The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

surprising volume

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A whole lot of garbage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The high flying pedestrian and bike lane section of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is something which I’ve been waiting to explore and exploit since I first learned of the bridge replacement project years ago. The bridge(s) officially opened last year, and I personally witnessed our Sith Lord Governor cut the ceremonial ribbon on the project with that red laser sword of his, but Darth Cuomo was fibbing when he said construction was done. The Governor would likely offer that he finds my lack of faith disturbing.

Principal construction, yes, but the contracts for this project don’t end until at least the end of 2020. Within two days of the official opening, vehicle lanes were blocked off by jersey barriers vouchsafing construction equipment and tool sheds, and orange netted wooden breastworks were once again hugging the bridge’s superstructure and perfectly visible to the children of Blissville and Maspeth. While I was on the bridge last week, for instance, a crew of Union electricians were working on perfecting the street lights illuminating the roadway. That’s the Sith way, I guess.

I’m still trying to figure out how to photograph that series of unearthly LED generated “colours out of space’ which the decorative lighting systems produce.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

See that Waste Transfer Station pictured above, found in Greenpoint?

Hostile reaction to the presence of wandering mendicant photographers over the years at this site have marked my general preoccupation with recording its splendors. Once, a brusque exchange with some hard hatted fellow driving a pickup truck resulted in a humble narrator being actively pursued as he walked quickly away from a threatened physical encounter. I lost the guy after darting across Meeker Avenue, but for a minute there I was sweating. It was August, so I was sweating anyway, but…

Don’t mess with the garbage guys, they specialize in making things disappear and go away. Newtown Creek, especially back here, isn’t Disneyworld and it’s real easy to get hurt if you don’t know the lay of the land. Say it with me – BROOKLYN.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite it all, I do love a good mound of trash.

A problem our City has, though, revolves around trucks being the primary means for transporting this material out of the City after it’s processed. Big players in this industry like Allocco Recycling and Sims Metal use maritime industrial resources to float our recyclable waste away on barges, towed by Tugboats. Waste Management has two giant facilities along the Creek which are serviced by railroad, providing the putrescent cargo which the infamous “Garbage Train” hauls through the Fresh Pond Yard and out of Queens over the Hell Gate Bridge. In either example, however, local collection trucks operated by DSNY or private carters focus their routes in on narrow corridors and intersections around the Newtown Creek, logarithmically increasing traffic in the surrounding residential neighborhoods, on their way to and from any or all of these “waste transfer stations.”

As I remind the “bicycle people” all the time, their quest for safer streets is directly related to reducing the personal waste flow of every New Yorker. According to officialdom, the average New Yorker produces about 1,300 lbs. of garbage a year. Reduce that by even a single percentile, and you’ve taken some of these trucks off the streets. Garbage, lords and ladies, will bury us all.

One wishes Darth Cuomo could fix that.


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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

January 8, 2020 at 11:00 am

faded from

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The fabulous Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The otherworldly light cast from the Koscisuzcko Bridge is like no earthly color, instead it’s like some colour out of space.

Its frequencies the other night, gauche and tacky, were magenta and near ultraviolet, and generated by LED luminaire heads mounted on the bridge’s superstructure. The richly saturated color of this radiation wreaks havoc on digital camera sensors, whose engineered color science doesn’t account for wavelengths of such an unnatural hue. The bridge light is the frequent subject of social media conjecture – on overcast nights in neighborhoods as far as ten miles away – with light pulses and coruscates soaring up to impact and stain the clouds.

Often have I seen queries and postulates offered from Queensican or Brooklynite alike as to why the vaulted cloudbanks over that legendarily undefended border between the two boroughs appears pink, purple, or red. Some theorize about extraterrestrials, others about a returned “Astoria Borealis.” I offer that the lighting design takes its cues from certain greek owned coffee shops here in Astoria, which are not noted for their decorative restraint in the area of lighting design.

Here, at the epicenter of the unearthly radiance, is the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

2.1 miles from the East River is where this volcano of LED generated light erupts nightly. The industrial zones of Blissville in Queens and eastern Greenpoint in Brooklyn are painted in whorish coloration by it, and even the preternatural darkness of Calvary Cemetery is punctured by the brightly colored display.

Darth Cuomo seeks to connect the new bridge’s lighting system to other facilities for something described as “the harbor of lights,” which will coordinate the lighting on all the structures which the Governor’s mailed fist controls for special events. If the Mets ever win a pennant, for instance, count on seeing a strobing blue and orange pattern pulsing from of the Empire State Building and then out to all of the NYS owned bridges and tunnels. It should be quite a bizarre sight, as the colour out of space here at Newtown Creek permeates out to the entire megalopolis.

Soon, we shall all know of the colour, and it will be a part of our lives just as we will be a part of its.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is actually a surprising amount of vibration, flexibility, and movement engineered into the new Kosciuszcko Bridge. This is somewhat problematic for my pursuits, regarding long exposure night time shots from its walkway. I can tell you that the fenceline on the bridge has vertical bars that are about 90mm apart from each other, and that my favorite camera lens is about 87mm in width. I would also suggest that I had absolutely nothing to do with this fact, and that I didn’t make it a point of injecting myself into the construction project’s community advisory group in the hope of avoiding the installation of a chain link fence in favor of some other design a bit friendlier to camera work. Saying that, there’s a lot of vibration and sway to deal with when a heavy truck blasts by on the BQE doing 50mph.

Unnatural light and swaying vibration, automotive exhaust, waste transfer stations, the vaporous emanations of a Federal Superfund site on a January night… nepenthe.


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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

January 7, 2020 at 11:00 am

into life

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Back in the saddle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Infirmity is conquered… sort of… and a humble narrator is back on the beat.

The first 2020 nighttime photowalk saw me scuttling southwards from the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria all geared up and ready to go. To make it official, I keyed up one of my favorite audiobook iterations of “The Call of Cthulhu” on my headphones as I left Astoria about 9 in the evening. The chosen path carried me across a Robert Moses widened stretch of Jackson avenue which modernity calls Northern Blvd., up Laurel Hill Blvd. (now known as 43rd street), through Middleburgh (aka Sunnyside) and over to Blissville’s border with Berlin (West Maspeth). My goal was to arrive at the modern day version of the Penny Bridge, the Kosciuszcko if you must, and commune with that loathsome ribbon of municipal neglect and hidden history known simply as the Newtown Creek.

For too long have I been missing her. My path was chosen for its lines of ley, and carried me past the great polyandrion of the Roman Catholics, called First Calvary Cemetery. Why the lines of ley, you ask? Simply, my batteries are low.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual eastern border of historic Long Island City – on the southern side of the Long Island Expressway, Laurel Hill Blvd. – retains its ancient nomen, rather than masquerading as “43rd street” as it does on the northern side. Laurel Hill is the landform into which the farm and homestead of the Alsop family were built, and its geological prominences were reduced by Irish and German laborers not too long after the Roman Catholic Church purchased the Alsop properties in 1848. On the eastern side of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which sits firmly upon the pre consolidated border, is industrial West Maspeth, once known as Berlin. There is a 43rd street in Maspeth, but it doesn’t concur with the southern iteration of the street, for which you can thank Robert Moses and the adoption of the so called Philadelphia plan in the early 20th century. Maspeth’s 43rd street was once called the shell road, and was paved with crushed oyster carapace. That’s before the forgotten Yeshiva, or Phelps Dodge.

The closer I got, the more I felt it calling. Like some great subterrene drum, whose emanations burst within my chest in inimitable sense impacts… a sound which certain groupings of the aboriginal Lenape would have pronounced “Hohosboco,”or the “Bad Water Place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Upwards on the path went a humble narrator, ever upwards.

Like every other piece of wind blown trash, discarded toy, or intestinal discharge in New York City, Newtown Creek is where I belong and end up. No destination is more final, nor more desirable for one such as myself.

Here amongst the ghosts, and in the night wind, belong I.


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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.

invocation addressed

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Rain, rain, hold still while I take a picture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One didn’t get out too much over the week between Christmas and New Years due to a variety of reasons, amongst them was that spate of drenching rain which hit the neighborhood here in Astoria, Queens. Regardless, inactivity and I don’t enjoy each other’s company, so I set up the camera and experimented a bit right here at home.

If you were making your way down Astoria’s Broadway and saw the silhouette of a weird old guy and a camera up on a tripod in a window, you should have waved. That was me.

Since I’ve lived in this neighborhood, that bodega has had three owners and never changed its name. The first set of owners were brothers, ones whose family had a farm back in Lebanon. Back then, they had great produce, and either brother was your go to for finding out whether or not a pomegranate was ripe or not. They sold it to another Lebanese family, one which had a large group of sons that were all fitness fanatics. I used to call them the “Lebanese Olympic Weight Lifting team” and it was always fun watching what would happen when someone tried shoplifting at the bodega. Older brother Gazi once punched a crook so hard that the fellow lifted about four feet into the air and traveled about six feet horizontally, making a quite satisfying “slap thunk” sound upon his landing. The current owners are South East Asians (Indian or Bangla, I’m not sure), who don’t carry much in the way of produce you’d want to buy, and are not obsessed with going to the gym, but are otherwise nice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever it rains for an extended period, my thoughts always drift toward my beloved Newtown Creek. One of the curses suffered by my favorite waterway involves the “combined sewer outfalls” which transport excess storm water mixed with untreated sewer water directly into it. These NYC owned pipes are often at least a century old, and use a pre modern era approach to waste water management summed up by the old adage “the answer to solution is dilution.” I know way too much about NYC’S sewer system, as a note.

That sewer grate, which is on my corner, is connected to a large pipe found under Broadway which connects all of the corner grates. That large pipe connects to an even larger pipe found at 42nd street called an interceptor. If you stand on the north side of 42nd and a Broadway in Astoria, you can hear water roaring through it through the access or manhole cover. This pipe goes to Northern Blvd. where it takes a right and follows the slope of the street through Queens Plaza, then goes diagonally under the Sunnyside Yards and towards the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek where it outfalls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I dream of dropping rubber duckies into the drain during a roaring thunderstorm, then racing over to Dutch Kills to catch a photo of them popping out of one of the outfalls. I’ve also fantasized while in the grip of somnambulant hallucinations, about pouring tons and tons of gelatin into the sewer, just to see what happens. Yes, I literally dream of such things.

Last night – for instance – I had a dream that I had adopted a gigantic French Bulldog the size of an ox, and that I was able to put a saddle across its back and ride it around. I mention that in an attempt to dissuade you of wondering why I dream about sewers, and to point out that rubber ducky fantasies are hardly the weirdest thing my brain manufactures.


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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

January 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

sequestered cabin

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What’s expected?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the first phase of the Hudson Yards project pictured above. What’s expected of one such as myself would be to condemn, criticize, or condemn the place. Yes? Ok then.

Here’s my three “C’s.” I personally find the design of Hudson Yards to be quite off, given its total embrace of 75 years old urban planning chestnuts like “superblocks” and “towers in a park.” Hudson Yards ignores its surrounding neighborhoods contextually, offers a harsh and unfriendly pedestrian space, and is guilty of architectural banality. No thought seems to have been given on the subject of its relationship to the position of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself’s journey through the sky, as the reflective tower facades cause harsh light to broadcast and strobe about from on high. Even sunglasses won’t help when walking westwards on 32nd or 33rd streets in the morning, or eastwards from the Hudson coast of Manhattan in the afternoon/evening.

Walking through the “zone,” I was keenly aware of how unwelcoming the place seemed, displaying emotional sterility while trying too hard to be “artsy.” Every design attempt at being “playful or whimsical” reminded me of a crass and cheaply rendered version of Disneyworld. Rust, peeling paint, and cracked cement is already visible on and around the “Bloomberg Building” for instance.

Homogeneity is what the City Planners like, and in Hudson Yards their vision is writ large. These folks hate the heterogenous chaos of cities, preferring the neat appearance of shopping mall gallerias. Long story short, I’m not a fan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other hand, gazing upon these shots, which were gathered up on the High Line, I have to remind myself what used to be here – which was a whole lot of stuff nobody wants. Long corridors of graffiti covered concrete walls vouchsafing the rail yards below, open air drug dealing, and more prostitutes than you could shake a stick at (pun intended). This was a “dead” section in busy midtown Manhattan, incongruously sandwiched in by neighborhoods that didn’t end two to three blocks short of the Hudson. The long eastward trek from the Javitz Center for convention goers back to the subways and Penn Station, the automobile commuter focused street design… the west side in the 30’s was never a destination you’d want to tell your mom you were heading towards.

Is this incarnation better? Worse? Only time will tell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I can tell you, after walking the camera through and reviewing the photos gathered, is that every single minute I’ve spent opposing the Sunnyside Yards proposals here in Queens has been time well spent. The fancy pants crowd which is in favor of the gargantuan endeavor of decking the Sunnyside Yards doesn’t really understand what it would entail. They haven’t fully digested the reality of the construction or come to the understanding that to justify the colossal $22 billion estimated cost of the deck, you cannot build small or even medium – you have to build big. That’s an economic reality.

Look at that shot above, and imagine you’re standing in Queens Plaza. Now you’re starting to realize what’s what and why we have to keep this from happening in Queens.


“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 2, 2020 at 1:00 pm

boldly determined

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Happy New Year, ya filthy animals.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well, here we are again at a New Year’s day, and I’m sure everybody is making resolutions which expediency and habit will negate the pursuance of before too long. A humble narrator doesn’t make promises he doesn’t know he can keep, and avoids the temptations of vowing to break a bad habit or start a new one. Instead, my aspiration is to try to be nicer to people, less selfish in my points of view, and generally more charitable in my actions. I’ve got a couple of projects which I’ve been working on which will mature and be made public in the next couple of months, have nothing in the way of specific plans for the first quarter of the year, and Zuzu the dog is holding up pretty good despite her advanced age.

I do worry about the Zuzu the dog a lot, however. She’s 13, and a “big” dog. She has hip and leg trouble, spinal stenosis, and sleeps about 22 hours a day. In human terms, Zuzu is about 80 years old, and she acts like it. One promise and resolution I can make is that she is going to be comfortable, happy, and can have as many treats as she wants whenever she wants them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post were gathered on a late night/early morning photowalk in Manhattan recently accomplished. I have to be the only photographer in NYC who remarks to himself with regret that the “golden hour” around sunrise has arrived, given my particular love of low light shooting. On the day these images were recorded, sunrise was at 7:19 a.m., and it was coincidentally the winter solstice.

The ongoing construction and build out for the Hudson Yards project is just visually fascinating to me. I just wish the end product of all this toil weren’t the sort of dystopian and banal glass superblock towers which the completed parts of the megaproject have proven to be. Some architectural critic offered the term “Dubai on the Hudson” for Hudson Yards, which I think is fairly apt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the moment that the shot above was recorded, I had been awake about 22 hours, and required both a meal and couple of cups of coffee. Midtown, and in particular the west side thereof, has been ravaged by the real estate people and one of the big casualties of their attentions have been coffee shops and diners. Luckily, the Skylight Diner, which is incongruously housed in a single story building, survives. I generally avoid spending any sort of restaurant money in Manhattan, since the entire island is a rip off, but I can recommend Skylight Diner for a quick greek omelet or a burger.

Somehow, when 2030 rolls into town, I don’t think a one story building housing a diner and a cell phone shop will be all that occupies the southwest corner of 34th street and Ninth avenue.


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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

January 1, 2020 at 11:00 am

whatever remained

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Manhattan, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle – a humble narrator found himself out of schedule with the rest of the world and wholly awake while everybody else was asleep. This is one of the quirks which Our Lady of the Pentacle endures periodically, watching me go to bed later and later every day until finally my circadian rhythms are in tune only with certain Asia Pacific time zones. I find myself in this situation periodically, and in particular around this time of the year. My remedy for has always been the same, stay up and then go to bed “early” the next night, same as you do when traveling to or from the Eurasian continent. I’m an odd duck, what can I tell you.

To pass the hours of the wolf, I packed up my old kit bag – and smiled – while heading into Manhattan via the 7 line subway, which was subsequently debarked at Grand Central Terminal. From there, I headed in a diagonal direction towards my eventual rendezvous with a package that was waiting for me at the camera shop. In the meantime, I got busy with the clicking and the whirring.

That’s the main NYPL library building on 5th Avenue pictured above, quite obviously, at about 4:30 in the morning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The garment district seems to be the spot in Midtown where the gendarmes are tolerating homeless encampments, curbside buggerers, madmen, junk fiends, and a generally lawless state of affairs to exist during the overnight hours. It looks a great deal like the 1980’s around these parts at 4:30 in the morning. Good times, the De Blasio era, good times.

If you’re interested in becoming the Mayor of New York City in the next cycle, my advice to you is to run as a Republican espousing a harsh return to law and order policies, and an unleashing of the NYPD. Say “see what happens when these people are in charge?” Announce your candidacy in eastern Brooklyn, not on Staten Island, and mention the endemic smell of weed a few times. Throw in bike lane abolition, too and you’re gold. Present your self as the “Antidote to De Blasio and his crew of clueless limousine liberals,” talk about his reckless spending, his coddling of criminals, and the sort of endemic corruption you get when a single political party controls both the legislative and executive branches of a municipal (or any) government.

Here’s my prediction for who our next Mayor will be – Unnamed Republican. Also, the above does not represent my personal belief system for how NYC should operate, it instead points out the simplest possible strategy for becoming the Mayor after Bill De Blasio heads off to run for either Emperor of China or Sultan of the Ottomans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My scuttle carried me from the Garment District ever westward and slightly south, whereupon I discovered that a particular corner in midtown Manhattan had been anointed with a couple of those solar powered garbage cans.

Unlike the coal and petroleum powered garbage cans of prior years, these solar powered ones only pollute during their manufacturing process. As you might discern from the shot above, however, the failings of the solar powered garbage can are excaberated at night, because solar.

Without either an internal combustion engine or the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself powering the thing, how can a garbage can hope to can garbage?


“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 31, 2019 at 11:00 am

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