The Newtown Pentacle

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My busy week is busy as promised.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator managed to get onboard that United States Army Corps of Engineers Harbor Inspection boat which I hoped to be on yesterday. One had a pretty nice day, despite having to get up at six in the morning to get there. Soldiers get up early, what can I tell you, and if you want to hang out with them so do you. The excursion returned to dock at about 2:30 in the afternoon, whereupon a quick train ride back to Astoria ensued. While the photos on my camera were downloading to the computer (the boat circumnavigated Staten Island, and the USACE described their various flood resiliency projects) Zuzu the dog received a bit of my attention.

Then I had to attend a Transportation Committee meeting for Astoria’s CB1 in the evening. There were two items on the agenda.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first was a request for support by the Durst Organization, who are petitioning the NYC Ferry service to include the E. 91st street (Manhattan) stop on the Astoria Ferry Route. As you’d imagine, I stepped up and did a lot of the talking with them on this one, given the whole maritime side of my life. It’s a good idea, ultimately, but this would add another ten minutes or so onto the Astoria route which has already been lengthened by the addition of a stop at Brooklyn Navy Yard. I asked if the Durst people were agnostic about which route would connect the Hallets Cove and E. 91st routes, and suggested that the Soundview Route might be a good candidate for the service. Additionally, I asked for their petition to include the creation of a stop at Randalls/Wards Island, to allow the kids from Astoria and in particular the NYCHA Astoria Houses easy access to all the ball fields on the islands. They liked that one. As a rule, when somebody wealthy is asking you for a favor, you ask for something in return. They became wealthy by being transactional, and this is a normal thing for them. Try to get something done for your community before saying “yes.”

Then came the bike lane discussion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Transportation Alternatives people are currently working on getting a protected bike lane installed along Crescent Street. It’s not a bad idea at all, and there’s a lot of support for it, and not just amongst the Elected Officialdom who are seemingly terrified of drawing the group’s ire. The Transportation Committee voted unanimously to send a letter requesting that the NYC DOT look into it, and do a study. The study would then be presented publicly, whereupon commentary from the actual community and not activists would be received by the Community Board which would then vote on it according to the local feedback. Odds are pretty good that the project would be controversial, but adopted. That’s the correct procedural methodology, according to the veteran community board members and committee chairs who were present.

Thing is, if you’re a belligerent group of activist bullies…

I won’t go into names and or details here, but suffice to say that several members of the committee are far more than just ideologically aligned with TA. They began an hour long circular argument that requesting a “bridge to bridge” study wasn’t good enough, and that they specifically wanted the committee to request a “Crescent Street” route which would align neatly with their advocacy position. The Chair of the Transportation Committee was adamant about not doing that, as it was procedurally inappropriate. The bullies, including one who couldn’t be bothered to attend but was instead texting to a present member and using them like a sock puppet, were incensed. In the end the motion for calling it a Crescent Street lane versus a Bridge to Bridge lane ended up being withdrawn.

I do not like belligerence, bullying, or a group of ideological activists shoving their current advocacy campaign down my throat. When one of them asked to review a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order…. grrr.


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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 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm

sufficient period

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How minimalist are your Wednesdays, anyway?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Red Hand, or El Mano de Roja as my bagel guy Jose calls it, is pictured above. El Mano de Roja is my enemy, and is always forbidding from doing those things which I wish to do. The Red Hand is everywhere, a seemingly omnipresent and inescapable scold who works for the government. Freedom demands an end to the tyranny of the Red Hand. Freedom’s soil is best fertilized with the blood of tyrants, and blood is red – just like the hand. The Red Hand is part of the janitorial staff, at the house of tyranny and encroachment on individual freedoms.

What can I tell you, I’m an idiot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If a vampire was riding a bicycle past the hidden driveway on 39th street – or the Harold Avenue Truss Bridge over Sunnyside Yards if you must, which the traffic mirror above services – a trucker would never know they were there and would likely strike the cycling strigoi. Not sure if you can kill a Vampire with a mack truck, but I’m sure you could ruin its day with one. I’ve always wondered about the whole mirror thing with the Nosferatu, as in why do their clothes turn invisible too – reflection wise – but only when they’re wearing them. Shouldn’t you just see an empty suit and cape standing there reflected in the silvered glass? Is it the silver in the glass? What if the mirror is backed with some sort of plastic? If the proverbial cyclist vampire was crossing through the field of view of that mirror pictured above, would you just see the bicycle?

These are the sorts of things which keep me up at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Working for the same creeping tyranny group as the Red Hand, but in a different department, the adjure offered above indicates the presence of active rail. You’d probably notice this from the tracks splayed out on the ground, or the bells and flashy lights affixed to the movable barriers, or the dozens and dozens of box cars blocking the road – but some folks plainly refuse to notice the nose at the end of their face, so there you are.

If everything worked out as I planned it, as you’re reading this I’m onboard a boat with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, inspecting the Harbor of New York and New Jersey – specifically Port Elizabeth Newark. I’ll tell you all about that at the end of the week, hopefully.


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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 25, 2019 at 11:00 am

another moment

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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.


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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 16, 2019 at 12:00 pm

firmly determined

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Sunnyside Yards, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned earlier in the week, one has been utilizing a severely limited photo bag for the last half of August, containing two small lenses and a novel form of camera support called an Ultrapod. The latter is basically an aluminum plate with machined screw holes of various sizes punched through it and there’s a tripod head screw mount welded onto it too. A bit of customization is called for, but due to the ubiquitous nature of the screw holes (.25 inch, 20 turn), I mounted latex furniture casters onto it – for friction. The whole thing weighs just a few ounces, even with the tripod head.

That’s Skillman Avenue up there in the shot above, and some monster has left a shopping cart nearby the bike lane. Surely a crime against humanity, and a terroristic act, this shopping cart abandonment must rate up there with the crimes of Mao and Stalin… just ask the bicycle people and they’ll tell you so. #carnage

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the fun things which I’ve been able to do with this minimal sized setup is to exploit some of the holes in the security fencing surrounding the Sunnyside Yards and get the camera lens into a steady position looking through the chain link. The smaller of the two lenses I’ve been using is a pancake lens, the Canon 24mm STM, which has a tiny little piece of glass that it peers through. That itty bitty POV is just small enough to look through these defects in the fencing, and the ultrapod gives me the stability to pull off longer exposures. Right tool for the right job, huh?

The illuminated structure in the upper right of the shot above is the Acela maintenance building, and there’s two trains inside the thing. Just to the right of that is a regular Amtrak trainset which was stopped on the tracks, and the brightly lit white building is the Standard Motor Products structure found on 39th street and Northern Blvd. The shot was gathered from the Honeywell Street truss bridge over the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also gathered on the Honeywell Street truss, the shot above looks southwest across a Amtrak holding yard for what I imagine to be Northeast Corridor rolling stock, but that’s strictly an educated guess as to what they are. Sunnyside Yards is a rail coach yard – meaning that trains cross through, change crews here, stop for maintenance and cleaning – but that you can’t actually catch a train here. The irony of that never ceases to amuse one such as myself, but it is an important reminder that if you want to get technical about railroad stuff – I’m an enthusiast and know more than the average bear – but I’ve never called myself an expert on the subject.


“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

August 29, 2019 at 11:00 am

day programme

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Unpleasantries abound.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While wandering home from Greenpoint on Sunday, a day wherein the climate suddenly flipped from rainy spring to high summer, a humble narrator was enjoying the existential hell of living in NYC. There are many days when, upon waking up in the great human hive, one can’t believe how amazing the place is. Last Sunday wasn’t one of them. Instead, it was one of those days where the antics of the assembly of humans just grated upon the nervous system. The douchebags doing wheelies on dirt bikes, the assholes throwing fast food garbage out of their car windows, the cock barons who think that the proper way to use an automotive horn is to hold it down steadily for several minutes at a pop while stuck in traffic.

I really need to get out of here for a couple of weeks, go somewhere nice and take a vacation in a place that I know nothing about and where I don’t know anyone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has grown weary of constant existential crisis, the “eye of sauron” outrage machine casting its gaze about, and the daily grind of “have to.” This is life, of course, but it often seems as if I get a lot more “life” than most. I desperately need to take some pics of something different, as well. Some “walden pond” kind of crapola, I guess. Of course, I’ll hate that too. Mosquitoes, gnats, mud. Everything sucks.

For the sake of all that’s holy, please don’t hit me up today for something I have that you want but don’t want to pay for. It’s a bad day, generosity wise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have I become the “prisoner of Skillman Avenue,” or consigned to just aimlessly wander the streets forever? Am I some sort of flying dutchman with a camera?

Apologies for the inner narrative being offered today, but it’s been a lousy last couple of weeks. One is unhappy, which is predicate to one getting angry. Once anger has set in, so too does motivation manifest. Right now, everything is gray and hopeless. Once I return to being furious and rebellious, which will likely be by Thursday or Friday, this glum mood will pass. Once more, unto the breech, huh? Home sweet hell, indeed.


“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.

cyclopean vaulting

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Another, in a seemingly infinite number of, Tuesday has arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday I mentioned my distaste for Western style men’s Formal Wear, i.e. a suit and tie. One refers to this setup as “Ritual Garb,” and my problem with it is one of practicality and comfort versus the dubious esthetic appeal it offers for some. One normally favors utilitarian clothing, and I have a stated preference for military surplus items as they offer both a plethora of pockets which have button or velcro closures, and are constructed of fabrics chosen for their rugged and tear resistant nature. Given the life I lead, and the places which I constantly find myself carrying the camera to, it’s a considered decision and I frankly don’t care about “how it looks.” That filthy black raincoat of mine has gotten me through several scraps due to its ruggose construction.

Pants or shorts wise, I’ve generally got six pockets to work with. Cash, a couple of sheets of paper kitchen towels (which come in handy as both snot rags and as absorbent wipes), a lens cloth singularly used for my spectacles, and a leather man pocket tool. Six.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sweatshirt is where I really pack in the pockets, with a whopping 28 of them. I’ve long favored the Scott E Vest sweatshirt when I’m on camera duty. It’s got an internal zippered pocket for my phone that leads to sewn in wire traps for the headphones, secure pockets for metrocard and wallet, a springy stretch thingamabob for my keys that’s anchored into another pocket. You wouldn’t believe the amount of crap I can carry in this thing. When you’re a photographer, there’s all sorts of little bits and bobs you find yourself shlepping around. Knowing they’re secure and won’t fall – say, into Newtown Creek – when I’m dancing about is a real time saver and one less thing that gets in the way while out shooting. During hot weather, one favors a guayabera, or cuban style, shirt. The Cubans seem to have an understanding of both the need for pockets and the atmospherics in hot and humid climes.

So, what, I’m giving fashion advice now? Not at all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the last decade, one of the questions people have asked me over and over is how I do what I do. Camera equipment, lens kit, and operational technique has been offered over the years in a somewhat staccato fashion. The same care which goes into the curation of the photographic tool box is also applied to everything touching me. My “every day carry” or EDC involves nearly fifty individual items (inside camera bag, on my person, etc.) which all have the potential of failing on me or getting lost when I’m in the middle or nowhere or on a boat or something. If the camera itself gets screwed up, well… there you are. The only thing you can really prepare for is staying organized.

Saying that; I’ve got an extra set of shoelaces with me at all times, a plastic garbage bag or two for waterproofing my bag in case it starts raining, a flashlight, a set of allen keys, etc. All told, it’s about ten and half pounds of crap I have on me when I leave the house fully kitted up. This really isn’t that much, photography wise, and it’s taken me a while (and a bunch of cash) to whittle it down to that number. My current tripod alone took two entire pounds off my back, which is what has made it possible for me to do all the night stuff in the last year and change.

The shots in today’s post weren’t tripod shots, as you probably surmised by how grainy they are. Instead, they were handheld shots with the lens wide open at f1.8.


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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

May 21, 2019 at 11:00 am

chorused anguish

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All the familiar places…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s really best for me to be by myself as much of the time as I can manage it, these days. I like to swipe the “do not disturb” or sometimes even the “airplane mode” button on my phone and drop off the digital planet for awhile. It gives me private time to ponder about what really might be running around in the woods surrounding the Chernobyl plant over in Ukraine, worry about Fukushima’s radiotropic fungi, and think about whether or not we’re accidentally terraforming the planet into the ideal environment for some race of sleeping elder gods who last saw the sun before the oceans had formed. Along my notifications free path, I take photos.

That’s the Sunnyside Yards in Queens pictured above, specifically a section of the facility which the Long Island Railroad is currently rebuilding. I think it’s connected to “East Side Access,” this construction, and they’re building a series of tracks for rolling stock to “dwell” in between rush hours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quixotic, that’s how I describe the current obsession which the City and its Economic Development Corporation has with building a deck over the yards to house a multitude. According to officialdom, their negotiations with Trump’s AMTRAK are continuing apace. They’ve hired an architect to oversee the planning over this largely Federally owned railyard, one who has worked with the Kushner Companies on several projects so he’s got a relationship, and besides he’s got this whole Ayn Rand mentality so he’s fits right in with EDC. They haven’t talked about who the money to build the thing will be borrowed from yet. The Hudson Yards project was supposedly financed via the Israeli Bond Market, which is a great place for shady international financiers to cleanse their money and hide it from the prying eyes of both the global public and their own respective governments. If you’re a Chinese Army General shaving a few bucks off the budget, or involved with risky trade in South American powders, and you need a place to hide the cash…

But I digress. What do I know about such matters, I’m just some schmuck with a camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the particular afternoon these shots were gathered, one of the few in recent weeks where drenching rain hasn’t been falling from the sky, a humble narrator’s phone was in “do not disturb” mode and absolutely zero “LOL’s” or notifications of unimportant facts were coming my way. I did have my headphones in, and was re listening to Mike Duncan’s “History of Rome” podcast. Duncan offers an overview of Roman History, and resists the urge to get overly granular about this and that, which is a feather in his cap. For granularity, I prefer Dan Carlin’s massive “Hardcore History” undertakings.


“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 14, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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