The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘ny harbor

absolute possession

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I’d love to fly somewhere, but I got nowhere to go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A last few shots from my ferry trip last week are on offer today. One of the interesting things about the Soundview Ferry route is that it crosses right under the LaGuardia Airport approaches for jets. That means you get to see passenger planes descending towards you with their wheels deployed, which is something that you don’t get to see very often without getting to meet the folks at Homeland Security.

As a note, I’ve never liked the moniker “Homeland Security” as it stinks of authoritarian and fascist terminology. Fatherland, Motherland, Homeland… language which propagates an “us and them” mentality, which is the sort of mentality that resulted in this whole “permanent terrorism” threat and “forever war” dealie in the first place. It’s also a lot harder to talk rationally about “abolishing ICE” if you present it as the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement norms. I advocate for changing the operational orders of these two monolithic organizations, modernizing our immigration system, and spending giant buckets of cash on customs, which are all necessary and wise investments in the future.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve had a weird experience during this very busy first week of April, which is that I’ve been around a lot of people who actually like me. This blows the whole self perceived “hated and shunned outsider” thing. It is necessary for my personal immigration and customs enforcement, as well as my self perception that my psychological “ID” continually reminds my “EGO” that everybody actually hates me and that parties will be thrown when I’m no longer walking the planet.

To that end, I’ve been a wise cracking asshole every chance I get, hoping to make people hate me again. It doesn’t seem to be working. I just got the letter Monday from the Borough President’s office that I’ve been appointed to the local Community Board here in Astoria. No, really.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the dock at Rikers Island in the shot above. Just beyond is the former Politti Power Plant, and the Hell Gate Bridge, and the Manhattan skyline. Seriously, I’d recommend taking a ride on the Soundview route of the NYC Ferry, it’s super interesting and takes you to a seldom travelled part of NY Harbor. On June 15th, you’ll be able to ride this ferry route with me, but I’ll tell you about that outing at a later date.

Scroll down for a couple of announcements for public stuff I’ve got going at the end of April. “It doth begin again,” tour season does.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 4, 2019 at 1:00 pm

terrible movement

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A bit more on the tugboat scene.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Boy oh boy, it’s like the old days at Newtown Pentacle lately, huh? Tugboats, tugboats, tugboats… That’s a Bouchard articulated tug and barge combo motoring along under the Bronx Whitestone Bridge. This tug is heading out of the Westchester Creek inlet section of the East River and heading towards Manhattan. That’s the Throgs Neck Bridge behind the tug and Bronx Whitestone in the lower third of the shot. Both bridges were designed by the great Othmar Amman.

This is the view from the NYC Ferry’s Soundview landing, in the Bronx, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few years ago, I was seemingly obsessed with photographing tugs. Whereas I’m still drawn to the subject, and remain utterly fascinated by all things maritime industrial, there’s really only so many ways to shoot and frame a tug shot. Additionally, a few of my friends with whom I shared this fascination for towing vessels have passed away in recent years, and it feels sort of weird and not as much fun to be the “last man standing.” Used to be that shots like these would get sent around in late night emails to my little cadre of fellow enthusiasts, who would in turn send what they got that particular day to me.

Such is life, and death, in the big city – I suppose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is having a furiously busy week roll through the calendar as you’re reading this. Yesterday, I got to interact with some highly placed people at NYC DOT regarding the new pathways which will be introduced into Maspeth and Sunnyside by the soon to be finished Kosciuszcko Bridge bike and pedestrian path. One offered them the experiential thing, taking them for a walk around the place. Officialdom knows far more about the streets of NY than any regular person can, but generally they know these things from paper maps, politics, and spreadsheets. “Being there” in the flesh, seeing trucks parked on the broken sidewalks and crossing hazardous intersections, is a whole different thing. Last night, a friend of mine – Pat Dorfman – received the “Sunnysider of the Year” award from the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, so I had to show up and take a pic or two of the awards ceremony. My dogs were barking by the time I got home and settled in on the couch.

As you’re reading this, I’m probably at a polyandrion in Blissville, walking an ornithological enthusiast around. Then, I’ve got a call in meeting at 4… it never ends.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about two events I’m doing with Newtown Creek Alliance at the end of the month – but hold the dates of April 23 and 28th for now.


“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

April 3, 2019 at 11:30 am

alive in

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Things that pull or push other things, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that NYC Ferry trip I mentioned in yesterday’s April Fools post? As it happened, a humble narrator hit a fortuitous moment in terms of river traffic when boarding that particular boat. Everywhere I pointed the lens, there seemed to be something going on. For the curious – this was the Soundview route, which I boarded at East 34th street over in the City, after taking the Astoria line from Hallets Cove to that location.

A few people have asked me (in real life or “meat space”) if I have some sort of relationship with the NYC Ferry people since I keep on mentioning them. The answer is “sort of,” since I do know a couple of people who work at Hornblower through the old NY Harbor crowd. A while back I did a blog post for NYC Ferry about what to do and see nearby their Astoria dock, an effort which I was recompensed for with a free 30 day pass on their boats. That’s pretty much the size of it, except for the taxes we all pay to the City which heavily underwrite the $2.75 fare. I’m just a fare paying passenger, and one who really enjoys getting out on the water – even if it was a particularly cold and blustery March afternoon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted this rather smallish tug at Hells Gate, towing a couple of barges of what looked like either gravel or uncooked asphalt. That’s the Wards/Randalls island combine in the background, the shoreline of which hosts a staggering amount of municipal infrastructure. The NYC DEP has a combination of wastewater and sludge dewatering facilities on the shoreline mirroring Astoria Park, there’s the Hell Gate railroad Bridge and the East River span of the Triborough Bridge complex as well. Just yesterday, I was making plans with a couple of people to spend a day on the Island(s) and get to know the place a bit better.

Used to be two islands, Randalls and Wards, but… y’know… Robert Moses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Coming from the south/west, another tug was spotted transversing Hells Gate. That’s the Astoria Park shoreline, and you can just make out the nascent skyline of LIC’s Court Square neighborhood peeking out over the bare trees behind the bridge. I’ve been told that even with modern vessels, you have to “pick your battles” with the swift currents in this section of the river lest you end up burning up half your fuel supply fighting its ebb and flow.

One time I was sitting in Astoria Park, right alongside the Hell Gate masonry seen above, and taking pics. I started laughing while watching some rich guy in a speedboat gunning his engines against the current, but his boat was just barely holding position agains the incoming flood tide. This isn’t necessarily the case with tugs and other overpowered boats, of course, but fuel costs are what rule the roost in the shipping and towing business. How much you “spend to earn” is where an experienced versus inexperienced crew and scheduler make all the difference. Same thing is true with shipping by rail and trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another fuel barge and tug combination was passed, while the camera’s point of view was looking north westwards over Randalls/Wards Island towards the Little Hell Gate Bridge and the roads leading to Triborough’s toll plazas. Good timing, thought I, as a CSX train set was transiting over the elevated rail tracks connecting to Hell Gate’s East River Arch Bridge (which connect to the NY Connecting Rail Road tracks in Queens) and heading for the Bronx. I think the next stop for the CSX rig will be Owls Head yard in the Bronx, but that’s just a guess.

What do I know? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I had outfitted the camera with zoom lens for the trip. It’s a Sigma, the 18-300 f3.5, which provides the “all in one” functionality needed for this sort of excursion. One thing about the East River and its various tributaries and estuarial bays is that you are going to want to shoot both wide and long, sometimes flipping back and forth several times in just five minutes. Given that you’re on a boat, speedily moving through the water and with all kinds of weird particulates circulating in the air column… you want to limit the number of lens flops you do.

I can recommend the Sigma, btw. I also have and love their 18-35 f1.8.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What was that I was just saying about zooming in?


“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

April 2, 2019 at 11:00 am

indelible mark

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Some new gear on display in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always hunting around on camera oriented websites for new bits of gear, lenses, gew gaws, doohickeys, and or doodads which might make my life a bit more interesting as I wander around the City of Greater New York with a camera. There’s a couple of Chinese camera sites that I keep an eye on, which are really hit and miss on the “get what you pay for” front, but recently I decided to take a chance on a manual focus lens which promised a built in series of polarizing filters that would produce an extraordinary result. This is a 65mm prime, with a decidedly small aperture (f4-11) range, but it’s optical formula and clever mechanical plan is designed to allow the user to see both above and below the surface of water bodies at the same time. It’s offered by a company I never heard of before – the Mumma Cei, Xi, & Akkuseh (MCXA) group and is manufactured by something called the Szeihaloud Cooperative. Google translate tells me that Szeihaloud means “great maker” or something, and that their glass factory is located in the dry regions of northwest China. That’s odd, normally electronics gear comes from the coastal cities of the south, but nothing ventured nothing gained. MCXA’s site claims that there’s something special in the mineralogy of the sands of the region they’re located in which lends unique qualities to their ground glass products. At least that’s what I think they’re saying… Chinese website version of English, if y’know what I’m saying…

What the heck, it was only a hundred bucks. I’m glad that I ordered the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First – MCXA’s 65mm lens, which they call the X-51, is an ergonomic nightmare. It’s got all these jangly little knobs on it for independently manipulating the eight linear polarizer filters housed within the barrel. Said barrel is plastic, and when I unwrapped my little care package from the Silk Road region the interior of the box actually had some kind of orange powdery substance which smelled vaguely of cinnamon mixed with saffron inside of it, a scent that made me a bit woozy. The lens was packed in a sealed plastic bag so that wasn’t too much of an issue. The glass itself was nice and sharp, which was surprising, once I got it past f 5.6. It’s pretty heavy, and manual focus is a chore, especially with those eight knobs arrayed around the focus ring.

The startling part was that the thing actually worked as promised, allowing me to photograph both the surface details of the waters of the East River (pictured above) and provided visual egress to that which lurks below while I was riding on a NYC Ferry last week. I look forward to putting the thing on a tripod and seeing what can be revealed at Newtown Creek.

Of course, the lens and camera were set for a daylight exposure formula, so sub surface features were darkened.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MCXA has another bizarre lens I’m now interested in, which promises Flouroscope like qualities, allowing you to peer “under the surface” and revealing the internal structures of both animals and plants. They call it the “God Emperor of lenses,” or at least that’s what Google Translate says the series of Chinese characters on its offer page means. I tell you, the Chinese century looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. As is my habit, new glass and other camera gear is typically acquired during the tax filing season of the early spring.

I usually like to add a new lens to my kit every April, and especially so on April the 1st.


“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

April 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm

concise malfeasances

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Finishing up the Soundview ferry trip.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYC Ferry Soundview line trip I’ve been describing all week, which started at Pier 11/Wall Street and then proceeded northwards along the East River to stops at first 34th, and then 90th street, before heading into the narrows at Hells Gate and Bowery Bay. The route actually gets you fairly close to two of the most difficult to reach islands in NY Harbor, the Brothers (North and South). Setting foot on either island is forbidden, as they’re both bird sanctuaries. Saying that, I’ve been on South Brother in the past, having gone there with the NY Audubon Society. North Brother is pictured above, and it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to get to, despite the legendary number of ticks and other hazards which its meant to provide a home to.

North Brother is about 20 acres in size, and is owned and operated by the NYC Parks Dept.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That building is the mortal remain of Riverside Hospital, which relocated itself from Welfare Roosevelt Island in 1885. Riverside specialized in quarantine illnesses like smallpox and tuberculosis, and it’s where Typhoid Mary was imprisoned for over twenty years. Mary, whose real name was Mary Mallon, died on North Brother in 1938. In 1904, North Brother was where the General Slocum disaster came to an end, with the boat beaching onto its shores and where the bodies of over 1,000 of the disasters victims washed up. Riverside continued on through the middle to late 20th century, during the 1950’s and early 60’s, it was an adolescent addiction hospital. Corrupt management and changing circumstances saw the City shutter the facility in the early 1960’s, and the buildings were abandoned to the elements.

Until 1964, North Brother was formally part of first Long Island City (after 1870) and then Queens County (after 1898), but after the Parks Dept. took formal control of the island in 2001 and both islands became part of Bronx county in 2007.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are some pretty staggering views of the whole “soup bowl” as I call it, from the NYC Ferry’s Soundview line. Definitely worth your $2.75 fare, I would argue. Here’s a tip – download the NYC Ferry app to your phone and buy the ticket that way. The ticket stays active for 90 minutes, meaning that if – like me – you’re not planning on debarking the boat and just plan on riding it back and forth for lookie loo, you can do so on one fare.

Back on Monday with something completely different at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


“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

March 1, 2019 at 2:00 pm

alienists were

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Dag, I really got my $2.75 worth out of this ferry ride, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing my maiden voyage on the NYC Ferry’s new Soundview route, the boat left its (Manhattan) East 90th street dock and proceeded towards Hells Gate. This is a spot I often visit, but always from the landward side in Queens. Living in Astoria, a frequent destination when I’m out for a constitutional walk is Shore Road, which adjoins Astoria Park and provides commanding views of two bridges which I’m rather enamored with – the Triborough and Hell Gate. The former is just one part of a complex of automotive bridges built under the guidance of Robert Moses which opened in 1936. The latter is a rail bridge (OK, technically it’s a complex of bridges too) which opened in 1917, designed by Hornbostel and Lindenthal, and constructed by Carnegie’s American Bridge Company for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Hells Gate is formerly the most treacherous section of the East River, due to whirlpools and strong currents which wrecked hundreds of ships during colonial and early republic times. Its name is an anglicization of the old Dutch “Hellegaat” which refers to “a bright passage.” The hazardous conditions in this section of the East River were caused by the topography of the riverbed beneath the water, a situation which was dealt with by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in several stages during the 19th century. The USACE efforts culminated with an 1885 detonation of mined explosives that broke up the riverbed, an explosion which was the largest intentional detonation in all of human history until the Hiroshima atomic bombing in 1945 (debate about certain WW1 military actions does exist on this topic, btw.)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the Ferry moved northward towards its destination at the northern side of the Bowery Bay section of the river, we passed by the “Astoria Energy” power plant located on the forbidden northern shore of Queens. That nomen is one of my own little inventions, indicating the frustration a humble narrator often expresses when discussing the coastlines of the Borough. There’s a solid wall of “not allowed” secure sites along the shoreline, which is ultimately prosaic and appropriate, but still frustrating. You’ve got the power plant, then a sewer plant, then Rikers Island, and then LaGuardia Airport. The first time you might be able to get close enough to even see the water is at Flushing Bay.

Fingers crossed for an East Elmhurst or Flushing Ferry line, anyone?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve seen this POV a few times over the years, but it’s still pretty uncommon for me. That’s Randalls/Wards Island on the right, which used to be seperate islands until Mr. Moses made them one landmass as part of the Triborough project. Hells Gate and Triborough’s East River span are at center, and the former Politti Power Plant (which the Astoria Energy outfit now uses as its campus) are on the left.

More tomorrow, at your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 27, 2019 at 2:00 pm

possible cure

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On the boat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, I took a ride on the new Soundview line of the NYC Ferry recently in pursuance of scouting out a tour which I’m going to conduct along its route. Soundview is a long ride by the standards of the new Ferry system, some 46 minutes. It takes you north from Pier 11 Wall Street along the eastern shoreline of Manhattan with stops at 34th street and then at 90th street. Its path carries you along the rather familiar sights of the great bridges section of the East River (Brooklyn to Queensborough) and then proceeds into the River’s west channel between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan.

Pictured above is a tug towing an empty fuel barge southwards along the waterway. How do I know it’s empty? Look at how high the barge is riding in the water… that’s how.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The west channel of the East River is preferred for the passage of larger ships and maritime industrial traffic for a couple of reasons, most notably the absence of height restrictions due to the Roosevelt Island Bridge and the “no wake” zone around the Big Allis power plant in Queens’ Ravenswood section. The Soundview ferry uses this channel to proceed northwards, passing by notable Upper East Side landmarks like Rockefeller University in the East 60’s.

That’s another huge articulated tug and fuel barge in the shot above, operated by the Reinauer company. Articulated means that there are cabling connections which allow the Captain of the tug to operate the two entities as a single vessel. There is also a large cutout notch in the bow of the barge which the tug nestles into.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last stop in Manhattan is at East 90th street, whereupon the ferry route heads across the East River to the east channel, and heads into Hells Gate. Those of you with a historical mindset might already have an inkling of what this tour will be talking about, but let’s just say that a little bit more than a century ago on a nice morning in mid June, a large group of people boarded a boat just north of Wall Street at Peck Slip, and more or less followed this route. Things did not go as planned for them, and bad things happened. Very, very bad things.

More tomorrow, at your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm

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