The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘railroad’ Category

fourth harangue

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A final post from the excursion I was invited to join in on to the NY Central Railroad’s abandoned Glenwood Power Plant in Yonkers.

These shots are from the boiler building, where coal fired furnaces were stoked, which heated the boilers that steam powered the generators in the building next door, which then electrified the NYC RR Hudson Line tracks leading south into Grand Central.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in earlier posts, this 1907 plant was abandoned in 1971 by its new owner – MTA – after they took over the commuter and rail service on the Hudson Line from the bankrupt NY Central (which had merged with its longtime rival Pennsylvania Railroad into the unwieldy PennCentral RR), due to an MTA preference to buy the electricity from suppliers like Consolidated Edison rather than generate it themselves.

The plant went feral. It’s rumored to be one of the sites where the long rumored “Son of Sam cult” would meet up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fellow who was guiding us was the engineer responsible for shoring up and making these structures habitable again. Due to it being exposed to the elements for five decades, there’s a lot of rot he and his crews have to deal with – rusty and water damaged structural steel, shifting foundations, you name it.

I kept on shooting while he was talking about the immensity of the task.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s in places like this that you’re reminded that giants used to stride the earth in New York City and it’s surroundings.

The day trip was beginning to wind down, and as the group began to filter towards the exits, I kept on shooting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever I have limited or one time access to a location, this is my practice. Keep the camera busy until the very last moment.

Finally, that moment came.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We gathered outside, and the rest of the group became interested in some pile of rusty steel, so I kept on keeping on.

Something somewhat different tomorrow – at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 14, 2022 at 11:00 am

sixth interest

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More shots from the abandoned Glenwood Power Plant in New York States’ Yonkers municipality in today’s post. For details on the history of the NY Central Railroad, the power plant, etc., please refer to yesterday’s post which is chock full of links.

Very visually interesting place, which I was invited to visit by My Pal Val, who asked me to join in with a group of photographers she was organizing a visit for. We had an extremely limited amount of time at the plant, which was unfortunately in the early afternoon – the absolute worst time of day for photos (except in February).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My plan – thereby – was to treat the scene as I would if I was shooting there in low – or no – light conditions. To achieve this, I attached a ten stop ND filter. The tripod was deployed, but only extended up to full height a few times. Most of the time I kept it low to the ground, operating the camera through its swivel out touch screen. Depending on what I was shooting, my aperture was never lower than f8 or higher than f18. ISO ranges from 100-6400 are included in this series.

“Hey Mitch – what’s with all the talking shop these days?” “Tell me about the history of the Pulaski Bridge again.”

What can I tell you. I need to talk shop sometimes. About once every few months, I get an email from a younger photographer – college kids, mostly. They want to know how I do what I do. Sometimes they want to be introduced to the Creek, or the harbor, or whatever. A lot of times they ask me how to use their camera to get the sort of shots I routinely churn out for Newtown Pentacle and other sites.

“Show up, do the work, don’t get hurt, go home” is the first speech I offer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve got a whole other set of speeches ready for them about how to stay as safe as you can when moving around on the street, which I call “how you look to others on the street, and keep moving at all times.” There’s the whole “don’t cross industrial driveways without looking” and the “why would you stand on that slippery rock if you’ve got a zoom lens and it’s safer two feet away” which is followed by the “how, exactly, would you describe to the 911 operator where you are right now” one. They all like these speeches, I tell them well and with great flourish. I also ask them “what is it a picture of.”

I also try to pass on some of what I’ve learned about marching around NYC with a camera. Especially given the conditions in which one such as myself usually works. A lot of the craft, as I’ve purposed it, involves being hyper aware of my surroundings while allowing the camera to record the scene in some intentional manner while I keep an eye out for bad actors and danger.

Come with, the next time it’s a hundred degrees at midnight or no degrees at dawn, and join me at the Maspeth Plank Road or at Dutch Kills? I’ll tell you all about camera settings and how to get the scene, based on long experience. You’ll also possibly encounter what can only be described as “creepy ass muthaflowers.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s “what” with talking about that.

As mentioned yesterday, there are two buildings at the Glenwood Power Plant that we received access to. The first one, in yesterday’s post, was the generator building. The ones in today and tomorrow’s post are from the furnace and boiler building. This was a coal fired power plant, incidentally.

As a note, there were fishies swimming around in that puddle of water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a section of the roof which was unstable and we were gathered into a safe area beyond it for a few last shots of this section of the building.

It was time for the last leg of the excursion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south out the boiler and furnace building’s window along the Hudson River, with Manhattan on the horizon. Just for a sense of place.

More tomorrow.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 13, 2022 at 11:00 am

ten beings

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a former power plant, found alongside the Glenwood stop of the modern day Metro North rail service, in Yonkers – the first City that you’ll encounter when heading north out of NYC. The plant was built in 1907, when the NY Central Railroad was electrifying its system both in and into Manhattan. My pal Val had arranged for a small group of photographers to enjoy guided access to the site for a couple of hours. This building was abandoned in the early 1970’s, and has sat feral for the last fifty years or so.

This is an extremely well documented site, one which has been drawing in the “urban explorer” crowd for literally generations. Here’s a 2021 article from “Yonkers Times” discussing its current status, a Wikipedia page for “just the facts,” a 2014 NY Times report is here, and the views and plans of the current owners of the property can be examined at their website.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note, my methodology for this sort of excursion is often thwarted as you just have to make the best of being on what’s essentially a walking tour. There were several other people shooting at the same time, which adds challenges as you need to dodge their POV’s, and the occasional accidental swing of a tripod leg or something.

People…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are two main structures on the site, one is the building where the generator and battery rooms were housed, the other is where the coal furnaces and the boilers were located.

Our guide confirmed to me that the terra-cotta adorning the entryway into the generator building was – indeed – the product of the New York TerraCotta Works in Long Island City. Check out that old timey NY Central logo on the door lintel’s cornice piece.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The generator room is pictured above, and as you’d imagine – those graffiti covered machines soon became a focus point for every lens in the room. I’ve looked around a bit since getting back from this trip, and it’s appears to me that every photographer with an interest in post industrial ruination has accomplished something very similar to the shot and composition I took above.

Methodology wise, I like to be able to learn a bit about a site. The photos in today and tomorrow’s posts are essentially scouting. I’d like to be in here at night with an extremely diffuse set of light sources. I’d also want to be inside this room in the extremely early morning AND at dusk. Dusk and heavy fog… hey now!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, methodology wise, I’ve got a whole bag of tricks learned over the last fifteen years, along that shining ribbon of municipal neglect that provides a 3.8 miles long and currently undefended border for Brooklyn and Queens – the fabulous Newtown Creek.

My plan for these photos – which involved a one time opportunity at the subject – was to go “low and slow.” Unfortunately, neither time of day nor atmospheric humidity were on my side. An uncomfortably humid day would have created an absolutely visible miasma, but this was the day after a heat wave broke and it was unusually dry as a result.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By “low and slow” I mean that the camera was on a tripod and seldom placed any higher than waste level. I affixed an ND filter to one of my zoom lenses, and either treated the image like a “night shot” with high ISO and longish shutter speed, or went full landscape mode with a 30 second long shot. I did some “exposure stacking” for a couple of these, most successfully in the shot directly above this one. That’s three exposures, each metered for and focused onto a different part of the image. In Photoshop, you can “blend” the three images together automatically.

Like a lot of things “digital,” once you conceptualize what’s actually happening when you tell an application to do something, the process can then be taken advantage of and guided. In the case of focus and or exposure stacking, it can get pretty exciting – results wise – if it’s subtle enough.


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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 12, 2022 at 11:00 am

forty alleys

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 12th of August, my pal Val had arranged an event up in Yonkers, wherein an abandoned NY Central railroad power plant would be opened up for the inspection of a group of photographers by its new owners. These new owners have some pretty ambitious plans for the site, but more on that next week. In the meantime, I had to get from Astoria to Yonkers.

Luckily, this is accomplished fairly easily. The M60 Select Bus service runs down Astoria Boulevard, and has a stop at Steinway Street. Out of the house early, thereby, with a ham egg and cheese sandwich in hand, went a humble narrator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had padded an extra half an hour of “shit happens” time into my schedule, and spent that interval photographing the Metro North and Connecticut Rail commuter rail trains which travel along the old NY Central Railroad’s right of way.

125/Lex is a pretty busy station, I tell you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above looks south along Park Avenue towards Midtown Manhattan and Grand Central Terminal. It’s called a “terminal” because its always been the “end of the line.” The 7 train Subway enters a part of the facility called “Grand Central Station,” which is called that because it’s not the last stop of that service. Station = passing through. Terminal = last stop.

As far as the whole Pennsylvania Railroad and NY Central thing – man… it’s complicated and I don’t want to even get into that whole story. Suffice to say that the MTA is one of the many orphaned love children which fell out of their contests, courtships, troubled marriage, and bankrupted divorce.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I hung around the 125/Lex platform for about a half hour, and never ran out of trains coming and going to take photos of. My destination was in Yonkers, but one stop past the “big” Yonkers stop. Glenwood, that’s the one I’d need to get to.

I’ve got a buddy who grew up in Yonkers, and he’s always pronounced the place’s name as “AhYonkahs.” This is the same guy who always kept a series of loaner gorilla suits in the trunk of his car, in addition to his personal gorilla suit, in case he had the sudden urge for company when it was time to go “aping.” I’ve aped with him, which would take the form of us climbing on things, invading bars and fancy restaurants while wearing gorilla suits, and clowning around with pretty girls. I can confirm the idea that you can get away with literally anything while wearing a gorilla suit. Even Cops will find your antics entirely humorous, because of the gorilla suit.

AhYonkahs, that’s where I was heading. No Gorilla suit though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My chariot arrived, and away did I go.

I was hoping to get a few “out the window” train shots while crossing the Harlem River, but Metro-North’s windows seem to be composed of thousands of small fractures and the sun was not on my side. C’est la vie.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Annoyingly, whereas my destination was literally next to the train station, I had to walk about a half mile, up and down hills, and over dales (actually a baseball field) to get to it.

More next week, with a detailed look at a long abandoned NY Central Railroad Glenwood Power Plant, found along the Hudson River in AhYonkahs.


“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 9, 2022 at 11:00 am

pompous inside

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After an interminable number of days wherein a late July into early August heat wave saw me sheltering in place at HQ, August 10th saw atmospheric temperatures and humidity drop to comfortable levels. Thereby, off I went on a walk. After all the sitting around at HQ, my joints were creaking from a lack of exercise, and the camera was anxious to capture images of the wonders of Western Queens once again.

Alright, the Q66 bus ain’t exactly a “wonder,” but it’s still pretty cool. There’s a real disconnect in Queens regarding the bus system for a lot of people, and it’s one of those places where you encounter the “economic and cultural privilege divide” thing that the kids talk about. Neighborhoods where the primary form of transit service takes the from of Subway Train Lines are generally richer and more gentrified than those that are served primarily by buses. Buses, therefore, are fascinating to me as they represent a clear borderline between the social and economic classes. Personally, I make it a point of using all forms of available public transit, which – as my mother would have pointed out – “you’ve already paid for it with tax, don’t be an asshole.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve famously been riding around the northeastern United States on Amtrak, since getting vaccinated for Covid, but I haven’t ridden on their “high speed” Acela service. I’m not in that big of a hurry to get somewhere to justify their premium pricing and ride the slower and cheaper service, and am entirely satisfied to just grab shots of their Acela trains at the Sunnyside Yards.

As stated hundreds of times, the 183 square Sunnyside Yards coach yard and rail complex is a few blocks from HQ, and sits squarely betwixt a humble narrator and his beloved Newtown Creek. I cannot resist utilizing the multitude of federal fence holes to record the elaborate heavy industrial ballet that is observable below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad was rather busy on this particular evening, but then again I was passing by “hole reliable” about 6:30-7:00 p.m., and that’s literally LIRR’s busy time – so…

This was going to be a relatively short walk for me as I had an early morning assignation the next day, and the plan was to wander towards the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek and eventually end up at the 7 train at Hunters Point Avenue. My habit these days is to use the 7 to get back to Queensboro Plaza, and then transfer to an Astoria bound N or W. It’s more efficient for me to take the 7 to 74th street in Jackson Heights and then transfer to the downstairs R or M lines which offer a stop just two blocks from HQ. Saying that, I really don’t mind the ten blocks or so that I have to walk from 31st street after riding on that line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always wondered about “hiding” something by attaching it to a train. You build a train car that’s securely lockable, paint it up to look like any other bit of rolling stock on whatever line you’re going to use, and the thing just travels from place to place and never stops moving. You want to fully fund rail travel in the United States, you say?

Here’s what you do – prison cars. You lock your felons up in locomotive passenger cars that are set up internally with jail cages, and then they spend their sentence traveling the country in a windowless steel box. How’s that for an abrogation of civil rights? Got to be cheaper than the current prison system we already have. I have several other suggestions for the sort of authoritarian dystopia that seems to be just over the horizon, many of which involve reclassifying “child labor” as “mandatory national service.” How’s that for cruel and unusual?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the authoritarian future, I favor Dante’s Inferno style punishments that are designed to be cruel, ones which are also inherently ironic in nature. You’re a drug dealer? Then your sentence involves Pfizer and Eli Lilly testing out new drugs on you without repercussions to their stockholders. Home invader? Well, my dear fiend, your mailing address is now a Rotary Jail. Capital crimes would be punished in a specifically cruel and unusual fashion – mobs of crazed Chimpanzees come to mind for pederasts. Americans would happily tune into to watch the Chimps dismember thought criminals and child diddlers, so there’s profit to be had in selling ad space on the broadcast to Taco Bell or Coca Cola. The ancient Persians reached great heights in this sort of arena – “The boats” torture comes to mind. Come on, America, we can do worse if we try.

In this near future of unfettered and profitable cruelty, men will become wild and free, and unattached to any previous morality. Society will learn new ways to enjoy itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sigh…

One continued his scuttle, and since the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was hanging pregnantly in the western sky, headed over to Queens Boulevard where shelter from the emanations of the vast radioactive fireball would be shielded by the aqueduct veranda of the 7 line subway tracks.

More next week, 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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