The Newtown Pentacle

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My beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting thing about night time tripod based photos, which take fairly long intervals to capture, is that you become quite familiar with traffic patterns on area bridges. One was out fairly late on a Sunday night recently, shooting from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and attempting to execute the shot above in between traffic light signal rotations. Finding a twenty five second interval, even forty minutes after midnight on a Sunday night, in which a heavy truck or MTA Bus is not crossing the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge and causing it to shake, vibrate, or heave… is a challenge.

There were about six shots on my camera card previous to the one above which were ruined by the sudden appearance of a speeding garbage truck, bus, or oil delivery semi and their somewhat seismic effect on the bridge. Such is life, I suppose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Things were a bit quieter back on Greenpoint’s Apollo Street, the titular epicenter and official discovery point of the Greenpoint Oil Spill. Once upon a time, this was the dividing point between two of Standard Oil’s refinery facilities (both of which later became a part of Mobil), but today it’s just a wasted little street end defined by a former BP Amoco and now Kinder Morgan petroleum distribution tank farm. The eastern side of the street is owned by the Manhattan/Empire Beverage Distribution company, a warehouse based operation that accomplishes the holy task of stocking NYC’s bars and liquor stores with product.

I’ve never met the Empire Beverage people, but I’d personally like to thank them for facilitating my life long love of degeneracy and for several besotted episodes of happiness that have punctuated my otherwise miserable existence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, at night, the sections of the Newtown Creek industrial zone where you’d expect things to be buzzing 24 hours a day are rather quite peaceful. It’s basically you and hundreds of feral kitties back here. There are weird moving shadows you’ll spot out of the corner of your eye snaking along the rooftops, which are often accompanied by a chittering sound that I do not like, but the less said about that the better.

There are some things you do not want to say too much, or know anything about, quite frankly.


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dusty shelves

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East River in the dark.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was invited to a holiday party in Lower Manhattan the other night, and a humble narrator fairly abhors holiday parties, but the reason I went was to “show my face” and then excuse myself so I could do some shooting. The party was lovely, filled with friends old and new whom I enjoy both working and personal relationships with. Thing is, and I have to remind myself of this periodically, I don’t belong amongst people. Every minute that I’m not out and about shooting is a waste of my time, essentially, but since there is a part of me that could still be considered human you need to “feed the beast” occasionally. Allowing what’s left of my soul a bit of convivial solace and warmth periodically is as necessary as eating meals or pooping, essentially, but when you really get down to it none of that personal stuff matters. Everybody dies, moves away, or just writes you off in the end and all that really matters is the work. Everybody secretly (or not so secretly) hates me anyway, and it’s always a relief for them to see me walking away into the dark.

Accordingly, one bundled up his filthy black overcoat and set off into the nighted streets of the Shining City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The House of Moses is what I call the East River shoreline of lower Manhattan, which in recent years has seen a spartan park appear beneath Robert Moses’ grandiose FDR Drive. My singular superpower is the ability to see through time, which makes the POV in any shots captured along this byway depressing. Once upon, and long ago, this was one of the busiest maritime centers upon the planet, the destination of hundreds of thousand of ships. Today it’s a relic, a waterfront curiosity for lookie loos, and a window into the short term thinking of an era defined by terminologies like “stagflation.”

Pictured above is one of the remaining sandy beaches along the East River, and the only one I know about in this part of Manhattan. I called a couple of people I know who would be able to tell me exactly how many sandy beaches there are on the East River, as a note, but in both cases my call went directly to voicemail. That happens a lot to me these days, which sort of confirms the dire portent and bleak future thing currently embraced by one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Manhattan Bridge on the left, and the Brooklyn Bridge on the right in the shot above. For some incomprehensible reason, the FDR Drive framing the shot has recently been painted purple. I’m not quite sure about the choice of coloration, as in why they chose purple, but it’s probably a De Blasio thing (does purple equate to equity, or fairness, or just some other high handed and sanctimonious bullshit?). At least they didn’t use LED lights to saturate the atmosphere with garishly colored lighting.

As a note, it was freaking freezing out when I was shooting these, but the dissolute cold felt welcoming and mirrored that psychological and emotional vacuum which a humble narrator calls life.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

professional duty

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Friggin Wednesdays…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One suspects that this will be a seldom read post, given that the vast majority of New Yorkers will be going somewhere else today. I plan on staying in Astoria, just to defend the neighborhood against burglars and sneak thiefs.

I also plan on walking out into the concrete devastations of Newtown Creek a few times, in pursuance of more nocturnal shots like the ones in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The City has been replacing its street light heads with cold colored LED luminaires in recent years, which are meant to provide brighter and more directed light onto roadways. The State is still using the old school sodium lights which produce a warm yellow-orange light.

A humble narrator is often fascinated by the spots where these two different colors of artificial light mix, as in the case of the shots above which is in DULIE – Down Under the Long Island Expressway – here in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As it happened, when I surmounted the Pulaski Bridge in pursuance of gathering a shot from the span (a photo which was unfortunately blurry due to the transmitted vibrations of passing traffic), workers from the NYC DOT Bridges unit shooed me back along the walkway so that they could safely open the draw bridge for a passing tugboat.

Wasn’t that nice of them?


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mechanically performed

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What I’m doing, while you’re asleep.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given my particularly nocturnal activities of late, it was a shock to the system when I had to arrive at an assignment on the Greenpoint/Williamsburg border yesterday at 7:30 in the morning. It’s been quite common for the last couple of weeks for me to be retiring to the bed at about 4:30-5 a.m. after returning from scuttles about the Newtown Creek with an image packed camera card. Seldom have I been out that late, rather, I’ll get back to HQ sometime just after midnight and then sit down to handle the developing process on the freshly minted pixels.

Pictured above is the Grand Street Bridge as seen from one of the two arms of the East Branch tributary of Newtown Creek. One of the things I find “neat” about these night shots, long exposures all, are details which the limitations of human night vision occluded while in the field. Those whitish gray arcing streaks in the water are reflected light coming from the scales of fishes in the water, which were invisible to the naked eye.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit further up the Newtown Creek, this time along the English Kills tributary, and the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is in focus. This sort of shot is possible only because of my long sought knowledge of every possible point of view on the waterway, which I’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of hours walking around when the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is bobbing about in the sky. That’s why I’d recommend not attempting these sorts of shots “cold,” since daylight observations have revealed to me all the spots where various urban snares and dead falls into the water can be found.

In the case of the shot above, the shoreline surrounding the bridge is decidedly unstable, with soils that are subsiding into the water and held together only by tree roots and subsurface pipes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Safe as houses, that’s how I’d describe the location this (rare for me) vertically oriented shot of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge was gathered, at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road site. As above, so below, at the Newtown Creek.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve come to detest the LED lighting used on this and many other structures in modernity. This system of lighting creates an out of gamut series of colors, are far too bright, and give an otherwise nicely apportioned bridge the appearance of a garish Greek coffee shop back here in Astoria.


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adhered to

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Grand Street Bridge, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, no, I won’t be talking about Amazon HQ yet. Suffice to say that everybody I know is talking about the news co-announced today by the Dark Prince of Albany and the Dope from Park Slope that the internet giant will be based in LIC at future superfund site Anable Basin, but at this point in time I don’t have enough information about the plan to speak intelligently about its ramifications. Instead, a few night time shots of the venerable Grand Street Bridge connecting Maspeth with East Williamsburgh/Bushwick are on offer.

People argue with me about the Bushwick thing all the time, claiming that the section of Grand Street between Newtown Creek and Vandervoort Street is either Greenpoint or “East Williamsburgh,” to which I respond that it’s not. East Williamsburgh does have historical precedent, but it’s a term popularized by real estate interests. According to the old Ward maps of pre consolidation NYC (prior to 1898), Greenpoint ends at Meeker Avenue which is nearly a mile to the west of Grand Street. Yes, Greenpoint Hospital is indeed in Bushwick. Remember that “Bushwick” is synonymous with 1960’s racial unrest, 1970’s era riots, and a 1980’s crime hotspot during the Crack Wars to certain generations (Ridgewood residents fought like wildcats to have their own zip code that they didn’t share with their Bushwick neighbors, for instance, as their home and car insurance rates were higher than they should have been due to endemic crime). When gentrification came to North Brooklyn, “Bushwick” was not a “desirable brand,” hence the Real Estate Industrial Complex popularized the “East Williamsburgh” moniker for this area instead. That’s changed now, and Bushwick is now a “hot” neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is paying a bit more attention to the Grand Street Bridge these days than formerly, as the NYC Department of Transporation has announced their intention to replace it with a more modern structure purpose built to handle current traffic needs. The current Grand Street Bridge is the 1903 model, and the third iteration of a crossing between Brooklyn and Queens on this spot. The section of Newtown Creek it crosses is considered a tributary, and it’s called “The East Branch.”

Once upon a time, the East Branch flowed into Ridgewood, where it was fed by freshwater streams and springs trickling down the “ridge” which you’ll discern when walking along Onderdonk Avenue and other eastern destinations. Ridgewood is the beginning of actual geologic rock formations, with all the land west of it being elluvial fill deposited by glacial and riverine flooding. That’s why the zones around Newtown Creek are so flat, if you were wondering. The actual terminal morraine of Long Island begins a bit to the north east at Mount Olivette Cemetery, in proper Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been attempting to get as much night shooting around Newtown Creek in as possible before the weather turns bitter cold, which is why you’ve been seeing so much of it lately. I’ve been noticed by a few people wandering around the concrete devastations with a ridiculous yellow safety vest draped over the filthy black raincoat, setting up the tripod and all the other necessary gear needed for the pursuit. With the exception of few encounters with bored but zealous security guards, it’s been a fairly solitary pursuit, although in a couple of locations I opted to bring somebody along with me to watch my back. Frequent commenter and persistent curmudgeon Don Cavaioli was with me at English Kills last week, for instance, but for the shots in yesterday and today’s posts I was on my own.

I’ve been asked about personal security by a few people, but it’s not something I worry too much about. My biggest safety concerns have been centered around not getting squished by a truck, or snapping my ankle on a hidden sinkhole or fallen branch while picking my way around in the dark. If I had to call 911 for help in an emergency, I’d likely have a devil of a time describing where I am to them as I don’t think “Maspeth Plank Road” or “former Phelps Dodge” is necessarily reflected in the municipal system. My plan for such an eventuality would actually involve first calling one of my colleagues at Newtown Creek Alliance, beseeching them to aid in sending rescuers to a humble narrator.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 14, 2018 at 11:00 am

public sentiment

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#twotondeathmachines

– photos by Mitch Waxman

“Two Ton Death Machines” is the term which the bicycle fanatics use when discussing automobiles and their murder happy drivers. If I played guitar and was starting a metal band, Two Ton Death Machine would be what I called the outfit, and my first album would be called #CARNAGE. C’est la vie.

The big project I’ve been alluding to for the last several months, which has been actually been distracting me for more than a year, is beginning to come to fruition. This involves the pulling together of tens of thousands of disparate photos, separating them by typology and subject matter, and then stringing them together into some sort of coherent form. The “Cool Cars” YouTube video above is one of the initial attempts. I’d love to put some sort of soundtrack to it, but as mentioned above, I’m no musician. If any of you are, and would be interested in riffing a track for me to include (I’ve got zero $) I wouldn’t say no.

I’m going to figure out how to include narration on forthcoming videos, as a note, but for now there’s no audio – so, be very quiet, the two ton death machines and their death hungry drivers are rolling about and hunting human victims to squish into the pavement and they might hear you. #vrooom


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 7, 2018 at 11:00 am

adduces many

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Hello, sweetie, it’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent afternoon’s excursion to South Brooklyn and the Bush Terminal area in Sunset Park saw a humble narrator sitting in the passenger seat of my pal Val’s car as we inched through heavy traffic on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Val is a photographer as well, and as we were riding along she revealed that her car had a sunroof. Out came the camera as we approached the ongoing construction site of the Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement.

We were driving, of course, on the completed first phase of the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a weird perspective on this particular spot, where not two years ago I was standing around with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams waiting for an inspection tour of the project to start. We were all done up in hard hats and orange vests. A little over a year ago, this is pretty much the spot I was shooting from when Governor Cuomo cut the ribbon for the thing. My memory bank includes several bizarre experiences, it should be mentioned.

Walking on the BQE with a Congresswoman, Borough President, or the Governor is one. Another is walking through a subway tunnel with MTA brass, and others include walking on the roadways of the Queensboro and Manhattan bridges for extended stretches. Really, the last decade has been odd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Traffic was moving, albeit slowly, and while moving along I continued with the “spray and technique” system of image capture. That’s when you set your exposure and point the camera in the general direction of something and start depressing the shutter release button over and over in a somewhat blind fashion. I’m kind of sorta looking through the diopter, but the camera isn’t pressed against my face in the normal fashion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, one of my little quirks involves saying hello to Newtown Creek whenever I’m passing over it in a car, something close friends and our Lady of the Pentacle are quite used to. Val chuckled a bit while operating the vehicle as I intoned “hello, sweetie, it’s me. I’ll see you later, as I’m going to visit your sister Gowanus today.”

Hey, if you got as little love as Newtown Creek does, you’d appreciate it if somebody took notice of you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There she is!

I cannot describe how much I’m looking forward to the photo opportunities that the completed K-Bridge project will offer, as the pedestrian and bike lanes will be pretty much be offering this paricticular view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We crossed over the Creek and into infinite Brooklyn, where we hit a continuing traffic jam that lasted all the way to Sunset Park. More on what me and my pal Val saw in South Brooklyn next week, as this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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