The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘East Branch

local impressions

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East Branch, Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Geography indicates that I don’t hit the eastern sections of Newtown Creek as regularly as I do the western side. It’s quite a walk from Astoria to Ridgewood, after all. The East Branch is absolutely disgusting all the time, due to the presence of a gigantic seven vaulted sewer which drains parts of Brooklyn as far away as Canarsie. There is virtually zero laminar “flow” back here due to tidal influence, and the water instead exists in a vertical column with the poison sediment suspended in gradient horror.

God, how I love it all. The smell… it’s like rotting ham floating in watery mayonnaise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is constantly amazed at the willful littering encountered all over Queens. People standing next to a corner trash can will opt to toss garbage in the street rather than using the bin. Got a tire or two you’re done with? Why dispose of it properly when you can just haul it up to chest level and then throw it over a fence into an area waterway?

Don’t take my chides the wrong way, I’m no saint, but doesn’t it take more effort to get rid of your tire this way than it does to just leave it in the corner by the DSNY bin? Both are illegal, of course, but seriously… it takes a lot more effort to toss the thing in the water than it would to roll it to a corner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That structure on the right hand side of the shot is the MTA’s counting house, a fortress like building where they process all the cash from bus boxes, metro card machines, and subway fare control booths. All those armored cars and armed guards you see in the subway? Yup, this is one of the places they report to work.

I’ve actually met people who work here. They described what life is like inside. It seems that to ensure nobody pockets any of MTA’s cash, a pocketless jumpsuit with a padlock on the zipper is worn by the workers. If you need to use the bathroom, your supervisor has to unlock your coverall and you are searched before and after using the facility. My reaction to this was to ask if it was anything like the drug operation in the movie “New Jack City” in there.

The answer was “yes.”


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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

February 27, 2020 at 11:00 am

so shunned

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Like sand through the hour glass, so too are the sewers of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finishing up the presentation of several long exposure shots gathered around a foggy Newtown Creek, on an uncharacteristically warm February night following a soaking two day rain event, today’s post finds a humble narrator at the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens at the Newtown Creek tributary known as the “East Branch.” For two thirds of the walk, my colleague Will Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance was hanging out with me, but he had to split and a humble narrator found himself in a familiar territory known as “alone.”

Sort of like that tree in the shot above, looking north down Metropolitan Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The East Branch is, to say the least, environmentally compromised. The sidewalk I was standing on is actually a walkway, slung atop a seven vaulted open sewer, the twentieth largest in terms of materials vomited into the water in the entire City of New York, called “CSO NC-083.” This pipe allows somewhere’s in the neighborhood of 586 million gallons of untreated sewage egress into this shallow industrial canal annually. You should see it during the day at low tide, I tell ya.

Across the yard is a large lumber yard whose street address is along East Williamsburgh’s Grand Street, and I literally had one foot in Brooklyn and another in Queens while recording its presence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The streets were deserted of all but occasional vehicle traffic. Because of the fog and the absence of people in what is normally a bustling and fairly dangerous to move through traffic corridor, a real sense of “spooky” permeated the air. An occasional passerby would stumble past me, offer a nod or some throaty greeting sound, and move along shaking their heads.

What? It’s not normal to be standing on a giant sewer in an industrial zone, along a Federal Superfund site in the middle of the night, taking pictures in the dark? Sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was set to a higher sensitivity in terms of aperture and sensor ISO than the others in this post, as a note. I’m sort of interested in the light gathering power offered by allowing the camera to stare for long periods of time into darkness. Unlike the high ISO shots, however, there could a Bigfoot walking through the shot and the camera wouldn’t record it unless said Sasquatch was to stand stick still for around 35-40 seconds.

I’d recommend using a flash for Bigfoot photos, anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I got creeped out by a carload of teenagers at one point and hid behind a mailbox before cutting through a parking lot to get to the other side of the East Branch without having to walk back into Brooklyn where they were headed. Welcome to Queens, by the way. If you head up the hill to the right, you’re going to Ridgewood, stay on Metropolitan to the left and you’re heading towards Maspeth.

Those kids were scary. Teenagers… brrr…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After cutting through my little shortcut over to Grand Avenue (it’s Grand Street in Brooklyn, Grand Avenue in Queens). The final spot I wanted to shoot from was arrived at, the 115 year old Grand Street Bridge.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

ignorantly spared

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Back on the job.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since the recent extreme cold spell has broken, a humble narrator has found himself marching about again, and boy are my dogs barking. On Tuesday, a stroll over to Bushwick East Williamsburg was enacted and the farthest reaches of the Newtown Creek at English Kills were observed. As expected, the waterway was frozen over.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Toxic ice. You don’t get to say that particular phrase that too often, but that’s what you’re looking at in the shot above. English Kills is the far eastern terminus of Newtown Creek, which branches off of the East River nearly 3.8 miles from the larger waterbody. These shots were gathered at about 3.7 miles back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That big sewer outfall at the end of the tributary is the 3.8 mile terminus mark, and the north/south street seen beyond the fencelines is Johnson Avenue. The surrounding neighborhood is gentrifying (dictionary definition of gentrifying), but on a fairly small scale as compared to points found to the west like LIC and Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One decided to hang around the neighborhood for a bit and stretch my legs after the long interval of being trapped in the house by inclement clime, and visit a few of my favorite places. This shot is from the Scott Avenue footbridge, which spans the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch freight tracks, just as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was dipping behind New Jersey to the west.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heading over towards Metropolitan Avenue, and another of the dead end tributaries of Newtown Creek – the East Branch, one discovered that this section of the water was similarly locked in a decidedly polar state.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ice was decaying faster in both waterways where it touched the open sewer outfalls, no doubt due to the flow of melt water laden with road salt coming in from as far away as Canarsie. This untreated sewage is quite biologically active as well, and the metabolism of the microscopic entities contained in the water column likely helps to warm it up a bit.


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dull acquiescence

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It’s National Candied Orange Peel Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week was quite a busy one, with the new K bridge opening and the Governor coming to Newtown Creek, and then riding over the thing with the NY Times and all, but my fun didn’t end there. After the green cab ride with Emma G. Fitzsimmons, the NY Times transit reporter who wrote the article, one found himself in Williamsburg where I got to observe the insane amount of traffic typical of the Metropolitan Avenue corridor. I had to get to Maspeth to meet up with Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY and a couple of other friends, who had asked me to conduct a Newtown Creek walk for them. I had a full day of scuttling in front of me, so I wanted to conserve my energy.

Luckily, the Q54 bus replicates the route of an old trolley line which connected Williamsburg to Maspeth, so I whipped out my Metrocard and headed for the Clinton or Goodfellas diner. Traffic was horrible all the way there, and I ended up being about a half hour late for the endeavor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The walk I took the small group on was a “half Creekathon” which proceeded eastwards from industrial Maspeth through Bushwick and Ridegwood and then west towards Greenpoint. As this was the first truly warm day of the year (and quite humid) our stamina was challenged and we didn’t quite make it all the way, but the roughly five mile walk around the Newtown Creek was – as always – fascinating. The view above is from mid span on the Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Slouching roughly across a footbridge that spans the Bushwick Branch lead track of the LIRR, we crossed the Brooklyn Queens border and entered into industrial Bushwick. This is an area undergoing tremendous amounts of transformation, but it’s still quite horrible, thankfully.

Waste Transfer stations, heavy trucking, the most heavily polluted section of Newtown Creek, visiting the destination for about a third of NYC’s putrescent trash… ahhh… home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the Bushwick Branch, we spotted this double engine setup crossing Varick Street from the Waste Management facility which processes and handles the trash which will fill up the garbage train. Those green box cars on the left are the containers for the stuff, and it was a bit surprising seeing a bright blue GATX unit back here – normally it’s the black and emerald color way of the NY & Atlantic company you see.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


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awestruck party

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It’s Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, in the states of California and Virginia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Throw your hands in the air, like you just don’t care.

That’s what most of the residents of Queens do when the subject of Newtown Creek comes up. That’s Brooklyn’s problem, not ours. Then I tell them about how the decisions affecting Queens are being made by the “transplant hipsters of Brooklyn” whom they revile, and that whereas Brooklyn is going to be getting new parks and other municipal goodies out of this Superfund thing… Queens is largely being left out of the equation. That riles the north shore peeps up a bit, but they still don’t get involved. Since the people of Queens are disinterested, so is elected officialdom.

Fish, or cut bait. If neither, then get out of the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always chalked it up to topography. If you’re in East Williamsburg, or Greenpoint, Newtown Creek is part of your life whenever you open your window. The Brooklyn, or south side, of the Newtown Creek hosts residential properties which are literally across the street from the bulkheads. The Queens, or north side, communities generally have a buffer zone of industrial buildings and highways separating them from the water. Newtown Creek is a half mile from residential Sunnyside.

In Queens, they complain about truck traffic, hipsters, and gentrification.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We are at a critical juncture, Newtown Creek wise. The science from all parties involved in the cleanup is beginning to be compiled. The DEP, in particular, is about to lock itself into a quarter century long program of construction and strategic maneuvering. Around a year or so from now, the oil and gas people will be doing the same and committing to a strategic course.

Ultimately, EPA will be doing the same thing and deciding on their course of action, but given the current political crisis in the Federal Government there is no real day to day guarantee that there will be an Environmental Protection Agency which resembles the current one.

What do clean and accessible waterways mean to President Trump and Steve Bannon?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is going to be a meeting, the latest of many, of the Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group (CAG) on the first of February. If the shot above looks good to you, and you’d like to see more of the same – don’t come. If you care about not having a billion and a half gallons of raw sewage a year spilling onto mounds of poisonous and century old industrial waste, do come. Pipe up, we need voices and perspectives from outside the echo chamber.

Details on the meeting – time, place, etc. – can be accessed at this link. We could use some Queensican bodies in the room.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post were gathered on the eastern side of the Newtown Creek, in Ridgewood and Maspeth. The environmental conditions in these industrial buffer zones are off the charts bad. You don’t have to look far to find dead birds, rats, all sorts of unlucky critters who innocently wandered in here. It wasn’t the Creek that killed them, it was the hundreds of heavy trucks.

As a note to Maspeth and Ridgewood residents – this is where the trucking you complain about comes from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a vision of what the future can hold for generations unborn that we have all been working for and towards. An industrial canal which also welcomes recreational boaters. An industrial canal which was the most significant job creation engine NYC has ever seen and which can be so again. A mixed use waterway in which business and the ecology operate hand in hand.

Ever heard of the “Maspeth heat island effect”? It’s the reason why your energy bills are so high during the summer, and it’s caused by the complete lack of green space in these industrial neighborhoods, which causes temperatures hereabouts to be ten or more degrees warmer during the summer than in surrounding communities. Is that Brooklyn’s problem? What about the trucks, or the garbage trains?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This post is meant to scold, and compel. Get involved, whatever your point of view is. The political elites of our City will not care unless you care.


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possible opportunities

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My beloved Newtown Creek, at the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The spot which this shot was captured from is definitively in Queens, although it is quite close to the Brooklyn border which is currently somewhere on the Grand Street bridge in DUGSBO. Said border has moved around a bit over the years, as the political classes of both Boroughs vied for advantage over each other. Nearby Ridgewood has been claimed by both municipal entities over the years, for instance, as each attempted to increase its Congressional delegation or share of tax revenue from State or Federal government. This border dispute has become violent in the past, and it’s just a matter of time until another conflict springs up around the legislative demarcation. It would be a war of alliances, and entrenched positions, a grinding slaughterhouse which future generations might call – Brooklyn Queens War One, or BQW1.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It has long been my supposition that were hostilities to break out between the two sides, the neighborhood of the Grand Street Bridge would form up the front line, functioning as a stand in for the Ardennes Forest as the setting for an unwanted but inevitable conflict. I’m sure that alliances would figure into this, eventually drawing the Bronx and Staten Island in. Manhattan would likely act as a war profiteer, selling weapons and intelligence to all sides. The random possibility of volunteer regiments from White Plains or Jersey City volunteering to fight is slim, but is definitively something for the Generals of both Borough Halls to figure into their strategic calculations. Last thing you’d want is a few hundred thousand fresh “Doughboys” showing up from Albany.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eventually, even Nassau County would find itself having to choose sides, as refugees from Canarsie and Jamaica seeking to escape the shelling flooded into the relative safety of the eastern suburbs. The Brooklyn aligned forces would have a naval advantage, I’m sure, as Queens has been stripped of much of her maritime infrastructure. With the Bronx at her back, however, Queens aligned forces would make it quite costly for the BKSI soldiery or naval forces to capture even an inch of ground. Don’t forget, Queens has the rails, which means that large scale troop deployments and even rail based guns are possible. The Battle of the Queensbridge Houses would surely be reminiscent of Stalingrad, and the Battle of Breezy Point remembered as a tragedy for both sides. Perhaps the blasted heaths of crater scarred Hunters Point and an artillery blasted Greenpoint might serve as a cautionary tale for future generations.

Also, Queens has all the airports.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 12, 2014 at 11:53 am

argued absence

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Today’s post straddles the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens at Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Standing astride Brooklyn and Queens, your humble narrator is endlessly fascinated by the machinery adorning a concrete plant. Passing through and upon the Grand Street Bridge, a pause for reflection of the East Branch of the Newtown Creek was enjoyed. I like to wander up to spots on the Creek these days and try to remember everything I know about it, as a sort of test. While there, I look for anomalous or malign indications of everything that there might be, which is buried down there.

I also try to figure out how many security cameras might be recording me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Paranoid tendencies are just one of the many flaws which I have been accused of displaying, but as I am the terrible sort of person whom you would avoid if you could, they remain one of my better traits. Funny thing is that there are those who hope for my destruction, but they display an alarming lack of competency. “Judge a man by the company he keeps” isn’t my rubric, I judge you by your enemies.

My enemies are generally clowns, so what does that say about me?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What is a man? What has he got? If not himself, then he has not? Thats what I think some song I once heard says.

In the case of this poor specimen, all I’ve got are a couple of spots on a superfund site in the middle of New York City where I can reliably expect to find and or produce Cormorants. Sometimes. Do you suppose that they’re the same Cormorants? Have they been following me around? I’m probably just being paranoid.

Its not like the government secretly records all my phone calls or anything.

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Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

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