The Newtown Pentacle

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awful formula

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Bridge2bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been spending quite a bit of time around the fabled Newtown Creek since the first of the year, after suffering through months of broken big toe infirmity and de facto isolation, and shots of the type above – depicting the new Kosciuszcko Bridge from alongside the fenceline at First Calvary Cemetery – have been gathered, but recent endeavor found this particular troll underneath a completely different bridge.

Temperature inversions usually bring fog as well as rain, both of which can either enhance or eviscerate photographic opportunity. Not having quite enough time during a recent foggy episode to head down south to my beloved Newtown Creek, one instead found himself pedantically scuttling northwards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria Park offers gorgeous views of both the Hell Gate and Triborough Bridges, but the winter time opportunity for me involves finding ways to incorporate its skeletal trees into the shot, to act as a frame for the mighty spans. I love me a creepy looking tree, I do.

This was a shot of opportunity, as in it wasn’t “intentional,” rather it just popped up at me while I was wandering past. Weirdly enough, despite the February cold and damp, people were running the track and doing all sorts of exercising. Freaks.

Since I set the standard for sanity in this world, just like Caligula did in his day, I say that the only logical pursuit on an evening like this would be listening to Black Sabbath’s entire discography on shuffle while carrying around a camera and tripod and trying not to fall into the East River.

I have spoken.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had to walk in gooey mud for this one, so for those of you who like this shot, part of its journey to you involved me having to first break out a broom and then a vacuum to clean up the mud which I accidentally tracked back into the house upon returning to HQ. Yuck.

Unfortunately, the fog on this particular evening wasn’t quite the “pea soup” that I was hoping for. There’s definitely a bunch of moisture hanging in the air, but it was nowhere near as opaque as I wished it to be.


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reticent stranger

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High over Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One enjoys the walk over the new Kosciuszcko Bridge so much that I actually walked nearly a mile out of my way to use it the other night. A meeting required my attendance at Newtown Creek Alliance HQ, which is located in close proximity to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and afterwards I headed eastwards towards the pedestrian/bike path entrance for the Kosciuszcko span over Newtown Creek. I will opine that shooting from up there is a fairly complicated process at night, due to the contrast of the endemic shadow which the industrial zone in Greenpoint offers and the bright lights of Manhattan off in the distance, as well as the vibratory effects of heavy traffic hurtling along this section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

You’re looking downwards into Brooklyn, at the very intersection of Meeker and Varick Avenues, in the shot above. It’s a pretty unfriendly street scape down there, and the business on the lower left hand side of the shot with the high steel fencing still had guard dogs patrolling their lot until just a few years ago. The fencing isn’t exactly flush with the ground, and while walking by several years ago one of their Rottweilers had almost worked itself under the fence in pursuance of biting a humble narrator’s bottom. I’ve sort of avoided this section of Varick since, and have largely concerned myself with documenting the NYS DOT project of replacing the 1939 Kosciuszcko Bridge above.

I refer to this area as Brooklyn’s DUKBO – for Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a waste transfer station you’re looking at there, loading a municipal waste truck. Specifically it’s called the Brooklyn C&D Transfer Station, or Varick Avenue Transfer Station by its operators, a company called Waste Connections. Don’t know much about them, and I’ve never met anyone from the company. Apparently – and this is based on a single google search, so don’t hold me to it – they accept construction and demolition materials, asphalt, concrete, and “special waste.” The latter is an industry catch all term for waste materials that can include; Cement Kiln Dust Waste, Crude Oil and Natural Gas Waste, Fossil Fuel Combustion Waste, Mining and Mineral Processing Waste. It seems to be a 24 hour business down there on Varick Avenue, and I’ve never personally seen it closed. There’s usually a line up of privately owned dump trucks waiting to get in there and “tip” their collections.

Companies like this one process, separate, and then ship out all sorts of unwanted material to either other shipping outlets like rail or port facilities, or truck it out of NYC in huge vehicles like that pictured municipal waste truck. Waste handling is a big industry at the Newtown Creek, I tell you. Garbage industry folks, however, will often chime out the adage “It’s got to go somewhere.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They seem to have a separate yard for metals here, and luckily for the wandering photographer, one of the laborers was using some welding equipment while framed up all nice by a well lit materials handler. This is what recycling actually looks like, incidentally. Most people seem to think it’s an occupation populated by Hippies and Oompa Loompas dressed up in clean white uniforms, but it’s quite a heavy industry by definition. It’s also quite a dangerous industry for laborers. There’s all sorts of slippery material on the ground, heavy tools and machines rolling about, multi ton piles of stuff… easy place to get dead, a waste transfer station is. People who work here have to be very, very careful at work.

Back Monday… at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 28, 2020 at 11:00 am

virtuous bluster

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Happy Monday!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, a few of my friends have received a request to “be a guinea pig” for a new walking tour I’m planning on conducting this year. Accordingly, I recently dragged one of them up onto the Kosciuszcko Bridge, which will be a part of the experience. That’s one of the literally hundred shots I gathered in under twenty minutes up there, a frequency that was indicated by something like every five to ten steps. Lots to see up on the Kos. We didn’t hang around for sunset, as my friend on this particular day was desirous of heading over to Queens Blvd. and the 7 line tracks, so that she could wave her camera at the oncoming trains.

So far, one hasn’t been hassled by any of the new Subway cops when sitting in the system, and in fact, haven’t perceived their presence whatsoever in Western Queens. I’m looking forward to the hassle, as “Giuliani Time” is so long ago at this stage that I’m actually nostalgic for the over reaching and invasive enforcement of no actual law. It’s one hundred percent kosher to photograph non commercial work in the MTA system, barring the use of tripods, lights, and flashes. If you wanted to use any of that equipment down below or up above, you need to contact the MTA and get a permit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has always been enamored with the design of the 7 line concrete aqueduct on Queens Blvd. Concrete and steel go so well together, especially when they were combined in the era of the First World War. So utilitarian! So retro!

My favorite thing, though, about the stretch of Queens Blvd. between 33rd and 48th streets is the way that the vaulted concrete arches form a “whisper gallery.” Don’t ask me to explain the physics of it, but if you’re so happy (and you know it) that you clap your hands, the percussive sound waves will travel for blocks and blocks under this structure. If you speak loudly, your voice will echo and boom. I’d like to stage a concert down here someday, one with somebody playing drums. Actually, drums and bagpipes.

File that one under “how to annoy all of Sunnyside.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Upstairs, of course, you’ve got the IRT Flushing or 7 line. I’ve got to admit, since they finished the signals upgrade – and in my experience – the 7 is arriving far more frequently than it used to. It’s also a lot more crowded than it used to be, particularly at either end of its course in Queens. I’ve also observed the train completely emptying out at its Manhattan “Grand Central” stop and have ridden in a totally empty car to the end of the line at Hudson Yards more than once. A private ride to the camera store, for a humble narrator, essentially.

I’ll let y’all know about the new walking tour when I’ve got it all set up. Going to be a good one, that. Bring a camera.


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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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Happy 117th birthday, Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As part of the nocturnal survey of Newtown Creek one is in the midst of undertaking, a recent evening found the camera perched atop the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and a humble narrator lost in a paroxysm of appreciation for the venerable Grand Street Bridge. Not long for this world – as the powers that be have decreed that it shall soon be expensively replaced – this beauty was erected in 1903, replacing an earlier iteration described by the United States Coast Guard as a “hazard to navigation.” The first bridge here was built in 1875, the current version is the third Grand Street Bridge.

Grand Street Bridge is the property of the City of New York, specifically the Department of Transportation. It connects Grand Avenue in Queens with Grand Street in Brooklyn. It’s found 3.1 miles back from the East River’s junction with Newtown Creek, sits at the demarcation point of two Newtown Creek tributaries – the East Branch and English Kills – and is a movable “swing bridge” which sits on a mechanical turntable that rotates the bridge ninety degrees to allow maritime egress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The western sidewalk of the bridge doubles as a bike path, which few bicyclists actually use, seemingly preferring to just use the vehicle lanes. Heavily trafficked by MTA buses going to and from their Grand Avenue Bus Depot on the Maspeth, Queens side, the bridge is narrow and a causal factor in many of the traffic problems experienced in Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and eastern Greenpoint. This is due to the narrowness of the thing, which modern trucks cannot cross two abreast. Instead, drivers wait for traffic to clear the span, which causes backups that stretch for multiple blocks.

Even late at night, when these shots were gathered, it was quite a bother finding a 30 second interval without a heavy vehicle crossing. The Grand Street Bridge shakes and shimmies when even a passenger car crosses it, whereas the passing of a bus or a garbage truck triggers a local bridge quake. Said vibration is ruinous for a tripod mounted camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up on my 2020 survey of the Newtown Creek will be the extreme eastern side of the waterway, followed by a series of walks down the visually miserable Brooklyn side of it. The reason it’s miserable is that are so few places where you can access or even view the water, as opposed to the Queens side where – as you’ve seen in recent weeks – there are multiple points of view worth looking at. Hopefully this is something I can find the time and opportunity to accomplish in the next couple of weeks.

Tomorrow, something different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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.

surprising volume

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A whole lot of garbage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The high flying pedestrian and bike lane section of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is something which I’ve been waiting to explore and exploit since I first learned of the bridge replacement project years ago. The bridge(s) officially opened last year, and I personally witnessed our Sith Lord Governor cut the ceremonial ribbon on the project with that red laser sword of his, but Darth Cuomo was fibbing when he said construction was done. The Governor would likely offer that he finds my lack of faith disturbing.

Principal construction, yes, but the contracts for this project don’t end until at least the end of 2020. Within two days of the official opening, vehicle lanes were blocked off by jersey barriers vouchsafing construction equipment and tool sheds, and orange netted wooden breastworks were once again hugging the bridge’s superstructure and perfectly visible to the children of Blissville and Maspeth. While I was on the bridge last week, for instance, a crew of Union electricians were working on perfecting the street lights illuminating the roadway. That’s the Sith way, I guess.

I’m still trying to figure out how to photograph that series of unearthly LED generated “colours out of space’ which the decorative lighting systems produce.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

See that Waste Transfer Station pictured above, found in Greenpoint?

Hostile reaction to the presence of wandering mendicant photographers over the years at this site have marked my general preoccupation with recording its splendors. Once, a brusque exchange with some hard hatted fellow driving a pickup truck resulted in a humble narrator being actively pursued as he walked quickly away from a threatened physical encounter. I lost the guy after darting across Meeker Avenue, but for a minute there I was sweating. It was August, so I was sweating anyway, but…

Don’t mess with the garbage guys, they specialize in making things disappear and go away. Newtown Creek, especially back here, isn’t Disneyworld and it’s real easy to get hurt if you don’t know the lay of the land. Say it with me – BROOKLYN.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite it all, I do love a good mound of trash.

A problem our City has, though, revolves around trucks being the primary means for transporting this material out of the City after it’s processed. Big players in this industry like Allocco Recycling and Sims Metal use maritime industrial resources to float our recyclable waste away on barges, towed by Tugboats. Waste Management has two giant facilities along the Creek which are serviced by railroad, providing the putrescent cargo which the infamous “Garbage Train” hauls through the Fresh Pond Yard and out of Queens over the Hell Gate Bridge. In either example, however, local collection trucks operated by DSNY or private carters focus their routes in on narrow corridors and intersections around the Newtown Creek, logarithmically increasing traffic in the surrounding residential neighborhoods, on their way to and from any or all of these “waste transfer stations.”

As I remind the “bicycle people” all the time, their quest for safer streets is directly related to reducing the personal waste flow of every New Yorker. According to officialdom, the average New Yorker produces about 1,300 lbs. of garbage a year. Reduce that by even a single percentile, and you’ve taken some of these trucks off the streets. Garbage, lords and ladies, will bury us all.

One wishes Darth Cuomo could fix that.


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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

January 8, 2020 at 11:00 am

faded from

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The fabulous Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The otherworldly light cast from the Koscisuzcko Bridge is like no earthly color, instead it’s like some colour out of space.

Its frequencies the other night, gauche and tacky, were magenta and near ultraviolet, and generated by LED luminaire heads mounted on the bridge’s superstructure. The richly saturated color of this radiation wreaks havoc on digital camera sensors, whose engineered color science doesn’t account for wavelengths of such an unnatural hue. The bridge light is the frequent subject of social media conjecture – on overcast nights in neighborhoods as far as ten miles away – with light pulses and coruscates soaring up to impact and stain the clouds.

Often have I seen queries and postulates offered from Queensican or Brooklynite alike as to why the vaulted cloudbanks over that legendarily undefended border between the two boroughs appears pink, purple, or red. Some theorize about extraterrestrials, others about a returned “Astoria Borealis.” I offer that the lighting design takes its cues from certain greek owned coffee shops here in Astoria, which are not noted for their decorative restraint in the area of lighting design.

Here, at the epicenter of the unearthly radiance, is the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

2.1 miles from the East River is where this volcano of LED generated light erupts nightly. The industrial zones of Blissville in Queens and eastern Greenpoint in Brooklyn are painted in whorish coloration by it, and even the preternatural darkness of Calvary Cemetery is punctured by the brightly colored display.

Darth Cuomo seeks to connect the new bridge’s lighting system to other facilities for something described as “the harbor of lights,” which will coordinate the lighting on all the structures which the Governor’s mailed fist controls for special events. If the Mets ever win a pennant, for instance, count on seeing a strobing blue and orange pattern pulsing from of the Empire State Building and then out to all of the NYS owned bridges and tunnels. It should be quite a bizarre sight, as the colour out of space here at Newtown Creek permeates out to the entire megalopolis.

Soon, we shall all know of the colour, and it will be a part of our lives just as we will be a part of its.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is actually a surprising amount of vibration, flexibility, and movement engineered into the new Kosciuszcko Bridge. This is somewhat problematic for my pursuits, regarding long exposure night time shots from its walkway. I can tell you that the fenceline on the bridge has vertical bars that are about 90mm apart from each other, and that my favorite camera lens is about 87mm in width. I would also suggest that I had absolutely nothing to do with this fact, and that I didn’t make it a point of injecting myself into the construction project’s community advisory group in the hope of avoiding the installation of a chain link fence in favor of some other design a bit friendlier to camera work. Saying that, there’s a lot of vibration and sway to deal with when a heavy truck blasts by on the BQE doing 50mph.

Unnatural light and swaying vibration, automotive exhaust, waste transfer stations, the vaporous emanations of a Federal Superfund site on a January night… nepenthe.


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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

January 7, 2020 at 11:00 am

into life

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Back in the saddle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Infirmity is conquered… sort of… and a humble narrator is back on the beat.

The first 2020 nighttime photowalk saw me scuttling southwards from the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria all geared up and ready to go. To make it official, I keyed up one of my favorite audiobook iterations of “The Call of Cthulhu” on my headphones as I left Astoria about 9 in the evening. The chosen path carried me across a Robert Moses widened stretch of Jackson avenue which modernity calls Northern Blvd., up Laurel Hill Blvd. (now known as 43rd street), through Middleburgh (aka Sunnyside) and over to Blissville’s border with Berlin (West Maspeth). My goal was to arrive at the modern day version of the Penny Bridge, the Kosciuszcko if you must, and commune with that loathsome ribbon of municipal neglect and hidden history known simply as the Newtown Creek.

For too long have I been missing her. My path was chosen for its lines of ley, and carried me past the great polyandrion of the Roman Catholics, called First Calvary Cemetery. Why the lines of ley, you ask? Simply, my batteries are low.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual eastern border of historic Long Island City – on the southern side of the Long Island Expressway, Laurel Hill Blvd. – retains its ancient nomen, rather than masquerading as “43rd street” as it does on the northern side. Laurel Hill is the landform into which the farm and homestead of the Alsop family were built, and its geological prominences were reduced by Irish and German laborers not too long after the Roman Catholic Church purchased the Alsop properties in 1848. On the eastern side of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which sits firmly upon the pre consolidated border, is industrial West Maspeth, once known as Berlin. There is a 43rd street in Maspeth, but it doesn’t concur with the southern iteration of the street, for which you can thank Robert Moses and the adoption of the so called Philadelphia plan in the early 20th century. Maspeth’s 43rd street was once called the shell road, and was paved with crushed oyster carapace. That’s before the forgotten Yeshiva, or Phelps Dodge.

The closer I got, the more I felt it calling. Like some great subterrene drum, whose emanations burst within my chest in inimitable sense impacts… a sound which certain groupings of the aboriginal Lenape would have pronounced “Hohosboco,”or the “Bad Water Place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Upwards on the path went a humble narrator, ever upwards.

Like every other piece of wind blown trash, discarded toy, or intestinal discharge in New York City, Newtown Creek is where I belong and end up. No destination is more final, nor more desirable for one such as myself.

Here amongst the ghosts, and in the night wind, belong I.


“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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