The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘photowalk

addressed as

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Banal pedantry, and Western Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst hanging around at my local bar, recently, one has been forced to eat a bunch of crow by the working guys who voted for “he who must not be named.” I don’t say the name of the President Elect, as it lends him power in the manner of a certain Harry Potter villain – as a note. The working guys are generally union members who became convinced that “the Mexicans are taking my job,” and voted accordingly. I have declared a moratorium amongst friend and foe alike, as I cannot spend another minute of my time discussing the 2016 Presidential election, which went on for what seemed like four or five years.

At the moment, I’ve got other fish to fry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Admiration is what I feel towards the “canners” of Queens, for instance. Observationally, I see mostly Latino or Asian folks pursuing this line of profiteering – picking through this bin or that one in pursuance of the deposit money for aluminum can and glass bottle. We native born Citizens generally leave our pocket change in the curbside recycling bags, but our newly arrived neighbors believe – rightly – that the streets of New York City are paved with gold, if you just expend a bit of effort to harvest it.

I wonder if the Catholics have assigned a patron saint for the canners?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While watching the humans in their daily rounds, one of the things which I’m currently observing and finding fascinating are their set of behaviors, social mores, and so on. One comment I can offer is that people spend a lot of extra energy on walking that they don’t need to in pursuance of looking “cool.” Bad shoes, pants falling down, lots of gestural movements that have little or nothing to do with locomotion. Focus, people, focus.

Ultimately, it’s all pretty depressing, but interesting nevertheless.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

looke backe

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Banal pedantry, Astoria, and the day the music died.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is absolutely unfathomable to me how hidebound government is. The DEP has a problem with “floatable” solid materials entering the sewage flow. The DSNY is under orders to provide public waste receptacles for street trash. The DOB is on a crusade to discover illegally converted apartments in residential buildings.

DOB enforcement, which uses DSNY inspector data to discover the presence of illegal conversions, causes the residents of illegal apartments to not put their trash out on the curb for collection by DSNY, so they use the street corner trash bins to dispose of household garbage instead. This causes the bins to overflow, which causes the trash to fall on the sidewalk and street, where it enters the sewer system and bedevils the DEP  – which does nothing to control their sewage from flowing into waterways via open overflow pipes. The DSNY positions their overflowing trash bins  – overflowing due to DOB – right next to DEP’s sewer grates so… sigh…

We are all doomed, and hurtling towards destruction, aren’t we? When I mention this sort of thing to officialdom, their response isn’t “wow, we should rethink this,” it’s “that can’t happen because it’s illegal.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The City is all agog, under the leadership of the Dope from Park Slope, about affordable housing. Rather than process the fact that there is actually housing which ordinary and current residents CAN afford, but which is found in extant transit deserts outside of the City center – the DOB and City Planning assists the Real Estate Developer shit flies in demolishing existing housing stock within the center in pursuance of creating mega structures. They do not seem to consult with the sewer and water people at DEP about built capacity first, or the electrical and gas supply companies like ConEd or National Grid, or the transit folks at MTA as to the existential result of this population loading. The whole notion of expanding mass transit options to College Point or other outer circle spots – now that’s madness.

To put it plain – Bill De Blasio and his inane shit fly inspired “vision” is going to destroy New York City, or at least leave behind a series of bills to pay that will make the Presidency of George W. Bush look fiscally responsible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Burrachos of Astoria’s Broadway, whose population has been seriously cut down by the 114th Pct. and the Dept. Of Homeless Services in the last year – largely due to the urging and cajoling of this, your Newtown Pentacle – have been exploring their creative side lately.

A series of deployed guitars have been observed, many of which have been strummed while chanties have been sung. I’m actually a casual fan of modern day Latin American folk music, much of which centers around the adventures and warfare of “Los Narcos” in their struggles with competitors and describes their resistance against “Los Federales.” Seriously – Google for some of the “El Chapo” songs and think about the early years of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

It’s been a pleasure to discover that the Burrachos are something other than just drunks and bums, but unfortunately – they still have a dark side that extends beyond defecating on the sidewalk. Pictured above is the consequence of using a guitar as a bludgeon, and it signifies the day that the music died on Broadway in Astoria, Queens.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 7, 2016 at 1:30 pm

unctuous haggling

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Banal pedantry, Northern Blvd., and the carriers of cars – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering about in the dark along the Carridor, or Northern Blvd. as most people call it, one was recently contemplating his place in the world and the meaning of everything. Given that any long hard look in the mirror only depresses a humble narrator, I tend to avoid turning my famously incisive vision upon myself for fear of what I may see in a pane of silvered glass. I’ve taken to wandering about in the dark these days, suffering the lapsing of the lonely hours one must endure before the beckoning of the grave becomes irresistible, and in darkness so as to spare others a chance meeting with one so aberrant.

How’s that for holiday season depression? Pretty good, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This section of the Northern Blvd. Carridor is distinguished by gargantuan used car lots, and the biggest one is owned and operated by Major Auto World. There’s a couple of smaller players, but if you’re between 43rd and 47th streets and spot a car lot, the odds are that the auto retailer is owned or franchised by Major.

The good news is that unlike Northern Astoria or Maspeth, no mob of torch wielding peasants has ever chased me around these parts. A monster does have feelings, y’know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One became fascinated watching the dark of night show as multiple car carriers disgorged their cargo to the various car lots for display and eventual sale. Car Carriers are endlessly engaging and curious vehicles to me, although the ones I’m truly occupied by are the ones that carry trucks to the car lots. The whole idea of a truck which carries trucks appeals to me, but – after all – I am an idiot.

At any rate, the ones spotted recently at the Carridor were carrying cars, not trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The amazing part of all of this action on Northern Blvd. – to me – was the haphazard manner in which it was conducted. Spending as much time as I do around union guys – my neighbor Mario sets up safety cones when we BBQ – it is startling to see the car carriers unloaded right into the middle of oncoming traffic with nothing more than the truck’s hazard lights to indicate to oncoming traffic that a sticky situation is about to be entered.

What do I know, however? It’s all banal, isn’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The trucker unloading this car carrier rig noticed me taking pictures and shot me what would have been called – in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn – as the “hairy eyeball.” Not really caring too much, and hoping for some sort of antagonist provocation to break through the numb pedantry of my daily round, I kept shooting.

Nothing happened, though, and it was decided that my existential boredom hadn’t peaked yet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last shot, captured whilst scuttling away to the west.

The whole “night photography thing” continues to excite me, as you may have noticed. A couple of new “digital darkroom” tricks I’ve worked out and have begun to institute in pursuance of conquering the digital “noise” inherent in lowlight shots are also proving highly interesting.

Saying that, I’m still not exactly in love with my results, but I’m starting to get close to where I want to go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To wit, this shot from Greenpoint, which is the sort of “range of human vision” effect that I’m pursuing.

Something to do in the dark, I guess. It’s all pretty depressing, though.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

furnace tendings

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Banal pedantry, Newtown Creek, and the Feds – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ever since the Simpsons movie came out a few years back, whenever the subject of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency comes up, Our Lady of the Pentacle begins to shout out “EEPAH, EEPAH, EEPAH.” Given the amount of time I spend at, on, and around Newtown Creek – Our Lady oft finds herself repeating “EEPAH, EEPAH, EEPAH.”

Last week, one found himself out in the rain with the EPA Superfund team. We were trying to help them site a series of warning signs, which will be installed at the handful of Newtown Creek “public access” spots which are hidden along the bulkheads and visited by anglers or lookie loos (that includes you kids from Apollo Street), signage whose missive would advise against the catching of or consumption of the fish who populate the lugubrious and heavily polluted depths of the Newtown Creek. “EEPAH,” indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The EPA team requested counsel on the placement of their signage from the Newtown Creek Alliance Project Manager – Will Elkins – who asked me to come along as well. We accompanied”EEPAH” on a somewhat grand tour of the Newtown Creek, hitting a bunch of spots where either Will or myself had seen people fishing over the years. The Feds figured out where they place their signage, marked stuff down, and generally did “EEPAH” stuff. I did my thing too.

Whilst at the Brooklyn side Maspeth Avenue street end, the tug Mary H. was spotted.

Mary H. services the Bayside brand oil tanks you’ll notice adjoins the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, barging in bulk product which is then distributed to their end customers via heavy truck. The amazing part of this – and it is somewhat amazing – is that the Bayside distribution facility is about 3.1 miles back from the East River, at the border of industrial Maspeth and Bushwick East Williamsburg.

Tugboats, barging cargo three entire miles into Brooklyn – it boggles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Metropolitan Avenue was formerly known as the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike, and it connected Newtown in Queens with the Eastern District of Brooklyn – Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint. The crossing of Grand and Metropolitan was also one of the stops on the New York and Manhattan Beach Railroad, its depot would have found at the foot of Greenpoint’s Quay Street in 1912.

The Brooklyn side of Maspeth Avenue follows the northern path of the Maspeth Toll Bridge Co.’s Plank Road, and I was standing on what was once known as Furman’s Island while I was shooting the Mary H. tug. The Plank Road bridge last crossed the Newtown Creek in 1875, during the Presidential Administration of Ulysses S. Grant. Connecting the colonial communities of Maspeth and Newtown via the hellish expanse of Furmans Island (home to Peter Cooper’s Glue Factory, Conrad Wissel’s Night Soil and Offal Dock, and Kalbfleisch and sons, amongst other notorious or malodorous occupants), the Plank Road today exists as a destination for Newtown Creek devotees and fetishists. Also, the Feds.

On the Queens or Maspeth side, Newtown Creek Alliance has a major shoreline rehabilitation project underway, which is being run by the aforementioned Will Elkins. There’ll be a “Don’t eat the fish” sign there too.

“EEPAH.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 5, 2016 at 11:00 am

certain amount

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Holiday traditions, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, like every other history geek in Queens, I found myself at Queens Plaza waiting for the MTA’s annual “Holiday Nostalgia Trains” event to start. I missed the first roll through, as I was up fairly late the night before, but got there in time for the second showing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Nostalgia Trains are late model subway cars maintained by the transit museum that are still quite functional. They make a round trip from Queens Plaza to the City’s Second Avenue stop on what’s normally the “F” line.

As an aside, my railfan pals can cogently argue that the subway cars which the modern day F is using could qualify as museum pieces, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, the Nostalgia Trains run several models of car which would be familiar to New Yorkers of the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and so on. Some of these units were online as late as the 1970’s, I’m told. Back in the day (as late as the 1980’s), as it were, the L or Canarsie line had incredibly low ridership by modern standards, so MTA used some of these antiques to service it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One missed last year’s Nostalgia Trains, for a variety of reasons, but after the long holiday weekend – Our Lady of the Pentacle suggested that I get out of the house for a while. I ran into a number of people I know onboard, and met a few new people – including a Subway Historian named Andrew J. Sparburg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MTA is going to be running the Nostalgia Trains every Sunday during December, and the link below offers a bit of nitty gritty about the eight historic examples of their rolling stock, and a schedule of when and where you can board and ride.

from mta.info

Seven of the cars on the “Shoppers Special” are nearly identical except one: No. 1575, which appears much more modern than the rest of the consist. No. 1575 is the prototype for the subway car class that followed the R1/9, with amenities such as fluorescent lights and smaller ceiling fans. Customers can visit the train year-round at the Transit Museum, though it sometimes makes guest appearances for special occasions such as anniversaries and the holidays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does wish that MTA had preserved just one of these historic units in the actual distopian condition which distinguished the NYC Subways during the “bad old days.” Graffiti, mess, etc. It would be great if they hired a professional junkie to pass out on the rattan seats as well. Spray some piss scented air freshener around, hire a couple of thugs to menace the crowds, etc. Poop on the windows… y’know – New Yawk, Fun City.

The problem with museum pieces is often the loving restoration, which belies what their true operational ambience was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I was rather happy that all of the shooting which I’ve been doing in the Subways over the last couple of years seems to have finally paid off. Practice, practice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The nostalgia trains carried us from Queens Plaza to Manhattan, where a short interval was suffered and the reverse trip was begun. I spent much of the first half of the journey catching up with friends and acquaintances, then got busy on the return to Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you’re planning on attending and photographing the trains, I’d recommend bringing along a bright lens (f2.8 or better) and shooting at a fairly high ISO speed. Modern subways are quite a bit better lit than these survivors.

The shot above, if you’re curious – was captured at f3.5, ISO 4000, and a shutter speed of 1/250th. It’s also pretty important, when shooting in the “system,” to adjust your color temperature settings. If you’re on AWB or “auto white balance,” you’re going to be losing a whole lot of the image to an orange cast which will increase image noise. I shoot in raw format, and therefore always adjust the color temperature of the shot during the development process, but these were captured under the menu settings for tungsten light and later adjusted to 3750K.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thanking the merciful creator that I didn’t have to spend much time in Manhattan, the Nostalgia trains soon reentered Queens Plaza, where riders were commanded to debark by the MTA personell. It seems they didn’t want us to see the turnaround track, for some reason.

Funny thing is, the crowd who was in attendance at this event seemed to be at least 50% railfan. Railfans will tell you the kind – and exact model – of the screws used to hold the track in place, when it was installed, and where the rails were forged.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train disappeared into the east bound tunnel, whereupon it executed a reversal along the occluded turnaround track, and then picked up another load of lookie loos for the journey back to Second Avenue.

The Nostalgia trains are running every Sunday until the end of the year.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2016 at 11:30 am

dark and shapely

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Kosciuszko, Kosciuszko, men have named you…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over Thankgiving weekend, a visit was paid to the hazy borderlands of West Maspeth and Blissville. My goal was to check in on and shoot some photos on the progress the NYS DOT is making on Phase One of the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project. Phase One involves the creation of half of the new span, the rerouting of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and the demolition of the 1939 era Kosciuszko Bridge, which overflies the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Finally, here’s one from August of 2016.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway now extends out over the water and is firmly shadowing the concrete devastations of Queens, nearly crossing the LIRR Lower Montauk tracks. The BQE Onramp also seems to be coming along, and I suspect that the DOT’s contractors will be joining the bridge span to the Queens side approaches pretty soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the BQE Onramp, there it is. In the foreground is one of the structural steel sections which will be joined to the span and support the road surface. Not pictured are the “panels” of the road surface, which arrived a couple of days later and which were noticed during a subsequent and unrelated visit to the area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the shot above, you can see how the sections are attached. This is a cable stay bridge, of course. The roadway above will carry four lanes of two way traffic, but it’s just half of the new bridge. When the western half of the project is complete, there will be four lanes in each direction, and there’s also going to be a bicycle and pedestrian path.

That’s awesome. Cannot wait to shoot from up there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new bridge, as I’ve been mentioning for several years at this point, is going to be quite a bit lower than the 1939 model. That’s going to bring noise issues to Maspeth and Blissville, I fear, but let’s see what DOT has planned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYS DOT is currently wondering what to do with the areas on both sides of the Creek which these columns rise from. There’s talk of public space and treating the two spots in the manner of a park or playground.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Further back in Queens, to the north actually, the approaches to the new bridge seem to be ready for business. I haven’t managed to get up there yet, but cross your fingers, maybe I can talk the DOT folks into a walk through soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the fantastic sort of luck for which I’m distinguished, just as I started back for home (cutting through Calvary Cemetery) the misty murk occluding the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself began to break up, allowing the sky to turn blue and light to suffuse. I turned around and grabbed one last shot, while cursing.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

preliminary session

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Sometimes, you have to let the crazy out and let it play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One’s life experience displays a certain dichotomy which is often hard to reconcile. For the first two thirds of my time on this planet, if someone spotted me lurking around their periphery they’d begin to batten down the hatches. Ladies would grasp at their purse, gentlemen would assume a proactively aggressive posture, and Policemen would eye me suspiciously. One has never understood this, as I’ve always been what law enforcement personnel would describe as “harmless.” By and large, however, I’ve always been reviled and rejected.

It’s always been an issue for me to remain curiously upright, since any accusation about a humble narrator is easy to believe. “Hey, I just saw Mitch running up and down Houston street wearing a clown suit and screaming about invading aliens. He also had a goat with him.” Most people would just say “yeah, I could see that.”

For the last third of my life, there’s been people who seem to actually want me to hang around them, occasionally. It’s weird, because I’m the same sort of objectionable fellow that I’ve always been. Maybe I’ve just figured out how to sugar coat it, or put some lipstick on this pig, or maybe I’m just getting old and they’re humoring me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The weird part of the particular stage of life I’m in – I’ll be turning fifty (hopefully) in 2017 – is the physical transition which I can’t see but which is quite visible to everybody else. My beard used to be dark brown, for instance, and my eyes are looking out of a face which doesn’t chime in with what I think I look like. Also, I make a noise when settling into a chair now, a pained exhortation which sounds like “uhhhhhnnnnnnk” that is coupled with a staccato popping of the ligaments as they stretch along decaying joints with their cartilage deficits.

If I was a late model car, the mechanic would probably tell me that with a regular maintenance schedule, there’d probably be 15-20 thousand miles left before the junk yard beckoned. Saying that, my shocks and struts are shot, and I regularly fail on my emissions tests. I routinely describe my aches and pains as due to the presence of a “pain squirrel” which spends its time running from branch to branch over the course of the day. Today, the squirrel is on the left foot, tomorrow the right arm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the years, I’ve been accused of being a lot of things, including being “an environmentalist,” a “shill for the real estate guys,” and a “historical preservationist.” The latter bit is an assumption on the part of certain of my friends and colleagues. What I’m actually about – and everything I’ve been doing here at your Newtown Pentacle over the last seven years – is documenting the transformation of the ancient neighborhoods of Western Queens and North Brooklyn which surround the Newtown Creek as they transition from post industrial to residential. My researches into the subjects have revealed a paucity of the last age of transformation around the Creek, which occurred roughly a century ago. My plan is to leave behind some sort of record of what was here, before it’s all replaced by luxury condos. Hopefully, some future history kid will be able to make something out of it all.

I wish I got started sooner than I did, but kay sera sera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the midst of all of this man-o-pausal angst, my wanderings have begun to carry me to places whose pavement I haven’t darkened in several dozen months. My experiential desires at the moment are for the desolate, the wind blown, the discarded. Especially, I want to be alone while I’m walking the earth, for an interval.

Other people suck. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, there is no shortage of lonely locations in the concrete devastation, and it is filthy black raincoat weather again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens is talking to me, can’t you hear her too?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 30, 2016 at 11:00 am

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