The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Sunnyside Yards’ Category

plainly audible

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Back and forth, back and forth, it never ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Meeting season seems to be upon us all, wherein the various affiliations, causes, and organizations which I’m involved with want to get together in a room somewhere and discuss policy, plans, and or problems related to the issues of the day. Somehow this almost always involves me having to scuttle to Long Island City or Greenpoint at an inconvenient time, but it does allow for intervals on the journey to do a little shooting. Pictured above, a Long Island Railroad Mainline train set on its way from the City to points east, and crossing through the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Intrigued as I’ve been with long exposure shooting for the last several months, an endeavor which is usually carried out at night, whenever I’ve got a spot I can do a long exposure during daylight hours, I take it. That’s about two seconds of accumulated time from Queens Plaza in the shot above. I found a nicely positioned steel bracket which braces the construction scaffolding at one of the tower apartment construction sites on which to brace the camera, lock in the focus, and hold down the shutter button while watching the Fords roll by.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An even longer exposure from the other night on Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, alongside the Unnamed Canal sub tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek. It depicts a somewhat abandoned Department of Sanitation Marine Transfer Station which sits on the shoreline street end of North Henry Street (whose north/south path is interrupted by the sewer plant). The fences were locked up about a year or so ago, and you used to be able to go in there and explore. I think they’re using it to warehouse “stuff” now, but can’t really say for sure. At the very least, they’ve fixed the lights inside the thing.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


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metal substance

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Crispy around the edges, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last few days have been busy ones, and accordingly, here’s a few shots without too much accompanying folderol or explanations. This last weekend saw me do two tours, a late afternoon walk in LIC on Saturday and the all day 100% Toxic Newtown Creekathon on Sunday. Having walked something close to 18 miles during the last 48 hours, whilst shouting out narration, I’m plain old pooped today.

Pictured above, the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, my colleague from Newtown Creek Alliance – Will Elkins – and I managed to bring the Creekathon to a close yesterday well before it started raining, so there’s that. Unluckily, I haven’t been too busy with the camera this last week due to the cold and wind and rain, so that side of my psyche is quite unfulfilled.

Pictured above, a Thornton Tug on Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking forward to the middle of this week, a humble narrator is. The weather should be on my side, and I’m making a few plans to get out at night with the tripod and night kit.

Pictured above, the instersection of Van Dam Street and 49th avenue in LIC.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm

frigid gust

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Like a scorching case of incurable venereal disease, the Sunnyside Yards deck story is back in the news.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just last week, Crains New York Business reported that a development team had been anointed by the NYC EDC to helm the next stage of decking over the Sunnyside Yards and building the Mayor’s Death Star in the LIC section of Western Queens. Representatives of the EDC informed me that this report was erroneous, and that no partner has yet been chosen to explore the pathway laid out in their 2017 feasibility study.

I informed them that the Federal EPA had recently added Sunnsyide Yards to the Newtown Creek Superfund site as a “PRP,” or Potentially Responsible Party, alongside Exxon Mobil, the NYC DEP, National Grid and others as being responsible for the environmental degradation of the waterway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember, decking over the Sunnyside Yards has long been a dream for the Manhattan based Real Estate Industrial Complex. It’s 183 square acres of land which proponents of development describe as “ugly,” a “scar,” and “a wasteland surrounded by under utilized potential.” I remind them that it’s actually surrounded by LIC, Astoria, Dutch Kills, and Sunnyside. Then I remind them of the promises about affordable housing and community space that Council Member De Blasio made about the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and which never materialized, or the self same Council Member and later Public Advocate’s overt resistance to both Newtown Creek and Gowanus being included on the Superfund list in the first place.

Odd position for the self proclaimed man of the people to hold, and one wonders if his relationship with the Toll brothers, Forest City Ratner, and other real estate developers had anything to do with it? Bill De Blasio is the Donald Trump of the left, I would offer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are mutiple bridges crossing the Sunnsyide Yards, this one carries 39th street, which becomes Steinway Street on the other side of Northern Blvd. See that eight story building at the left? It’s the Standard Motor Products building, the one with the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop farm on top of it. According to renderings offered in the EDC feasibility study, the deck at Sunnyside Yards at 39th street would be start one story higher than it. That would be considered the zero altitude point for the measuring of the forty to sixty story tall residential towers which the document also discusses.

At 43rd street and Barnett Avenue, in Sunnyside Gardens, the deck would start at eleven to twelve stories over the current street grade in Sunnyside Gardens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One would actually prefer the deck structure to fully resemble the cinematic Death Star, a vast sphere of steel with an enormous cannon aimed at New Jersey set into its face, as opposed to the idea of seeing more of the banal glassine boxes typical of recent development activity in Long Island City go up. I’m sure the Mayor could tap Disney for a few campaign donations in return for the free advertising to finance the vainglorious Presidential ambitions he’s currently nursing – if he were to build his Death Star in Queens at Sunnyside Yards. He’d be able to claim that he built “affordable” housing in the Death Star.

The Mayor could start calling himself Darth Equity then. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My understanding is that the actual Sith Lord of New York – the Dark Prince of Albany – remains adamantly opposed to allowing the Mayor his folly here in Queens, but I’m positive it’s not out of altruism.

As a reminder, this decking project defeated the ambitions of Robert Moses, Nelson Rockefeller, and Michael Bloomberg as well as a host of lesser powers and potentates over the last century. Robert Moses, famously, threw his hands in the air and said “it’s just too complicated,” and that was just in terms of trying to site the Long Island Expressway over the yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One looks forward to the day when Bill De Blasio is done sharing his wisdom and sage guidance with NYC, and moves on to share his special set of skills and insights with the rest of the country. Like Donald Trump, he will make a series of promises he never intends to honor, and will disappoint those who believe in his sophomoric and disingenuous promises. The reality that the Sunnyside Yards plan was actually offered by and reintroduced by Michael Bloomberg’s right hand man Dan Doctoroff in a NY Times Op-Ed in the current Mayor’s first year in office, rather than the idea having explosively emerged (in the manner of Athena) from the fertile imaginings of Mr. De Blasio, is something unmentioned by City Hall.

Also, if we’ve got the money to do this, let’s fix the Subways and NYCHA first?

Sum up – Darth Equity, the Mayor is a Dope from Park Slope, and he still wants to build a Death Star in Queens.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?
Tickets and more details here.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 3, 2018 at 11:00 am

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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childish eyes

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Opposites can repulse or attract, no matter what Paula Abdul said.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Laboriously explained over the last few weeks of night shooting, the tripod technique one has been exploiting involves using small apertures, low ISO camera sensitivity, and long exposures to gather images. It’s rather the opposite of my normal shooting procedure. Out for a scuttle one recent afternoon, a humble narrator decided that since it was incredibly bright out he’d do the opposite of that normal procedure for daylight shots – wide open aperture photos with a shallow depth of field.

That’s the Harold Interlocking pictured above, at the Sunnyside Yards. A night shot from the same vantage point was offered in last Friday’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that I was pointing the camera into a scene full of reflective surfaces which the sun was setting behind, and the aperture was set to f1.8, I had to reduce sensor sensitivity down to ISO 100 and use a shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second to control the light. 1/8000th is as fast as my shutter will flip, I would mention. That’s fast enough to freeze a bee’s wings mid flap, or to render an in flight helicopter blade static.

It’s kind of thing with me… when it’s not a shot “I have to get,” I like to experiment and see what the capabilities of the capture device are at their extremes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wandered around a bit with this particular set of settings, which is something else I force myself to do periodically. There are days where I leave my camera bag and zoom lenses at home and go out for a stroll with just a 50mm lens attached and the camera settings locked. The “nifty fifty” as its called, offers an aperture range between f1.8 to f22, with its only real limitation being that it’s a prime lens and fixed to its singular focal range. That means I need to either get close or go further away from a subject.

There’s a reason for this, which is to keep on my toes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Limiting yourself can sometimes force you to get a bit more creative, or just deep dive into the inner workings of the camera. The shot above won’t be finding its way into National Geographic, for instance, but it was a fine balancing act challenge – exposure wise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Be back tomorrow with something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

ancient hill

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183 square acres, and you can’t even catch a train there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the way home from the Degnon Terminal and Dutch Kills, my habit is to walk up the hill on Skillman Avenue alongside the Sunnyside Yards. It’s actually set against a pretty subtle but noticeable incline, Skillman from Thomson Avenue to 39th street, and the walk is actually decent cardio (it’s no Maspeth, though). You also get to see trains along the way, which is always a plus for one such as myself. Luckily the fences are in atrocious condition and there’s all sorts of places you can stick a lens through and get some shots. 

Since I had the tripod with me, I rigged it up a few times when I saw something interesting. These are long exposures, which causes passing vehicles, and trains, to blur into streaks of light. In the shot above, that’s the 7 Subway line exiting Queens Plaza above, and the Long Island Railroad transiting below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the busiest intersections I’ve ever encountered is at Skillman Avenue and Queens Boulevard. An insane amount of traffic moves through it on a twenty four hour and seven day a week schedule, heading to and from the Queensboro Bridge. There are vampires reported to be living in the steel overpasses as well, so you have to stay alert and wary around these parts because of both traffic and the undead. Queens Plaza is complicated. 

That’s another 7 train at the top of the shot, if you’re the curious type.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing the yards at 39th street, which becomes Steinway Street on the other side of Northern Blvd., I did another setup at one of the many fence holes I’ve catalogued over the years. That set of green, red, and white streaks you see are a passing Long Island Railroad train at the Harold Interlocking. It’s the busiest train junction in the country, as a note, and almost 800 trains a day streak through here on their way to and from the City, last I checked.

Why is it called the “Harold Interlocking”? Ask some of the octogenarian Queensicans you meet in neighborhood bars around Sunnyside, Woodside, or Astoria and they’ll tell you that 39th street used to be called Harold Avenue back in the old days of long ago and far away. DO NOT drop John Lindsay or Bill de Blasio’s name, at your peril. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 2, 2018 at 11:00 am

almost snatched

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Project Queens is a work in progress, and always has been.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It often seems as if everyplace I find my heels clicking upon the sidewalks of Western Queens is a construction zone. This one got my attention the other day when I noticed a shaft of sunlight while riding a train, somewhere between the 46th Street and Steinway Street stops on the venerable R line tracks. After returning to the ancient village from points west and south, a brief investigatory wander revealed it to be a crew from the MTA construction division hard at work on Astoria’s Broadway. I walked up on the end of this process, but it seemed that they had cut a hole in the street in order to deliver bundles of lumber and other heavy materials to the sweating concrete bunkers below the street.

I know, that sounds ridiculous, cutting a hole in the street. Why go to such lengths and expense, inconveniencing an entire neighborhood, when you could just use a work train to transport materials to the job site… but… I did say “MTA” didn’t I?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can you imagine the sort of existential horror that would ensue if the current Mayor of NYC’s mad plan to deck over the Sunnyside Yards happened? Often have I contemplated the nightmare scenario of materials laden heavy trucks criss crossing through Woodside, Astoria, Dutch Kills, Hunters Point, and Sunnyside while carrying tonnages of construction equipment and materials. The noise alone…

It would be less instructive, IMHO, if they were to just extend the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek a couple of blocks to the north and bring it all in via a maritime shipping channel. That is, in a scenario in which this Queens killing abomination actually happens, of course.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst marching about on Skillman Avenue nearby Queens Plaza, a work train crew was spotted on the overhead tracks. Presumptively, these folks were working on the long overdue CBTC signals project on the 7 line. This project, which seems like its been going on for decades (it has been) and must be millions over budget (it is) will allow the estimable scions of the MTA the opportunity to run one extra train per hour on the 7 line. Will the perfidy displayed by Jay Street ever end?

One of the military industrial complex concepts, which I wish the MTA would adopt in planning and spending, is the “resource to kill ratio.” In layman’s terms, that call that “bang for the buck.” You don’t use a million dollar missile to kill a guy on a camel, essentially. You use a sniper instead.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

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