The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Maspeth Avenue Plank Road

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Maspeth Avenue Plank Road allows for and offers a few fairly unique points of view, along that river of urban neglect called the Newtown Creek. It’s one of my favorite spots in Western Queens, and if you’re there at the right time of day there’s a spectacular display of light painting both the water and the industrial zone surrounding it in oranges and golds. Lovely.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, while shooting at this location, a somewhat distant “pop” and then a “whoosh” was audible and echoed evidently.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It turns out that the water main feeding a fire hydrant – one which has been mentioned a couple of times this week – had popped open while I was shooting. Back in May of this year, flowing water was encountered in this area, but that flooding was occurring because of a different reason. I jokingly called it “Furman’s Creek.”

Of course, while shooting that post, I wasn’t on the Newtown Creek side of the hill as the water was pushing through. In today’s shots, it was flooding right towards me, and I was basically caught between two waterways, feeling like a fool.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The channel carved out by the Furman’s Creek flow quickly filled and began to overflow. Normal persons would react to this sort of thing by getting out of the way of a torrent of water rushing down a hill at them, but I’m a seasoned urban photographer, so… schmuck with a camera mode.

I wasn’t being vainglorious, mind you, rather I was keeping a close eye on the flow and increasing depth of the cataract. A plan was hatched, and a benchmark level calculated, for escape. Saying that, I had a few minutes before the water was going to rise high enough for me to have to walk into it, so I got busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The flow ultimately was heading into Newtown Creek, flattening and spreading out over the concrete plinth found at the end of the Plank Road site. What you’re looking at above is a rapidly flowing bunch of water roughly a yard across and 2-3 inches deep.

By the time I made my escape, the water had subsumed the entire plinth and was about 5-6 inches deep and flowing rapidly. Hundreds and hundreds of gallons were ripping past me. Luckily, I was stationed on two concrete structures which offered me a bit of altitude over the flow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, litter and garbage as well as motor oil and all sorts of industrial zone street “yuck” was being carried into the Creek by the flow.

After shooting this image and the one above it, wherein my back had been turned to the flowing water, I suddenly realized that my escape route had flooded. Not wishing to have to walk through the now ankle deep torrent, a rapid series of hops/leaps and jumps carried me over and out onto drier land, allowing egress back to the top of the hill and street level. I’m just like a goat, yeah.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the time I reached street level, the flowing water had pretty much flooded out the pathway used to get to the coastline of Plank Road. Oddly bucolic, thought I.

Exciting, no? I thought it was.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, October 12th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

October 15, 2020 at 11:00 am

mental disturbance

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Flowing water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, I was just saying to a friend of mine that I’d really like to find some flowing water and photograph it. This was part of me pining for a walk in the woods, or the sort of natural setting which I’m currently unable to reach due to the shut down. Pedestrian distances, for me, involve a lot of interesting things to photograph, but flowing water? Not so much.

My beloved Newtown Creek must have heard me, as I discovered during a recent midnight walk through my happy place – Industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the industrial lots seemed to have a broken water main or something, and what must be hundreds of gallons of water an hour are pouring out from under their fenceline onto the street. The DEP sewer grates in this area are nearly always clogged up, and street flooding is fairly ubiquitous here on the corner of 58th road and 47th street, nearby the DSNY’s Queens West 5 Garage.

At the end of the street is the Maspeth Plank Road historic site, which I had walked over from Astoria to visit this particular evening.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The flowing water was following its natural gravity driven course, towards Newtown Creek. Not wishing to soak my shoes, a short scuttle saw me on dry land along… the temporary tributary? Let’s call it Furman’s Creek for now.

About three people are going to get that reference, so here you are – this part of Maspeth used to be an island called Furman’s Island. Another island in Newtown Creek called Mussel Island was demolished at the start of the 20th century, and its spoils were used to connect Furman to Maspeth.

Below is a section from an undated map of smell nuisances that was likely drawn in the 1890’s depicting Mussel Island, Maspeth Creek, and Furman’s Island. As you can see, the coastline of Queens was VERY different in the relatively recent past.

Just as a point of interest for my fellow NYC history nerds, the shaded in smell nuisance site labeled as #17 was Peter Cooper’s Glue Factory in Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here, I negotiated my way over to the flowing water which I had so desired to photograph, and set up the camera in what was fairly pitch darkness. From the look of it, this flow of water has been going on for a while. Normal rainfall flows have long created a hydrologic “shape” in the ground at Plank Road through which street precipitant runoff has been flowing for years.

The constant flow of water off of the industrial compound has deepened that “shape” into sort of a gorge. There really isn’t any sort of firmament to the soil here – it’s rip rap, boulders, gravel, and the only thing holding all that together are the shallow roots of self planted weeds and grasses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Furman’s Creek, now flowing through Furman’s Gorge, was carrying a lot of street litter in its flow towards Newtown Creek. This is normal, unfortunately, but until we start putting social pressure on each other not to litter…

There was a soothing sound coming from the flowing water though, so that was nice. Quite tranquil, really. I said Industrial Maspeth is my happy place, and I mean it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have noticed, there’s a lot of photos on offer today, as opposed to the usual trio. Just couldn’t stop myself. As mentioned, I was desirous of finding a bucolic waterfall in the middle of some pristine forest to point the camera at.

Then along comes Furman’s Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The flow, as mentioned, had created a gorge of sorts for the flowing water. Unfortunately, the gorge has made getting down onto the concrete bulkhead at the Maspeth Plank Road impossible without the usage of rubber boots. There was a good 4-8 inches of rapidly flowing earth juice moving towards the fabulous Newtown Creek in this section, surrounded by either gravel or super slippery mud.

Super slippery, not just slippery. Also – Now, more than ever.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From what I could see, there seemed to be a buildup of material in the mud flat to the right of the shot above. Saying that – it was dark, after midnight, and I was as socially isolated as you can get here at the Plank Road, so the discretion/valor internal discussion I had with myself determined that I wasn’t going to try and negotiate a path down to the edge to find out.

Under normal circumstance, I’d probably have tried, but given that I still had to walk back to Astoria…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I did scuttle over to the eastern side of Plank Road for the shot above, looking roughly westwards towards Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section and the Kosciuszcko Bridge. The large tanks in the center of the shot are on the National Grid property, and the dark shape in lower right foreground are pieces of wood that have somehow survived there since 1875, during the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.

No, really, here’s an illustration of this scene from Harper’s Weekly in 1881.

I’m fairly sure I’ve got other shots of the Plank Road throughout the decades, but just can’t seem to find them at the moment. Back tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 4th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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 6, 2020 at 12:00 pm

strict watch

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This environmental craze has gone too far.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not proud of it, but I once had to punch a Canada Goose in the face at Calvary Cemetery. I normally get along with birds, even known aggressors like geese and swans. He started it, getting all freaking territorial on me in Section 9 of the cemetery and then pursuing me as I retreated towards Section 1 (if you know the place, picture the hills I ran up and down). At the top of the hill, right near Esther Ennis’s grave, he was coming at me and doing that goose “head flip whip” thing that whacks you with their heads. Geese are dicks. A lot of animals can be dicks, but let’s face it, what “nature” really wants to do is find a way to digest you or parts of you. The ocean is just one big open stomach that’s full of worms with teeth. There’s a reason our ancestors cut down the forests, paved over the meadows, and poured poison into the water – to teach “nature” who’s the boss.

The other night at the Maspeth Plank Road, where a humble narrator could be found near midnight, I met another speciation which decided it didn’t like me, a raccoon this time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There I am, standing in near complete darkness, gathering the shot seen above when suddenly – wham, something heavy lands on tree trunk about three to four feet to my right. I had a stout metal barreled flashlight out and in my hand (it makes for a good truncheon, should need arise) and illumination revealed the glowing green eyes of one of the semi legendary trash pandas of Newtown Creek. It climbed down off of its perch, lowered its head while fixing its eyes upon me, and advanced. Overcoming my urge to regard it in the same way I’d handle an approaching dog or cat (it was actually really, really cute with the button nose and everything), one instead uttered a sound not unlike “chiit” which caused it break stride and bristle its fur. Again did it advance, and again did I “chiit” at it, which didn’t seem to impress the beast as much the second time. The long duration shutter speed of the shot above finished its interval, and my tripod legs were brandished at the wildling while I moved backwards a few steps.

Riveting, ain’t it? Seriously, this was the high point of Monday for me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few more “chiit’s” were offered from my new and more defensible position, and so did the dick raccoon begin a slinking retreat into the poisoned shadows of the incredible Newtown Creek’s Maspeth shoreline. Luckily, I didn’t have to punch it in the face or aim a kick at its’ skedooch.

All kidding aside, how freaking awesome is it that you’ve got wild mammals wandering around doing mammal things at Newtown Creek these days? After leaving the Plank Road, I turned east on 47th street (where I had to uneventfully maneuver my way through a herd of geese inexplicably standing on the sidewalk) and anticipated taking a few more shots of the Grand Street bridge for my archives, but spotted something weird going on. There was a group of men standing around on the Brooklyn side, who were watching one of their number – said individual was wearing tight fitting black clothing and a hat with horns on it (at least I hope it was a hat) – who was dancing around in a peculiar manner. I know it sounds like I’m making that up, and I did not take a shot of them to back my statement up… but… dancing guy with horns and a group of male admirers. Stack of bibles, I swear.

I decided to go the other way, as I had gotten fairly lucky in not getting bit by a raccoon, and north into Queens along Grand Avenue. More on that tomorrow.


“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

March 21, 2019 at 1:05 pm

ultimate effect

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The nighted Newtown Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As detailed in several posts this week, one decided to take advantage of the creepy atmospheric effects of the temperature inversion last Thursday – which produced copious mist and fog – and a journey on foot from Astoria to Newtown Creek began at four in the morning. My eventual destination was the historic Maspeth Avenue Plank Road, from whose vantage I planned on capturing a series of “night into day” shots.

The images in today’s post are what I expended the effort for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking into Brooklyn, that’s the Empire Transit Mix company’s bulkheads. They were just getting to work, as it was just about 5:30 in the morning. Industrial types get started early. Twilight would begin at 6:04 so there was little time for me to fool around, and one started clicking away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards towards Grand Street and Newtown Creek’s intersection with another of its tributaries – English Kills. As a note, these shots are quite a bit brighter than what the human eye could see, but that’s actually what I was “going for.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking across the Turning Basin of Newtown Creek towards the National Grid Liquified Natural Gas facility found at Greenpoint’s historic border with Bushwick.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A wide shot of the tuning basin, with the Kosciusko Bridge at right.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Zoomed in on the bridge, that dark hill is Calvary Cemetery and you can just make out the skyline of Long Island City rising behind it in the mists. What might seem like a developing error – the halation present around the bridge and crane – was actually visually present. The fog and mist were being lit up by work lights.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The remnants of the Plank Road itself, which last spanned the Newtown Creek when Ulysses S. Grant was President in 1875. When the whole superfund thing is over, I’m going to market mud and water from the waterway in the same manner as the folks who do the stuff from the Red Sea – claiming the benefits of its preservative qualities.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Down by ye olde Maspeth Plank Road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The folks at Newtown Creek Alliance have a project underway, one which will rehabilitate the street end adjoining the Maspeth Plank Road and provide the first intentional point of public access to the waterfront in Queens. My role in the project is to do a couple of walking tours and raise awareness of the effort, so I swung down on one of the work days to grab some shots. Pictured is the National Grid site in Brooklyn with the Manhattan skyline behind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fellows who were doing the actual work should receive some sort of medal for working in the muck and yuck found hereabouts. 58th road ends at Newtown Creek after a sharp fall off in elevation, and all the industrial debris and trash which rolls downhill ends up here. Normally, the plank road site is inaccessible due to muddy and or weed choked conditions. The NCA crew has already done a tremendous amount of cleanup and groundskeeping here, and they got the NYC DEP to come in and clear out a mud choked drainage sewer just last week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the story with Newtown Creek always carries one back to sewage. Most of the industrial pollution in the Creek is historic in nature, and other than a few bad actors, most of the modern day businesses found along its banks at least try to follow the rules and be responsible to the environment. That is, of course, except for the City of Greater New York – which allows billions of gallons of untreated sewage to flow into it every year.

Today is Earth Day, by the way.

There are three public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn and two that walk the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura, on April 26th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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