The Newtown Pentacle

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mixed effulgences

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Tuesdays are inevitable

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Blissville, along Railroad Avenue, there’s quite a situation. It seems that there’s a plugged up street drain or two which has resulted in the DSNY crews who handle the recycling pickups here in Queens having to drive through a couple/three feet of standing water. This water is carrying a lot of fairly poisonous soil suspended in it, given that it’s the southern most street in Western Queens and the last block before Newtown Creek. A lot of the mud and soil is also migrating out of the Blissville Rail Yard (where the garbage train is found), which means it’s just chock full of garbage juice and insulating oils.

Somehow, the fellows driving this particular truck knew who I was and then petitioned “Hey Mitch, can you help us out with this?” Who am I to say no to New York’s strongest? I’m on it fellas. Phone calls have been made, and DM’s to the well connected and politically important have been sent, there’s also an email chain working its way through the hallways of the Newtown Creek Alliance and the local Community Board has been made aware of the problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That same night, on my way back to Astoria, I set up my tripod in hopes of capturing the tribute in lights with the Freedom Tower framed in by them, but this year there was no display on September 12. Luckily, the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge opened up so it was worth standing there alongside the fenceline of Calvary Cemetery for about a half hour waiting for it to get dark.

As I was standing by the cemetery in Blissville, a voice from inside the gates let me know someone would be climbing over the fence and they didn’t want to startle me. I let them know that whatever their intention, the startling mission had already been accomplished. A small film crew had been trespassing within, and were vaulting the fence. I broke down my rig and moved on, not wanting to get clipped as a part of their party in case the bulls showed up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the time I walked almost all the way home to Astoria it was quite dark out, and a stop was made at one of the new holes in the fence at the Sunnyside Yards to see what was doing down there in Amtrak land. Luckily, for me, a train set was moving around and I cracked out a few exposures.

That building? My understanding of certain old maps suggests that this is the facility where the Pullman Red Hats were trained for duty “back in the day.”

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, September 21st. 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 here, 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.

arrested vagrant

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Thunderstorm Thursday is here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent humidity and heat have contributed to the usual summertime intervals of evening thunder storms which NYC is prone to manifest. Our Lady of the Pentacle kept on asking me if I was going out last weekend, as I had attested to, but it was really a bit too hot for one of my strolls. Also, I don’t mess around with lightning. Instead of braving the torrent of rain and sweating profusely, a humble narrator instead set up the tripod at HQ and got ready for sunset.

Sunset + thunderstorms = cool skies to take pictures of. Why go out when the show is coming to me?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, HQ offers me a few views of the sky, like this one looking southeast captured mere minutes before the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself occluded behind New Jersey. This is the tail end of a big “bubble” of clouds that dumped a prodigious amount of water down onto Astoria. It was quite refreshing, actually.

I was hoping for more lightning, but I like taking lightning pics.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A neat double rainbow set up, and based on where the northern side fo the refractory phenomena manifested, I’m betting there’s a pot of gold somewhere in the vicinity of 80th street and Ditmars Blvd. I’m heading over there now with a shovel and a pick axe.

Back tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, June 29th. 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 2, 2020 at 1:00 pm

recent notes

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Still no rat hordes, but I’m a-hoping.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, a recent walk found one on the western end of Railroad Avenue in the Blissville section of Long Island City. Some people ignore the 10,000 or so industrial jobs and the businesses which employ them along the bulkheads of the Newtown Creek. That’s where I come in, My name’s Waxman, I carry a camera. The weather in NYC was cool, and I was working out of Newtown Creek Alliance’s Queens Division. Reports from Federal Authorities have warned about hordes of ravenous and cannibalistic rats of unusual size, so I was patrolling the tracks of the Long Island Railroad Lower Montauk Line in search of them. The garbage train parks here.

Thankfully, things were uneventful, and I moved on. This is based on a true story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home to the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria, one eschewed the normal path back and instead proceeded northwards from Blissville through the “Crane District” of industrial Maspeth. Neither the Dept. of NYC Planning nor Google Maps have caught up with my daring nomenclature quite yet, still referring to the “Crane District” as “West Maspeth” or “Laurel Hill,” and only a few esthetes and scholars use the archaic “Berlin.” Savages.

Why do I call it the “Crane District”?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A heady mix of socialism and an indignant vendetta against societal norms have infected me with the need to tear away at the foundations of society, and rename places according to whatever whim strikes me. There are no cranes here, that’s fake news.

In all seriousness, though, people still live hereabouts, in the Crane District. There’s private homes all over the place.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, June 8th. 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.

low toned

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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

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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

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