The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Photowalks

so dissimilar

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Places to go, no one to see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at Newtown Creek’s LIC tributary, Dutch Kills, a property owner has been clearing away a stand of poison ivy and feral trees which have been occluding views of the turning basin (47th avenue at 29th street). There’s a bit of controversy about the property owner’s plans to erect a fence line here, as it seems to be NYS property, but this is Queens so who cares? If this was North Brooklyn, there’d be hunger strikers and hipster girls would be chaining themselves to the bulkheads. Here, the primary impact on the community is the loss of a good spot for weed smoking used by students from a nearby college and high school.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, Working Harbor Committee did a tour of the Gowanus Bay and Canal which I was onboard for. Conversation with members of the Gowanus Conservancy allowed me to utter aloud one of the “faux pas” for which I am famous. My statement that Newtown Creek is a FAR bigger problem than their troubled waterway was greeted with “oh, here we go.” I explained that its geography, and that Newtown Creek and its tributaries simply occupy more space than the Gowanus. Closest analogy for the Gowanus, in my opinion, is actually Dutch Kills – multitudes of bridges, overflown by a highway, narrow channel, and abandoned bulkheads.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Got me thinking about Luyster Creek and all the other largely abandoned industrial canals in Queens that never get mentioned, of course. Flushing River, Anable Basin, and the rest seldom receive much notice from regulators. They’ve got the Black Mayonnaise and the VOC’s, the CSO’s and PCB’s. Heck, the entire alphabet can found floating around in New York Harbor. Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull is so rich in pesticides that it could likely wipe out every roach in Manhattan.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm

bottomless pit

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NYC is full of bowels, my friends, full of them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Various travels and tribulations cause one such as myself to appear in different sections of the Megalopolis continually, and sometimes the distance is too great to walk in my allotted time. Luckily, most of my travels involve short hops on the Subway, but occasionally the end of the line is where I’m headed. Never a fan of being confined in a dripping wet concrete bunker full of rats and insectivorous life forms, the same discipline used while sitting in a Dentist’s chair is invoked, and I’m able to endure the experience. I’m sure that you, Lords and Ladies, do the same.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is impossible, however, for my mind not to wander. Great effort is made not to make eye contact with the humans who infest this Megalopolis – they are changeable and can often be dangerous – when intervals of travel in these subterranean aluminum and glass boxes are thrust upon me. Often, my thoughts turn to how easy it would be to conceal unpleasantries down here – in some side tunnel or hidden chamber down here in NYC’s guts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Morlocks, dough colored hairless lemurs, or other extant iterations of the monkey tribe could easily exist down here. The possibility of Rat Kings, basilisks, or even goblins existing in great numbers crosses my mind when on a long subway trip. Those hidden galleries, abandoned platforms, and the blue lit emergency exit points which flash by as the train moves along populate my mind with outlandish possibility.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s at the “end of the line” stations where my apprehension grows to unbearable proportion. Recently, on the 5 train as it neared its final destination deep in Brooklyn, the entire car emptied out. For more than three stops, a humble narrator rode alone, expecting some nightmare entity to board the train who would proceed to masticate and ingest me. Another lost soul, who disappeared after entering the system…

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, July 26th, The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek
With Atlas Obscura, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, July 27th, Glittering Realms
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2014 at 11:35 am

from places

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A nap, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This fellow, who was enjoying a nap on the sidewalk of Broadway in Astoria recently, is part of that large group of day laborers who congregate around a paint and hardware store found on the north side of the street between 41st and 42nd. These fellows are just looking to pick up a little work, and many are familiar faces in the neighborhood. Recently, the Salvation Army has been showing up to feed them, which has drawn a few ferals into their group.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s always been a certain “edge” to one or two of these guys, but again, what a man does to earn a living is his own business until it affects me. There’s a good amount of beer (and pizza) consumed by those unlucky enough to have not made the cut who are still on the scene in the afternoon. Old or small or unsavory, these are the guys who weren’t chosen by those passing contractors that employ the group as day laborers, but… working guys default to drinking beer. Some, like this gentleman, prefer the harder stuff and this is becoming an increasingly common sight in Astoria. Some guy passed out on the sidewalk, insensate and with the bottle in his hand, in full view of passing kids.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator is no virgin on the subject of spirits, lords and ladies. One was once able to quaff vast amounts of the stuff, spending entire days in the fog of youthful bacchanal, but not once did I ever find myself unconscious on the pavement (and I really, really tried). The idea of falling asleep on the streets of New York City like this… is terrifying. After capturing these shots, I walked over to the captain of the day labor crew, a fellow adorned with butterfly and “13” tattoos (he acts as translator for the largely Spanish speaking group) and offered “Yo boss, y’all gotta help your man out, he gonna get clipped.” These guys do try to look out for each other, and a couple of them scooped the drunk up and dropped him around the corner, placing him in someone’s driveway so as to provide cover from police attention.

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There are three Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Sunday, June 21st, America’s Workshop
A FREE tour, courtesy of Green Shores NYC, click here for rsvp info

Saturday, June 28th, The Poison Cauldron
With Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, June 29th, The Insalubrious Valley
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 18, 2014 at 10:39 am

old native

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The Carroll Street Bridge, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it so many times on the Newtown Creek “Dutch Kills” tours that I’ve conducted – “The Borden Street Bridge is one of just two retractable bridges in NYC, the other is on Carroll Street over the Gowanus.” Then I go on to talk about Chicago and what a retractable bridge does and why its special, but it occurred to me that I’ve never done a post on the Carroll Street span. Today, the remedy.

Also, just as a note, I’ll be repeating the above quotation on this coming Saturday’s tour, see the link at the bottom of this post for details.

from nyc.gov

The Carroll Street Bridge is a retractile bridge crossing the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. The bridge, which was opened to traffic in 1889, supports a 17 foot wide roadway and two 4.5 foot sidewalks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What’s super cool about the Carroll Street span is the wooden road surfacing that allows vehicular egress over this section of the Gowanus Canal. There’s still one more bridge before the Gowanus reaches its inevitable conclusion, Union Street Bridge, but Carroll is where the industrial canal seems to shallow out and is one of the places where its entire “raison d’être” seems to have been forgotten.

from wikipedia

Retractable bridges date back to medieval times. Due to the large dedicated area required for this type of bridge, this design is not common. A retractable design may be considered when the maximum horizontal clearance is required (for example over a canal).

Two remaining examples exist in New York City (the Carroll Street Bridge (built 1889) in Brooklyn and the Borden Avenue Bridge in Queens).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above are the pulleys and gears which provide locomotive force to the structure, and the aperture into which the roadway actually retracts to allow theoretical maritime egress. The Gowanus Dredgers boat club is nearby, and I suspect that they can tell you everything you’d want to know about the mores and habits exhibited by the NYC DOT engineers who care for and maintain the structure. Business has called me to South Brooklyn all year, and one of the more interesting “Gowanus People” I’ve met is a fellow named Joseph Alexiou, who provides a satisfying historical narrative for the Gowanus.

from tedxgowanus.com

A journalist and history buff, Joseph Alexiou is writing a book about the Gowanus Canal. He is the author of Paris for Dummies and contributing author to Frommer’s Paris 2012 and has written for New York, the New York Press,  New York Observer, Gothamist and Paper Magazine.  He is a former associate editor at Out magazine and has a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somebody else from the Gowanus crew that has impressed the heck out of me is Eymund Diegel. His knowledge of the Gowanus and its hydrology, history, and personality is staggering. Be forewarned and forearmed though, for if you seek his wisdom, bring a notepad or recording device with you – as the cascade of information he offers can be a bit overwhelming.

also from tedxgowanus.com

Eymund Diegel is the chair of Public Laboratory, a citizen science group partnered with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Grassroots Aerial Photography program, where local citizen’s insights help improve Google Earth and City mapping of the neighborhood. As a Gowanus resident, he also helps out at the Hall of the Gowanus, a community historic research resource. Trained as an urban planner with a focus on watershed and environmental planning, he works with other local residents who have been tying digital cameras to kites and balloons to map and reconstruct the Gowanus Canal’s “ghost stream” network.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There’s a Newtown Creek walking tour, and a Magic Lantern show, coming up.

Saturday, June 7th, 13 Steps around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura.
Click here for tickets and more info.

Wednesday, June 11th, Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show with Brooklyn Brainery.
Click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 3, 2014 at 11:00 am

worried faces

with one comment

Would it kill you to smile?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While riding the Subway in New York City, observation of the interesting social behaviors exhibited by the citizenry entertains. There are those who present the “pfft, ain’t no thing” and those who present the “what the hell are you looking at” and also present are the “please, for gods sake, do not notice me” lean. Others pretend to sleep, or stare blankly at the floor (that’s the one which I favor), while a small group of extroverts feel the need to shout and otherwise draw attention unto themselves. Then there’s the buskers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are Mariachi’s, young couples who perpetrate the “gypsy baby” scam, those three kids who dance and perform acrobatics. Worst of all are the religious zealots, whose clumsy attempts at evangelism are enough to drive one into the arms of Satan itself. Skillfully ignoring these buskers and con artists, or not, is what separates the true New Yorker from the tourist. The tourists are the worst, of course, breaking all of the unspoken rules of subway etiquette which “regular” riders subconsciously obey and enforce. Nobody smiles, the MTA has a rule against that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My camera is always at the ready whenever entering these concrete bunkers with their pungent atmospheres, and one of the odd things I’ve noticed in recent years is the reaction some have upon seeing the device. Lens cap on and power switch off, they will stare at the camera in the manner one would watch the countdown clock on a bomb. I don’t understand this. Humans, they’re weird, and need to smile more often.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 2, 2014 at 10:54 am

crush and engulf

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Late again, sorry. Here’s why.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since the weather broke, your humble narrator has lost nary a minute to the Newtown Pentacle, and much in the way of shoe rubber has been expended in the last few days. Saturday, I walked the so called entire “upper creek” (the area of Newtown Creek found between Maspeth Creek and English Kills, which borders Ridgewood and Bushwick). Sunday, I was in Greenpoint all day, but sadly missed getting a shot of that baby seal which turned up at the Newtown Creek Nature Walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Monday (yesterday), I conducted a tour of the lower Creek for a group of film students from Pratt University, and this afternoon, I’m hoping to find some time to pop over to Hell Gate in the hope of capturing some interesting images of maritime traffic.

Recent efforts of note – which appear on external websites – include a series of posts describing the non profit scene of Red Hook on the Red Hook Water Front site, and my coverage of Sunnyside’s St. Pat’s Day for All parade can be found at Brownstoner Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is magnificent, this throwing off of the shackles of ice and snow, and returning to the streets. Conversely, a humble narrator’s physique has largely transformed into a quivering jelly over this long winter, and every muscle in my legs and back are liberally painted with lactic acids. Hopefully, within a few weeks, I’ll be back in fighting condition and enjoy a fineness of fettle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 11, 2014 at 2:42 pm

like shuddering

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Winter is coming? Winter will never leave.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the record, my fear is that a new glacial age has begun, and TV weather reports back up my suspicions. Problem is that I’m not that good with a spear, and when the mastodons return I’m going to get bossed around by a group of hirsute Pachyderms. This sort of humiliation would be fairly typical for me, as your humble narrator is extremely easy to bully, especially by those megafauna which prosper during Ice Ages. Luckily, I can definitely do the cave paintings, so there will be some rationalized utility by which the strong can justify keeping me alive. Of course, this scenario isn’t all that much different from normal life, as there’s always someone trying to boss me around.

from wikipedia

The energy balance of the snowpack itself is dictated by several heat exchange processes. The snowpack absorbs solar shortwave radiation that is partially blocked by cloud cover and reflected by snow surface. A long-wave heat exchange takes place between the snowpack and its surrounding environment that includes overlying air mass, tree cover and clouds. Heat exchange takes place by convection between the snowpack and the overlaying air mass, and it is governed by the temperature gradient and wind speed. Moisture exchange between the snowpack and the overlying air mass is accompanied by latent heat transfer that is influenced by vapor pressure gradient and air wind. Rain on snow can add significant amounts of thermal energy to the snowpack. A generally insignificant heat exchange takes place by conduction between the snowpack and the ground. The small temperature change from before to after a snowfall is a result of the heat transfer between the snowpack and the air. As snow degrades, its surface can develop characteristic ablation textures such as suncups or penitentes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s my own fault, being bullyable, as I was born “less than.” Vast physical cowardice, combined with a naturally ugly mind, renders one somewhat less than a “leader.” It has never been my joy to hit the game running home run, rather I’m the fellow who fouls out and sets up the hero for his or her savior moment at the bottom of the ninth. In an ice age overrun by giant Moose and hairy Elephants, it would be vainglorious to suggest that I’d be of much use to society, and admission is offered that one such as myself would have made a terrible Viking.

from wikipedia

Ice was originally thought to be slippery due to the pressure of an object coming into contact with the ice, creating heat, melting a thin layer of the ice and allowing the object to glide across the surface. For example, the blade of an ice skate, upon exerting pressure on the ice, would melt a thin layer, providing lubrication between the ice and the blade. This explanation, called “pressure melting”, originated in 19th century. It however did not account for skating on ice temperatures lower than −3.5 °C, which skaters often skate upon.

In the 20th century an alternative explanation, called “friction heating,” was proposed, whereby friction of the material was the cause of the ice layer melting. However, this theory also failed to explain skating at low temperature. Neither sufficiently explained why ice is slippery when standing still even at below-zero temperatures.

It is now believed that ice is slippery because ice molecules in contact with air cannot properly bond with the molecules of the mass of ice beneath (and thus are free to move like molecules of liquid water). These molecules remain in a semi-liquid state, providing lubrication regardless of pressure against the ice exerted by any object. However, the significance of this hypothesis is disputed by experiments showing a high coefficient of friction for ice using atomic force microscopy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps my bag in this new Cryosphere, or snowball Earth, will be to handle the weaker animals which will populate the nooks and crannies of our world. This wouldn’t put any meaningful protein on the table, but would be a service sought out by others by which some occupation could be found. Squashing bugs and chasing rodentine manifestations would at least keep me busy enough to stay warm. Also, like the Mongols, I could wear clothes made of sewn up amalgamations of Mouse leather.

from wikipedia

Ice sheets are bigger than ice shelves or alpine glaciers. Masses of ice covering less than 50,000 km2 are termed an ice cap. An ice cap will typically feed a series of glaciers around its periphery.

Although the surface is cold, the base of an ice sheet is generally warmer due to geothermal heat. In places, melting occurs and the melt-water lubricates the ice sheet so that it flows more rapidly. This process produces fast-flowing channels in the ice sheet — these are ice streams.

The present-day polar ice sheets are relatively young in geological terms. The Antarctic Ice Sheet first formed as a small ice cap (maybe several) in the early Oligocene, but retreating and advancing many times until the Pliocene, when it came to occupy almost all of Antarctica. The Greenland ice sheet did not develop at all until the late Pliocene, but apparently developed very rapidly with the first continental glaciation. This had the unusual effect of allowing fossils of plants that once grew on present-day Greenland to be much better preserved than with the slowly forming Antarctic ice sheet.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 12, 2014 at 11:02 am

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