The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Dutch Kills

stricken flesh

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My foot hurts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lately, it feels like I’ve been exposed to ionizing radiation at some point in the recent past, as everything hurts. Part of getting older, I suppose. I’d worry more about it if the various aches and pains were more chronic and didn’t move around. One day it’s the knee, the next it’s a foot on the other leg, another it’s a weird knot in my neck which came out of nowhere. I’ve come to refer to this phenomena as my “pain squirrel” since everyday it seems to take up residence on a different branch of my personal Yggdrasil or world tree. Regular talking folk would just say “body,” but I ain’t regular.

What can I tell you, I spent most of my life burning the candle at both ends. If a situation required it, I’d use my body as a wrecking ball. It’s taken a toll, and the bill is coming due these days. All this recent rain has made me suspect that arthritis might be the culprit behind some of the various aches and pains, but it wouldn’t surprise if I woke up one morning and found that some part of me had turned to a form of goo under the blanket.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ideally, I’d like to house my brain, after the bodily gooification is complete, in some sort of robotic housing. On envisions a robust fluid filled jar for the brain, with electrical connections allowing me to control a mobile chassis. Said apparatus would have modular attachment sites for devices to interact with the world outside the jar. Given that I view the human body as little more than a chassis for carrying around the brain as it is, this scenario would be a bit less nightmarish for me than it would be for others. What I’d miss would be the feeling of sunlight on my face, as I wouldn’t have a face. A software algorithm could simulate any of life’s pleasures by pumping the appropriate dopamine solution into the jar anyway.

Yes, I sometimes fantasize about becoming a cyborg. Sue me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If my mobile brain chassis was constructed properly, I’d be able to crawl up walls, or even activate an amphibious modality and become a boat. I’ve never understood the science fictional trope of the robot man trying to return to being human. People already react to me like I’m some sort of monster, and I’m barely transhuman as it is. The camera is always hanging off of me, but that doesn’t count. I’m talking brain in jar, mounted in a poly alloy battle chassis powered by the particle decay of some sort of radioactive isotope, not rapidly aging idiot wandering around Queens. I look forward to the day when my biggest problem would be a patina of oxidation. Come to think of it, my biggest problem would actually be torch bearing mobs of peasants chasing me around since they’d perceive me as a monster, but that’s the sort of thing that already happens to me occasionally. Ask me about the time that a group of old Greek ladies saw me taking a pic of St. Irene’s here in Astoria when you see me.

In the meantime, the pain squirrel is lodged squarely in my left foot today, but I’ve got to walk over to a Greenpoint tonight for a Superfund meeting so it’s best to just suck it up and take a tylenol. That’s the burning the candle at both ends thing again, I guess.


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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.

secretive days

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Darkness and cold, it’s all darkness and cold.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just last night, I was menaced by a raccoon over in Industrial Maspeth, but that’s another story for a different day. Last week, on the other hand, I was on Borden Avenue in LIC where I discovered that the Borden Avenue Bridge is undergoing an asbestos remediation project that nobody in Queens seems to know anything about. Unlike asbestos jobs I’ve seen elsewhere, there was no plastic sheeting on the scaffolding and nothing in place to guard against bits and pieces from falling into the water.

Multiple inquiries were made. Even the NYC DOT (the people I’m supposed to ask are at Deputy Commish level, suppose I’m going to have to use back channel sources to find out), whose bridge this is, were stumped as to what’s going on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It often startles me how close the Newtown Creek and its tributaries are to the very center of NYC, both geographically and politically, yet it often feels like you’re in a foreign country when talking to Manhattan based “officialdom.” The actual geographic center, according to NYC City Planning, is at Queens Blvd. and 58th street – if you’re the curious type. I am.

It’s funny, actually. Land in LIC is worth more now than its ever been, or at least more than its been valued at in at least a century, but just 3/4 of a mile from the East River at Dutch Kills you’re in a black hole.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Irving Subway Grate iron works site pictured above. Long abandoned, it was immolated about eight or nine years  ago and has been standing fallow ever since. This is huge footprint site, just a few blocks from the red hot Degnon Terminal area on Thomson Avenue and a ten minute walk from the white hot Court Square zone. The dreams of avarice are being realized for real estate industrial complex speculators in Court Square, yet this gigantic patch of ground sits febrile.

Go figure.


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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.

nocturnal meetings

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Back in session.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One wishes he could tell you that all sorts of cool adventures occurred during my week off, but I mainly ended up going to meetings and engaging in “no fun zone” activities. I did manage to find one night to wander about in LIC during the evening hours, specifically in the Degnon Terminal area found nearby Borden Avenue. One does enjoy his concrete devastations, after all. So, what have I been up to?

Working on the summer tour schedule, figuring out my next set of moves, and cleaning house to prepare for the busy part of my year which occurs between April and November. Mainly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Long Island Expreessway framing the Empire State Building, as seen from Borden Avenue in Long Island City, in the shot above. At night it’s a desolate and lonely spot, which is what I seem to gravitate towards. Don’t judge.

Last Sunday, I spoke to a crowd in Sunnyside about the proposed Sunnyside Yards project. Monday found me at a meeting of the Kosciuszcko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee getting an update on the construction project from the chief engineer and discussing some of the ongoing issues associated with the effort. Tuesday found me on a call in meeting for the Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group steering committee, and Wednesday I had to shoot over to Greenpoint for the reception event for the Brooklyn Public Library’s Greenpoint Oral History project. Thursday and Friday were mine to fill, which I basically did nothing with. I had every intention of Friday being an “on the water” day, but weather reports scared me off the idea. As it turned out, it was a beautiful day and a missed opportunity, as the promised thunderstorms didn’t arrive until well into the evening.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s even more Sunnyside Yards action happening this week and next. As mentioned, the NYC EDC has shrugged off their Amazonian humiliations and seem to be doubling down on the “next big thing.” Accordingly, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on the principals involved with their project. If any of them are reading this right now, I’m sure their bowels are loosening at the sound of that sentence.

That’s not thunder, that’s me. Something wicked your way comes.


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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

March 18, 2019 at 2:00 pm

such odours

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Hiding in the dark, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sort of places I inhabit, and any physical description of me, are best analogized by early European folkloric accounts of a wild man living in the wasteland and hiding in the shadows. That’s where I like to menace passerby and scare children from, the scrabbly edges of civilization. Sometimes I like to howl, which booms alongst the bulkheads. Hurling rocks at isolated dwellings, allowing photographers to get blurry shots of me moving through the brush, tearing up vegetable gardens in the dead of night… Maybe it’s more of a Native American legendarium that I belong to.

I’ve become a Creeksquatch. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These are all handheld shots in today’s post, not the long exposure type which I’ve been displaying for awhile. The cold patch of the last month or so has really gotten in my way, and the only reason I was on scene to capture these was because I was helping someone out. This fellow I met on one of my tours last year was desirous of doing audio recordings around the Creek using a super sensitive microphone and recording device, and he asked if I’d take him around the creek at night to do his thing. We donned our reflective vests and went for a short walk after one of the many Newtown Creek Alliance oriented community meetings which I religiously attend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The path I chose to take this fellow on was a fairly safe one, centered in on Long Island City and Blissville.

Above is the garbage train, moving around under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in Blissville.


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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

March 6, 2019 at 2:30 pm

less than

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Another day, another bridge across Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are five bridges crossing the Dutch Kills tributary of that lugubrious ribbon of urban delight called the Newtown Creek, here in Long Island City. You’ve got two movable railroad bridges, the retractile Borden Avenue Bridge, the high flying truss which carries the Long Island Expressway and then slopes down into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and the good old Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. There’s been a bridge of one kind or another here since about ten to twenty years after the Civil War, with one notable span made of wood whose opening and closing was powered by ropes and a donkey. The current bridge was installed in 1910, when Michael Degnon was building his industrial terminal around Dutch Kills, and the Pennsylvania Railroad was finishing up their construction of the Sunnyside Yards.The Hunters Point Avenue Bridge was originally a double bascule drawbridge, but back in the 1980’s, the City rebuilt the roadway and replaced the mechanism with a single bascule version, which is the one featured in today’s post.

Apparently, Hurricane Sandy did quite a job in the electrical equipment that operates the thing, and since the City is required by the United States Coast Guard to maintain the HPA Bridge as a movable structure there’s been folks working “down below” in the gears and gizmos of the thing. It’s on one of my main routes when I’m out for a walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, Dutch Kills was frozen into a giant plate of ice. This isn’t surprising, since the hydrology of the canal displays very little in the way of laminar or horizontal flow. The water rises and falls with the tide, obviously, but the shapes and angles of the bulkheads in addition to zero sources of flowing water at its terminus other than a couple of open sewers cause the waters of Dutch Kills to mimic the behaviors of a stagnant lake rather than a flowing creek.

A few years ago, I started reading up on hydrology and talked to some of the powers that be about using “shaped” concrete forms to cause zones of compression and expansion which would passively move the water around a bit, but nothing really came of it. I still think this sort of engineering is the way to go, however. As I understand the concept, rounded shapes act as “brakes” in fluid systems, whereas narrowing the width and obliquing the angle of channel walls causes water to flow (think river rapids). Essentially, large bodies of water can’t rise that much above the level of surrounding water bodies they’re connected to, so when the volume hits a point of compression it gets “squeezed” and pressurized which causes it to begin moving towards a point where it can expand again. As an example, the same water pressure in your kitchen faucet is what feeds into your garden hose, with the only difference between the wildly dissimilar behavior of the same water pressure being that the stuff in the hose has been compressed all the way through the nozzle and the sink faucet flow can just expand into the basin.

Design in enough points of compression and expansion, you’ve got “flow.” Or at least, that’s my theory. What do I know, I’m a schmuck with a camera, not an engineer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another hypothesis I can offer is that the Newtown Creek is far more biologically active at night than it is during the daytime. All the time I’ve spent around the waterway in the last year at night has revealed an otherwise hidden world that comes out in the dark. There’s higher mammals, both feral cats and raccoons, which are occupying the predator and scavenger niches. You can see and hear vast numbers of fish splashing around in the water, and there’s all sorts of critters crashing around at the littoral edges and along the bulkheads.

The shots in today’s post were exposures of about thirty seconds, so you won’t see what I saw when shooting them unless it held stock still for that interval of time. What I saw was a big fat raccoon foraging around at the water’s edge, scooping up shell fish and other horrible wriggly things to eat for dinner. Actually, it was probably for breakfast, as the trash pandas are nocturnal – just like me.


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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

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