The Newtown Pentacle

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ancient overmantle

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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.

only acquiesce

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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.

low toned

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Holy smokes, the FreshDirect building is toast!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just at the point where one traditionally turns back towards HQ and begins the journey from the LIC Dutch Kills “zone,” I suddenly stopped in my tracks at the realization that I could see the sky. The gigantic building with yellow painted corrugated steel walls that used to house the FreshDirect operation here in LIC has been demolished. Tectonic!

This was a HUGE footprint building, five or six stories tall, with both refrigerated and shelf stable warehousing as well as several food preparation workshops. There were interior driveways large enough for multiple semi tractor trailers to reverse into, and smaller loading bays that could handle about ten or so of the FreshDirect local delivery trucks at the same time. Gone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as an aside for the thousands of people who have interrupted me while photographing over the years to ask “why are you taking pictures of that” while looking at me suspiciously and asking if I like hummus, this is exactly the reason. Creating some sort of record of what was there prior to it being replaced by something new. The “new” thing will have all sorts of government and corporate effort attached to it whose singular goal is the obfuscation of the site’s history. Ask the people in Queens Plaza if they know about the chemical factory, or lead foundry, which used to occupy the site of their shiny new condominium building. That’s the FreshDirect facility pictured above, as seen from a few blocks east.

A big part of the mission here at Newtown Pentacle is to create a record of this era of transition and rapid change in Western Queens for posterity which is independently held and not beholden to the political or business order. Whatever goes up on the site of that FreshDirect building… well… what used to be there?

Glad you asked.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big historic factory here was owned by the American Druggist Syndicate, who made pharmaceuticals – so essentially a chemical plant. There were a couple of varnish factories as well, so petrochemical processing. Then a few of the smaller lots were occupied by metal working and refining companies involved mostly in iron working, so that means heavy metals and coal retort residues. The statement above comes from a cursory scan of a 1919 fire insurance map in my possession. Did the 20th century bring in plastics? Garbage handling? Good questions.

Right behind the FreshDirect lot is a set of tracks used by the LIRR which have been liberally doused with rodenticides and herbicides over the centuries, and the soil they sit on hosts lakes of PCB’S, PAH’S and other electrical insulating oils beneath the surface which has bled out of their trackside equipment. Newtown Creek itself is about 2,000 feet away from the Borden Avenue sidewalk pictured in the first shot of this post.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. 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.

queer noises

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Newtown Creek is always fabulous, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills splits off from the main stem of the Newtown Creek waterway about 7/10th of a mile from the larger water body’s intersection with the East River. Long Island City’s Dutch Kills is a fully canalized tributary, and proceeds on a generally northern trajectory. The water here is highly polluted with both industrial and sewage contaminants. Dutch Kills gets its moniker from the colonial era in NYC history. There’s another tributary of Newtown Creek in Brooklyn called English Kills. Simply, LIC is where the Dutch settled and Brooklyn is where the English put down stakes.

Dutch Kills used to have its own system of tributaries and tidal wetlands, and stretched back (as a navigable waterway) into Queens nearly all the way to Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wooden structures you might notice around bridges are called “Dolphins” and they are usually constructed from creosote treated lumber and galvanized steel rope. The job of these items is to keep a vessel from getting into an allission with the bridge. “Allission” you ask? Yes. That’s when a moving “thing” interacts with a static thing. When two moving “things” interact it’s a collision, so if two vessels were to smash into each other they “collide” whereas if you were to run a vessel up against the dolphin or bridge they would “allide.” Maritime law is quite specific about this.

The dolphins pictured today vouchsafe the 1908 Borden Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Borden Avenue, and the “Empty Corridor” thereof which I’ve been walking you through this week, one resumed his westerly course and continued on. That’s when I noticed something missing. Holy Moley!

More on that tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. 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.

horror forcing

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The empty corridor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue, or at least the section of it pictured in today’s post, was officially designated as such in 1868, after an engineered “plank road” was erected through the swampy low lands surrounding the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. It was primarily designed as a commercial corridor, connecting the upland farms and dairies of Maspeth and Woodside with the docks in Hunters Point at the East River. Borden… Borden Milk… Roads were named for where they went back then.

The wetlands of Dutch Kills were filled in at the start of the 20th century, and the railroad took advantage of all the new dry land to hurl spurs out to the various industrial buildings which were erected on the reclaimed flatlands. LIRR still crosses Borden Avenue several times a day at street grade, about a mile west of where these shots were gathered.

The Long Island Expressway truss defines the section of Borden between Greenpoint Avenue and Review Avenue, and the blighted area beneath it is something I refer to as the “Empty Corridor.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills itself was rendered into its current form and course at the start of the 20th century, shortly after NYC consolidation in 1898. A huge land reclamation project was being conducted by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company – the creation of the Sunnyside Yards – was occurring about a half mile to the north and west and a construction magnate named Michael Degnon began buying up the wetlands surrounding Dutch Kills from the estate of a former Governor of New York State. Degnon used excavated fill from another one of his projects – the East River subway tunnel which carries the modern day 7 line train – to create dry land around Dutch Kills. Concurrently, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was busy creating industrial bulk heads and “canalizing” the entire Newtown Creek and its tributaries.

That’s the Borden Avenue Bridge pictured, the existing version of which was erected in 1908. It’s not the first Borden Avenue Bridge, but it’s the one that’s stood the test of time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While all this tumult and “terraforming” was going on, the Long Island Railroad was investing in the LIC area as well. The Lower Montauk trackage, as it’s known today, connects the Fresh Pond Yard with the East River along the northern shore of Newtown Creek. There are two railroad bridges spanning Dutch Kills. One is DB Cabin, a turnstile bridge which is still quite active but cannot turn or open, and it provides a direct track link between the Blissville and Wheelspur Yards on the lower montauk right of way. The other is Cabin M, which leads to the Montauk Cutoff elevated tracks that formerly connected to the LIRR Main Line tracks at the Sunnyside Yards. Before all this end of the world stuff started, MTA indicated it was going to demolish Cabin M. Somehow, I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon.

As I always say, despite the fact that I call it the “empty corridor” there’s quite a lot going on down here and lots of interesting things to see on a walk in LIC.

Also, on this day in NYC history: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire occurred in 1911.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. 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.

pitiable tones

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My Creek always welcomes my triskaidekaphobia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shlep, shlep, shlep. That’s my game. As an old Christmas cartoon used to musically opine – “put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door.” Why it is that when I leave the house I inevitably end up in places like this is somewhat mysterious. What draws a creature like me out into the public sphere in the first place, as I belong in a catacomb or dungeon awaiting unwary travelers like some great spider? All interaction with others is strained and painful for me. My countenance causes children to cry, dogs to yelp, and induces startled reactions from adults. When I begin to speak, the croaking notes and gurgling exhalations are often described as being scented by and carried aloft on a bilious breeze. If I could get away with it, I’d wear naught but prophet’s robes, but come close with the filthy black raincoat and hooded black sweatshirt. Every now and then I catch a reflection of myself in a shop window and even I’m scared at what I see.

I’ve arrived at an age where pieces are about to start falling off as if I’m some sort of a biblical leper. Truly objectionable am I, ask anyone. God hates me, but to be fair, that’s probably my fault.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

People have always enjoyed making an example of me, or holding me to a higher standard than others despite my low social status. As a child, I’d be sitting in a school auditorium reading a book quietly while my classmates were all acting like irradiated monkeys and pyromaniacs. The Principal would surmount the stage and scream “WAXMAN” into the loudspeaker, whereupon my daily humiliations would resume.

I can’t help it that I stand out. I was born this way. These experiences, and many more, have caused me to become quite “vengeance” based in my thinking. I’m going to make the world pay, and pay dearly, for what’s been done to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My beloved Newtown Creek is the same way – reviled, ruined, lonely, lost. She and I have an understanding with each other, and since we are kindred spirits, the Creek never disappoints when I’m visiting. I feel like I should throw in a “verily” here.

Look at my sweetie, the way she opened the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge for me just as I happened to be passing by. She’s a good old girl, the Newtown Creek.

Enjoy your Friday the 13th, lords and ladies, especially so since there’s a full moon tonight. As a note, Sunday marks the “ide of March” as well as being National Egg Cream day.


“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.

altered youth

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Like every other piece of wind blown trash, I always end up at Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

God, how I love it so – the wastelands of Long Island City at night. One can just let it all hang out, laugh maniacally without scaring the neighbors, and embrace the dissolution and horror of it all here at the titular center of the great urban hive. The Coronavirus wouldn’t last two seconds around here, as far nastier and better established pathogens would beat the crap out of the newcomer. Hand sanitizer? Look where I like to hang out on a Saturday night. Hand sanitizer would bubble, boil, and froth if you poured it on the sidewalk here in Blissville.

The good news about all this pandemic panic is that I finally have an excuse to not have to shake hands or exchange hugs with the humans. Nepenthe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Green Asphalt pictured above, a company whose raison d’être is the 2010 Solid Waste Management Act, dictating that NYC can no longer use landfills to dispose of road surfacing materials. When the contractors working for the NYC Department of Transportation scrape away a road’s armor, the milled materials are transported to Green Asphalt or a similar operation where the stuff is heated up and mixed with a small amount of new product. The resulting mass of steaming goo is then used to repave a street, often the very same street it’s was just milled off of.

That’s called recycling, baby, recycling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Green Asphalt is found on one of my very favorite streets in Queens, Blissville’s Railroad Avenue. Why do I like it so very much? Could be those jet black cats with the glowing yellow eyes. Also might be the railroad tracks which give the street its name, or the ghosts of industrial titans like Fleischman’s Yeast, Van Iderstine’s rendering plant, or even the lesser branches of the Haberman family tree which used to stretch out hereabouts. I like darkness, and solitude, so there’s that too.

It’s hard to find a place in NYC where you can be truly alone, but one such as myself is always alone, even in a crowd.


“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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