The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan

urge primal

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Trigger warnings abound in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, last week there’s a day I have off. My mac is back from the shop and working again – and that’s a good thing. It’s also unseasonably warm out, so a humble narrator starts cooking his noodle about finding some cheap diversion to spend the afternoon in pursuit of, which – as any New Yorker will tell you – ain’t that easy.

It occurs to me that I haven’t been to the Central Park Zoo in a few years, and since the price of admission is just twelve samolians, a visit is within my means. Alternatively, I’d go take a walk around the Newtown Creek, but I just wasn’t in the mood for pollution and devastation this particular day, so off to the City I went in pursuance of getting some charming shots of the critters which the Manhattan people hold captive for their amusement.

The trip also fit into the whole “House of Moses” thing I’ve been doing all year, wherein I’m trying to visit as many of the Robert Moses built projects scattered around the City as I can. Central Park Zoo, the original I mean, not the modern version which was rebuilt in the 1980’s, was one of Moses’s flagships.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I enjoy shooting critters, even if they are the captives of the Manhattan types.

The Japanese Snow Monkeys… is it still ok to refer to the national origins of a monkey… I don’t know. Does it make one a specist, referring to the particular clade of primate which a creature is? How about the snow part? The world has changed, and so has language, in the last few years. Is this creature a “cisprimate?” I don’t know. Is it ok to use “critter” anymore? Is there an approved thesaurus which vouchsafes the linguistic sensitivities of every possible iterate? I’m old now, and hail from a violent and ignorant era where half of the nicknames from my old neighborhood in Brooklyn would now be prosecutable as hate crimes.

I’d like to reach out to the college campus types to advise. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While pondering the incomprehensible mine field offered by the overly sensitive and “waiting to be offended” types, the… beings(?)… were engaged in that most primatological of behaviors – grooming each other.

Ahh… that’s nice, said I, and focused the lens in on this pair.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suddenly, this happened.

My triggers all began to pull without warning, and a humble narrator was reduced to a shivering wreck. Didn’t these “beings” realize that there were children about at the zoo? There were no consent forms exchanged between them, nor “safe words” negotiated in the presence of a third and impartial party. The Zoo displayed no signage warning me about what might be encountered on their grounds, and at no point was I offered a safe space in which to recover from the bestial display which the organization just allowed to happen. I had to make due with the Penguin house.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unbridled, and with zero concern for the casual observer, these creatures continued their lewd act. One wishes that he could have stopped photographing it, but every muscle in my body had involuntarily spasmed into the position it was in when this display started, and my camera shutter just kept on flipping. Oh, unhappy act.

I intend on instituting a law suit against the Central Park Zoo shortly after this post is published, as I have been materially damaged and will never be able to photograph a primate again without revisiting this scene. In effect, I have been raped by my willful observance of this act of sexual violence, and my delicate eyes will never be able to look upon a Curious George book again without micro aggressions rocking the mirrored surface of my mind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After this occurrence, which was as serious an offense as the Nazi extermination of the Jews to one as correct, and politically sensitive as myself, a humble narrator returned to his darkened rooms to sit and shake while whimpering. How dare these primates parade themselves thusly, knowing that others might be offended by their public actions?

This never happened while Bloomberg was Mayor, and therefore it must be de Blasio’s fault. These apes need to be sent to a sensitivity training camp, and educated in proper societal etiquette. Accordingly, an announcement is offered that I’ve founded a new non profit which offers this service to zoo animals, for which I’m applying to both City Hall and the Federal Government for funding.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

strange and roving

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Someday, a real rain will come.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An assertion often offered to Our Lady of the Pentacle is that “NYC never looks so good as it does when it’s wet.”

Long suffering, Our Lady is infinitely patient when confronted with pedantic statements and oft repeated phrases like the one above. One recent storm found a humble narrator hanging out at my local pub, Doyle’s Corner at the Times Square of Astoria, and clicking away while enjoying the shelter offered by an awning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big problem encountered in the pursuit of photographing weather events is obvious. Keeping your lens clean and avoiding the infiltration of water into the internal cavities of the camera. My rig enjoys a certain amount of weather sealing, but a soaking or immersion would be ruinous. It’s always a challenge, and positioning yourself so that the wind is at your back is critical to the operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the little tricks I’ve learned over the years is to find “rain shadows.” Manhattan, particularly lower Manhattan, is a good place for this sort of thing. The canyon walls, construction sheds, and narrow streets offer the pedestrian several opportunities for temporary shelter from storms. When I’m walking, my naturally quick pace allows me to walk around the rain drops, but some still inevitably find the camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Umbrellas are an obvious choice, but operating the camera with one hand whilst struggling against wind and rain with the other makes for a dicey proposition. Ponchos are more trouble than they’re worth, and do little to protect the equipment.

A few people over the years have asked me how I achieve the “sharpness” apparent in my photos, and they’re all hoping that I can pass on some sort of technical trick or camera setting they can use when they ask. The simple fact is that I’ve read about and adopted a series of techniques which military snipers employ governing posture and body position. Snipers don’t use umbrellas, or at least they don’t mention them in the army and marine training manuals.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Snipers and photographers are essentially preparing for their respective tasks in the same manner. You assume a stable position, ready your equipment, look through a view finder, and then push a button.

In the case of photo gathering, you’re collecting light reflecting back from a farway target, whereas snipers are trying to embed a piece of metal in theirs. Regardless, you breathe out before triggering your device to reduce metabolic interference in the process and posture yourself in a manner designed to steady your device.

You’d be surprised at how much you’re actually moving around, even when you believe yourself to be still. On long exposures (anything over 1/60th of a second in my case, although I’ve know individuals who can do hand held 1/30ths) you can actually discern the seismic shocks rippling through the arterial system as caused by the stertorous motion of the heart, necessitating the usage of camera supports such as a tripod.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the hazards and problems introduced by rain and the lack of light it brings – airborne water droplets, wind, etc. – a humble narrator irregardless stands behind his assertion that “NYC never looks as good as it does when it’s wet.”

Stormy weather adds a dramatic sense of latency to an otherwise pedestrian capture, and should you see some mendicant wandering alongside the road in a filthy and quite saturated black raincoat during a storm somewhere in Western Queens or North Brooklyn – you very well might have spotted me trying to conquer the weather. Maybe the world too, depends on how much coffee I drank that day.

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or depend

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Holiday pretty pictures, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Arguably one of my best shots, ever. A weather phenomenon known as “Mammacular Clouds” occurred in NYC one day around sunset, and luckily I was in the right place at the right time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Weather is a photographers nemesis most of the time. It’s too hot, or raining, or too cold. One night, while onboard a boat in NY Harbor, the weather actually worked in my favor as a storm front was blowing past the Freedom Tower.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was actually lovely weather the day this portrait shot of the Empire State Building was captured, and I happened to be in Queens’s Calvary Cemetery at yet another “right place” and “right time.”

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

babbling over

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National Feasting week is upon us, eat long and hard, lords and ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the magical Chrysler Building, surrounding by the dross modernity of Manhattan. One of the few shots captured in the City after a recent crossing the Queensboro Bridge, which was detailed in recent posts. Odds are that few, or any, of you reading this post will actually be in New York for the holiday weekend – so Newtown Pentacle will be going into its traditional holding pattern for the next few days.

Don’t worry, I’ll still be publishing, but it’s just going to some pretty pictures for a few days, without much meat on the bone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, your humble narrator will be in town.

Holiday weekends such as Thanksgiving are a fantastic time to avoid family and friends for me, and to wander aimlessly about in the concrete devastations of the nearly deserted industrial quarters of the Newtown Creek. There’s quite a few irons in the fire, however, and one fairly earth shattering project in LIC which I’m extremely excited about which I’ll fill y’all in on when you settle back into your desk chairs on Monday next.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suffice to say that it involves a defunct railroad trackway, LIC, and the MTA itself. I’d tell you more, but that would technically be “spoilers.”

Have a happy and a healthy one, lords and ladies.

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discoursed of

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All access, indeed!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in bit more than six years of prior posts, one has a certain fascination with those things which others ignore. The history of NYC can literally be found right there beneath your feet, especially once you learn how to read the signs and sigils left behind by earlier generations. Access, or Manhole covers, are everywhere. Research has shown that Federal Roadway regulations state a preference for State and Local governments to either replace an access cover with an exact copy from the original foundry, or just leave the old one in place. This means, since most of these things were put in place before the World Wars of the early 20th century, that there are iron or steel discs adorning the “via publica” which can tell the tale of Municpal organization, consolidation, dissolution, and indeed gentrification scattered about.

Pictured above, an access cover put in place by the Bureau of Sewers, Borough of Queens found in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Blissville, also in Queens, an access cover which once belonged to the New York & Queens Electric Light & Power Company, which is one of the consolidated parts of Consolidated Edison. NY&Q EL&Pco. was created in 1900, and quickly bought up most of the smaller players in electrical generation and supply in western Queens. Most of NY&Q EL&Pco.’s common stock was actually held by the Consolidated Gas Company of New York. In 1918, the NY&Q EL&Pco. merged with the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Brooklyn. The new entity merged with the Edison company of Brooklyn, Inc. Eventually, after decades of this sort of merger and acquisitions nonsense, you get to Con Ed. On it.

The circles, I am told, are standard indicators that electrical equipment will be found below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An odd one spotted on West 24th street in Manhattan, which quite obviously belongs to everybody’s favorite corporation – Time Warner Cable. It bears their modern logo, and is quite interesting as there aren’t thousands of wires splayed through the trees and bending utility poles, which is that squamous corporation’s tell tale calling sign is in Queens and Brooklyn. I guess the City people don’t want their blocks all cluttered up so the wires are in the ground where they belong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Queens Plaza, sometime between 1912 and 1923, this NYM cover was placed. The New York Municipal Railway Corporation was formed in pursuance of contract 4 of the dual contracts era of the New York City Subway construction era, and was originally connected to the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) company. In 1923, NYM merged with the New York Consolidated Railroad and formed the New York Rapid Transit Company. It also stopped working on “BRT” or Brooklyn Rapid Transit and instead got busy on the “BMT” or Brooklyn Manhattan Transit situation.

The BMT became the New York City Board of Transportation’s problem in 1940.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A precursor agency of the modern DEP was the Department of Water Supply.

The DEP was formed in 1983, incidentally, combining several independent bureaucracies into one massive agency which handles the delivery of potable water to the City, the operations and maintenance of the storm water and sanitary sewers, and a bunch of stuff that doesn’t involve getting wet – like noise complaints, air issues, chemical spills, and those sorts of things.

DEP also spends a lot of effort figuring out ways to obscure what they’re doing from the reckoning eyes of regulators and citizens. The DEP accounts for something close to a third of NYC’s budget, has a navy, operates courts and police departments in upstate New York on Resovoir lands, and ultimately reports to a Robert Moses style “Authority” and the Mayor of New York City. The Water Board Authority, whose board is composed of political appointees (The DEP Commisioner plus 4 mayoral and 2 gubernatorial appointments), can borrow a theoretically unlimited amount of money in your name – doesn’t have to tell you who they borrowed it from – and will raise your water rates to pay the interest. They are the permanent government. Kafka would recognize the DEP.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another “Authority” who can borrow freely in your name, once upon a time the New York City Transit Authority was known as “Rapid Transit New York City” and that was when this smallish “RTS NYC” hatch cover was embedded in the pavement. The particular specimen pictured above is found on Broadway somewhere near the hazy borders of Jackson Heights and Woodside in the 60’s.

The City’s RTC NYC purchased the BMT and IRT in 1940, and in June of 1953, the New York State Legislature created the New York City Transit Authority to rescue the nearly bankrupted agency. In 1968, NYCTA was folded into the State’s new Metropolitan Transportation Authority, along with LIRR and twelve other counties worth of rail and bus operations. That’s how, long story short, MTA became New York City Transit’s parent agency.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We were once a plain spoken people, we New Yorkers. Once upon a time it was simply the “N.Y.C. SEWER” department. Today, it’s a division of DEP called “Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations.” Guess it sounds better on your resume when trying to pick up a lucrative Singaporean consulting gig after you’ve done your 25.

NYC has a fairly archaic system, sewer wise. It was state of the art back when Germany had a Kaiser, but the combined sewer system has major drawbacks in our modern time. A quarter inch of rain translates into a billion gallons of water, citywide, moving through the system. Since our sanitary and storm sewers feed into the same pipes, the mixed flow of liquid happiness is far greater than our sewer plants can handle all at once and it gets released directly into area waterways – like my beloved Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The access cover pictured above sports six sided bits on its face (hexagons), which indicates there’s some sort of telephone infrastructure under it. Mysterious, to me, is the titanic amount of force and weight required to break one of these cast iron things on Astoria’s Broadway near the 46th street station of the R and M lines. Famously, a 1950’s nuclear test (Operation Plumbob) launched a manhole cover, which resided on a shaft near the blast site, at six times the velocity which would be required to escape Earth’s gravity. The discus was never recovered.

At the end of it all, there will be rats, roaches, and manhole covers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You see these all over Long Island City, and they are my favorites. My understanding of the process involved in creating one of these designs is that it’s a pretty straight forward sculptural one. A carving is made which serves as the “positive” for molds. The molds then have molten metal poured into them, creating a casting. The red hot casting is cooled, and undergoes a finishing round of polishing and grinding. The reason that so many of these access covers are as ancient as they are is that foundries generally discard positives and molds after the order has been fulfilled. Most of these foundries aren’t even in existence anymore, either. You don’t meet many blacksmiths or forge stokers in Bushwick or Williamsburg these days, not even artisanal ones.

As stated at the start of this post, the federal highway people prefer for the original cover to stay in place, or be replaced with an exact duplicate. Sans the original mold, that ain’t gonna happen.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

noisome air

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Rain, rain, rain. Bored, boredity, bored, bored.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing is certain, which is that the next few days will exhibit some truly ugly weather here in the Newtown Pentacle. In today’s post, library shots of wet weather are presented. Above, somewhere within the Shining City of Manhattan, from whence cometh the greater part of that flow of sewer juice that doth enter my beloved Creek during rain events.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody I meet gets a lecture at one point or another about the sewer system, and the Combined Sewer problem that bedevils our community. Suffice to say that it takes as little as a quarter inch of rain, citywide, for a billion gallons of storm water to propagate into our waterways. Days like this one, and the next few, will carry hundreds of billions of gallons of raw sewage into the water.

Pictured above, a manhole or access cover, originally laid in place by the “Bureau of Sewers Borough of Queens” which I believe to have been absorbed into the larger Municpal entity that would someday become the DEP around the time of the LaGuardia administration. I’m a bit hazy on this one, historical like, and promise that I’ll find out more and report the facts when they’re in hand.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From what I’ve been told, the MTA hasn’t been having too good a time for the last 24 hours or so, with more than a few outages on major lines. One wonders, and more than wonders, why the MTA only seems to plan and engineer the system around the conditions of ideal weather?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I mean… it’s going to rain. It’s also going to snow, eventually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m the first person, literally, to throw shade at the commissioners and deputy commissars of the DEP during their periodic visits to Newtown Creek. DEP bosses lie like rugs, do so with a smirk, and every time there’s a political shake up in City Hall – the new guy isn’t bound by the promises made by the last set of “powers that be.” Saying that, I’m thankful for the rank and file who will be doing what they can during the coming deluges. Pictured above is the sewer plant in Greenpoint, getting rained upon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here in Astoria, folks are taking the gathering storm quite seriously. There’s chanting and everything, and store shelves are fairly bereft of the puzzling combination of batteries, milk, bread, and toilet paper that everyone seems to require when a storm is on the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My neighbor Mario spent yesterday evening cleaning our sewer catch basin and the gutter of leaves and the garbage which everyone just seems to drop. Saying that, there’s a whole lot of sweeping to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last rainy day shot, which was captured close to a decade ago at Greenwood Cemetery. Good luck, lords and ladies, with the stormy weekend. If you’re reading this on Monday, it’s likely my internet is out, and I’ll post as soon as Time Warner comes back online.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 2, 2015 at 2:00 pm

consistently toward

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It has been one heck of a couple of weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One tends to become a bit overwhelmed at times, and the last couple of weeks are an exemplar of this truism. Accordingly, posts at this – your Newtown Pentacle – have been a bit… light on the hidden facts and occluded history and all the other stuff I’m normally obsessed with bringing you. A particular series of recent imbroglios surrounding my beloved Newtown Creek have occupied a bit of the brain space. Pictured above is the Kosciuszko Bridge spanning the troubled waterway.

Recent meetings and presentations offered by the various powers that be in the Superfund story have been generating a tremendous amount of debate amongst the activist community on the Creek – which is actually a great thing. It is only through hand wringing and intellectual conflict that a community can find the correct path towards the future by finding the “middle way.” There is a corporate side, a governmental side, and a community side to the story of rectifying Newtown Creek’s environmental issues. All have valid interests, and all must be acknowledged as we proceed through the superfund process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor, the sort of thing one occupies himself with when the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself dips below the horizon offered by the shield wall of Manhattan, is presented in the “table shot” above. The photographic exercise was less about the technical aspects of the shot than it was about color purity and reproduction. The pencils were part of my old kit from back when I was drawing comics, and representative of the sort of palette which was often employed in the manufacture of my four color fantasies. This was a one light source one camera flash shot, for you curious shutterbugs out there.

The big flaw in the image is the color pollution notable in the orange brown shadows falling on the white substrate at the bottom of the shot, something which I’d retouch away if it was a “commerical” image rather than an exercise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around two in the morning one recent night, the sound of an angry toddler screaming drifted through my windows from the sidewalk below. Turns out that this kid wanted to go for a midnight walk and his VERY patient Dad was trying to explain to him why that was a bad idea. This fellow deserved the “Dad of the Year” award, imho. The kid kept on trying for the street, and Poppa kept on pulling him back in a kind manner, patiently explaining that playing in the streets was a bad idea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lastly, the 5 train entering the bunker found at 59th street in Manhattan. For the last year or so, my normal habit of just getting on some Manhattan bound local train and lazily “sitting out” the trip has been avoided. I’ve been trying to use the system in a somewhat more intelligent way, which involves a lot of transfers. Don’t want you to think I’ve become a transit nerd… but I’m becoming a transit nerd.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 3rd, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm

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