The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Dutch Kills

no triumph

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Freaking Tuesdays…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s part of the Degnon Terminal industrial park in LIC seen in the shot above, a complex which is a smidge over a century old. It originally had companies like Ever Ready Battery, American Chicle Gum, Loose Wiles Bakery, and warehouse operations for Manhattan department stores like Bloomingdales and Sterns (my mom called the latter Stoynes). The Real Estate Industrial Complex has done a fantastic job of repopulating the area with smaller corporate entities in recent years, rebranding several of these behemoth structures as “The Factory LIC” or “The Falchi Building” and attracting startups and smaller companies to the cavernous spaces within. LaGuardia Community College occupies one or two of the historic buildings, and a third rate modern one as well. As you move west towards Skillman Avenue along 47th avenue (known 100 years ago as Nelson Avenue, and as Nott Avenue before that, and as the salt meadows or “boueries” of the Payntar Family prior to that), the artisinal and fancy pants face of modernity drops away and you encounter the remains of the real LIC.

Crummy, crumbling, crusty. Hey, unlike in North Brooklyn, at least the Real Estate people didn’t just burn everything down and endanger the lives of the Fire Department people to get to the future.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I checked in on that widening bulkhead collapse on 29th street, at the turning basin of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary. Nothing has been done, whatsoever, to ameliorate it or the inevitable collapse of 29th street into the poison mud. It’s all kind of depressing, and presuming the thing doesn’t collapse over Thanksgiving weekend, I’m going to have to start annoying the Deputy Commissioners at the city DOT here in Queens about it as soon as the holiday is over. #Carnage gets you a bike lane? How about #MitchinvitesNY1toLIC really soon after the Amazon announcement to talk about literally crumbling road infrastructure and multiple bulkhead collapses along Newtown Creek’s LIC coastline?

Godalmighty, I hate everyone so much because of this kind of stuff. Why am I the only one…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a strange feeling that 2019 is the year when the bottom will break on this particular bucket of trouble called Long Island City. There’s so many individual problems and issues here – enviromental, municipal infrastructure, transit, the Sunnyside Yards Deck, ludicrous levels of traffic, hospital beds, police capability, FDNY resources… A strong wind blows through these parts and the whole house of cards will come falling down, I tell’s ya.

The Chinese Zodiac informs that 2019 is the year of the pig, but I’m feeling entirely like a different kind of critter will typify the action hereabouts in the coming year.

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”

“No, no, by the hair on my chiny chin chin.” 

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 20, 2018 at 1:33 pm

attic realm

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Aftermath, LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may have heard that there was a rather large fire in Long Island City over the weekend, which saw an auto body shop consumed in what ended up being a five alarm blaze. Multiple FDNY units were sent to LIC from other boroughs, and despite their efforts the fire raged for hours and hours. The roof of the structure collapsed, and I’d be willing to bet that it’s going to be declared a total loss somewhere down the line by insurers.

On Sunday I walked over to get some shots of the scene, and given that this area is kind of “my stomping grounds,” knew where to go for an efficacious angle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The FDNY had two units on hand in case anything flashed back to life, and NYPD was also on hand controlling the intersection and keeping “lookie-loos” like me from getting into trouble. FDNY had Rockaway’s Tower Ladder 155 unit, as well as Engine unit 289 from Corona, on point. The coppers were from the 108 pct.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I say it all the time, “Newtown Creek has a history of large industrial site fires.” When I say that, I’m thinking of actual history – the 1882 and 1919 Standard Oil refinery fires in Greenpoint or the Pratt Varnish works fire just down the block here in LIC. Just in the last decade there’s been two major fires, both in Greenpoint, which took nearly a week to put out. Also in Greenpoint, there was the Greenpoint Terminal Market fire about 15 years ago which saw the largest FDNY deployment since 911.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 2, 2018 at 2:00 pm

billious congestion

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few shots from my travels and travails over the last couple of weeks assail you today, lords and ladies. Pictured above, the NYC DEP has been working on a water main replacement project here amongst the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria for the last month or two, which has necessitated the occasional interruption of residential water service. The access, or manhole (as its called colloquially), cover which one of our municipal heroes is standing upon vouchsafes the subterrene valve which controls such service on the corner that Newtown Pentacle HQ is found on.

Who knew?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That bulkhead collapse on Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary I told you about shifted one of the derelict oil barges, long abandoned, from its decades long position. That’s the black mayonnaise sediment I’m always talking about exposed to the air in the shot above. The particular day I was shooting this was a dicey one due to a heavy rainfall and high atmospheric humidity which caused my camera to malfunction. A few of the mechanical controls on the back of the thing began to “stick,” which made me nervous as heck. Luckily, after returning home and throughly cleaning the device and then leaving it wrapped in a thick and thirsty towel, everything was back to normal the next day. Whew.

Rain + humidity = bad for camera. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is seriously tired of this summer humidity crapola. I do enjoy warm weather, but not when it’s accompanied by dew points in the 70 – 80th percentiles. It’s after Labor Day, and I’m still wearing white? Gauche, I. 

That’s one of the arches of the New York Connecting Railroad leading to the Hell Gate Bridge, which is one of the defining landmarks here in Astoria. HQ is to the south of the rail aqueduct, with Astoria Blvd. with the “Ditmars side” of Astoria found to the north. The rail tracks and the Grand Central Parkway form a physical and social barrier between the two sides of the ancient village.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 21, 2018 at 1:00 pm

cyclopean ruinations

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Bulkhead collapse at Dutch Kills! 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First off, these are shots from my iPhone (which I had to use instead of the usual DSLR for a variety of reasons). Secondly, my intention yesterday was to just wander around LIC for a while while it was still foggy, set up the tripod here and there and get busy with the camera. Walking down 29th street (between 47th avenue and 49th/Hunters Point Avenue), you’re able to spy the turning basin of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, and this is part of my regular route around the area. 

When I got to 29th street, however, I found this scene. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometime between last Saturday and yesterday (Wednesday the 12th) a not insignificant stretch of the bulk head collapsed into the water. Those trees used to be at street level, and from the look of it, when the debris fell in the water it displaced a long abandoned fuel barge from the spot it’s been in for a decade or two. The barge is now riding up against an adjacent building on one side, and a second sunken fuel barge on another. It’s been pushed several yards from its former resting place, in the direction of the center of the channel. 

As a note, this is the second bulk head collapse on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek watershed in recent years, with the other occurring not too far away at the Vernon Avenue Street end. Disturbing portent, no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, when encountering some profound alteration to the Newtown Creek watershed, I rang up my colleague Willis Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance. He happened to be nearby, and we both puzzled over who to speak to about this situation. Two pronged, we decided, and got busy with the photos. Willis reached out to a few contacts whom he knew had regency over the spot (29th street is not a NYC street at all, it’s in fact a “railroad access road” owned by the LIRR) and I contacted Jimmy Van Bramer’s office, hoping they might be able to figure out what to do about this. 

Saying that, I’m a bit concerned about hydrological undermining on 29th street now, which a lot of very heavy trucks use regularly. Disturbing subsidences indeed. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 13, 2018 at 11:00 am

was sane

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Odds and ends from LIC, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, a photographer friend of mine came out to LIC, and I introduced her to a few interesting points of view along Skillman Avenue and the Degnon Terminal section of Long Island City. Whereas I’m nowhere near as jaded as those who grew up in the area are, it was still fun hearing her gasp in wonder at the marvel of it all. I see this when I do tours as well, when ordinary people find themselves in this extraordinary place found along the loathsome Newtown Creek. Often, I analogize it to the time that I visited a friend who was working as an animator for Disney in Florida. He instructed, as we were moving through one of the parks, to step over towards what appeared to be a solid white wall. When you were within a couple of feet of the structure, a hidden aperture appeared, and with a side step or two you suddenly found yourself backstage where the guy who plays Goofy had his head off and was smoking a cigarette.

Is the rest of NYC actually the customer facing part of Disneyworld, with industrial LIC the back lot where they store the compressed gas cylinders for the soda machines? Maybe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom? We do have rides and attractions hereabouts. There’s a lot of rules, you’re almost always on camera, and there’s lots of people either pretending to be or acting like fictional characters they saw in some old movie. There’s underground networks of tunnels used by a secretive workforce, long suffering municipal employees involved in an elaborate kabuki show put on for the tourists and real estate customers… the only thing that really distinguishes modern day NYC from one of the Disney parks would be the lack of political “cosplayers.”

Hi kids, I’m Progressive Pigeon, meet Diversity Doggo and Equity Eagle. Watch out for that nasty old Conservative Kitty Cat and Counter Revolutionary Rat, they’re on the wrong side of that protected bike lane over there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned hundreds of times at this point, I really need a vacation. Literal “recreation” as in re-create. Unfortunately, I’ve arrived at that stage of life in which it is impossible to enjoy anything, and even going to sleep is a pain in the ass. Anhedonia is the medical term for this, a total physical and emotional numbness which I fear even a visit to the Magic Kingdom cannot cure. Nothing’s easy, and even if I cured Cancer, the result would be everybody telling me I’m an asshole for doing so. I have become an assassin of joy in my old age.

At least I can bring others to the back stage at NYC’s 5 theme parks, and talk about things which are – in fact – amazing. It seemed to make my photographer friend happy the other day, so at least there’s that. Bah.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Friday, August 3rd, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

If you want infrastructure, then meet NCA historian Mitch Waxman at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, and in just one a half miles he’ll show you the largest and newest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, six bridges, a Superfund site, three rail yards with trains moving at street grade, a highway that carries 32 million vehicle trips a year 106 feet over water. The highway feeds into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and we’ll end it all at the LIC ferry landing where folks are welcome to grab a drink and enjoy watching the sunset at the East River, as it lowers behind the midtown Manhattan skyline.

Tix and more deatils here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 2, 2018 at 11:00 am

vast armful

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Artsy fartsy at Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the derisive things people say about me is that it often seems like I’m exploring some random tangent with no apparent goal. This cannot be further from the truth, as there are overarching strategic goals which can sometimes take years and years to play out and are expressed by following various tactics along the way. Part of the reason that you have seen so much in the way of long exposure night photography in recent months, here at your Newtown Pentacle, has been in pursuit of familiarizing myself with the techniques and foibles associated with this particular discipline.

I’ve also been slowly accumulating “kit,” on a tight budget.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent addition to my camera bag is a ten stop ND filter. For those not familiar with such photographic nitty gritty, an ND filter is essentially a very dark sunglass for your lens, which allows you to slow – or stop – down the daylight exposure process to something approximating night time exposures. Thirty second or longer exposures are made possible with the little chunk of semi opaque black glass.

Of course, the day after I picked up the filter, that heat wave we all so enjoyed kicked into gear. This sort of thing happens to me all the time… get a new lens?… weeklong blizzard… tripod?… two weeks of rain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I finally was able to make the time and endure the weather, I took the ND filter and the rest of my camera bag over to my happy hunting grounds at the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek and got busy. I kept on having to shoo away angry geese, as a note, but I’m pretty happy with my initial results and look forward to drilling down into and exploring what I can do with this new tool.

Geese are dicks. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Research is essential when purchasing anything camera related, otherwise you’re going to end up spending a fortune. All camera tripod mounts use a twenty turn quarter inch screw, for instance. If you buy that screw at a camera shop, it’s going to cost you $5-7 for just one screw, whereas the same amount of cash will buy you a bag of fifty of them at Home Depot. At home, I’m constantly improvising this or that for table shots and other needs rather than buying something expensive from BH Photo that I’ll use just once.

I bought a screw on type filter, rather than the filter holder arrangement of the type offered by the Lee company. I avoided the variable type, instead getting a “regular” ND filter manufactured under the ICE brand name for about thirty bucks. The thing you have to watch out for with these devices is color cast. They’ve all got a color cast, I’m told, whether they cost $30 or $300, so I opted for the most affordable option after doing my research. As a note, the BH Photo and Adorama organizations have uploaded hours and hours of video to YouTube that discuss the usage and nature of the gear they sell. Some of these are instructional videos, for those possessed of all levels of photographic acumen. Worth a look.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with something this dark on the front of your lens is in composition and focusing, but that’s where some of the online research came in handy. The traditional manner (and best practice, admittedly) to handle the ND process is by doing a filterless “master shot” and then calculating the extra exposure time needed when the filter is applied. Instead, on the advice of a vlogging landscape photographer, I activated the live view screen on the camera (which I almost never do) and this gave me a somewhat inaccurate preview of the shot which also allowed me to set the point of focus. The trick is in setting the screen to show you the histogram of the shot while you’re composing and fiddling with settings. Since these shots were gathered at narrow apertures (f8-f18) the only thing I really had to worry about was “hyperfocal” distance, focus wise.

Hyperfocal distance is the theoretical field of acceptable sharpness which starts at five to seven feet from the lens and then extends out to infinity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a fairly full schedule for this coming week, but I’m anxious to find myself at an opportune point of view with flowing water to take advantage of the time stretching aspects of this ND filter. First chance I get, I’m heading to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Park, with my fingers crossed that the fountains will be turned on.

I’m glad that there are no fountains on the Newtown Creek, actually.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Saturday, July 14th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.

Sunday, July 15th – Penny2Plank – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

There are eleven bridges crossing the modern day Newtown Creek and its tributaries, nine of which are moveable bridges of one kind or another. Other bridges, forgotten and demolished, used to cross the Creek. The approaches to these bridges are still present on the street grids of Brooklyn and Queens as “street ends.” Newtown Creek Alliance and a small army of volunteers have been working to transform these “street ends” from weed choked dumping grounds into inviting public spaces. This walk with NCA historian Mitch Waxman will take you there and back again, discussing the history and current status of these street ends and the territory in between.

The tour will start in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, and end in Queens’ Maspeth nearby the Grand Street Bridge.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

started upstairs

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Strewing manufactured items behind yourself, the Queensican way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator gives a hoot, and tries not to pollute. Others do not feel this way, and seem to believe that they’re providing work for some unfortunate by leaving a debris field of garbage behind themselves. I am known to carry my various “on the go” waste products with me in anticipation of encountering a trash receptacle eventually. With the notable exception of the nation of China, I’m fairly certain that littering or throwing garbage out of your car window is fairly unacceptable in every country on the Earth, so don’t give me that “diversity rap.” (China operates under a completely different set of rules, and famously it’s kosher and custom to just squat and crap in the street over there.)

The world ain’t gonna change for me, I fear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In anticipation of a “press event” which I’m told is going to occur this week in Long Island City, involving high ranking City Environmental Officialdom, a work crew was observed collecting garbage in the Degnon Terminal area on Saturday. This was the first time I’ve seen such a municipal crew performing this task since the last time high ranking City Environmental Officialdom was in the area with reporters concurrently in tow. The “bosses” don’t pay much attention to the industrial zones when reporters aren’t around, which is why you see streets (29th at Hunters Point Avenue pictured above) that are all busted up and hosting permanently standing water.

No one actually cares, it’s all a game.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The best quality illegal dumping is reserved for the hidden shorelines of the fabulous Newtown Creek, I’d offer. The funny thing is that all that metal you see is worth serious money for the recycling trade. Prior to Hurricane Sandy, there was a Mexican guy I called the “Blue Crow” who lived in a shack back here and he would have likely harvested all of this stuff.

I seriously need a vacation, to go somewhere nice where there aren’t many other people, and garbage is found only in cans or bins.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Saturday, July 14th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.

Sunday, July 15th – Penny2Plank – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

There are eleven bridges crossing the modern day Newtown Creek and its tributaries, nine of which are moveable bridges of one kind or another. Other bridges, forgotten and demolished, used to cross the Creek. The approaches to these bridges are still present on the street grids of Brooklyn and Queens as “street ends.” Newtown Creek Alliance and a small army of volunteers have been working to transform these “street ends” from weed choked dumping grounds into inviting public spaces. This walk with NCA historian Mitch Waxman will take you there and back again, discussing the history and current status of these street ends and the territory in between.

The tour will start in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, and end in Queens’ Maspeth nearby the Grand Street Bridge.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

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