The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘New York City

immediately arranged

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Maspeth Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was an unusually low tide last Sunday night, discovered upon my arrival at the Maspeth Creek tributary of the larger Newtown Creek, and if one were to describe the exposed mud flats as being aromatic… that would be a bit of an understatement. Luckily, a humble narrator was alone in the concrete devastations, which provided for an opportunity for derring do and risky behavior. Soon, I found myself perched on a crumbling concrete ledge with a tripod and camera and a two story drop into the stinking mud just one stumble away, with a chain link fence directly behind that my free hand was clutched to. You want to be, always, on the other side of that fence.

This is exactly the sort of thing which I advise others not to do, as it’s stupid and foolhardy, but… I got my shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once upon a time and just a few blocks away from this spot, DeWitt Clinton sat on his porch and watched a meandering Maspeth Creek flow past his house, when the waterway was navigible half of the way to Elmhurst, and dreamt up the Erie Canal. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Maspeth Creek was described by contemporaries as a “stinking swamp, surrounded by pestilential industries and ugly to the ultimate degree.” By the time WW2 came along, this was where you’d access the bulkheads of the United Enameling and Stamping Co.

In the first quarter of the 20th century, Maspeth Creek was canalized and truncated, with its eastward or landward side being entirely taken over by a large combined sewer outfall concrete vault, and its once upon a time course towards Elmhurst buried into a sewer. In fact, the concrete ledge from which these shots were gathered is the roof of that sewer vault, known to Newtown Creek enthusiasts and Government regulators alike as “NC-077.” This drain reportedly allows about 289 million gallons of untreated wastewater a year to saturate into the tributary and deposit filth into it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were all sorts of critters moving around in the darkness; Geese, Rats, and Raccoons were all personally spotted, but there were other unseen but hinted at forms of life in both the water column and crawling about and along the shorelines. Something fairly large was crashing around in the bush found on the southern bulkheads, but that could have just been some of the Raccoons, or maybe some Opossums. I did not observe anything with tentacles, but I’ve always had certain suspicions about Maspeth Creek, revolving around old Lenape tales suggesting this area as “not being right.”

As far as what might be tunneling, wriggling, or sliding about in the exposed Black Mayonnaise sediment beds… who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 13, 2018 at 11:00 am

shattered nerves

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English Kills, at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So this is where a humble narrator found himself last evening, but as I had good company with me, one was only mildly terrified by the solemnified majesty of Newtown Creek. This is near the end of all things, where Newtown Creek’s tributary English Kills flows into a sewer which also flows into English Kills. Dichotomies notwithstanding, that’s the Montrose Avenue Railroad Bridge in the left of the shot, which carries the tracks of the Long Island Railroad’s Bushwick Branch over the waterway, and into the luminance of Waste Management’s Varick Street location. It was windy.

This is Brooklyn, roughly 3.7 miles from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were rats.

As my pal Bernie Ente used to advise “the rats at Newtown Creek are well fed and won’t bother you, they don’t care that you’re there, but they might run over your feet.” That didn’t happen, foot wise, but my companion and I did spot a few plump specimens skittering between the shadows. The biggest issue encountered, actually, was when we followed a trod upon path around the borders of the canalized waterway. The brush is still thick, and there were a few fallen trees to contend with, but we were determined to gain access to the spot where the story of Newtown Creek suddenly stops.

That spot has a designation: NC-015.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mounds of litter and garbage that mix with and provide firmament to a tangle of self seeded vegetation and fallen trees can simply be described as “a trip hazard,” but there were more than a few spots encountered on the way to this location that could have easily ended with a broken ankle. It was quite dark, being night time, it should be mentioned. A portable light was used to illuminate the foreground in the shot above, but prior to that it was a silhouette against the water.

3.8 miles from the East River, the western facing point of view above is from above Combined Sewer Outfall #NC-015. It’s the 20th largest of the 400 such outfalls in NY Harbor, in terms of volume, releasing 344 million gallons of untreated wastewater into English Kills a year (last time I checked).


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firmly sustained

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DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, one ventured forth with two goals; first: get a decent night shot showing as much of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge as I could get into frame, second: try and get some equally nocturnal shots of the trains moving around on the Queens side in Blissville. While I was shooting the former, the GPA Bridge suddenly opened to allow a tug and barge through, which is how I got those light streaks in the shot above – they’re the running lights of the tug. Yay.

By the time I got to the Queens side, the railroad guys seemed to have done all the moving stuff around they needed to do for a while, but I hung around for about 45 minutes and waved the camera and tripod around at a few things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, this spot in DUGABO is likely not where Amazon is going to base itself. A humble narrator received several phone calls about the subject yesterday, but I’m as clueless as to that tale as everyone who is not Gubernatorial staff is. The ways of the Dark Prince of Albany are subtle, and manifest in secret. Do not try to peer too deeply at the abyss that the Dark Prince dwells within, for he may notice and fix his gaze upon you. When the Dark Prince reveals his intentions, the children will rejoice, but prior to that only lament will be theirs and ours.

Seriously, not a clue. I’m reading the papers too, that’s all I’ve got. I also have no opinion on “good or bad” yet, since I have no information at all to work with. I’ve asked around as well, and have received a universal “dunno.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home, this odd little monument to workplace safety was encountered in Blissville in front of the world’s largest Fortune Cookie Bakery, a distinction which Long Island City has long enjoyed being the home of.


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public sentiment

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#twotondeathmachines

– photos by Mitch Waxman

“Two Ton Death Machines” is the term which the bicycle fanatics use when discussing automobiles and their murder happy drivers. If I played guitar and was starting a metal band, Two Ton Death Machine would be what I called the outfit, and my first album would be called #CARNAGE. C’est la vie.

The big project I’ve been alluding to for the last several months, which has been actually been distracting me for more than a year, is beginning to come to fruition. This involves the pulling together of tens of thousands of disparate photos, separating them by typology and subject matter, and then stringing them together into some sort of coherent form. The “Cool Cars” YouTube video above is one of the initial attempts. I’d love to put some sort of soundtrack to it, but as mentioned above, I’m no musician. If any of you are, and would be interested in riffing a track for me to include (I’ve got zero $) I wouldn’t say no.

I’m going to figure out how to include narration on forthcoming videos, as a note, but for now there’s no audio – so, be very quiet, the two ton death machines and their death hungry drivers are rolling about and hunting human victims to squish into the pavement and they might hear you. #vrooom


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 7, 2018 at 11:00 am

nicely scabbed

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Monday continues to suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been burning the proverbial midnight oil for the last few days, working late into the night in the manner which I was once known for. There’s a couple of big projects in the works, which I hope to be telling y’all about in the coming weeks, but there is a dearth of content for the old Newtown Penatcle today, so a few odds and ends are on offer. Pictured above is a food truck observed on the corner of Steinway Street and Broadway in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been running to and fro, and relying on the ever unreliable MTA to get me there. As I often opine – The “A” in “MTA” is for “Adventure.” That’s the M line entering the 46th street station here in Astoria, which one utilized to connect – via the Court Square Station – with the G line and North Brooklyn.

Once upon a time, I used to budget out a little extra time and plan my rides on the Subway in pursuance of getting a seat and taking one train to my destination. These days, I’m more likely to transfer three or four times along the way. When life throws you lemons you make lemonade, and when a Mayor and a Governor play political football with the transit system you figure out how to be agile when traveling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of subways, that streaky light in the shot above is the 7 line exiting the “tube” at the Hunters Point Avenue stop and climbing up the elevated tracks towards the aforementioned Court Square Station. The south western tip of the Sunnyside Yards is what you see in the rest of the shot, along with some of the new real estate development underway which will give everyone another chance to live in a high rise tower rooted into a toxic mess of post industrial ooze.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 5, 2018 at 1:30 pm

exceedingly gruesome

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I still need a vacation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent an interval arguing with a proverbial “angry old white man keyboard warrior” type yesterday afternoon, who accused me of being a “hystrionic hipster clown.” I’ll accept clown, but hipster? I encounter this sort of fellow occasionally in real life, sometimes when I’m conducting a tour. You can always spot them; head cocked back, one eye slightly winced, sour look on the face. They showed up to see me screw up so they can then call me out on something. Usually, they will interject with some obvious thing – “you gonna mention the Long Island Railroad?” or something.

Yes, I will, when we get to that section of the tour. If they continue with the derision, I tend to bury them with a depth of knowledge that they aren’t prepared for, or introduce them to the group and hand them the microphone. Screw with the bull, you get the horns. Given my love of conflict and argument, if you come at me all aggressive like, I’m going to freaking bury you with a smile on my face as I do it. Brooklyn, that’s where I’m from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Getting all granular about every little thing is something that I prefer not to do. I’ve never claimed to be an expert on all things – however – I do possess an enormous knowledge base which covers a lot of subjects. Subway and train people are the worst about this sort of thing, writing you off if you don’t know the model number of some twenty turn screw that the Dual Contracts era engineers had problems with. I know a lot about a lot of things, and know everything about one or two things. Given my particular interests, which generally revolve around Newtown Creek, anything that’s tangentially related to the waterway’s history is something I’ve read up on and at least tried to talk to an actual expert on the subject. That means I know far more than most “civilians” about wastewater management, trash hauling, maritime shipping, and the sociopolitical history of Brooklyn and Queens. It’s a pleasure to meet somebody who wants to share what they know about trolleys or some other esoteric subject, but the vast majority of these armchair scholars just want to hoard their knowledge.

The fellow who was being aggressive and nasty to me yesterday didn’t get the “full treatment,” which is what I call the vulgar display of my well honed internet research powers. Suffice to say that within fifteen minutes of his ugly attentions and nasty commentary, I knew his home address and had a photo of him sitting on his porch in Smithtown out on Long Island. As expected, he was a retired city employee pining for the “good old days.” Seriously, folks, there is no such thing as online anonymity unless you are very, very skilled in hiding your tracks. All I need is your email address and I can follow the wires back to, at least, the corner you live on. Imagine what the cops can do. Don’t make threatening statements online, with the ideation that you won’t get kicked in the skedooch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not offended by the “hipster” or “clown” accusations, incidentally, although “hipster” is a bit of stretch. What pissed me off was the accusation that I’m some sort of transplanted Midwest suburbanite who recently arrived in NYC to disaffectedly enjoy soy mocha lattes at some upscale Williamsburg cafe. I’ve encountered this sort of thing before, and it just ticks me off. Other than something like six to eight composite weeks when I was off galavanting in New England or Europe on vacations, I’ve woken up in New York City every single day for the last fifty one years. I didn’t pick up and move to Long Island or Westchester or …Staten Island… like some goddamned little kid afraid of what he’s seen in the big bad City. That would be giving up, and admitting that the malefic intelligence of the City had beaten you.

It’s standard “keyboard warrior” technique, calling somebody names. Let’s talk face to face, on the street where things are tangible and real. Say it to my face, if you want to deploy your MAGA code words and veiled threats.

Feh. 

Upcoming events


Saturday, November 3rdTidal Toast, a fundraiser party to support Newtown Creek Alliance in our mission to “Reveal, Restore, Revitalize” the Newtown Creek. Since 2002 the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) has been the voice of Newtown Creek; working with industry, agencies, and residents alike to promote awareness, remediation, access, resilient businesses and ecological restoration. This celebration will champion the Vision for the future of the waterway and those that have contributed their time, energy and effort to it.
More information and tickets here. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 2, 2018 at 11:15 am

lapsed joy

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Night time, right time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few more shots from a nocturnal walk earlier this week are on offer today. That’s the Pulaski Bridge in the shot above, as seen from a street end in LIC adjoining a colony of squatter boats which enjoy a total lack of will on the part of law enforcement as far as their occupation of both municipal and private property.

What I’d like to share with you today, however, is that Newtown Creek Alliance is holding a benefit party on Saturday night at 520 Kingsland Avenue to raise funds for our operations in 2019. It’s going to be a pretty cool party, I think.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NCA was formed in 2002, as an ad hoc community group, by an amazing woman named Katie Schmid. Katie stepped back shortly after I started to get involved with NCA back in 2008, and another amazing lady named Kate Zidar took over. Kate carried NCA from being community group to “official status” as a non profit 501/3c corporation. Kate Zidar moved on to other projects, and the big chair was then filled by Willis Elkins, who serves as NCA’s executive director today.

A humble narrator is the group’s Historian, and as you all know, I’m on the “reveal” side of the mission conducting tours and lectures. All of us in NCA serve in one capacity or another on a multitude of citizen committees which revolve around the Creek – notably the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee (re: the sewer plant in Greenpoint), The Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group (re: EPA’s Superfund designation). We also attend gatherings and meetings with other organizations whose territory touches the Creek; North Brooklyn Boat Club, HarborLab, Maspeth Industrial Business Association, Evergreen, St. Nick’s Alliance, Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, Hunters Point Civic Association, Blissville Civic Association, NAG, GWAAP, OUTRAGE… all are buddies of ours and part of the “Alliance” in one way or another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In recent years, NCA has worked with Riverkeeper to create an extraordinary visiting document for the future of the Creek, and our volunteers have cleaned up and created multiple points of public access to the water at street ends like the Maspeth Avenue and Meeker Avenue street ends. We’re just getting started.

On Saturday, November 3rd, were asking the community to join us in Greenpoint for a benefit party to support the continuing work. Link below.

Upcoming events


Saturday, November 3rdTidal Toast, a fundraiser party to support Newtown Creek Alliance in our mission to “Reveal, Restore, Revitalize” the Newtown Creek. Since 2002 the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) has been the voice of Newtown Creek; working with industry, agencies, and residents alike to promote awareness, remediation, access, resilient businesses and ecological restoration. This celebration will champion the Vision for the future of the waterway and those that have contributed their time, energy and effort to it.
More information and tickets here. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 1, 2018 at 11:30 am

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