The Newtown Pentacle

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metal substance

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Crispy around the edges, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last few days have been busy ones, and accordingly, here’s a few shots without too much accompanying folderol or explanations. This last weekend saw me do two tours, a late afternoon walk in LIC on Saturday and the all day 100% Toxic Newtown Creekathon on Sunday. Having walked something close to 18 miles during the last 48 hours, whilst shouting out narration, I’m plain old pooped today.

Pictured above, the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, my colleague from Newtown Creek Alliance – Will Elkins – and I managed to bring the Creekathon to a close yesterday well before it started raining, so there’s that. Unluckily, I haven’t been too busy with the camera this last week due to the cold and wind and rain, so that side of my psyche is quite unfulfilled.

Pictured above, a Thornton Tug on Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking forward to the middle of this week, a humble narrator is. The weather should be on my side, and I’m making a few plans to get out at night with the tripod and night kit.

Pictured above, the instersection of Van Dam Street and 49th avenue in LIC.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm

weird cadence

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The night time is the Creek time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one had a City based event to photograph last week and an event in Greenpoint the same evening. At the start of the Greenpoint leg of my day, I apologized to the filmmaker whose work Newtown Creek Alliance was screening that night (as well as my colleagues) as I’d be disappearing for a few minutes while the projector was running.

I’d already seen the film, at a screening held at the Greater Astoria Historic Society last year, and I had permission from the owner of the property where we were doing the event to get down to his bulkheads – which face out on the fabulous Newtown Creek – and crack out a few shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A former petrochemical based lubricant mill, found next door to a modern day biofuel depot, the site I was at is in the section of the Newtown Creek which one refers to as “DUGABO” or Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp. That crazy nor’easter had blown through the day before, leaving behind a layer of now rotting snow and slush.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next door at the biofuel company, specifically Metro Oil, an articulated tug and fuel barge were tied up and pumping material from the on shore storage tanks into the barge. On the horizon, in the shot above, is Calvary Cemetery in Blissville on the Queens side of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking roughly northwards, that’s the Long Island Expressway behind Railroad Avenue, with the Sapphire megalith of Long Island City and all the new residential towers surrounding it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northwest, and the Sims Metal Management facility.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

West towards the Shining City of Manhattan, past the Allocco Recycling company bulkheads.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

strange hills

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Shots from high over Greenpoint today, and a few things to do!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the end of last week, which was a doozy incidentally (I actually had to wear a suit and tie one night), one had a chance to head over to Greenpoint and get high. High above the ground, that is. The shot above looks east over some oil industry infrastructure towards the new Kosciuszcko Bridge from the rooftop at 520 Kingsland Avenue. Newtown Creek Alliance, the Audubon Society, and Broadway Stages have created a green roof there that these shots were captured from.

We need a lot of green roofs around the Newtown Creek, lords and ladies. That’s one of the points made over and over in the recently released visioning plan which NCA and Riverkeeper have just released.

Check out the Riverkeeper/Newtown Creek Alliance Visioning Plan,
which can be accessed at this link.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, your Newtown Pentacle focused in on the Blissville section of LIC, but I’m hardly the only person to have fallen in love with the people and place. A fellow named a Hank Linhart has been bitten by the Blissville bug too, and produced a fantastic short film documentary about the place. I met Hank at a screening he did for the movie at the Greater Astoria Historic Society last autumn, and promised him that I’d find a spot to showcase it along the Creek.

So, what are you doing this Thursday on the 22nd of March? Want to come see a movie for free?

Film Screening: Blissville Stories

Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Please join NCA as we host a screening of “Blissville Stories,” a documentary film about the Queens neighborhood bounded by the Newtown Creek, the Long Island Expressway, and Calvary Cemetery. We will be joined by filmmaker Hank Linhart. More info about the Blissville Stories can be found here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks southwest, over the sewer plant towards Manhattan. The middle section of the shot isn’t out of focus, rather you’re looking through jets of methane which are produced by the plant which the NYC DEP burns off. I’ve called it Brooklyn’s invisible flame in the past.

Finally – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be underway on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


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One last post in Blissville, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Homeless Services seems hell bent on sending NYC’s mot vulnerable citizens up the creek. The Newtown Creek, that is. They’ve sworn up and down that their program will be phasing out the usage of private hotels for housing people. Instead, they’re renewing contracts with hotels like the Pan Am over in Elmhurst and creating new concentrations of population all over Brooklyn and Queens, except for Park Slope and the Upper East Side for some reason or another. Those of us who live in neighborhoods like Maspeth, LIC, Astoria, or Blissville who stand up and complain about this policy will be branded racists or “NIMBY’s.” That last one stands for “Not in My Back Yard” and I’m just going to ask how the Mayor would feel if I was to start camping out in a certain somebody’s back yard on 11th street in Park Slope. I’d talk about equity and sharing the burden to him, but I’m pretty sure he’d tell me I couldn’t take up residence in his back yard. I’m positive that if I listed his back yard on Air BNB he’d be a NIMBY.

The shot above depicts the newly constructed Kosciuszcko Bridge, a mega project going on in Blissville’s back yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Sunday night in early March, on Review Avenue looking up 37th street, with First Calvary Cemetery’s walls forming the eastern border of that street here in Blissville. That’s when and where the shot above was captured. I could barely find a thirty second interval that didn’t have traffic running through it to capture this shot, so I decided to just roll with it.

No wonder, as the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge which carries just over ten million vehicle trips a year is only a block away, and the Long Island Expressway with its 85,000 daily vehicle crossings is less than a half mile distant. A not insignificant proportion of these vehicles are semi and garbage trucks, heading to the waste transfer locations found along a Federal Superfund site called the Newtown Creek. At these waste transfer stations, barges and trains are required to vacate Blissville of the load carried by these trucks.

37th street is mixed use, there’s residential buildings sitting right next to factories and warehouses. The world’s largest Fortune Cookie factory is at the end of the street nearby Bradley Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The people of Blissville deal with lots of trouble and stress due to the astonishing levels of traffic, severe environmental issues which include two nearby oil spills, and the presence of a sewer plant just across the water in Greenpoint. To the west and north, in Hunters Point and Sunnsyide, the fires of gentrification burn fiercely, driving rents up all over Western Queens, and even here in Blissville. Blissville has no supermarkets, no hospitals or urgent care centers, and access to mass transit is problematic at best. The 108th pct. is in Hunters Point, about a mile and half to the west. They do have a firehouse, so at least the City does something for Blissville other than open homeless shelters in it.

The shot above looks towards the intersection of Greenpoint Avenue, Van Dam Street, and Review Avenue at the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. That self storage joint used to be the home of the B&G Pickle factory, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, equity, and a fair shake for all New Yorkers is the sort of contrived rhetoric offered by the political establishment of City Hall under the current Mayor. Their policy, however, always seems to indicate that the needs of Manhattan outweigh the needs of Queens. Most importantly, to me at least, remains the eventual disposition and fate of the people whom the Mayor intends to house in this already overburdened community named for Greenpoint’s Neziah Bliss.

Is Blissville an appropriate place to house the homeless? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are already two homeless shelters within a half mile of the proposed facility which would double if not triple the current population of Blissville. That’s one of the converted hotels pictured above, the other one is on the Sunnyside section’s side of the Long Island Expressway, behind St. Raphael’s church. Do these two shelters mean Blissville is already carrying enough “equity” or has their “fair share of burden” for the rest of the City not yet been met?

That’s a former public school, in the shot above. It was built for the independent municipality of Long Island City by its last Mayor, Patrick “Battle-Ax” Gleason. Battle-Ax Gleason said that if you built palaces for working men to send their children to, you’d never get voted out of office and you’d be loved by the voters. When he died, 5,000 school kids lined the streets of Long Island City along the route of his funeral cortège. He’s buried in First Calvary cemetery, incidentally, here in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m expecting my phone to start ringing from 212 numbers in lower Manhattan this week, by the way, telling me to “back off.” Sorry, but no.

I’ve said this before and fear I’ll say it again – there is no “homeless problem,” rather there’s a million individual problems. By branding a vulnerable population of people whose only commonality is poverty as “the Homeless,” a demonized and stereotyped population is created. The shelter system is a jail without bars.

We are a rich and ostensibly “christian” society, and so we are both morally and legally obligated to help these folks lift themselves up. One bad day stands between all New Yorkers and homelessness. What these folks need is no different than what everybody needs – jobs, a roof, food. Jobs let them pay rent, which allows them to create a credit history, which allows them to pass out of the “system” and suffer like the rest of us.

Saying all that, and I’ll repeat myself again here – sending these people into industrial zone hotels nearby a superfund site with nearly zero access to transit, healthcare, just about everything they’ll need… that’s a human rights violation.

Mr. Mayor, this isn’t a homeless shelter you’d be creating here in Blissville, it’s a penal colony. It’s also the sort of heavy handed and deaf eared policy choices that you spent the twelve years of the Bloomberg administration complaining about.


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odours occasionally

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DUGABO, or Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In yesterday’s post, we explored the darkened streets of industrial Blissville along Railroad Avenue to the west of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Today, we head eastwards along this seldom examined lane. That car with the headlights on was a private security guard that was vouchsafing the various industrial locations in DUGABO, but since I was wearing my construction worker high visibility vest of invisibility over the filthy black raincoat, he just waved at me and drove away.

Under normal daylight circumstance, wherein the vest is not worn, private security would normally hassle one such as myself. “What’s you takins pickchas of” and “whose youse workins for” are the usual queries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The concrete block fenceline to the right of the shot guards a parcel currently occupied by the NY Paving Company, who maintain a large fleet of construction vehicles therein. It’s part of the former home of the Van Iderstine rendering company, mention of which usually sends a shudder up the spine of any longtime resident of Greenpoint or Blissville. The railroad tracks on the left side of the shot are the LIRR’s Lower Montauk branch.

Van Iderstine was, and is, a rendering company (they moved to Newark about 20 years ago). Van Iderstine boils down organic material (spoiled meat, rotten eggs, butchers blood, animal bones) in pursuit of manufacturing tallow and agricultural fertilizers. The way they do it nowadays is fairly innocuous compared to the manner which the historical record talks about here in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A private waste carting company hosts a smallish facility next door to NY Paving, one of the several waste transfer stations found along Railroad Avenue here in Blissville. There are a few street lamps on this side of the bridge, unlike the western side detailed in yesterday’s post. The good news is that it’s the “old school” sodium lamps here, rather than the bluish hued LED ones. I miss the oranges.

Van Iderstine’s had a contract with the City stipulating that if any large animal (horses, oxen, even circus elephants) were to die in the city limits, it would be sent to them for processing. Their grinders had a special rig to handle the elephants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Until recently, Railroad Avenue terminated a few hundred feet from the spot where this shot was captured, a somewhat private road and cul de sac. That all changed when the City’s Solid Waste Management plan came into effect. The Waste Management Corporation built a facility down here to handle putrescent or black bag garbage, and then cut a new and unnamed road through the former Van Iderstine properties which connects to Review Avenue opposite First Calvary Cemetery.

The industrial scene in this section of Blissville has always been somewhat macabre, and disgusting to modern tastes. Yeast distilleries, swill milk dairies, bone blackers, slaughterhouses, neet oil manufacturers – all part of the historic story around these parts. When the petroleum people began to arrive in the late 19th century, it was considered a godsend as they were displacing the former lessees who took their stinks with them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also demanded by the Solid Waste Managment plan, a so called “Green Asphalt” plant was created here (as well as other places). When the City regrades or just digs out a street, the asphalt they scrape up might be brought to Blissville and recycled. They accomplish this by heating the stuff up and mixing it with fresh materials, and on humid days during the summer you can smell the scent of asphalt cooking all over Blissville, Laurel Hill, and the north side of Greenpoint.

Still better than Van Iderstine’s, longtime residents of both communities will tell you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Waste Management has two waste transfer stations along Newtown Creek, the other is in East Williamsburg/Bushwick along the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. The one in Blissville is the smaller of the two, but they both accomplish the task of handling the black bag garbage collected by the Department of Sanitation. Waste Management packages the collections up in those green box cars you see in the shot above, which form up the garbage train.

Like Green Asphalt, on hot summer days, you can smell this facility from almost a mile away. I’m told that the Van Iderstine works, and the old Manhattan Adhesives company glue factory (in the Miller Building on the Brooklyn side), were worse. Lord only knows what sort of poison there is lurking in the ground.

So, Mr. Mayor, back to that homeless shelter you want to place less than a half mile from here…


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thunderous declamations

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Instead of Iowa or Texas, the Mayor ought to come out to Queens once in while, just in the name of “Equity.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Expressway rises out of the Queens Midtown Tunnel in the Hunters Point section of Long Island City, and follows the route of Borden Avenue on a high flying steel truss which is at its height 106 feet over the waters of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. According to the NYC DOT’s 2015 numbers, this section of “495” is called the Queens Midtown Expressway and it carries nearly 85,000 vehicle trips a day. It comes back to ground at the border of the Sunnyside and Blissville sections of Long Island City, at Greenpoint Avenue.

That’s about 31 million vehicle trips a year rolling through LIC, and in particular – Blissville. The shot above represents exactly thirty seconds worth of traffic on a corner one block away from the entrance/exit to the LIE. Thirty seconds… keep that number in mind when looking at the shots in today’s post. They’re all thirty second exposures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the LIE itself, shot from the access road which feeds down onto Borden Avenue in an area I call the “Empty Corridor.” I was down there just a couple of weeks back, and the zone was discussed in this post. For the sake of trivia – the LIE opened on the 15th of November in 1940.

The northern border of Blissville is formed by the Long Island Expressway and the Empty Corridor. Saying that, if you’re on the north side of the LIE, you’re still in Sunnsyide.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Blissville side, rivers of steel flow past you on the local street/access road modernity calls Borden Avenue. Named for where it was going, namely the Borden Dairy farm in Maspeth, Borden Avenue was created as a wooden plank road in 1868 that connected the western end of the road with the East River shoreline, and with the upland agricultural properties to the east. Originally, this raised roadway – designed for mules and oxen pulling milk wagons – crossed through the malarial swamps surrounding Dutch Kills.

By the early 20th century, the swamps had been drained or filled in, and Borden Avenue was paved with belgian block and later macadam and asphalt. It became an industrial corridor whose path more or less mimicked that of the Long Island Railroad’s Lower Montauk Branch tracks found just to south, along the bulkheads of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east of Borden Avenue is Greenpoint Avenue, which was built into its current path in 1852 from a dirt road. On one side of the street, since 1848 at least, First Calvary Cemetery will be found. When it opened, Calvary wasn’t even half the size it is now. Acquiring property through inheritances and purchases, the cemetery didn’t attain its current borders until the early 20th century, just before the First World War. There are literally millions held in the loam.

Blissville itself is named for one of its founders, Greenpoint’s Neziah Bliss. It was developed with Eliaphet Nott of Union College, and the goal was creating one of those utopian worker’s hamlets which were all the rage amongst wealthy Protestant industrialists in the years leading up to the American Civil War. There were meant to be no bars or saloons in Blissville, but in the 1850’s when the railroad began to be driven through, the Irish laborers working on the iron road put an end to all that. Additionally, the masses of people coming to Calvary from the Five Points and Lower East Side to visit the graves of loved ones created a demand for inns and bars.

Blissville was one of the five communities which seceded from the Newtown Municipality to form Long Island City in 1870.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to a 2015 report from the NYC DOT, the Greenpoint Avenue (aka John J. Byrne memorial bridge) Bridge carries 28,361 vehicle trips across Newtown Creek on a daily basis. That’s 10,351,765 vehicles a year heading to and from Brooklyn’s Greenpoint to Queens’ Blissville. The traffic feeding through Blissville is (observationally) going in three main directions once it enters Queens; a) north on Greenpoint Avenue towards the LIE and Sunnyside, b) north west on Van Dam towards Queens Plaza, and c) east on Review Avenue towards Maspeth and Middle Village.

The second largest oil spill in the United States is the Greenpoint Oil Spill, the epicenter of which is less than half a mile east on the Brooklyn side of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Similarly, an oil spill of still unknown size lurks in the soil of Blissville less than half a mile east of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. The bridge itself crosses the Newtown Creek, a Federal Superfund site notorious for the 1.8 billion gallons of raw sewage which the NYC DEP dumps into it annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the Blissvillians whom I’ve met, the population of this neighborhood is around 220 people although I’ve also heard 500 (seems a bit high, 500). It’s the usual demographic mix of Queens hereabouts, but with the proviso that almost everybody would describe themselves as “working class.” There’s a generational community here which has held out in the post industrial landscape of Long Island City – despite the traffic and the pollution and the industrial character of the neighborhood. All told, about 4-6 blocks square blocks are the totality of Blissville, Queens. The nearest subway is on Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside, and the two bus lines running the area are in service on neither a twenty four hour nor seven days a week schedule. There are no schools, hospitals, or supermarkets. There are a lot of City owned properties, warehouses, and waste transfer stations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Homeless Services, therefore, has decided that this is the ideal and “appropriate site” for a third homeless shelter (within a half mile of the LIE) to be opened in the neighborhood. This time around, it will be the 2008 vintage and 154 room Fairfeld Inn, found at 52-34 Van Dam Street, that becomes a shelter. Blissville anticipates some 400 people will be installed in this building. Another Hotel on the Sunnyside side of the LIE has been converted to a shelter, as has a former Public School on Greenpoint Avenue.

Blissville could use your help with all this trouble the Mayor is sending their way, Queensicans. A Department of Homeless Services public hearing will take place on Thursday the 15th of March at 6:30 p.m., at St. Raphael’s Church located at 35-20 Greenpoint Ave.

Let’s tell the Manhattan people what the Ides of March are like in Queens, and let the Dope from Park Slope know that enough is enough.


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rolled down

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Down with the night, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As opined yesterday, the wrought iron fence posts of First Calvary Cemetery are just the right size to stick a camera lens through. In that prior post wherein my keen observational prowess was offered, focus was given to the estimable Kosciuszcko Bridge project, while today’s set of images are a few night shots of the cemetery itself. Unless you are an absolute fanatical maniac on the subject of eating carrots or half Kryptonian, these shots are just a smidge broader than the perceptual range of human vision. The light sources are environmental, incidentally.

All I saw, with the naked eye as it were, was a silhouette of the cemetery against the skyline of the Shining City to the west.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were a few examples of the long exposures one returned to HQ with, wherein the camera’s sensitivity to light was enhanced in different ways, which rendered out as sort of cartoonish, and overexposed the lit up Manhattan skyline into a white blob. Saying that, I was able to reclaim an excruciating amount of detail from the shadowed areas but the images were in “the uncanny valley,” meaning that they looked utterly fake and overtly “digital.”

You can’t put a landscape picture of Calvary Cemetery up on the web without some recognizable part of the skyline in it, as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Laurel Hill Blvd., here at the angle between Industrial Maspeth and Blissville, however – if you “go wide” the section of Manhattan between the Battery and 57th street can all be captured in one shot.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 7, 2018 at 11:00 am

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