The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Tugboat’ Category

doubtful alchemy

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior missives, one last ride on the NYC Ferry was on my NYC bucket list to accomplish, before the big move to Pittsburgh. My pal Val and I had boarded the service in Queens and ridden the Astoria line boat southwards to Pier 11 in Manhattan, whereupon we then transferred to a Soundview line unit heading northwards.

The East River gave me a good day, for this last outing. The Queensboro Bridge was lit up all pretty like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing I laugh about continually, since having arrived in Pittsburgh, is when the locals complain about traffic. There’s certainly road congestion here in Western Pennsylvania, but traffic? Look above, at the FDR Drive. That’s what traffic looks like. Pittsburgh traffic, even when it stacks up around the pinch points of tunnels and bridges at rush hour, still moves at 15-20 mph. Normally, it’s flying along at highway speeds. The average speed of a motor vehicle in NYC is 4.1 mph. …traffic…

Val and I had timed our afternoon out perfectly, as it turned out. Despite the complete lack of clouds in the sky, there were already hints of golds, oranges, and scarlets appearing in the early winter sunset.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After visiting one of the ferry’s stops at 34th street, the boat headed northwards. After 34th street, the Soundview boat moves into the westerly channel of the East River, found between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan, as it navigates north. This is more or the less the pathway that the ill fated General Slocum followed, all those years ago in 1904.

Next stop for the ferry is at East 90th street, nearby Gracie Mansion. The Astoria line stops here as well, and it’s one of the points where you can transfer between the two. Until they get wise to this exploit I’ve been taking advantage of, you’ve got a 90 minute period after activating your ticket during which you can transfer from one line to another. If you play your cards right and time it correctly, you can get from Soundview in the Bronx – nearby the Throgs Neck Bridge – all the way to Rockaway on $2.75.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the northern edge of Astoria pictured above, where thousands of people will be occupying newly developed luxury apartment houses within just a few years. It ain’t exactly prosaic that the City is putting this sort of population density in place along the waterfront, in an era when the term “managed retreat” is about to become quite familiar to most New Yorkers, but there you go.

Somebody else’s problem, as I now live on the side of a small mountain of coal and shale nearby three rivers, some 400 miles away from NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So many memories bounce about in my mind about the Hells Gate narrows area of the East River. Truly, this is one of the most amazing places, in a place known for being amazing. Don’t forget, for those of you who are staying in NYC, to stop and smell the roses every now and then. Gaze in wonder at the marvels, and appreciate the billions of hours of labor that they represent. Robert Moses didn’t build that bridge, tens of thousands of our grandparents did.

Mighty Triborough. The Hell Gate Bridge. Randall’s/Ward’s Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Soundview boat crossed under the two great bridges at Hells Gate, past Astoria Park, and continued north. Our plan, as it were, was to be riding southwards on the return trip at more or less the moment when the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself descended behind New Jersey. In the intervening period since shooting these photos, I’ve made a discovery or two which I’d like to share.

Turns out that the burning thermonuclear eye DOES NOT descend into New Jersey, as I’ve learned clear on the other side of that state. Recent observation has suggested to me that it instead descends somewhere else, perhaps even behind the State of Ohio.

More astronomical discoveries, and other updates tomorrow…


“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

December 21, 2022 at 11:00 am

standard works

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

November 22nd was a busy day, and one that was full of “last times.”

My pal Val and I met up and headed over to the East River for my last ride on the NYC Ferry. As mentioned in the past, one absolutely refuses to write one of those cliché soliloquies which New Yorkers feel hell bent to offer when they finally leave NYC.

I’ve lived my whole life in this crazy place. School, career, friends and foes, love and loss – all of it happened here. For broad ranging criticisms of how the City functions, its endemic corruptions or temptations or dangers – all of that – just read through the archives linked to just to the right of this text. There’s posts in that list which span back to 2009 that will spell out my various opinions on the milieu.

Saying that, on our way to the boat, I got to grab a shot of the Real Estate people’s minions at work, demolishing yet another small business’s premises in order to make room for luxury waterfront condos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nobody in my world could believe it when I said that I would be moving at the end of 2022. “C’mon Mitch,” where are you going to go? What will you do? You’re “Mr. Newtown Creek!” Why Pittsburgh?

The escape plan for Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself, one we hatched during the COVID isolation months, has played out over the last 14 months or so. We started with the question “what do you want?” This allowed for the creation of a data set built around these wants, one which could be sought and pursued. That’s when the question of “who are you” and “what do you need” took primacy.

I’m a city boy – so urban, and given the stage of life Our Lady and myself are entering, pretty decent health care resources coupled with a quieter form of life that offered fewer existential dangers due to living cheek by jowl with the random madmen who howl on the other side of the wall. Pittsburgh, in the final analysis. offered the “wants, where’s, and who’s” we were looking for in “Act 3.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First tasks involved solving a few paperwork issues on my end. An expired drivers license’s replacement was complicated by a similarly expired passport. That was January. By April, I had solved both problems. Next up, we needed to buy a vehicle, since you can’t live in “America” without a car. Research, consciously saving the cash for a down payment all year, and a couple of car rentals later – the Toyota RAV4 had risen to the top of my list, and an order was placed for a new one with the Queensboro Toyota outfit on Northern Boulevard. It wouldn’t end up arriving until the week before Halloween, due to the supply chain problems, but that fit our timeline.

In September, I began to quit jobs, and sever my ties with the various organizations that I was associated with. First one to go was Community Board 1 in Astoria, where I was the Transportation Committee Chair. For those of you interested in serving on a CB, it’s definitely worth the effort, and there is a “Jeffersonian responsibility” to participate in the mechanics of the Democracy but there’s also a whole lot of bullshit you have to put up with – mainly from your fellow board members.

I next rolled up my business with all of the non profits that I either worked with, or was on the board of, over the next two months and made arrangements for a few “goodbye” moments like the Fireboat trip mentioned a couple of weeks back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Riding the NYC Ferry one last time was on my list of “have-to’s.” Particularly during the COVID interval, access to the ferry has been nepenthe for me. For just a few bucks, you can get out on the waters of NY Harbor for a bit, and if you time it correctly – be out there for sunrise or sunset during the flood tide when the rivers are thick with maritime traffic. Photographer paradise. Particularly this photographer.

When I told my pal Val (also a photographer) that I wanted to do this trip, she insisted on coming along for one last go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All year, I was telling my friends that when things got to late November, things would be moving at a thousand miles an hour. My prediction was correct. I had to work doubly hard for the five days or so leading up to the 22nd in order to buy enough time to get this day off. Boxes to pack, cupboards to be emptied. All that. I got lucky as far as weather goes.

The plan for late November and early December included spending about a week at the new address in Pittsburgh, where I’d be driving Our Lady of the Pentacle and some bare essentials out to Pittsburgh in order to set up housekeeping in the new digs. After a week or so, I’d need to drive back to Queens to handle the final stages of the move and supervise the moving crew, leaving Our Lady of the Pentacle out west in the new PA house while doing so.

After the movers left the Astoria HQ, I’d have to drive back out to Pittsburgh on my own, this time with a carload of hard drives and camera gear, which I don’t trust anyone else to handle. Thereby, in an 8 day period, I ended driving something close to 1,600 miles with all the back and forth. Post facto, this is all kind of a blur for me at this point.

This ferry day in November was, thereby, my last dance with the East River in NYC. It’s so weird saying that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know what’s in those blue boxes on the barge, can describe what the bottom of that tugboat’s hull looks like, and there’s also a story I can offer about each and every thing in the frame. The sort of knowledge I’ve gained in the last twenty or so years can be suffocating.

Want to hear about the time that Mose the Fireboy, the legendary giant of the 19th century “Gangs of New York” era Bowery B’hoys, wrestled a serpent out of the water here at Corlear’s Hook? How the skin of the water monster was draped over the bar mirror at McGurk’s Suicide Palace on the Lower East Side near St. Mark’s? How about the Constellation fire at the Navy Yard? The Sewer Rats gang who would paddle out to anchored ships at night to rob them at knife point? General Slocum, as in the politician whom they named the infamous excursion boat for? Boss Tweed, who lived in George Washington’s Presidential Mansion on Cherry Street in Manhattan, a few blocks back from the water?

More tomorrow…


“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

December 19, 2022 at 11:00 am

times amidst

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A long walk continues! From Astoria to LIC’s Blissville, and then looping around and through Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section, on the 23rd of September of 2022. “Every time might be the last time…”

Scuttling along the hoary asphalt, which armors the oil choked loam of this ancient outpost of the decadent Dutch, a humble narrator suddenly realized that both altitude AND declination were warping, as he had blindly wandered onto those entirely euclidian angles which are offered by the New York State Department of Transportation via the bicycle and pedestrian pathway of the Kosciuszcko Bridge which said agency maintains.

Thoroughly modern in both function and design, the Kosciuszcko Bridge(s) nevertheless are visually pleasing to me – a barren creature, broken and bruised, bereft, bankrupt and often beleaguered – your always humble narrator. The Kosciuszcko Bridge carries, in addition to the path one scuttled atop, the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and its teeming multitudes of automotive wanderers, high over the iridescent waveforms of an aqueous ribbon of urban neglect which is known, to modernity, as the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was descending behind New Jersey, just as the monocular of the camera was being moved into position high over the jellies and tepid currents of said waterway. One actuated the shutter button again and again while shuffling along…

It has been years since one has spoken to you, lords and ladies, in this sort of way. Colloquial verbiage and easy conversational voicing has been my intent in recent intervals. Nearing the end of all things, and the shadowy beginnings of a new chapter, one instead feels a deep desire to revisit the past. To plumb the depths.

Always have I been an outsider, attracted to things ancient and unloved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, thereby, all that might be buried down there – beneath the waters buoying that tugboat? What foul truth might lurk, concealed in the black mayonnaise which sits patiently along the bottom of the glacier carved ancestral valley that Newtown Creek floods and calls its bed?

The “bad water place” is what one of the Lenape words for the Newtown Creek is said to translate into English as. That, and those, who are rumored to dwell in the broken stone floor of the nearby Hells Gate section of the East River, might know other words. Perhaps, and perhaps not. I’ve likely said too much.

Let’s change the subject… how about that sports ball team hereabouts? Might this be finally the year of affirmation for our civic and mutual worth, displayed to the globe by champion status in sports ball?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The locale of the forbidden colony of New Arnheim, detested and personally destroyed by the Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant, is not too far away from this spot, just east and towards the Brooklyn side. So too is the forgotten Blissvillian tributary of Wolf Creek, and the overwhelming necropolis called Calvary Cemetery.

The latter hosts its own storm sewer and drainage systems, whose horrifying outflows into the Newtown Creek are not just splendiferous in coffin varnish, adipocere, and formaldehyde. The black mayonnaise underlying the waters here are rich with acrylonitrile concentrations – according to environmental scientists. Toxic, certain groupings of this type of organic chemicals are commonly referred to as “cadaverine” and “putrescine.” This and many other reasons underlie the presence of signage around this waterway adjuring the citizenry against consuming fish or crabs captured from its volume.

This outflow pipe for the cemetery is found directly below the railroad tracks in the photograph above, which are upon the former site of the Penny Bridge crossing demolished in 1939, and a former Long Island Railroad stop also called Penny Bridge which was eliminated by the MTA under mysterious circumstance in 1998. This is the part of Newtown Creek where hauntings of the Blissville Banshee were oft reported.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Horror lurks everywhere along Newtown Creek. Approximately 170,000 vehicle trips cross the Kosciuszcko daily, as reported by Governmental agencies knowledgable about such statistical data. One wonders… statistically speaking, how many times a day does a murderer cross the bridge? Figure there’s two people in every car… how many murderers are there per hundred thousand New Yorkers?

As above, so below?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One found his way back down to the poison ground, alongside First Calvary Cemetery, and its tomb legions, at the outskirts and border of both Blissville and ancient Maspeth, in Queens. The camera’s functional optics were swapped out, and a quick conversion over to the “night kit” was effected. The “daylight” zoom lenses were stored away, and my next steps considered. Into the darkness, yes, but which pathway?

Ahem… truth be told, my feet were hurting at this point so I just called a cab and headed back to HQ in Astoria. I had another busy couple of days coming up, and…

More tomorrow, 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2022 at 11:00 am

breathing things

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was mid span on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, a double bascule drawbridge that spans the fabulous Newtown Creek, and photographing a maneuvering tug called “Seeley” when the bridge’s alarm bells began to sound and a NYC DOT employee began motioning for me to get to the other side.

The bridge was about to open!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m known, in my middle 50’s, for running down the block and chasing a fire engine while yelling “firemen, firemen” just like I did when I was 5. I get excited about things that other adults consider to be a nuisance.

I love it when a drawbridge opens up, and never miss a chance to grab shots of the action.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t have time to swap out lenses for the one that fits into the apertures of the chain link fence, so I just fired the shutter anyway.

I prefer a clean shot, but the fence is part of the environmental milieu, so, there you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As traffic was stopped for the open bridge, I was able to run across Greenpoint Avenue Bridge without getting squished by traffic.

Found a decent spot, one which long experience dictated as being a good one to shoot from, and followed the Tug Seeley as it headed westwards towards the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve grown fairly jaded about this sort of thing in recent years, but the sun was painting the sky with orange and gold.

What a dynamic set of weather conditions it was on August 1st. The fog and mist, the dispersal of the same, and now this sort of saturated color. Wow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shortly after these shots were captured, I decided to make a right turn after arriving in Long Island City’s Blissville section and head towards the Kosciuszcko Bridge. Ultimately, that was a bit of wasted effort, bu there you go. Cannot complain, this was an extremely productive day.

Back tomorrow with something different, 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 31, 2022 at 11:00 am

locks waving

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last set of shots from the 15th of July, depicting the transit of a Tug called “Daisy Mae” through the raised bascules of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, spanning the fabulous Newtown Creek.

Coeymans Marine towing operates the tug.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once upon a time, a humble narrator spent a lot of hours focusing in on NY Harbor and the many vessels which navigate its gelatinous waters.

In recent years, not so much.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of my pals whom I used to chase shipping with have either passed away or have retired to greener pastures.

Also, I’ve become jaded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll miss these sort of sights in the coming years, I’m sure.

Saying that, one of the inviolable prerequisites for where I live “next” has involved the statement “there has to be a waterfront.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My beloved Creek.

Everybody I know keeps on saying to me that I can’t leave NYC since I love Newtown Creek so much. It’s time, though. Time for someone else to discover the place and scry its wonders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuity is important to me. It’s one of the few parts of my Jewish upbringing that really “stuck.” If you learn something, write it down for somebody else to use as a starting point.

All in all, it’s all just bricks in the wall.


“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 15, 2022 at 11:00 am

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