The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Construction

diminished perceptibly

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Happy Thanksgiving.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a couple of hours spent along the urban corridors surrounding Grand Central Terminal, one acceded to the ideation of “not overdoing it” regarding my broken toe, and began making my way towards the entrances at the western side of Grand Central Terminal in pursuance of boarding a subway which would carry me back to the rolling hills of raven tressed Astoria back in Queens. Along the way, I couldn’t resist cracking out a few more shots.

The one above involved a bit of cheating. It’s actually two exposures blended together, with one set for the Chrysler building and surrounding background and the other for the brightly lit entrance to Grand Central Terminal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a fancy pants skyscraper going up on the corner of Vanderbilt Place and 42nd street, the same one which I’ve been complaining about as ruining the fine silhouette of the Chrysler Building on the Manhattan skyline. As is the case with any construction job, even at night there’s a ton of activity going on.

Since I was about to enter the MTA properties again, and they have fairly iron clad rules about cameras, tripods, and so on… I broke down the kit I’d been using out on the streets and stored it away in my camera bag. The camera was then adorned with the sort of gear which isn’t forbidden by the MTA rules and I headed inside Grand Central Terminal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t resist capturing the cliche phot above, a time exposure which renders anybody not standing perfectly still as a shadowy phantom moving through the frame.

Often will I ponder about this sort of thing. Yes, it’s been done before, and thousands of times at that. Thing is, I haven’t done it before, so should I not do it? Is there nothing to be learned by capturing a familiar and quite “tourist” shot?


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Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

November 28, 2019 at 11:00 am

heavy rumblings

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It’s National Panini Day, in these United States. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this day, in 3,114 B.C.E., the Mayans began their “long count” calendar. Today’s also the day, in 480 B.C.E., that Leonidas and his 300 Spartans finally succumbed at Greece’s Thermopylae to the human wave attacks of the Persian armies of Xerxes. In 1929, Babe Ruth became the first baseball player to achieve 500 career home runs, and in 1972 the United States exited its last combat units from Viet Nam. Today is the day that industrialist Andrew Carnegie died in 1919, the painter Jackson Pollock also kicked the bucket in 1956, and we also lost comedian Robin Williams on this day in 2014. In 1992, the Mall of America opened for business, and in 1965 the Watts riots kicked into gear in Los Angeles.

 Me? I don’t have too much to do today, but it’s going to be a fairly busy weekend. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m planning on checking out the “Queens Anti-Gentrification” march on Saturday afternoon in LIC. What I’ve read about, and offered by, this group doesn’t exactly jibe with reality as I know it, but I figure if somebody is willing to stick their neck out and offer their views and opinions in public you owe it to them to at least listen to what they have to say. So far, I haven’t been a fan of their tactics either, but there you are. After that, I’m hopping on a ferry to Pier 11 in Manhattan, where I’ll be boarding a boat with the Working Harbor Committee. I’ll be sharing the microphone with Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours and we will be talking about the Brooklyn Waterfront’s (Newtown Creek to Sunset Park) “Past, Present, and Future.”

Come with?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll be up early on Sunday to conduct the “Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek” walking tour for Newtown Creek Alliance. This is one of my favorite excursions to conduct, and it tells the story of the oil and energy industries in North Brooklyn from the 1850’s all the way to the present. It also moves through one of the most god awful areas NYC has ever created, so how’s that for a selling point? 

See you Sunday?.


Upcoming Tours and events

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

outspread under

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It’s National Watermelon day, in these United States

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A sense of place is one of the things that I always keep in mind when I’m out shooting around Newtown Creek. Without a glimmer of the skyline, in particular a recognizable silhouette like the Empire State Building, it’s impossible to say if you’re looking at NYC or just some post industrial landscape anywhere in the great American rust belt.

Saying all that, you’ve got to be careful about how much of the frame is filled by iconic architecture like Empire State as the people who own the building zealously defend a theoretical copyright on images in which it appears. If the shot above was to appear in an advertisement, for instance, a fee would need to be negotiated with the building’s management for usage of its image. The Empire State Building is like Brad Pitt or Beyoncé.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been thinking about the ownership of reproduction rights over something that you can’t help but have occupy a certain proportion of shots captured whilst out in public. Back when I was a full time advertising retoucher, one of the most ridiculous assignments I received was to remove any and all identifiable “brands” from a series of stock photos. These photos were going to published in a direct mail offering for a large credit card company serviced by the agency, and the client didn’t want to negotiate with the various brand owners for usage. Therefore, one spent a week or so retouching every logo and identifiable brand image out of shots of Times Square, the Ginza strip, and Picadilly Circus.

The results were bizarre, and looked like something from the second act of a zombie movie, but the client was happy and I got paid… so… victory. I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, since I’ve stepped behind the camera over the last decade or so, a point is made to frame my shots in such a manner as to necessitate as little retouching out of logos and brand marks as possible. As I always say to the creative types – check with the retoucher before the shoot if you want to save yourself a bunch of money.


Upcoming Tours and events

We’re cancelling Saturday the 5th’s Insalubrious Valley tour due to a forecast of scattered thunderstorms with lightning expected.

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

cylcopean blocks

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It’s National Spareribs Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not just having the titular cake, nor the eating of it too, ever seems to satiate the lustful aspirations of the Real Estate Industrial Complex here in Long Island City. Population loading – despite intensifying the looming infrastructure crisis surrounding transit, electrical, and water systems – just continues. The backdrop in the shot above represents a not insignificant number of the approximately 13,000 new apartments added to LIC in the last decade. NYC City Planning is about to unveil a new rezoning plan called the “LIC Core” which will change current regulations and make it legally possible for about another 20,000 apartments to be built. Hospital beds? Not so much.

LIC Core, btw, brings the eastward march of these glass shrouded monstrosities to just within throwing distance of Newtown Pentacle HQ. Couple that with the monstrous Sunnyside Yards development proposal, which would bring half the population of Boulder, Colorado into the mix? As a note, while capturing the shot above, my back was turned to the former Paragon Oil building on 49th avenue and 21st street – once known as the Subway Building and or Queens Borough Hall.

Bugs Bunny, who is another Brooklyn kid, said it best. Batman says it well too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whose fault is all of this runaway development – devoid of some overarching governance plan that demands some municipal payback from these Manhattan based developers that sow and reap hereabouts?

NYC’s real estate economy is not exactly set in the 1970’s anymore, as far as there being a excess of undeveloped land which the City had to beg developers to do something with, offering sweetheart deals with reduced taxes and lots changing hands for a dollar. Why does the Real Estate Industrial Complex still get to operate in the manner that they did during the Koch administration? Why can’t we get a Subway station or a few hospital beds out of them? Who is responsible?

The Mayor, City Planning, Councilmember, or the NYC Economic Development Corporation? The Governor, or the Assembly member, or the State Senator? What about the Congressional Representatives, or the Senators? What about the Borough Presidents? Is it all of them, or is the horrible truth actually that there’s nobody steering the wheel at all?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a related note, I’ve been reading up a bit on the Borough Presidents of Queens recently. Interesting group, and reminsescent of early Norman history.

1) First up was the City Consolidation era BP Frederick Bowley, from 1898-91.

2) “Curly Joe” Cassidy was BP from 1902-05, and the sewer situation on the Queens side of Newtown Creek is pretty much his fault. Cassidy was accused of 47 different counts of financial corruption during his terms, 24 of which were proven but he was never brought to trial. In 1912, however, he did a year in Sing Sing prison for trying to sell a seat on the NY Supreme Court.

3) Joseph Bermel ran as reformer against the corruption of Curly Joe’s administration, and was in office from 1906-1908. He effectively resigned as BP by skipping out of the country – on an ocean liner to Rome – during the lunch break on a day in 1908 that he was testifying in court – at his own corruption trial. BP Bermel’s final statement to tthe press was “I have nothing to say except to leave good luck for my friends and enemies alike.” He died in 1921 in Czechoslovakia.

4) Lawrence Gresser was Borough President of Queens from 1908-11, and was removed from office by the Governor of New York State for abusing the BP office’s power, and for being incompetent.

5) Maurice E. Connolly was BP from 1911-28, and is my 2nd favorite political character in Queens history, after BattleAx Gleason. Connolly resigned in 1928, then brought to trial for a sewer construction graft scandal. He was fined, convicted, and did a one year stretch in prison.

6) Bernard M. Patten stepped into the office for seven months in 1928, filling in for Connolly in the same way that David Patterson filled in for Elliot Spitzer as Governor a few years back. This sort of thing is common in the history of the Broough President’s office in Queens.

7) George U. Harvey was the first Republican Borough President, serving from 1929-41. Harvey was deeply involved with a series of Robert Moses’s projects, but the 1939 Worlds Fair is the one most closely associated with him.

8) James A. Burke put the Borough Presidency back in the hands of the Democrats, and he served from 1942-49 when he resigned the office.

9) Maurice A. FitzGerald was Borough President of Queens from 1950-51, and died of a heart attack while on vacation.

10) Joseph F. Mafera served out the remaining four months of FitzGerald’s term in 1951.

11) James A. Lundy was the last Republican Party Borough President, from 1952-57. He was an energy industry captain, and had a long public career ahead of him after leaving office.

12) James J. Crisona was BP in 1958, a members of the Democrat Party which has claimed the office since. Crisona was a real climber, having previously been elected to the NYS Assembly and Senate, he resigned as Borough President in 1958 and assumed a seat on the NY Supreme Court.

13)  John Thomas (Pat) Clancy stepped into the office from 1959-62, resigning to become a Queens County Surrogate Judge.

14) Mario J. Cariello was Borough President from 1963-8, was a former State Assemblyman, and also resigned to take a position on the NYS Supreme Court.

15) Sidney Leviss was BP from 1969-71, before resigning and following his forebears to the NYS Supreme Court.

16) Donald Manes was BP from 1971-86. In 1986 he was under investigation for various charges when he first attempted to commit suicide in his car. He succeeded in killing himself a few months later, after stabbing himself in the heart with a kitchen knife. As a note, during Manes’s term, a City Charter revision occurred which neutered the power and influence of the Borough Presidents in favor of a “strong Mayor.”

17) Claire Shulman took over the office, and served from 1986-2002. The first female BP title goes to her.

18) Helen M. Marshall came next, and was in office from 2002-13.

19) Melinda Katz was voted into office in 2014.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

thermal valence

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It’s National Vanilla Pudding Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had a just few available minutes last week for perambulation, which I decided to spend wandering around Astoria. It has been a rather busy period for me, with lots and lots of events which saw me either standing in front of cameras instead of behind them (where I belong), or in meetings discussing sobering issues related to either Newtown Creek or the increasingly dire transit situation here in Western Queens. Looming infrastructure crisis notwithstanding, the interests of the real estate industry continue to dominate discourse hereabouts, as you may discern from the shot above.

This is the scene as witnessed across the street from Hallets Cove, where Astoria itself was created – in the dim colonial era past – and where a new series of residential towers will soon rise, thanks to the provocation of a group of politically relevant Manhattan based investors who have decided to tie napkins around their necks and feast at the trough. This is somehow apropo, as the name of “Astoria” was conceived in an vainglorious attempt to garner the favor and investment of Mr. John Jacob Astor – who was himself an 18th century real estate tycoon. Some things never change.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dead things abound in the Newtown Pentacle, skeletonized and worm infested. Metaphorical totems of the community members who can afford housing hereabouts whom are being displaced in the name of creating affordable housing, that’s my high brow and faux intellectual comment on these omnipresent corpses. Of course, who needs to listen to some shmuck with a camera’s opinions about a dead pigeon when there’s money to be made.

The question I always ask the planners, engineers, and developers when they wheel out their grand plans and PowerPoint presentations to Queens, in order to hash off a check box requiring a community presentation is “Where do you live?”. All they know of us, our community, and the local situation is what they know from maps that are spread out on the varnished cabinetry tabletops which are found in the air conditioned offices of lower Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having worked in advertising for many years, one can tell you that there’s certain lines of “copy” which I’ve dreamt of setting. “Please Do Not Climb on the Goats” is one of those lines, and this bit of hilarious signage was observed at the Socrates Sculpture Garden Park on Vernon Blvd. nearby its intersection with Broadway.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 7 p.m.

An hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 22, 2017 at 11:40 am

shingled sides

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It’s National Chiffon Cake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our plan was a simple one, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself. The King of Falafel and Shawarma (aka Freddy), who has been operating out of a food truck here in Astoria for many years, has opened a store front on Broadway just off of 31st street. Our Lady was returning from her office in Manhattan at the usual hour, and our plan was to visit the King for a tasty dinner of middle eastern comfort food.

The MTA intervened into our plans of satiety and happiness with transit delays, and Our Lady advised that she was going to be a bit later than we had planned. Well, if you’re a humble narrator and armed with a trusty camera, there’s always something to do. Given the Governor’s plan to rehabilitate the stations along the N/W elevated tracks hereabouts, I’ve been paying some attention to them anyway… so – click, click, clickity, click…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s been some sort of underground work project going on all winter on 31st street, which I’ve presumed to be either utility (gas or electric) or sewer related. It’s a private contractor doing the work, so I’m assuming the former and that its related to the large building construction projects going on at the foot of 31st street near its intersection with Northern Blvd. What can I tell you, despite my reputation as a yenta, I don’t know everything.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a pretty chaotic scene, actually. Heavy equipment rolling around at rush hour in the already cramped environs under the elevated tracks. The ever impatient drivers of Astoria leaning on their horns, pedestrians darting to and fro, workers working. It was all very exciting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everytime that Broadway was blocked, you heard a cacophony of auto horns blowing steadily, all the way back to Crescent Street. The laborers seemed to be finishing up for the day, clearing away their tools and moving the traffic cones and safety tape wrapped traffic barriers into place. The fellow driving the earth mover was placing large steel plates over the giant excavation which they had been working in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The trains finally began to move along the tracks again, thundering into the station and vomiting forth the neighbors. It seems there was a “police investigation” at Queensboro Plaza which held the whole MTA operation up. Our Lady eventually wafted down the stairs and was greeted with an embrace, whereupon we spent about an hour at the storefront inhabited by the King of Falafel and Shawarma, treating ourselves. The meal was delicious, and worth the wait.

I love it when a plan comes together.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 29, 2017 at 11:00 am

nitrous cellar

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It’s National Whipped Cream Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards is the biggest construction project going on in Manhattan at the moment. Literally creating a new neighborhood out of a decked over rail yard, this project is what inspired the Dope from Park Slope – Mayor de Blasio – to call for the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards back in Queens. Were the Mayor savvy about… well, anything other than seemingly spending his time staring in the bathroom mirror and telling himself that he’s a progressive rather than the neoliberal that he actually is… construction and engineering, he’d realize that the conditions at Hudson Yards are conducive to such an endeavor and those in Queens are not.

The Big Little Mayor doesn’t realize that the tracks at Sunnyside Yards crisscross each other and are unevenly spaced, and that the ones at Hudson Yards are regular and parallel. Parallel allows you to insert steel columns between them, whereas crisscross doesn’t. There’s also logistical issues with creating a deck supported by those columns which is roughly one or two square blocks as opposed to an 183 square acre one. Also, Manhattan has hospital beds to spare, Penn Station and Herald Square are nearby, and they don’t have to worry about where their sewage will go (Newtown Creek WWTP, in Greenpoint, if you’re curious). There will be a surfeit of places to shop for food, but there’s always Fresh Direct (located along the Newtown Creek in LIC, if you’re curious).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The comparison between Hudson Yards and Sunnyside Yards is apt, in my mind at least, just in case you think I’m being obtuse or provocative. This is the other end of the Pennsylavnia Railroad’s urban rail system which the company installed in NYC during the early 20th century. The same buildout which saw the East River and Hudson River tunnels constructed, and that built the original Penn Station, built the Sunnyside Yards. The passenger trains you’ll notice spending their day in between rush hours at Sunnyside Yards are the same ones later visible at Hudson Yards. Sunnyside Yard is a “coach yard” which indicates it was designed for storage of rolling stock in between peak hours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the schedule at Penn demands, the trains which you see above at Hudson Yard are called into the tunnels underlying the west side of midtown Manhattan and brought over to the tracks where they’ll take on their customers and head for Eastern Long Island. For all of my lifetime, the Hudson Yards represented a giant hole in the west side of Manhattan. The Bloomberg administration initiated this investment and construction process, in accordance with the vow Michael Bloomberg made to “change the skyline of Manhattan” when he took office. I’m actually all for this one, but I don’t live here so my opinion really doesn’t matter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The idea behind this project is a “game changer” for what has come to be referred to as “midtown west” by the powers that be. I’ve heard idle chatter about the Javitz Center being replaced sometime in the near future, and certain ideas which seem to make sense on that subject include building a grand hotel on the footprint of the Javitz which rises to skyscraper heights, and which would include a mutiple story convention center at its footprint/base that isn’t a craphole (the Javitz Center is absolutely and undoubtedly a failed institution, a cesspool of municpal corruption, and absolutely a craphole with leaky Windows that doesn’t just lose money for the City and State – it hemorrhages it).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is looking north along the newly constructed buildings and deck. As far as I’m privy to, the deck isn’t meant to cover the still visible section of the train yard, but I might be wrong about that. The Real Estate Shit Flies are more than ambitious, credit is easily available to them, and borrowing it is at a historic level of cheap right now.

The only thing that holds back modern engineering is money.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was beginning to enter that daily arc which carries its emanations behind New Jersey, but I was still uncomfortably early for my assignation in Hells Kitchen. Regardless, as Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor admonished constantly in the Superman 2 film – “North, Ms. Tessmacher, north!”.

Crossing the West Side Highway, or West Street if you must – one last look at the Hudson Yards mega project was called for, and I began scuttling along the river side of the street. One was fairly sure that I’d taken my last photo, but boy was I wrong – as you’ll discover tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note – the shots in today’s post were captured from the latest section of the High Line, in case you want to go check out progress on the Hudson Yards mega project for yourself.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

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