The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘photowalk

oddly enough

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It’s National Mousse Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found one heading in the uncharacteristic direction of eastwards. The aperitif of my evening meal was found planning the journey from the rolling hills of Astoria via the IND R line, riding it out to the Roosevelt Avenue stop in Jackson Heights, where a transfer to the IRT Flushing Line would be enacted. The menu for the night offered but one entree, and it was called “Flushing.” The filthy black raincoat was flapping about as one entered the caverns below and traveled through a Queensican tunnel within a hurtling metal box stuffed to the gills with the huddled masses. My plan worked out, a lucky break in the big City.

Often has one opined that the 7 line is the most photogenic of NYC’s subway lines, and nobody has ever risen up to challenge the assertion to my face. She’s a looker, old Lucky 7, and always reminds me of that feeling you get when arriving home and smell a a roast chicken dinner hitting the table just as you unlock the door. She’s apple pie, the bees knees, but always remember that she’s complicated. The 7 ain’t no pushover, baby.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst onboard the 7, assigning gender roles to subway lines and listening to an “old time radio” adaption of some Raymond Chandler style story on my headphones, one began to do what he does to pass the time whilst commuting. I set the camera to a fairly narrow aperture (f8) and fast shutter speed (1/1600th) and pointed it out the window. Focusing on a far away object, the “spray and pray” method of photographic endeavor was enacted. Wasn’t looking for anything in particular, mind you, other than a different point of view than you get at ground level.

The narrow aperture – by the way – involves an optical something called “hyperfocal distance,” the high shutter speed was to compensate for the movement of the train, and the ISO speed depended solely on the needs of exposure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m fairly ignorant about Flushing, as has been mentioned more than once. I know the broad stroke stuff, of course. orchards, and remonstrances, and Flushing Creek, and the railroad. I’m just not “granular” about Flushing, which is where I like to be. Haven’t yet found my usual collection of oddities, occultists, or riddled occlusions in the historical record of Flushing that one such as myself thrives on. There’s got to be a necromancy story in Flushing history, I tell you.

Did you know that there have been several UFO sightings in Flushing Meadow Corona Park, going all the way back to the 1960’s? Y’see, that’s MY kind of thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Flushing Creek in the shot above, which makes Newtown Creek look like Coney Island in terms of free public access to the waterfront. This is one of the spots where the “House of Robert Moses” landed heavily and then just left. The highways, the park, the airport, even the Verrazano Bronx Whitestone Bridge on the horizon are the “House of Moses.”

The Flushing Creek (aka Flushing River) was the subject of three very early Newtown Pentacle posts from 2009. These postings describe what I saw while onboard a boat heading into the waterway – one, two, and three.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Arriving at the 7 line’s terminal stop at Main Street in Flushing, one scuttled through the throbbing masses of the downtown area. One thing I CAN tell you about Flushing is that it is packed to the gills with people, particularly in the zone around Main Street. Herds of humans staring into little rectangles of glowing glass stalk these parts, bolting forward in blind furies as soon as the street lights change, and if one is not wary he might become trampled by an incoming wall of meat.

My pal Dr. Jack, who is more conventionally known as Official Queens Borough Historian Dr. Jack Eichenbaum, lives nearby. On more than one occasion he’s pointed out how relatively narrow the sidewalks and pedestrian pathways here in Flushing are in comparison to the vehicle section of the public way. Add in a level of real estate industrial complex activity that rivals what’s happening in Long Island City, and you’ve got throngs of people and an actual pedestrian traffic problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My eventual destination in Flushing was at a “Green Drinks Queens” get together at the Leaf Cafe rooftop bar.

Green Drinks Queens is being organized by my pal Erik Baard, and along a few of our mutual friends I’ve committed to attending and “doing” the events. Next one will be sometime in the first quarter of 2018, I think. I had to circulate amongst and probably annoy the folks who attended, acting as if I could carry a conversation with real people, and my main function was introducing people to other people. There was a pretty nice sized crowd, which was probably due to partnering up with the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce in producing the thing. The aforementioned Dr. Jack Eichenbaum was there, as were Dragon Boaters, and the “bicycle people” as well.

I did find a couple of minutes here and there to wave the camera about during the evening, and use that new mini tripod gizmo I mentioned a couple of days ago for a few long exposure shots looking westwards towards the Shining City of Manhattan.

Incidentally, I’ve been to precisely two of the new rooftop bar/lounges in Flushing, and the views from both have been absolutely spectacular – but causation is neither proof nor correlation. I now feel that I’ve a duty to visit more of them.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 30, 2017 at 11:00 am

evidently not

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It’s National Chocolates Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An often wished for super power would be the ability to simply become invisible, or undetectable by casual observers. Since that won’t happen, barring some revolution in technology based camouflage, one instead skulks around in plain sight. To be seen by so many diminishes me.

The new NYC Ferry service has really been occupying a bit of my skulking time of late, and it has increased geographic range quite a bit. They don’t exactly advertise it, but if you buy a ticket on… say the Astoria Line… you can go the onboard snack bar and request a transfer ticket to get on one of the other lines. This essentially makes it entirely possible to get to Rockaway from Western Queens for only $2.75 by water, which kind of rocks. Generally speaking, I’m on boats doing NY Harbor or Newtown Creek tours all summer long, but in recent years I’ve been tethered to the microphone while narrating the event and seldom get a minute to wave the camera around anymore. Whereas I literally “love” this sort of tour narrator occupation, it’s been really nice for the last few weeks to keep my mouth shut and just get down to shooting whenever I’m out on the water.

Just east of the Verrazano Bridge, this little quartet of working vessels was recently observed. From the left, that’s a Miller’s Launch work boat, the Scott Turecamo tugboat, the New Hampshire fuel barge, and the cargo ship is the Nave Ariadne fuel tanker.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has not exactly been shooting a lot of tugboats during the last year, as I’ve grown somewhat jaded to the splendor of the maritime industrial scene in recent months. There’s only so many ways you can frame a tugboat in your shot, after all, but I just couldn’t resist the view of the Marjorie B. McAllister tug in the shot above as it transited beneath the Brooklyn Bridge with the Statue of Liberty off in the distance.

Personally, I find the Statue aesthetically pleasing. How often can you say that about a French woman who sports a 354 foot waistline as well as a four and a half foot long nose?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been known to kill an entire day in recent weeks riding back and forth on the new NYC Ferry, transiting between Rockaway and Astoria. In subsequent intervals, one plans on actually debarking the boat at a few of its mid route destinations, with a visit to the dock at Sunset Park forming into a particular set of desires.

Weather depending, sometime soon I plan on waking up early to do a sunrise transit to Rockaway. Then I’ll take the boat to Sunset Park and spend the late morning and afternoon scuttling about, followed by a setting sun trip back to Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a Bouchard tug spotted nearby Gerritsen Bay, just south east of the Verrazano Bridge. It’s an articulated fuel barge and tug, which means that there are cables full of electronic signaling equipment which run between the barge and tug in a “notch” engineered into the former, which the bow of the latter fits and connects into. It allows the crew to control the tug barge combination as if it was a cohesive and singular unit. As Bugs Bunny might have said: “dat’s Modern Design, ay?”.

Something I get, a lot, is: “Dude, how do you remember all of this stuff? You’ve just got it in your head.” I can report to you that I know less than 5% of all there is to know, just along the East River. There’s corridors on the water – Newtown Creek for instance – that I know a LOT about, but even there there’s always something new to glean.

I learn something new every single day. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m still figuring out the block I live on in Astoria, after all.

It’s been an odd few weeks here in the ancient village. The armies of chaos who transit through here on a regular basis have been shifting around a bit in size, character, and sort of late. Just heard a disturbing story last night which saw a female friend of mine show up at HQ with two black eyes, another last week from a local Pizza shop owner who found his shop in the middle of what he described as a “Mexican riot” at two in the morning, and large groups of teenagers have been riding bicycles together. Recently, I saw a baby who had one eyebrow that stretched from eye to eye right over the nose, and a pair of dogs who were wearing shoes and coats. I also saw someone walking a cat on a leash.

The world is a scary place, but I’m ok because I’m hiding behind a camera where nobody can see me.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2017 at 11:00 am

reconised from

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It’s National French Toast Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was on my way to the ferry one recent morning, but had to make a quick stop nearby Queens Plaza. Lotsa running around, me. The light bouncing around in Queens Plaza caught my eye, however.

That’s the Rosenwasser Bros. factory at the right hand side of the shot, all illuminated by one of the shiny mirror box condo towers being built in Queens Plaza. It’s Orchard street, by the way, corner of Jackson Avenue. The Rosenwassers were magnates in the rag trade who started out – like many Jewish garment tycoons – in the shirtwaist industry of Lower Manhattan. Running what 21st century eyes would process as a sweatshop, they accumulated enough money to set up a large industrial combine in Queens shortly after the Queensboro bridge opened in 1909, and enjoyed several military as well as civilian contracts. By 1913, they were an established and well known Queensican company run by its President, Morris Rosenwasser, which offered baseball cleats (sold under Babe Ruth branding) and scouting equipment to retailers.

At its height in 1918, the Rosenwasser Company employed some 2,500 people. During the First World War, the firm enjoyed several valuable contracts with the Federal Government. The factory in Queens Plaza turned out an average of 6,000 pairs of shoes a day, 15,000 pairs of leggings, and an undetermined number of canvas gas masks, rucksacks, and other commodities for the war department. A so called “open shop,” the Rosenwassers were prime movers in a case (Rosenwasser Bros. Inc. v. Pepper et al, NYS Supreme Court October 1918) which defined the rights and limitations of organized labor during wartime for a generation.

Who knew?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Welfare Island Bridge opened, officially, on May 18, 1955. We know it as the Roosevelt Island Bridge.

Like the nearby Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, which was erected in the same era, Frederick H. Zurmuhlen of the Dept. of Public Works oversaw the design and construction of the Welfare Island Bridge. One of the unsung men who built the modern city, Zurmuhlen served under three mayors and one Robert Moses.

The Welfare Island Bridge, known to modernity as the Roosevelt Island Bridge, has recently undergone a refurbishment and makeover. Much was made of the cosmetic improvements to the span, but the reality of the investment was a determination that in case of a seismic event – which the City of New York is long overdue for – the Bridge would suffer catastrophic damage. A massive earthquake is one of the unspoken horrors which the City government had been quietly planning for during the twelve year tenure of Michael Bloomberg, something which that Mayor’s office would be applauded for were it more widely known. A tip of the hat goes out to the municipal engineers and planners for both their discretion and the secretive work which they had been performing. Of course, that sort of thing went out the window when the Dope From Park Slope showed up.

As far as the current Mayor… he’s busy trying to build “affordable” waterfront housing that starts at $3,700 for a one bedroom. A highly technical description of NYC’s earthquake risk factors, as prepared and offered in 1998 by the NY State DOT, can be accessed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were captured from the NYC Ferry’s Astoria line, which is one of the few things that I consider the current Mayor as having done well in his first term. Of course, I can tell you that I’d been hearing about this expansion of the East River Ferry service in harbor circles for years, and can quietly point you at certain employees of the NYCEDC who handed the current Mayor a finished plan for him to put his name on the day he got into office, but regardless – if you haven’t ridden the new ferry from Astoria yet, what are you waiting for? You paid for it, you might as well use it. The experience is pretty cool, and it’s only $2.75.

Pictured above is a section of the Big Allis power plant, with the sapphire megalith of LIC peeking through some of its works. Big Allis supplies about 16% of NYC’s electricity, and was the first million kilowatt generating facility in the entire country. Built at the behest of Consolidated Edison, Big Allis (aka Ravenswood Number Three) first went online in 1965. Upon activation, the
dynamos of Big Allis were reduced to slag by the heat issuing from within its massive, natural gas driven turbines. Six months later, a rebuilt system managed to withstand a full hour and twenty seven minutes of these cosmic forces before it too went out of commission for a further four months. The problem was diagnosed by experts and teams of engineers being caused by a malfunctioning bearing which was producing concatenation and vibrations.

Did you know that Big Allis was originally meant to be a nuclear plant?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Queensboro Bridge, pictured above, looking back along the shoreline of Queens at the border of Hunters Point and Ravenswood. The borders between these areas are always hazy, and are often the subject of debate amongst those with an appreciation for times past and things forgotten. I’ve coined the term “angle” to describe these blended neighborhoods; Blissville and West Maspeth, Woodside and Sunnyside, Astoria and Elmhurst etc. In the case of Blissville and Maspeth, the Koscisuzcko Bridge sits on the exact border between the two… but where does Woodside start and Sunnyside end? Even worse, where does Winfield fit into the puzzle? Angles, I tell you, angles.

At least along the East River, things are fairly simple – Astoria, Ravenswood, Hunters Point – from north to south.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You’ve got a lot of “sub zones” as well in those East River neighborhoods in Queens, the Astoria Ferry Line leaves from Lawrence or Astoria Point at Hallets Cove, and the “north side” ferry dock pictured in LIC above is found alongside future superfund site Anable Basin. A hundred years ago, the area where all of those shiny new residential towers pictured above sit in modernity was once the property of the Standard Oil Company and hosted a pretty large parcel of petroleum oriented equipment, chemical and paint factories, and one or two large oil canning operations.

There was also the Ward and Co. Oil and Lard mill back there, which is one of those late 19th and early 20th century industrial operations whose occupation and business… well… common usage would describe it as “Dickensian.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s always difficult to do justice to the East River.

The bridges, the history… it’s a maritime corridor in which so much happened that it’s often hard to believe. In many ways, it’s where American capitalism “figured itself out.” In the 18th and early 19th centuries, it’s where the slave ships were built over on the Manhattan side. It’s where the financial powers which would become “Wall Street” began issuing the credit documents and bills of laiding recognized by the European colonial powers, where the first modern steel hulled and steam powered ships were built, and where profiting from the “five black arts” were perfected and practiced.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

cryptic formulae

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It’s National Bavarian Cream Pie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Pentacle in back in session.

Aimless, a wandering mendicant found himself recently at a juncture. It’s always been my practice to follow instinct when out on a photowalk, but during those times when my schedule is tightly packed, the efficiency of a given route often trumps the voice of that little birdy that instructs one to turn left or right. Binary logic trees tumble forth from out of these choices – if I go left it takes me towards… – if I go right, I’m heading for… – and so on. Recent interludes have allowed one the temporal freedom to acknowledge and follow the advice of the voices in my head, which is how I ended up on the 7 train one recent afternoon.

This section of the glorious IRT Flushing – or 7 line – was built in a few distinct stages, here in Queens. It wasn’t until 1928 that the line reached its modern terminal destination in Flushing. The stops between LIC and the City (Grand Central Station in Manhattan, Hunters Point Avenue, Court Square, Vernon Jackson, and Queensboro Plaza) having opened in 1915. The second section to open was the QB Plaza to 103rd st./Alburtis Avenue section, and that happened on the 21st of April in 1917. I helped organize the centennial event for that anniversary, btw, with Access Queens and the NY Transit Museum.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A productive habit one has acquired over the years, while researching and writing about the garlands of municipal wonder stitched large across the geographies of the Newtown Pentacle, is to take note of historic anniversaries recorded in the historical record and then to set up a calendar item on my phone which repeats annually. After all this time, I seem to have developed the beginnings of an “On this day in NYC history…” database. So much of what we think of as “nyc” was built or created in the 1900-1940 era, one predicts that attending centennial celebrations are about to become quite a common experience.

I’ve been lucky enough to be at the center of several of these sorts of events over the years. I worked on the Queensboro Bridge and Madison Avenue Bridge centennials, was a parade marshall for the Manhattan and Hunters Point Avenue Bridge events, and as mentioned – helped organize the Access Queens IRT Flushing Line Corona Extension event.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Digressions aside, my impulse to climb up the stairs to and purchase a ride on the 7 train towards Queens Plaza allowed a visual vantage point to photograph the Sunnyside Yards, which is always a plus. Often, when riding elevated lines, I’ll pick out the cleanest window on the side of the subway which is shadowed by the sun and set the camera to an infernally fast shutter speed and narrow aperture (with commensurate compensation for ISO, of course) for a “spray and pray” series of shots recording whatever is passed by. Adoption of a weird physical posture is called for, during which one’s body is used as little more than a shock absorber and camera support. The particular one used by a humble narrator usually results in more than a little discomfort in the lower back and the beginnings of a cramp in my right foot.

Most of what you get are throwaway shots, incidentally, but with digital photography you’ve got no reason not to experiment constantly except when available card memory is short or battery life is limited.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a few shots in today’s post, notably the first and last, which were “experimental” in terms of using a newly acquired bit of kit. In recent years, work on developing the skill set, and collecting the “bright” lenses, to negate the necessitude of using camera supports like tripods has been undertaken. One has been somewhat successful in this endeavor, so a minor investment at a recent camera show resulted in the acquisition of a truly transportable tripod. This sturdy gizmo barely qualifies as a “tabletop” unit, but it weighs virtually nothing and can be carried around in a coat pocket. Despite its dimunition; the unit has a ball head, supports the weight of my standard carry around lenses, and sets up rather quickly.

As mentioned above – the Newtown Pentacle is, indeed, back in session.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

artisanal hatred

with one comment

It’s National Scrapple Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having fairly few tasks at hand the other night, one announced to Our Lady of the Pentacle that a dark light photowalk was in the offing, but that I was going to stay local and would be back in an hour or so. The first rumblings of some viral infection were on the horizon, and I figured that if I didn’t go out for a short walk with the tripod and camera while still relatively well… I would regret it as I suffered through the virus for the next couple of days.

I’m excellent at suffering.

Partially it’s Jewish tradition, this being good at suffering thing. I’m really into the operatic side of it all though. Since I seldom get sick, when I do… it’s pretty bad… so why not wallow in the misery and suffer like a boss?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted this neighbor sleeping on a park bench along Northern Blvd. If you not savvy at reading the occluded messaging of NYC’s streets, there’s a whole story at work in this shot which isn’t the “homeless” trope. Those are new, clean clothes on display – which also color match. A newish leather bag was serving as a pillow, and there were no carts of possessions in view. There are three hypotheses which one can offer:

  • One is that this person was tired and needed a quick nap.
  • Two is that this person needed to get out of their domicile, or couldn’t go back to their domicile for some unknown reason.
  • Three is that this person is dead, as I had the shutter open for about thirty seconds and they never moved or twitched.

Whatever the reason, I moved on. If this individual was actually dead, at my age you’d just say “at least it ain’t me,” and get on with it. Which is what I did, as the suffering was beginning to present itself, and the last thing I needed was to explain to a bunch of cops why I was wandering about on Northern Blvd. with a camera, at night, when I had discovered a corpse across the street from Guitar Center.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, I was more than a little bored whilst waiting for the expected suffering to set in, hence a shot of the unbelievable amounts of garbage piled up on and around the corner collection basket on my block.

Notice the sewer in the left side of the shot? I’ll have you know that one of the biggest issues which the DEP (water and sewer) has to deal with is garbage swept into the sewer system. Now, you can’t expect people to change their behavior on this front around Astoria or most of Westrn Queens. A lot of this heap is actually household trash emanating from the hundreds of illegal basement apartments around these parts. If left on the curb in front of an actual address, Sanitation Inspector reports about abundant trash coming from what should be just a two family house will lead DOB (buildings) to investigate and fine the building owner for an illegal conversion and likely put the tenants out on the street. Hence the abundance of household trash at the collection basket, right next to the sewer.

The question I ask continually is “if trash getting swept into the sewers is such a big issue, why does the DSNY (garbage) put the collection bins literally right on top of the sewers?”

I pondered all of this as a semi delirious, painful, and sleep deprived state of suffering set in over the next 48 hours during which I behaved like a total diva.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

strange chemicals

with one comment

It’s National Harvey Wallbanger Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My colleague at Newtown Creek Alliance, Will Elkins, does a formal survey of Newtown Creek and its tributaries about once a week from the vantage point offered by a small boat outfitted with an electrically driven motor. Will collects water samples which are sent off for laboratory analysis to ascertain bacterial levels in the water, and looks around at the shorelines for evidence of this or that. I do a less formal survey of the creeklands, which is performed on foot, and documented using a camera. Will is NCA’s Navy, which I guess makes me a Marine? I dunno, just some shmuck with a camera is all I’ve ever claimed to be.

Last week, a humble narrator was perambulating around Dutch Kills, in Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing I can tell you about LIC that’s seriously changed in the last decade is the presence of large groups of people. Ten years ago, this stretch of 29th street (which is technically not a city street, but rather a “railroad access road”) bordering the turning basin of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek was absolutely deserted except for me and the folks who work in the surviving industrial buildings hereabouts. These days, 29th street has become the de facto spot for students from the various charter high schools, and LaGuardia community kids, who attend school nearby in the former “Degnon Terminal” to go “smoke a bowl.” There were about five or six distinct groups of them when these shots were being captured, whom were carefully not framed in to my shots.

Personally, I’ve got zero issues with people getting stoned on weed – I went to art school, after all, and grass smells a whole lot better to me than Dutch Kills does – but one is concerned ultimately about youthful inebriates ecstatically mucking around in an area known for its environmental degradation, lack of sidewalks, and heavy trucking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was low tide when I was walking the bulkheads – and if I can say that I have a favorite sediment mound – the one pictured above is it. This shot, and the ones following, were captured from the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

For those of you not clued into the Newtown Creek story, the natural bottom of the waterway is anywhere from thirty to forty feet below the surface. A lack of “flow” and the presence of several large “combined sewer outfalls” has built up a bed of sediments which lie some 15-20 feet thick. These sediments – which are a layer cake of municpal horrors that include heavy industrial runoff, as well as everything that has ever been swept into the sewer grates of Brooklyn and Queens, are commonly referred to as “black mayonnaise.” The specific mission of the Federal EPA, regarding the Superfund situation, is to remove or remediate this sediment bed found in the waterway.

In certain places – especially along the “dead end” tributaries like Maspeth Creek, English Kills, and Dutch Kills – the black mayonnaise shoals up along the bulkheads and at low tide ends up becoming exposed to the air. Doesn’t matter how pungent the weed being smoked nearby is when these sediment mounds are upwind, they’re soon all that you can smell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the angle of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is right, the water column is illuminated at Dutch Kills, which was canalized into a more or less north/south trajectory about a hundred years back. Prior to that, it was a compromised but still natural wetland environment with flood plains and swampy edges. Vital wetlands, we’d call ’em – back in the 19th and early 20th centuries they were called “Waste Meadows.”

Visible in the shot above are some of the queer jellies which form just under the surface along Dutch Kills’ bulkheads, which are likely bacterial or fungal mats suspended in the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the western shoreline, enormous electrical cables emerge from the masonry of the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, whose purpose is to power the single bascule drawbridge. I’ve seen Army Corps of Engineers reports stating that sampling of the shoal and sediment in Dutch Kills revealed the presence of Typhus, Cholera, and Gonnorhea extant in the mud down there. I haven’t seen that confirmed during the Superfund process, but there’s so much data about the biota of the Newtown Creek emerging that I could have missed it.

More sediment “mounding” is apparent, along with something fairly unexpected – evidence of “high” mammalian wild life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m a city boy, of course, but those tracks in the poisonous mud of Dutch Kills look like raccoon to me. I found a disembowelled raccoon on this span not too long ago, which is why I was thinking about the “trash pandas” while observing these paw prints, but again – City Boy.

For any of you “country kids” reading this, what would you say that track was left by?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A curious new addition to the black mayonnaise was noticed on this particular walk around Dutch Kills, a series of terra cotta dishes or pots, some of which were adorned with an intricate pattern.

The question of “why would somebody make the effort to travel all the way to this odd corner of NYC just to discard terra cotta pots with intricate patterns into the waters of Dutch Kills, instead of just putting them out on the curb with the rest of their household garbage” must be discarded. There are things you just don’t want to know the answer to, and mystery in the age of Google is something to be preserved and embraced.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 8, 2017 at 11:00 am

systematic collection

with one comment

It’s National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So – last week I had a few things to do over in the Hunters Point section of LIC on a particular afternoon. A short and rapid scuttle ensued, one which saw a humble narrator hurtling south towards Skillman Avenue in a staggering pursuance of arrival in certain points found westwards of the almond eyed Astoria he calls home. Avoidance of perambulatory transit through Queens Plaza has become a “thing” for me, as the alternative route – using Jackson Avenue – is less visually interesting, and is also a somewhat harrowing journey on foot due to omnipresent construction and heavy vehicular activity.

Besides – I have zero opportunity to shoot shots of trains using the Jackson Avenue route, and I know where just about every hole in the fenceline along the Sunnyside Yards can be found. I always advise those dear to me to “stand behind something” while waiting for the traffic signals to change and allow access to cross this Northern Boulevard, I would mention, so in the interest of practicing what I preach – one ducked down and cowered behind a fire hydrant (pictured above). 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

OK – Steinway Street in Astoria is analogous to 39th street in Sunnyside, and the two are connected by one of several truss bridges that span the Sunnyside Yards. It’s actually fairly “good cardio” walking over the 39th street span if you lean into it and push towards the apogee of the thing. At the top of the arch, there’s a worker access road that would carry Amtrak and other railroad employees down into the railyard, and that’s where I spotted a percussionist practicing his craft.

Naturally – One did not wish to interrupt his reverie, so I cannot describe who the fellow was, but he was positively “rocking out.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Observedly – It was a three piece drum set which this gentleman had set up for himself, and despite having noticed a humble narrator photographing him, he never skipped a beat.

Y’know – This sort of drum kit is relatively modern in origin, and whereas it is quite familiar to modern eyes, it was only originated in the 1860’s. It’s called a “trap drum” or “double drumming” kit, and prior to the semi modern era, each one of the instruments on view (base, cymbal, snare) would have required an individual musician to operate. The trap drum innovation was conducive to the development of the musical schools of ragtime, jazz, and rock-n-roll, I’m told.

But – I digress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Then – Although I wish I could tell you that one got caught up in the wild al fresco rhythms offered by this anonymous percussionist, as mentioned at the top of the post – I had things to do and places to be. Utilizing one of those aforementioned holes big enough to stick a lens through – in the fences of the Sunnyside Yards – and which I keep a constantly updated mental map of, to capture a shot of Amtrak’s Acela train passing through the Harold Interlocking on its way towards Manhattan. It’s the busiest train junction in the United States, actually, the Harold Interlocking. The Mayor wants to build luxury housing upon a deck on top of it. Please vote for someone else today.

Ultimately – I had places to go, and headed west into the setting sun, scuttling along with a camera in hand.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 7, 2017 at 11:00 am

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