The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Luyster Creek

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

Tagged with , ,

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. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

virtual identity

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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

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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

grim castle

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Today is the Fête du Vodoun in the Republic of Benin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shlepping around Astoria one day, my footsteps found me over by Luyster Creek on the forbidden northern shore of Queens. The real estate shit flies have recently been getting pretty active nearby, with medium sized developments that absolutely do not have any connection to local elected officialdom’s blind trusts and out of office legal partnerships. That sort of thing could never happen in modern day NYC, after all. Dimly lit rooms have replaced the smoke filled ones, I’m told, as it’s now impolitique to smoke indoors. I don’t want to talk about any of that this week, however.

I came here for the boids. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another urban waterway in Queens which I describe as a “future superfund site,” Luyster Creek can also be referred to as Steinway Creek – as it adjoins the Steinway piano factory and once upon a time, old man Steinway used to have his mahogany delivered in log form via Bowery Bay and Long Island Sound by floating it into Luyster Creek lumberjack style. One wrote a profile of the waterway at my old Brownstoner Queens column a few years ago, click here for it.

To understand the modern incarnation of the waterway, let’s just say that these shots were captured from a spot at the end of Astoria’s 19th avenue and that I was standing on an open sewer leaking sewage overflow from the nearby Bowery Bay sewer plant. The shorelines on the western side are pretty much all Consolidated Edison property, but as you head north to where it meets Bowery Bay, you’ll encounter a couple of fuel depots on the eastern side. The water smells like bad cheese and goat poop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite all that, it’s still one of the spots where migratory water birds like to hang out during the winter. The shallows seem to host a fairly abundant amount of whatever delicacies they prefer to quaff. I’ve never been sure where “Duck” ends and “Mallard” begins, but there’s a few of one or the other in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m fairly sure that these friggin things are Mute Swans, which as of quite recently (January 1st) are no longer targeted by Department of Environmental Conservation hit squads for being a specie termed “invasive.” The DEC hit squads are nothing to mess around with, incidentally. A team of hard men and and women with combat experience and the “thousand yard stare,” they recently exterminated a group of coyotes in this area with extreme prejudice.

I’ve heard accounts of that operation which sounded like something from a Charles Bronson movie.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 10, 2017 at 11:00 am

known specie

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The Forbidden Northern Coast of Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Luyster, or Steinway, Creek in the shot above. The Steinway factory adjoins the waterway on its eastern side and legend has it that the piano manufacturer used to bring in logs of Mahogany and other hard woods from Long Island Sound via the Creek. On the western side, on a former manufactured gas plant’s grounds, is a Con Ed facility which hosts the shuttered Politi Power Plant.

I call the northern coast of Queens forbidden, because it is. A security cordon controls the shoreline pretty much from the East River to Flushing Bay – there’s power plants, sewer plants, Rikers Island, LaGuardia Airport – about five miles of forbidden waterfront which the general public is encouraged to avoid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is the case with my beloved Creek on the somewhat forbidden Southern coast of Queens, the waterfront is largely the property of private companies and governmental agencies. Another similarity to Newtown Creek is pollution, as Luyster Creek is blessed with open sewers like the one illustrated above.

Street gravy runs directly into the water, carrying trash and all sorts of horror along with it. You can actually feel your liver swelling up when standing on this spot, which is directly over the sewer outfall.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You might recall that a group of teenagers died here at Luyster Creek last year, when they drove off of Queens and into the water at a rather high rate of speed. There’s lots of memorial graffiti scribe on all the concrete bits, and somebody erected this cruciform memorial to their memory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the corner of Astoria Blvd. and Steinway Street, this unfortunately named hookah lounge was noticed. The lounge was open for quite a while before “Isis” became associated with beheadings and such, and I kind of feel sorry for the owners who must deal with crap all the time because of the name. Isis was, of course, an Egyptian goddess – and an analogue for what would evolve into the Christian “Mary.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering continued through sunset, around the forbidden north coast, and one found himself in “Astoria, Astoria.” That’s how we refer to this still largely Greek and Italian section found north of Astoria Blvd. over on the southern borders of the neighborhood (Broadway etc.) where Newtown Pentacle HQ is found. The whole section is framed by the concrete arches of the New York Connecting Railroad, which leads to the Hell Gate Bridge over at Astoria Park. Western Queens is all about the rail.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle was with me on this longish walk, and her roadway interfaces – she calls them her feet – were growing tender from the efforts. At 31st street, it was decided to hire a taxi to carry us the short distance back to HQ, where Zuzu the dog anxiously awaited.

On our return, of course, it was time for another walk – but what happened on that one… that’s between me and the dog. Zuzu is notoriously tight lipped (tight flewed, actually) and insists that her activities be kept quiet.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

so dissimilar

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Places to go, no one to see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at Newtown Creek’s LIC tributary, Dutch Kills, a property owner has been clearing away a stand of poison ivy and feral trees which have been occluding views of the turning basin (47th avenue at 29th street). There’s a bit of controversy about the property owner’s plans to erect a fence line here, as it seems to be NYS property, but this is Queens so who cares? If this was North Brooklyn, there’d be hunger strikers and hipster girls would be chaining themselves to the bulkheads. Here, the primary impact on the community is the loss of a good spot for weed smoking used by students from a nearby college and high school.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, Working Harbor Committee did a tour of the Gowanus Bay and Canal which I was onboard for. Conversation with members of the Gowanus Conservancy allowed me to utter aloud one of the “faux pas” for which I am famous. My statement that Newtown Creek is a FAR bigger problem than their troubled waterway was greeted with “oh, here we go.” I explained that its geography, and that Newtown Creek and its tributaries simply occupy more space than the Gowanus. Closest analogy for the Gowanus, in my opinion, is actually Dutch Kills – multitudes of bridges, overflown by a highway, narrow channel, and abandoned bulkheads.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Got me thinking about Luyster Creek and all the other largely abandoned industrial canals in Queens that never get mentioned, of course. Flushing River, Anable Basin, and the rest seldom receive much notice from regulators. They’ve got the Black Mayonnaise and the VOC’s, the CSO’s and PCB’s. Heck, the entire alphabet can found floating around in New York Harbor. Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull is so rich in pesticides that it could likely wipe out every roach in Manhattan.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm

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