The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘photowalk

horrors abroad

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Hallets Cove is spooky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here in Astoria, everything you see in the built up modern neighborhood historically grew out of Hallets Cove. This is one of the oldest “zones” in Western Queens, as far as the footprints of European Civivlization go. It’s kind of a back water overseen by the NYC Parks Dept. these days, sitting next door to the Socrates Sculpture Garden park found to the south and the NYCHA Astoria Houses are to the north. Just across the water from Hallets Cove – to the west – is Roosevelt Island, and beyond that is found the Shining City of Manhattan.

I walked over there the other night, with the intention of putting some newly acquired gear through its paces to gauge performance. Nothing too special, the gear. A novel sort of camera support and a new 24mm lens, both acquired during the discount period surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting thing I can report to you is that if you’re a seabird, Hallets Cove seems to be a preferential spot to sleep. There were dozens of ducks, geese, and gulls floating about, or hanging out in the intertidal zone, and sleeping. As you may notice in the shot above, there was also a quite awake Egret marching about. There’s about thirty seconds of accumulated light sucked up in the photo, which is why the Egret seems to be leading a conga line of Egrets.

Well, it’s interesting to me at least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hallets Cove is kind of spooky at night, especially when you leave the pavement and get down onto the sand. As mentioned in an earlier post, there’s only five sandy beaches on the East River that I know about.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 14, 2018 at 2:00 pm

forbidden retreat

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more #thingstheydidnttellamazon, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst shlepping about the other night with camera in hand, I was listening to an audiobook recording of David McCullough’s “The Great Bridge,” which is a wonderful recount of the struggles of the Roeblings in pursuance of building the Brooklyn Bridge. In my mind, you can divide the historical narrative of NYC into halves – before and after the Brooklyn Bridge was built. There’s lots of other “bookmarks;” Fulton and his ferries, the emergence of Tammany Hall, City Consolidation, the Robert Moses era, the age of Anarchy and diminished expectations, even the second Gilded Age which we’re living in right now. The Brooklyn Bridge project, however, was a epochal moment. I bought the audiobook a few years ago from Audible.com, which is an Amazon affiliate, and I like to revisit it periodically while I’m “doing my thing.”

All of the bookmark moments mentioned above are important, in my mind, because they set political precedents when they occurred which both current and future generations will have to live with. Brooklyn Bridge as the beginning of the age of progressivism in NYC, a term which meant something entirely different when it was coined than how it is used or interpreted in modernity. Back then, it invoked “progress” and stated that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. What that meant was that if you owned a business or home that was in the way of the Brooklyn Bridge, or some other needed improvement, you got out of the way in the name of the common good. The ultimate incarnation of “progress” was carried forward by Robert Moses in the middle 20th century, with his slum clearance and urban highway programs carving up entire neighborhoods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is one of the inconvenient truths about Queens that I’m sure Amazon hasn’t been made aware of, which is that the high speed data lines that will connect them to the world are strung to rotting utility poles which are often – as is the case in the photo above – held together with bits of jury rigged string. I’ve got some personal experience with this sort of situation, and have been haranguing to get a similarly rotten utility pole on Broadway in Astoria replaced for several years. The situation boils down to there being a NYS Utility Commission governing the poles, who are slow moving but ultimately effective. A work crew arrives and installs a new pole, in short order. The problem is that the utility providers of NYC – ConEd/NatGrid/Verizon/RCN/Spectrum or Time Warner or whatever they are now – are allowed to take years to transfer their lines from the old pole to the new one due to their special “licensed monopoly status.” There was one situation here in Astoria, and I’ve got a photo of it somewhere, where the old pole had been sheared off its base by a truck and they tied it up with maritime rope to the new one. It took about five years for the wires to be transferred and the broken utility pole to be removed.

You don’t get away with this sort of thing in Manhattan, by the way. Queens is sort of the red haired step child amongst the boroughs, and always gets the smallest portion when the municipal cake is getting divvied up. This is because of the “get along” and “development at any cost” mind set that has ruled over the Queens Political caste since City Consolidation in 1898. That mind set has created “precedent,” and it’s why our sewers overflow and the lights go dim during high electrical demand periods during summer heat waves. It’s also why our streets are caked in ice during the winter days after the pavement in Manhattan is clear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Setting a precedent is important in legal and political circles, as it allows some opportunist to say “I’m just doing what ‘so and so’ did last year, so what’s the problem?” What the citizenry always needs to be wary about is “the first time,” since that’s what the lawyers are going to cite “the next time.” One of the things which President Obama did that made me go red in the face was to give the Executive Branch the power to unilaterally execute an American citizen on American soil using a drone strike, in the name of national security and the never ending “war on terror.” All my pals on the Democrat side of the conversation said “don’t worry about, Obama won’t use that power all willy nilly” whereas I said “yeah, but what happens when somebody you don’t like inherits that precedent and power?”

Thanks Obama. Donald Trump can use a drone strike to assassinate an American citizen on American soil at his own discretion, and so can every future President of the United States. Precedent is important, and we need to be very careful as a society when setting it. Did you know it was originally an extraordinarily rare thing for a NYC Policeman to be seen carrying a gun? Now, it’s precedent.

The thing about the Amazon deal is the precedent it sets, which says that the executive branches of NYC and NYS can bypass all of the procedural “stops” which have been inserted into the process of large scale development in NYC to keep a Robert Moses from ramming highways through the Bronx or Austin Tobin from condemning dozens of thriving acres of Lower Manhattan to build a World Trade Center complex at the behest of the Rockefeller brothers which nobody really wanted except them?

The dimunition of legislative branch prerogatives and community input is what the Amazon deal represents, and it’s ultimately a disturbing precedent.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 13, 2018 at 2:00 pm

frenzied letter

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My beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting thing about night time tripod based photos, which take fairly long intervals to capture, is that you become quite familiar with traffic patterns on area bridges. One was out fairly late on a Sunday night recently, shooting from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and attempting to execute the shot above in between traffic light signal rotations. Finding a twenty five second interval, even forty minutes after midnight on a Sunday night, in which a heavy truck or MTA Bus is not crossing the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge and causing it to shake, vibrate, or heave… is a challenge.

There were about six shots on my camera card previous to the one above which were ruined by the sudden appearance of a speeding garbage truck, bus, or oil delivery semi and their somewhat seismic effect on the bridge. Such is life, I suppose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Things were a bit quieter back on Greenpoint’s Apollo Street, the titular epicenter and official discovery point of the Greenpoint Oil Spill. Once upon a time, this was the dividing point between two of Standard Oil’s refinery facilities (both of which later became a part of Mobil), but today it’s just a wasted little street end defined by a former BP Amoco and now Kinder Morgan petroleum distribution tank farm. The eastern side of the street is owned by the Manhattan/Empire Beverage Distribution company, a warehouse based operation that accomplishes the holy task of stocking NYC’s bars and liquor stores with product.

I’ve never met the Empire Beverage people, but I’d personally like to thank them for facilitating my life long love of degeneracy and for several besotted episodes of happiness that have punctuated my otherwise miserable existence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, at night, the sections of the Newtown Creek industrial zone where you’d expect things to be buzzing 24 hours a day are rather quite peaceful. It’s basically you and hundreds of feral kitties back here. There are weird moving shadows you’ll spot out of the corner of your eye snaking along the rooftops, which are often accompanied by a chittering sound that I do not like, but the less said about that the better.

There are some things you do not want to say too much, or know anything about, quite frankly.


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contradictory reports

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I haven’t seen daylight for a while now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself hanging in the sky seems to no longer be a prerequisite for a humble narrator to get busy, huh? Darkness has always been my preference, as a note, which is why one greedily clutched at opportunities to work night shifts in the salt mines of the advertising industry over the years.

I’m not a morning person. I am a mourning person, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, my infinitely winding pathway towards dissolution and an unhappy ending found one wandering along the coastline of the shining city of Manhattan with camera in hand recently. It was quite a chilly night, and the filthy black raincoat was fastened tightly against atmospheric entropy. I’ve always been a believer that he’ll isn’t hot, instead it’s freezing cold, and that there are probably cynical efforts underway to build “affordable housing” underway all across the landscape of the Fimbulvetr.

According to Crains, Gehenna is the next up and coming neighborhood in Brooklyn, and there are serious real estate opportunities for the early investor. Follow the artists, they say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Williamsburg Bridge as seen from Corlears Hook, looking towards the realized dreams of avarice over in Brooklyn. I could not help but muse, as the camera did its work, how visiting this spot during the 1980’s at night would have been an akin to visiting a war zone and a serious risk to life and limb. The cops would have just been shaking their heads while staring at your shattered form, wondering why somebody would have been stupid enough to think they wouldn’t get jumped coming here at night with a camera. Alphabet City, that’s what it was called, the extreme east side of the City between Delancey and 14th streets.

As we used to say: Avenue A? Ay, you’ll be ok. B? Better be careful. C? Can’t go there. Avenue D? The “D” is for dead.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm

dusty shelves

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East River in the dark.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was invited to a holiday party in Lower Manhattan the other night, and a humble narrator fairly abhors holiday parties, but the reason I went was to “show my face” and then excuse myself so I could do some shooting. The party was lovely, filled with friends old and new whom I enjoy both working and personal relationships with. Thing is, and I have to remind myself of this periodically, I don’t belong amongst people. Every minute that I’m not out and about shooting is a waste of my time, essentially, but since there is a part of me that could still be considered human you need to “feed the beast” occasionally. Allowing what’s left of my soul a bit of convivial solace and warmth periodically is as necessary as eating meals or pooping, essentially, but when you really get down to it none of that personal stuff matters. Everybody dies, moves away, or just writes you off in the end and all that really matters is the work. Everybody secretly (or not so secretly) hates me anyway, and it’s always a relief for them to see me walking away into the dark.

Accordingly, one bundled up his filthy black overcoat and set off into the nighted streets of the Shining City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The House of Moses is what I call the East River shoreline of lower Manhattan, which in recent years has seen a spartan park appear beneath Robert Moses’ grandiose FDR Drive. My singular superpower is the ability to see through time, which makes the POV in any shots captured along this byway depressing. Once upon, and long ago, this was one of the busiest maritime centers upon the planet, the destination of hundreds of thousand of ships. Today it’s a relic, a waterfront curiosity for lookie loos, and a window into the short term thinking of an era defined by terminologies like “stagflation.”

Pictured above is one of the remaining sandy beaches along the East River, and the only one I know about in this part of Manhattan. I called a couple of people I know who would be able to tell me exactly how many sandy beaches there are on the East River, as a note, but in both cases my call went directly to voicemail. That happens a lot to me these days, which sort of confirms the dire portent and bleak future thing currently embraced by one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Manhattan Bridge on the left, and the Brooklyn Bridge on the right in the shot above. For some incomprehensible reason, the FDR Drive framing the shot has recently been painted purple. I’m not quite sure about the choice of coloration, as in why they chose purple, but it’s probably a De Blasio thing (does purple equate to equity, or fairness, or just some other high handed and sanctimonious bullshit?). At least they didn’t use LED lights to saturate the atmosphere with garishly colored lighting.

As a note, it was freaking freezing out when I was shooting these, but the dissolute cold felt welcoming and mirrored that psychological and emotional vacuum which a humble narrator calls life.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

disordered nerves

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Moonscape, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the larger properties found along the Newtown Creek is the National Grid site. It’s a bit of black box, Nat Grid, and appropriately a high security “Marsec 1” zone. Marsec 1 is the same security level as the runway of an airport or the bulkheads at a cargo port, and that means a lot of paranoia on the part of those employed in the business of keeping the place secure. The street facing sections of Nat Grid are designed to look like a military base with double layers of fencing topped with razor wire and an obvious series of security cameras pointed at them. There’s also guards patrolling the area.

All of this is actually a good thing, as those two white tanks you see above are cryogenic storage units for “LNG” or Liquefied Natural Gas. In the past I’ve indicated that were these things to explode, it would take half of Brooklyn and Queens with them, but the Nat Grid folks have since told me that’s impossible. Were a rupture to occur, they say, it would near instantaneously freeze the surrounding air due to the extreme cold temperatures of the LNG inside and seal the breech. I don’t argue with engineers, as that’s usually an argument you will lose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lombardy Street is another one of those byways in the Creeklands which is entirely contained by them, and “cul de sac’d.” It starts at Kingsland Avenue a few blocks to the south, and terminates at the water’s edge of Newtown Creek. For most of its course, it defines the western border of Nat Grid’s property line.

The Nat Grid property was originally owned by Brooklyn Union Gas, a corporate entity formed in 1825 which consolidated the gas lines of the City of Brooklyn and parts of Queens under single ownership by 1895. By 1910, BUG was operating something like 2,100 miles of metered pipe and manufacturing the gas they sold at a smallish property along the Gowanus Canal in South Brooklyn. By 1928, BUG was pumping some 22 billion cubic feet of gas through their network. They needed to expand their operations, and their source of supply, so in 1929 the Gowanus plant was shuttered and they relocated their facilities to a new 115 square acre property along Newtown Creek in Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The BUG people built a manufactured gas plant here, which burned fuel in low oxygen furnaces called “retorts” designed to encourage the fuels to smolder rather than combust. The gases released by the retort were then separated chemically, in pursuit of the manufacture of Methane or “Natural Gas.” There were all sorts of corollary chemical compounds, some commercially desirable, that were released from the fuel. A lot of waste came along with it as well; coal tar, ammoniacal liquors, arsenic compounds. Manufacturing gas can get messy.

BUG called this site the Vandervoort Street facility, and it was designed to manufacture 200 million cubic feet of gas a day. Through corporate mergers and stock market acquisitions, BUG ended up becoming a part of the Keyspan Company, which itself was acquired by National Grid at the start of the 21st century.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lombardy Street in eastern Greenpoint/Western Bushwick (depends how you define the areas, by whom, and when) is less than friendly to the itinerant pedestrian under the best circumstances. It’s a heavy trucking backwater, used to avoid getting hung up in traffic on nearby Meeker Avenue. The street itself is an atrocity, missing sidewalks distinguish most of its length, and the vehicle lanes which you’re forced to walk on are so chewed up that it would be quite an easy thing to snap an ankle while scuttling along it.

That’s something I can personally attest to, incidentally. Came within an inch of cracking a bone one day a couple of summers ago on Lombardy. If I wasn’t wearing my trusty Merell hiking shoe which offer ankle support…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a gas flare tower at the National Grid site which always draws my attention.

It makes a loud hissing whistle sound (hisstle?) that always pulls me to it, and then there flames… so…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been on the Nat Grid site just once, when the company’s PR representatives consented to my multiple requests to “get me smart” about their operations. Unfortunately the visit took place in an office building way on the other side of the site and involved a slide show presentation about their clean up operations for the place.

It seems the BUG people left behind quite the mess, which is why National Grid is one of the “Potentially Responsible Parties” named by the EPA as being culpable for the Newtown Creek Superfund site.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 6, 2018 at 2:00 pm

asked solicitously

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The purple midnight sun of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Y’know, when Governor Cuomo (or Amazon Andy, as the children of Queens now refer to the Dark Prince of Albany) announced that the new Kosciuszcko Bridge over Newtown Creek was going to receive a spiffy lighting package which would be a part of his “Harbor of Lights” concept, a humble narrator experienced misgivings. Here we are a year or so later, and during that interval I’ve described the K bridge as resembling either a modern day Greek Coffee shop here in Astoria or a Flushing massage parlor’s “Come in, were open” signage on more than one occasion. Commentary has also been offered that the light beams of this installation carry quite high into the air, and on cloudy or foggy nights the luminance from them is visible even from HQ in Astoria – which is some two and change miles away. The bridge people have told me that the LED lighting display is shut off at midnight, but wow are these things bright, and garishly colored.

It’s a purple world, after dark in DUKBO, except in the areas directly surrounding the ongoing work site. There you’ve got bright white stadium lighting staring down at the pavement from on high.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ok, usage of the word “unnatural” is a given in any of the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek, especially the industrial zones of eastern Greenpoint or Maspeth, so it’s a given. At night, it’s pretty much just you and the hundreds of feral cats who populate the shadows around these parts. There was a black cat with blue eyes in the rear wheel socket of the truck in the shot above, but you need to see the shot at full resolution and zoomed all the way in to see the eye shine and hazy outline of the critter. Click through to Flickr and zoom all the way in, if you dare. It’s the corner of Lombardy and Varick, pictured above.

Check out that glowing purple sky! Is it Raganarok, Gö́tterdämmerung, or the long prophecied Endtimes? Can you hear the piper and the drummer?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nope, it’s just the Kosciuszcko Bridge.

When they’re done with the second phase of the project in 2020, which I’m actually pretty stoked for, the plan includes the installation of an additional LED lighting setup on that half of it. Phase 2, as it were, is pretty far along. It’s a second, more or less identical bridge, which will differ from the already open eastern one due to the addition of a bike and pedestrian pathway. If the purple radiation which stains the clouds, as seen above, is doubled…

One shrinks from answers to what that ultra concentration of violet might reveal.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 5, 2018 at 11:00 am

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