The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘illegal dumping

draped bales

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The native art form of Queens, illegal dumping, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often has a humble narrator commented on the panache and style in which the neighbors hereabout dispose of unwanted items. Sure, you’ve got illegal dumping in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and on the islands of Staten and Manhattan, but nowhere else in the City of Greater New York will you find the compositional flare and post modern sensibility of the Queensican who is trying to dispose of an unwanted item in a clandestine manner.

In Queens, people still care about how their middens look – so go ahead and call us old fashioned!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a few items which the redoubtable Department of Sanitation either won’t take due to regulatory rules, or due to improper packaging of the refuse for collection. None of the items in the shot above are proscribed, to my knowledge, but that doesn’t mean a thing to the Woodside artisan who arranged them on a sidewalk beneath the NY Connecting Railroad tracks recently. Here in Queens, freedom of expression is sacrosanct.

Disingenuously, or casually, arranged sidewalk litter?

Not in my back yard, thank you.

Just the other night, as I watched a lady empty her vehicle of what must have been a full case of empty beverage bottles into the street in front of my own domicile, and the utter joy of her explorative compositional process nearly overwhelmed me. Calling down to her – I assured her that we local residents would be happy to take care of her installation, post facto, and thanked her for choosing my block for her canvas.

It’s important to acknowledge the artist as they pursue their work rather than after they’re gone. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is a syncopated flair, a level of deep improvisational thought – a rythmic irony that’s at work in the expression of the native born art form of Queens, as encountered here and there. You don’t just open the door of a contractors van and push debris out in the same manner you would in Brooklyn. I’m Queens… we hold a higher standard, and our illegal dumping was “artisanal” long before Brooklyn appropriated the word.

In many ways, illegal dumping in Queens is reminiscent of 1950’s era Jazz. Think Mingo, and Monk.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 10, 2016 at 11:00 am

tangible miasma

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The native art form of Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long has one postulated that the native art form of Queens is illegal dumping. It is accomplished with a compositional flair and attention to detail that Brooklyn and the Bronx can only dream of. When you spend as much time as I do around the Newtown Creek and the concrete devastations surrounding it, this becomes obvious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was heading over to Greenpoint recently, to accomplish some sort of folderol, when the tableau above was observed in LIC’s Blissville section. This was on Greenpoint Avenue, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The dumped mattresses exhibited the tell tale signs of a bedbug infestation, so I was using my telephoto zoom lens to capture shots of it – not wanting to get closer to the things than I needed to.

Bedbugs… brrr…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not sure if bedbugs can leap, or jump, or propel themselves through the atmospheric void in some unknown manner which would indicate that they can fly like Superman, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

Bedbugs, or “vantzen” as my grandmother would have called them, are grotesque human predators. Vampire insects. The stains on the mattress covers are actually produced by their fecal matter and are literally digested human blood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Grossed out, I propelled myself across the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge which spans the lugubrious Newtown Creek. Whatever ails you, parasite wise, will likely be cured by the therapeutic poisons of the Newtown Creek. If Newtown Creek doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger… that’s what I tell myself all the time.

Newtown Creek, is there anything you can’t do?

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


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measures appropriate

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The Astoria Tumbleweeds doth roll, and the wheel of the year turns.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The gloomy skies of late December and early January are less than inviting in the City of Greater New York. Cold – and rain – coupled with a general sense of annual ennui and thwarted personal ambition, contribute to a dire outlook and general sense of malaise. Bones creak, tendons stretch painfully, and the extremities are rendered numb as vital fluids retreat towards the core. Regardless, a humble narrator marches forth, in pursuance of presenting the truth of our times in graphic narrative – at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Raised in the Hebraic culture, it has always struck one such as myself strange that the Goyem cut down trees and drag them into their homes in December, only to cast the dearly held verge aside in January.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tumbleweeds of Astoria have been often mentioned here. The corpses of trees abandoned, and carried by the sciroccos of Queens which cause them to drift along the concrete hereabouts unheralded. Thirty, sixty, even ninety days hence – their dehydrated corpses will be observed still rolling around the “via publica” – stripped of their verdance. Wild agglutinations of kindling will be observed sticking out of snow banks, or adorning the abandoned fence lines of construction lots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As opined, the native art form of the borough of Queens seems to be illegal dumping, and never has this statement been truer than when the subject of Christmas trees and decorations is brought up. Observance of the habits and mores of the Sanitation department has revealed an unexplainable, and certain, reluctance to collect this particular specie of refuse. Officialdom encourages the gentry to bring the cast away trees to certain locations, usually accessible only by motor vehicle, for mulching in pursuance of creating compost.

As this would require effort on the part of the citizenry, it’s simpler for the average Queensican to just leave the thing on the sidewalk, or dump it along Skillman Avenue, and allow the wind to carry it away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Illegal dumping is something that a humble narrator sees everywhere he goes in the borough of Queens. Some of it is simply explained as emanating from low tier building contractors attempting to avoid the cost of disposing of construction waste – manifested as a pile of contractor bags filled with dry wall or plaster that you’ll see under a rail trestle or along an industrial facilities’ fence. There’s the domestic furniture as well, and odd agglutinations of paint cans and sometimes spoiled food stuffs. A recent change in the rules enacted by State and City Governments concerning curb side pickup will undoubtedly be feeding a new phyla of curbside dumping – electronics.

The State of New York recently changed the law regarding electronics disposal, which as of April 1st of this year, make it a fineable offense to place commonly held items on the curb for DSNY pickup. A full list of the offending items can be accessed here, and the City has created intake centers – one in each borough – for electronics to be disposed of legally. In Queens, it’s in College Point, which is fairly distant for most of us and impossible to access without a motor vehicle.

Get ready to witness a new flowering of the native art form of Queens this spring.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason I call it an art form rather than a misdemeanor in our fair Borough is due to the careful placement and juxtapositioning of abandoned trash. Brooklyn? Haphazard and rushed dumping with nary a consideration for negative space. Manhattan and the Bronx? Disorganized piles and middens of trash placed with no aesthetic care. Staten Island? You don’t see a lot of illegal dumping on Staten Island, or at least I don’t. That’s because you’ve got a predominance of DSNY workers living there, and the garbage men like their nests neat.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 8, 2016 at 11:15 am

illusion brought

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cloudy days and colorless nights are all that one such as myself can look forward to, and it is only within the wasted devastations of the Newtown Creek where memories of succor and happiness might be found.

In such a spot, and for several months in fact, these trailers of automotive tires have been sitting. Seemingly abandoned, one knows not the purpose of their corporeal presence at the Vernon Street End here in Long Island City, but given the long history of dumping in the area- one presumes their status as circumspect. It should be mentioned that the trailers have license plates and identifying marks, which is unusual for such scenarios.

from wikipedia

Tire stockpiles create a great health and safety risk. Tire fires can occur easily, burning for months, creating substantial pollution in the air and ground. Recycling helps to reduce the number of tires in storage. An additional health risk, tire piles provide harborage for vermin and a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may carry diseases. Illegal dumping of scrap tires pollutes ravines, woods, deserts, and empty lots; which has led many states to pass scrap tire regulations requiring proper management. Tire amnesty day events, in which community members can deposit a limited number of waste tires free of charge, can be funded by state scrap tire programs, helping decrease illegal dumping and improper storage of scrap tires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Four of these trailers have been here since at least late January. You can see them in the background of this shot from the 22nd day of 2013.

At various intervals, the doors of more than one of these trailers have hung open before me, and they are all full of tires. Mayhaps there is some legitimate and wholesome purpose for their presence, which is beyond my reckoning.

It’s not as if 4 seemingly abandoned trailers, parked in proximity to the Buckeye Pipeline and directly over the G train tunnel (and within throwing distance of a rail yard and the Midtown Tunnel) would be noticed or investigated by the same security and law enforcement personnel who will regularly inquire “what are you taking pictures of” of me from their squad cars. This is Queens.

What could happen?

from wikipedia

Security theater is the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually achieve it. The term was coined by computer security specialist and writer Bruce Schneier for his book Beyond Fear, but has gained currency in security circles, particularly for describing airport security measures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you used to the Brooklyn point of view, these are the slabs of cement that the boat people are tied off to on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek, around a block from the LIRR yard. Nothing to worry about, go back about your business.

I’m told that the group of boats nesting along the shore here has taken to calling itself the “Hunters Point Boat Sanctuary.”

This was once the home of the Newtown Creek Towing Company, incidentally, right alongside the Vernon Avenue Bridge.

1908 image from “Illustrated History of the Borough of Queens, New York City By Georg von Skal, Flushing Journal, Flushing, N.Y” – courtesy google books. That’s Brooklyn on the right, Queens to the left.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The situation here continues to scare the hell out of me, but no one seems particularly concerned about it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To my admittedly age ravaged eyes, this doesn’t look so safe. The heavy concrete blocks which support the ad hoc moorings of these boats is clearly and inexorably being pulled toward the Creek. Never mind the fact that they are docking in the direct outfall of a combined sewer pipe.

from nyc.gov

Sometimes, during heavy rain and snow storms, combined sewers receive higher than normal flows. Treatment plants are unable to handle flows that are more than twice design capacity and when this occurs, a mix of excess stormwater and untreated wastewater discharges directly into the City’s waterways at certain outfalls. This is called a combined sewer overflow (CSO). We are concerned about CSOs because of their effect on water quality and recreational uses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s the scene at the ragged border of Queens known as Newtown Creek and the Vernon Avenue Street End in the early spring of 2013.

It has been decided to do an occasional series of posts which are strictly “here’s what is there” in nature, simply to document the place as it begins a season of tremendous change. Hunters Point South has begun, and the Kosciuszko reconstruction will be starting up this fall, Greenpoint Landing is not far away either.

This is the penultimate year for the Newtown Creek’s 20th century incarnation, which will be utterly altered, upgraded, and updated in the next decade.

from nyc.gov

Newtown Creek is a 3.8-mile long tidal water body located in the City of New York, having five main tributaries (Dutch Creek, Whale Creek, Maspeth Creek, East Branch and English Kills) and is itself a tributary of the East River. The creek is a part of the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary that forms the north-south border between the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

The Newtown Creek area has a history of widespread industrial development dating back to the 1800s. In the mid-1800s, the area adjacent to Newtown Creek was one of the busiest hubs of industrial activity in New York City. More than 50 refineries were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. Newtown Creek was brimming with commercial vessels. During World War II, the creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation. This historic development has resulted in changes in the nature of the Creek from a natural drainage condition to one that is largely governed by engineered and institutional systems.

unplaced and forgotten

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in the past, an oft repeated refrain is that “In Queens, illegal dumping is an art form”. Walking home from a soul numbing journey to St. Michael’s Cemetery in Astoria, a perambulation which sought to temporarily alleviate the coruscating horror of my own company, this pithy little installation was observed along the service road of the Grand Central Parkway from the stout little overpass that carries Astoria Blvd. South over the larger highway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given my mood of late, such confirmations of the destructive malice of my neighbors bring an evil smile to the leathery face worn by this charmless mendicant. Should there be a moment in life during which a memory of pleasant character may rise to the surface, displacing the endless litany of failings and missteps which comprise my actual conscious milieu, such wanton disregard for the public grounds might dampen it. Of course, such moments do not come for one such as myself.

Also- Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 27, 2012 at 12:15 am

chiseled chamber

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often have I mentioned to you, Lords and Ladies of Newtown, that illegal dumping is a bit of an art form here in Western Queens. As the solitary wanderings around the neighborhood often carry me along distaff and seldom walked streets, the majestic compositions of refuse I observe are staggering.

To wit, the tire and rim above was found along the nameless local street which follows the Brooklyn Queens Expressway between 46th and 49th street in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby, what must be an entire apartment’s worth of goods, arranged indelicately amidst another nameless spot defined by Astoria Blvd. South, the BQE, and 48th street. A youth of indeterminate status was picking into the mass, searching for discarded treasures. Notice the large television near the stairs, and the expensive leather furniture. He didn’t care about these items, and was actually looking for video game cartridges or jewelry. Astoria kids grow up fast, and wise to the world.

Such is the lot of things, of course, dust to dust and all that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Old Astoria, where public housing abuts multi million dollar mansions, sewer plants, power stations, and a magnificent park- this scene was captured at the corner of Main Avenue and Astoria Blvd., where an odd concentration of manufactured goods lay abandoned and unnoticed.

Your humble narrator is sometimes guilty of casual littering, but as “Woodsy Owl” instructed me in youth- it’s “my garbage” so I should dispose of waste in proper receptacles and will often carry trash for blocks looking for a public basket.

Of course, what are you supposed to do with used tires, or an entire apartment of stuff in New York City?

What color bag are you supposed to put them in?

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 25, 2012 at 12:15 am

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