The Newtown Pentacle

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Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s become a fairly rare thing for a humble narrator to be out and about whilst the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is still wobbling about in the sky, but just the other day this was the case. The light was purple in coloration, given that the aforementioned ocular fireball was descending in the west behind New Jersey.

The air smelled uncharacteristically nice at Dutch Kills, which is a tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek. Dutch Kills diverges from the larger waterbody some .7 of a mile from Newtown Creek’s intersection with the East River, and proceeds into Long Island City roughly 3/4 of a mile. It’s crossed by multiple bridges, and since maritime industrial usage of the bulkheads is zero, self seeded vegetation lines Dutch Kills’ banks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you could see through time like me, you’d observe a swampy marshland here in the pre industrial Dutch Kills watershed. Islands forming around Juniper and Cypress roots covered in cosmopolitan plant colonies – mixed speciations of salt resistant shoreline vegetation. Critters would abound – the Dutch settlers in this area often commented on the vast numbers of deer and birds in this area. So many deer, in fact, that the north side of Newtown Creek reportedly had a wolf problem and Government entities offered a paid bounty for wolf pelts all the way up to the Civil War in the 1860’s.

Upland streams and wetlands were eradicated between the Civil War and the opening of the Queensboro Bridge in 1909, and the subsequent creation of the Sunnyside Yards and the Degnon Terminal in the 1910’s and 20’s finished the job of isolating Dutch Kills from the land surrounding it. The waterway became an industrial canal, with railroad tracks crisscrossing the reclaimed land around it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It turns out that some of the trees pictured above, the ones with the purple flowers, are called Empress or Princess or Foxglove Trees (Paulownia tomentosa) and their presence is directly linked to the presence of those rail tracks. To start, Empress Trees are quite opportunistic, and can root themselves into cracks in the concrete, or even in the mortar between bricks. They are also an “invasive specie” native to central and western China. Ecologically speaking, they are amazing organisms to encounter, as their leaves “fix” nitrogen in a very efficient fashion and enrich the soil they grow in as dead leaves decay on the ground. Empress trees also drink up a lot of CO2, sequestering 103 metric tons per square acre of the greenhouse gas into their wood. They also look cool, and as mentioned, the flowers are pleasant smelling.

It seems that during the 19th century, Chinese porcelain manufacturers would use the pillowy seeds of Empress Trees for the same purpose that a modern day counterpart would use styrofoam packing peanuts. Cargo traveling by boat and rail spread the seeds along their courses, which is theoretically why you see so many of this type of tree growing wild in areas like Dutch Kills. Perhaps, in a century or so, there will be styrofoam trees found here.

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 25th. 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.

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Northern Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually amazing how many times I’ve walked the exact same route, in the last two months, given that I’m still finding interesting things to point the camera at. Last weekend was warm and the weather generally beautiful here in Astoria and Western Queens. Restaurants and bars reopened for “to go” service, but large groups of quarantineros were everywhere you looked. If we don’t end up with large sections of the neighborhood in the hospital or dead by the first week of June, it’s entirely possible that the worst part of the first wave is behind us.

Saying that, don’t be a maskhole, and cover up. The less of us who wear a mask, the longer all of us will end up having to. I don’t want to be wearing a mask during August, when it’s hot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “hum” began ticking up again last weekend. That’s what I call the constant background level of noise here in Western Queens generated by automotive and mass transit action. Starting in mid March and then through April, I could hear my footsteps echoing back at me due to the quiet.

Traffic volume has definitely increased, as has sidewalk activity. Word has it that the encounter with the wackadoodle I mentioned on Monday is now a commonplace experience, and has a likely connection with the NYC Dept. of Homeless Services using the many hotels around Queens Plaza as shelters. It seems that the Homeless Veterans of the Borden Avenue shelter down in LIC are now living in the Howard Johnson’s on 12th street, and the hotels in the Dutch Kills neighborhood just north of Queens Plaza are filling up with similar guests.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve managed to reschedule a Doctor’s appointment for next week to which I was obligated towards the end of June, as the very last thing that a humble narrator wants to do is hop onto the subway. It’s funny, I actually miss it.

Just last night, I was wandering up 21st street in LIC, and the sidewalk grates that overfly the underground 7 line Hunters Point Avenue stop were to my left. The train entered the station, and then played its “beep bop, watch for the closing doors” recording. I couldn’t help but smile. It sounded normal.

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 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 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 22, 2020 at 12:00 pm

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Degnon Terminal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me at least, this is the most well rested I’ve been in years. I’ve been sleeping a solid eight to nine hours a day, and soundly at that. There’s no competition for sleep, of course, with all the bars and other centers of night life fun closed. Days (or nights, actually) when I’m out for a long walk, as on the evening when these shots were gathered, find me sleeping especially soundly given the physical exercise associated with the endeavor. Given that I fundamentally have no paying work or job at the moment, and there’s no particular reason for me to be up and about at a specific time, I’ve barely even been setting or using an alarm clock.

Hey, I’m broke, but at least I’m still breathing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The section of Long Island City these shots were gathered in is called the Degnon Terminal, an industrial park created in the first and second decades of the 20th century by a real estate developer and construction magnate named Michael Degnon. This area, bounded by Skillman and Thomson Avenues on the northwest and Newtown Creek and its Dutch Kills tributary to the south, rose whole cloth from a former swampy wetland known in the 19th century as “The Waste Meadows.”

Like other industrial properties in NYC that lost their anchor tenants during the 1960’s and 70’s, the monumental factory buildings of the Degnon Terminal have had their purposes reimagined for the modern era. CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College occupies several of the former factories, whereas others have become office or warehouse space or handle small scale manufacturing such as commercial printing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One may be sleeping well, but that offers perchance for dream. Nocturnal hallucination has never been something one has particularly enjoyed, and I’m particularly interested in waking up from the fever dream in which I’m currently trapped. This one is a whopper.

It’s one where America becomes a failed state due to a fairly avoidable pandemic.

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 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 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 21, 2020 at 11:00 am

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Borden Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I got scared the other night, thinking I had spotted a pride of teenagers roaming about LIC, so I hid behind one of the structural legs of the Long Island Expressway and pondered a few things. Yes, teenagers travel in a “pride.” Busy body white ladies, the “Karen’s” you see all over the internet trying to boss people around, form up a “privilege” when they gather, as in a “Privilege of Karen’s.” A band of teenagers is less than five individuals, whereas a pride is a large group comprised of a lead Alpha team commanding several Master Betas who in turn lead individual bands. Dominance behaviors familiar to any primatologist are displayed. Deep and turbulent currents occur when a Pride encounters a Privilege, with both sides threatening to summon a Cadre of Cops while recording each other with cell phones. Invariably, someone shouts “world star” or “welcome to YouTube.”

As a note, Cops usually come in pairs. Six or more Cops form a Cadre, whereas a full precinct wide deployment is a “fuck ton” as in “Holy Shit, there’s a Fuck Ton of Cops out there.” Any wonder why I choose to just hide behind and beside the structural elements of the built environment?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Mitch, there’s no such thing as salt and shade resistant plant species which could survive around the outfall pipes of NYC’s elevated highways,” I’ve been told that by botanist, parks personnel, and everybody else in positions of City or State authority over NYC’s elevated highways. As you can see from the self seeded vegetation in the shot above, whose speciation is cosmopolitan, they are right and I am as always wrong.

Looking out of your narrow windows at a world which you despise, and comparing your world view to mine, it is quite easy to describe me as naive, badly informed, or as some sort of agenda pushing hack. Call me names, abuse my statements, say whatever you wish as it is your absolute right. The fact is… life finds a way. Abandon orthodoxy, see what is and what grows, be organic in your logic. You’ll be happier working towards creating the world you wish we lived in than the dross corner which pain and shattered hope has painted you into. Go take a walk, and watch the world. It can be beautiful. You don’t have to pronounce everything as false and perverse to protect your heart. You just have to embrace the fact that green things can and do crack through the concrete.

Watch out for Prides of Teenagers though, they have zero impulse control.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s funny, actually, that I never seem to grow tired of shooting around this outlandish steel traffic viaduct in LIC. The thing arches over Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, where it rises 108 feet up, with the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Greenpoint Avenue at either end. The utilitarian esthetics embraced by the engineers of the House of Robert Moses have always spoken to me, design wise, but I like a good onramp.

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 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 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.

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LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More time has been spent in the last two months around the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek than anywhere else in walking distance, barring my fortress confine back in Astoria, by a humble narrator. It’s deserted here, but for the small armadas of very fast and very loud cars being driven about the empty streets by area youth. They’re blasting around, playing truly awful music (that auto tune crap has to go), but what do I care? Can’t imagine how awful it must be to be young, dumb, and full of quarantine during this interval. I’ve been noticing one of my teenage neighbors straining against her inclination to be vivacious and out in the world. Not my problem, ultimately.

As far as the shot above, there’s a reason I call this particular stretch of LIC “The Empty Corridor.” My big problem at the moment revolves around empty pockets, as in the absence of cash money. Tick tock, tick tock. Ringle tinkle, coins when they mingle…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I won’t bore you with another posts about the particular peregrinations of photographic settings and techniques utilized in the production of these shots, but suffice to say that you’re looking at a lot of button pushing and parameter dialing embedded into those pixels. Hey… when you’ve got the time to rethink how you do things, come up with new methods and experiment, it would be foolish not to take advantage of opportunity,

Pictured are the ruins of the Irving Subway Grate Iron Foundry, overflown by the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the larger Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Borden Avenue retractile Bridge pictured above, looking westwards across Dutch Kills towards midtown Manhattan.

As stated in the past, one continues to eschew areas which can be constituted as being heavily populated, given that we are all living in what’s essentially a random number generator as far as getting sick with Covid 19 goes. Precautions, when moving around in my well populated neighborhood, are routinely taken. Sensible usage of a face mask and the regular washing of hands are religiously observed. When I leave the area, and enter these unpopulated industrial zones, the mask comes off and one can breathe free.

Well, as free as you can breathe at a Federal Superfund site, at any rate.

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 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 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.

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LIC and Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since the Quarantine bubble seems to have autonomously popped last weekend due to the arrival of warm weather, with thousands taking to the streets after the long hermitage, one decided to direct a recent constitutional walk towards the deserted precincts of Newtown Creek. The sidewalks of Astoria were teeming with people, but once I had moved southwards to Northern Blvd. the only traffic encountered was vehicular. That is, until I got to the corner of Honeywell street and Northern, where a wild eyed wackadoodle suddenly appeared who seemed desirous of confrontation with a humble narrator. Either high on goof balls or demented due to a feverish state of mind, the fellow meant me no good, and luckily I managed to brush him off.

As the wackadoodle was walking away, he called me “Pops.”

One continued along his own path, heading towards the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek with the intention of gathering images specifically intended for the focus and exposure stacking techniques which I’ve been experimenting with. To wit, the image above and those below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like any other software process involving the capture of raw data using one device which is then processed using a computational algorithm on a second one, reliable result is dependent on predictability. Predictability is formed by experiment. Ideally – You shoot images A, B, C, and then execute steps 1-4 with them on the computer, then you get something you had in mind for the final result. Getting to predictable result, however, requires experimentation, experiential trial and error, etc.

The image above represents something like 24 individual exposures, 12 for the water and 12 for the land, welded together. It’s not a home run, image quality wise. There’s an “uncanny valley” feel to it, but that’s what a learning process often looks like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wide open aperture used in all 3 of these shots, wherein the focus point is moved into different areas of the frame, allows for a softer capture of ambient light with “truer” color capture than a narrow aperture does. By combining multiple shots with that point of focus moved through the frame, you can additively assure tack sharp focus through the image, as I’ve discovered. Again, not a home run, but I got on base and possibly stole second.

Normally you’d use this technique in woodland or seaside landscape, or macro photography, and I’m working on making it predictable – as in “I shoot this, I get that.” That predictability is the name of the game, behind the camera.

I’m Pops Waxman, signing out for today. See you tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle. May all your wackadoodles be merry, and all your photos in focus.

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 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 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.

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Archive, again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that I still haven’t produced any images worth showing to you in the last few days, today is another post pulling photos from the Newtown Pentacle archives. Luckily, over the years, I’ve been able to put the camera in front of some pretty cool stuff. Pictured above is the Kirby Moran tugboat, navigating through Newark Bay, with the Bayonne Bridge in the background. This was shot while onboard a Working Harbor Committee trip. WHC is a Manhattan based non profit, dedicated to educating the public about the harbor of New York and New Jersey, and one which I’ve worked with for more than a decade as official photographer and occasional tour guide.

I fear that there won’t be any boat excursions in the cards for me this year, which would and will be sorely missed. Being out on the water is a big part of my life during the warm weather months. Honestly, I do not know what I’m going to do with myself on Tuesday or Thursday nights in July and August.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a New York & Atlantic train in the shot above, captured on a Waste Management campus in East Williamsburg last year. I got to ride on the train, and had unusual levels of access to the folks who own and operate the freight service the day this shot was captured. I also got a cool baseball hat with their logo on it which I wear all the time now. NY&A operates mainly on Long Island Railroad’s rights of way, and handle LIRR’S freight duties for Kings, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties. Just behind the train is a fence, and just behind the fence is the English Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek.

The context of why I was able to shoot this train, and enjoy access to the site, was due to an invite by the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce offered to myself and several other members of Newtown Creek Alliance – a Brooklyn based non profit dedicated to reveal, restore, and revitalize Newtown Creek. I’ve been NCA’s historian and general tour guide for more than a decade as well, and I’m also a member of the board of directors for the organization.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I see a lot of cool cars when I’m wandering around Brooklyn and Queens, including this cherry Ford Mustang all done up with racing stripes. This particular auto was encountered on the Astoria side of Northern Blvd., which happens to sit within the jurisdiction of Queens Community Board 1, a Governmental body which I was sworn into and joined last year.

I’m currently a member of the Transportation and Environmental Committees, but have made it a point to attend a meeting of every committee CB1 has in order to understand the structure of the organization. The only ones I haven’t attended so far are Public Safety and Health. Saying that, I occasionally sit in on the 114th pct.’s community council meetings.

I’ll definitely be getting out in the dead of night this weekend, wandering through the plagued streets, and gathering some new images for next week. See you then, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

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 11th. 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.

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