The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘railroad’ Category

pitiable tones

with one comment

My Creek always welcomes my triskaidekaphobia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shlep, shlep, shlep. That’s my game. As an old Christmas cartoon used to musically opine – “put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door.” Why it is that when I leave the house I inevitably end up in places like this is somewhat mysterious. What draws a creature like me out into the public sphere in the first place, as I belong in a catacomb or dungeon awaiting unwary travelers like some great spider? All interaction with others is strained and painful for me. My countenance causes children to cry, dogs to yelp, and induces startled reactions from adults. When I begin to speak, the croaking notes and gurgling exhalations are often described as being scented by and carried aloft on a bilious breeze. If I could get away with it, I’d wear naught but prophet’s robes, but come close with the filthy black raincoat and hooded black sweatshirt. Every now and then I catch a reflection of myself in a shop window and even I’m scared at what I see.

I’ve arrived at an age where pieces are about to start falling off as if I’m some sort of a biblical leper. Truly objectionable am I, ask anyone. God hates me, but to be fair, that’s probably my fault.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

People have always enjoyed making an example of me, or holding me to a higher standard than others despite my low social status. As a child, I’d be sitting in a school auditorium reading a book quietly while my classmates were all acting like irradiated monkeys and pyromaniacs. The Principal would surmount the stage and scream “WAXMAN” into the loudspeaker, whereupon my daily humiliations would resume.

I can’t help it that I stand out. I was born this way. These experiences, and many more, have caused me to become quite “vengeance” based in my thinking. I’m going to make the world pay, and pay dearly, for what’s been done to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My beloved Newtown Creek is the same way – reviled, ruined, lonely, lost. She and I have an understanding with each other, and since we are kindred spirits, the Creek never disappoints when I’m visiting. I feel like I should throw in a “verily” here.

Look at my sweetie, the way she opened the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge for me just as I happened to be passing by. She’s a good old girl, the Newtown Creek.

Enjoy your Friday the 13th, lords and ladies, especially so since there’s a full moon tonight. As a note, Sunday marks the “ide of March” as well as being National Egg Cream day.


“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.

altered youth

with one comment

Like every other piece of wind blown trash, I always end up at Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

God, how I love it so – the wastelands of Long Island City at night. One can just let it all hang out, laugh maniacally without scaring the neighbors, and embrace the dissolution and horror of it all here at the titular center of the great urban hive. The Coronavirus wouldn’t last two seconds around here, as far nastier and better established pathogens would beat the crap out of the newcomer. Hand sanitizer? Look where I like to hang out on a Saturday night. Hand sanitizer would bubble, boil, and froth if you poured it on the sidewalk here in Blissville.

The good news about all this pandemic panic is that I finally have an excuse to not have to shake hands or exchange hugs with the humans. Nepenthe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Green Asphalt pictured above, a company whose raison d’être is the 2010 Solid Waste Management Act, dictating that NYC can no longer use landfills to dispose of road surfacing materials. When the contractors working for the NYC Department of Transportation scrape away a road’s armor, the milled materials are transported to Green Asphalt or a similar operation where the stuff is heated up and mixed with a small amount of new product. The resulting mass of steaming goo is then used to repave a street, often the very same street it’s was just milled off of.

That’s called recycling, baby, recycling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Green Asphalt is found on one of my very favorite streets in Queens, Blissville’s Railroad Avenue. Why do I like it so very much? Could be those jet black cats with the glowing yellow eyes. Also might be the railroad tracks which give the street its name, or the ghosts of industrial titans like Fleischman’s Yeast, Van Iderstine’s rendering plant, or even the lesser branches of the Haberman family tree which used to stretch out hereabouts. I like darkness, and solitude, so there’s that too.

It’s hard to find a place in NYC where you can be truly alone, but one such as myself is always alone, even in a crowd.


“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.

sequestered cabin

leave a comment »

What’s expected?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the first phase of the Hudson Yards project pictured above. What’s expected of one such as myself would be to condemn, criticize, or condemn the place. Yes? Ok then.

Here’s my three “C’s.” I personally find the design of Hudson Yards to be quite off, given its total embrace of 75 years old urban planning chestnuts like “superblocks” and “towers in a park.” Hudson Yards ignores its surrounding neighborhoods contextually, offers a harsh and unfriendly pedestrian space, and is guilty of architectural banality. No thought seems to have been given on the subject of its relationship to the position of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself’s journey through the sky, as the reflective tower facades cause harsh light to broadcast and strobe about from on high. Even sunglasses won’t help when walking westwards on 32nd or 33rd streets in the morning, or eastwards from the Hudson coast of Manhattan in the afternoon/evening.

Walking through the “zone,” I was keenly aware of how unwelcoming the place seemed, displaying emotional sterility while trying too hard to be “artsy.” Every design attempt at being “playful or whimsical” reminded me of a crass and cheaply rendered version of Disneyworld. Rust, peeling paint, and cracked cement is already visible on and around the “Bloomberg Building” for instance.

Homogeneity is what the City Planners like, and in Hudson Yards their vision is writ large. These folks hate the heterogenous chaos of cities, preferring the neat appearance of shopping mall gallerias. Long story short, I’m not a fan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other hand, gazing upon these shots, which were gathered up on the High Line, I have to remind myself what used to be here – which was a whole lot of stuff nobody wants. Long corridors of graffiti covered concrete walls vouchsafing the rail yards below, open air drug dealing, and more prostitutes than you could shake a stick at (pun intended). This was a “dead” section in busy midtown Manhattan, incongruously sandwiched in by neighborhoods that didn’t end two to three blocks short of the Hudson. The long eastward trek from the Javitz Center for convention goers back to the subways and Penn Station, the automobile commuter focused street design… the west side in the 30’s was never a destination you’d want to tell your mom you were heading towards.

Is this incarnation better? Worse? Only time will tell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I can tell you, after walking the camera through and reviewing the photos gathered, is that every single minute I’ve spent opposing the Sunnyside Yards proposals here in Queens has been time well spent. The fancy pants crowd which is in favor of the gargantuan endeavor of decking the Sunnyside Yards doesn’t really understand what it would entail. They haven’t fully digested the reality of the construction or come to the understanding that to justify the colossal $22 billion estimated cost of the deck, you cannot build small or even medium – you have to build big. That’s an economic reality.

Look at that shot above, and imagine you’re standing in Queens Plaza. Now you’re starting to realize what’s what and why we have to keep this from happening in Queens.


“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

January 2, 2020 at 1:00 pm

agriculturally challenged

with 2 comments

Does anyone ever say “thank god, it’s Tuesday”?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Banal and sad is how I’d describe the current state of the Steinway Street commercial corridor here in Astoria, where the most interesting destination restaurants are often food trucks. Online, and in person, conversations about the subject lament the modern state of this old commercial strip.

Block after block of empty storefronts, sidewalk gathering places for lawless inebriates, law and order issues, blight. High commercial rents are usually blamed, or Amazon, or the “new people” who don’t shop locally and order everything online. High traffic volumes, a dearth of street parking, are also offered as causal factors for the current state of the street. Funny thing is, there are plenty of shops on Steinway which are doing extremely well, serving the needs and wants of the “new people.” I’m suspicious of all this, and wonder if some game is afoot. The answer offered to any problem these days is to demolish the current building stock and erect new structures, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The best example of this going on in the neighborhood, in my eyes, revolves around the not too far in the future expulsion of the used car and automotive businesses along Northern Blvd., in favor of building more and more “affordable” housing on the large footprint property lots these entities currently occupy. Why we aren’t talking about converting these spaces over to some sort of retail or other commercial function is beyond me. I’ve long believed that what Astoria, and LIC in general, needs is to cease being a referential dormitory community dependent on Manhattan and to plan/develop purposely as an exurb “city” instead.

The problems facing Steinway Street’s commercial establishments are hardly unique in modern day NYC, but the solution isn’t going to be offered by “anchor tenants” like Taco Bell or Chipotle. Steinway Street is not some midwestern shopping mall. Look to Roosevelt/Corona or Flushing for solutions to the retail crisis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given my recent trials, it’s kind of a rare thing for me to present either a shot of the Sunnyside Yards or a photo captured while the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was twisting about in the sky, but there you are. One happened to be returning from a protest event offered by a cabal of leftist groups decrying the Sunnyside Yards proposal last week, and on my merry way back home I couldn’t help but crack out a couple of exposures at one of the facilities many fence holes, most of which are in my mental catalog.

Back tomorrow with something else, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 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

December 3, 2019 at 1:15 pm

was invariable

with one comment

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

another moment

with 4 comments

Lots and lots going on in Queens and Brooklyn this week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Aviation High School, tonight, the NYC EDC will be presenting the latest iteration of their outlandish and quixotic plan to deck over the Sunnyside Yards. This municipal boondoggle has been going on for years now. Community opposition to this monster has grown and grown even as EDC has doubled down on it. The estimated numbers for what this project is currently projected to cost are on the order of waging a small war. I’ve got intel on what the internal estimates which are being floated at EDC for the cost of just building the deck itself. I don’t want to say them out loud since that might “out” some of the people internally at the organization who secretly oppose the Sunnyside Yards project, but let’s just say this:

If you were able to save $100,000 a year, it would take you 220,000 years to save enough for this decking project. You’d alternatively be able to purchase 733,000 cars at $30,000 a pop. If dollars were miles, you’d be able to enjoy 46,044 thousand round trips to the moon. If dollars were tax refunds, you’d be able to write a $66.77 check to every living American citizen (all 329,467,210 of us).

The Sunnyside Yards meeting will be held at Aviation High School (45-30 36th St., corner of Queens Blvd., in Long Island City, NY 11101) tonight between 5 and 8 p.m.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a personal note, I’m a little bit behind schedule as this week starts, and am struggling to keep up with the various “have to’s” which are upcoming. A few pretty exciting, to me at least, opportunities are coming up in coming weeks. I’m going to get to ride on a freight train, and inspect Port Newark with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There’s also a couple of swell parties coming up.

This Saturday; Newtown Creek Alliance, Broadway Stages, NOoSPHERE Arts, Greenpoint Innovations and Alive Structures will be offering the Kingsland Wildflower Festival in Greenpoint between 2 and 6 in the afternoon.

Details for the event can be found here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you want to watch me pretending to be an adult, and a responsible member of society, Astoria’s Community Board 1 will be gathering tomorrow night (Tuesday the 17th) at Astoria World Manor (25-22 Astoria Boulevard) at 6:30 p.m. to discuss issues of the day and resume the monthly meeting schedule after the summer hiatus. I don’t think anything earth shattering will be happening, but you never know, and if you haven’t attended a community board meeting… well, why not? That’s how republics die – apathy.

The Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group – or CAG – will also be resuming its meeting schedule with the various powers that be on Wednesday (the 18th) night over in Brooklyn and also at 6:30 p.m. at PS 110 auditorium (124 Monitor Street).

October 3rd will see a Newtown Creek Alliance benefit event – the “Tidal Toast” – occur at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint. Want to help us do what we do? Support the “reveal, restore, revitalize” work that NCA does? Grab a ticket. There’ll be food, and drinks too! Click here for more info.


“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

September 16, 2019 at 12:00 pm

alive in

leave a comment »

Things that pull or push other things, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that NYC Ferry trip I mentioned in yesterday’s April Fools post? As it happened, a humble narrator hit a fortuitous moment in terms of river traffic when boarding that particular boat. Everywhere I pointed the lens, there seemed to be something going on. For the curious – this was the Soundview route, which I boarded at East 34th street over in the City, after taking the Astoria line from Hallets Cove to that location.

A few people have asked me (in real life or “meat space”) if I have some sort of relationship with the NYC Ferry people since I keep on mentioning them. The answer is “sort of,” since I do know a couple of people who work at Hornblower through the old NY Harbor crowd. A while back I did a blog post for NYC Ferry about what to do and see nearby their Astoria dock, an effort which I was recompensed for with a free 30 day pass on their boats. That’s pretty much the size of it, except for the taxes we all pay to the City which heavily underwrite the $2.75 fare. I’m just a fare paying passenger, and one who really enjoys getting out on the water – even if it was a particularly cold and blustery March afternoon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted this rather smallish tug at Hells Gate, towing a couple of barges of what looked like either gravel or uncooked asphalt. That’s the Wards/Randalls island combine in the background, the shoreline of which hosts a staggering amount of municipal infrastructure. The NYC DEP has a combination of wastewater and sludge dewatering facilities on the shoreline mirroring Astoria Park, there’s the Hell Gate railroad Bridge and the East River span of the Triborough Bridge complex as well. Just yesterday, I was making plans with a couple of people to spend a day on the Island(s) and get to know the place a bit better.

Used to be two islands, Randalls and Wards, but… y’know… Robert Moses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Coming from the south/west, another tug was spotted transversing Hells Gate. That’s the Astoria Park shoreline, and you can just make out the nascent skyline of LIC’s Court Square neighborhood peeking out over the bare trees behind the bridge. I’ve been told that even with modern vessels, you have to “pick your battles” with the swift currents in this section of the river lest you end up burning up half your fuel supply fighting its ebb and flow.

One time I was sitting in Astoria Park, right alongside the Hell Gate masonry seen above, and taking pics. I started laughing while watching some rich guy in a speedboat gunning his engines against the current, but his boat was just barely holding position agains the incoming flood tide. This isn’t necessarily the case with tugs and other overpowered boats, of course, but fuel costs are what rule the roost in the shipping and towing business. How much you “spend to earn” is where an experienced versus inexperienced crew and scheduler make all the difference. Same thing is true with shipping by rail and trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another fuel barge and tug combination was passed, while the camera’s point of view was looking north westwards over Randalls/Wards Island towards the Little Hell Gate Bridge and the roads leading to Triborough’s toll plazas. Good timing, thought I, as a CSX train set was transiting over the elevated rail tracks connecting to Hell Gate’s East River Arch Bridge (which connect to the NY Connecting Rail Road tracks in Queens) and heading for the Bronx. I think the next stop for the CSX rig will be Owls Head yard in the Bronx, but that’s just a guess.

What do I know? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I had outfitted the camera with zoom lens for the trip. It’s a Sigma, the 18-300 f3.5, which provides the “all in one” functionality needed for this sort of excursion. One thing about the East River and its various tributaries and estuarial bays is that you are going to want to shoot both wide and long, sometimes flipping back and forth several times in just five minutes. Given that you’re on a boat, speedily moving through the water and with all kinds of weird particulates circulating in the air column… you want to limit the number of lens flops you do.

I can recommend the Sigma, btw. I also have and love their 18-35 f1.8.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What was that I was just saying about zooming in?


“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 2, 2019 at 11:00 am

%d bloggers like this: