The Newtown Pentacle

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pacing nervously

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Hitting the road…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As of this post, so far in the month of January has a humble narrator walked some sixty six and a half purposeful miles in the dead of night around Queens. By “purposeful” I mean that it’s not shlepping through my normal daily round, rather it refers to leaving HQ all kitted up and ready to wave the camera around. By my standard, this number still represents baby steps, of course, but whereas the broken toe drama of 2019 is now just another one of my unpleasant memories there are still physical consequences to having just sat on my butt for two months at the end of last year. Mainly the effects involve the size of my butt, muscle tone in my calves, and a few other “conditioning” issues. A new regime of personal discipline has been established, incorporating changes to both diet and exercise.

This has nothing to do with a New Year’s Resolution, as a note, it’s merely self preservation and the need to experience the world directly after a couple of months of convalescent boredom. On the particular night which these shots were gathered, I was walking along the Woodside/Sunnyside border, where a tiny industrially zoned area bumps up against the fencelines of the second, third, and fourth divisions of Calvary Cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My ultimate destination for the evening was – what else – Newtown Creek. From Astoria, you’ve got “corridor approaches” which lead you to the various sections of the waterway. 39th street to Skillman Avenue for Dutch Kills, Pulaski Bridge and LIC, or 39th street to Greenpoint Avenue for Blissville and the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, 43rd street for Kosciuszcko Bridge and the DUKBO area, whereas 48th street takes you to the industrial Maspeth “Haberman” section where Maspeth Creek and the Maspeth Plank Road are found. The 48th street corridor also deposits you within throwing distance of the Grand Street Bridge, so I always pay it a visit when I’m in the neighborhood.

Coincidentally, 43rd street used to be called Laurel Hill Blvd. during earlier times, and it connected the Alsop properties along Newtown Creek to the south with the Berrian and Rycken holdings at Bowery Bay to the north in Astoria after crossing through the Moore and Jackson holdings nearby modern day Northern Blvd. 48th street in Maspeth was the Shell Road, which connected the southern waterfront with Middleburgh (Sunnyside) and Woodside, as well as Greenpoint and Flushing via modern day Greenpoint Avenue.

This and the previous shot were gathered along 49th street, rather than 48th, since a group of teenagers were walking towards me and I got scared. I scuttled over to 49th and hid behind a dumpster for a bit, as pictured above. A feckless quisling and vast physical coward remain I. On the plus side, I met a friendly cat whilst behind the dumpster.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A weird and lonely stretch of pedestrian space is found underneath the elevated Long Island Expressway section which bisects two of the Calvary’s. I’m told there’s a fair amount of drag racing here on summer weekend nights but I haven’t witnessed it directly. Notice that the NYS people haven’t felt compelled to replace the old sodium lamp luminaire heads for their street lighting to comply with NYC’s adoption of the cold blue LED units. You’ve still got that comfortable old orange glow hereabouts.

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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 31, 2020 at 11:00 am

wailing grew

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In the end, we’ll always have Wednesdays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Single shots will greet you this week, as a humble narrator plays catch-up and also spends his time exploring and shooting rather than worrying about the weather and delivering posts. Regular posts will resume next week.

Pictured above is the Williamsburg Bridge, as seen from Corlears Hook in Manhattan, at night.


“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

July 3, 2019 at 11:00 am

varying antiquity

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And so doth Monday once more rise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Prepping for last Saturday’s NYC Ferry tour found me riding around on a few of their boats last week, which is where I spotted the MV Hunts Point “Sludge Boat” crossing under the Williamsburg Bridge. Originally built as “East River Bridge #3” the bridge opened in 1899, a full ten years before East River Bridge #2 (Manhattan Bridge). It was built to replace the old Grand Street to Grand Street ferry operated by the company which Robert Fulton had founded. The Williamsburg Bridge was considered an eyesore when it opened, and the Municipal Art Society was founded as a response.

The Astoria line of the NYC Ferry, from which these shots were gathered, has recently added a new stop to its service, one which goes into the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wallabout Creek was the first recorded site of European settlement on the Long Island side of the East River, in these parts. The Lenape word for the Wallabout, I’m told, was “Hemegacknock.” In 1801, shortly after the American Revolution, the newly minted Federal Government desired a ship yard along the East River. At the time, the busiest boat building center on the planet was found on the East side of Manhattan, and real estate prices for a property large enough for what the Feds wanted to occupy forced them to look towards the east. They purchased Wallabout Creek and Bay, and created the Brooklyn Navy Yard there in 1801.

By the American Civil War in the 1860’s, the BNY was employing over 6,000 people at the Wallabout.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By World War 2, there were 10,000 employees and the Brooklyn Navy Yard hosted five miles of paved roads, 2 steel shipways to launch new vessels, six pontoon and cylindrical floats, and 4 dry docks. That ship you see above is sitting high and dry in one of the dry docks (it’s actually called a graving dock, but there you go).

Between 1937 and 1953, amongst several other large vessels; the BNY launched the Battleships Iowa, North Carolina, and Missouri. They also built the first angled deck aircraft carrier here, which was called the Antietam. After the Federal Government began contracting its ship building and servicing in NY Harbor, the Navy Yard fell on hard times. These days it’s experiencing a bit of a renaissance, and has become a corporate industrial park of sorts. The FDNY and NYC Ferry maintain bases here, and there’s also a movie studio, the country’s largest urban farm, and several warehouse operations working out of the Navy Yard. Additionally, there’s a new museum here called “Bldg 92” which preserves the history of the place, accessible from the Flushing Avenue or landward side.


“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.

hysterical laughter

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It’s Edgar Allen Poe’s Birthday, Icelandic Man’s and Woman’s Day (Bóndadagur), and it’s also National Popcorn Day – here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of my scheme to survive the cold this year involves a bit of a mix up on the normal routine. Rather than walk from Point A in Astoria to some distant industrial wasteland and then follow a completely different path back home (my normal “thing”), I’ve instead been taking the subway out a few stops to spots around three to four miles from home and then figuring out how to walk back home along an interesting route. On a recent day, my route involved taking the G out to Williamsburg. Not the shiny part of Williamsburg, of course, but the still crappy section that touches southern Greenpoint.

Whenever I’m in Williamsburg, I stare at the ground lest I catch the eye of a hipster who might find me novel or twee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Leonard Street, this centuried access cover was encountered, bearing the screed “Catskill Water Chamber.” Now, I’ve asked the question “who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?” more than once at this – your Newtown Pentacle over the years… but in this case I don’t actually have to guess or wonder.

This is the sort of stuff that I know about which makes the folks at NYC DEP nervous about how I know it, incidentally. Short answer – while everybody else is reading about celebrity news or watching sports, I’m combing through the well hidden corners of NYC.gov. It’s a gold mine, I tell you.

Water Tunnel #2 is about 17 feet in diameter, and it feeds pipes which first stretch out under Long Island City, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg. A sixty inch trunk main pipe under Jackson Avenue in LIC connects to one on McGuinness Blvd. in Greenpoint after passing under the Newtown Creek. At Leonard Street and McGuinness, a seventy two inch pipe is connected to the main line, and that one feeds water all the way to Driggs Avenue.

At the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Leonard Street here in Williamsburg, where the access cover seen above can be found, there’s a series of smaller twelve inch mains which split off from the main flow and feed water to local customers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s likely that these access covers were forged sometime between 1905 and 1915, with the Catskill system beginning to come online in late 1915. The Catskill system was ultimately completed by 1928, forging one leg of the tripod of upstate reservoirs which supply NYC with drinkable water. It’s all very complicated.

The NYC Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity was the entity which the Catskill system would be handed over to, and was one of the many “wet work” agencies that were compressed into the gargantuan NYC Department of Environmental Protection back during the City Charter revision of 1983.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After congratulating myself on displaying another bit of my largely useless knowledge base, it was time to start moving again as a small crowd of hipsters were beginning to form and I feared ending up being posted about on Instagram again. One decided to continue up Metropolitan Avenue, following it to the Northeast, and inexorably approaching those loathsome existential realities which one finds lurking about the legendary Newtown Creek.

More tomorrow – at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

staves and axes

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Walking down Meeker Avenue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First – a confession – I had something else planned for today’s post, as it was a rather exciting (and highly combustible) weekend in Astoria, but the photos aren’t ready for public consumption quite yet. As a result, what was going to be tomorrow’s installment of your Newtown Pentacle is offered in its stead.

Last week, occasion found me in Greenpoint to photograph a Newtown Creek related event in the afternoon. Having a few hours to kill, since my next engagement was in lower Manhattan in the early evening, a humble narrator decided to walk into the City via the Williamsburg Bridge. A medium sized scuttle ensued, and one found himself walking through and beneath one of the “House of Moses’s” more onerous creations – an elevated section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway which over flies Meeker Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst my walk played out, several photos were captured, including shots of this charming bedroom set. One would guess that the Mayor can scratch one unit of affordable housing off of his “to do” list.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Signs of morbid habitation like this one drive me crazy of some reason. To begin with, it’s likely the unhealthiest environment upon the earth for a human being to exist in, here in the traffic choked House of Moses beneath the BQE. Secondly, it exposes the farcical realities of “homeland security” and the so called “security state” in the era of the Terror Wars. If you can set up housekeeping alongside the steel pillars supporting a roadway that carries nearly 200,000 automobiles a day… well… let’s just say you wouldn’t be able to get away with basing yourself in similar circumstance in Riyadh or Tel Aviv.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path continued along Meeker Avenue, towards the home of the Artisinal Pickle in Williamsburg, which has become one of the most pedantically boring neighborhoods in all of New York City in recent years. Dispassionate and jaded esthetes were observed as they moved aimlessly about the place, searching for some sort of “authenticity” or diversion from the tyranny of the now, which seemed to be in short supply hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shimmering memories of the old Williamsburg, with its DMZ’s and danger, are hinted at here and there. The whores and the bangers are relegated to history, however, and after having walked from McGuinness to Metropolitan along Meeker Avenue, it occurred to me that not once did I feel danger. There were no hookers blowing truckers, no collections of scabby kids selling vials of death candy… just a rather well appointed homeless camp or two and construction workers eating lunch.

There were also grown men riding skateboards in the middle of a Thursday afternoon, incredibly thin women covered in tattoos that were ignoring them, and both sexes seemed to be staring into their smart phones while Brooklyn writhed incessantly around them unnoticed.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 22nd, 2015
First Calvary Cemetery – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
click here for details and tickets.

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

amidst glare

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A few 4th of July shots, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are so many balls in the air at the moment, and so many more which one must work into the juggling act… best to focus in on the fireworks from July 4th in today’s post. Distraction abounds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 4th itself, a friend with a river view invited Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself to his house. Obligatory for shots of this kind, a tripod came along with me. When the Macy’s show got started, one was ready.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Originally, one planned to be in LIC, the titular focus of the fireworks show… but the security theatrics which NYPD got up to scared me away. I tend to avoid areas in which snipers have been deployed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My friend’s place is in the crowded and tony section of Williamsburg, and when the show was over – Our Lady and myself managed to fight off a horde of hipsters in pursuance of a taxi to get back to Astoria. When we arrived there, however… in tomorrow’s post, I will describe to you horror incarnate.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms – Greenpoint, Brooklyn Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 9, 2015 at 10:33 am

staggered dizzily

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Sights from a recent East River excursion, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does not get to view Mighty Triborough from the water that often, although the Astoria Park perspective on Robert Moses’ great bridge is familiar and loved, so while onboard a boat carrying the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s annual conference, one ensured that a few shots were captured of its majesty. Moses was a gigantic jerk and a bit of a tyrant, of course, but on more than one occasion I have remarked on the particular esthetic charms his teams incorporated into their projects. The bath houses at Riis Park, and Jones Beach, the bridge pictured above – modern day planners are driven by economy and “design standards” which strip their civil works of the sort of visual panache that the depression era build outs offered. Far better than the brutalist crap of the 1960’s and 70’s which were inflicted on the public, of course, but modernity is not even close to being in the same artistic league with the earlier stuff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of earlier stuff, the annihilation of the Domino Sugar site in Williansburg continues. Recently, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself were obliged to make an appearance at a 20 something year old’s birthday bacchanal at a bar in the former “Bushwick Strand,” and coversation with a member of the “Millennial” generation ended up being revelatory. This particular kid realized fully that the lifestyle and “scene” in Williamsburg was not just threatened but doomed by the large scale construction underway in the area, and she was wondering what life would be like in my beloved Astoria. One intoned that Astoria would make a great home for an older iteration of herself, when “going out” would indicate that you were going to have dinner at a restaurant rather than spending the night at a fashionable bar. Her section of North Brooklyn is for the young and unsettled transients struggling to define themselves, whereas Astoria is for families and is still very much a community of long term neighbors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of communities, the staggering growth of Hunters Point over the last five years is best realized from the East River. A humble narrator has been shooting the growing skyline here from the water for several years now, but with the Hunters Point South development finally becoming a reality, the “Modern Corridor” of Long Island City is beginning to reach critical mass. Any doubt as to why I refer to the East River frontage of LIC as “Tower Town” should be eradicated by the shot above.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 30, 2015 –
The Skillman Corridor with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

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