The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Queens’ Category

inherent deficiency

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From the archives…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As detailed in recent posts, a humble narrator is recovering from a crush injury suffered by the big toe of my left foot, a situation which has put a serious crimp in my plans. Despite the best efforts of the loquacious Mt. Sinai Astoria hospital staff to introduce a series of corollary illnesses into my life when I had the thing “checked out” I’m doing fine and the injury is healing nicely. Saying all that, one hasn’t been out wandering the concrete devastations for the last couple of weeks, so I’m reaching into the Newtown Pentacle archives I maintain at Flickr for this week’s content.

Luckily, I’m fairly prolific so there’s lots to choose from. Today, the focus chosen is on construction equipment, a subject which I seem to return to a lot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of western Queens and North Brooklyn seem to be a construction zone, and my eye is often drawn to the gear used to annihilate the glories of the past in favor of setting the stage for glass and steel monocultural residential towers to be erected. The equipment used in pursuance of this by the Real Estate Industrial Complex is invariably dressed up in bright primary colors.

We are all living in a comic book now. The President of the United States is a James Bond villain, and has surrounded himself with a cabinet populated by “The Legion of Doom.” Closer to home, the Governor of New York State can give you cancer by staring at you for too long, and the Mayor of Gotham is a farcical character straight out of a Tim Burton film. If peanut butter agreed to build “affordable housing,” our Mayor would happily make jelly illegal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, I got to take credit for coining the moniker “Dope from Park Slope” with one of the Mayor’s City Hall insiders. I instructed said insider to let the big guy know it was me. One cannot tell you the joy I feel when I see news photos of people carrying signs at protests which have “Dope from Park Slope” on them. Any joy is welcome these day, as the throbbing of the broken toe’s healing process sings opera to me at night. It’s the little things, right? Said throbbing has gotten in the way of lots and lots of stuff.

Sitting at my desk and actually getting things done has become a no more than two hours at a time thing for the last couple of weeks, which is annoying as I’m trying to accomplish one more print publication before the end of the year.

Also, check out the links below, I’ll be speaking at the Roosevelt Island New York Public Library on Thursday night, which is a free event.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come to the library!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek – The Roosevelt Island Historic Society has invited me to present a slideshow and talk about my beloved Newtown Creek at the New York Public Library on Roosevelt Island, on November 14th, 6 p.m. Free event!

Click here for more information.!

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

November 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

lacquered patinas

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Signs and portents.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody wants to tell you what to do, all the time. Signage adjures, cautions, forbids, and demands attention wherever you look. If you’re literate, your brain instantly begins putting together the messaging on signs and you have no choice but to receive the intended messaging. For years, I’ve wondered about whether or not there’s some combination of words which could render you instantly insane upon receiving them, in the manner of a magick spell. Could a campaign of signage designed to transmit a “very bad idea” or incantation end civilization itself, and reduce mankind to atavistic savages in the process? We can only hope so.

Personally, I’m reduced to reaching into the archives today, as the whole busted toe drama has reduced my productivity to nearly zero.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I won’t fill you in on how to interpret the sign above, in the language of NYC’s street culture, but if you are literate in slang it’s quite a funny message.

One did manage to attend two CB1 community board functions this week, both of which saw me using a taxi to get to the meetings. The first was held by the “land use” committee, which I’m not a member of but we are encouraged to attend all committee meetings whether or not we are officially a member thereof. I’m trying to visit with each one of the groupings at least once, in pursuit of meeting all the other CB1 members and also learning the operational side of things. Personally, I’m on the “transportation” and “environmental” committee groups.

“Land use,” which was on Wednesday night, seems to focus in on zoning and other niceties of the City Planning process. Discussed was the status of Rikers Island. It seems that despite Rikers being officially and politically part of the Bronx, Queens CB1 has regency over the island and facility. The Dept. of City Planning was seeking board consensus for two items – redefining the island as a “public place,” and secondly the effort to create a locked down deadline of December of 2026 for when detention would no longer be allowed on Rikers Island. Discussion of what comes after occurred, but that was shelved as it’s functionally impossible to predict what the next Mayor and the next City Council coalition would want to do with it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, the “transportation” committee met. We received a presentation from Revel, a private company offering “last mile” electric moped services. With an app and smartphone based business model which feeds customers to their moped fleet of 1,000 units (currently), the Revel people were quite nice and prepared for questions and answers. In general, I’m liking their service (which I don’t use, but several of my friends do), and the conversation with their reps centered around safety and operational issues. My questions for them centered around privacy issues, how long trip data persists on their servers, and so on.

It was nice to be amongst people, for a sheltered invalid such as myself.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come to the library!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek – The Roosevelt Island Historic Society has invited me to present a slideshow and talk about my beloved Newtown Creek at the New York Public Library on Roosevelt Island, on November 14th, 6 p.m. Free event!

Click here for more information.!

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

November 8, 2019 at 11:45 am

agonizing mortality

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Three Boroughs today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Right up there is the very first shot ever published at your Newtown Pentacle, which is an oldie but a goodie. Queensboro Bridge just before it’s centennial parade, and I was the only person on the upper level when this was captured. Archive shots will be greeting y’all for a bit while my smashed toe heals, an endeavor which is shaping up to be quite the ordeal. I’m heading over to the hospital later on to get it properly looked at, since – despite one of my hidden talents being first aid and the ability to tie off a sterile field dressing – things aren’t progressing as I’d like them to and I have to consult with somebody whose first name is Doctor.

I really cannot afford to do this, invoking the broken medical system here in NYC, but you have to do what you have to do and a possible infection related to a broken bone is not something you want to play around with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not sure what the name of that rail bridge is in the shot above, but I can tell you that it’s in the Bronx. Another archive shot, I captured it during another one of the Centennial events about ten years ago, celebrating the Madison Avenue Bridge.

Man, my foot is killing me today. The swelling has gone down, but that means that I can now fully experience and enjoy the injury.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what it looks like when the ship or boat you’re on is entering the Gowanus Canal, and that’s the Hamilton Avenue Bridge. Got this one a while back on a Working Harbor Committee excursion to Gowanus Bay and the canal. My pal Joseph Alexiou was on the mike, who is someone you should be paying attention to on all matters involving the Gowanus and South Brooklyn in general.

Oww.


“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

November 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm

watching sentinels

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One more bit of Creekery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even at three or four in the morning, it’s hard to find a thirty second interval on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge during which heavy trucks or buses aren’t passing over the double bascule drawbridge and causing it to quiver and quake. Getting any sort of usable long exposure shot from up there is a matter of luck for most. Since I give it a go every time I’m walking over it at night, the law of averages states that I’m occasionally going to be able to time it right.

That’s the new Kosciuszcko Bridge in the distance, poking its head up over the industrial zone found along Railroad Avenue in LIC’s Blissville section. That enormous smokestack is all that’s left of Van Iderstine’s fat rendering operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If “over yonder” means the Greenpoint, Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek, then over yonder that’s what used to be called the BP Amoco yard. It’s a distribution hub for petroleum products, and those tanks contain various flavors of refined products. It sits in part of the footprint of the old Standard Oil Sone and Fleming refinery complex which would one day become Mobil Oil. Across Apollo Street to the east was another Standard refinery operation – Locust Hill. Apollo Street is the epicenter of the Greenpoint Oil Pill discovery and remediation process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is actually a handheld one, looking roughly westwards across Greenpoint towards Manhattan. Remember that heavy traffic I mentioned? Never, ever stops.

Back Monday with something different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

spiritual dread

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My beloved Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered while I was riding on a hybrid ferry boat, which at the time was running on its electric mode. This was a novel experience, I must say. Beyond the whole environmental thing, what was fascinating about this vessel was how quiet it was, and how the deck plates weren’t vibrating with transmitted engine oscillations. Can’t tell you much about the thing, as it wasn’t my “show.”

Saying that, my “show” will be once again opening its curtains on Wednesday October 15th, with an Atlas Obscura/Airbnb “experience” offering my “Infrastructure Creek” walk to a very limited group of 12. This will be an evening/night walk, which should be pretty exciting. Link is both above and below, so please come with if you can. The same tour will be repeated on October 29th. These tours are part of how I keep a roof over my head, so any and all tickets sold essentially feed me, and fund the various technologies which allow me to bring you Newtown Pentacle five days a week and fifty two weeks a year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria Community Board 1 will be gathering at Astoria World Manor on Astoria Blvd. tonight at 6:30. It promises to be an interesting meeting. The Transportation Alternatives organization (Bicycle people) will be offering a presentation pushing for their latest advocacy position which asks the City to create a protected bike lane on Crescent Street connecting the Triborough and Queensboro Bridges. This is sure to be the subject of much conversation and gnashing of teeth in the coming months here in the ancient village, so… Additionally, there is a proposal to develop two currently industrially zoned properties on the Ditmars side of the neighborhood on 45th and 46th street into largish apartment houses.

Discussion of the latter has obsessed the frequent commenters found at Facebook’s Astoria discussion group for the last week. That particular cadre of opinion offerers seem to be composed largely of people who moved out of Astoria in the 1980’s that offer an overly sentimental picture of the “good old days” which has little resemblance to reality. For instance, somebody who is in their mid 60’s in 2019 that says “you could leave your doors unlocked back then” is referring to the late 1970’s in NYC. That’s the midst of an era when you not only triple locked your door, you also installed iron bars on both first AND second story windows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That aphorism about leaving your door open is something I’ve encountered my entire life. My maternal grandparents offered it when referring to living in the “Shtetl” or Lower East Side of Manhattan during the 1920’s when they first got here. My mom and dad also repeated the refrain when referring to East New York’s Brownsville or Brooklyn’s Borough Park where they respectively grew up (the Waxman family’s ancestral property holdings are now a part of the Maimonides Hospital parking garage). You heard this in the neighborhoods which I grew up in, and the saying was always tinged with a certain amount of racism, with the underlying implication that things were better during a more segregated era (red lining was a practice in the real estate world which only allowed certain ethnicities to live in certain areas. It’s part of the “how and why” which NYC’s “ethnic” enclaves were formed by – African American Bed Stuy and Bushwick, Hispanic North Brooklyn, Jewish Midwood and Crown Heights, Italian Bensonhurst and so on).

Back tomorrow with something else. See you tonight at CB1 if you want to come watch the show. Me, I wish I was going to be on a boat tonight during the storm, electric or not. I spend too much of my life in meetings.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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.

was invariable

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DUPBO, in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp, or DUPBO in Long Island City, is pictured above. Recent endeavor found one wandering around this area just after sunset about a week ago, and one decided to get busy with the camera.

The Pulaski Bridge was built by the NYC DOT as a replacement to the older Vernon Avenue Bridge which was found about a block or so to the west. The old bridge connected LIC’s Vernon Blvd. with Greenpoint’s Manhattan Avenue, and there was a streetcar or trolley service which connected the two shorelines of Newtown Creek. The former Orchard Street (bet Greenpoint Avenue and the Creek) in Brooklyn was renamed “Manhattan Avenue” about 1915 (I believe, and that’s from memory so don’t trust me on that), as the LIC side offered proximity to the brand new IRT Flushing line (the 7) subway. The trolley stop in LIC, where the trolley came to rest, is the NYC Parks Dept.’s “Vernon Mall” today. Back then, you named streets for where they were going, today you give parks meaningless names which obfuscate the past, but that’s why Greenpoint’s Orchard Street is Manhattan Avenue today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The derelict shoreline of LIC in DUPBO between the bridge and the Vernon street end is occupied and exploited by a colony of squatter boats these days. A hundred years ago, you would have been looking at a fleet of small tugs owned by the Newtown Creek Towing Company, whose HQ was found next door to an Ulmer Brewery Tap room on Vernon beneath the old bridge. Back then, modern day 54th and 53rd avenues were part of the LIRR Pigeon Street rail yard, which adjoined the Hunters Point Yard on the north and had tracks feeding into the Jack Frost sugar factory on the East River. The squatter boats are all blurry looking because they were rolling around on the wake of a tugboat and barge combo which had just navigated past.

The large structure on the Greenpoint side is the former Chelsea Fiber and Jute Mill at the end of Manhattan Avenue, which is known to modernity as the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center – or GMDC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As part of the post WW2 citywide expansion of arterial roadways, drawn up by and overseen by Robert Moses, the Pulaski Bridge was designed as a high draught drawbridge which would span the Newtown Creek and magnify the amount of traffic flow between the two boroughs. Both 11th street in LIC and what would come to be called McGuinness Blvd. in Greenpoint were widened to accommodate this extra traffic. From DUPBO, you may notice that the Pulaski sports what appears to be an unfinished traffic ramp which arcs off of the eastern or Queens bound side. I’ve never been able to confirm it definitively, but the general presumption I hold is that Moses and his crew once intended to connect the Pulaski’s “flow” with the Long Island Expressway.

A bascule drawbridge of paralell counterweight design and driven by electrical motors, construction of the Pulaski Bridge was overseen by the New York City Commissioner of Public Works – Frederick Zurmuhlen – and the general contractor employed in building it was the Horn Construction Company, with steel and expertise supplied by Bethlehem Steel. It opened in September of 1954 at a cost of $9,664,446.25 – and a reconstruction of the bridge in 1994 cost $40 million. It carries five lanes of vehicular traffic, as well as dedicated (and now separated) bicycle and pedestrian lanes, and it’s a primary crossing between north Brooklyn and western Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards along Newtown Creek, a tug and barge passed through this thirty second exposure, causing a colorful light show to appear on my camera’s sensor. I’m fascinated by this sort of time capture, incidentally. The normal procedure for photographically capturing the passage of time is to record video, of course, or even to fire off a burst of shots. One of the things that’s emerged during all of this night photo long exposure work I’ve been doing for awhile now is that I can reveal traffic patterns, the passage of normally invisible critters in the water, even the invisible currents of air if I set the camera up correctly. You can see the pathways of fish in the water, rendered out by the reflective streaks coming off of their scales, for instance.

If I was sure that I wouldn’t blow up Brooklyn or Queens (or the Buckeye Pipeline), I’d love to throw a block of magnesium into the water and photograph it as it sank and burned – illuminating the bed of the creek. Who can guess, all there is, that might be swimming around down there? Subaqueous features, sunken boats, Jimmy Hoffa?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the staircase leading up to the LIC side of the pedestrian walkway atop the Pulaski Bridge. One advises all not to hold onto the side rails unless they have to, as the Pulaski’s rafters are full of pigeons and the entire bridge is covered in layers of guano.

The lady on the bicycle annoyed me, incidentally. Seeing me standing there with a camera and tripod setup, she first stopped her bike literally two feet away and in front of me for an interval of playing with her phone. I gently asked “excuse me, miss, can I ask you to just move forward two feet so as you’re not in my shot?” to which she silently shot me back a look of annoyance and then rolled further into the shot and right in front of the stairs. So enthralled with her glowing piece of telecommunicative glass that bodily movements all but ceased, she appears in the shot above as a semi transparent statue. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but I wouldn’t want to trigger the “waiting to be offended” or “overly sensitive” millennial crowd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking upwards at the control tower of the Pulaski Bridge from the waters edge, which is what you’re seeing. That’s where the various knobs, dials, buttons, and levers that open and close the thing are found.

These shots were gathered using my “minimal” carry setup (2 light lenses, cable release, air blower, couple of lens cloths, and that Ultrapod camera support gizmo), and I used the cheapo Canon “pancake” 24mm lens which I’ve mentioned in the past for all of them. For a variety of reasons, it doesn’t always work for me to grab the whole kit and kaboodle on my way out of HQ, and I’m also trying to carry a bit less around with me than I usually do at the moment in general. Also, not having zoom lenses and being “mission specific” forces me to think more about the “where” of my shots and there’s also the whole “be intentional” thing.

Also, lest I forget, “Pulaski Bridge” – Casimir Pulaski was a Polish military officer who joined General Washington’s Continental Army of the 13 colonies in order to assist in their war of rebellion against the Hanoverian Throne of England during the Revolutionary War. Google him, interesting person, and a Polish National Hero.

I have to don my monkey suit tonight and head off to the City for a party with the fancy folks on the Hudson side of things. I’ll be carrying the minimum kit again, so let’s see what I can get.


“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

October 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

uncanny noise

with 7 comments

I got to ride on a New York and Atlantic Freight Train!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the New York and Atlantic’s newest ride – Engine 400. Before I say anything else, I want to acknowledge my pal David Silver and his encyclopedic knowledge of all things rail for pointing me in the right direction on the original make and model of this particular locomotive engine. Originally built in 1966 for the B&O railroad, this model GP40 locomotive’s original configuration offered some 3,000 HP.

NY&A has recently (2018) had the thing rebuilt at Knoxville Locomotive Works to bring it in line with modern day Tier 4 emissions standards. It lost 700 HP in the conversion, it seems, but NY&A operates on fairly level terrain (by rail standards) in NYC and Nassau and Suffolk Counties. NY&A are a private company contracted by the Long Island Railroad to handle their freight duties, as a note.

Also as a note, I’ve actually photographed this unit before, at night in Maspeth at the Haberman tracks in March of 2019. Check that out here.

from wikipedia

The GP40 is a 4-axle diesel-electric road-switcher locomotive built by General Motors, Electro-Motive Division between November 1965 and December 1971. It has an EMD 645E3 16-cylinder engine generating 3,000 hp (2,240 kW).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ride itself was offered by NY&A, the Waste Management Company, and the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. A small group of invitees assembled at Waste Management’s Brooklyn waste transfer station on Varick Street, and there were three opportunities to ride on the thing along the Bushwick Branch tracks leading through East Williamsburg into Ridgewood and then Maspeth. I rode it twice, sitting out the middle trip so I could get shots of the thing coming and going.

This was actually pretty exciting for me, since my oft repeated “I don’t trespass” stance has often found a humble narrator staring wistfully at some trackway which I was dying to explore. Today’s post is proof of my pudding that eventually I will get to go where I want, in the company of the people who own the thing, and that I will be able to publish the photos publicly. A number of the officers of NY&A were onboard, notably the NY&A’s president James Bonner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hampering the efficiency of the line are the multiple “at grade” street crossings which the route follows. There are no signal arms or even flashing lights and bells to warn motorists or pedestrians or even – god forbid… bicyclists – that the train is about to cross the street along this section of the route. Procedure dictates that the conductor (apparently that’s what you call the guy, even though there’s usually no passengers) gets off the train and walks ahead of the engine, stopping approaching traffic the NYC way – standing in the middle of the street and waving his arms around.

James Bonner told me that this situation is something that the company is trying to fix with some haste, but for now the train moves through this section of the Creeklands at the limited speed which a conductor can walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train carried us roughly a mile into Queens and then reversed back towards the Varick Street location. A humble narrator got quite busy with the camera on this trip. Most of what I shot were pretty boring photos, which were recorded in a simple documentarian manner depicting and detailing the otherwise forbidden rail tracks. During the excursion, I was allowed to walk around on the engine’s catwalks. There were a couple of other photographers along for the trip, as a note. Assemblyman Joe Lentol of Greenpoint was onboard as well, along with other notables from Brooklyn. At one point, the Commissioner of the NYC Dept. of Sanitation showed up and she made a speech.

The notables were riding in a little caboose at the back of the train set. I rode in the caboose on the last ride of the day, but during the first trip I was on the locomotive section. In between the two, there was a “slug,” which I’m told acts as a purely mechanical augment to the locomotive engine providing additional tractive effort assistance and extra braking capability.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The engineer driving the train was a pretty good humored fellow, but I never did catch his name. He was seated at a console offering multiple digital indicators and gauges. I don’t have room for what the console looked like in this post, but if you want to get an idea of it – check out this photo of the setup over at flickr.

Of course I had to be a jackass at least once during the trip, and while standing on the engine’s catwalk at a street grade crossing in Maspeth, I spotted an attractive woman waiting for the train to pass. I shouted out “hey, what do you think of my ride?” to her, and she smiled and then winked her eye at me. It was probably just the sun, or dust, or a seizure, but I’m holding on to it being a wink – thank you very much. I’ve still got it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train returned to the Waste Management facility at Varick Street, where bags of NY&A shwag were waiting for us. I got a neat baseball hat with a NY&A logo on it, and a pen with a logo too. Just behind the train, you’ll notice a fence line with some green material affixed to it. Right on the other side of that bridge is the loathsome terminus of the Newtown Creek’s English Kills tributary, some 3.8 miles from the East River. The water is crossed by, and the Bushwick Branch tracks are mounted upon, the Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge, which is roughly 3.7 miles from the East River.

I don’t come back here very often – remember that “I don’t trespass” thing? Also, this is a pretty far walk from Astoria. Saying that, check English Kills and the Montrose Avenue Bridge out at night in this 2019 post, during the day in this 2017 one, and for more on the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch tracks click through and all the way back to a simpler time in this 2012 post.

What a week I had!


“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.

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