The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘railroad’ Category

vital nature

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Engine 400? New toys at NY&A?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, after a series of puzzling moments over on the Newtown Creek side of industrial Maspeth, a humble narrator decided to begin the journey back to HQ and headed northwards. Often have I described how ridiculous I look when I’m out night scuttling – as the usual filthy lack raincoat has a yellow reflective vest draped over it. In addition, I’ve got the tripod, camera, and a knapsack full of camera stuff. I’m the lone pedestrian you see when driving down the truck routes and waterfront edges, and it’s not unknown for me to walk for hours at night around the Creek without seeing another living soul. Not Monday.

Just as I got to a particular intersection near a certain burnt out diner that I used to frequent, a New York and Atlantic train set rolled by on a spur of the Lower Montauk tracks. I asked one of the crew who was working the signals if he anticipated that the train old be coming back anytime soon and he indicated that it indeed would be. I inquired as to a safe spot to stand and shoot from that wouldn’t interfere with their operations, and in the zone indicated I found a relatively photogenic spot, and began to set up for my shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This section of Maspeth was once like Chicago, with lots and lots of rail customers amongst the industrial powers back here. These days, there’s still industrial freight clientele around these parts, but the rail spurs (secondary tracks) that serve these businesses are largely inaccessible without straight up trespassing through all sorts of property – government, private, you name it. While I was waiting for the train to return, a van with MTA branding on it pulled up next to me and the two Cops inside inquired as to what I was up to. “Nothing sinister, I assure you” was my reply. I explained my purpose, identified myself without being asked, and offered the two badges a short history lesson about the Long Island Railroad in Maspeth and described my night photography project to them. They said “no problem” and explained they had to inquire as it looked odd seeing someone take pictures in the dark around the properties they patrol. They drove off and the train rolled in. Not a problem.

I offered part of the above missive to some friends on Facebook, and was surprised at their sentiments towards the cops. Speaking strictly as someone who expresses his First Ammendment rights regularly, I full throatedly say that I bloody well want the cops inquiring when they see some weirdo in a black raincoat and safety vest standing near a rail line in the middle of the night with a tripod setup in NYC. They didn’t interfere with me, or even get out of the van, just were asking what was up and why I was there. As a counterpoint, the MTA’s Security Guard/Rent A Cops at the nearby Grand Avenue Bus Depot are aggressive and have chastised and interfered with photographers – including me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NY& A folks had seemingly visited another customer on a hidden spur found to the west of the intersection. The signal arms went up and I crossed the tracks over to the north side of the street. The signal arms triggered again and I got into position for one last shot as they descended.

So, I’m going to be conducting a free walk in LIC on the 30th of March, it would seem. The Sunnyside Yards project has roared back to life in the aftermath of the Amazon debacle, and since the Manhattan people are going to all sorts of effort to get this thing done… Click here for details on the “Skillman Corridor” walk.


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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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apotheosis delayed

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Things to do, here in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next week promises to be chock full of interesting meetings with Government employees who already know what it is that they want to do, but are obliged by custom and law to at least feign engaging with the public.

The Bicycle fanatics have lately set their sights on Northern Blvd., and since the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) seems to be willing to be led like a mewling lapdog by this small but influential group of paid lobbyists and their Twitter mobs, there’s going to be a public meeting discussing traffic, life, death, and bicycles on Northern Blvd. at 6:30 p.m. on the evening of Monday the 22nd of October at PS 151, the Mary D. Carter School, found at 50-05 31st Ave here in Astoria. #carnage

I’ll be there, since what else do have to do? #nolife

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Tuesday the 23rd of October, the New York State Department of Transportation will be holding a meeting at Sunnyside Community Services, 43-31 39th St, Sunnyside, NY 11104, at 6:00 p.m., to discuss and receive input on the two new parks which they will be constructing in Queens as part of their ongoing Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement project. These two properties in question are found on a section of 43rd street which would have been familiar to depression era Yeshiva students, or modern day customers of the Restaurant Depot company, and sit at the veritable border of Blissville and Maspeth. It’s still quite early in the process, concerning the build out of these two parcels, so they’re looking for community input for the design process and are calling the meeting a “charette.” I’m sure you can just show up, but they’re asking for RSVP’s to this email address. #parkland

Similarly to the NYC DOT event, what else do I have to do, so I’ll be there. #ineedahobby

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finally, on October 24th at 6 p.m. at LaGuardia Community College’s atrium of Building E (31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101), the NYC Economic Development Corporation will be holding a public meeting to discuss the quixotic dreams of our Mayor to build the Death Star a deck over the Sunnyside Yards. The Dope from Park Slope himself won’t be there, but he’s sending his chief Gentrification Officer and Deputy Mayor, Alicia Glen, to Queens. They’re asking for RSVP’s and claim that the event is already full up, but I’d suggest that anyone who can should show up and let the Manhattan people know what you it is you think of the idea of the City borrowing $18 billion to build a deck over a rail yard in LIC in order to allow a well connected group of campaign donors and real estate developers the chance to exploit an 183 square acre parcel and move 100,000 people onto it. #landgrab

The so called “man of the people” doesn’t want to borrow $18 billion to fix NYCHA, or MTA, or fund any of the “progressive” stuff he claims he’s all about, I’d point out. He’s perfectly happy to saddle the City tax payers with this debt for us to pay off for decades, however, long after he’s gone on to play his (self designated) rightful role as the king of the lefties. #dontdeckqueens


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induced hypoplasia

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Odds and ends, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, when one refers to “street furniture,” the term applies to lamp posts, fire hydrants, benches, or any of the other bolted to the sidewalk bits of kit that the City of Greater New York installs here and there. In Western Queens, and especially in any of the neighborhoods which were once part of the independent municipality called “Long Island City,” street furniture is a cast off chair or couch which has been abandoned on the curb. The one above has been resident at the corner of Steinway Street and “terty fourt avensues” for a while now.

As a note, I have a personal preference for fabric covered furniture rather than items which are clad in plastics or animal skins. During the summer months, you end up “sticking” to them and getting up from such an accoutrement can be quite uncomfortable. For any of you reading this who have been planning on buying a living room set, my advice has been offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Sunnyside Yards scene above was captured from the vantage offered by one of the many, many fence holes which one such as myself maintains a catalog of. This is late in the afternoon, when a significant number of train sets are being stored at the coach yard. New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and the Long Island Railroad store rolling stock here in LIC in between the rush hours. When the “busy time” arrives, these train sets will begin to either start rolling through the tunnels to Manhattan or head eastwards towards Woodside and Jamaica to fulfill their purpose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It laughs at us, the thing which dwells in the cupola of the sapphire megalith of Long Island City. Looking down at the pedantic world of men through its three lobed burning eye, this inhuman thing which does not breathe nor sleep but instead only hungers has been hanging in the sky above LIC since 1992, when this great dagger was driven into the heart of Queens.

As above, so below. Rumor has it that some fifty stories below the poison mud and concrete devastations of Long Island City is where you’ll find the actual forges and fiery engines of gentrification, stoked and tended to by this impossible entity’s armies of acolytes.


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private collector

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These pants are too tight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior posts this week, a walk over to the Bushwick side of the fabulous Newtown Creek was recently endeavored upon. As I often mention, this time of the year is never a good interval for a humble narrator, who often finds himself staring out the window wishing that it wasn’t quite as rainy or snowy or cold as the winter season typically is in New Yrok City. Atmospheric hurdles notwithstanding, one nevertheless found himself standing on the Scott Avenue footbridge over the Bushwick Branch tracks contemplating his problems while capturing a lovely winter sunset on a chilly night.

As a note, that’s the garbage train you see on the tracks below. By garbage, I mean the “black bag” or “putrescent” waste stream, which is containerized up by the Waste Management company at a couple of spots along Newtown Creek, and which will be “disappeared” out of the City by a rail outfit called the New York and Atlantic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, in a post congratulating the Grand Street Bridge on its 115th birthday, I mentioned the Grand Avenue Bus Depot in Maspeth but didn’t show it. The shot above rectifies that, and it’s one of the few times that I’ve grabbed a shot of the place without being hassled by MTA’s “rent a cop” security. I don’t argue with the septuagenarian security guards there anymore, instead I write complaint letters to MTA HQ in Brooklyn, asking about exactly when the MTA decided it was kosher to abrogate my rights.

I’m becoming quite crotchety in my old age.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Buses have been increasingly focused on in recent months for one reason or another. Like a lot of the other municipal stuff which we are surrounded by, these vehicles pass by unnoticed and uncommented. They sort of blend into the background of the City and roll on by. I’ve become fascinated by them, in the context that buses are basically giant boxes of light moving along the darkened streets of the hive, and can be somewhat difficult to photograph. I like a challenge.

That’s the Q104, heading east along Astoria’s Broadway. As is the case with many of the bus routes of Queens, a part of the Q104’s replicates that of an old and forgotten trolley route. For the modern day residents of Astoria, myself included, it’s provides a vehicular connection to the Costco retail operation next door to Socrates Sculpture Garden.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Q102 on 31st street in Astoria, another line which I’ll periodically use when I’m returning from Newtown Creek and lazy sets in while I’m marching up Northern Blvd. About 800 million rides occur on MTA’s roughly 5,700 buses annually. Depending on the model of bus, which have an average life span of about 12 years on the streets of New York City, MTA pays out anywhere between $450,000 and $750,000 for EACH one of its diesel buses, and the hybrid models pictured above can add about $300,000 to the price tag for a new unit. You read that right, btw.

A lot to spend on a big box of light, no?


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byzantine mechanisms

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Can I ask everyone to stand still and just look right at the camera, please?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The little snatches of reality which I like to capture with the camera are often occluded by the omnipresent presence of the humans who infest New York City. A particular annoyance often encountered is when I’m about to click the shutter for a shot such as the one above when some bipedal creature staring into his or her glowing rectangle of glass steps directly in front of me. Often I think that they’re doing it on purpose, but that would indicate the presence of both thought and intent in a probably bestial and non self aware thing. Also, pull up your pants, you look ridiculous. Gahhh… how I hate all of you.

The problem with humanity is all the people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You remember that Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith, the one where there’s a nuclear war and he’s the only survivor who now has all the time in the world to read but then he breaks his glasses? Up until the glasses bit, the whole solitude on a shattered earth thing doesn’t sound too bad. I certainly wouldn’t need to worry about updating the blog, and my biggest problems would simply revolve around food and water. It would suck not having anybody to complain to – my parents and family used to refer to me as the “complaint department” when I was a young but already humble narrator.

In a thousand years, future archeologists would find a skeletal mass in a filthy black raincoat holding a camera memory card amongst the ruins of NYC, and they’d have some concretized idea what the first months after the apocalypse looked like. Even in the end of the world, you need to stay useful, I believe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I really need to take a vacation. Somewhere isolated and unpopulated where I can do long exposures of an empty horizon.

More and more, I think about that old Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft movie “the prisoner of second avenue.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm

avian menace

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It’s National Vinegar Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting a series of CSX locomotive engines which were observed hauling a freight train over the Hell Gate bridge recently. Busy today with developing the shots from Halloween in Astoria, which I hope to be able to show you tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 1, 2017 at 1:00 pm

meager funds

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There does not seem to be a verifiable national food holiday for Oct. 9th, although one checked source suggests that it’s National Moldy Cheese Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator, for one, is sick of this summer stuff at this point. One realizes, as my pal Chrissy Remein from Riverkeeper pointed out to me recently, that this global warming thing is getting pretty apparent by this point and that this is the “new normal,” but regardless – I’m tired of the shvitz. I shouldn’t have to leave the house in October dressed as I would be for a July afternoon, and as another friend of mine would opine – “get home with total swamp ass.”

Pictured above is the scene as observed just west of Queens Plaza late on last Saturday afternoon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I conducted an LIC tour on Saturday, during which the weather was – as mentioned, “shvitzy and swamp ass” – but as is my habit I arrived at the meetup spot a bit early. Vast clouds of haze were rising from the vicinity of the Queens Midtown Tunnel and so a humble narrator investigated. It would seem that road work crews were installing a new coat of asphalt to east bound toll plaza, which accounted for the misty haze as VOC (volatile organic compound) tainted steam rose from trucks of a superheated industrial waste product (produced by the petroleum industry) which we as a culture mix with concrete and liberally spread about on vehicular roadways.

Those are the work crews pictured above, in DUPBO – Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The preceding Friday was equally as uncomfortable to be moving through the Newtown Creek industrial zone, with its affection of the so called “Maspeth Heat Island” effect. This environmental condition, named for the area of industrial Maspeth just east of LIC but is similarly experienced along the banks of the entire Newtown Creek, sees ambient temperatures rise 5-15 degrees higher than in surrounding neighborhoods due to the complete absence of vegetation and abundance of concrete. The concrete and masonry walls of factory buildings, sidewalks, and roads all bake in the radiation of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself and store up energy, becoming radiant sources of heat. It feels a bit like walking about in a kiln, or oven, even on days when the Mercury never rises out of the 70’s. Forget about the sensation encountered when the atmosphere is already in the 90’s early in the morning.

That’s the Hunters Point Yard of the Long Island Railroad pictured above, which is similarly in DUPBO.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


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