The Newtown Pentacle

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frenzied letter

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My beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting thing about night time tripod based photos, which take fairly long intervals to capture, is that you become quite familiar with traffic patterns on area bridges. One was out fairly late on a Sunday night recently, shooting from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and attempting to execute the shot above in between traffic light signal rotations. Finding a twenty five second interval, even forty minutes after midnight on a Sunday night, in which a heavy truck or MTA Bus is not crossing the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge and causing it to shake, vibrate, or heave… is a challenge.

There were about six shots on my camera card previous to the one above which were ruined by the sudden appearance of a speeding garbage truck, bus, or oil delivery semi and their somewhat seismic effect on the bridge. Such is life, I suppose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Things were a bit quieter back on Greenpoint’s Apollo Street, the titular epicenter and official discovery point of the Greenpoint Oil Spill. Once upon a time, this was the dividing point between two of Standard Oil’s refinery facilities (both of which later became a part of Mobil), but today it’s just a wasted little street end defined by a former BP Amoco and now Kinder Morgan petroleum distribution tank farm. The eastern side of the street is owned by the Manhattan/Empire Beverage Distribution company, a warehouse based operation that accomplishes the holy task of stocking NYC’s bars and liquor stores with product.

I’ve never met the Empire Beverage people, but I’d personally like to thank them for facilitating my life long love of degeneracy and for several besotted episodes of happiness that have punctuated my otherwise miserable existence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, at night, the sections of the Newtown Creek industrial zone where you’d expect things to be buzzing 24 hours a day are rather quite peaceful. It’s basically you and hundreds of feral kitties back here. There are weird moving shadows you’ll spot out of the corner of your eye snaking along the rooftops, which are often accompanied by a chittering sound that I do not like, but the less said about that the better.

There are some things you do not want to say too much, or know anything about, quite frankly.


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dusty shelves

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East River in the dark.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was invited to a holiday party in Lower Manhattan the other night, and a humble narrator fairly abhors holiday parties, but the reason I went was to “show my face” and then excuse myself so I could do some shooting. The party was lovely, filled with friends old and new whom I enjoy both working and personal relationships with. Thing is, and I have to remind myself of this periodically, I don’t belong amongst people. Every minute that I’m not out and about shooting is a waste of my time, essentially, but since there is a part of me that could still be considered human you need to “feed the beast” occasionally. Allowing what’s left of my soul a bit of convivial solace and warmth periodically is as necessary as eating meals or pooping, essentially, but when you really get down to it none of that personal stuff matters. Everybody dies, moves away, or just writes you off in the end and all that really matters is the work. Everybody secretly (or not so secretly) hates me anyway, and it’s always a relief for them to see me walking away into the dark.

Accordingly, one bundled up his filthy black overcoat and set off into the nighted streets of the Shining City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The House of Moses is what I call the East River shoreline of lower Manhattan, which in recent years has seen a spartan park appear beneath Robert Moses’ grandiose FDR Drive. My singular superpower is the ability to see through time, which makes the POV in any shots captured along this byway depressing. Once upon, and long ago, this was one of the busiest maritime centers upon the planet, the destination of hundreds of thousand of ships. Today it’s a relic, a waterfront curiosity for lookie loos, and a window into the short term thinking of an era defined by terminologies like “stagflation.”

Pictured above is one of the remaining sandy beaches along the East River, and the only one I know about in this part of Manhattan. I called a couple of people I know who would be able to tell me exactly how many sandy beaches there are on the East River, as a note, but in both cases my call went directly to voicemail. That happens a lot to me these days, which sort of confirms the dire portent and bleak future thing currently embraced by one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Manhattan Bridge on the left, and the Brooklyn Bridge on the right in the shot above. For some incomprehensible reason, the FDR Drive framing the shot has recently been painted purple. I’m not quite sure about the choice of coloration, as in why they chose purple, but it’s probably a De Blasio thing (does purple equate to equity, or fairness, or just some other high handed and sanctimonious bullshit?). At least they didn’t use LED lights to saturate the atmosphere with garishly colored lighting.

As a note, it was freaking freezing out when I was shooting these, but the dissolute cold felt welcoming and mirrored that psychological and emotional vacuum which a humble narrator calls life.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

disordered nerves

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Moonscape, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the larger properties found along the Newtown Creek is the National Grid site. It’s a bit of black box, Nat Grid, and appropriately a high security “Marsec 1” zone. Marsec 1 is the same security level as the runway of an airport or the bulkheads at a cargo port, and that means a lot of paranoia on the part of those employed in the business of keeping the place secure. The street facing sections of Nat Grid are designed to look like a military base with double layers of fencing topped with razor wire and an obvious series of security cameras pointed at them. There’s also guards patrolling the area.

All of this is actually a good thing, as those two white tanks you see above are cryogenic storage units for “LNG” or Liquefied Natural Gas. In the past I’ve indicated that were these things to explode, it would take half of Brooklyn and Queens with them, but the Nat Grid folks have since told me that’s impossible. Were a rupture to occur, they say, it would near instantaneously freeze the surrounding air due to the extreme cold temperatures of the LNG inside and seal the breech. I don’t argue with engineers, as that’s usually an argument you will lose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lombardy Street is another one of those byways in the Creeklands which is entirely contained by them, and “cul de sac’d.” It starts at Kingsland Avenue a few blocks to the south, and terminates at the water’s edge of Newtown Creek. For most of its course, it defines the western border of Nat Grid’s property line.

The Nat Grid property was originally owned by Brooklyn Union Gas, a corporate entity formed in 1825 which consolidated the gas lines of the City of Brooklyn and parts of Queens under single ownership by 1895. By 1910, BUG was operating something like 2,100 miles of metered pipe and manufacturing the gas they sold at a smallish property along the Gowanus Canal in South Brooklyn. By 1928, BUG was pumping some 22 billion cubic feet of gas through their network. They needed to expand their operations, and their source of supply, so in 1929 the Gowanus plant was shuttered and they relocated their facilities to a new 115 square acre property along Newtown Creek in Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The BUG people built a manufactured gas plant here, which burned fuel in low oxygen furnaces called “retorts” designed to encourage the fuels to smolder rather than combust. The gases released by the retort were then separated chemically, in pursuit of the manufacture of Methane or “Natural Gas.” There were all sorts of corollary chemical compounds, some commercially desirable, that were released from the fuel. A lot of waste came along with it as well; coal tar, ammoniacal liquors, arsenic compounds. Manufacturing gas can get messy.

BUG called this site the Vandervoort Street facility, and it was designed to manufacture 200 million cubic feet of gas a day. Through corporate mergers and stock market acquisitions, BUG ended up becoming a part of the Keyspan Company, which itself was acquired by National Grid at the start of the 21st century.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lombardy Street in eastern Greenpoint/Western Bushwick (depends how you define the areas, by whom, and when) is less than friendly to the itinerant pedestrian under the best circumstances. It’s a heavy trucking backwater, used to avoid getting hung up in traffic on nearby Meeker Avenue. The street itself is an atrocity, missing sidewalks distinguish most of its length, and the vehicle lanes which you’re forced to walk on are so chewed up that it would be quite an easy thing to snap an ankle while scuttling along it.

That’s something I can personally attest to, incidentally. Came within an inch of cracking a bone one day a couple of summers ago on Lombardy. If I wasn’t wearing my trusty Merell hiking shoe which offer ankle support…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a gas flare tower at the National Grid site which always draws my attention.

It makes a loud hissing whistle sound (hisstle?) that always pulls me to it, and then there flames… so…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been on the Nat Grid site just once, when the company’s PR representatives consented to my multiple requests to “get me smart” about their operations. Unfortunately the visit took place in an office building way on the other side of the site and involved a slide show presentation about their clean up operations for the place.

It seems the BUG people left behind quite the mess, which is why National Grid is one of the “Potentially Responsible Parties” named by the EPA as being culpable for the Newtown Creek Superfund site.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 6, 2018 at 2:00 pm

queerly disturbed

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Ahhh…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interminable period, that’s how one would describe the rain situation last weekend, one which got in the way of pointing the camera at cool things at night. Most of Sunday was spent in careful observation of the outside environment and the monitoring of predictive meteorology information. A window was going to emerge on Sunday night where there would be fog but no rain, and a humble narrator would be ready to fly into action when it arrived.

I didn’t really fly, instead I left HQ and hailed a cab. The driver was told a street address, to which he replied “Really?” After affirming my destination, we set off. My timing worked out perfectly, as it was still drizzling when I got into the two ton death machine cab, and steady precipitation had stopped.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Soon; I found myself scaring feral cats, avoiding a particularly slippery patch of mud, trying not to fall into any giant puddles, and in general having a grand old time at the Newtown Creek till well after midnight. It’s spooky in the creeklands at night, with all sorts of mystery sounds emanating from inky black shadow. There’s also the whole “by yourself with no one around for blocks and blocks physical vulnerability” thing. At least it wasn’t cold, and there weren’t any wolves or teenagers roaming about seeking victims. Really, the only interaction I had with anybody else involved exchanging convivial greetings with a couple of Indian guys waiting for their trucks to be loaded at a Korean food warehouse.

The shot above depicts the street end of Meeker Avenue in Greenpoint, which regularly floods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This whole enviromental craze is particularly annoying during the summer, as all that foliage blocks my points of view and is constantly blowing around in the wind. Seasonally devastated plant life, all withered away to brittle sticks and twigs, is better. Often have I wished that I could power wash the shorelines of Newtown Creek with herbicides… it would be historically accurate… and I’d get a better shot if the Brooklyn Queens Expressway was framed by a nice lunar landscape littered with garbage. C’est la vie, huh?

While shooting this particular photo, I heard a noise behind me, and upon spinning about to analyze my surroundings a black cat suddenly jumped between the shadows. It was just like a horror movie.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

smiling grimly

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Better late than never.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obligations and “have to’s” notwithstanding, that nearly week long pile of rain we received here in the City that never sleeps really got in the way of my good time. Last night, one anxiously watched the forecast for the exact minute that the rain would turn to fog and shot out of the house towards the Newtown Creek with camera bag in hand. The shots in today’s post aren’t from last night, as the pixels are still drying on those, rather they’re a few that were gathered during other outings in recent weeks.

Pictured above is the perspective of lying flat on the sidewalks on Jackson Avenue, genuflecting before the inhuman thing which cannot possibly exist in the cupola of the Megalith. The intelligence which has inhabited the Sapphire tower since it rose is said to be moving to another perch, and it will be replaced by an entity which calls itself “Alexa.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can’t tell you how many times I find myself tangled up in some industrial thingamabob or another when I’m out and about at night. Sometimes I’m just hiding from teenagers, or ghost pirates. One has several bolt holes around the Newtown Creek whose occupancy he favors for moments of existential terror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of existential terror, these two travelers were spotted recently in Queens Plaza. They must have been Newtown Pentacle perusers, since they seem to be following the advice often offered for crossing the busy intersections of the now residential area. “Stand behind something” while waiting to cross.

Back tomorrow, on schedule and with a bit more substance.


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choking gasp

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Great Gallopping Golly Gosh Gee, it’s Wednesday again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

High over Hunters Point in Long Island City, the POV looks southwards across the Long Island Railroad’s terminal passenger stop on the Lower Montauk line, various incarnations of which have been found here since 1870. In place even longer than the LIRR station, is the intersection of Newtown Creek with its parent waterway East River. Beyond is Greenpoint, which has been there for a good stretch, and that’s Manhattan on the right side of the shot which has also enjoyed a long occupancy hereabouts.

That’s the Williamsburg Bridge at center distant, which has been hanging out over the river since 1903. It’s an immigrant superhighway!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

September of 1954 is when the children of Brooklyn and Queens exploded into revelry over the opening of the Pulaski Bridge. One always refers to the area seen above as “DUPBO” or Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp, opining that “you need to get ahead of the Real Estate guys on this sort of thing or you’ll wind up living in “Westoria” or something.

The Pulaski Bridge is also an immigrant superhighway of sorts, connecting Queens’ Long Island City to Greenpoint in Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks northwards, where you can still spot the three major bridges of Western Queens all in one go by peeking over and around the residential towers of LIC. The Queensboro (1909), Hells Gate (1918), and Triborough Bridges (1936).

Tower Town, indeed.


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intervening hours

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Friday has come at last, whew.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I mentioned yesterday, my stated desire to get high in LIC received a few answers, and one of them presented an opportunity to access the roof decks at one of the titanic new residential towers in the Queens Plaza area. One was offered a fairly limited period of time in which to get busy with the clicking and whirring, as my friend’s generosity was limited by him having preexisting plans for later in the evening.

Pictured above is the zone found around and about the Court Square section, with the Sapphire Megalith at center.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking southeast towards Brooklyn, that’s the Kosciuszcko Bridge and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway at the top of the shot, and the dark mound just in front of it is Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville section. The bright line is the Long Island Expressway, and in the foreground is the Degnon Terminal nearby the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

This is how City Planners see things, I suspect. Neat little blocks and distanced “zones” devoid of the complications or existential realities of humanity. Personally, I spend so much time scratching around in the filthy substrate and granular truths of these places, this point of view is like an alien reality to me. Saying that, even all the way up here, there are construction cranes visible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking west and slightly northwards towards Manhattan and the Queensboro Bridge, the Queensbridge NYCHA houses are filling the right hand side of the image and looking for all the world like charcoal briquettes on a BBQ.

Have a nice holiday weekend, lords and ladies, and I’ll be back Monday with something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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