The Newtown Pentacle

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fiendish subjects

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 19th saw me taking a short walk around the Sunnyside Yards and cracking out a bunch of shots of passing trains.

That’s a New Jersey Transit train set on the so called “turnaround” track nearby 43rd street which allows the operator to reorient the thing towards Manhattan as opposed to heading into Queens via the East River tunnels. On another siding of the turnaround track is an Amtrak Acela train set, which was just sort of sitting there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Honeywell Street, I noticed the train cars on the lower left hand side of the shot above. They’re done up with “New York Central” heraldry. At first I thought I might be accidentally traveling in time, but no. Turns out these are “heritage” passenger car units which are operated by some private outfit.

One of the Facebook groups I’m subscribed to is for train enthusiasts, and the “foamers” filled me in as to what these cars are, who operates them, and so on. Turns out you can ride on these heritage cars if you’ve got money to burn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also on Honeywell Street bridge (which is found at Queens’ 35th street), one of the many hidden fence holes allowed a view into the Acela maintenance facility at Sunnyside Yards. This is a particularly hard thing to get a shot of, incidentally, and the shot above is heavily cropped in.

I headed back to HQ in Astoria, as the 20th was meant to be a fairly busy day that started early.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 20th I was back at Newtown Creek Alliance HQ in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section for a sit down meeting with a friend who was volunteering business advice to our little non profit that could. It may be a non profit corporation, but it’s still a corporation. When advice and wisdom are on offer from somebody who runs and has run far larger entities is on the table, you would be foolish not to absorb as much of it as you can.

Of course, I had to excuse myself a couple of times to wave the camera around as a strong front of thunderstorms approached.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Creeklands were suffused with a heavy fog, being pushed by the pressure waves of that line of storms. This kind of urban atmosphere is absolute candy for a photographer.

Saying that, after the meeting ended, I needed to “get out of dodge” and start heading home quickly lest I get drenched when the storms arrived and all of that fog suddenly condensed and dropped to the ground. A scuttle of the rapid type ensued.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My plan was to cut through the Newtown Creek Nature Walk at the sewer plant in Greenpoint, then to surmount and cross the creek at the Pulaski Bridge. Luckily, I was carrying an umbrella. Managed to get this one of the Empire State Building framed up all nice before the sky opened and it started pissing down in torrents.

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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 30, 2022 at 11:00 am

titanic chisel

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back home in Queens, after my day trip to Philadelphia, and I’m sorry to report two things. First, a combination of obligation and precipitation conspired against me taking a single picture for a week after the 7th. The second is that the obligations took the form of an endless series of Zoom meetings which just happened to occur on the few days when it wasn’t raining in the second week of March.

The only good news about this series of Newtown Creek related, or non profit advocacy group focused, or Community Board meetings I participated in is that while the “blah blah blah” and virtue signaling was happening, I was developing all the shots from Philadelphia that you’ve seen over the last couple of weeks on a different screen.

Multi tasking!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 14th of March, a Monday, a very long walk was undertaken. My pathway involved first crossing the Sunnyside Yards, and then scuttling along the Skillman Avenue corridor which follows the southern side of the vast Federally owned railroad coach yard.

Famously, a humble narrator has a catalogue of every hole in the fences which is large enough to allow a lens sized point of view. After a spate of outings during the winter months, ones which saw me going out in the early hours of the morning in pursuit of the rising of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself, this was the first of several spring outings timed for the recession of the fiery orb to its receptacle somewhere behind New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Hole reliable” is actually two holes. They appear to be surveyor’s points, and they are cleanly cut apertures punched out of the steel plate fences. There’s four kinds of fencing around the yards, with three of them being absolutely disastrous in terms of photos – save for these rare surveyor points.

The funny thing about the so called “security” situation here are the rail cops sleeping in their cars alongside wide open gates, contrasted with an abundance of “block the view” or “unclimbable” fences.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot was gathered while lingering, unchallenged, at one of those open gates. There was a cop sleeping in his car directly behind me, with a tablet playing a TV program in his passenger seat.

I literally could have done anything I wanted here – walked right down to the tracks and waved at passing trains. Anything. It’s all theater – security kabuki.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the 7 line subway heading eastwards out of Queens Plaza towards Sunnyside pictured above. The tracks it travels on are suspended high above the ground level tracks used by Long Island Railroad and Amtrak. In between, there’s a truss bridge which carries vehicle traffic into and out of Queens Plaza, where the travel lane approaches to the Queensboro Bridge are found.

I moved on, the cop never woke up. Maybe he was dead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, just as I arrived at my first actual destination, the sky lit up with oranges and yellows. I miss the old days in Long Island City, before big real estate crossed the river from Manhattan and stole the sky.

More tomorrow, from Long Island City, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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.

fleecy flocks

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the iron road again! Amtrak isn’t cheap if you’re buying your tickets the day of travel, but when buying tickets well in advance – it’s super affordable. One randomly purchased a round trip ticket in February for the 7th of March. I had to get to Moynihan/Penn Station before sunrise, and left Astoria at something like 4:45 in the morning.

While waiting for a cab, I had an ugly encounter with a drunken asshole here in Astoria, which was a lovely start to my day. Seriously- when you see a dude wearing his Riker’s slippers on the street so as to display his cred, you’ve crossed into the danger zone of stupid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, I could have taken the subway here, but I had the entire kit with me and didn’t want to chance of having the MTA “MTA” me. Clown shoes, they are, and especially so in the wee hours of the morning when they know they can get away with it.

The good news is that I was happily standing by the departures board at Moynihan in Manhattan in under 30 minutes, waiting for my train’s track to be announced. Amtrak ain’t clown shoes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The blessed moment came, and soon I was pulsing down into the train. This was a day trip, as mentioned above, and my return to the City would be some 16 hours away.

As is the custom, a conductor checks your ticket and inquires as to your destination. You are then directed to this train car or that one where passengers with a destination common to yours are also seated. I settled in, and set my camera up for shooting out the window.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve fashioned a foam collar for my lens, which negates window reflections. ISO is set to “auto” and the aperture opened as wide as it can go. The shutter time was very fast, measured in the thousandths of a second. As is my habit with such shots, I cropped them differently than normal to distinguish them.

These aren’t “composed” shots, rather it’s a random form of shooting out the window as the Amtrak rolls along. In this case, we were heading first west and then south.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I won’t bore you with all that I captured along the way. The one above was from somewhere around Newark.

The train was surprisingly crowded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My destination for the day is 90 minutes from NYC by train, and it’s America’s consolation prize.

Philadelphia, there I went. 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 21, 2022 at 11:00 am

consistency partook

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling, forever scuttling, camera in hand. Filthy black raincoat flapping about in the poison wind, dodging trucks and following railroad tracks down darkened alleys… sometimes you get lucky.

As mentioned last week, a particularly long walk found me in Long Island City’s Blissville section just after sunset, and one was nearby the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge just as a set of railroad signal arms began to chime and flash. It was the garbage train!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That reddish gizmo you see above is colloquially referred to as a “critter,” I’m told, but it’s officially a Nordco Shuttlewagon model NVX6030. This particular ride can move between 38,000 and 85,000 pounds of rail car all on its own.

The crew operating it were moving rail cars with the green garbage boxes on them to and from a Waste Management facility found to the east of the LIRR’s Blissville Yard for temporary storage. The garbage train is built one rail car at a time, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Waste Management handles transfer operations for the Department of Sanitation of New York. DSNY does curbside collection in their familiar white trucks all over Queens, and then bring their putrescent cargo over to WM’s waste transfer station in Blissville, along the fabulous Newtown Creek.

The black bag or “putrescent” garbage is then complied into those green boxes, which are then loaded onto the rail cars. After a full train of them is assembled, with the Shuttlewagon doing the assembly, a proper locomotive engine will arrive and shackle itself to the garbage train. You’ll notice the garbage train leaving Queens if you hang around the Hell Gate Bridge, where it crosses the East River and heads over to the Bronx. From the Bronx, it goes north and eventually crosses the Hudson River and then travels out onto the continent, leaving our archipelago behind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the critter went into the Blissville Yard, the signal arms rose, and a humble narrator scuttled across the road – answering that age old question of “why does mitch cross the road” with “to see what it looks like from the other side.”

After a short wait, the signal arms began to chime and flash again and the Shuttlewagon returned from the darkened environ of the Blissville Yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crew were hauling empty green cargo boxes back towards Waste Management. A couple of years ago, or maybe a couple of years before Covid (I have no sense of time anymore regarding the last few years), I was told that Waste Management’s Review Avenue Waste Transfer Station handles 950 tons of black bag garbage a day.

There’s another waste transfer station here along Railroad Avenue, a recycling outfit called SimsMetal, which I’ve often profiled here in the past. Just search for “SimsMetal” in the Newtown Pentacle search bar at top right. There’s literally dozens of instances you can read about them, going all the way back to 2009.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Exhausted by my efforts and overwhelmed with joy, one decided to lay down on the sidewalk after the train passed, where an interval of introspective sobbing was enjoyed. One crawled on his hands and knees back up to Greenpoint Avenue before righting himself and resuming a brachiated striding posture before continuing on.

This walk wasn’t over yet, and there was still plenty to run and hide from.


The Newtown Creekathon returns!

On April 10th, the all day death march around Newtown Creek awakens from its pandemic slumber.

DOOM! DOOM! Fully narrated by Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of Newtown Creek Alliance, this one starts in LIC at the East River, heads through Blissville, the happy place of Industrial Maspeth, dips a toe in Ridgewood and then plunges desperately into Brooklyn. East Williamsburgh and then Greenpoint are visited and a desperate trek to the East River in Brooklyn commences. DOOM! Click here for more information and to reserve a spot – but seriously – what’s wrong with you that you’re actually considering doing this? DOOM!


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!


The Newtown Creekathon returns!

On April 10th, the all day death march around Newtown Creek awakens from its pandemic slumber.

DOOM! DOOM! Fully narrated by Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of Newtown Creek Alliance, this one starts in LIC at the East River, heads through Blissville, the happy place of Industrial Maspeth, dips a toe in Ridgewood and then plunges desperately into Brooklyn. East Williamsburgh and then Greenpoint are visited and a desperate trek to the East River in Brooklyn commences. DOOM! Click here for more information and to reserve a spot – but seriously – what’s wrong with you that you’re actually considering doing this? DOOM!


“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.

limitless limitations

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst scuttling about on a recent evening, one met an Opossum. I have no idea if the critter was a he or a she or a they, but it seemed nice. Are there trans or non gender conforming opossums, and do we have to worry about their feelings? The thing was vamping for me, and since I had just updated the firmware on my camera with what Canon promised as being “improvements to the eye tracking autofocus for animals and people” this situation presented an excellent opportunity for me to test the improved feature out.

Apparently, a big part of this face and eye tracking update involved adapting to the presence of Covid masks. The Opossum wasn’t wearing one, and neither was I for that matter, but there you are. Speaking as someone who has treated Covid with a great deal of respect over the last two years, it absolutely flummoxes me when I see people who are entirely alone – and outside – wearing masks. Same thing with people who are driving solo and wearing one. Why?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, when I was riding around on various Amtrak’s in the September and December, and on Subways here in the City, you’d have had to pry the mask off my cold dead face before I’d remove it willingly in an unventilated congregate setting. Outside, though? Unless it’s a truly crowded sidewalk – a protest or maybe a press event – I’m bare faced. Ventilation, people, ventilation. Also, distancing, people, distancing. This isn’t advice, you do you.

Recent occasion found me at the Jackson Heights intermodal subway and bus station at Broadway and Roosevelt Avenue here in Queens, where a masked up crowd formed into tight rows less than a foot away from each other when either boarding the escalator or awaiting the train’s arrival. Me? I was masked up, but stood well away from everybody else and their clouds of cooties. Why crowd in? What advantage is there? Who are you trying to beat out for pole position in terms of boarding the R? I guarantee you’re going to get onto the train, why do you need to be first?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My evening’s destination, which the pursuance thereof had precipitated meeting the nice Opossum, was the Newtown Creek waterfront in Maspeth. The former bulkheads of a long gone copper refinery and chemical factory called Phelps Dodge offer a commanding set of views of the Kosciuszko Bridge as well as a few other interesting things to point a camera at.

As far as Newtown Creek goes, the waters which greasily lap at the Phelps Dodge shoreline are generally considered to be the most deeply compromised – environmentally speaking – on the entire waterway.

Back next week with more – at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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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