The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Greenpoint

watching sentinels

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One more bit of Creekery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even at three or four in the morning, it’s hard to find a thirty second interval on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge during which heavy trucks or buses aren’t passing over the double bascule drawbridge and causing it to quiver and quake. Getting any sort of usable long exposure shot from up there is a matter of luck for most. Since I give it a go every time I’m walking over it at night, the law of averages states that I’m occasionally going to be able to time it right.

That’s the new Kosciuszcko Bridge in the distance, poking its head up over the industrial zone found along Railroad Avenue in LIC’s Blissville section. That enormous smokestack is all that’s left of Van Iderstine’s fat rendering operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If “over yonder” means the Greenpoint, Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek, then over yonder that’s what used to be called the BP Amoco yard. It’s a distribution hub for petroleum products, and those tanks contain various flavors of refined products. It sits in part of the footprint of the old Standard Oil Sone and Fleming refinery complex which would one day become Mobil Oil. Across Apollo Street to the east was another Standard refinery operation – Locust Hill. Apollo Street is the epicenter of the Greenpoint Oil Pill discovery and remediation process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is actually a handheld one, looking roughly westwards across Greenpoint towards Manhattan. Remember that heavy traffic I mentioned? Never, ever stops.

Back Monday with something different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

spiritual dread

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My beloved Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered while I was riding on a hybrid ferry boat, which at the time was running on its electric mode. This was a novel experience, I must say. Beyond the whole environmental thing, what was fascinating about this vessel was how quiet it was, and how the deck plates weren’t vibrating with transmitted engine oscillations. Can’t tell you much about the thing, as it wasn’t my “show.”

Saying that, my “show” will be once again opening its curtains on Wednesday October 15th, with an Atlas Obscura/Airbnb “experience” offering my “Infrastructure Creek” walk to a very limited group of 12. This will be an evening/night walk, which should be pretty exciting. Link is both above and below, so please come with if you can. The same tour will be repeated on October 29th. These tours are part of how I keep a roof over my head, so any and all tickets sold essentially feed me, and fund the various technologies which allow me to bring you Newtown Pentacle five days a week and fifty two weeks a year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria Community Board 1 will be gathering at Astoria World Manor on Astoria Blvd. tonight at 6:30. It promises to be an interesting meeting. The Transportation Alternatives organization (Bicycle people) will be offering a presentation pushing for their latest advocacy position which asks the City to create a protected bike lane on Crescent Street connecting the Triborough and Queensboro Bridges. This is sure to be the subject of much conversation and gnashing of teeth in the coming months here in the ancient village, so… Additionally, there is a proposal to develop two currently industrially zoned properties on the Ditmars side of the neighborhood on 45th and 46th street into largish apartment houses.

Discussion of the latter has obsessed the frequent commenters found at Facebook’s Astoria discussion group for the last week. That particular cadre of opinion offerers seem to be composed largely of people who moved out of Astoria in the 1980’s that offer an overly sentimental picture of the “good old days” which has little resemblance to reality. For instance, somebody who is in their mid 60’s in 2019 that says “you could leave your doors unlocked back then” is referring to the late 1970’s in NYC. That’s the midst of an era when you not only triple locked your door, you also installed iron bars on both first AND second story windows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That aphorism about leaving your door open is something I’ve encountered my entire life. My maternal grandparents offered it when referring to living in the “Shtetl” or Lower East Side of Manhattan during the 1920’s when they first got here. My mom and dad also repeated the refrain when referring to East New York’s Brownsville or Brooklyn’s Borough Park where they respectively grew up (the Waxman family’s ancestral property holdings are now a part of the Maimonides Hospital parking garage). You heard this in the neighborhoods which I grew up in, and the saying was always tinged with a certain amount of racism, with the underlying implication that things were better during a more segregated era (red lining was a practice in the real estate world which only allowed certain ethnicities to live in certain areas. It’s part of the “how and why” which NYC’s “ethnic” enclaves were formed by – African American Bed Stuy and Bushwick, Hispanic North Brooklyn, Jewish Midwood and Crown Heights, Italian Bensonhurst and so on).

Back tomorrow with something else. See you tonight at CB1 if you want to come watch the show. Me, I wish I was going to be on a boat tonight during the storm, electric or not. I spend too much of my life in meetings.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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.

done among

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Whom will stop the rain? Still, I wonder.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one had to attend a Superfund meeting at Greenpoint’s PS 110, and since the presentation being offered by officialdom was something I was seeing for the third time, I got bored. Accordingly, I wandered around the public school floor I was on for a few minutes, wondering what grade school class rooms looked like these days. In the case of PS 110, which is a centuried building found across the street from McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, the answer is found in the shot above.

I don’t know, wasn’t expecting holograms or something, but that’s pretty much what school looked like 45 years ago when I could still fit in one of those chairs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, last weekend, I had to attend an event at Newtown Creek Alliance HQ – the Kingsland Wildflower Festival – and I also got bored. I’m easily bored, as a note. I went wandering for a bit and disappeared from the event, and noticed this crew digging and scraping into the pavement. They must have heard the old legend about the pirate Blackbeard burying chests of loot here in Greenpoint back in the colonial era and were trying their luck. Didn’t see any 18th century Spanish Doubloons, Dutch Gilders, or gold of any kind in their truck, so I figure that they came up empty.

Ever hear the one about the guy in Greenpoint who set up an improvised oil derrick in his back yard about twenty years ago, seeking to tap into the underground oil spill?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a fairly adventure free and somewhat frustrating summer, the Fall has been absolutely and stunningly fun for me. This week alone, I’ve managed to spend a day on a boat with the US Army Corps of Engineers, and yesterday I got to ride in a locomotive engine on the former Evergreen (modern day Bushwick Branch) tracks found on the eastern side of Newtown Creek.

The camera has had a real workout recording all sorts of cool stuff, as you’ll see next week 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2019 at 11:00 am

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.


“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 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

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