The Newtown Pentacle

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acrid scent

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I’m the thing on your doorstep at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Want to have people notice you? Stand on the corner of Skillman Avenue behind a tripod, while photographing scenes like the one above. People will literally walk directly in front of the camera lens and good naturedly ask you what you’re recording. “Right now, madam, your midsection” is something you can say. That’s why I had to stand there for about twenty minutes the other night, waiting for another 7 train to transit above. Shot needed the 7, after all, not some random woman’s abdomen. If you happen across a photographer who is set up with a tripod and all the other junk, and you’re feeling conversational, maybe it would make sense for you not to stand directly in front of their camera? As mentioned, hate for everyone and everything at the moment.

My goal, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, was to get down to Dutch Kills in LIC, which is one of my happy places. I need happy places at the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Hell is other people” as the saying goes. Of course, without the other people, these shots would have been gathered in a primeval and legendarily mosquito rich swamp that was supposedly avoided by the native americans. This section of LIC was historically undeveloped until the early 20th century, when the fields of both construction technology and financial capital management had finally attained levels sufficient to not just conquer but totally annihilate the natural environment. You can destroy an ecosystem the old fashioned way (Rome was great at this task), but to totally erase any trace of flowing or flooding water, you need modern tools and lots of money. The Pennsylvania Railroad, Michael Degnon, and the City of Greater New York itself had both requirements sorted out back “in the day.”

This corner is where, instead of some nosey lady, I got to smile and wave at a couple of cops who were mildly curious about my activities. Not curious enough to roll down the window, or get out of the car, just curious enough to stare at me for a few minutes. I waved, smiled, and flipped the tail of my filthy black raincoat at them. Shaking their heads, they drove off.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finally. When I say that I can only be happy when I’m in places like 29th street in LIC, a blasted railroad access route that masquerades as a proper city street. The bulkheads along the water side of the street have been collapsing for a couple of years now, but no one cares. The waters of the industrialized canal called Dutch Kills, which have tested positive for both Gonorrhea and Typhus, are poison but no one cares. Sick little trees line the banks, wicking up the heavy metals and other pollutants from the landfill used to conquer the swamp. I care.

Nepenthe.


“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.

intimate circle

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Bulging and watery… eyes staring in from the darkness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

How I’ve missed industrial Maspeth, at night, with its creepy unlit streets and often nonexistent sidewalks. The blind turns, the odiferous hint of marijuana oozing from the windows of passing cars, the discarded liquor bottles and illegal dumping… its been way too long, Queens.

Speaking of too long, as I mentioned at the start of this four day travelogue, I had left HQ in Astoria and scuttled over to the Kosciuszcko Bridge in pursuit of communion with my beloved Newtown Creek. As I was shooting the particular image above, it was noticed that my camera battery had only one bar of charge left in it. Additionally realized was that the first few drops of a prophesied rain event were beginning to pitter and patter into the automotive soot and finely shattered glass which forms those dusty dunes adorning the broken pavement of industrial Maspeth.

That’s odd, thought I, regarding the battery. Ok, I had been doing long exposure tripod shots for a bit, and it was medium cold out, but I so seldom have to change a battery “in the field” that it struck me as weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

No matter though, as a few quick actuations saw me sliding a fresh battery into the camera. I’ve always got at least one extra battery with me, one in the camera sack and another in a pants pocket. I got back to shooting, here along that malignant saraband which carrying automotive traffic between 43rd and 48th streets known as 54th Avenue, which intersects with an off ramp of the Long Island Expressway. This is a corner which the NYC DOT has missed changing the luminaire head of their street lamp over to the modern LED type, and an old style sodium lamp is pushing out orange illumination contrasting with the cold blue light of the newer system. Colormetrics! What fun. Go Mets, huh?

This is when I realized that all of the aches and pains which have been bedeviling me for the last few months had receded into an anhedonic amnesia. If you saw a creepy old guy in a black raincoat on the side of the road last week, cackling to himself briefly while working a camera, that was me feeling like me again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Making way towards Sunnyside, the rain began to drizzle insistently and I decided to had back to HQ in Astoria. One last shot of industrial Maspeth was recorded… that’s actually the corner where an Orthodox Yeshiva stood at the start of the 20th century. For some reason, the presence of a religious academy of that persuasion being based here/then is incongruous to me, and it’s story is something that’s on my research list. More to come at some point hence.

By the time I arrived at Queens Blvd., the drizzle had begun to set up into a proper rain and I decided to pull out my phone and summon a ride for the remaining interval. Somehow I had lost track of time, or perhaps I’m experiencing some sort of Newtown Creek induced missing time, as the clock revealed that it was 3 in the morning.

I was out and alone at the witching hour, in the rain, on a moonless night… and this too was… nepenthe.


“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

January 9, 2020 at 11:00 am

surprising volume

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A whole lot of garbage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The high flying pedestrian and bike lane section of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is something which I’ve been waiting to explore and exploit since I first learned of the bridge replacement project years ago. The bridge(s) officially opened last year, and I personally witnessed our Sith Lord Governor cut the ceremonial ribbon on the project with that red laser sword of his, but Darth Cuomo was fibbing when he said construction was done. The Governor would likely offer that he finds my lack of faith disturbing.

Principal construction, yes, but the contracts for this project don’t end until at least the end of 2020. Within two days of the official opening, vehicle lanes were blocked off by jersey barriers vouchsafing construction equipment and tool sheds, and orange netted wooden breastworks were once again hugging the bridge’s superstructure and perfectly visible to the children of Blissville and Maspeth. While I was on the bridge last week, for instance, a crew of Union electricians were working on perfecting the street lights illuminating the roadway. That’s the Sith way, I guess.

I’m still trying to figure out how to photograph that series of unearthly LED generated “colours out of space’ which the decorative lighting systems produce.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

See that Waste Transfer Station pictured above, found in Greenpoint?

Hostile reaction to the presence of wandering mendicant photographers over the years at this site have marked my general preoccupation with recording its splendors. Once, a brusque exchange with some hard hatted fellow driving a pickup truck resulted in a humble narrator being actively pursued as he walked quickly away from a threatened physical encounter. I lost the guy after darting across Meeker Avenue, but for a minute there I was sweating. It was August, so I was sweating anyway, but…

Don’t mess with the garbage guys, they specialize in making things disappear and go away. Newtown Creek, especially back here, isn’t Disneyworld and it’s real easy to get hurt if you don’t know the lay of the land. Say it with me – BROOKLYN.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite it all, I do love a good mound of trash.

A problem our City has, though, revolves around trucks being the primary means for transporting this material out of the City after it’s processed. Big players in this industry like Allocco Recycling and Sims Metal use maritime industrial resources to float our recyclable waste away on barges, towed by Tugboats. Waste Management has two giant facilities along the Creek which are serviced by railroad, providing the putrescent cargo which the infamous “Garbage Train” hauls through the Fresh Pond Yard and out of Queens over the Hell Gate Bridge. In either example, however, local collection trucks operated by DSNY or private carters focus their routes in on narrow corridors and intersections around the Newtown Creek, logarithmically increasing traffic in the surrounding residential neighborhoods, on their way to and from any or all of these “waste transfer stations.”

As I remind the “bicycle people” all the time, their quest for safer streets is directly related to reducing the personal waste flow of every New Yorker. According to officialdom, the average New Yorker produces about 1,300 lbs. of garbage a year. Reduce that by even a single percentile, and you’ve taken some of these trucks off the streets. Garbage, lords and ladies, will bury us all.

One wishes Darth Cuomo could fix that.


“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

January 8, 2020 at 11:00 am

faded from

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The fabulous Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The otherworldly light cast from the Koscisuzcko Bridge is like no earthly color, instead it’s like some colour out of space.

Its frequencies the other night, gauche and tacky, were magenta and near ultraviolet, and generated by LED luminaire heads mounted on the bridge’s superstructure. The richly saturated color of this radiation wreaks havoc on digital camera sensors, whose engineered color science doesn’t account for wavelengths of such an unnatural hue. The bridge light is the frequent subject of social media conjecture – on overcast nights in neighborhoods as far as ten miles away – with light pulses and coruscates soaring up to impact and stain the clouds.

Often have I seen queries and postulates offered from Queensican or Brooklynite alike as to why the vaulted cloudbanks over that legendarily undefended border between the two boroughs appears pink, purple, or red. Some theorize about extraterrestrials, others about a returned “Astoria Borealis.” I offer that the lighting design takes its cues from certain greek owned coffee shops here in Astoria, which are not noted for their decorative restraint in the area of lighting design.

Here, at the epicenter of the unearthly radiance, is the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

2.1 miles from the East River is where this volcano of LED generated light erupts nightly. The industrial zones of Blissville in Queens and eastern Greenpoint in Brooklyn are painted in whorish coloration by it, and even the preternatural darkness of Calvary Cemetery is punctured by the brightly colored display.

Darth Cuomo seeks to connect the new bridge’s lighting system to other facilities for something described as “the harbor of lights,” which will coordinate the lighting on all the structures which the Governor’s mailed fist controls for special events. If the Mets ever win a pennant, for instance, count on seeing a strobing blue and orange pattern pulsing from of the Empire State Building and then out to all of the NYS owned bridges and tunnels. It should be quite a bizarre sight, as the colour out of space here at Newtown Creek permeates out to the entire megalopolis.

Soon, we shall all know of the colour, and it will be a part of our lives just as we will be a part of its.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is actually a surprising amount of vibration, flexibility, and movement engineered into the new Kosciuszcko Bridge. This is somewhat problematic for my pursuits, regarding long exposure night time shots from its walkway. I can tell you that the fenceline on the bridge has vertical bars that are about 90mm apart from each other, and that my favorite camera lens is about 87mm in width. I would also suggest that I had absolutely nothing to do with this fact, and that I didn’t make it a point of injecting myself into the construction project’s community advisory group in the hope of avoiding the installation of a chain link fence in favor of some other design a bit friendlier to camera work. Saying that, there’s a lot of vibration and sway to deal with when a heavy truck blasts by on the BQE doing 50mph.

Unnatural light and swaying vibration, automotive exhaust, waste transfer stations, the vaporous emanations of a Federal Superfund site on a January night… nepenthe.


“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

January 7, 2020 at 11:00 am

into life

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Back in the saddle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Infirmity is conquered… sort of… and a humble narrator is back on the beat.

The first 2020 nighttime photowalk saw me scuttling southwards from the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria all geared up and ready to go. To make it official, I keyed up one of my favorite audiobook iterations of “The Call of Cthulhu” on my headphones as I left Astoria about 9 in the evening. The chosen path carried me across a Robert Moses widened stretch of Jackson avenue which modernity calls Northern Blvd., up Laurel Hill Blvd. (now known as 43rd street), through Middleburgh (aka Sunnyside) and over to Blissville’s border with Berlin (West Maspeth). My goal was to arrive at the modern day version of the Penny Bridge, the Kosciuszcko if you must, and commune with that loathsome ribbon of municipal neglect and hidden history known simply as the Newtown Creek.

For too long have I been missing her. My path was chosen for its lines of ley, and carried me past the great polyandrion of the Roman Catholics, called First Calvary Cemetery. Why the lines of ley, you ask? Simply, my batteries are low.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual eastern border of historic Long Island City – on the southern side of the Long Island Expressway, Laurel Hill Blvd. – retains its ancient nomen, rather than masquerading as “43rd street” as it does on the northern side. Laurel Hill is the landform into which the farm and homestead of the Alsop family were built, and its geological prominences were reduced by Irish and German laborers not too long after the Roman Catholic Church purchased the Alsop properties in 1848. On the eastern side of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which sits firmly upon the pre consolidated border, is industrial West Maspeth, once known as Berlin. There is a 43rd street in Maspeth, but it doesn’t concur with the southern iteration of the street, for which you can thank Robert Moses and the adoption of the so called Philadelphia plan in the early 20th century. Maspeth’s 43rd street was once called the shell road, and was paved with crushed oyster carapace. That’s before the forgotten Yeshiva, or Phelps Dodge.

The closer I got, the more I felt it calling. Like some great subterrene drum, whose emanations burst within my chest in inimitable sense impacts… a sound which certain groupings of the aboriginal Lenape would have pronounced “Hohosboco,”or the “Bad Water Place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Upwards on the path went a humble narrator, ever upwards.

Like every other piece of wind blown trash, discarded toy, or intestinal discharge in New York City, Newtown Creek is where I belong and end up. No destination is more final, nor more desirable for one such as myself.

Here amongst the ghosts, and in the night wind, belong I.


“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.

monstrous fruit

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Better late than never, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies, single shot today. One from the archives of the Grand Street Bridge. Back tomorrow with more substantial messaging, complaints, and shaking of fists against the moon.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

December 12, 2019 at 2:00 pm

pressure laminated

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Great lengths are needed for solitude.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing about NYC is that you’re never actually alone. There’s always someone else within a couple hundred of feet of you, even if you don’t know they’re there. Driving by, lurking in a drain, nesting on a sofa, or standing naked on some rooftop – this place is positively infested with humans and it’s virtually impossible to find a spot where you’re truly alone. I’ve always opined that what this City really needs is a good plague. Given recent experience with the healthcare system here in the Borough of Queens, this plague’s Ground Zero will likely be the corner of Crescent Street and 31st avenue here in Astoria.

I would flee to one of my bolt holes around Newtown Creek in the event of a pandemic breaking out, where I will wait out the first phases of you all going zombie, or road warrior, or whatever dystopian endgame you find yourself in during the “die off.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My goal will be to make it to a certain spot where water based transportation can be easily gained, and then sail westwards across the East River and Hudson and subsequently south towards the Kill Van Kull and then Arthur Kill. From there, I’ll tack my way down the coast of New Jersey. Net fishing and rainwater collection will have to be done, but my goal would be to achieve continental landfall in Southern New Jersey and then head west along the Pennsylvania Turnpike towards Pittsburgh. From there, I’ll improvise, but will be heading in a generally southwest direction seeking more temperate climes.

Wherever I end up stopping my journey, I’m going to set up an end times cult with me and Our Lady of the Pentacle as the cult leaders. That way, as I grow older, I’ll have acolytes lined up to wipe my butt and do laundry or shopping. Once the cult grows in size and strength, we will return to a depopulated NYC, and set up the faith at the now abandoned New St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I’ll move back into my old apartment in Astoria, but nobody else will be allowed to live in Queens, by my holy edict. The Bronx will be returned to farmland. The border with Brooklyn will be fortified.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m ready to throw down the fiery gospel anytime. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the oratory techniques of Reverend Creflo Dollar, Andrew Cuomo, and others. Devotions will involve fun stuff that we all enjoy, which will be a major lure for the small post apocalypse crowd. None of that Walking Dead stuff will happen, I promise. The Esoteric Order of Waxman will be egalitarian, welcoming to all, and won’t insist on the ritual mutilation of infant genitalia for either sex. Also, there’ll be some kind of pie.

Now, that’s what I would call a progressive end time cult, lords and ladies. Thing is, even during the apocalypse you really can’t be alone. There’ll be all sort of monsters out there roaming around, and the only one who will be able to keep you safe from the giant armored dragonflies and lion headed horses will be an old man in a filthy black raincoat, or so the legend will opine.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


TONIGHT, come to the library!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek – The Roosevelt Island Historic Society has invited me to present a slideshow and talk about my beloved Newtown Creek at the New York Public Library on Roosevelt Island, on November 14th, 6 p.m. Free event!

Click here for more information.!

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

November 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

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