The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Long Island Expressway

blossoming orchards

with 9 comments

Down under the Long Island Expressway, or DULIE, in today’s post. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, after shlepping my tripod setup around Dutch Kills last weekend, I decided that I just wasn’t done yet. Heading east alongst the venerable avenue of Borden, a humble narrator found a few interesting spots to do a “setup” and get clicking. It was DULIE which captured my attention on this leg of the walk. 

As mentioned in an earlier post, the LIE and Queens Midtown Tunnel opened for business in November of 1940. The LIE, where it crosses the sediment choked waters of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary here in Long Island City, rises one hundred and six feet above the water. This means a lot of steel supports, and an empty corridor found beneath it. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is obsessed with this section of LIC, as so much has happened here. The General Electric Vehicle Company complex was just a block away, so were a couple of steel factories. A fossilized rail spur can still be found here and there, winding it way around and between the factories, but the locomotive city is long gone. It’s all about the internal combustion engine in modernity – the automobile city.

The principal proponent of the latter didn’t begin the Queens Midtown Tunnel, he just took it over towards the end of the project and made sure the LIE would be his baby. I’m speaking of Robert Moses, of course. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sewer grates up on the LIE connect to long vertical pipes, which just empty out onto the ground, and their flow carries all sorts of “yuck” down into LIC from the expressway high above. There’s meant to be a little concrete spillway which would carry the liquid and solute “spill” into a second grate, one which basically empties into Dutch Kills, but the build up of “crapola” around the pipe creates sickly mounds of toxic soil like the one pictured above.

Hey, I’m not judging, I love places like this. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note, whenever I’m describing an encounter with the Gendarmes or some zealous security guard, I always go on about “there being no law forbidding…” and “if you can see it from the sidewalk…”. 

In the case of the other night however – picture this: some weird looking bearded old man standing in pitch darkness on a Sunday night with a camera tripod under the LIE, wearing a reflective vest over a filthy black raincoat – I was ready to converse with somebody wearing a badge about what I was up to. You’d just figure that, right? 

The cops though, three cruiser units worth spaced out over the evening, just drove on by me. I mean… I felt suspicious looking. The reflective vest is very good camouflage. Instead of being high visibility as promised, it’s a near invisibility prophylactic against “why are you taking pickchas of dat?” 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was growing fatigued by this point, it was well after ten, and a humble narrator embraced an ideation about starting out for home. One last long exposure shot from DULIE was executed, and thereupon the tripod kit was folded up into its traveling configuration and a lens swap occurred.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lens I’ve been using for the series of night shots recently has been a Sigma 18-300 – which is by definition a “daylight lens, given that at full zoom it’s aperture is only f6.3. Tripod shots, like the ones I’ve recently been producing, make the usage of extremely narrow apertures possible – which in turn allows for a deep field of focus. Impossible for handheld usage in low light, however, this lens is. It’s singular virtue is the zoom range, ultimately. I’ve got better lenses, including a different Sigma, but this particular specimen allows me to carry just one lens. 

I’ve always got a “nifty fifty” lens in my bag, however, which allows me to open up the aperture to f1.8, allowing a lot more light in. That’s the one I snapped onto the camera, which coincidentally lightened the gizmo by about a pound and a half. Lotta glass inside that Sigma, but you don’t really feel the weight of it when it’s in the bag. 


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long miles

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Borden Avenue Bridge and environs, in today’s post. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There have been three Borden Avenue Bridges, the first being a wooden draw bridge that opened when Borden Avenue was created in 1868. It was replaced by an iron swing bridge which was demolished in 1906, and the modern day retractile bridge was opened on the 25th of March in 1908. It cost $157, 606 to build in 1908. That would be $4,365,073 in modern money, adjusted for inflation.

A bargain, no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue Bridge is one of only two retractile bridges in NYC, the other one being the infinestimal Carroll Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal. This specie of movable bridge is actually quite common in other cities, notably Chicago. 

Chicago ain’t got a view like the one above though, I’d wager.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the south of Borden Avenue, one might notice the two railroad bridges spanning Dutch Kills – Cabin M and DB Cabin. The latter carries traffic for the Lower Montauk Branch of the LIRR from the Wheelspur to Blissville Yards, all of which which are mainly used for freight these days. Cabin M connects to the Montauk Cutoff, a now severed connection to the Sunnyside Yards and the LIRR Main Line tracks.

Just beyond the two rail bridges is the main body of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills itself, in this area around the Borden Avenue Bridge, is stagnant and choked with wind blown garbage. A tepid current in the water creates a vertical rather than horizontal flow pattern, which factors into the accretion of sediments on the bottom. These sediment beds, which are found across the entire Newtown Creek watershed and represent a centuries long cross section of industrial and municipal pollution, are the reason that the Creek and its tributaries are a superfund site. 

At low tide, mounds of this material become exposed to the air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For many years, there was a shanty dwelling here, occupied by some unknown entity. Hurricane Sandy ended that tenancy. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My chosen path next carried me eastwards on Borden Avenue, away from my beloved Creek and deeper into the post industrial landscape of Long Island City. The concrete devastations were calling to me.


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beaten man

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It’s National Coffee Ice Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering around Long Island City with the camera is kind of “my thing.” Ordinarily, I’ve got one of my H.P. Lovecraft audiobooks blaring away in my headphones. More often than not, there’s some destination at Newtown Creek I’m heading for, as I was when these shots were gathered. On this particular day, I front loaded some “wander” time into the equation which allowed me to take a rather circuitous route to my eventual destination over in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section.

I also wanted to “check in” on an area which I’ve not visited in the last few months to see if anything novel was happening. This area would be best described as the “angle” between Sunnyside and Blissville along Van Dam Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s three moments in the history of LIC’s Van Dam Street to take note of. One occurred in 1909 when the Queensboro Bridge began to feed vehicular traffic into “Queens Plaza,” another was in 1914 when the newly consolidated City of Greater New York funded a project to raise the grade of Van Dam street several feet in elevation, and the other was in 1940 when the Long Island Expressway opened. The 1917 appearance of the IRT Flushing Line subway service on what was Thomson Venue but was soon renamed “Queens Blvd.,” is also kind of important (this was about 1921, I’m told).

Van Dam is angled against the street grid of the Blissville section of LIC, but its generally north/south path leads to Greenpoint and North Brooklyn from its start at Queens Blvd. Apparently, there used to be trolley service on Van Dam, which was a part of the Steinway Line. The street is named for the Van Dam family, which was quite prominent in both City and the future State back in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of them, Rip Van Dam, was the governor of the British owned New York colony from 1731-2.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Moses didn’t start the Queens Midtown Tunnel or Long Island Expressway projects, but by the time they both opened for business in August of 1940 they were firmly a part of his empire. It took four years to build the tunnel itself, and the high speed road that snakes into it runs eastwards for some seventy one miles. As you can see from the shots above and below, not much thought was paid into what would happen to the runoff from the highway.

It just splatters down onto LIC and into the sewer grate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is nothing unusual, and I’ve been informed by the powers that be that not one of NYC’s many bridges, tunnels, or highways is directly connected to a sewer plant – even the brand new Koscisuzcko. Rather, they all just feed into storm sewers, which then release into area waterways. The world is a joyful place, for one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This section of the Long Island Expressway, officially known as the Queens Midtown Expressway, carries an average of 80,000 vehicle trips a day to and from the Queens Midtown Tunnel. That’s 29.2 million vehicle trips annually.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 9th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

obvious that

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More on the proposed Maspeth Homeless Shelter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In yesterday’s post, the northern side of the area surrounding the proposed Homeless Shelter in Maspeth was descirbed in somewhat excruciating detail. The proposal put forward from the Mayor’s office calls for converting a Holiday Inn hotel on 55th Road to provide housing for one of NYC’s most vulnerable groups of people, and the location of it seems to be an entirely random choice of venue which City Hall arrived at by throwing a dart at a map of districts which didn’t support the Mayor in the last election cycle. The decision has already caused one long serving local politician to lose her job in an elective primary to an upstart and relative unknown who strongly objects to the placement of this facility, something which I’m sure the political establishment hereabouts will hold against the “Dope from Park Slope” when he attempts to get reelected.

That’s the hotel in the shot above, the tan and coral structure just to the south of the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other than being a bland architectural travesty, the hotel itself is inoffensive. As a note, there is another nearby hotel found to the north on Maurice Avenue across the street from Mt. Zion cemetery – a Comfort Inn branded establishment which, like the Holiday Inn pictured above, exploits the European tourist market and offers lodging at a rate significantly lower than the ones offered at hotels closer to the City center. The shot above is from 55th Road, by the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was gathering these shots, the fellow above emerged from the hotel. He first informed me that I couldn’t take photos of the structure without a permit, then kind of invaded my personal space while telling me he didn’t want his photo published in a newspaper. This is a web site, incidentally, so I would offer to the gentleman pictured above that he needs to be more specific when stating his prohibitions. I reminded him that I was on the sidewalk of an adjoining property, of course, and that he had no right to attempt to circumnavigate the constitution of these United States on the subject of photography of those things which are visible from the sidewalk. He also sundered his right to privacy by confronting me thusly. Were I assigning any sort of editorial “slant” to this photo, he would have a legitimate beef with me, but since I’m not – he doesn’t.

As I always say, if you don’t me to point a camera at you, don’t hassle me when I’m shooting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As stated in yesterday’s post, my objections to the placement of this facility revolve around the actual location of it, which I honestly believe to be a violation of the human rights of a vulnerable population.

The Holiday Inn sits across the street from the Long Island Expressway, which produces a standing wall of high decibel sound. While I was shooting the shot above, I actually called a friend, whom I could not hear even though my headphones were in – and she could barely make out what I was saying despite the fact that I was shouting into the microphone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This gas station with a convenience store is directly across the street from the hotel, and would presumptively fill the role of a supermarket for purchasing food and other existential necessaries. As is the case with such locations, everything you can purchase within is priced as high as the market will bear, and food items available are typically highly processed food stuffs designed for a long shelf life.

I guess the Mayor thinks that microwave burritos are good enough for these so called “Homeless” he’s planning on exiling to industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The character of the streets surrounding the hotel can be best described as truck routes. The sidewalks found under the overpasses of the highway have no pedestrian protections like bollards or jersey barriers, and are littered with debris and dead pigeons. There is no lighting, and perpetual shadow exists down in these spaces.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the west – more highways, cemeteries, and industrial sprawl.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the south – the roads lead to the industrial zone surrounding the Newtown Creek superfund site.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east – McDonalds and a Chinese take out restaurant offers an alternative food source to the microwaved burritos and packaged snack cakes found at the gas station convenience store. Luckily, there’s a financial institution in this little strip mall – a check cashing location, which like all examples of such institutions offers high interest payday loans and charges a usurious amount for cashing a check.

The people proposed for exile to this hotel are going to need somewhere to cash their benefit checks, after all, why not ensure that they get to keep as little of it as possible?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south – up Maurice Avenue. At the top of the hill, around a half mile away, is the Goodfellas/Clinton Diner on Rust Street, if you need a landmark. The businesses located in the area are mainly warehouse operations, and there’s still a bit of manufacturing going on in the area, but it’s highly unlikely that any of the businesses in this area would hire a down on their luck person for an entry level job.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is 55th drive, looking east, this street is found behind the hotel property lot. Bleak, this is an industrial street which hosts a few Korean family owned kitchen cabinet manufacturers and a couple of warehouse operations. During the week – the fleets of trucks which carry their wares, and palettes of their products, populate roadway and sidewalk alike.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking west along 55th drive, the Koscisuzcko Bridge project is visible, but I don’t think that an opportunity for work will manifest itself for the proposed occupants of the Holiday Inn hotel there either.

What are the people that the City wants to move in here supposed to do to fill their days? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The condition of the sidewalks and streets along 55th drive are fairly crappy. As with all the industrial neighborhood sidewalks you’ll find in Western Queens – illegally dumped junk, debris, and gravel are randomly deposited.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This playground and pocket park is one of the very few public green spaces in Maspeth’s northern section, and will likely become the place where the residents of the Hotel spend their time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, does it make sense?

Is it smart to exile a vulnerable population in an industrial zone found along an elevated highway that carries close to a half million vehicle trips a day and which produces an ear shattering din? Is it ok for these people to be exploited by a check cashing location, and to have to make a choice between eating convenience store food, Chinese take out, or at McDonalds? Or, is it just expedient?

Spotty bus service is a regular complaint for the residents of the surrounding neighborhood, and Maspeth is notoriously a “transit desert.” How will the people housed in this Holiday Inn access medical or social services without a car?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What do you think?

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

recalled bondage

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The Empty Corridor, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DULIE, or Down Under the Long Island Expressway in Long Island City, is actually quite a busy place during the work week. On the weekends, however, the nickname I’ve assigned the area is “The Empty Corridor.” Last Saturday I found myself wandering about LIC, which was on my way to Greenpoint via the Pulaski Bridge. The light was pretty good on Saturday, and the weather tolerable to one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been stuck in the house for so long that I recently found myself chiding Our Lady of the Pentacle for her arrangement of cutlery in the drying rack found alongside the sink (forks down, spoons up), and realized that hell or high water – I had to get out and take a long walk to regain some perspective. Viking Hell be damned. I’m happy to report that the cat colony alongside the UPS facility on 51st avenue seems to be in fine fettle despite the vagaries of winter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In actuality, I’ve been making good use of any interval wherein polar temperatures and ice falling from the sky were not experienced. The shot above is actually from Sunnyside, sometime last week. As mentioned in prior posts, I’ve been studying up on both Sunnyside and the rail yards which figure massively in the current Mayor’s plans for so called “affordable housing.” More on that later in the week.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

always susceptible

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In today’s post, a familiar path.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The triple lobed eye of that thing which cannot possibly exist at the cupola of the sapphire tower, a structure in Long Island City’s Court Square area often referred to as “The Megalith” at this – your Newtown Pentacle – must enjoy one heck of a view. Norse God Odin is meant to have sat upon a “hildskalf” or high seat from which he could see the entire world, he also had two ravens which were sort of like unmanned drones that he sent off on espionage missions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I may have read too much popular literature of the Science Fiction genre, probably, but the notion of armed robots flying, swimming, and tunneling around the world makes me a bit more nervous than two magical ravens serving a one eyed god. Saying that, I for one welcome our new robot (or raven) overlords, and look forward to the glorious efficiencies they will bring. Also- just in case- Hail Ming. Pictured above, the gates of Calvary in late afternoon sun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One feels as if he is in a bit of a rut at the moment, overly familiar with certain corridors connecting familiar destinations. Wanderlust is at the forefront of my ambitions, and I wonder what new frontier there might be out there which I’m not learning about. If you’re not actively learning something new, you’re actively dying inside. Unfortunately for me, I’ve been dead inside for a long time… can’t you smell it?

Upcoming Tours

Saturday- September 21, 2013
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale now.

Saturday- September 28, 2013
Newtown Creek Boat Tour with the Working Harbor Committee- tickets on sale now.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

troubled jottings

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scenes depicted in today’s shots actually didn’t actually look very much like these presented photo. In general, I screw around with every shot a little bit- push or pull the exposure and midpoints of dark and light, alter the color temperature to neutralize and compensate for sodium or fluorescent lights, drop an exposure gradient into a sky or on the water to compensate for glare. I’ll do the occasional tilt shift here and there, but largely strive for the ability to do it “in camera” more than anything else. Nothing major is altered, by “retoucher” standards, who would define such adjustments as merely “helping” the photo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These photos, however, have had a whole bag of hammers thrown at them. One of the things I’m trying to eliminate from my mind these days is any fealty to the metaphor of film in creating a digital photograph. Even the term “photograph” is somewhat disingenuous as what these images actually “are” is a 23 megabyte computer file compiling the data captured by a sophisticated sensor. There is more information in the original file than is needed for reproduction, and the process of outputting the final image always involves a bit of photoshop editing work- deciding what to throw away, and that’s where the artsy fartsy stuff happens.

Losing this metaphor, the film one, leads one down the odd path of the so called “Uncanny Valley.” This term refers to a human perception bias which can instantaneously determine if something is artificially contrived, using CGI techniques to simulate a human face for instance. What I was “going for” in developing the shots as they are was a sort of old timey hand colored thing accomplished by a severely limited but quite saturated color range and an extremely high contrast regarding the black and white ratio. It’s a “formula” or “look” I’ve been asked to apply to other people’s files in my advertising life, by the way, usually for sports marketing stuff.

It beggars a certain question though- If it’s not a faithful rendition of the scene, a photograph by definition, what is it?

Also: Upcoming Tours!

Glittering Realms Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

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