The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Luyster Creek

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Friday bits and bobs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week and here in Astoria, just as a humble narrator was about to succumb to that daily interval of involuntary unconsciousness during which wild hallucinations occur, the windows at HQ began to strobe with a scarlet hue. Thinking that the Astoria Borealis might be occurring again, one rushed to the porch. It seems one of my neighbors was having a visit from both the NYPD and the FDNY, and since both of the municipal vehicles were quite static while the City’s preeminent staffers were busy within, one decided to get a couple of shots for the archive.

I do love seeing an unnaturally colored series of lights. A recent query offered by a passerby nearby Queens Plaza which was a variation on the standard “why are taking pictures of that”? My answer was “Y’know those old photos of NYC that people share on the internet? Somebody like me took those, and whereas these photos are new, someday they’ll be old.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luyster Creek is a lonely industrial waterway found on the forbidden northern coast of Queens, here in Astoria. A humble narrator is drawn to things forbidden, lonely, and industrial so a scuttle from HQ on the Broadway side of the neighborhood was enacted. Timing was key in this walk, as I wanted to get there just as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was dipping down beyond the western shore.

There’s a pretty active industrial driveway leading to the aforementioned western shore, leading to what’s soon going to be a new Department of Sanitation New York (DSNY) maintenance garage and salt dome complex. The City is moving operations from 21st street nearby the Ravenswood NYCHA campus over to the IBZ (industrial business zone) found on the north side of Astoria. DSNY is planning on spending a ball park number of $131 million back here.

Did you know that NYC has a 1% for art requirement in all new municipal construction projects? It’s how the Newtown Creek Nature Walk in Greenpoint got funded. Been on the books since 1982, the 1% for art requirement. You know who must have gotten that into the books, back in 1982? I’ll bet it was Astoria’s own Peter Vallone, senior. Hmmm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One stuck around at Luyster Creek for a while as the tide was coming in. Saying that, Luyster is a lot like my beloved Newtown Creek in terms of there being a vertical rather than laminar or horizontal flow related to the tide. There’s a bunch of indeterminate muck in the water and its sediment bed due to industrial pollutants as well as a large CSO or Combined Sewer Outfall (BB-041) maintained by the DEP at the head of the canal. As a matter of fact, the shot above was gathered while standing on the pipe’s outfall weir.

NYC has a combined sewer system, meaning that sanitary and storm water use the same underground pipes to travel to the 14 sewer plants. A quarter inch of rain, City wide, means a billion gallons have suddenly surged into the system, and the agency responsible for wastewater management and the 14 plants – the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection, or DEP – is forced to release the overage into area waterways.

The nomenclature of “BB-041” is explained thusly; the BB stands for Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant” which is just a few blocks away, the 041 indicates that this is number 41 of the 1936 vintage Bowery Bay plant’s 47 outfalls. BB-041 experiences an average number of 61 weather related discharges into Luyster Creek annually, and pours roughly 84 million gallons of untreated sewage per year directly into the water. Fun times.


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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

February 21, 2020 at 11:00 am

keenest interest

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This week is for the birds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happenstance and scheduling have finally conspired to give a humble narrator a bit of summer time off, which I’m considering as being a lucky stroke, and which indicate that the universe wants me to take a week off. I’m out galavanting around the City, accordingly, waving the camera around and smiling sardonically.

Next week, I’ll show you what I captured, if it’s not crap.


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 16, 2019 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria, birds

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slouching suggestively

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Astoria’s Luyster Creek. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saturday last, one decided to stay in Astoria rather than trek over to Newtown Creek in pursuit of some photos. Funnily enough, HQ is roughly equidistant between the southern border of Western Queens – Newtown Creek – and the Northern – Bowery Bay. Luyster, or Steinway, Creek is accessible from the street in only one spot that I’ve ever been able to find. It’s a tributary, essentially, of Bowery Bay. Bowery Bay is a section of the water heading eastwards of the East River which splashes up against Astoria’s northern coastline, and which moistens Rikers Island and LaGuardia Airport. Eventually, you hit an invisible line analogous to East Elmhurst and then you’re in Flushing Bay. 

Like Newtown Creek, Luyster Creek is highly contaminated by a variety of “point sources” revolving around industry and municipal sewer outfalls. Unlike Newtown Creek – Luyster Creek doesn’t have any community groups of concerned citizens, or alliances devoted to “reveal, restore, revitalize” looking after it. Oddly enough, Luyster Creek also sits square in the district of the Chair of the City Council’s environmental committee who has never mentioned it, but there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I like to come by here about once or twice a year to check up on things. The illegal dumping along its shoreline is generally of the light industrial type – last Saturday there were a few dozen rolls of roofing tar paper, rotting insulation panels, and somebody had decided to drop off a bunch of building scaffold sections along the shore as well. Access is limited to the waterway, and these shots were accomplished while standing on top of a combined sewer outfall. 

There were quite a few critters doing their thing down at Luyster Creek just before sunset, birds and such. The water was also positively boiling with icthyan activity. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That floatables boom you see in the shot above is because of me, since the last time I was down here there was a stream of oil pouring into the water from a privately owned sewer hidden behind those piles and I made a call to one of my Newtown Creek contacts who works for a state agency that polices such matters. The garbage piled up behind it will presumptively be collected by a skimmer boat at some point. It just pisses one off that such citizen action is required in Astoria, where, as mentioned, the City Councilman directly responsible for overseeing environmental matters is based. Additionally, the City Department of Environmental Protection – or DEP – has its Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant based just a few blocks away. You’d think… Well… lessons learned on Newtown Creek, and the world only makes sense when you force it to do so.

I guess this means I’m going to have to start thinking a lot more about Luyster Creek in the coming years. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

virtual identity

with 3 comments

Artsy and fartsy at Luyster Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, Luyster Creek is an inland tributary of the larger East River which was once known as Steinway Creek. The Steinway piano factory, built in 1870, used to float logs of mahogany in here for their manufacturing needs but that was a long time ago. Today, Luyster Creek is surrounded by energy infrastructure and is part of what I call the “forbidden northern coast of Queens.”

The shots in today’s post were gathered at a street end on 19th avenue, which is pretty much the only place you can get close to the water without fear of arrest for trespassing on the grounds of a power plant or a sewer plant or God knows what else.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regular readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you that a humble narrator is currently obsessed with night photography and has been wandering about Queens with a tripod in the dark. All of today’s shots are long exposures, which render flowing water into a near perfect mirror.

It was low tide when I arrived at Luyster Creek for sunset.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a “floatables boom” draped lasciviously over the rotting wood of some structure which was once likely a dock. Said boom is used to curtail the path of solid material carried by open sewers into larger water bodies. Designed to hang in the water column near the surface, these devices can get swept up during storms and end up becoming floatables themselves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mud flats along the shore could probably be described as being “black mayonnaise.” The energy companies based hereabouts are just the latest in a century of such endeavors, and I’m fairly sure that prior to Con Ed taking regency over the western shoreline of Luyster Creek there was a manufactured gas plant on their site simply called “Astoria Gas.” The Politti Power Plant, and the newish Astoria Energy power plant, as well as the NYC DEP’s Bowery Bay sewage treatment plant are all in the neighborhood and within throwing distance of where these shots were captured.

The likelihood of these sediments not being rich in PCB’s and coal tar is slight, therefore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

New, to me at least, is a stream running from an upland property recently claimed by construction giant Skanska. Vituperous amounts of water were running out of some hidden outfall into Luyster Creek and carving out a new channel path in the mud flats. The source was right behind the rotting piles seen in the shot above.

Relevant state agencies have been notified and will investigate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the inviting street end on 19th Avenue that these shots were gathered from, incidentally. A bunch of kids died here a couple of years ago, when they drove their car right into the water. There used to be goats, but there were none spotted here last Sunday. This industrial dead end does seem to be the preferred location for area “utes” interested in experimenting with cannibinoids and listening to hip hop, based on my experiences in the area, including last Sunday night.

It’s a good place for that sort of thing, I guess. If I was in high school, it’s where I would have gone for those sorts of pursuits. As a withering old man, however, all I’ve got is a tripod and a deep desire to explore lonely and ignored waterfront parcels like Luyster Creek here on the forbidden northern coast of Queens.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Blissville Stories Film Screening –
with Newtown Creek Alliance. Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222.
Click here for trailer.

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

startling degree

with 5 comments

The forbidden northern coast of Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All up and down the East River and its tributaries like Newtown Creek or the Gowanus, people (myself included) jump up and down screaming about waterfront access for the public. My pals at Waterfont Alliance call it “Our Waterfront.” Not so, here at the northern end of Astoria. Power plants, and an airport, and Rikers Island of course, create a security zone wherein one is not just blocked from getting to the water – you can be arrested for trying on the grounds of trespass. Security is actually pretty effective back here, as evinced by a nearly total lack of graffiti.

I wasn’t supposed to take a picture of “that” in the shot above, nor was I meant to be where it was shot from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wasn’t supposed to photograph or even notice “that” either. I won’t tell you what “that” is, but suffice to say that if something happened to “it” there would likely not be much left of Astoria or East Elmhurst north of Astoria Blvd.

“Things” like those pictured in the first and second shots are why the general public is precluded from the forbidden northern coast of Queens. It also means that the industrial and governmental facilities along the waterfront can do whatever the hell they want because there’s nobody who can admit to watching for fear of prosecution by regulatory officialdom.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is one tiny little spot where you can get to the water here. It’s a street end, and you’re standing on top of a combined sewer outfall at the end of 19th avenue, at the head of Luyster (or Steinway) Creek. As has become my habit in the recent weeks, on Sunday last I donned my high visibility vest of invisibility and packed up the tripod and other camera gear. For a change, since I’ve been haunting the southern inland coast of Queens along the Newtown Creek, one decided to stay in Astoria instead and head over to Luyster Creek.

Luyster was the name of a Dutch family of some prominence who settled in the area, and there was likely a natural stream here once. There used to be an island at its junction with the larger harbor, but the USACE took care of that just before the First World War, during a period of vast upgrades to the waterfront of western Long Island.

Luyster Creek opens up into the Bowery Bay section of the East River, which allows mariners and barge traffic easy access to Flushing Creek, the “proper” East River, and Long Island Sound. Calling it Luyster is a historical affectation, for the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th it was known as Steinway Creek, or the Steinway Canal. William Steinway bought the surrounding property for his piano factory in 1870. The Steinways used to float logs of mahogany and other valuable feedstock through here, which would be fed into the mill and used in the manufacture of their eponymous pianos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, one didn’t come here to complain about environmental degradation, endemic pollution, or a lack of public access to the water. I was here to get some neat shots just as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was about to occlude behind New Jersey.

I do love what a long exposure does to flowing water, rendering it as a nearly perfect mirror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was low tide when I was standing there on the combined sewer, amidst the illegally dumped construction materials and other debris which will inevitably end up in the water the next time a storm hits us. A couple of security guys at a nearby Skanska yard were eyeing me curiously, until I pulled the high visibility vest on. From that point forward, one was invisible to them.

It was decided to get both artsy and fartsy, but that’ll be the shots in tomorrow’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This large wooden structure… to me, it looks like it used to be a pier or some other kind of shoreline tackle. Saying that, it’s kind of overbuilt for that sort of purpose. Don’t know what it is, other than an accidental habitat for shellfish and rodents.

More tomorrow. 


Upcoming Tours and Events

Blissville Stories Film Screening –
with Newtown Creek Alliance. Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222.
Click here for trailer.

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

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