The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘New York City

latent fright

with one comment

Review Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The property at the left handed side of the shot above is all that remains, original building wise, of Standard Oil’s Queens County Oil Works. Workers at Standard referred to this facility as the “Candle Factory,” I’m told, as their principal product output involved the handling and manufacture of materials which would be incorporated into road flares and other fuel “candles” made from petroleum derivates like naphtha and paraffin. The footprint of the old Queens County Oil Works site incorporates the properties of the first large oil works on Newtown Creek, but that’s another story.

On the right hand (or eastern side) of the shot is First Calvary Cemetery’s great masonry wall, which contains the tomb legions.

The (presumptively) Consolidated Edison people have been busy for the last six months or so on that eastern side of the street replacing a few utility poles and stringing new high tension electrical wires between them, as well as digging out underground vaults for and then installing new electrical transformers in.

The new wires they’ve arrayed interact with tree branches growing off of the masonry elevation’s crown at Calvary, the interaction thereof producing eerie sounds as they sway in the wind. There’s a “clacking” staccato when the branches strike the wires, and a deep basso sound is produced when the wires rub sonorously against the wooden boughs. It sounds a great deal like some grandiose orchestra is playing a weird and alien tune, and kind of freaks you out.

Again, not wearing headphones nor listening to music or an audiobook at the moment, in an attempt to be 100% aware of my surroundings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One often opines to elected officialdom and NYS regulator alike about the overload of weight that the utility people place onto those poles of creosoted wood, which carry the abundant wiring that keeps our civilization powered and connected here in Western Queens. I notice things, and this thing is concerning.

To wit, observe the bowing of that utility pole in the shot above, at the corner of 37th street and Review Avenue. The only thing keeping this wooden cylinder from snapping in half, as this is an older utility pole and not a newly installed one, is a conduit of iron piping which is acting like a spine.

A non emergency problem to solve in a different time, I say. Another reason to survive all this is looking forward to annoying the NYS Utility Board regulators on this topic – and looking forward to it, I am. One was conspiring with Assemblyman Brian Barnwell’s office on this topic, regarding the utility pole situation back in Astoria, before CoronAmerica manifested its ugly face and the world went to hell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Observationally speaking, I’m not sure how the medallion taxi industry is going to survive this crisis. Everywhere that I’ve been marching about, which as you’ve seen here are the abandoned industrial streets of Long Island City, entire fleets of yellow cabs are sitting inert. Whereas the FEMA people famously have their “Waffle House” index to gauge the impact of hurricanes and storms, I have a yellow cab index.

I also have a drug dealer index. Now, I’m not in that particular market, but I keep an eye on it and periodically check in with people I know who are narcotic enthusiasts about the supply and demand situation. I like to know commodity prices. It seems that a “weed drought” is on, and that the heroin people are literally climbing the walls trying to find a fix. Don’t know many coke people these days, but apparently that’s another imported commodity which is becoming ever harder to acquire.

Also, on a personal note, today is the day in 2011 that we lost my Newtown Creek Alliance pal Bernie Ente.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, March 30th. 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.

malignity now

leave a comment »

Being careful.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is operating under the theory that a hang nail could end up being fatal right now, as could a fractured bone or infected pimple. Accordingly, one is being exceptionally “intentional” and paying attention to every action before executing it. Every footfall is considered, as are the various pathways I’m using on my “constitutional” walks. When I find myself heading towards a place where a population of humans might be encountered, an navigational alteration is instituted. Even while scuttling along the familiar 1848 vintage fence lines of First Calvary Cemetery here in LIC’s Blissville section, an area not exactly known for its crowds, one is wary.

Given my notoriously paranoid sensibilities, innate desires for solitude and isolation, and general distrust of the human infestation… well, let’s just say that I’m a bit better prepared for the situation we all find ourselves in than most. Saying that, I’m really worried about the folks for whom “normal” life is psychologically unbearable. There’s a saying which goes something like “in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.” I mentioned this to a friend of mine recently, a fine young fellow long diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (a population of people partially defined by innate social distancing and a severe desire not to be emotionally or personally engaged with or to be physically touched), and commented that he is now poised to lead us all into the future here in CoronAmerica.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The streets in the industrial zone were eerie quiet, but there was still a bit of activity amongst the so called “essential” trades – garbage, trucking, transit. I normally stick out like a sore thumb on purpose, hoping to not get squished by a truck or just being so obsequious while I’m photographing things that the various security guards and cops who notice me figure that I can’t possibly “be up to something.”

That’s the new Koscisuzcko Bridge pictured above, as seen from Review Avenue, with the fence of Calvary Cemetery behind me. Calvary, like most of the cemeteries in Western Queens and North Brooklyn, was created in response to a series of epidemics which swept through NYC at the start of the 19th century. See what I did there? Topical historical reference…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The drive to eliminate burials in the crowded city center, which were thought to be the cause of several of the Typhus and Cholera epidemics that scythed through the tenements of pre Civil War Manhattan, began with the Rural Cemeteries Act of 1847.

The new law demanded that the denominational religious organizations of the time acquire land outside of Manhattan in pursuance of creating cemeteries for,their flocks. First Calvary was established by the Roman Catholics in 1848, and their funerary operations continued to expand well into the 20th century here in Queens – there’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Calvary properties due east of Blissville, over in Woodside.

Pictured above is the former location of the Long Island Railroad’s Penny Bridge station, currently occupied by the green box cars of the so called Garbage Train, where mourners from Brooklyn would enter into Queens for funerary ritual and rite.

Tomorrow, a bit more from Blissville. Stay safe, lords and ladies, and leave some comments for a humble narrator as I could use the virtual company.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, March 30th. 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.

ancient overmantle

with 3 comments

Walking in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent night found one scuttling about in the darkness while drawn towards the weird illuminations of the Kosciuszcko Bridge, which spans the fabulous Newtown Creek. Pictured above is the northeast corner of LIC’s First Calvary Cemetery, a photo which was shot using a somewhat different technique than the now tried and true methodology I use for night shots, which is why it looks a bit “different.”

An observation made during the walk, from Astoria to Blissville via Sunnyside, was that since all of the humans are staying in at night now, and automotive traffic is at an all time low, the normally furtive eidelons of nature are free to wander about.

Lots and lots of Raccoons, Opossums, and Rodents of all typologies were spotted along the way. Proof of what I’ve been saying for years, that if we were able to allow the mechanisms of the natural environment just a little bit of room, we’d lick the various problems facing our civilization pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, it’s taken the near collapse of that civilization to prove my point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Growing up in a home where the reaction to leaving a faucet dripping was greeted with the same emotional and tangential severity as having discharged a firearm, one developed a series of coping mechanisms which have served me well over the years and have gained me the reputation of being “good in a crisis.” Unlike most, when I see that the house is on fire, my first instinct isn’t to assign blame but rather to pick up a hose or fire extinguisher and fix the problem in the most expeditious fashion possible. “Plenty of time to freak out afterwards” I always say. I guess I learned something from my batshit crazy mother after all, which at least takes the form of how and when one should react to random stressors.

Saying that, even my legendary ability to subsume and bury emotional stress is fracturing. Periodic walks like the ones described in recent weeks are sanity inducing.

Just as I was shooting the image above, a couple of plain clothes NYPD officers rolled up on me and began asking the familiar “why are you taking pictures of the bridge” queries. The encounter was short and non eventful, but it actually made me feel “normal” for a few minutes. Afterwards, rumination revealed that whereas I’ve had this exact same conversation with private security dozens of times in the last few years, it had been a long while since I had to have it with a badge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not having the super bright lights of the new Koscisuzcko Bridge blow out the highlights of any night shot they’re in is still a challenge which I haven’t been able to conquer, in a single exposure, yet. The middle shot in today’s post was severely underexposed to compensate for the bridge lighting, as I wanted to get the “red, white, and blue” pattern it was displaying. The shadows were “pushed” during processing to allow for detail in the shot. One technique I’ve experimented with is to do two exposures and then marry them together, but it’s a lot of work to get them to look “right.” I prefer to “get it in one” and whereas I know all about HDR, that technique really isn’t the answer either.

Luckily, I have lots of time on my hands to experiment. How are you spending your Quarantine, Lords and Ladies?

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, March 30th. 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.

snorting choke

leave a comment »

Concretized.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The head of Dutch Kills, the sole surviving tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek in Long Island City, hosts a concrete company called NYCON. This is pretty busy operation under normal circumstances and difficult to get photos of do to the hustle and bustle. Also, I generally avoid photographing the concrete guys, for certain reasons, including that they don’t seem to like being photographed – not one little bit. The nice thing about the Corona Virus quarantine, therefore, is that they don’t seem to have been rated as “essential” and my recent constitutional walk in LIC offered an opportunity to record a few of their industrial splendors.

This is from 47th Avenue and 27th street, if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quite a few people have asked me if I’m worried or scared or whatever when I’m out at night, and in particular during the Quarantine. A few have chided me for being out at all, but the reality of my life is that I’m under Doctor’s orders to keep moving. Without exercise, it won’t be long before my arterial system narrows and plugs, and then I’ll find myself having to spend time in a hospital during an epidemic. Not only do I never, ever, want to experience the cardiac ward of a hospital again – given the current circumstances I could easily find myself in one of the FEMA or USACE wards being set up around the City. I’d be lying if I don’t say I was a bit paranoid on the deserted streets, but paranoid is good during times of trouble and tumult. Stay frosty.

I am not going to find myself sleeping in a hospital bed at the Javitz Center if I can help it. Have you been to the Javitz Center?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever the risks, one must continue to turn the earth under his feet. I’m used to being lonely out here in the Creeklands. At night, in particular, there are so few humans about that it’s arguably one of the safest places to be when a deadly virus is being passed about. There’s also so much to see, and photograph. For a couple of hours, one is able to forget about the apocalyptic situation we are all suffering through. Get away from the news feeds and the constant dirge of nightmarish import.

I NEED that in addition to the exercise. It’s literally all I’ve got right now.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. 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

April 2, 2020 at 11:00 am

only acquiesce

leave a comment »

Scuttle, scuttle, scuttle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One keeps on finding himself at the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek, here in Long Island City, for some bizarre reason. Partially, it’s the lack of people one might encounter along the way. On the other hand, it’s a familiar place to me and therefore comforting. Pictured is the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

Dutch Kills, as the United States Army Corps of Engineers so rendered it in the early 20th century, averages about 150 feet of space between its bulkheads. It’s spanned by several bridges, and this particular single bascule drawbridge – which it’s owners at the NYC Dept. of Transportation will tell you – is the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. Replacing an earlier wooden drawbridge powered by a donkey walking on a wheel, the modern HPA Bridge was originally erected in 1910 as a double bascule drawbridge with electric motors. The masonry, bridge house, and basic structure of the thing are original to that effort but in the 1980’s a retrofit of the bridge eliminated the double bascule mechanism with a simpler to maintain single bascule one.

What’s a bascule, you ask?

That’s the section of a draw bridge’s roadway which tilts upwards to allow egress to a passing vessel. See? You learned something in Quarantine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What is a man? What has he got? Frank Sinatra asked that.

When is a road not a road, and a city street is not technically a street? When it’s 29th street between Hunters Point and 47th avenues in Long Island City. There are several roads and streets around here which are on the NYC map, host NYC street names and signs, and you can get mail delivered to structures which use those designations as addresses, but they aren’t actually city streets. Railroad access roads, they are called, and are the actual property of the MTA/Long Island Railroad. 29th street is one of them. If you know what to look for, beyond tracks rising up out of the asphalt, these streets are easy to spot. Long gentle curves between the corners, rather than straight as an arrow, and if the distance between the corners is curiously long… you’ve found a good candidate for “railroad access road.” You have to check the official record, of course, but 29th street alongside Dutch Kills is definitively part of this classification.

Back in the early 20th century, there used to be a “terminal railway” setup in these parts which provided “last mile” service to the factories and warehouses of “America’s Workshop” as LIC was known. This “Degnon Terminal railway” split off from the Lower Montauk tracks along Newtown Creek via the Montauk Cutoff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of blocks from Dutch Kills is the former Waldes Koh-I-Noor four building complex, which used to be able to accommodate a train set running between its various buildings. Waldes were manufacturers of milliners supplies – pins and needles, buttons, snaps. The metal pants zipper was innovated here during the First World War, I’m told. During the Second World War, Waldes ceased production of clothing items and retooled their factory for war production, manufacturing the internal components of artillery shells for both the Army and Navy.

Boy, do I love LIC. I guess this is part of the reason I find myself wandering around here so often. The stories I can tell… and wish I was telling… but somehow I don’t think that I’m going to be leading many walking tours this year.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. 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.

maddening suggestions

leave a comment »

Keepin on keepin on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So far so good here at HQ, and the only thing I can report to as involving coughing and wheezing so far involves the seasonal allergies which one has always contended with. Why we plant flowering trees in NYC is something I cannot fathom. Pollen is the age of pandemic is a “poop your pants” situation every time you sneeze or blow the shnoz.

As described in prior posts, one needs to maintain a fairly regular schedule of exercise for health reasons. Accordingly, I’ve been leaving Astoria at opportune times when the streets are entirely unoccupied and then heading towards similarly unoccupied areas in the industrial zones surrounding Newtown Creek. Personal security is something which I’m very, very aware of given the deserted sidewalks and thusly I haven’t been sticking my headphones into my ears as is the normal custom. Situational awareness, I call it. It’s part of what I promise Our Lady of the Pentacle when I’m leaving the house and she opines “Be careful.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad traversing the Harold Interlocking at the Sunnyside Yards is pictured above, a set of tracks which are said to normally be the busiest right of way in the entire country. On this particular walk, one noticed breadstuffs scattered about on the sidewalks, often arranged in cruciform patterns. Could have been something random, and it wasn’t worth taking a picture of frankly, but does anyone know anything about such practices? Desperate and scared people typically embrace ancestral magic and peasant rituals during crises. Many cling to their magic books or scrolls, thinking the imagined power of the words contained therein will protect them from pestilence and misfortune. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood which was partially populated by people with numbers tattooed on their arms, who would have gladly offered to any that queried them that those scrolls didn’t do them one bit of good when the wolves arrived.

This is the hour of the Wolf for our civilization, isn’t it? We’re all locked up inside and some forest monster is scratching at the door in the dead of night. Stay frosty, I always say, and be smart. Your god won’t vouchsafe you, instead fate helps those who help themselves when the wolves are near.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s why I’m continuing to march about, all alone in the night. When it comes time to put everything back together, we are going to need strength – both emotional and physical – to bury the dead and comfort the living. I’m hoping to count myself as part of the latter, but it’s impossible to predict whether or not a plague will take you.

The only thing you can do is lock your doors, and keep that wolf at bay.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. 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

March 31, 2020 at 11:00 am

black smoke

with one comment

What a nightmare.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning from a short constitutional walk the other night, a sudden explosion of FDNY activity drew my attention to the corner of Newtown Road and 45th street here in Astoria. A structural fire was consuming one of the older homes in the neighborhood, a wood framed one set back from the property line. It soon became an all hands fire, it seems, and FDNY units from both Woodside and Astoria were present, as was Rescue Unit 4.

I also captured a bit of video on my phone, which can be accessed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighbors were all coming out of their houses to see what was happening, and lots of them were breaking out in tears over the spectacle. I suddenly realized that dozens if not a hundred people were forming a crowd and one beat it out of there quickly in the name of social distancing. Cooties.

I don’t know anyone who lives in that house, thought I, but as it turns out that wasn’t true. Somebody from the outer ring of my social circle did indeed live there and was now homeless. Under normal circumstance, this is plain horrible, and the normal systemic response would involve the Red Cross setting you up in a hotel for a couple of days while the insurance people figure out next steps. Fire insurance will usually pay for temporary lodging until the house is determined to be fixable or a total loss, at which point repairs are made or you have to find a new apartment.

During the current crisis – this is a nightmare scenario.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I posted the video of the fire to a couple of social media platforms, and made sure that City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer was aware of it, since this is not only his district but the neighborhood he grew up in. The next morning, a message was sent to me from a friend informing that the aforementioned “outer ring” acquaintance of ours was in fact now homeless and sleeping on their couch, and I made sure that JVB’s office had their contact information. Apparently, some sort of shelter for the poor fellow was arranged.

Structural fires are one of the things which I am worrying about more and more with all of us trapped inside. Be careful in your kitchens lords and ladies, and with those extension cords, and if you don’t have a fire extinguisher or two in your house – get some.

Also, on this date in 1909, the Queensboro Bridge opened for traffic. That’s your NYC history trivia of the day.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the start of the week of Monday, March 23rd. 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

March 30, 2020 at 11:00 am

%d bloggers like this: