The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Long Island City

quickened force

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Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Towards the end of last week, a humble narrator found himself over in the Shining City of Manhattan. I had business to discuss with somebody, mainly creating a new walking tour route, and we actually stomped out one of my proposed routes (Wall Street to 23rd street via the “East River Greenway”) after which one found himself at the NYC Ferry dock at 34th street. A quick journey across the river to Long Island City, as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself slipped behind New Jersey, soon found me scuttling about in a Long Island City which was cloaked in preternatural darkness.

The tripod was deployed and a humble narrator got busy with the camera, which seemingly generated much interest for both private security personnel and ordinary passerby. Click, whir, click. That’s a LIRR train idling at the Hunters Point Avenue station, if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crap hole security fencing around the Sunnyside Yards doesn’t do much to actually secure the railyard, but it does get in the way of your shots. In many ways it’s a metaphor for the entire MTA. Pictured above is a long exposure of the 7 line subway exiting the Hunters Point Avenue station, and climbing onto its elevated course towards the next stop – which is the Court Square station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another long exposure shot, this time from the 54th avenue footbridge over the tracks, looking westwards towards the Pulaski Bridge and the Queens Midtown tunnel. I would have waited for a train to roll by, but on my way to this spot, two LIRR units had just transited by (see below). Like a lot of the shots recently presented here, this is a narrow aperture and low ISO sensitivity photo with an exposure time of about thirty seconds.

That’s where all those light trails come from. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was on Borden Avenue, and heading for the 54th avenue footbridge, when the signal arms came down and the parade of LIRR rolling stock began. As a note, the shots above and below are handheld exposures, unlike the ones above.

One thing about all this night shoot stuff I’ve been up to lately is the need to be able to switch back and forth between the two strategies utilized for low light shots. In the case of these passing trains, I wanted to “freeze” the moment, so they are wide aperture and high ISO shots representing about 1/200th of a second, give or take.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Proponents of the proposed “BQX” trolley line really should spend some time on Borden Avenue at rush hour to observe what an “at grade” crossing looks like on a well trafficked arterial street. Vehicle traffic backs up for blocks and blocks, and any traffic lanes which might intersect with the arterial begin to feel the effect of it within minutes.

As Robert Moses might have opined, it’s not about about the traffic, it’s about the flow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tracks which the LIRR units are heading onto in this series are the ones you saw in the tripod shot from the 54th avenue footbridge. They lead into the Sunnyside Yards and the trains are going to be heading eastwards, I’m told, towards first Woodside and then Jamaica and then out to Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After unit 414 completed its journey past Borden Avenue, number 420 began its own trip. A humble narrator was squealing with glee, as a note, because simple things make me happy. After a day spent in Manhattan, which has become the most boring place on Earth, LIC welcomed me home with this grand parade?

I missed you too, Queens.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

aged man

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A few more late night shots from Western Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In all actuality, these shots aren’t from all that late at night, instead they’re from the latter half of the rush hour period. One was meant to be attending an “after work” meeting which was subsequently cancelled. It was – nevertheless – satisfyingly dark out, and since I had my “kit” with me I started shooting. Pictured above, the 7 and the N elevated subway lines are moving across the shot and leaving behind naught but illuminated streaks. In the background of the shot are some of the new towers which have been built to answer that clarion call which all native New Yorkers have been making for a century, which is the desire to live in Queens Plaza. I can’t recall how many times I begged my parents for us to move to Queens Plaza as a child.

Can you believe that we’ve been denied the right to live in Queens Plaza all this time? Thank god for DeBlasio, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that my scheduled meeting was cancelled, which was meant to include a friend and colleague who lives in Sunnyside, an impromptu social engagement manifested itself and I jumped onto the 7 line to the former Middleburgh and met her at one of the many fine eating and drinking establishments found in that neighborhood. On my way, I decided to dare fate and the MTA’s rules concerning the usage of camera support equipment on their property to capture the shot above, which looks westwards along Queens Boulevard. The long exposure shot rendered both Subway and vehicular traffic as rivers of energetic light pulsing out of the shining city.

I can recommend the fish tacos at the Sidetracks bar and restaurant, as it turns out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After escorting my friend back to her domicile, a humble narrator hoofed it back to Astoria via 43rd street alongside the fence lines of the titanic Sunnnyside Yards. I snapped the kit into action a couple of times along the way, wherever a fence was open and a salubrious point of view was available.

The shot above depicts the new construction around Queens Plaza – some of which are the same structures seen in the first shot of today’s post – as seen from a distance of one hundred and eighty three acres away.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

avoided acquaintenances

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Taking chances, with the Vampires of Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in past postings, the “thing” which I’m currently into is taking photos at night. On Tuesday last, one attended a meeting of the estimable Hunters Point Civic group in LIC, and joined with some friends for a few drinks afterwards. A humble narrator had brought along a tripod and a few other pieces of required gear for low light and long exposure work, and after bidding adieu to the lords and ladies of Tower Town headed off in the general direction of Astoria.

It was well after midnight, which is the interval during which the vampires known to inhabit the overhead steel rafters of the elevated subways and bridge off ramps of the Court Square and Queens Plaza zones are off making their nightly attempt on the Blood Center over on Vernon, so I liked my odds of not being exsanguinated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These sort of shots sound a lot simpler to produce than they actually are. The biggest issue one encounters in this sort of pursuit has nothing to do with the photography angle, actually, it’s the management and “carry” of all the various bits and bobs. The lens I use for this sort of shot is inappropriate for general low light usage, so first there’s a changing of the glass. The tripod I have is pretty manageable, but is still a heavy and clumsy thing that needs to be unfolded and deployed. There’s also a wired cable release that needs to be attached to the camera, which can be quite “fumbly.”

You also have to factor in the fact that – for some of the people inhabiting Queens – spotting somebody carrying a camera around seems to have the same effect on them as witnessing somebody carrying an assault rifle. As a note, in at least one instance, the street pictured above is the cinematic setting in which Bruce Wayne’s parents were shot and killed, giving birth to the Batman of Gotham.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For years, one has been working on whittling down the “night kit.” I’ve got two versions of it which I carry, one which is designed around handheld and high ISO shots. That involves so called “bright lenses” which have wide apertures. The vast majority of night shots I produce use this particular toolkit, but the image quality in those shots is degraded due to the noise and grain inherent to the approach. Saying that, if I want to “freeze” motion, that’s the way to go.

The shots in today’s post were produced using a “dark lens” (and the forementioned tripod) which was set to fairly narrow apertures and the lowest ISO settings which my device offers. The exposures are in the 20-30 second range, with field adjustments for lighting temperature and other factors dialed in on a case by case basis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I like about the long exposure stuff is the way that it captures a longer interval of time than the traditional fractional slivers of reality afforded by daylight. When the exposure is 1/1000th of a second, you can freeze the motion of a bird’s wing or capture the dripping of water. You also run into a portraiture problem, however, and need to be concerned with the capture of “micro expressions.” Shoot at a fast shutter speed and you’ll soon learn that people don’t necessarily blink their eyes in tandem and often make odd shapes with their mouths when speaking.

Long exposure work smooths all that out, but also introduces its own set of quirks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The red and white streaks, even the ghostly afterimage of the automobile at the right hand side of the shot above, are typical of the pursuit. For the thirty seconds or so that the cameras shutter was open, vehicles and all sorts of moving objects pass in front of the lens, leaving behind spectral trails. Those thirty seconds are also hellacious for the humble narrator standing behind the setup, as a note, as he twists his neck around constantly scanning for approaching threats.

You’ve got all of these angry drivers whizzing around, vampires stalking from above, and drunken humans stumbling about staring at their little rectangles of glowing glass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Like the sea, Queens is eternal and we are just the latest people passing through it” or “all is transitory,” you can ascribe whatever high falutin artsy fartsy phraseology to the shots in today’s post that you’d like to for all I care. In a gallery space you’d need to talk “art,” which usually means the usage of that sort of language. To me, everything is just a challenge.

This section of Jackson Avenue, leading out of Queens Plaza towards the transmogrification point where it becomes Northern Blvd. is the worst part of the Vampire infestation, as a note. You want to be very careful around this darkest section of the “Carridor,” lest you be snatched up and inculcated into the pallid horde.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing that I’d mention are the bits of gear which haven’t been described. It was literally freezing, temperature wise, when these shots were captured, and it was well after midnight. One was insulated in the normal fashion with a hooded fleece sweatshirt, buttoned up filthy black raincoat, and gloves. Even with these precautions, it was freaking cold. Luckily, my tripod has a couple of foam grips on it, but handling it drained the blood from my fingers on every setup.

Given the vast physical repulsion people generally manifest in response to me, I wasn’t carrying a rape whistle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

safe arrival

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A visit to Sims Metal Management over in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All summer long, one has a tendency to lead walking tours of the neighborhoods surrounding the fabulous Newtown Creek. There are boat tours too, but these walking and boat excursions are generally public facing tours that visit public places. My job is to provide historic context for wherever we happen to be, and describe the various issues each particular area is facing. There’s one spot along the Newtown Creek, however, which I only bring college or graduate student groups to. That’s Sims Metal, in Long Island City, and I brought a college group there last Saturday.

There’s a million reasons for this restriction, and number one is not wearing out my welcome.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Number two revolves around the very busy schedule of this waterfront business. Luckily, Sims and its management are anxious to spread the word about their recycling operations. Their Sunset Park facility was actually purpose built with visitors in mind and they maintain an education center at that site. The Newtown Creek operation is different, and is a very busy industrial site.

When I can get a group in here, the entire operation pretty much shuts down in the name of safety. The working guys love it when they see me walking a group up the road, I think, as they get to take a coffee break.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Number three is a safety issue. Several of the times I’ve been here, just on my own – it’s been strictly hard hats and steel toe boots, gloves, glasses, the whole “working guy” uniform. With a largish group of students, this isn’t realistic, so the site manager tells his crew to take a break and then carefully guides us around the site’s edges and discusses the services which the company offers.

Those services include the receipt and initial sorting of the “MGP” (metal glass plastic) and cardboard/paper materials collected by the Department of Sanitation’s curbside recycling program, which is what’s going on in the first photo of this post. All of this municipal contract material will be barged out of the Creek and sent for finer levels of sorting and processing at the Sunset Park facility.

I got to visit the operation in Sunset Park last summer, and did two posts about it – “Noxious Mysteries” and “Unusually Worried“. The latter one details the actual process of sorting recyclable garbage, if you’re into that sort of thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other side of Sims’ operations here at Newtown Creek revolves around commercial customers. If it’s made of metal and you’re disposing of it, Sims is one of the larger players in the recycling business. Materials like the mountain of rebar pictured above get shipped here by truck from upland sources, then are loaded onto barges and sent off to be processed at another Sims facility.

My understanding is that material like that rebar in the shot above will be sent off to Jersey City and fed into a shredder.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “big show” at Sims on Newtown Creek always revolves around the stacks of automobiles and trucks which they process. All the fluids, batteries, and various onboard tanks have been removed from these vehicles before they get trucked in. The discarded or junked vehicles are trucked into Sims and then stacked for eventual placement on a barge. That barge will be escorted by a tugboat over to another Sims facility in New Jersey where they’ll be fed into a shredder.

I’m told that said shredder will reduce a car to metallic toothpicks in a few seconds, but no matter how many times I ask, the Sims people say it’s just too much of a safety risk to let me close enough to photograph that part of the process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The academic group I was shepherding around last weekend were urban planning students from MIT, and were in town to study the industrial zone in Long Island City. I’ve also had Robin Nagle’s NYU class back here, as well as a group from a Dutch university who make an annual visit to Newtown Creek. We only ask Sims to open their gates to us for academic groups, as a note.

The mission of the Newtown Creek Alliance is to “reveal, restore, revitalize” Newtown Creek. Bringing student groups to Sims Metal is part of the “reveal” side of the job. You should see what my colleagues are up to on the “restore and revitalize” planks, which you’ll have ample opportunity to do this summer.


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plague borne

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That’s twice, in as many months now, that I have become infected.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator often likes to opine that due to constant proximity to the Newtown Creek, and the immune system’s response to the many bacterial and viral pathogens encountered, that he seldom gets sick. The statement continues that “when I do come down with something, it’s a whopper.”

So much so, that as I was writing this post, I accidentally hit “publish” before it was done, but that’s the sort of week I’ve had so far. One has been in “high suffer” with some sort of viral infection – not necessarily the flu – but something “flu like” which has interrupted both sleep and regular feeding schedules. For a couple of days there, not more than forty five minutes of sleep at a time occurred, which was punctuated by what I describe as cough syrup hallucinations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When sleep has occurred, it has been beneath multiple blankets, which have been found to be saturated with perspiration upon awakening. That’s how the shots of laundromats figure into today’s post, if you were wondering. Curiousity wasn’t conquered by this viral onslaught by the way.

According to the NY Times, ca. 1901, the term “blanket” is actually a brand name dating back to 1339 which has become ubiquitous. Thomas Blanket manufactured a revolutionary textile product in England’s Bristol back then, which gathered admiration and protection from the crown.

Back to my personal misery – this virus is “going around” and quite a few people I know have contracted it prior to my own infection. Chills and sweats, a violent cough, and general ennui typify the experience. I’ve actually been lucky inasmuch as I’ve been hosting a later stage version of it than what others have experienced.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For one such as myself, the worst part of the experience was missing out on the three or four days of spring like warmth and that night of heavy fog which one had been planning on exploiting fully for photographic pursuits.

All I want to do is play in traffic, after all.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 25, 2018 at 11:00 am

all opposition

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When you’re in a dark place, that’s what you should embrace.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent opportunity resulted in one needing to head over to Greenpoint for a reading by my friend Geoff Cobb from his new book about the Havemeyers of North Brooklyn – “The Rise and Fall of the Sugar King.” Owing to all of my recent sloth, when tying up all the layers of clothing to my sclerotic body, discovery of an uncomfortable level of tightness in the waistband of my pants acted as a chide and it was decided to walk rather than catch the train to Greenpoint from Astoria.

My path would take me past to that particular spot where Jackson Avenue transmogrifies into Northen Blvd. That’s one block north east of the historic pathway of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, which still flows below the street in masonry sewerage tunnels, and as we all know – running water acts as a barrier for vampires. That’s whey we don’t have any Nosferatu in Astoria (we are fairly lousy with a specie of hirsute Greek goblin called the Kalikantzaros around these parts, as well as the Strigoi of the South Slavs, but that’s another story). I only know one vampire in Astoria, and his name is Matty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the actual corner that Dutch Kills once ran to, and as late as the American Civil War, the United States Coast Guard listed this area as being navigable. From this spot on, my eyes kept darting up into the rafters of the elevated subway tracks overhead, scanning the ebon clad steel for morbid habitations.

Legend has it that a few of these Vampires attempted to form a hip hop group back in the 90’s. “NWV” was thought to be highly derivative, however, and few people bought their debut singles “Straight outta Queens Plaza” or “Look in mah eyes.” Members of the trio are reported to be part of the nightly assaults on the fortress like NY Blood Center on Vernon Avenue in LIC. In general, the population of the vampires are said to be fairly representative of the surrounding human population, with a recent influx of Asian and Latino members, but there are a few ancients amongst them who can only speak in an archaic form of the Dutch Language. The demographics are cloudy.

Thing is, once you’re a Vampire, that’s all that you are evermore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Losing sight of the worth inherent, or causally dismissing, the stories of addicts, inebriates, or madmen is a bad habit of our modern times. Several members of the aforementioned classes have reported to me that the vampires hidden in the steel above wrap ropes around their waists, securing one end of the line high above. They spiral down from perches above on the ad hoc cables, snatching at the unwary on the sidewalks below, and then both vampire and victim are quickly pulled up by an undead cohort of fellow sanguinarians still in the rafters. One junkie told it me it looked to him like a yo yo made out of people.

I’m not kidding, lords and ladies, stay alert along the stretch of Jackson Avenue between Queens Plaza and 31st street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This fellow pictured above, innocently waiting for the arrival of a bus which will never arrive, something those of us who live in Queens inherently know. He’s fresh meat to those who dwell above, he’s an easy meal, a free dinner. One has always wondered about the complicity of municipal officialdom in the presence of these cullers of the human herd in this area.

Every wonder why there aren’t any street lights focused on the pedestrian lane hereabouts? Take out your rectangular glass computational device in this spot, and see if its GPS can accurately define your position. Where did all the street signs go?

Who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden up there?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heading west/south west along Jackson Avenue, and into a dystopian vision of the Real Estate Industrial Complex’s that men once called Queens Plaza, one wonders how the new population of tower dwellers will fare against the undead. When the Vampires begin to climb and skitter along the mirror glass of the new towers like bloated ticks, seeking the finely curated blood of the affluent, will acknowledgment of the presence of these ancestral monsters finally be acknowledged?

As a side note, is it racially prejudicial to hate and loathe Vampires? Are they part of the whole “diversity thing”?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, once you pass through the crucible of Queens Plaza – having survived the predatory legion above and the vehicular traffic below – you’re pretty much ok. It’s about as safe in LIC as most places in NYC, y’know… except for the endemic environmental pollution, noise, heavy traffic, and roving bands of teenagers.

One scuttled off to Greenpoint, to the reading of Geoff Cobb’s new Sugar King book.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

byzantine mechanisms

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Can I ask everyone to stand still and just look right at the camera, please?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The little snatches of reality which I like to capture with the camera are often occluded by the omnipresent presence of the humans who infest New York City. A particular annoyance often encountered is when I’m about to click the shutter for a shot such as the one above when some bipedal creature staring into his or her glowing rectangle of glass steps directly in front of me. Often I think that they’re doing it on purpose, but that would indicate the presence of both thought and intent in a probably bestial and non self aware thing. Also, pull up your pants, you look ridiculous. Gahhh… how I hate all of you.

The problem with humanity is all the people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You remember that Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith, the one where there’s a nuclear war and he’s the only survivor who now has all the time in the world to read but then he breaks his glasses? Up until the glasses bit, the whole solitude on a shattered earth thing doesn’t sound too bad. I certainly wouldn’t need to worry about updating the blog, and my biggest problems would simply revolve around food and water. It would suck not having anybody to complain to – my parents and family used to refer to me as the “complaint department” when I was a young but already humble narrator.

In a thousand years, future archeologists would find a skeletal mass in a filthy black raincoat holding a camera memory card amongst the ruins of NYC, and they’d have some concretized idea what the first months after the apocalypse looked like. Even in the end of the world, you need to stay useful, I believe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I really need to take a vacation. Somewhere isolated and unpopulated where I can do long exposures of an empty horizon.

More and more, I think about that old Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft movie “the prisoner of second avenue.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm

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