The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘DUPBO

when shouldst

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So what’s with all the weird stuff this last week?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ten years ago this week, a humble narrator was pooping his pants out of nervousness and anticipation, as the Queensboro Bridge Centennial event was about to play out and I was transitioning from being a passive participant to becoming one of the people at the front of the line talking to the crowd. My pal Bernie Ente has dragged me, kicking and screaming, into the spotlight for this event. He asked me, roughly a decade ago today, what website I intended to tell “the audience” to visit. On May 29 of 2009, a purely text post was offered titled “what is the Newtown Pentacle,” which was followed by a couple of staccato postings. I like to think that I’ve stayed true to the outline in that post, despite being carried far afield by opportunity. Everywhere I go is someplace that the Newtown Creek has led me to.

What I consider to be the actual “first” post at Newtown Pentacle was offered on June 3rd of 2009. That was 2, 275 posts ago.

I began hanging around with the Working Harbor Committee, and with Newtown Creek Alliance. The first time Captain John Doswell handed me the Circle Line microphone on a boat tour I stuttered and sputtered, but the Captain had faith in me and with some coaching I developed into a fairly decent narrator.

NCA believed in me too, and we began doing walking tours around the Creek. Atlas Obscura started up in Greenpoint about that time, and soon I found myself working with them as a paid guide and event host. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve brought to Newtown Creek, or out on a boat tour of NY Harbor at this point. There’s been literally tens of thousands; including college students, professional urban planners, activist organizations, environmental officialdom, and most importantly – ordinary New Yorkers. There’s also been dozens of classroom lectures, but that’s a different banana. I’ve published two paper books – “Newtown Creek, for the vulgarly curious” and a recent photo book “In the shadows at Newtown Creek.”

Ten years later, I’m a steering committee member at Working Harbor and I just joined the board of the Newtown Creek Alliance. I was also invited to join Astoria’s Community Board 1 quite recently.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Pentacle has been visited more than half million times in the last decade, and my Flickr account has seen nearly six million views. I’ve been profiled in dozens of news reports in the last decade, most notably in a NY Times piece back in 2012. When I say “google me,” I’m not kidding or being vainglorious. I’ve made some great friends who are engaged in similar pursuits to mine, like Kevin Walsh from Forgotten-NY, Nate Kensinger from Curbed, Joseph Alexiou from the Gowanus community. I’ve lost some great friends too; Bernie Ente, John Doswell, John Skelson. Our Lady of the Pentacle (my wife Cat), and my buddy Mai Armstrong, have been with me every step of the way and none of what’s happened to me over the last decade would have gone as well as it did without their counsel and help. I also have to tip my hat to some of my NCA peeps who have always been in my corner – Mike Heimbinder, Katie Schmidt, Kate Zidar, Will Elkins, and Lisa Bloodgood. Another person of note is WHC’s Meg Black, who has handed me the mike more times than I can count on boat tours of Port Newark and Kill Van Kull. Oddly enough, some of the other friends I’ve made are in elected office here in LIC, notably Cathy Nolan and Jimmy Van Bramer. It’s an honor to know and interact with all of you fine folks, and thank you for tolerating the presence of this bellicose kid from Brooklyn in your lives.

I’ve made some great enemies as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, why all the reflection and the bizarre POV stuff that’s been presented this last week? Short answer is that I’ve been holding that stuff back, editorially, for a while and just wanted to give myself a little freedom this week – get it off my chest, as it were.

What’s next? Good question, that.

There’s going to be a few changes coming, notably I’m going to be figuring out how to excise all those annoying ads which WordPress has been inserting into my posts of late. I’m also going to be opening up a few new channels as we move through the summer and into the fall, evolving things as it were. Ultimately, I’m going to continue trying to answer the one great question, which is the only question which matters.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


“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

May 31, 2019 at 1:30 pm

without mind

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Old man shakes fist at cloud.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The time of the year which one refers to as “meetings season” is upon me. The good news is that laziness and inertia are cancelled out by “have to,” and the bad news is that I have to attend a bunch of meetings. The meetings mostly revolve around – you guessed it – Newtown Creek. Just last night, I was over in Greenpoint at a CAG (Superfund Community Advisory Group) meeting with several layers of officialdom – City, State, Federal. The EPA discussed part of their technical process, called “modeling”.” As described; they collect multiple lines of evidence regarding the “yuck” found in the water, assigning categories to the contaminants, and determine its nature, transport mechanisms, and risks. EPA has all sorts of algorithmic formulae through which the raw data is processed, and the modeling phase of their operation involves converting an abundance of observation into an action plan which will guide the actual physical removal or abeyance of continuing transport for the contaminants of concern found in the waterway.

If you think that paragraph sounded boring, you should attend one of the CAG meetings yourself. The paragraph above is Hemingway compared to the actual presentations, many of which are frankly “above my head,” as math is involved. I’m an arithmetics idiot, literally. On my SAT’s back in high school, I got ten points under a perfect score on the language side, and ten points higher than signing my name correctly on the math side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After EPA finished up their presentation, a combined team from NYS’s DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and DOH (Department of Health) spoke to the CAG group about the many, many sites which are under some sort of environmental enforcement decree along the Newtown Creek. A lot of attention was paid to the Queens side in particular. Essentially, you couldn’t throw a stone between the Pulaski Bridge and Maspeth Creek without it landing on or close to a DEC administered site. LIRR’s Arch Street yard, a certain spot nearby the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, the Buckeye Pipeline, the Qantas resources and the Pratt sites in Blissville, the massive former Phelps Dodge properties in Maspeth, the Greenpoint Oil Spill, the National Grid site, the Morgan Oil Terminal site, and the Manhattan Polybag site were all discussed. There was even an upland property which at didn’t know existed, the Equity Manufactured Gas site. I had no idea about that one.

The DEC guy had a bit of fun with me, saying “See, you don’t know everything.” A roomful of regulators whom I’ve been tormenting as the “walking Newtown Creek encyclopedia” for years all laughed at that one. Ha ha.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the meeting, which occurred at McCarren Park’s multipurpose rooms and play center (or something), I decided to hoof it back to Astoria as it was a nice night and it wasn’t raining. After getting back to the neighborhood, which involved setting up the tripod a few times along the way, I ended up in a debate with two Hellenes about the origins of the ethnodecriptive term “Greek.” I favor the interpretation that it’s a latin language racial slur (Grik – short legged) popularized by the Roman Empire, and asked them if the actual Hellenic Language uses “Greek” or even refers to their nation state as “Greece” when speaking about it in their own tongue. This devolved quickly, and I was put on the spot to explain the origins of the Jews, and soon found myself arguing against the Eastern Orthodox assertion of the Jews as being Christ killers.

All in good fun, nothing like a good historical debate with the Pizza guy and his buddies at midnight on Broadway here in Astoria. It was all very civil. That’s a word with a latin origin too, civil is. Polis, and politic, are hellenic words.


“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

May 16, 2019 at 1:30 pm

quickened force

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Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Towards the end of last week, a humble narrator found himself over in the Shining City of Manhattan. I had business to discuss with somebody, mainly creating a new walking tour route, and we actually stomped out one of my proposed routes (Wall Street to 23rd street via the “East River Greenway”) after which one found himself at the NYC Ferry dock at 34th street. A quick journey across the river to Long Island City, as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself slipped behind New Jersey, soon found me scuttling about in a Long Island City which was cloaked in preternatural darkness.

The tripod was deployed and a humble narrator got busy with the camera, which seemingly generated much interest for both private security personnel and ordinary passerby. Click, whir, click. That’s a LIRR train idling at the Hunters Point Avenue station, if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crap hole security fencing around the Sunnyside Yards doesn’t do much to actually secure the railyard, but it does get in the way of your shots. In many ways it’s a metaphor for the entire MTA. Pictured above is a long exposure of the 7 line subway exiting the Hunters Point Avenue station, and climbing onto its elevated course towards the next stop – which is the Court Square station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another long exposure shot, this time from the 54th avenue footbridge over the tracks, looking westwards towards the Pulaski Bridge and the Queens Midtown tunnel. I would have waited for a train to roll by, but on my way to this spot, two LIRR units had just transited by (see below). Like a lot of the shots recently presented here, this is a narrow aperture and low ISO sensitivity photo with an exposure time of about thirty seconds.

That’s where all those light trails come from. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was on Borden Avenue, and heading for the 54th avenue footbridge, when the signal arms came down and the parade of LIRR rolling stock began. As a note, the shots above and below are handheld exposures, unlike the ones above.

One thing about all this night shoot stuff I’ve been up to lately is the need to be able to switch back and forth between the two strategies utilized for low light shots. In the case of these passing trains, I wanted to “freeze” the moment, so they are wide aperture and high ISO shots representing about 1/200th of a second, give or take.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Proponents of the proposed “BQX” trolley line really should spend some time on Borden Avenue at rush hour to observe what an “at grade” crossing looks like on a well trafficked arterial street. Vehicle traffic backs up for blocks and blocks, and any traffic lanes which might intersect with the arterial begin to feel the effect of it within minutes.

As Robert Moses might have opined, it’s not about about the traffic, it’s about the flow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tracks which the LIRR units are heading onto in this series are the ones you saw in the tripod shot from the 54th avenue footbridge. They lead into the Sunnyside Yards and the trains are going to be heading eastwards, I’m told, towards first Woodside and then Jamaica and then out to Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After unit 414 completed its journey past Borden Avenue, number 420 began its own trip. A humble narrator was squealing with glee, as a note, because simple things make me happy. After a day spent in Manhattan, which has become the most boring place on Earth, LIC welcomed me home with this grand parade?

I missed you too, Queens.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

couched cipher

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been between the proverbial road and a hard place for the last few weeks, as a series of rapidly unfolding projects have demanded full time attention. Accordingly, the whole wandering around and photographing has suffered due to a lack of time and opportunity. Of late, a humble narrator has been possessed of a certain bit of wanderlust, desiring to see things new and unexplored. Luckily, November is now here, with its truncated day light and decreasing temperature (supposedly). Of course, I was wearing shorts yesterday on November 2nd, but climate change is a conspiracy made up by the Chinese in order to crush the American Coal industry, right?

At this writing, one cannot tell you where he will be as you’re reading this, but it’ll be “somewhere” in the greatest metropolis which the world has ever seen. Today, our metropolis has been diminished due to yesterday’s announcement of the death of both DNAinfo and Gothamist, and the wiping of their archives at the orders of some billionaire scumbag.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obligation and employment have been keeping me solidly in the North Brooklyn/ Western Queens zones surrounding Newtown Creek for the last few months. I’m happy to say that there are precious few times in any given week that I need to visit Manhattan. I’m unhappy to say that there’s whole swaths of the City, and even the Newtown Creek, which I haven’t paid much attention to so far this year. Now that summer has come and gone, that will be rectified.

The good news is that Newtown Pentacle isn’t owned by some billionaire scumbag who hates unions and decided to punish his employees by closing the shops in retribution, putting 140 young journalists out of work. Also, the Chicago Cubs completely suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Look for me in places like the ones pictured in today’s post – waste transfer stations, rail yards, skittering along under highways. That’s where I want to be, all alone, and far away. A wandering mendicant in a filthy black raincoat, taking pictures of the deserted concrete devastations… telling the truth of our times in lurid color and florid prose.

Somebody has to do it, after all…


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2017 at 1:00 pm

uncanny library

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is an example of the ultimate reason as to why the proposed BQX trolley line is infeasible, what with the blinking signal arm barriers and the train horn blowing – which rail is required to do at grade crossings such as the Borden Avenue location adjoining the Pulaksi Bridge and Queens Midtown Tunnel pictured above in LIC. One doesn’t want to deep dive on that topic today, however, as thinking about the Mayor depresses me and I don’t want to be “blue.”

A humble narrator was on his way to a “thing” in LIC when this train began to move across Borden Avenue, an occurrence which caused him to utter something which sounded like “squeeeee,” drop to one knee in the middle of the street, and laugh maniacally while waving the camera around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad uses their nearby Hunters Point Yard to stage train sets for rush hour duty, and the tracks lead across Borden Avenue over to the Hunters Point Avenue stop at the southern extant of the Sunnyside Yards. From there, the trains head into the City and Penn Station, before heading out to Woodside, Jamaica, and then Long Island.

At least, that’s what I think happens. I’m not a rider of the LIRR except for rare occasion, and mainly I just like taking pictures of trains moving around in crowded urban settings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that tour season is just about over, and my weekends are my own again, plans for how to spend my time are being laid. I’ve got more than a few things to shoot on my list, which I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to.

It really bakes my muffins when I don’t get to regularly wave the camera around at cool things, and despite the amazing places I’ve been this summer, I’ve generally been the tour guide or if onboard a vessel – on the mike – and I’ve barely been able to “do my thing.” I’ll sneak the occasional photo in when conducting a tour, but it’s a snapshot, not a photograph (there’s a difference).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Good news is that the weather is finally in the “filthy black raincoat” range of temperatures, and since I don’t have to maintain my summertime “early bird” schedule quite as stringently – late night shooting is back on the menu.

Where will I go first? Things to do, things to see, people to avoid – here in the great metropolitan city…


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

single blast

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting DUPBO – Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp – where I’ll be leading a walking tour tonight. Still some space available, I’m told, so if you want to take a short walk on a long Creek and enjoy what promises to be a beautiful evening and sunset with one such as myself… meetup is in Greenpoint at 7.


Upcoming Tours and events

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.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2017 at 11:30 am

eleventh hour

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It remains National Creme Brulee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We’re breaking with normal Newtown Pentacle tradition today, as there were multiple posts sent your way, devoted to the seismic events on Newtown Creek which saw the central truss of the Kosciuszcko Bridge first lowered and then carted away. This second post carries some proper shots of the lowering action. In this morning’s post, a time lapse video of the lowering of the Kosciuszcko Bridge’s central truss was offered. This afternoon’s carried everything else I shot.

Here’s the last one, showing the Kosciuszcko Bridge exiting the Newtown Creek yesterday afternoon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One arrived early to the Newtown Creek from “Point A” in Astoria, this time situating myself at the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant Nature Walk. While I was waiting for the Kosciuszcko Bridge to show up, the usual maritime industrial show on the Creek was underway with a tug delivering a barge to SimsMetal. The tug cleared out, and few minutes later, the horns on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge sounded…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Thar she blows” cried a humble narrator, as the truss slid into view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in earlier postings, there were actually two barges with a steel superstructure carrying the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sheer scale of all of this was staggering.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the tugs, pictured above, was operating in reverse. There was a second tug on the other side of the truss, and a third accompanying them. The two directly towing the barges were of the “push boat” typology.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as with the lowering procedure, a crowd of people had gathered to watch and photograph the operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The barges with the Kosciuszcko Bridge truss headed west, and the Pulaski Bridge opened up to allow them egress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The third tug got involved when they were about to enter the draw of the Pulaski, maneuvering the assemblage into optimal position and centering it in the channel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So ended the seventy eight years that this structure has been on Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was built as the New Meeker Avenue Bridge, and formally opened on August 23, 1939. A year later, in 1940, it was renamed Kosciuszcko Bridge to honor the large Polish community found in Maspeth and in Greenpoint. The barges carried the truss out onto the East River, and off to New Jersey where its steel would be harvested for recycling.

The end of an era for the Newtown Creek, and it all occurred on the 25th and 26th of July in 2017.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Most recently – a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, and a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Lastly, here’s some night shots from early July of 2017.


Upcoming Tours and events

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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