The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Maspeth Creek

bandied about

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One found himself wandering through the happy place, as Industrial Maspeth – here in the Borough of Queens – is often referred to at Newtown Pentacle HQ, and transfixed by the patriotic vehicle wrap adorning the concrete mixer truck pictured above. It’s a Kenworth, but I’ll be damned if I could tell you what model or year it is. Recently, one was informed by a reader here at Newtown Pentacle that the concrete industrial complex here in NYC is in the process of consolidating under a single corporate umbrella. Given that the last time a single conglomerate controlled this sector was during the late 1980’s with the head office either a coffee shop/social club on Mulberry Street or a certain Mansion on Staten Island, what could go wrong? I know. I’ve seen too many movies. Everything that’s happened in the past didn’t really happen except when it fits into a modern political narrative.

I often muse about the somewhat obscure history of Queens, and how it’s a puzzle if you don’t understand the predicates of the surrounding world which created the modern day milieu.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Industrial Maspeth, you can find literal pieces of the puzzle just sitting there on the sidewalk waiting for you to notice them. Seriously, this thing was just sitting there, and was about the size of a dinner plate.

Part of the modern narrative in NYC describes the boiling pot of real estate development. With a straight face, developers will tell you that the modern era is challenging for them financially, despite the booming economies of demolition and construction as well as the expanding heavy equipment rental business. NYC has been in high gear for about twenty five years now, construction wise. Why is that? Can it be that the old “tax” imposed on the real estate people by a certain group of people is now a margin pocketable by these developers personally? How did this anchor weighing down the glorious rapacity of capitalism find itself ameliorated? The answer doesn’t fit the narrative, meaning that the puzzle pieces are anomalous to modern eyes.

There are certain “rackets” which made their margin off of sins – gambling, prostitution, drugs, and loan sharking. The rackets which really paid the bills involved the Kosher meats trade, newspaper printing and delivery, the garment industry, the Ports, the construction trades. Trucking, both local and interstate, also was particularly profitable. A few pennies from every kosher chicken, a couple of bucks from every stick of lumber, a c-note for a ton of concrete, a buck or two from every window replacement at a NYCHA building can make you rich quick. The trades are the best business out of them all. Couple that with indirectly owning a bunch of all cash businesses where you could change the dirty money to untraceable clean cash – pizzerias, bakeries, newsstands, laundromats – NYC was a working class thief’s paradise until about thirty years ago. That’s when the Lawyers and Politicians muscled the working class gangsters out and set their own people up instead. That’s why they call the loan shark biz “payday loans” today instead of shystering.

These days, all you need is an MBA and a Realtor’s license to be a gangster.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody asks me if I’ve seen bodies floating in Newtown Creek or seen a corpse with cement overshoes there. They make a weird face when I tell them that only an idiot like that Serial Killer who got caught (Joel Rifkin) would try and dump a body in Newtown Creek, or the East River, for that matter. Newbie.

There’s barely any current in these waters, and the body would just stay there waiting for the Cops to notice it. If you wanted, or needed, to dispose of a corpse you’d want to use the Hudson or Jamaica Bay due to the strong currents. As far as the former, you’re taking a real chance that your victim might wash up in Staten Island or Bay Ridge before getting swept out to sea. It’s also a pretty busy shipping channel, which magnifies your chances of getting attention from the aforementioned Cops. If you’re “criming” you really want to worry about Cops, which seems obvious, but having witnessed how godawful and blatant Millennials are at crime this bears mentioning. You don’t want the body found, period. I’d rather you didn’t “crime,” either, but you do you.

In my old neighborhood, they would cut your victim up after draining the blood out, then put the pieces into paper grocery bags and wing them out the window on the Belt Parkway for the crabs and rats to take care of. Larger chunks got disposed of at the Fountain Avenue Landfill nearby Starrett City.


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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

May 10, 2021 at 11:00 am

whirling fancy

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Thursday has stumbled in again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One found himself in the “happy place,” as I refer to industrial Maspeth, during an extremely low tide. Pictured above is Maspeth Creek, with its exposed mounds of Black Mayonnaise. Maspeth Creek is one of the sections of the larger Newtown Creek which I’d like to see “delisted” as a navigable waterway (according to Coast Guard) and reclassified as an “environmental benefit” area. All of us at Newtown Creek Alliance can talk endlessly about the benefits that such a conversion would bring not just to the entire Newtown Creek waterway but also the industrial business zone surrounding it. Essentially, creating a tidal salt marsh environment here would be so beneficial that it could help offset the impact that the many, many truck based heavy industries of Maspeth create. A guy can dream, huh?

It was aromatic, to say the least, when this shot was gathered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few blocks away, at the Maspeth Plank Road site, you can actually see how low this tide was. It looks like you could just walk out and touch the wooden artifacts of the bridge which once crossed the Newtown Creek between Furman Island and Greenpoint’s Maspeth Avenue, but I would have sunk to mid thigh into the mire. Normally, all of that pebbly sediment is sitting under a few feet of water.

Wish I could say that I planned on hitting this low tide, but it was pure luck and coincidence – I was just out taking a long walk in a place with a virtually zero night time population.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the photography curious, these are all handheld shots. The newish camera I’m sporting these days, the Canon R6, coupled with a couple of fairly “bright” lenses is allowing me to leave the tripod at home when I don’t intend on doing either long exposures or any of the fancy pants focus stacking stuff. I’m not leaving all that behind, of course, but it’s been great fun to leave HQ with just two prime lenses and a camera in tow.

That, lords and ladies, is your Newtown Pentacle Thursday installment.


“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.

ominous things

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Tuesday’s are the most malign days of the week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That puddle there is permanent. I’ve walked through this section of Maspeth during summertime drought conditions when it was hot enough to bake bread on the sidewalk and that puddle permanently persists. I’m told this is one of the lowest spots in NYC, as far as it’s relationship to sea level, which I’ve been known to describe this spot as being “the bottom of a soup bowl” that’s formed by the high grounds surrounding the alluvial flood plane of the legendary Newtown Creek.

There’s a sewer grate under the puddle somewhere, one which is choked by concrete and street garbage, which is meant to drain directly into the Maspeth Creek tributary of the larger Newtown Creek waterway without ever visiting a sewer plant. This is puddle is more or less on the spot where the town docks of Maspeth would have once been found, where DeWitt Clinton dreamt up the Erie Canal. I can see through time, but time is only a construct, as everything is actually happening all at once. We live in an explosion, and there are puddles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Puzzling statement, no? Well – ponder it, bro. I don’t want to get into chemical decay and quantum states in today’s post. Puddles, that’s my bag, bro.

The big plumbing warehouse whose property sits behind both the eternal puddle, and a fence, used to be the United Enameling and Stamping Company. They made bathtubs and sinks and toilets and the sort of stuff that connected such items to water supply systems as well as enameled cooking equipment. Their huge parking lot used to be filled with dipping tanks, which were filled with esoteric compounds and cancer juices used in their manufacturing processes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next door to the plumbing warehouse is a concrete company – Ferrara Bros. You see their characteristic orange trucks making deliveries all over the City. This isn’t Ferrara’s only corporate footprint, here in industrial Maspeth. I think they’ve got a couple more giant factories in other boroughs, possibly another one in eastern Queens but I’m guessing there and can’t be bothered to find out more.

By my count, there are three big concrete processors around Newtown Creek. Ferrara Bros. here in Maspeth, NYCON at Dutch Kills in LIC, and Tec-Crete Transit mix over in Ridgewood. There’s others, of course, but that’s the three who more or less touch the shoreline of the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

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, January 18th. 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

January 19, 2021 at 1:00 pm

suggesting question

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Canada Goslings in industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marching about recently, my path carried the camera past Maspeth Creek, which – as the name would imply – is in industrial Maspeth and is in fact a tributary of that lugubrious cataract of cautionary tales known to all simply as the “Newtown Creek.” Whilst scuttling past the Maspeth Creek waterway’s head waters, which flow out a sewer, these Canadian invaders were shifting from foot to foot in a manner which I did not like.

Geese, in general, are dicks. Canada Geese, in particular, are jerks as well as dicks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news, for this dick specie, is that there’s now more of them. “Goslings” are what you call baby geese. While I was shooting this, one of the adults – I’m presuming it was the papa – was ambling towards me while sticking his tongue out. I once had to punch a goose in the face at one of the area cemeteries to ward off an attack. This particular paragon of poultry  was intent on killing me for wandering too close to a nest, I guess. For you PETA types out there, one tried every other recourse first including “flight” before “fight” became my only option. That “sumbitch” chased me half way across Calvary Cemetery before I had to vigorously assert my right to be unmolested with a closed fist.

Seriously, Geese are mean dicks, but they’re real cute when they’re babies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one who was messing with me the other day is the big one, at the back of the group in the shot above. I’m not sure if Maspeth Creek is in the 108th or the 104th precinct, but if anyone recognizes that goose I’d appreciate it if you called the NYPD tips line and let them know. I bet that its name is Claude or Jean or something… pfft… Canada.

Back in conventional reality, rather than within my inner dialogue about rude avian biota, the Canada Goose is one of the many, many birds that arrive at Newtown Creek each and year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek, and all of NY Harbor, sits in the migratory Atlantic Flyover zone. Every year you get to see nestlings putting on weight and size all summer long around the creek. Towards mid August and late September, they’ll begin vacating the area for parts unknown, returning in late March and April.

There’s a bunch of them wallowing around in the toxic sediments of Maspeth Creek, in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of what I look out for as a hazard around the Newtown Creek are trucks rather than birds, and while making my way home, one marveled at all the different kinds. Semis, packers, roll on and roll offs, panel, box, wreckers, concrete… I even saw a couple of crane trucks. Industrial Maspeth is lousy with that sort of thing. There’s trains, too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving the Maspeth area via 48th street, you cross under and over the Long Island Expressway while heading north into Sunnyside. I like to use this steel and concrete landmark, a corridor of the House of Moses, to mentally signal that I’ve left the Creeklands and reentered the world as it’s meant to be.

As in, if an aggressive goose showed his face around south Sunnyside, he’d soon find himself cooked.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

betraying myself

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Like the ghouls and ghasts, loosed upon the night wind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in yesterday’s post, one decided to take advantage of the atmospherics offered by temperature inversion last week and proceed to hike over to Newtown Creek from Astoria at four in the morning. As also mentioned in the prior posting – the manifestations of high humidity like fog and mist, coupled with spring like temperatures, created a physically arduous environment. Perspiration offered an abundance of skin secretions for my clothing to absorb, which, combined with worries about condensation on camera and lens – caused a rather uncomfortable series of existential challenges to endure. No one ever promised me a rose garden, however, so your humble narrator soldiered on into the night.

The apex of this part of Laurel Hill, sitting alongside a shallow valley through which a lost tributary of the lugubrious Newtown Creek which was known as “Wolf Creek” once flowed, is always that moment when a humble narrator comments to himself that the creeklands have been reached.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Calvary Cemetery’s newer sections are on the left side of the shot above, and the “House of Moses” occupies the center. That’s the Long Island Expressway at center and above, with industrial Maspeth to the right.

This is where 48th street, whose gradual climb in altitude I had been ascending since Northern Blvd., begins to slope roughly towards the elluvial flood plains of the Newtown Creek. Once, this ancient road was paved with crushed Oyster Shells. That colonial era surface would have been replaced with horse and carriage friendly Belgian Blocks (colloquially known as cobble stones) shortly before the Civil War, and later in the 19th century by tar and Macadam. The modern road is formed out of a concrete bed underpinned by steel rebar and is paved in a petroleum industry waste product called “Asphalt.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Industrial Maspeth never knows sleep. 

There are vast fleets of trucks, locomotives, and shifts of laborers converging at all hours of the day and night on this area, and on every day of the year (except Christmas and Thanksgiving, mostly). Sodium street lamps lend the place a sickly yellow glow, and the harsh illumination of passing heavy trucks provides for occasional blinding white blasts of light.

One has received “safety training” from Union laborers and corporate entities over the years, so a certain amount of confidence in how to handle oneself in locales such as this informed my actions. Donning an orange safety vest with reflective strips was one of the preparations made before leaving Astoria, incidentally. Night time in an M1 zone is one of the few times when the wandering photographer definitely WANTS to be noticed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are lots of giant machines moving around in industrial Maspeth, and 21st century industrial America operates within and promulgates a certain cultural imperative. That culture is called “workplace safety” and it’s important to understand the “lingua Franca,” customs, and mores which these laborers operate within – and their expected cultural normatives – as one moves about.

As a rule, never walk in front of a truck or any sort of machine without its operator acknowledging your presence, and if possible indicate to them which way you will be going and wait for them to further acknowledge that before proceeding – that’s one of them. Another is to not just wander across a driveway without looking. These hard working people aren’t expecting some idiot with a camera to be wandering around at 4:30 in the morning, after all, and the cops don’t exactly enforce the 25 mph speed limit around these parts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the bottom of the hill into which 48th street was carven, the grid of the streets is broken, and you can either head west towards Blissville in Long Island City or deeper into industrial Maspeth to the east or south. The Long Island Railroad tracks are found just beyond the fence line pictured above. That’s Review Avenue/56th Road/Rust Street you’re looking at. This is the very definition of a “not pedestrian friendly” intersection and is a dangerous crossing when on foot or a bike.

How dangerous is it, you ask?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another one of the thousands of ghost bikes is found here, a roadside memorial to someone who got squished. Every time you find a ghost bike, you find a human life cut short.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing the LIRR tracks. It should be mentioned that the “Haberman” section of these tracks are quite active these days, and that the signals are in terrible condition. Over the summer, just east of here, a truck crossing the tracks was swept away by a freight train. The exact spot which this shot was captured saw a similar incident occur a couple of years ago. In both cases the barriers never came down, the bells and flashing lights never sounded, and unlike the summer 2015 event to the east – this is where a fatality occurred.

In the distance, the Kosciusko Bridge project lights the horizon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a bit of lens flare present in the shot of the Ferrarra Brothers Concrete trucks above, but there’s little one can do about that in context. The shots in today’s, and yesterday’s, post are almost entirely handheld. High ISO settings, coupled with a “wide open” aperture, and compensating for the counterpoints of bright artificial light and enveloping darkness make for quite the technical challenge. It’s all about technique, shooting postures, and being able to force the camera into “seeing the light.”

Sometimes that means light is bouncing around inside the lens, producing flares. “Work with it” as my pal Bernie Ente used to say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heading towards Maspeth Creek along 49th street. I’ve been told that this, the section of 49th pictured above, is actually one of the lowest places in NYC – in terms of altitude relative to sea level and the sewer shed that feeds into the Newtown Creek. It’s a guarantee that you’ll alway see some flooding here every time it rains, which is something I can say with authority, and based on observation.

An apocryphal story offered by one of my many neighborhood informants stated that during a Hurricane Sandy, geysers of water were erupting from the sewer grates and manhole covers in this spot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, depicting Newtown Creek’s tributary “Maspeth Creek” on a foggy night in November of 2015, was actually the first tripod shot which I popped off last Thursday.

I bagged the dslr momentarily, and employed my trusty old Canon G10 with its magnetic tripod and a remote shutter release. The magnet allows me to “clang” the camera onto fences, fire hydrants, anything ferrous. The shot is a 15 second long exposure, which characteristically causes water to assume a mirrored glass like appearance. In the distance – the Kosciusko Bridge, with Manhattan’s skyline lost in the mist rising from that malign example of municipal and corporate excess known only as the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

Tomorrow – more.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 10, 2015 at 11:00 am

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