The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

morbid shade

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A long overdue visit to Calvary Cemetery, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Consecrated by Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes in 1848, who personally conducted the first interment (of literally millions) here in LIC’s Calvary Cemetery, this was and is the primary burying ground of the Roman Catholic Church in NYC. That first funeral was for an Irish immigrant named Esther Ennis, who is said to have died of a broken heart at her flat on Manhattan’s Clinton Street. Pictured above and below are views of the original part of the RC Church’s sprawling funereal complex, the “Saint Calixtus” or “First Calvary” division, found in the Blissville section of Long Island City. There are three other sections of Calvary, which are found nearby in the neighboring community of Woodside to the east. That large dome poking up through the bare tree limbs in the shot above is the Almirall Chapel, built in 1908.

The dome is forty feet across, eighty eight feet tall, and is capped by a statue of Christ the Redeemer created by a sculptress named Merro Beatrice Wilson. Ms. Wilson’s gender is mentioned for a reason, as it’s a pretty extraordinary thing for the Roman Catholic Church of that era to have handed out such a prominent assignment to a female artist. Conversely, the New York Archdiocese of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a very different organization than it is now, politically speaking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the second half of the 19th century, it was not uncommon for Calvary Cemetery to handle anywhere between fifty and one hundred funerals a day. The chaplain of the cemetery, named Reverend Hennessy, lived in a house found on the northeastern side of the grounds along with his staff – who were apparently monks and young priests.

Hennessy is also buried at the cemetery he devoted himself to, incidentally. His monument is white marble, adorned with delicate carvings depicting his priestly vestments. The monument hasn’t weathered well, what with the acidic rain and industrial pollutants produced by nearby factories found along the notorious Newtown Creek. Generally, marble in Calvary looks like melting ice cream, whereas granite seems to be fairly invulnerable to the atmospherics.

Fashions come and go. Hemlines, sideburns, hairstyles etc. Same thing occurs with mortuary architecture. A fad or fashion which seems, evidentiary speaking, to have occurred between the 1870’s and about 1900 was to erect enormous obelisk markers for subterrene family tombs. There’s a plane of these obelisks, right in the center of the place. Hawks like to hang out on them, waiting for rabbits to pop up from underground hidey-holes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking roughly westward, towards Manhattan. You can just see Newtown Creek and the Pulaski Bridge peeking out from above the memorial stones. This particular section of the cemetery has been used as the set for dozens and dozens of television and movie funerals. Vito Corleone’s funeral happened to the east of this spot, nearby the Johnston Memorial, but this is where Spider Man’s Uncle Ben, Batman’s parents… i can’t even begin to list them all.

By the way – Is it just me, or has the Manhattan skyline been utterly screwed up forever by Hudson Yards and that monstrosity going up behind the Chrysler Building?


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 10, 2019 at 11:00 am

summoned something

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Blissville, baby, Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the “have to’s” last week, mentioned yesterday, was to help a friend and sometimes colleague – who is both an ornithological enthusiast and a professional advocate for the feathered population of New York City – around a certain cemetery in Blissville which a humble narrator has grown quite familiar with. A “birding” expedition was in the offing, and one offered to help her with a good pathway through the place which would visit places where I had observed flocking occur in the past.

As is my habit, the camera was deployed for action. Observe above: the pavement along Review Avenue, which is meant for both bikes and pedestrians to use… I have got to get one of those “Game of Thrones” style shame bells, man.

Shame… DING… NYC DOT… DING… Shame…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was cooling my heels waiting for my friend to show up, the usual Newtown Creek/DUGABO/Greenpoint Avenue Bridge traffic madness was unfolding. The shot above depicts two television prop cars. You can tell they’re tv props, as the NYPD cruiser is designated as “27th pct.” There isn’t a 27th pct., except on TV, and it’s the one that the “Law and Order” family of shows is based in.

This is about the time my friend showed up, so we headed off to the cemetery to forge a path for her ornithological type pursuits.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Y’know what? It’s been a really, really long time since I’ve been in Calvary Cemetery, here in LIC’s Blissville section, alongside that fabulous cataract of municipal neglect known to all the children of Brooklyn and Queens as the lugubrious Newtown Creek. It’s also been a long time since I wrote a sentence in that manner.

Y’know what else? June of this year, the Newtown Pentacle will be ten years old.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

careful be

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Randomly wandering around Sunnyside, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week was one of those where my calendar was absolutely packed with “have to’s” and one found himself constantly scuttling from place to place. Given that a significant chunk of my “have to’s” involved Newtown Creek and that I live in Astoria, that meant that the way home inevitably meant transiting through the Sunnyside and Sunnyside Gardens sections of Queens.

I’m led to believe that the cabling rig pictured above is the property of either Verizon or Spectrum, and one or the other is installing upgraded data cabling for high speed internet service. As a note, the Community Board people in Sunnyside insisted – many years ago – that these wired connections be installed in the neighborhood in a subterranean manner, which is why you don’t see the ugly and “willie nillie” tangle of airborne data and phone wires witnessed in other parts of Queens in Sunnyside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYC EDC team who are working on the ill conceived Sunnyside Yards Deck have adjured repeatedly that the revised planning for their Death Star will require the deck to be no more than three stories above current street grade, contradicting the feasibility report they created a few years ago. In fact, they’ve said they’re “throwing the feasibility study out” and we should just ignore it.

Ok, but that’s two million smackers of tax payer money you’re throwing out, and let’s do a bit of imagining based on what you’re seeing in the shot above. This section would be relatively unchanged on the east side of 43rd street, where the LIRR is transiting above those one story garages. Figure that the train represents a second story, and that the signal boards above the tracks are roughly the third story. That’s the height of the deck? Only three stories? What about the fifteen to thirty story tall luxury apartment houses on top of the thing of the sort you see in the distance?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Patrick “Battle Axe” Gleason, the last mayor of Long Island City, left us warnings back in 1898 to not trust the Manhattan people’s intentions for Queens. He predicted that they would empty their island of the stinking factories and workhouses, and turn Queens into a charnel house of rendering plants, industrial chimneys, and gas refineries. That’s what started happening in the early 20th century. Ever since, whenever they get a bright idea over at City Hall, where they want to try it out is in Queens.

Stand up, speak out. Just say no.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 8, 2019 at 1:00 pm

feral degenerate

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Just a single shot today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one is from a couple of weeks ago, which was the last time I managed to find the time to crawl around LIC at night with the tripod and night kit. It’s been a particularly cantankerous week for a humble narrator, this past one. Had to be everywhere with everyone all the time. Worked on multiple Newtown Creek oriented things, did a whole lot of LIC/Queens politicking stuff, and managed to give my little dog Zulu a good and thorough amount of scratching when she demanded it.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 5, 2019 at 1:30 pm

absolute possession

with 2 comments

I’d love to fly somewhere, but I got nowhere to go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A last few shots from my ferry trip last week are on offer today. One of the interesting things about the Soundview Ferry route is that it crosses right under the LaGuardia Airport approaches for jets. That means you get to see passenger planes descending towards you with their wheels deployed, which is something that you don’t get to see very often without getting to meet the folks at Homeland Security.

As a note, I’ve never liked the moniker “Homeland Security” as it stinks of authoritarian and fascist terminology. Fatherland, Motherland, Homeland… language which propagates an “us and them” mentality, which is the sort of mentality that resulted in this whole “permanent terrorism” threat and “forever war” dealie in the first place. It’s also a lot harder to talk rationally about “abolishing ICE” if you present it as the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement norms. I advocate for changing the operational orders of these two monolithic organizations, modernizing our immigration system, and spending giant buckets of cash on customs, which are all necessary and wise investments in the future.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve had a weird experience during this very busy first week of April, which is that I’ve been around a lot of people who actually like me. This blows the whole self perceived “hated and shunned outsider” thing. It is necessary for my personal immigration and customs enforcement, as well as my self perception that my psychological “ID” continually reminds my “EGO” that everybody actually hates me and that parties will be thrown when I’m no longer walking the planet.

To that end, I’ve been a wise cracking asshole every chance I get, hoping to make people hate me again. It doesn’t seem to be working. I just got the letter Monday from the Borough President’s office that I’ve been appointed to the local Community Board here in Astoria. No, really.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the dock at Rikers Island in the shot above. Just beyond is the former Politti Power Plant, and the Hell Gate Bridge, and the Manhattan skyline. Seriously, I’d recommend taking a ride on the Soundview route of the NYC Ferry, it’s super interesting and takes you to a seldom travelled part of NY Harbor. On June 15th, you’ll be able to ride this ferry route with me, but I’ll tell you about that outing at a later date.

Scroll down for a couple of announcements for public stuff I’ve got going at the end of April. “It doth begin again,” tour season does.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 4, 2019 at 1:00 pm

terrible movement

with one comment

A bit more on the tugboat scene.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Boy oh boy, it’s like the old days at Newtown Pentacle lately, huh? Tugboats, tugboats, tugboats… That’s a Bouchard articulated tug and barge combo motoring along under the Bronx Whitestone Bridge. This tug is heading out of the Westchester Creek inlet section of the East River and heading towards Manhattan. That’s the Throgs Neck Bridge behind the tug and Bronx Whitestone in the lower third of the shot. Both bridges were designed by the great Othmar Amman.

This is the view from the NYC Ferry’s Soundview landing, in the Bronx, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few years ago, I was seemingly obsessed with photographing tugs. Whereas I’m still drawn to the subject, and remain utterly fascinated by all things maritime industrial, there’s really only so many ways to shoot and frame a tug shot. Additionally, a few of my friends with whom I shared this fascination for towing vessels have passed away in recent years, and it feels sort of weird and not as much fun to be the “last man standing.” Used to be that shots like these would get sent around in late night emails to my little cadre of fellow enthusiasts, who would in turn send what they got that particular day to me.

Such is life, and death, in the big city – I suppose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is having a furiously busy week roll through the calendar as you’re reading this. Yesterday, I got to interact with some highly placed people at NYC DOT regarding the new pathways which will be introduced into Maspeth and Sunnyside by the soon to be finished Kosciuszcko Bridge bike and pedestrian path. One offered them the experiential thing, taking them for a walk around the place. Officialdom knows far more about the streets of NY than any regular person can, but generally they know these things from paper maps, politics, and spreadsheets. “Being there” in the flesh, seeing trucks parked on the broken sidewalks and crossing hazardous intersections, is a whole different thing. Last night, a friend of mine – Pat Dorfman – received the “Sunnysider of the Year” award from the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, so I had to show up and take a pic or two of the awards ceremony. My dogs were barking by the time I got home and settled in on the couch.

As you’re reading this, I’m probably at a polyandrion in Blissville, walking an ornithological enthusiast around. Then, I’ve got a call in meeting at 4… it never ends.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about two events I’m doing with Newtown Creek Alliance at the end of the month – but hold the dates of April 23 and 28th for now.


“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

April 3, 2019 at 11:30 am

alive in

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Things that pull or push other things, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that NYC Ferry trip I mentioned in yesterday’s April Fools post? As it happened, a humble narrator hit a fortuitous moment in terms of river traffic when boarding that particular boat. Everywhere I pointed the lens, there seemed to be something going on. For the curious – this was the Soundview route, which I boarded at East 34th street over in the City, after taking the Astoria line from Hallets Cove to that location.

A few people have asked me (in real life or “meat space”) if I have some sort of relationship with the NYC Ferry people since I keep on mentioning them. The answer is “sort of,” since I do know a couple of people who work at Hornblower through the old NY Harbor crowd. A while back I did a blog post for NYC Ferry about what to do and see nearby their Astoria dock, an effort which I was recompensed for with a free 30 day pass on their boats. That’s pretty much the size of it, except for the taxes we all pay to the City which heavily underwrite the $2.75 fare. I’m just a fare paying passenger, and one who really enjoys getting out on the water – even if it was a particularly cold and blustery March afternoon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted this rather smallish tug at Hells Gate, towing a couple of barges of what looked like either gravel or uncooked asphalt. That’s the Wards/Randalls island combine in the background, the shoreline of which hosts a staggering amount of municipal infrastructure. The NYC DEP has a combination of wastewater and sludge dewatering facilities on the shoreline mirroring Astoria Park, there’s the Hell Gate railroad Bridge and the East River span of the Triborough Bridge complex as well. Just yesterday, I was making plans with a couple of people to spend a day on the Island(s) and get to know the place a bit better.

Used to be two islands, Randalls and Wards, but… y’know… Robert Moses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Coming from the south/west, another tug was spotted transversing Hells Gate. That’s the Astoria Park shoreline, and you can just make out the nascent skyline of LIC’s Court Square neighborhood peeking out over the bare trees behind the bridge. I’ve been told that even with modern vessels, you have to “pick your battles” with the swift currents in this section of the river lest you end up burning up half your fuel supply fighting its ebb and flow.

One time I was sitting in Astoria Park, right alongside the Hell Gate masonry seen above, and taking pics. I started laughing while watching some rich guy in a speedboat gunning his engines against the current, but his boat was just barely holding position agains the incoming flood tide. This isn’t necessarily the case with tugs and other overpowered boats, of course, but fuel costs are what rule the roost in the shipping and towing business. How much you “spend to earn” is where an experienced versus inexperienced crew and scheduler make all the difference. Same thing is true with shipping by rail and trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another fuel barge and tug combination was passed, while the camera’s point of view was looking north westwards over Randalls/Wards Island towards the Little Hell Gate Bridge and the roads leading to Triborough’s toll plazas. Good timing, thought I, as a CSX train set was transiting over the elevated rail tracks connecting to Hell Gate’s East River Arch Bridge (which connect to the NY Connecting Rail Road tracks in Queens) and heading for the Bronx. I think the next stop for the CSX rig will be Owls Head yard in the Bronx, but that’s just a guess.

What do I know? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I had outfitted the camera with zoom lens for the trip. It’s a Sigma, the 18-300 f3.5, which provides the “all in one” functionality needed for this sort of excursion. One thing about the East River and its various tributaries and estuarial bays is that you are going to want to shoot both wide and long, sometimes flipping back and forth several times in just five minutes. Given that you’re on a boat, speedily moving through the water and with all kinds of weird particulates circulating in the air column… you want to limit the number of lens flops you do.

I can recommend the Sigma, btw. I also have and love their 18-35 f1.8.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What was that I was just saying about zooming in?


“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

April 2, 2019 at 11:00 am

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