The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn

furnace tendings

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Banal pedantry, Newtown Creek, and the Feds – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ever since the Simpsons movie came out a few years back, whenever the subject of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency comes up, Our Lady of the Pentacle begins to shout out “EEPAH, EEPAH, EEPAH.” Given the amount of time I spend at, on, and around Newtown Creek – Our Lady oft finds herself repeating “EEPAH, EEPAH, EEPAH.”

Last week, one found himself out in the rain with the EPA Superfund team. We were trying to help them site a series of warning signs, which will be installed at the handful of Newtown Creek “public access” spots which are hidden along the bulkheads and visited by anglers or lookie loos (that includes you kids from Apollo Street), signage whose missive would advise against the catching of or consumption of the fish who populate the lugubrious and heavily polluted depths of the Newtown Creek. “EEPAH,” indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The EPA team requested counsel on the placement of their signage from the Newtown Creek Alliance Project Manager – Will Elkins – who asked me to come along as well. We accompanied”EEPAH” on a somewhat grand tour of the Newtown Creek, hitting a bunch of spots where either Will or myself had seen people fishing over the years. The Feds figured out where they place their signage, marked stuff down, and generally did “EEPAH” stuff. I did my thing too.

Whilst at the Brooklyn side Maspeth Avenue street end, the tug Mary H. was spotted.

Mary H. services the Bayside brand oil tanks you’ll notice adjoins the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, barging in bulk product which is then distributed to their end customers via heavy truck. The amazing part of this – and it is somewhat amazing – is that the Bayside distribution facility is about 3.1 miles back from the East River, at the border of industrial Maspeth and Bushwick East Williamsburg.

Tugboats, barging cargo three entire miles into Brooklyn – it boggles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Metropolitan Avenue was formerly known as the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike, and it connected Newtown in Queens with the Eastern District of Brooklyn – Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint. The crossing of Grand and Metropolitan was also one of the stops on the New York and Manhattan Beach Railroad, its depot would have found at the foot of Greenpoint’s Quay Street in 1912.

The Brooklyn side of Maspeth Avenue follows the northern path of the Maspeth Toll Bridge Co.’s Plank Road, and I was standing on what was once known as Furman’s Island while I was shooting the Mary H. tug. The Plank Road bridge last crossed the Newtown Creek in 1875, during the Presidential Administration of Ulysses S. Grant. Connecting the colonial communities of Maspeth and Newtown via the hellish expanse of Furmans Island (home to Peter Cooper’s Glue Factory, Conrad Wissel’s Night Soil and Offal Dock, and Kalbfleisch and sons, amongst other notorious or malodorous occupants), the Plank Road today exists as a destination for Newtown Creek devotees and fetishists. Also, the Feds.

On the Queens or Maspeth side, Newtown Creek Alliance has a major shoreline rehabilitation project underway, which is being run by the aforementioned Will Elkins. There’ll be a “Don’t eat the fish” sign there too.

“EEPAH.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 5, 2016 at 11:00 am

utmost gravity

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Greenpoint cat, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m taking a short break this week, and offering single images of the Internet’s favorite critter. These are all ferals, encountered in the nooks and crannies of NYC which I wander through. Have a great Thanksgiving.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

hapless youth

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English Kills cat, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m taking a short break this week, and offering single images of the Internet’s favorite critter. These are all ferals, encountered in the nooks and crannies of NYC which I wander through. Have a great Thanksgiving.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

loathsome laughing

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Anxiety is my anti-drug, as is malingering.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ever drink too much coffee? Caffeine-induced anxiety disorder is a subclass of the DSM-5 diagnosis of substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder (DSM-5 is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, which is the bible of mental health providers in the United States, and our associates). It manifests in the form of panic attacks and generalized anxiety. Caffeine will be absorbed almost entirely into the blood stream in about forty five minutes, and it has a half life of two and a half to four and half hours in normal adults. It generally makes people somewhat antagonistic, which explains a lot about the morning rush hour, by my reckoning.

It’s a vasoconstrictor, which is why it wakes people up and also causes them to poop. If you drink enough coffee, you can develop a cardiac arrhythmia, insomnia, and experience mood fluctuations. If you’re on medications like Xanax, or have anti-anxiety prescriptions for drugs such as benzodiazepines, caffeine can chemically interact with them in bad ways.

I’ve always been positively paranoid about cell necrosis and cytotoxicity, as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Full of shame, living in squalor, hoarding animals, and generally feeling apathetic about the whole shebang? You might suffer from Diogenes syndrome, therefore. Named for a minimalist Greek scholar who lived in a jar and masturbated in public, it’s also known as “senior squalor syndrome.” Diogenes was a cynic, which also used to be a “thing,” but I’m not sure how the masturbation figured into things. Yuck.

The world is a scary place, so much so that some people suffer from Encopresis – a psychological and physical condition wherein you hold onto your poop until the inevitable occurs and you need a new pair of pants. A common remedy for being in an excited state would be to pour out an alcoholic drink and “get a hold of yourself,” but then you’re dancing with Korsakoff’s syndrome as well. Even a waking life lived poorly is preferable to those unavoidable spells which come upon me wherein I pass out and hallucinate.

I like to read the DSM-5 at the witching hour, around three o’clock in the morning, whilst standing wet and naked with my feet immersed in a tub of iced salt water, staring at myself in the bathroom mirror. Sometimes, I’ll quaff a glass of boiling hot gin while doing so. You gotta do what you gotta do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often, one wonders if he is lost in some Oneirophrenic trance, but I’ve never abused Ibogaine, at least to my knowledge. As mentioned earlier in the week, two gentlemen of the street were having a conversation about some blood drinking reptilian specie whom the Bush family are a part of which I overheard – which made me wonder if perhaps the DEP is adding Ibogaine in the water, and we’re all just collectively dreaming all of this distopia of ours. What is real? Personally, I’ve never been much for the screaming type of madness, as I’m more of a whimperer, but I have been pricing out “the end is nigh” sandwich boards. So far, Amazon has the best price, but I’m trying to spend money locally and support the small businesses of Queens rather than national retailers. 

Back to my tub of ice water and the glass of scalding hot gin…


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

gray cottage

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The night time is the right time, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pedantic banality of my daily existence is occasionally punctuated by a series of rather dull events, and last weekend this included a trip to Greenwood Cemetery for Atlas Obscura’s “Into the Veil” party. It actually wasn’t that dull, as everybody else actually seemed to be having a good time, but the blackened callouses coating my psyche preclude one such as myself from feeling anything other numb.

I’m all ‘effed up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite my best efforts at erecting emotional and behavioral barricades around myself, I do have a few friends and they were along for the excursion, and unfortunately my attempts at maintaining a social life got in the way of actuating the camera mechanisms with the anticipated and normal frequency.

Despite this, I did manage to crack out a few shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Into the Veil” is an Atlas Obscura signature event, and brings hundreds of people to Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery (est. 1838) for what can best described as a decadent party. There are bands, and bars, and performances. Above, a group of fire dancers performing at the Crescent Lake found on the northwest side of the polyandrion. It’s a 30 second exposure, and the streaks of fire seem to forming an occult sigil.

It’s all so depressing, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the far north western side of the cemetery is a rather large MTA facility which is both a train yard and a bus depot. The MTA uses harsh sodium based “stadium lights” to illuminate their property which throws an orange glow about for hundreds of yards in every direction, and it penetrates deeply into the fuligin shadows of Greenwood Cemetery where the night gaunts dance about in remembrance of the olden times.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 18, 2016 at 11:30 am

worldly affairs

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More adventures with the new lens, the Sigma 50-100 f1.8.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior posts, I recently acquired a new lens which I’ve been running around the City and using profusely in the hope of learning its ways. This is one of those posts where I pull back the curtain and talk about how, exactly, I shoot the photos which have populated the better than 2,000 posts published at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

The shot above was captured recently at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and well after dark. It was captured hand held with the lens wide open at f1.8, and the camera set to 1/50th of a second and the ISO sensitivity at 6400. Needless to say, it was quite dark, and that I was in the Navy Yard legally. That’s the actual color of the light, incidentally. The new lens is a real performer in this kind of setting, and there’s enough “brains” chipped into it that I was able to use it on autofocus rather than manual setting despite the low light. Those “army sniper” body posture techniques which I’ve mentioned in the past really come in handy when you’re trying to shoot something at under 1/100th of a second shutter speed. One of those “sniper techniques” is to squeeze the trigger after exhaling, for instance, as your body is steadier when in between breaths than during.

In my experience, 1/50th is the absolute lower limit for steadying handheld shots, which is due to my age and particular physiology. Younger and steadier people might be able to pull off 1/30th, but that’s right around where your pulse begins to interfere with the capture process and you’ve entered tripod territory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Sigma 50-100 performs admirably in daylight as well, the shot above depicting a train in Queens Plaza was captured at ISO 400, f5.6, and at 1/640th of a second. Color rendition from Sigma’s art series lens family is always a bit oversaturated and garish, which – as I’ve said in the past is something I quite like – but I do find myself dialing the saturation back a bit when developing the daylight shots I gather with it.

The Sigma is HEAVY, weighing in at almost four pounds, incidentally. It’s quite a workout lugging the thing around for the 3-4 hour photowalk sessions I normally engage in, and for the first couple of weeks I was carrying it around with me my “carry arm” was quite sore when I arrived back home. While discussing the weight of the thing with my pal “Mumbly Joe the Union Insulator” at the local pub here in Astoria, who carries a massive tool kit around with him, he proferred that whenever you add a new tool to your kit it always feels like you’ve added a cinder block to your bag, but eventually you get used to it. At least that’s what I think he said, like I said – Mumbly Joe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This somewhat sad shot of a Barbie brand bicycle lying astride the rocky shoreline of Hells Gate, in Astoria, was captured at 1/320th of a second shutter speed, at f5.6, and at ISO 200. It was also shot with the Sigma, and there’s a gnarly set of circumstances herein to capture – due to those bright white tires and the super saturated magentas of the bike coupled with the reflective translucency of the water. There’s a bunch of different exposure parameters at work in that photo, which form the compromises of the exposure triangle presented above.

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

never cease

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Out on the water with the Working Harbor Committee, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion was billed as presenting “Brooklyn waterfront, past and present” and I was on the microphone for a good stretch of the trip. I was sharing the narration duty with my pal, Capt. Margaret Flanagan of the Waterfont Alliance organization, who I told point blank before the trip started that once the boat got past Red Hook “I got nothing.” Not a problem for Capt. Flanagan at all, as her able narration and vast knowledge of all things NY Harbor allowed me to slip away from the proverbial pulpit and shoot a few photos.

One bad thing about being one of the tour leaders for these excursions is that it has really cut into the amount of time I have to shoot, and since I’m Working Harbor’s official photographer – this has created a shortage of photos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A full harvest moon rose while we were out, and the shot above was captured while our vessel – a NY Waterways ferry – was plying the rippling surface of Gowanus Bay in South Brooklyn. As is often opined, the best times of year in NYC for photography are in the late spring and early fall, when the angle of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself in relation to the City is quite efficacious. Obviously, these shots were captured at sunset and dusk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a tremendous desire to just get out on a boat and shoot for hours and hours during these intervals, and record the glorious parade of maritime industrial splendor out on the sixth borough. I took the East River Ferry to Manhattan’s Pier 11 from LIC to meet the Working Harbor chartered vessel in the City, but since the ER Ferry service concludes its schedule in the early evening, one was forced to enter the sweating concrete bunkers of the Subway system to get back to almond eyed Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At 59th street, one encountered this fellow, who seemed intent on blowing his own horn.

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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