The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Photowalks’ Category

quickened force

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Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Towards the end of last week, a humble narrator found himself over in the Shining City of Manhattan. I had business to discuss with somebody, mainly creating a new walking tour route, and we actually stomped out one of my proposed routes (Wall Street to 23rd street via the “East River Greenway”) after which one found himself at the NYC Ferry dock at 34th street. A quick journey across the river to Long Island City, as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself slipped behind New Jersey, soon found me scuttling about in a Long Island City which was cloaked in preternatural darkness.

The tripod was deployed and a humble narrator got busy with the camera, which seemingly generated much interest for both private security personnel and ordinary passerby. Click, whir, click. That’s a LIRR train idling at the Hunters Point Avenue station, if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crap hole security fencing around the Sunnyside Yards doesn’t do much to actually secure the railyard, but it does get in the way of your shots. In many ways it’s a metaphor for the entire MTA. Pictured above is a long exposure of the 7 line subway exiting the Hunters Point Avenue station, and climbing onto its elevated course towards the next stop – which is the Court Square station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another long exposure shot, this time from the 54th avenue footbridge over the tracks, looking westwards towards the Pulaski Bridge and the Queens Midtown tunnel. I would have waited for a train to roll by, but on my way to this spot, two LIRR units had just transited by (see below). Like a lot of the shots recently presented here, this is a narrow aperture and low ISO sensitivity photo with an exposure time of about thirty seconds.

That’s where all those light trails come from. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was on Borden Avenue, and heading for the 54th avenue footbridge, when the signal arms came down and the parade of LIRR rolling stock began. As a note, the shots above and below are handheld exposures, unlike the ones above.

One thing about all this night shoot stuff I’ve been up to lately is the need to be able to switch back and forth between the two strategies utilized for low light shots. In the case of these passing trains, I wanted to “freeze” the moment, so they are wide aperture and high ISO shots representing about 1/200th of a second, give or take.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Proponents of the proposed “BQX” trolley line really should spend some time on Borden Avenue at rush hour to observe what an “at grade” crossing looks like on a well trafficked arterial street. Vehicle traffic backs up for blocks and blocks, and any traffic lanes which might intersect with the arterial begin to feel the effect of it within minutes.

As Robert Moses might have opined, it’s not about about the traffic, it’s about the flow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tracks which the LIRR units are heading onto in this series are the ones you saw in the tripod shot from the 54th avenue footbridge. They lead into the Sunnyside Yards and the trains are going to be heading eastwards, I’m told, towards first Woodside and then Jamaica and then out to Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After unit 414 completed its journey past Borden Avenue, number 420 began its own trip. A humble narrator was squealing with glee, as a note, because simple things make me happy. After a day spent in Manhattan, which has become the most boring place on Earth, LIC welcomed me home with this grand parade?

I missed you too, Queens.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

scarcely be

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The world is an increasingly scary place, stay home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday nights, and in particular the hours directly before the midnight boundary with Monday is breached, are the only time that the Newtown Creek industrial zone slows down and takes a breath. For a few hours the constant river of vehicular traffic, industrial activity, and omnipresent noise ebb. Any other day or time, and you literally would not have the thirty seconds required for some of these night shots at the Grand Street Bridge to be recorded, due to the vibrations of passing traffic shaking and cavitating the 115 old swing bridge.

The shot above looks southwards towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking roughly westward, you can see the glowing eidolon known as the new Kosciuszcko Bridge about a mile away, the crane district of Maspeth on the right, and the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek’s intersection with the main waterway and the East Branch tributary at center and left. At the bottom of the shot, in the unnaturally green waters of the East Branch, a tepid current was pulsing out from under the bridge which was – from an olfactory point of view – obviously carrying sewage towards the main stem of the Creek.

As a note, the water is lit up at the bottom of the shot by the street lamps of the Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As intoned in a previous posting, concern about just how bright the light from the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is has been a subject of conversation of late – and more than once – amongst the Newtown Creek crowd. Light pollution, as it’s known, is meant to confuse the heck out of migratory birds. There’s actually initiatives at the “big” environmental groups to get Manhattan office buildings to dim their lights during certain times of the year in response. Given that Newtown Creek is part of the Atlantic flyover migratory route… well… who the hell cares – it’s Queens.

I guess we’re just going to wait and see what sort of evidentiary observations emerge regarding its effect.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Pentacle HQ is about two miles away from where the new K bridge crosses the water, and I can see this pillar of purple light punching into the clouds from there. I’ve seen reports on social media outlets proclaiming “lights in the sky” from Bushwick and Vinegar Hill and even Manhattan. Nobody in Queens can be bothered to pick up the phone and call either 311 or 911, as somebody else will do it or they just don’t want to get involved. Admittedly, these reports were offered by people who thought they were seeing UFO’s, but…

Just saying… if I don’t know what something is and it’s flying, it’s a UFO. I’d suggest an Internet rabbit hole term for you to follow, by the way, which are “USO” or “unknown submersible objects.” Seriously, google that. Hours of fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’ve always gravitated towards more home grown and provable horror. Like the mugger gang that used to operate at the Brooklyn side of the bridge back in the 1910’s, using black jacks and billy clubs to induce unconsciousness in their victims. After emptying the stricken of the contents of their pockets, the gang would toss them into the creek. This is the 1903 version of the Grand Street Bridge pictured above, which the gang is associated with. This bridge replaced earlier models, as discussed in this post.

In 1896, the cops found a Catholic priest name Leonard Syczek floating in the water alongside the 1890 version of the bridge, and wearing the sort of full ceremonial vestments required for conducting a Mass. There’s a story there which has never been fully revealed to me, but I suspect some sort of exorcism related tale will emerge eventually. Or, at least I hope one will. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Due to my weird imaginings and remembered tales, a growing state of panic set in and I realized that one of my spells was coming on. Drops and spikes in cerebral dopamine levels began to occur, and suddenly I had to pee really bad. My feet grew cold, my nose flushed full with snot, and a single tear formed in my left eye bitterly.

While composure was still mine, a phone app was engaged, and a driver was dispatched to shepherd me back to a place where doors can be firmly locked and vouchsafed against the outside world. I left my shoes in the hallway that night, lest I track something in which I had picked up along the banks of the Newtown Creek on a foggy and unusually warm night in February.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

so shunned

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Like sand through the hour glass, so too are the sewers of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finishing up the presentation of several long exposure shots gathered around a foggy Newtown Creek, on an uncharacteristically warm February night following a soaking two day rain event, today’s post finds a humble narrator at the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens at the Newtown Creek tributary known as the “East Branch.” For two thirds of the walk, my colleague Will Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance was hanging out with me, but he had to split and a humble narrator found himself in a familiar territory known as “alone.”

Sort of like that tree in the shot above, looking north down Metropolitan Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The East Branch is, to say the least, environmentally compromised. The sidewalk I was standing on is actually a walkway, slung atop a seven vaulted open sewer, the twentieth largest in terms of materials vomited into the water in the entire City of New York, called “CSO NC-083.” This pipe allows somewhere’s in the neighborhood of 586 million gallons of untreated sewage egress into this shallow industrial canal annually. You should see it during the day at low tide, I tell ya.

Across the yard is a large lumber yard whose street address is along East Williamsburgh’s Grand Street, and I literally had one foot in Brooklyn and another in Queens while recording its presence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The streets were deserted of all but occasional vehicle traffic. Because of the fog and the absence of people in what is normally a bustling and fairly dangerous to move through traffic corridor, a real sense of “spooky” permeated the air. An occasional passerby would stumble past me, offer a nod or some throaty greeting sound, and move along shaking their heads.

What? It’s not normal to be standing on a giant sewer in an industrial zone, along a Federal Superfund site in the middle of the night, taking pictures in the dark? Sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was set to a higher sensitivity in terms of aperture and sensor ISO than the others in this post, as a note. I’m sort of interested in the light gathering power offered by allowing the camera to stare for long periods of time into darkness. Unlike the high ISO shots, however, there could a Bigfoot walking through the shot and the camera wouldn’t record it unless said Sasquatch was to stand stick still for around 35-40 seconds.

I’d recommend using a flash for Bigfoot photos, anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I got creeped out by a carload of teenagers at one point and hid behind a mailbox before cutting through a parking lot to get to the other side of the East Branch without having to walk back into Brooklyn where they were headed. Welcome to Queens, by the way. If you head up the hill to the right, you’re going to Ridgewood, stay on Metropolitan to the left and you’re heading towards Maspeth.

Those kids were scary. Teenagers… brrr…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After cutting through my little shortcut over to Grand Avenue (it’s Grand Street in Brooklyn, Grand Avenue in Queens). The final spot I wanted to shoot from was arrived at, the 115 year old Grand Street Bridge.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

present quarters

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No dumping allowed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in 1919, Brooklyn Union Gas moved from the Gowanus Canal to Newtown Creek, creating a 115 square acre Manufactured Gas Plant called the Vandervoort Street Facility, with a farm of cylindrical gas holders. BUG would eventually be purchased by Keyspan Energy, which would itself later be acquired by National Grid. This is where the so called “Maspeth Holders” were imploded in 2001, and the property is generally referred to – in modernity – as the “National Grid Site.” They don’t manufacture gas here anymore, instead they store and process “LNG” or Liquified Natural Gas, which is brought out of its cryogenic status through some arcane technological wizardry for pipeline delivery to the ovens and furnaces of Brooklyn.

At least a third of their property is relict, and seemingly abandoned. Along the chain link fences of Vandervoort Street, you’ll notice that they’ve allowed a small lake to form in the footprint of some long ago industrial structure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While out the other night on my “night shot” walk, mounds of dumped garbage were noticed around the edges of the small lake on the southern or Vandervoort Street side of the National Grid Site. I guess it’s their property, they can do what they want with it, but personally speaking I try not to poop on my living room carpet.

I also try not to poop where a passing photography enthusiast might notice it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were a couple of these mounds, which looked to be commensurate with what you expect to be able to pack into a medium sized truck. Not sure how long this has been here, as I haven’t wandered past this particular spot in a couple of months.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll be sending this post over to the National Grid people and asking what’s going on here. If I get an answer from them which I can share, then you Lords and Ladies will certainly be the first to know it.

As a note, the preceding shots were handheld, breaking with the tripod ones for a hot minute,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once I turned onto Metropolitan Avenue, however, I got busy with the cable release and tripod action again.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 16, 2018 at 11:00 am

last message

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Night shots from the Penny Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the brand new Kosciuszcko Bridge in the shot above, which has recently replaced a 1939 model that was originally christened as the “New Penny Bridge.” The shot was gathered at the surviving masonry of the 1894 model Penny Bridge, aka the Meeker Avenue Street End. I’m increasingly concerned, incidentally, at how bright the decorative lighting of the new bridge is. Light pollution is a “thing,” after all.

On cloudy nights, you can spot the column of light rising from it miles away, back in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The LED lighting the NYS DOT installed for the new bridge is weird and unnatural, which spews out artificial looking wavelengths of unbelievably saturated purples and blues bouncing all over the place. The good news about this odd ambience is that I’m able to focus in on that unmarked sewer which drains Calvary Cemetery over on the Queens side, but I wonder what the long term effects will be on critters living in the water column and on migratory birds.

When the second bridge opens and doubles the illumination, it’s going to look like a comic book around here at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A longer shot, both in terms of exposure and camera sensitivity, again looking towards the Queens side of the former Penny Bridge. The mirror like quality of the water isn’t due solely to the long exposure, it was positively still out. Unseasonably warm, there was virtually zero wind or breeze.

You could actually discern changes in air pressure just by paying attention to the behavior of your ear drums.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

living possessor

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The nighted Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, wanderlust invited one out into the foggy night along Newtown Creek, once it stopped raining on Sunday last. I packed up my tripod and other night kit gear, starting at the DUGABO area in Greenpoint. My walk carried me up the Brooklyn side of the middle Creek. I hit all of my “spots” along the way, in pursuit of some long exposure night photography. Along the way, I hit what seems like an occasional light drizzle, but it was just precipitation from the mist rather than actual rain.

The shot above looks west, roughly across the route.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s lonely along the Newtown Creek at night, but luckily my buddy Will from Newtown Creek Alliance was similarly bored after enduring the rain soaked weekend, and he came along for part of the walk. It’s nice having somebody around to watch your back when you’re literally focused in on the camera tasks at hand. My habit, when doing tripod shots, is to use narrow apertures. That’s why you’re seeing that starburst pattern around the bright lights, which is literally formed by the shadow of the aperture blades within the particular lens I was using.

If the lens was “wide open” you’d see more of a ball shape.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wasn’t just shooting the water, as a note.

One is possessed of a firm conviction that NYC is never as beautiful as it is when it’s just stopped raining and everything is covered in a sheen of moisture. Of course, it takes a particularly perverted sense of esthetics to describe these industrial zones found in North Brooklyn as “beautiful” but that’s just me.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm

brief note

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Fog? Rain? Newtown Creek at night? Yep, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday last, one was just itching to get out of HQ and go shoot some pix. Unfortunately, the soaking rain that permeated the daylight hours precluded this sort of pursuit, so around eight o’clock when the storm had transitioned from precipitation to a precipitating mist – one headed out for Greenpoint with the night kit and got busy.

My first stop was at the hidden cul de sac formed by the terminus of Kingsland Avenue and North Henry street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a minor tributary of Newtown Creek found here, which is called “unnamed canal” on navigational maps. My colleague Will Elkins (project manager at Newtown Creek Alliance) prefers the friendlier sounding “no-name canal.” There’s a defunct DSNY marine transfer station here, and the point of view it offers looks across the main body of Newtown Creek towards Long Island City and the Sapphire Megalith.

The rain had decayed into what my Grandmother would have described as a “shpickle” by this point, with occasional droplets forming out of the fog and hitting the water. The air temperature was quite warm, atypical for this time of year in fact, and since the waters of the Newtown Creek are still at near freezing – there was quite a bit of mist in the air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My decided upon path would carry me eastwards along the Newtown Creek, from the area I call DUGABO (Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp) which is where you’ll find the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant pictured above, to the one which I have assigned the name DUMABO (Down Under the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge Onramp). It was serendipity that the cool atmospherics coincided with a Sunday – the one night of the week when the 24/7 industrial and trucking activity along the Creek is at low ebb.

Nevertheless – I had one of those reflective “construction guy” safety vests on, worn over the filthy black raincoat, as I headed towards into darkness towards DUMABO.


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