The Newtown Pentacle

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Se llamo Monday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, a social engagement found a humble narrator wandering the streets of lower Manhattan, specifically the “East of Bowery” section of Chinatown. My luncheon companions all decided to jump on the subway to get home, but it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I had nothing in particular to rush back to Astoria to do, so…

A short walk found me at Corlears Hook, which is one of the locations you can catch the NYC Ferry’s South Brooklyn service. My intention was originally formed around going one stop south to transfer onto the Astoria boat, but the ferry people were running late and I missed my connection. Given the 45 minutes I’d have to wait for the next boat, one opted to instead take a different path to Queens and I transferred onto the East River line which would deposit my stinking carcass in Long Island City’s Hunters Point section nearby my beloved Newtown Creek. Since that was going to be a while as well, I opted to stay on the South Brooklyn boat instead of waiting on the pier for the East River service, which I’d be back in time for anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What seems to have caused the Ferry schedule to unravel was the presence of a large number of recreational jet skiers on the East River. There were also abundant riders on the ferries, which caused the boats to expand their “dwell time” at the docks as the ridership loaded and unloaded. “Dwell time” is an important factor which transit planners need to incorporate into their schedules, but it’s unfortunately something that’s difficult to plan for. Somebody at MTA once told me that having somebody at a busy Manhattan hub station like Herald Square randomly hold a Subway door open for even a minute can ripple out into the entire system and cause delays for hours.

This is sort of what happened on the NYC Ferry system a couple of Saturdays ago. Missing that connection with the Astoria boat ended up costing me close to two hours and ended with having to find a way home from LIC once I hit the landward side. I’m going to suggest to the Ferry people at Hornblower (the private company which NYC uses to run the service), next time I have the chance, that they incorporate a “local” into the their lines system – one which makes all stops between Astoria and DUMBO on the Long Island coast and East 90th to Pier 11 Wall Street on the City Side. If the “local” is timed to visit these stops at the half way point between “express” service scheduling, it would ameliorate quite a few issues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally speaking, I actually don’t care how long it takes to get from “a” to “b” if there’s anything interesting to point the camera at. To wit, the Crystal Cutler tugboat was steaming by Governor’s Island as the South Brooklyn Line Ferry I was on was heading northwards.

As a note, since this particular excursion played out, I’ve solved my “long lens” problem. The shot above was captured with a 24-105 lens, and regular readers of this Newtown Pentacle will tell you that I’ve been gnashing my teeth and decrying the fact that 105mm is the longest lens I own that’s native for the Canon mirrorless system which was invested in at the end of last year. Luckily, a 70-300mm lens which was purchased about 15 years ago and that I had sort of forgotten about is designed for full frame cameras and I’ve been successful at adapting it to the new system. It’s not ideal, but it’s already been paid for!

Speaking of historical lensing… what are you doing on August 7th? I’ll be conducting a WALKING TOUR OF LONG ISLAND CITY with my pal Geoff Cobb. Details and ticketing available here. Come with?


“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 2, 2021 at 11:30 am

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Shabbos… a haaa… shabbos

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Saturday, one had a lunch date with a few friends on Manhattan’s Lower East Side… well, actually the extremely Lower East Side. The only part of residential Manhattan that’s still remotely interesting is found between the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges, East of Bowery. That’s where you find architectural variation in the building stock, weird counterpoints, and an actual working class neighborhood. Don’t worry, the City and the EDC will likely declare the entire area a slum soon and knock it down in favor of glassine towers. They’re in the early stages of doing to Manhattan what they did to Brooklyn and Queens over the last few decades. Ugh.

What’s so interesting, you ask?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Going back to the Civil War, when this section of Lower Manhattan was the center of NYC and Manhattan was still quite industrial, groups of do-gooders and reformers have shown up in every generation who had the answer to “how you help the poor.” You had Jakob Riis and his reformers – and there’s still “Old Law” and “New Law” tenement buildings extant from their solution. A generation later, the Settlement House people showed up, then came the (actual) Progressives like FDR with an enhanced education system, then Robert Moses with his urban renewal money brought highways and Section 8 housing, and then Moses and the NYCHA people built the Rutgers and Al Smith Houses and the rest. These days the do-gooder’s hustle involves “affordable housing” for the well off and screw the poor. The fossil skeletons of these behemoth movements and trends litter the streets here. A history book in brick and mortar and steel.

All of these brilliant and connected people who have tried to solve the intractable problem of urban poverty over the centuries, here in Lower Manhattan, and never did it occur any of them to just give some of the cash they were spending to the actual poor people. The core issue of poverty is that you don’t have any money, which means your babies are hungry. When you have hungry babies, you do desperate and often violent things as that makes sense in the circumstance. America’s overlords have always felt threatened by poor people, and worry that actual cash in their pockets will be drank, smoked, or gambled away. There’s a puritanical side to charitable impulses in our country. God forbid somebody on Welfare might use the money to buy their kids an ice cream cone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wish that you could see through time like I can. A fire escape bolted to the front of a New Law Tenement on East Broadway? Well, that’s symptomatic of Jakob Riis and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as the formation of the FDNY after NYC consolidation in 1898 and the creation of a uniform fire code. The East Side of Manhattan’s “Chinatown” occupies a space that has long housed ethnic populations who regularly spoke languages other than English at home. German, Gaelic, Yiddish, Italian, Spanish. I wonder who made that fire escape, where was the foundry, and who got handed the license by the Tammany appointed Fire Inspectors to design and install it. Love it down here, I do, as it’s thought provoking in a way that a glass walled condo tower ain’t.

Speaking of seeing through time… what are you doing on August 7th? I’ll be conducting a WALKING TOUR OF LONG ISLAND CITY with my pal Geoff Cobb. Details and ticketing available here. Come with?


“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 30, 2021 at 11:00 am

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is continuing his short break from normal posts this week, and single shots from the archives will be presented.

Pictured above is the Manhattan Bridge, shot during April of 2021, with the Lower Manhattan skyline behind.


“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 6, 2021 at 11:00 am

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, what happens when you use a lens designed for “crop sensors” on a “full frame” mirrorless camera? As I discovered, vignetting! Also, I can set my camera to think it’s a crop sensor, which produces a RAW format file that is cropped accordingly. What photoshop shows me however, is a full frame image with a vector crop mask applied to it. The rest of the image is still captured even if I tell the camera to do a square format, so, thought I – why throw away all those pixels?

You’re actually seeing the inside of the lens in the shots above and below, and that’s what’s causing the black circular edges to manifest. I’m thinking that if I made these high contrast and grain black and white, it would create something that looks like it came from an old timey box film camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that I’ve returned to the daylight, which has had the unfortunate consequence of shocking the general public due to my countenance, I’ve finally been able to start “straight up playing” with the new camera. Finally got to test out and figure the nuances of its sophisticated face and eye tracking autofocus system, screw around with shots like the one above just to see what would happen, and have gotten to know the thing in other capacities than the extremely capable low light shooter that it is.

Saying that, the small collection of lenses which are “native” to this particular camera mount (RF) which I’ve got in my bag are amazingly capable devices. Get a cheap camera and an expensive lens is the logic many will offer you. I say get the lens you need, not the one you want. There’s definitely a lens I want, but it’s price tag is equivalent to that of a decent used car. I’m buying the car first, if I’ve got any cash left over I’ll think about the lens. Besides, with a car I don’t need that long a telephoto option, since I I can get closer to things quicker.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from one of the native lens, an f 1.8 35mm prime lens. Prime means it doesn’t zoom. It’s actually shot wide open, as in at f 1.8 which is a wide aperture for this sort of shot. Another experiment.

I’ve actually come round the bend on this camera, and am rereading the instruction manual in order not to miss out on some of the deeper nuances of the device. I still haven’t shot a single frame of video with it. Imagine that.


“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 13, 2021 at 11:00 am

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Tuesday!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found a humble narrator riding the NYC Ferry from Astoria to Lower Manhattan. One cannot recommend this service highly enough, and I do so loudly to all who might listen. Throughout the pandemic, the Ferry has been a pressure valve for me, allowing a quite affordable afternoon on the water. You’ve got to mask up, obviously, but there is virtually zero risk of contracting anything on the top deck of the boat, other than having an errant seagull smack into you. The boats have bathrooms in case you need to blow some ballast, but unfortunately the onboard shops which sell coffee, beer, and or snacks are still closed. No problem there, since I tend to avoid drinking and eating when I’m out and moving about, but if you can’t survive without a beverage bring it onboard with you.

The Astoria line stops at East 90th street (where you can transfer to the Soundview line and head to the Bronx), Roosevelt Island, LIC North, 34th Street in the City (where you can transfer to several other lines), Brooklyn Navy Yard, and then it’s terminal destination is at Pier 11/Wall Street in lower Manhattan. The design of the system uses Pier 11 and 34th street as “hubs” where several of the lines converge. You’ve got 90 minutes from the time you purchase a paper ticket, or activate one on their phone app (I use the app), to accomplish a transfer. I’ve made it all the way from Soundview in the South Bronx to the Rockaways on a single $2.75 ticket. That’s 3 hours on the water for under $3 – cheap!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the East River routes, you encounter the grandiose sights and scale of the greatest City in the history of civilization. I’ve offered this statement before, and have been asked “what about Rome, or Constantinople, or Persepolis, Kolkata, Beijing, Tokyo, Berlin, Buenos Aires”… the list goes on and on. Ancient Rome could tuck neatly into Staten Island, Tokyo and Los Angeles are regions, not cities, and the City which other Cities compare themselves to ain’t London or Berlin. Since the end of the Second World War, the omphalos or navel of Western Civilization has been and continues to be NYC. I don’t just mean Manhattan, as a note, I mean the whole shebang.

Pictured above is the scene encountered as the ferry leaves the Brooklyn Navy Yard, depicting the Manhattan Bridge with the financial district of Lower Manhattan behind it on a misty day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Astoria route Ferry moves up the eastern side of the East River, whereas the Soundview route takes the western channel. Astoria route allows for dynamic views of Roosevelt Island, its eponymous lift bridge, and the power generating infrastructure which stains the shorelines of Queens. The terminal stop in Astoria at the NYCHA Astoria Houses campus puts you within easy walking distance of the Welling Court street art mural installation, Astoria Park, and hundreds of truly interesting restaurants and bars. Why not come visit and spend some of that stimulus money here in Astoria? We could use the bucks.

You can access the schedules for the NYC Ferry, and check out their various destinations, at their website. This isn’t a paid post or anything, by the way, I’m just an enthusiastic customer for the service and want to encourage all of my readers here at Newtown Pentacle to take advantage of it as a curative for the pallor and malaise introduced by our recent collective trials.


“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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