The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Dutch Kills

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Concretized.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The head of Dutch Kills, the sole surviving tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek in Long Island City, hosts a concrete company called NYCON. This is pretty busy operation under normal circumstances and difficult to get photos of do to the hustle and bustle. Also, I generally avoid photographing the concrete guys, for certain reasons, including that they don’t seem to like being photographed – not one little bit. The nice thing about the Corona Virus quarantine, therefore, is that they don’t seem to have been rated as “essential” and my recent constitutional walk in LIC offered an opportunity to record a few of their industrial splendors.

This is from 47th Avenue and 27th street, if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quite a few people have asked me if I’m worried or scared or whatever when I’m out at night, and in particular during the Quarantine. A few have chided me for being out at all, but the reality of my life is that I’m under Doctor’s orders to keep moving. Without exercise, it won’t be long before my arterial system narrows and plugs, and then I’ll find myself having to spend time in a hospital during an epidemic. Not only do I never, ever, want to experience the cardiac ward of a hospital again – given the current circumstances I could easily find myself in one of the FEMA or USACE wards being set up around the City. I’d be lying if I don’t say I was a bit paranoid on the deserted streets, but paranoid is good during times of trouble and tumult. Stay frosty.

I am not going to find myself sleeping in a hospital bed at the Javitz Center if I can help it. Have you been to the Javitz Center?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever the risks, one must continue to turn the earth under his feet. I’m used to being lonely out here in the Creeklands. At night, in particular, there are so few humans about that it’s arguably one of the safest places to be when a deadly virus is being passed about. There’s also so much to see, and photograph. For a couple of hours, one is able to forget about the apocalyptic situation we are all suffering through. Get away from the news feeds and the constant dirge of nightmarish import.

I NEED that in addition to the exercise. It’s literally all I’ve got right now.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


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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, 2020 at 11:00 am

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Scuttle, scuttle, scuttle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One keeps on finding himself at the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek, here in Long Island City, for some bizarre reason. Partially, it’s the lack of people one might encounter along the way. On the other hand, it’s a familiar place to me and therefore comforting. Pictured is the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

Dutch Kills, as the United States Army Corps of Engineers so rendered it in the early 20th century, averages about 150 feet of space between its bulkheads. It’s spanned by several bridges, and this particular single bascule drawbridge – which it’s owners at the NYC Dept. of Transportation will tell you – is the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. Replacing an earlier wooden drawbridge powered by a donkey walking on a wheel, the modern HPA Bridge was originally erected in 1910 as a double bascule drawbridge with electric motors. The masonry, bridge house, and basic structure of the thing are original to that effort but in the 1980’s a retrofit of the bridge eliminated the double bascule mechanism with a simpler to maintain single bascule one.

What’s a bascule, you ask?

That’s the section of a draw bridge’s roadway which tilts upwards to allow egress to a passing vessel. See? You learned something in Quarantine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What is a man? What has he got? Frank Sinatra asked that.

When is a road not a road, and a city street is not technically a street? When it’s 29th street between Hunters Point and 47th avenues in Long Island City. There are several roads and streets around here which are on the NYC map, host NYC street names and signs, and you can get mail delivered to structures which use those designations as addresses, but they aren’t actually city streets. Railroad access roads, they are called, and are the actual property of the MTA/Long Island Railroad. 29th street is one of them. If you know what to look for, beyond tracks rising up out of the asphalt, these streets are easy to spot. Long gentle curves between the corners, rather than straight as an arrow, and if the distance between the corners is curiously long… you’ve found a good candidate for “railroad access road.” You have to check the official record, of course, but 29th street alongside Dutch Kills is definitively part of this classification.

Back in the early 20th century, there used to be a “terminal railway” setup in these parts which provided “last mile” service to the factories and warehouses of “America’s Workshop” as LIC was known. This “Degnon Terminal railway” split off from the Lower Montauk tracks along Newtown Creek via the Montauk Cutoff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of blocks from Dutch Kills is the former Waldes Koh-I-Noor four building complex, which used to be able to accommodate a train set running between its various buildings. Waldes were manufacturers of milliners supplies – pins and needles, buttons, snaps. The metal pants zipper was innovated here during the First World War, I’m told. During the Second World War, Waldes ceased production of clothing items and retooled their factory for war production, manufacturing the internal components of artillery shells for both the Army and Navy.

Boy, do I love LIC. I guess this is part of the reason I find myself wandering around here so often. The stories I can tell… and wish I was telling… but somehow I don’t think that I’m going to be leading many walking tours this year.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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.

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Newtown Creek is always fabulous, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills splits off from the main stem of the Newtown Creek waterway about 7/10th of a mile from the larger water body’s intersection with the East River. Long Island City’s Dutch Kills is a fully canalized tributary, and proceeds on a generally northern trajectory. The water here is highly polluted with both industrial and sewage contaminants. Dutch Kills gets its moniker from the colonial era in NYC history. There’s another tributary of Newtown Creek in Brooklyn called English Kills. Simply, LIC is where the Dutch settled and Brooklyn is where the English put down stakes.

Dutch Kills used to have its own system of tributaries and tidal wetlands, and stretched back (as a navigable waterway) into Queens nearly all the way to Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wooden structures you might notice around bridges are called “Dolphins” and they are usually constructed from creosote treated lumber and galvanized steel rope. The job of these items is to keep a vessel from getting into an allission with the bridge. “Allission” you ask? Yes. That’s when a moving “thing” interacts with a static thing. When two moving “things” interact it’s a collision, so if two vessels were to smash into each other they “collide” whereas if you were to run a vessel up against the dolphin or bridge they would “allide.” Maritime law is quite specific about this.

The dolphins pictured today vouchsafe the 1908 Borden Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Borden Avenue, and the “Empty Corridor” thereof which I’ve been walking you through this week, one resumed his westerly course and continued on. That’s when I noticed something missing. Holy Moley!

More on that tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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.

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The empty corridor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue, or at least the section of it pictured in today’s post, was officially designated as such in 1868, after an engineered “plank road” was erected through the swampy low lands surrounding the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. It was primarily designed as a commercial corridor, connecting the upland farms and dairies of Maspeth and Woodside with the docks in Hunters Point at the East River. Borden… Borden Milk… Roads were named for where they went back then.

The wetlands of Dutch Kills were filled in at the start of the 20th century, and the railroad took advantage of all the new dry land to hurl spurs out to the various industrial buildings which were erected on the reclaimed flatlands. LIRR still crosses Borden Avenue several times a day at street grade, about a mile west of where these shots were gathered.

The Long Island Expressway truss defines the section of Borden between Greenpoint Avenue and Review Avenue, and the blighted area beneath it is something I refer to as the “Empty Corridor.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills itself was rendered into its current form and course at the start of the 20th century, shortly after NYC consolidation in 1898. A huge land reclamation project was being conducted by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company – the creation of the Sunnyside Yards – was occurring about a half mile to the north and west and a construction magnate named Michael Degnon began buying up the wetlands surrounding Dutch Kills from the estate of a former Governor of New York State. Degnon used excavated fill from another one of his projects – the East River subway tunnel which carries the modern day 7 line train – to create dry land around Dutch Kills. Concurrently, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was busy creating industrial bulk heads and “canalizing” the entire Newtown Creek and its tributaries.

That’s the Borden Avenue Bridge pictured, the existing version of which was erected in 1908. It’s not the first Borden Avenue Bridge, but it’s the one that’s stood the test of time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While all this tumult and “terraforming” was going on, the Long Island Railroad was investing in the LIC area as well. The Lower Montauk trackage, as it’s known today, connects the Fresh Pond Yard with the East River along the northern shore of Newtown Creek. There are two railroad bridges spanning Dutch Kills. One is DB Cabin, a turnstile bridge which is still quite active but cannot turn or open, and it provides a direct track link between the Blissville and Wheelspur Yards on the lower montauk right of way. The other is Cabin M, which leads to the Montauk Cutoff elevated tracks that formerly connected to the LIRR Main Line tracks at the Sunnyside Yards. Before all this end of the world stuff started, MTA indicated it was going to demolish Cabin M. Somehow, I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon.

As I always say, despite the fact that I call it the “empty corridor” there’s quite a lot going on down here and lots of interesting things to see on a walk in LIC.

Also, on this day in NYC history: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire occurred in 1911.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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.

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Getting a clean shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered during an interval of trespass, something which I advise everyone who asks against doing. In the foreground above is an inactive MTA rail bridge’s trackway, with the 1908 Borden Avenue Bridge at center frame and the 1939 Queens Midtown Expressway’s 106 foot tall truss bridge over the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek at top. It’s not easy getting the camera into position for a shot of the entire Borden Avenue span, I’ll offer, nor entirely legal to stand where it’s possible to do so. That’s why I was up here just before 8 in the morning on a Sunday, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another shot for which one was risking a fine for is above, depicting a quite active Long Island Railroad Bridge called DB Cabin which is the gatekeeper to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. LIRR facilities in Long Island City go back 1870, and the 1893 vintage DB Cabin is meant to function as a movable swing bridge. When I first showed up on Newtown Creek about fifteen years ago, my pal Bernie Ente told me that he hadn’t seen it open in twenty years, so I guess that makes it thirty five non functioning years now.

DB Cabin connects the Lower Montauk tracks of the LIRR across the water. On the western side of the bridge is the Wheelspur Freight Yard, and on the east it feeds into the Blissville Yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the sort of view normally offered, gathered from the Borden Avenue Bridge.

Having gotten away with my naughty little mission, I headed towards the spot I was meant to meet the NCA crew at over on Skillman Avenue.

Tomorrow, something else, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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.

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I had to make pee pee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While wandering around Dutch Kills, Long Island City’s (surviving) tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek, one suddenly felt the call of nature. It was about six a.m. as I recall, when tolled the telltale alarum that it was time for a tinkle. Luckily, one had already secluded himself in a hidey hole along the banks of the waterway, one which offered both privacy and open unpaved soil. Why do I mention this, you ask? Because the City of New York completely and utterly disregards human biology in its various machinations and zoning decisions and has for better than fifty years. Why there isn’t a public pissoir found every mile or so is something that just escapes me. Luckily, as a bloke with an “outie,” the world offers lots of shadowed corners, spaces in between trucks, abandoned industrial canal bulkheads, and so on. I imagine the problems which proper renal function causes are more difficult for those of you with “innies.”

Anyway, as the sign in the shot would adjure – there’s meant to be “No Swimming’ here in Dutch Kills. Probably because of the millions of gallons of untreated sewage which the City dumps into every year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of all the sections of Newtown Creek which one visits regularly, Dutch Kills is most frequently seen. It’s not too far from Astoria by foot. Most of the time I come here, however, is definitively later in the day than the one these shots were gathered – which was just as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was rising in the east. I kept on debating whether or not to use a lens filter to “slow down” the rising light levels a bit, but the actual scene was just so beautifully lit that I didn’t want to screw around with it too much. I did have the camera up on the tripod though. The settings for this one were f18, iso 100, and .6 of a second.

Why am I telling you that, just like why talk about having to take a piss? I’ll let you know pretty soon. That’s coy of me, ain’t it?

Also, ever think about that phrase “taking a piss”? If anything, you’re “giving” rather than taking one. British English uses “having” for the act, as a note. Doesn’t make sense to me, just like the flammable/inflammable conundrum.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My eventual destination was going to be over on Skillman Avenue, where I was supposed to meet up with the Newtown Creek Alliance crew at nine. I still had plenty of time before that, so it was decided to shlep over to another hidey hole spot along Dutch Kills, one which is decidedly less private than the one so recently moistened by a humble narrator.

More tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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.

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Dutch Kills at sunrise, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Breaking off in a generally northern direction, from the main course of the Newtown Creek, is its Dutch Kills tributary. Just under a mile in length, Dutch Kills is encountered about 3/4 of a mile into Newtown Creek from its junction with the East River, in Long Island City. Dutch Kill is crossed by five bridges – the railroad bridges DB Cabin and Cabin M, Borden Avenue Bridge, the Queens Midtown Expressway truss, and the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

Recent obligation found one scheduled to meet up with my chums from Newtown Creek Alliance at 9 am on a Sunday nearby Dutch Kills, in pursuance of us walking it and discussing the near future hereabouts.

Since I set the standard for sanity in this world, much like Caligula once did, I got there four hours early, and some two hours before sunrise. I set up the tripod and started getting busy roughly 5:30 a.m.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, and photographers don’t normally say things like this, I was unhappy with how abundant the ambient light was. I’ve been spending so much time working in near total darkness of late that it’s almost become rote. Having to constantly figure out new exposure triangles every ten minutes got annoying.

Pictured are Cabin M, in the foreground, and DB Cabin. They are two of those five bridges mentioned above, and are both railroad bridges owned by the Long Island Railroad. Cabin M, which these days carries mostly graffiti, is meant to be demolished according to this year’s MTA capital budget plan. It connects the Blissville Rail Yard and the very active Lower Montauk tracks along Newtown Creek to the deactivated Montauk Cutoff tracks leading to the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north east from another span over Dutch Kills – the Borden Avenue Bridge – towards the 106 foot tall Queens Midtown Expressway truss bridge. In the distance is a Fed Ex ground shipping center and the Degnon Terminal IBZ.

Even though the light was becoming uncomfortably stronger, one hung around and kept on shooting all morning waiting for the Newtown Creek Alliance crew to arrive for our appointed round. More tomorrow.


“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.

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