The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘photowalk

watching sentinels

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One more bit of Creekery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even at three or four in the morning, it’s hard to find a thirty second interval on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge during which heavy trucks or buses aren’t passing over the double bascule drawbridge and causing it to quiver and quake. Getting any sort of usable long exposure shot from up there is a matter of luck for most. Since I give it a go every time I’m walking over it at night, the law of averages states that I’m occasionally going to be able to time it right.

That’s the new Kosciuszcko Bridge in the distance, poking its head up over the industrial zone found along Railroad Avenue in LIC’s Blissville section. That enormous smokestack is all that’s left of Van Iderstine’s fat rendering operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If “over yonder” means the Greenpoint, Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek, then over yonder that’s what used to be called the BP Amoco yard. It’s a distribution hub for petroleum products, and those tanks contain various flavors of refined products. It sits in part of the footprint of the old Standard Oil Sone and Fleming refinery complex which would one day become Mobil Oil. Across Apollo Street to the east was another Standard refinery operation – Locust Hill. Apollo Street is the epicenter of the Greenpoint Oil Pill discovery and remediation process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is actually a handheld one, looking roughly westwards across Greenpoint towards Manhattan. Remember that heavy traffic I mentioned? Never, ever stops.

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


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 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

October 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

spiritual dread

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My beloved Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered while I was riding on a hybrid ferry boat, which at the time was running on its electric mode. This was a novel experience, I must say. Beyond the whole environmental thing, what was fascinating about this vessel was how quiet it was, and how the deck plates weren’t vibrating with transmitted engine oscillations. Can’t tell you much about the thing, as it wasn’t my “show.”

Saying that, my “show” will be once again opening its curtains on Wednesday October 15th, with an Atlas Obscura/Airbnb “experience” offering my “Infrastructure Creek” walk to a very limited group of 12. This will be an evening/night walk, which should be pretty exciting. Link is both above and below, so please come with if you can. The same tour will be repeated on October 29th. These tours are part of how I keep a roof over my head, so any and all tickets sold essentially feed me, and fund the various technologies which allow me to bring you Newtown Pentacle five days a week and fifty two weeks a year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria Community Board 1 will be gathering at Astoria World Manor on Astoria Blvd. tonight at 6:30. It promises to be an interesting meeting. The Transportation Alternatives organization (Bicycle people) will be offering a presentation pushing for their latest advocacy position which asks the City to create a protected bike lane on Crescent Street connecting the Triborough and Queensboro Bridges. This is sure to be the subject of much conversation and gnashing of teeth in the coming months here in the ancient village, so… Additionally, there is a proposal to develop two currently industrially zoned properties on the Ditmars side of the neighborhood on 45th and 46th street into largish apartment houses.

Discussion of the latter has obsessed the frequent commenters found at Facebook’s Astoria discussion group for the last week. That particular cadre of opinion offerers seem to be composed largely of people who moved out of Astoria in the 1980’s that offer an overly sentimental picture of the “good old days” which has little resemblance to reality. For instance, somebody who is in their mid 60’s in 2019 that says “you could leave your doors unlocked back then” is referring to the late 1970’s in NYC. That’s the midst of an era when you not only triple locked your door, you also installed iron bars on both first AND second story windows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That aphorism about leaving your door open is something I’ve encountered my entire life. My maternal grandparents offered it when referring to living in the “Shtetl” or Lower East Side of Manhattan during the 1920’s when they first got here. My mom and dad also repeated the refrain when referring to East New York’s Brownsville or Brooklyn’s Borough Park where they respectively grew up (the Waxman family’s ancestral property holdings are now a part of the Maimonides Hospital parking garage). You heard this in the neighborhoods which I grew up in, and the saying was always tinged with a certain amount of racism, with the underlying implication that things were better during a more segregated era (red lining was a practice in the real estate world which only allowed certain ethnicities to live in certain areas. It’s part of the “how and why” which NYC’s “ethnic” enclaves were formed by – African American Bed Stuy and Bushwick, Hispanic North Brooklyn, Jewish Midwood and Crown Heights, Italian Bensonhurst and so on).

Back tomorrow with something else. See you tonight at CB1 if you want to come watch the show. Me, I wish I was going to be on a boat tonight during the storm, electric or not. I spend too much of my life in meetings.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 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.

uncanny noise

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I got to ride on a New York and Atlantic Freight Train!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the New York and Atlantic’s newest ride – Engine 400. Before I say anything else, I want to acknowledge my pal David Silver and his encyclopedic knowledge of all things rail for pointing me in the right direction on the original make and model of this particular locomotive engine. Originally built in 1966 for the B&O railroad, this model GP40 locomotive’s original configuration offered some 3,000 HP.

NY&A has recently (2018) had the thing rebuilt at Knoxville Locomotive Works to bring it in line with modern day Tier 4 emissions standards. It lost 700 HP in the conversion, it seems, but NY&A operates on fairly level terrain (by rail standards) in NYC and Nassau and Suffolk Counties. NY&A are a private company contracted by the Long Island Railroad to handle their freight duties, as a note.

Also as a note, I’ve actually photographed this unit before, at night in Maspeth at the Haberman tracks in March of 2019. Check that out here.

from wikipedia

The GP40 is a 4-axle diesel-electric road-switcher locomotive built by General Motors, Electro-Motive Division between November 1965 and December 1971. It has an EMD 645E3 16-cylinder engine generating 3,000 hp (2,240 kW).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ride itself was offered by NY&A, the Waste Management Company, and the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. A small group of invitees assembled at Waste Management’s Brooklyn waste transfer station on Varick Street, and there were three opportunities to ride on the thing along the Bushwick Branch tracks leading through East Williamsburg into Ridgewood and then Maspeth. I rode it twice, sitting out the middle trip so I could get shots of the thing coming and going.

This was actually pretty exciting for me, since my oft repeated “I don’t trespass” stance has often found a humble narrator staring wistfully at some trackway which I was dying to explore. Today’s post is proof of my pudding that eventually I will get to go where I want, in the company of the people who own the thing, and that I will be able to publish the photos publicly. A number of the officers of NY&A were onboard, notably the NY&A’s president James Bonner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hampering the efficiency of the line are the multiple “at grade” street crossings which the route follows. There are no signal arms or even flashing lights and bells to warn motorists or pedestrians or even – god forbid… bicyclists – that the train is about to cross the street along this section of the route. Procedure dictates that the conductor (apparently that’s what you call the guy, even though there’s usually no passengers) gets off the train and walks ahead of the engine, stopping approaching traffic the NYC way – standing in the middle of the street and waving his arms around.

James Bonner told me that this situation is something that the company is trying to fix with some haste, but for now the train moves through this section of the Creeklands at the limited speed which a conductor can walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train carried us roughly a mile into Queens and then reversed back towards the Varick Street location. A humble narrator got quite busy with the camera on this trip. Most of what I shot were pretty boring photos, which were recorded in a simple documentarian manner depicting and detailing the otherwise forbidden rail tracks. During the excursion, I was allowed to walk around on the engine’s catwalks. There were a couple of other photographers along for the trip, as a note. Assemblyman Joe Lentol of Greenpoint was onboard as well, along with other notables from Brooklyn. At one point, the Commissioner of the NYC Dept. of Sanitation showed up and she made a speech.

The notables were riding in a little caboose at the back of the train set. I rode in the caboose on the last ride of the day, but during the first trip I was on the locomotive section. In between the two, there was a “slug,” which I’m told acts as a purely mechanical augment to the locomotive engine providing additional tractive effort assistance and extra braking capability.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The engineer driving the train was a pretty good humored fellow, but I never did catch his name. He was seated at a console offering multiple digital indicators and gauges. I don’t have room for what the console looked like in this post, but if you want to get an idea of it – check out this photo of the setup over at flickr.

Of course I had to be a jackass at least once during the trip, and while standing on the engine’s catwalk at a street grade crossing in Maspeth, I spotted an attractive woman waiting for the train to pass. I shouted out “hey, what do you think of my ride?” to her, and she smiled and then winked her eye at me. It was probably just the sun, or dust, or a seizure, but I’m holding on to it being a wink – thank you very much. I’ve still got it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train returned to the Waste Management facility at Varick Street, where bags of NY&A shwag were waiting for us. I got a neat baseball hat with a NY&A logo on it, and a pen with a logo too. Just behind the train, you’ll notice a fence line with some green material affixed to it. Right on the other side of that bridge is the loathsome terminus of the Newtown Creek’s English Kills tributary, some 3.8 miles from the East River. The water is crossed by, and the Bushwick Branch tracks are mounted upon, the Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge, which is roughly 3.7 miles from the East River.

I don’t come back here very often – remember that “I don’t trespass” thing? Also, this is a pretty far walk from Astoria. Saying that, check English Kills and the Montrose Avenue Bridge out at night in this 2019 post, during the day in this 2017 one, and for more on the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch tracks click through and all the way back to a simpler time in this 2012 post.

What a week I had!


“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.

pillars grouped

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Ugghhh.. Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the boat trip with the United States Army Corps of Engineers ended when we docked at a ferry terminal in Lower Manhattan, I suddenly found myself thrust into the middle of a dystopian nightmare. One had to get home to Astoria to allow Zuzu the dog an opportunity to relive herself of bodily waste, and prepare myself for what turned out to be a highly annoying Community Board 1 Transportation Committee meeting. We were discussing ferries and bike lanes, so of course it got to the boiling point pretty quickly. Passions run deep amongst the bicycle fanatics.

Busy day for a humble narrator, huh?

It was hot when we arrived back in Manhattan, which is appropriate for an urban hellscape, I guess. Check out that little visible bit of the sky which hasn’t been appropriated to glass towers visible in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the site of National Tragedy, more and more reconstruction is going on. Eighteen years, I have to keep on reminding myself. Eighteen years.

I made my way into the rebuilt subway station at World Trade Center, which is now found under a shopping mall which is populated by shops where there’s naught an ordinary person such as myself could afford, and then boarded an E line train to get out of dodge and back to Western Queens where I belong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A number of people have commented to me over the years that my demeanor actually alters for the better upon passing over or under the border between Manhattan and Queens. At Queens Plaza, with its rotting concrete and dripping masonry, one transferred to the M line which took me the rest of the way back to blessed Astoria. Zuzu the dog seemed quite amused when I opened the door to HQ, but then promptly fell asleep.

Tomorrow – the other really cool thing I got to do last week will be discussed. It was an actual adventure!


“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

October 3, 2019 at 11:00 am

done among

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Whom will stop the rain? Still, I wonder.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one had to attend a Superfund meeting at Greenpoint’s PS 110, and since the presentation being offered by officialdom was something I was seeing for the third time, I got bored. Accordingly, I wandered around the public school floor I was on for a few minutes, wondering what grade school class rooms looked like these days. In the case of PS 110, which is a centuried building found across the street from McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, the answer is found in the shot above.

I don’t know, wasn’t expecting holograms or something, but that’s pretty much what school looked like 45 years ago when I could still fit in one of those chairs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, last weekend, I had to attend an event at Newtown Creek Alliance HQ – the Kingsland Wildflower Festival – and I also got bored. I’m easily bored, as a note. I went wandering for a bit and disappeared from the event, and noticed this crew digging and scraping into the pavement. They must have heard the old legend about the pirate Blackbeard burying chests of loot here in Greenpoint back in the colonial era and were trying their luck. Didn’t see any 18th century Spanish Doubloons, Dutch Gilders, or gold of any kind in their truck, so I figure that they came up empty.

Ever hear the one about the guy in Greenpoint who set up an improvised oil derrick in his back yard about twenty years ago, seeking to tap into the underground oil spill?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a fairly adventure free and somewhat frustrating summer, the Fall has been absolutely and stunningly fun for me. This week alone, I’ve managed to spend a day on a boat with the US Army Corps of Engineers, and yesterday I got to ride in a locomotive engine on the former Evergreen (modern day Bushwick Branch) tracks found on the eastern side of Newtown Creek.

The camera has had a real workout recording all sorts of cool stuff, as you’ll see next week 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

September 27, 2019 at 11:00 am

latter presently

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My busy week is busy as promised.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator managed to get onboard that United States Army Corps of Engineers Harbor Inspection boat which I hoped to be on yesterday. One had a pretty nice day, despite having to get up at six in the morning to get there. Soldiers get up early, what can I tell you, and if you want to hang out with them so do you. The excursion returned to dock at about 2:30 in the afternoon, whereupon a quick train ride back to Astoria ensued. While the photos on my camera were downloading to the computer (the boat circumnavigated Staten Island, and the USACE described their various flood resiliency projects) Zuzu the dog received a bit of my attention.

Then I had to attend a Transportation Committee meeting for Astoria’s CB1 in the evening. There were two items on the agenda.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first was a request for support by the Durst Organization, who are petitioning the NYC Ferry service to include the E. 91st street (Manhattan) stop on the Astoria Ferry Route. As you’d imagine, I stepped up and did a lot of the talking with them on this one, given the whole maritime side of my life. It’s a good idea, ultimately, but this would add another ten minutes or so onto the Astoria route which has already been lengthened by the addition of a stop at Brooklyn Navy Yard. I asked if the Durst people were agnostic about which route would connect the Hallets Cove and E. 91st routes, and suggested that the Soundview Route might be a good candidate for the service. Additionally, I asked for their petition to include the creation of a stop at Randalls/Wards Island, to allow the kids from Astoria and in particular the NYCHA Astoria Houses easy access to all the ball fields on the islands. They liked that one. As a rule, when somebody wealthy is asking you for a favor, you ask for something in return. They became wealthy by being transactional, and this is a normal thing for them. Try to get something done for your community before saying “yes.”

Then came the bike lane discussion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Transportation Alternatives people are currently working on getting a protected bike lane installed along Crescent Street. It’s not a bad idea at all, and there’s a lot of support for it, and not just amongst the Elected Officialdom who are seemingly terrified of drawing the group’s ire. The Transportation Committee voted unanimously to send a letter requesting that the NYC DOT look into it, and do a study. The study would then be presented publicly, whereupon commentary from the actual community and not activists would be received by the Community Board which would then vote on it according to the local feedback. Odds are pretty good that the project would be controversial, but adopted. That’s the correct procedural methodology, according to the veteran community board members and committee chairs who were present.

Thing is, if you’re a belligerent group of activist bullies…

I won’t go into names and or details here, but suffice to say that several members of the committee are far more than just ideologically aligned with TA. They began an hour long circular argument that requesting a “bridge to bridge” study wasn’t good enough, and that they specifically wanted the committee to request a “Crescent Street” route which would align neatly with their advocacy position. The Chair of the Transportation Committee was adamant about not doing that, as it was procedurally inappropriate. The bullies, including one who couldn’t be bothered to attend but was instead texting to a present member and using them like a sock puppet, were incensed. In the end the motion for calling it a Crescent Street lane versus a Bridge to Bridge lane ended up being withdrawn.

I do not like belligerence, bullying, or a group of ideological activists shoving their current advocacy campaign down my throat. When one of them asked to review a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order…. grrr.


“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

September 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm

clutching inkiness

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Simple things, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amongst the first things that one of my neighbors in Astoria wants to know is what zodiac sign you were born under. When you indicate where your birthday lands on the wheel of the year, she shoots a knowing look at you and acts like you just revealed the code you use for the ATM terminals at the bank. It’s made up, astrology is. Bunk.

Another neighbor loudly pronounces that “he doesn’t give a ‘eff” before doing something stupid or self destructive. He’s part of a whole crew I know that doesn’t give an ‘eff about this or that. At my age, the single thing that I’ve gleaned about life is to give lots and lots of ‘effs. Not giving an ‘eff can get expensive, consequence wise. I’ve gotten to the point these days to proactively give ‘effs, just to save some dough.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something I use as a gauge of intellect in the people I meet and encounter is whether or not a stressor will cause the phrase “I don’t care, call the Cops, I don’t care” to emerge from their face hole. The statement is meant to elicit fear in the listener, and indicate how “thug,” “street,” or just plain “bad ass” the petitioner is. Usually, the statement is offered as part of a series of aggressive primate display behaviors, with a lot of hand waving and other declarative statements (see paragraph above) wound in.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, doesn’t care when the Cops arrive. If you don’t care when they get there, NYPD will ensure that you do. Me? I do not wish for encounters with people who believe in the efficacious nature of dime store astrological advice and who do not “give an ‘eff” to escalate into requiring the mediating presence of the gendarmes. Seriously… what is wrong with our culture these days?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody you see is under constant pressure… the rent is due next week, tick tock. This thing is wrong, and that thing hurts for no reason, and the subways, and now that his Presidential Campaign is done the Mayor is going to get back to doing stupid things again… Washington, and the Executive Branch in particular, is currently being staffed by comic book villains. Everybody is under constant existential pressure, and the ropes tighten up a bit every single day. I can see the appeal of embracing the pseudo scientific, supernatural, and behaving as if you were a mafioso when you are… in fact… a dry wall installer or drive a truck or something.

The question I always ask is “what do you want to achieve,” or “what result do I think this particular set of things I’m doing and saying will cause to happen”? Was it my status as a Virgo that caused me to break a car window while screaming “Call the Cops, I don’t care, I don’t give an ‘eff” and did it cause me to act like an asshole when I got my wish and get all aggressive towards them when they show up? Smart move is to give up. A cop on the street has the legal right to kill you, they are god on the street. Starting from the minute that the cuffs go on, and progressing through the arrest process, the street cop becomes less and less godlike. Be smart.

I just don’t understand people. Really don’t. Better to spend my time alone, wandering through the concrete devastations. There are no fortune tellers there, nor vainglorious fools shouting “worldstar.”


“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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