The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Pickman’ Category

threat level

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Either go clean your room or go outside and play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll go gather some proper shots of it next week, but as you can see from the shot above the second phase of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge project is coming along nicely. Those two new towers are rising from industrial Maspeth, right at the border with LIC’s Blissville, and are in the footprint of the old K-Bridge which was “energetically felled” last year. I’m going to be asking the K-Bridge team about an official update on the project sometime soon, but probably won’t hear back from them until the fall. Not too much happens in officialdom during the middle and late summer, as people who work for the government usually enjoy a 1950’s style work schedule that includes summer vacations and getting out of work at four or five. This is part of the disconnect between the citizenry and their Government these days. They have no idea about how corporate America operates in modernity, and what life is like for the rest of us.

It’s why they constantly design boxes to fit us all into that seem too small and constraining, just like our friends and family do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hallets Cove in Astoria, pictured above.

Boxes are what others want to build around you, in my experience. Folks want to quantify their friends and family, coworkers and neighbors, defining acceptable behavioral norms and expectations for others. Speaking as somebody who avoids doing this, as it always leads to disappointment and conflict, and personally speaking it can be quite annoying when somebody gets after me about not fitting in one of their “slots.” I’m not a player on anybody’s stage other than my own.

It’s funny how often I get accused of egomaniacal braggadocio. Is it bragging if you’re just stating things that you’ve actually done, and recounting the tales of your adventures? There’s never been a box offered that can actually contain me, and at least for the last decade the life of a humble narrator has been lived in pursuit of “envelope pushing.” What that means is that when I’m asked if I want to do something that makes me uncomfortable, or nervous, I say “yes.” People close to me will often tell me “you can’t,” mainly because it threatens the envelope of expectation they have formed about you. Just do it, and screw what others say, life is short and it’s your life you’re living, not theirs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills, LIC, pictured above.

What I’ve discovered is that whereas I do have physical limits, their boundaries are far beyond anything I believed they were. Board a boat at four in the morning in January? Sure. NYC Parade Marshal? Why not? Testify in Federal Court about Newtown Creek and or Western Queens? OK. Advocate and argue for esoteric points of view with Government officialdom? Sounds good. The box I used to live in a decade ago before all of this madness began?

Shattered. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Head east, old man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, as the sky was still filled with milky clouds yesterday morning, my ambitions for a morning photo session were thwarted by ugly. Woke up early for nothing, essentially. Things cleared up nicely by the afternoon, which is when I found myself heading out to Flushing Meadow Corona Park in pursuance of shooting the iconic Unisphere. This is probably the most “iconic” thing that just screams “Queens” when you see it.

There you are. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was in the neighborhood, a few shots of the MTA’s Corona Yard were gathered as well, and there was an entire fleet of 7 train sets just sitting there in the sun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Uneventful is how I’d describe my afternoon. Didn’t have to speak to anyone, or do anything annoying to please their delicate sensibilities. I was by myself, keeping my own counsel, and nobody was giving me advice or offering any tips on behavioral modification.

The way I like it. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm

vast armful

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Artsy fartsy at Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the derisive things people say about me is that it often seems like I’m exploring some random tangent with no apparent goal. This cannot be further from the truth, as there are overarching strategic goals which can sometimes take years and years to play out and are expressed by following various tactics along the way. Part of the reason that you have seen so much in the way of long exposure night photography in recent months, here at your Newtown Pentacle, has been in pursuit of familiarizing myself with the techniques and foibles associated with this particular discipline.

I’ve also been slowly accumulating “kit,” on a tight budget.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent addition to my camera bag is a ten stop ND filter. For those not familiar with such photographic nitty gritty, an ND filter is essentially a very dark sunglass for your lens, which allows you to slow – or stop – down the daylight exposure process to something approximating night time exposures. Thirty second or longer exposures are made possible with the little chunk of semi opaque black glass.

Of course, the day after I picked up the filter, that heat wave we all so enjoyed kicked into gear. This sort of thing happens to me all the time… get a new lens?… weeklong blizzard… tripod?… two weeks of rain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I finally was able to make the time and endure the weather, I took the ND filter and the rest of my camera bag over to my happy hunting grounds at the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek and got busy. I kept on having to shoo away angry geese, as a note, but I’m pretty happy with my initial results and look forward to drilling down into and exploring what I can do with this new tool.

Geese are dicks. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Research is essential when purchasing anything camera related, otherwise you’re going to end up spending a fortune. All camera tripod mounts use a twenty turn quarter inch screw, for instance. If you buy that screw at a camera shop, it’s going to cost you $5-7 for just one screw, whereas the same amount of cash will buy you a bag of fifty of them at Home Depot. At home, I’m constantly improvising this or that for table shots and other needs rather than buying something expensive from BH Photo that I’ll use just once.

I bought a screw on type filter, rather than the filter holder arrangement of the type offered by the Lee company. I avoided the variable type, instead getting a “regular” ND filter manufactured under the ICE brand name for about thirty bucks. The thing you have to watch out for with these devices is color cast. They’ve all got a color cast, I’m told, whether they cost $30 or $300, so I opted for the most affordable option after doing my research. As a note, the BH Photo and Adorama organizations have uploaded hours and hours of video to YouTube that discuss the usage and nature of the gear they sell. Some of these are instructional videos, for those possessed of all levels of photographic acumen. Worth a look.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with something this dark on the front of your lens is in composition and focusing, but that’s where some of the online research came in handy. The traditional manner (and best practice, admittedly) to handle the ND process is by doing a filterless “master shot” and then calculating the extra exposure time needed when the filter is applied. Instead, on the advice of a vlogging landscape photographer, I activated the live view screen on the camera (which I almost never do) and this gave me a somewhat inaccurate preview of the shot which also allowed me to set the point of focus. The trick is in setting the screen to show you the histogram of the shot while you’re composing and fiddling with settings. Since these shots were gathered at narrow apertures (f8-f18) the only thing I really had to worry about was “hyperfocal” distance, focus wise.

Hyperfocal distance is the theoretical field of acceptable sharpness which starts at five to seven feet from the lens and then extends out to infinity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a fairly full schedule for this coming week, but I’m anxious to find myself at an opportune point of view with flowing water to take advantage of the time stretching aspects of this ND filter. First chance I get, I’m heading to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Park, with my fingers crossed that the fountains will be turned on.

I’m glad that there are no fountains on the Newtown Creek, actually.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Saturday, July 14th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.

Sunday, July 15th – Penny2Plank – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

There are eleven bridges crossing the modern day Newtown Creek and its tributaries, nine of which are moveable bridges of one kind or another. Other bridges, forgotten and demolished, used to cross the Creek. The approaches to these bridges are still present on the street grids of Brooklyn and Queens as “street ends.” Newtown Creek Alliance and a small army of volunteers have been working to transform these “street ends” from weed choked dumping grounds into inviting public spaces. This walk with NCA historian Mitch Waxman will take you there and back again, discussing the history and current status of these street ends and the territory in between.

The tour will start in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, and end in Queens’ Maspeth nearby the Grand Street Bridge.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

horribly disturbed

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Don’t get fooled again… yeah…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All anyone I talk to can talk about in Western Queens, at the moment, is the fall of Boss Crowley. “It’s a great day for Democracy” is what one elected official who often stood defiant in front of the Congressmen told me the other day. Shock waves are the best way to describe the sensation, as political hopefuls and operatives that had “paid it forward” into the Queens Machine realign themselves and attempt to figure out where the new center of gravity is. I can tell you who the big winner in all this derring do is, and it’s not Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (whom I’ve met, and she does live up to the hype).

The big winner of the Crowley primary is Bill De Blasio. Allow me to explain my perceptions on this…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Boss Crowley was in league with several of the other borough honchos, notably the Democrat clubs and Civic organizations in the Bronx and Queens. The former boss of North Brooklyn, Vito Lopez, notably went down in flames a few years ago. Brooklyn’s centers of political power moved south to Borough Hall and to South, and Eastern Brooklyn. Staten Island is its own political entity, and power over there is centered around the Republican rather than Democratic Party. Manhattan is fairly weak, in terms of organization and turning out the votes, I’m told. What that all means has little to do with the public face of Government that you see on TV and read about – rather “power” is about who gets to be made a Judge, or County Clerk, or even the Speakers of the New York State Assembly and NYC Council and by whom. “You can have Corey Johnson or Carl Heastie, but I get to name who executes Estate Law in Queens, and name two Deputy Commisioners to Sanitation,” or elevate some promising new player from a connected family to become an assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn.” Ever wonder what the connection between David Patterson, Elliot Spitzer, and Anthony Weiner is? They were all protégés of Senator Chuck Schumer, and all were methodically brought down by public sex scandals. Who “outed” them? Good question, and I’ve always wondered if it involved a certain ex-President setting up shop in Harlem, and a former First Lady becoming a Senator. The answer doesn’t actually matter, what matters is that room at the top of the ash heap was made by clearing dead wood from somebody else’s vertical silo of political patronage. With Boss Crowley moved out of the picture, there’s now a vacuum of high level power in Queens, and the Bronx has been demoted as they’ve lost a powerful partner. Brooklyn’s political clubs are now elevated in position and importance, and so are Staten Island’s. A struggle for political primacy in Queens is beginning, and there’s only one unifying “Boss” left for NYC’s elites to gather around and trade horses.

That’s the Mayor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator, of course, has no skin in this game. Other kids collected baseball cards, I collected politician cards which had all their legislative stats on the back. I’ll trade you a rookie Donald Manes for a mint 2014 Gregory Meeks, nobody has ever said except me. The next election to watch the hijinks for is Gubernatorial in nature, as the Dark Prince of Albany uses all of his art and craft to crush a challenger rising from his southern left flank, with said challenger a firm ally and agent of the Mayor. Additionally, the “lefties” of Queens have already begun realigning their allegiances with City Hall. The “read” must be that since Ocasio Cortez was to the left of Crowley, the best way to realign themselves would be in that direction. They’re missing the truth, which is that just like Hillary Clinton, Joe Crowley ran a crappy (primary) campaign and failed as a Candidate. The Mayor is already capitalizing on this, as is the south Brooklyn political establishment that he’s the representative of. Thing is, he’s a fake “leftie,” and is in fact a neoliberal corporatist and “Gentrifier in Chief” who seeks to maintain the system exactly as it is right now (as he is at the top of said system), just with higher graduated income taxes on about two percent of the total population to pay for his unending expansion of government (20% in six years!) and to continue his spending spree. The Mayor has actually been a godsend for one particular group, whom upstate Republicans present as a boogie man to their constituencies while raising funds.

Meanwhile, as the left continues to eat its own arm, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

All of this is just one idiot’s opinion, take it for what it’s worth.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 29, 2018 at 1:00 pm

to escape

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Rabbit Holes!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was scuttling along Jackson Avenue in Hunters Point recently, and this MTA (unit 559) Street Sweeper caught my eye. Built onto a GMC 5500 HD frame, this vehicle is technically a Stewart Amos Equipment Company Mechanical Broom Street Sweeper. The invention of the first mechanical street sweeper, recorded as such, dates back to the 1840’s in Manchester, England by a notable fellow named James Whitworth. It was a horse drawn affair, with rotating brushes actuated by road wheels. A similar device was patented in the United States, in 1849, by a fellow named C.S. Bishop. Variations of theme and function saw hundreds of patents filed for this sort of technology but things settled down when the Elgin Sweeper Company and James Murphy were granted a patent in 1917. The basic form and function of street sweepers has evolved since, but the underlying technological and engineering systems of  what you see above comes from inventor and developer James Murphy. According to environmental officialdom, the best thing that you can do as far as the health of nearby waterways is to have a robust street sweeping schedule. Also, it’s MTA Bridge and Tunnels unit operated, as you can tell from its service dress and branding. The “A” in MTA is for “adventure,” I would remind.

Rabbit hole number one, accomplished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of MTA Bridge and Tunnels, their pals at the New York State Department of Transportation are in charge of the Long Island Expressway, which feeds some thirty million vehicle trips a year into the Queens Midtown Tunnel where that street sweeper in the first shot is no doubt employed. Greenpoint Avenue is carried over the L.I.E. by a pedestrian and vehicle bridge, and that’s where the latest trophy of the Queens Cobbler (probable) serial killer was recently discovered.

This time around, it was a size 10 Nike brand high top sneaker. Nike was founded in Oregon in 1964 by two guys, originally called Blue Ribbon Sports. They rebranded with the current name and swoosh logo in 1971, and these days Nike has 74,000 global employees and the company is valued at nearly $35 billion buckaroos. Rabbit hole two, folks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is no greater joy than finding yourself alongside that fabulous cataract of maritime industrial splendor which the happy children of Brooklyn and Queens call the “Newtown Creek” when it’s just started raining. Is it the smell of camphor and burning electrical insulation, the way that the raindrops impact the powderized glass sand on the asphalt, or the rust colored water that flows from the waste transfer stations? I love it all.

What you’re looking at up there is the theoretical street end of North Henry Street at the Unnamed Canal tributary basin of the Newtown Creek, looking north towards Queens. North Henry used to connect to the street grid of Greenpoint prior to the modernization of the sewer plant, but what I’ve always wondered about is the significance of it being called “North Henry Street.” Regular Henry Street runs from “Downtown Brooklyn” in the DUMBO zone all the way down to the Henry Street Basin in Gowanus Bay. North Henry goes from Newtown Creek, through the sewer plant (they’ve still got street signs in there), and east(ish) to Richardson Street on the Bushwick side of Greenpoint near St. Cecilia’s on the south side of Meeker Avenue. What’s the occulted connection between the North and Regular Henry Streets?

Rabbit hole, third.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

never fainted

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I now know it was you, Larry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving HQ the other day, this is the scene which greeted me. Our Lady of the Pentacle spotted this tableau separately. Astoria, Queens is a place full of mystery, but you can’t beat the “block watchers” when you’re playing detective. On Saturday late afternoon/evening, while enjoying a few pints of beer at the “local” with some of the local commentariat, we put our heads together and pieced together the story of a skeleton cat wearing a collar that read “heartbreaker” which appeared in front of my door.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My neighbor Kenny, who is in many ways the adult man that Nelson from the Simpsons (the haw haw kid) would grow up to become, provided many of the individual pieces of the puzzle. He described seeing an affable fellow named Larry emerge from his building with the skeleton cat in hand, who thereupon placed it on the sidewalk with the intention of letting it find a new home.

Another neighbor described the Cat being picked up by ready hands and then abandoned again. It seems to have moved up and down the block a few times before coming to rest in the tree pit in front of HQ, one building lot from its original placement by the aforementioned Larry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heartbreaker apparently made it most of the way up to Newtown Road from the Broadway side of the block before track of it was lost. Having satisfyingly assembled the origin and travels of the thing, discussion of the articulation and manufacture of the skeleton cat ensued. Such are the minor points of interest upon which the neighborhood grinds away, here in Astoria. Whether or not Larry was the original owner of the thing, I cannot say, and speaking for the community – we’ve lost interest and moved on to other topics.

The possibility of having a block party during the late summer months came up, whereupon everyone turned to me in pursuance of getting a permit for said function.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

terrible colloquy

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The view, man, the view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance, along with the Broadway Stages Company, the Audubon Society, and Alive Structures, applied for and received a grant from the GCEF fund (an environmental settlement which arose out of the Greenpoint Oil Spill litigation) a few years ago in pursuance of creating a 22,000 square foot green roof at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section. The 520 Kingsland property is an active TV production studio owned by Broadway Stages, but the flowering roof on top of is all about the environment. For me, it’s a wonderland of photogenic views.

The shot above looks westwards, just after sunset and towards the Shining City of Manhattan, with the Newtown Creek industrial zone in the foreground.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When mentioning 520 Kingsland to newcomers, I always use the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge as the nearest recognizable landmark for them to aim themselves at. The industrial zones on both sides of the Newtown Creek, former petroleum facilities mostly, have been acquired by and repurposed as television and movie production facilities in recent years. Broadway Stages owns large properties on both sides, and in Queens the Silvercup East studios are found just off Van Dam Street in the Blissville section of Long Island City. While I was on the roof at 520 Kingsland the other night, a crew at Silvercup was setting up to do some sort of “shoot” and they deployed theatrical lighting rigs.

Normally, I just make do with ambient light. It was great having the movie folks provide me with “proper” sculptural light.  The shot above looks eastwards towards the Kosciuszcko Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The industrial property pictured above is Metro Oil, a biofuel company founded by a friend of mind named Paul Pullo and his brothers. The Pullo brothers sold their business to John Catsimitidis (of Gristedes, FreshDirect, and Mayoral candidate fame) a few years ago. It sits right alongside the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and those are the oil tanks you see on your passenger side when driving from Queens to Brooklyn along the span.

These shots were gathered post facto after a walking tour of the area I conducted for Newtown Creek Alliance, with my colleague T. Willis Elkins, last Friday night.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2018 at 11:00 am

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