridge for a passing tugboat.

Wasn’t that nice of them?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

muffled shouting

leave a comment »

Everything in Queens has a cool story attached to it, if you care to look.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My reason for coming over to the forbidden northern coastline of Queens on this particular day was to gather a few street side shots of the NYC DEP’s Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant. I know… who dares to spend a Saturday evening walking over to the local sewer plant? One such myself, that’s who dares!

According to the NYC DEP – “The Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant went into operation in 1939 and is designed to treat 150 million gallons of wastewater a day. The plant serves approximately 850,000 residents in a drainage area of more than 15,000 acres in northwest Queens,” and “At the Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant, there are four holding tanks that have the capacity to store a combined 550,000 cubic feet of sludge.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bowery Bay is the fifth largest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, and you’ll find it on Berrian Blvd. between Steinway and 45th streets in Astoria, on the forbidden northern coast of the borough of Queens. Check out that bas relief on the Art Deco building with curved walls and glass brick windows! More on that in a minute, after the sewer story. 

Long story short, by the beginning of the 20th century, NY Harbor was in essence an open sewer which was severely compromised by both industrial and biological waste. Remember, before cars there horses and oxen, and everybody and everything poops at least once a day. They used to just wash into all the sewers, which were open to the rivers and harbor. This is why the rich people lived on the central spine of Manhattan, rather than at the water’s edge where the poor people gathered in tenements. In 1909, a fellow named Dr. George Soper (who was also the guy who identified Typhoid Mary) led the first comprehensive survey of the harbor’s ecology. In 1914, Soper led the Metropolitan Sewerage Commission, which released an 800 page long “Main Drainage and Sewage Disposal Works Proposed for New York City: Reports of Experts and Data Related to the Harbor” document which made recommendations about curatives. 

By 1920, a plan had been drawn up, and in 1929 the Department of Sanitation was designated as the agency which would execute it – digging sewer pipes, connecting existing drainage systems in what was now the five boroughs, and building water treatment or sewer plants. They would also do what DSNY continues to do today, but what’s now the DEP used to be part of Sanitation. Then the Great Depression came along. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

President Roosevelt created the Work Projects Administration (WPA) to jump start the national economy and put the talents of the jobless masses to work on vital infrastructure projects around the country. Hoover Dam, as well a good number of schools, libraries, parks, and post offices got built by WPA in this fashion. WPA didn’t forget about art, and made it a point of including public artworks on many of its projects. The WPA people worked with DSNY to build three new wastewater treatment plants in NY Harbor (between 1937 and 1944) – Wards Island in Manhattan, Tallman Island, and Bowery Bay in Queens. 

The bas reliefs adorning the Bowery Bay plant are by an Italian American sculptor named Cesare Stea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bowery Bay plant sits quite low to the water, and is in fact within the current zone you’d expect to flood due to coastal storms. Hurricanes Irene and Sandy did quite a number to the place, I’m told, and if current projections about sea level rise are accurate, the DEP is going to be experiencing a lot of problems at Bowery Bay in the coming decades. 

Two of Stea’s Bas Reliefs depicting depression era wastewater workers are covered (there’s four), along with an Art Deco entranceway to the plant, by plywood. Presumptively, the structure is still being repaired from the walloping it took during Hurricane Sandy. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having hung around the more modern plant in Greenpoint has familiarized one with the shape of things, and the shot above depicts the settling tanks and high pressure air pipes which aerate the “honey” at the treatment plant. The stuff spends a bit of time in deep concrete tanks with pressurized air being forced into it from below. This causes solids to migrate downwards in the liquid column for post drainage collection, and oils and greases to migrate upwards for skimming. By modern day standards, there’s a lot left to be desired by the Bowery Bay Plant. It was designed with neighborhoods of two story homes and factories in mind, not city block sized fifty story residential towers. 

Given all the real estate activity in Western Queens in recent decades, and the sort of plans being bandied about by the powers that be in Manhattan for remaking the place in their own image… you’d think…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It just isn’t the way people think anymore, I’m afraid. 

What we’re doing, municipal plan wise, is akin to cooking a large holiday meal, not setting up the table with plates and silver wear, and just flopping the food onto the table. You then tell your family and guests to just lick it all up, and that probably next year you’ll go out and buy plates. Or at least, we will leave that to the next Mayor to deal with. 

Dr. George Soper would probably be angry, if he hadn’t died in 1948.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm

plainly audible

leave a comment »

Back and forth, back and forth, it never ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Meeting season seems to be upon us all, wherein the various affiliations, causes, and organizations which I’m involved with want to get together in a room somewhere and discuss policy, plans, and or problems related to the issues of the day. Somehow this almost always involves me having to scuttle to Long Island City or Greenpoint at an inconvenient time, but it does allow for intervals on the journey to do a little shooting. Pictured above, a Long Island Railroad Mainline train set on its way from the City to points east, and crossing through the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Intrigued as I’ve been with long exposure shooting for the last several months, an endeavor which is usually carried out at night, whenever I’ve got a spot I can do a long exposure during daylight hours, I take it. That’s about two seconds of accumulated time from Queens Plaza in the shot above. I found a nicely positioned steel bracket which braces the construction scaffolding at one of the tower apartment construction sites on which to brace the camera, lock in the focus, and hold down the shutter button while watching the Fords roll by.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An even longer exposure from the other night on Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, alongside the Unnamed Canal sub tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek. It depicts a somewhat abandoned Department of Sanitation Marine Transfer Station which sits on the shoreline street end of North Henry Street (whose north/south path is interrupted by the sewer plant). The fences were locked up about a year or so ago, and you used to be able to go in there and explore. I think they’re using it to warehouse “stuff” now, but can’t really say for sure. At the very least, they’ve fixed the lights inside the thing.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

%d bloggers like this: