The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Greenpoint

shuddering violently

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Palpable, redolent, and exhausting – that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It has been one heck of a couple of weeks for a humble narrator, and boy oh boy am I beat up. There’s the proverbial “burning the candle at both ends” and then there’s just throwing the candle into a campfire. The latter is what I’ve been up to, and I’ve finally arrived at a short interval whereupon I can relax for a couple of days and “chill.” Busy is better than having nothing to do, but… I like to break words down to reveal their true meaning, and “recreation” is a literal and tangible requirement at the moment. Time to re-create.

I’ve got a book or two which I want to put together, and I’m hoping to have one or the other ready and available for Christmas. Meeting season is also upon me, and it’s time to start annoying the Government people again. Community Board, Superfund, and a new hopeless cause right here in Astoria which I’ve been laying the groundwork for are about to kick into gear. Anything y’all want me to rattle on about with officialdom? Leave me instructions and so on in the comments, and I’ll see if I can get your pet peeve considered and in front of the right people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a mean season in politics coming, what with all the three term incumbents term limited in both Brooklyn and Queens. On both sides of the Newtown Creek, the “powers that be” are all about to change seats after a long period of predictability. New factions and interest groups will be manifesting themselves and pushing their particular apple carts. As is always the case with “sharp elbows,” things are already starting to get ugly, and we’re nowhere near an election at the moment.

It’s going to be an interesting if mean interval, I think. Epic bullshitting is what I expect to hear and see, in our ongoing ideological war between the “Know nothings” and the “Whigs.” As I’m wont to remind and chide – Civilizations end, but life goes on. Also, the war between the Cowboys and the Arabs has been going on for 18 years now, and there’s no end in sight, but nobody talks about that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what sunrise on the new Kosciuszcko Bridge looks like, as a note. Captured this last Sunday morning, which feels like it was a month ago to me. Back Monday with something else that I can’t imagine quite yet.

Don’t know what I’m doing with my time off this weekend, but I’ll have the camera with me. Can’t wait to find out where I’m going to go and what I’m going to see, but you’ll see it here – at your Newtown Pentacle.


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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

September 13, 2019 at 1:00 pm

dominant concern

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Green v. Gray, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Me and my mates at Newtown Creek Alliance, and in the larger environmentalist community, are always rattling on about Green versus Gray infrastructure. So – what does that mean? Basically, it comes down to taxes and “bang for the buck.” That magnificent new Wastewater Treatment plant in Greenpoint, pictured above, cost billions and billions of dollars. It also took literally decades to build. Technological marvel notwithstanding, the cost of that thing was borne by raising water tax and rates on property owners, who passed it on to their tenants in the form of higher rents. The plant is, after all, owned and operated by a City agency, the Department of Environmental Protection or DEP. DEP also handles delivery of drinking water, the upstate reservoirs which supply it, and a few other things (noise complaints, for instance). The agency was created in a 1983 City charter revision which combined multiple offices, including the various sewer systems of the Boroughs, into the current monolithic organization. They inherited a chaotic situation, with sewerage pipes in the ground that combine the flow of sanitary and storm water which were laid out by the independent cities of Brooklyn, Richmond, or LIC/Newtown as early as the 1860’s. During rain events, the storm water pipes introduce vast overages of water into this combined system, and outfalls – there are 400 of them in NY Harbor – act as release valves for the increased flow. That means that untreated sanitary sewerage is released into area waterways along with the storm water. It’s why you can’t go swimming at the beach in NYC after it rains, and is part of the reason why inland waterways like the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek are Federal Superfund sites. The Superfund situation is costing DEP money as well, which means that taxes and fees on water will continue rising, and so will the rent.

Gray infrastructure – as epitomized by the 7+ billion dollar sewer plant pictured above – is expensive to build and maintain. That plant can handle an astounding 800 million gallons of wastewater a day, but in the concretized landscape of NYC, a quarter inch of rain falling citywide translates to a billion gallons of storm water entering the system. Newtown Creek alone receives (estimates vary) between 1.4 and 1.8 billion gallons of untreated “combined sewer outfall” annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Green infrastructure, on the other hand, is fairly cheap to install and maintain. Green roofs, rain gardens, and open land with plantings either drink up rain or allow it to flow down into the ground and feed into the water table. Additionally, Green Infrastructure ameliorates another consequence of having paved over everything with impermeable material – the so called “Maspeth Heat Island” effect.

Heat islands occur in urban spaces devoid of trees and greenery. Masonry and concrete tend to “hold” heat and radiate it back out. Even at night, the industrial neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are demonstrably 5-15 degrees warmer than the residential ones which are generally well planted. This causes area businesses to spend more on climate control for their spaces, increasing their energy usage footprints and the cost of doing business in NYC. Green roofs, like the one pictured above in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section, change the equation. They divert storm water and keep the structure below the roof a few degrees cooler.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It can be heinously expensive to retrofit existing building stock’s rooftops to handle the loading weight of a green roof, and since there’s little to no tax incentive to do so offered by City or State, most building owners like the idea but pass on it. Given that we’re in the middle of a building boom here in NYC, and particularly so in LIC and North Brooklyn, you’d think that all of these “Green New Deal” types would be demanding that new construction incorporate “Green Infrastructure” technology into their projects. Sadly, this isn’t the case, as everything is false and a deception in the worlds of Politics and Big Real Estate.

Me? I’m realistic about life in the big City, the bottom line, and personally won’t do anything which I don’t want to do unless I know there’s a hefty fine I can avoid by doing it. The City currently meters the water going up the pipe into apartment buildings, but doesn’t meter what’s coming back out. Maybe if we did the latter, it would encourage the developers of 40, 60, or even 80 story apartment towers to embrace the Green Infrastructure concept and lessen the impact of their projects on the combined sewer system. It’s probably possible to engineer a net positive on the outflows, which might mean rebates from DEP for providing capacity. Who knows?

Or, we can just keep on building giant multi billion dollar sewer plants which cause your landlord’s water bill, and your rent, to continually rise.


“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

September 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

previously noticed

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Minimalist Wednesday is difficult.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Feature rich and cluttered is how I describe the visual environment that one dwells in. A gauntlet I’ve thrown down for myself is to produce three shots a week which aren’t long focal, do not depict some urban landscape in all of its complexity, and which are somewhat reductive in nature. This ain’t so simple in Queens.

As mentioned in Monday’s posting, a good way to stay interested in what you’re doing is to set a few rules and limitations for yourself, so in the tradition of Newtown Pentacle “series posts” like “Project Firebox,” “Maritime Saturday,” and so on – you’ve got “Minimalist Wednesday.” Something to do, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is an obvious solution tot he problem, optically speaking, which is to use a shallow depth of field aperture setting to isolate out an object from its background. The object above was a bit of heavy chain attached to a utility pole, but you get the idea. The shot above is cheating, imho.

What I’m looking for… man, I don’t know what I’m looking for but I know it when I see it. Or at least, I hope I will.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To wit, this little scenario encountered in Greenpoint. I have no idea what the purpose of this array might be, but that – that’s what I’m looking for.

Anyway, that’s Minimalist Wednesday for you.

This post is being written on Monday, btw, and as you’re reading this, I’m ostensibly down at the Kosciuszcko Bridge opening ceremonies and taking lots and lots of very complicated pictures involving the Governor. My plan is to get all of that to y’all in Friday’s post, as I’m sure that I’m coming back home with hundreds of pics from the K Bridge event(s).


“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

August 28, 2019 at 11:00 am

dissecting room

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This little piggie went to the urgent care?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somehow, a humble narrator broke a toe last night while conducting a tour of Newtown Creek. No crack or pop was sensed, but upon returning to HQ, the sort of purplish red bruise one associates with a broken bone was present, and this morning the spreading hematoma flower on my left foot confirms it. Of course, that means that tonight’s walking tour will be very interesting indeed. Not too much you can do for a busted toe, I’d mention, you just use tape and splint it up to the one next to it.

Luckily, it’s a minor toe, and is basically the Delaware or Luxembourg of the foot. Sigh… I’m just falling apart these days, a delicate flower lost in the concrete devastations of Western Queens and North Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, one has always had the ability to psychologically isolate pain and “put it in my pocket” when it’s inconvenient, with the notable exception of dental issues. Can’t escape from tooth and mouth problems, they’re wired too closely to the brain. A life of disappointment, resentfulness, and emotional tumult coupled with an all too human physique which often lets me down has also caused one to actively cultivate “anhedonia” – a bodily and emotional numbness – as a defense mechanism.

Anhedonia keeps you even in an ever changing and often hazard rich world, I tell ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that the toe doesn’t hurt much at all. It just feels like I’ve got something stuck to it, due to the swelling. The bruise looks awful, but is pretty cool actually, as far as internal bleeding goes. Let’s see what happens to old Mitch today…

Maybe one of my ears will just fall right off, or a pinky finger will spontaneously combust. Take a guess. There’s still some spaces open for tonight’s Greenpoint Walking Limping Tour available, so for those of you who enjoy watching me suffer – a value add on the ticket price.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Upcoming Tours and Events


Thursday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Greenpoint Walking Tour w NYCH20

Explore Greenpoint’s post industrial landscape and waterfront with Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman.

Click here for ticketing and more information.


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

July 25, 2019 at 1:00 pm

obviously recent

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End to end, and where your poop goes, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a view of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant over in Greenpoint, the newest and largest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants. The eight egg shaped structures which define the facility are bio digesters. What that means is that they contain cultures, in industrial amounts, of the same bacteria that the human gut carries. After undergoing several stages of filtration – mechanical, aeration, and so on – NYC’s brew of sewage and storm water is pumped into those eggs whereupon the bacteria go to work. The micro critters consume what’s left of nutrients in the “honey” (which is how the wastewater engineers of the DEP refer to the stuff) and both the digestive process and their biologies sterilize the stuff. The DEP spends a lot of time making sure that the environment inside the eggs is conducive to this biological action, which includes maintaining a constant interior temperature that matches that of the human body.

It seems that we humans have a remarkably inefficient gut, which is why we fart when consuming too much food. So too, does the sewer plant get gassy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those four cylinders burn off the waste gases produced within the eggs, which largely take the form of Methane. As this turns the sewer plant in Greenpoint into one of the largest point sources of “greenhouse gases” in NYC, the DEP is working with the National Grid company in pursuance of harvesting the methane, which would be chemically modified a tad and added to National Grid’s “natural gas” supply and sold to customers. One is fairly familiar with both this partnership and the process, and the wheelings and dealings behind it, and it’s pretty problematic.

The alternative, however, is to do nothing and continue pumping millions of tons of methane into the atmosphere annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Manhattan, at the corner of East 13th and Avenue D, is the Manhattan Pump House. If you’re in the City and flush a toilet anywhere south of 79th street, your “product” is coming here. I’ve been inside this structure, which plunges multiple stories down into the ground (it’s actually deeper than it is tall). All of the “flow” goes into that cylindrical structure on the left side of the facility, which is called a “surge tower.” There’s a black maelstrom visible from the catwalk, which spirals down into a pipe laid across the bottom of the East River and then eastwards deep under Greenpoint and to the plant.

So, that’s where your poop goes.


“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

June 24, 2019 at 1:00 pm

insidious outrages

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Wednesday’s are seldom fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks for a humble narrator, which has seen me visiting several spots scattered around the Newtown Creek. Last week, Newtown Creek Alliance offered a lecture by NYS DEC’s Randy Austin titled “Oil Spills 101” to the public at our 520 Kingsland Avenue HQ. Well attended, the lecture is nevertheless something which I’ve experienced multiple times, so after helping out with setup and introductions, I went upstairs to the Kingsland Green Roof and set up the camera for landscape action. Unlike the failed attempt at such an endeavor described last week, this time I remembered to click all the right buttons and followed my checklist exactly.

See? I’m smart, not dumb, smart. Not like people say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, which presents here at Newtown Pentacle as a rather small image in the vertical sense, is actually a MASSIVE panorama image whose resolution would easily accommodate the pixel count needed for a five foot long print. Click through to flickr and check out the “all sizes” tab if you’re interested. I’d mention that you’d likely not want to do that if you’re on your phone right now. It’s a GIANT image.

Of late, the camera technique I’m using for panorama shots involves turning the tripod mounted camera on its side, in “portrait mode,” and then rotating the leveled tripod head around about five degrees for every exposure. The one above is composited from around thirteen individual shots stitched together. The reason for this, and why I’ve started doing pano shots this way, is that any lens distortion is usually more pronounced at the edges of the frame, and the “squarest” section of any lens is at center. I was using an ND ten stop filter on my lens as well, which means that the shot above represents about five minutes of actual elapsed time, since the ND filter allows me to do longish exposures in full daylight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A more conventional shot is above, looking over the DEP’s Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment plant property towards Greenpoint’s St. Anthony’s and the lower Manhattan skyline beyond.

Also, regarding the ludicrous plethora of ads which WordPress has been inserting into the blog – and of late into the body copy – is a state of affairs which is currently out of my control to stop. In June, I’m going to start making a few changes once the site officially turns ten years old, and one of them will involve eradicating as much of that junk as possible.


“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.

quintessential loathsomeness

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Got to remember to click all the clickie things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I headed over to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Nature Walk in Greenpoint to play around with the camera a bit. It’s a fairly controlled environment, the Nature Walk, and my desire was simply to set up the tripod and attach a certain filter to my lens in pursuance of doing long exposure daylight shots. The benefit of this particular filter, a ten stop neutral density model which is nearly as opaque as welding glass, is that it cuts the amount of light hitting the lens precipitously and allows you to leave the shutter open for long intervals. Problem with it is that you need to set up the camera in a few highly specific ways, which I normally follow a mental checklist to satisfy. If you miss a single one of those steps on the checklist, bad things happen to your images.

I spent about an hour shooting what I thought would be pretty neato keen images, but later discovered that I had skipped a critical step. Managed to get lucky with the shot above, everything else was tossed. Note to self: Don’t forget to turn off the image stabilizer on the lens when you’ve got the camera on the tripod.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as I was breaking down the rig and reinserting my gear into the bag for the walk back home, this tug showed up. I had already stowed the filter and cable release and all the other “chazzerie” but the camera was still up on the tripod. A few quick adjustments brought my settings back into accordance with “normal” shooting. Since these shots were at “normal” shooting speeds measured in fractions of a second, the image stabilizer issue didn’t screw me up.

That’s DonJon Towing’s Emily Ann, maneuvering two bucket barges into Newtown Creek and heading over to their clients at SimsMetal in Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What went wrong with the tripod long exposure shots that I had intended to gather was leaving the lens image stabilizer on, as stated. What that means is this: an image stabilizer is a bit of technology which compensates for shaky hands and moving objects that can offer up to a couple of stops of exposure compensation by wiggling the lens elements around. You’ve got one in your phone camera, so it’s not an esoteric thing. Problem is that it doesn’t sense when you’re mounted on a tripod for an exposure of thirty seconds or more, so despite the camera being stock still, the lens elements are still wiggling. This wiggling introduces blur into the image, which screws the proverbial pooch.

Human error, huh? Human, all too human.


“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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