The Newtown Pentacle

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seemed baffling

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Astoria scenes, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m always impressed by the daily dedication of the local “canners,” which is what we call the folks that walk about with shopping carts searching for redeemable deposit cans and bottles, towards making a buck. For some of these canners, this is an existential practice, and how they earn the money to keep their apartments or eat regularly. For others, it’s a “side hustle” and they’ll express their amazement at the American habit of “throwing money out with the trash.”

The more you have, the less you care about it, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Steinway Street at 34th Avenue, it seems that the corner furniture store is either giving up the ghost or just changing out their awning. In the meantime, an old timey bit of signage has been revealed.

“Auto Parts Place” is from before my time in the neighborhood. Any of you life long Queensicans who are reading this remember it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If memory serves, we had to start dialing area codes back in the early 1980’s, so the lack of a “718” on the sign indicates that the advertised phone number dates back to at least the first or second Koch administration.

Personally, I live in what used to the second floor office of an appliances store a few blocks away, and my porch used to be the roof of a barber shop. The Barber Shop is now a studio apartment, and the office is now Newtown Pentacle HQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The population of drunkards along Astoria’s Broadway in the ’40’s has become quite attenuated in recent years. There used to be, just 5 years back, between 30 and 50 of these guys hanging around in various states of inebriation.

Somebody who shall remain nameless… ahem… pretty much embarrassed the local precinct into practicing the sort of subtle Policing which NYPD is famous for, and the cops made it uncomfortable for these fellows to be seen hanging around all day. Many of these guys have drank or drugged themselves into an early grave, and others have moved on to plague other neighborhoods, but we’ve still got a small core group of them hanging around all day and getting pass out drunk.

This poor guy passed out on the sidewalk and fell asleep with his back against the wall of a shop. The shop was closing up and when the steel gate came down it cracked him one on the gulliver and trapped his shoulder under it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this particular scenario play out, and the inebriate tried to salvage his pride by demanding that the shop owner give him a few bucks to not make a big deal of things. A word of advice I’d offer is to not try a “slip and fall” grift or attempt to con a Greek owned business in Astoria.

The remaining Hellenes don’t play.

The shop owner simply grabbed the guy by his collar and pulled him forward, signaled to his worker to finish lowering the steel gate, and then left the fellow sitting there with his back against the gate with an electronic keyboard (which had apparently been harvested from some trash pile) in his lap.

The scene will repeat itself again and again. Just watch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every day in Astoria can be a bit operatic. I like to sit and observe the neighbors. Just the other night, three spanish speaking gentlemen got into an argument in front of my door at about two in the morning, an altercation which resulted in fisticuffs and harsh talk. It was all very exciting.

These humans, here in Astoria, are endlessly fascinating.


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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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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

bearded stranger

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Long shadows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found one sheltering from a passing band of precipitation over on the normally sunnier side of the neighborhood, and once the atmospheric wave had passed through a humble narrator began kicking his heels around in pursuance of returning to HQ. My northward path was a familiar one, as was the pensive and self reflective mood I was in. The odor of a not unpleasant smelling strain of marijuana which those two teenagers crossing the street above were smoking mingled with the musty smells of a wet and cold evening. The trees and gardens of Sunnyside Gardens added to the bouquet, as did the wet but creosoted wood of the railroad tracks and the oily street. I can capture audio and images, but I’ve got no methodology for transmitting the experience or quality of “smell,” other than describing it with words.

Is smell the new technological frontier, I wonder? Just imagine if I could deliver the smell of Newtown Creek or its tributaries, after a thunderstorm, to your inbox.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The forgotten sense, smell is. Humans are essentially audio visual beasts, I suppose, which is why there’s so much technology available out there that allows us to transmit what we see and hear. Personally, when the olfactory region isn’t too clogged up by seasonal allergies, I like to take a ripping “shnort” of the ambient. There’s a whole memory center associated with smell that’s almost never accessed. I can imagine something I’ve seen in the past, conjure up a sound or series of sounds, but can’t seem to tell my brain that I’d like to imagine the smell of toast or whatever.

Funny that, ain’t it? Life’s rich pageant and all this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scene above was encountered nearby Northern Blvd., and I can offer two possible explanations for it. One is that somebody was making a meal of a watermelon and drinking water from a red plastic cup when they were raptured.

The other is that the foul serial killer whom I have named as the “Queens Cobbler” has returned to the neighborhood and is leaving behind their gruesome trophies as a taunt to community and the Gendarmes alike.


“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

May 3, 2019 at 1:00 pm

locked attic

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A few odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A late model and quite adorable pickup spotted at Willets Point is pictured above. One continues to suffer from a lack of fresh content for this – your Newtown Pentacle – due to the abundance of atmospheric precipitation and a rather full schedule of other tasks. I’ve got a pile of shots on the computer which have been gathered in my comings and goings around Queens which I hope to have the developing process finished on shortly.

A few of you have asked about the enigmatic “developing process” statement in the past, so here’s a brief description…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have my camera set to generate “RAW” format images rather than jpegs. When the camera card is offloaded (I generally download shots off of the thing as soon as I return to HQ from an adventure or whatever, same day as capture) onto my desktop, they are first converted over from Canon’s .cr2 format over to Adobe DNG. The DNG files, which are easier (and quite malleable) to edit, are then loaded into Adobe’s Bridge. Bridge is where I hit them with certain presets – I have one or two for normal daylight shots, a couple of different setups for high iso night or subway shots, and so on. This is hardly an automatic process, rather the settings assign correct color temperatures, sharpness and saturation settings, and a few other technical corrections are introduced into the images. This isn’t the final step by any measure, rather it creates a starting point for the next step. Setting up these settings, or loops, has been a trial and error evolutionary process which I’m always tweaking.

Next up is a review of the entire catalogue of shots, during which I’m ensuring that focus is where I wanted it to be, and I’m looking for images that carry a general esthetic sense. Ideally, at least half to two thirds of what landed in the folder are tossed, leaving behind a set of shots I can hang my hat on. Those shots are then cropped, keyworded, and have their horizon lines straightened or “dutched” depending on what I’m going for with the image.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The final step, and I leave it for last as the prior phases can often be boring and technical exercises during which my head feels like it might slide off the back of my neck during, is the development one. That’s where I noodle brightness, contrast, and so on to find some accommodation between what my perception of the scene was while shooting it and the technical shortcomings of the captured image. Once I’m happy with what I’ve got, and at this point it’s something like 15 or 20% of what originally came off the camera, I make my selects that I want to present. Maybe 10% of the original number of photos captured in the field make it through to that final cut. Sometimes, you need to “get it in one,” especially when it’s an assignment, but personal work involves a different thought process.

I’ve got a couple of “secret sauce” tricks that I picked up over the years working as a Madison Avenue retoucher, but one thing I never do with the shots you see here is “photoshop” them and alter the capture by removing or adding elements. It’s just color and brightness, contrast and so on that I hit them with. I aspire to maintain some measure of journalistic integrity in these images.

Everything gets rendered out as jpegs for web delivery at Flickr, ultimately.


“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

May 2, 2019 at 1:30 pm

evidently achieved

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Ain’t Queens cool?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The views available from the IRT Flushing, or 7 Line subway, tracks along Queens Blvd. never fail to impress. The three shots in today’s post were captured at the 40th Lowery stop in Sunnyside one recent late afternoon/early evening. One was returning to the neighborhood from some adventure and I had decided that rather than transferring to R line in Jackson Heights, which comes quite a bit closer to HQ than the 7 does, I’d instead take the train to somewhere photogenic and then walk home instead. This is one of my little habits, and guilty pleasures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always loved the telephoto possibilities along the 7, as there aren’t all that many spots along the elevated lines where you can capture an entire train in one picture. In recent weeks, as mentioned in prior posts, a humble narrator has been beset by obligation and I haven’t had too many chances to say “cool” about the various sights which have rolled in front of the daily grind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is fairly shattered – physically – today by yesterday’s Newtown Creekathon, which saw me guiding and narrating a walking tour of the entire Newtown Creek. It’s the shouting, ultimately, which exhausts. Couple that with the multiple miles crossed, and I found myself passing out on the couch in the early evening yesterday. At some point, one must’ve found his way into the bed, but a clear memory of moving from one set of cushions to the next doesn’t exist.


“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

April 29, 2019 at 1:00 pm

unholy ways

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Returning to Flushing Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First off, I’m beginning to figure this place out after having developed an interest in it earlier this year. Secondly, I wish that there were parts of my particular highly industrialized and polluted waterway that looked this good. This is an intertidal zone, with a sandy beach that leads into a marsh. There’s all sorts of evidence of filter feeding shellfish, lots of birds doing bird stuff, and expansive mats of algae everywhere you look. I imagine that if you were to shovel down a few feet, the ground would be teeming with all sorts of invertebrates and creepy crawlies. In many ways, this shoreline reminds me of the Jamaica Bay waterfront which I used to explore when I was a kid in South East Brooklyn.

I have got to find somebody willing to let me get into a rowboat with them on Flushing Creek this summer. If you’re that someone, get in touch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving away from the water, and over into the parlor of the House of Moses, those highway ramps you see are (I think) the Northern Blvd. offramp of and the main stem of the Whitestone Expressway or “678.” The higher one on the right with the blue paint should be 678, but as I’m ignorant of exactly where the Van Wyck ends and the Whitestone starts, take that with a grain of salt. As mentioned, I’m still figuring this area out. If a google maps link helps, this shot was gathered right about here.

Apparently, this spot is often utilized by folks who want to smoke the weed, drink the drinks, or just do anything they want to without prying eyes. There’s lots of interesting graffiti on the pylons holding up the highway ramps, but otherwise it’s kind of a muddy no man’s land here in the House of Moses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s all for this week, lords and ladies. This weekend, I’ll be conducting the Newtown Creekathon with my pal Will on Sunday, so a humble narrator will likely be fairly crippled afterwards.

There’s a few NYC anniversaries happening next week for those of you who like to “nerd out” about such things – on Monday the 29th, the Bronx Whitestone Bridge will turn 90, and on April 30 of 1921 The Port of Authority of New York and New Jersey officially opened for business. Additionally, on the 1st of May in 1931, the Empire State Building opened its doors.


“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.


Events!

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2019 at 2:00 pm

schoolboys swapping

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Iron Triangle behind, Flushing Creek ahead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots presented this week at this – your Newtown Pentacle – we’re gathered whilst attending a walk presented by the NYC H2O outfit. We started on Roosevelt Avenue, proceeded through what remains of the Iron Triangle at Willets Point, and then looped down and around towards Flushing Creek. This entire area is what I’d define as the “House of Moses,” as in Robert Moses. Pedestrian unfriendly, few if any points of access to the waterfront, and the needs of high speed roads and automotive “flow” given prominence over all other considerations.

The group negotiated the various on and off ramps of the surrounding highways and we headed towards Northern Blvd. where there’s an opportunity to get down to the waterfront.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, we encountered this late model fire engine which had an RV motor home hitched up to it. Signage adorning both fire engine and motor home indicated that it was the property of the “Ministry of Abraham,” which a humble narrator surmised as being a Korean church of some kind (a no shit sherlock level deduction offered there, the signage had Korean lettering alongside the english).

Before I got to know anybody who was ethnically Korean (when I was a kid), I always figured that Buddhism or some other “asian” faith was dominant in that part of the world. Turns out that there’s a pretty significant Protestant and Evangelical Christian population amongst those folks. Assumptions like that one is something I try to avoid as an adult. It’s where that part of me which gregariously sidles up to strangers and starts chatting with them has evolved out of.

The more you know, amirite?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the nice things about attending somebody else’s tour of somebody else’s highly polluted industrial waterway is that I get to interact with people who came on one of my walking tours, and reconnect with others whom I haven’t seen in a while. At Flushing Creek, I suddenly noticed that a friend I haven’t seen in maybe eight years was there, and a few people I’d walked around Newtown Creek came over and reintroduced themselves.

Tomorrow, more from Flushing Creek.


“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.


Events!

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 25, 2019 at 2:15 pm

illustrious bones

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Iron Triangle, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One often remarks to himself how much Batman’s Gotham City and the Borough of Queens seem to have in common. Conventional comix fandom recognizes Gotham as being an admixture of Chicago and Newark, but neither of those places has a “Ravenswood” or an “Iron Triangle.” Logical supposition would place “Stately Wayne Manor” on the northern shore of Nassau or Suffolk County, but the whole “Queens County is Gotham City” preposition begins to fall apart when you consider that Superman’s base of operations – Metropolis – is widely considered to be an analogue for Manhattan. If you’re living in a place where you need both of those super duper guys around to keep the peace, it would be a good idea to just move away to someplace a bit more quiet.

Saying all that, last weekend I accompanied a group of folks on a tour of Flushing’s Iron Triangle and Flushing Creek which was organized by my pals at NYC H2O.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last time I scuttled around the Iron Triangle in Willets Point was with another tour, that one organized by Queens Borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum several years ago. Jack’s tour occurred earlier in the season, and the endemic flooding of the broken streets in these parts – caused by the purposeful neglect and blighting of the area by a conspiratorial alliance of Real Estate Industrial Complex players and their political puppets in both Manhattan’s City Hall and Queens’ Borough Hall which has played out over five or six decades (Mario Cuomo, for instance, began his political career around this issue) – was completely frozen over.

Jack Eichenbaum walks like a mountain goat and managed the icy devastations with grace and style, but the rest of us were slipping and sliding all over the place, as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally speaking, I was just glad to be amongst people for a few hours, and to observe an area which I’m not overly familiar with. The blasted heath which is the Iron Triangle, a light industrial zone adjoining CitiField and Flushing Creek, makes for nice photos IMHO. The usual forces – EDC, the politicians, REBNY and the whole crew of loathsome sentience from over in Manhattan – want to wipe away this area and replace it with the usual totemics – “affordable housing,” a “sports field,” and or a “shopping mall.” The fact that they’ll be wiping out hundreds of blue collar jobs isn’t part of their equation or narrative, which is to act as “Progressives.”

Remember – Robert Moses was a “Progressive,” as in “Progress” and “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.” When the modern politicians and economic development people call themselves “Progressives” they’re telling you point blank what they are, but trying to give you the impression that “Progressive” means something other than what it does.

More tomorrow.


“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.


Events!

TONGHT! Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 23, 2019 at 2:00 pm

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