The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Pickman

sealed up

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Better late than never?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the single shot today, but my schedule got the better of me. Back tomorrow with something that won’t leave you hungry an hour later.

Pictured is thirty seconds of recorded light and time on Astoria’s Broadway.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2020 at 2:30 pm

was unyielding

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Lurking through Astoria, always in fear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One attended a presentation by Tom Grech, show runner and the head poobah of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, last week at the offices of Community Board 1 here in Astoria. Tom, whom I’ve known for some time now, described his organization’s operation and history to the gathered members of this particular committee (I’m attending at least one meeting of every CB1 committee in addition to the two I’m actually assigned to – which are environmental and transit). Tom also explored some of the economic conditions, situations, and challenges here in the World’s Borough, and listened to experiential anecdotes from a gathered group which included several local business owners. All in all, a positive and optimistic conversation. The meeting ended, and despite several people offering me a ride home in their automobiles, one opted instead on scuttling back to HQ and photographing interesting sights encountered along the way.

This is my way.

This particular predicate is offered to explain why one such as myself was wandering around the Grand Central Parkway in the late evening recently, as I’m forced these days into excusing and explaining my activities, motivations, and very existence to any random petitioner who might inquire. Advice is often graciously offered to a humble narrator as well by well wishers – about how to right his life, conform to societal norms, or prepare for an uncertain future. A wandering mendicant remain I.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A trench carved out of Astoria carries the Grand Central Parkway, a principal arterial high speed road designed to funnel Manhattan bound automotive traffic – pulsing out of Nassau and Suffolk counties – towards the toll plazas of the Triborough Bridge. According to a 2015 study by the NYC DOT, approximately 165,000 vehicle trips are calculated as occurring along the Grand Central Parkway daily. The Grand Central Parkway is found entirely within the Borough of Queens, is roughly 14.6 miles long, was created in 1936, and its designation as a parkway is due to it once having wooded land on either side of the road that was publicly accessible. A widening project in 1961 eliminated the “park” concept, but the name “parkway” is still used. If I had my way, you’d see this road decked over, with parks built on the local streets grade level.

One was drawing attention to himself while photographing these shots, notably from a Police Officer who was lying in wait for speeding vehicles. There is an air of vulnerability in this section of Astoria, a sense of “nowhere to run or hide,” and the sure knowledge that if trouble arrived you’d be dealing with it all on your own. Well, on this night, I’d have that Cop who was eyeballing me, but… The streets surrounding the Grand Central hereabouts are part of an “IBZ” or Industrial Business Zone, and therefore deserted at night. Damaged throwaways, lunatics, addicts, nefarious ruffians, and social outsiders like myself wander about the area at night. Everywhere do the cyclopean eyes of security cameras scan and record.

It was cold, dark, and I had to make pee pee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The local street elevation provides an interesting window for a long exposure exploration of how traffic flow patterns play out in the “real world.” In the near future, should those postdeluvian prognostications of the scholarly climatologists come true, this will be the site of a Grand Central Canal, filled with six to ten feet of water. Imagine what sort of battrachian monstrosities will be spotted swimming in its depths of this trench, having migrated out of Long Island Sound and the northern stretches of the East River.

In a century, will we see hundreds of thousands of amphibious watercraft moving to and from Manhattan along this stretch of the Grand Central? What of the tentacled horrors which would lurk in its voluminous murk? Will this be the Astoria Abyss?


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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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January 13, 2020 at 11:00 am

beyond certain

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Flat out in the hood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, while scuttling down Northern Blvd., a group of teenagers walked by. One reacted badly to their presence, and although I was able to maintain a placid facade of indifference as they passed, it wasn’t long after that a humble narrator swooned down onto the pavement in a paroxysm of panic. It has been a while since my vast reservoir of physical cowardice initiated “one of my states,” but you take the good with the bad I always say. Adolescents are unpredictable and possibly ferocious creatures, after all, and despite the fact that this particular group didn’t seem to be over 14 years in age, nor over 100 pounds in weight, their threatening nature was clearly implied. Two of the females in particular seemed like they might be rather mean spirited, and apt to utter comments of the cutting variety. I managed to maintain composure until they disappeared from view, whereupon I then fell into a triggered heap. I’m not meant to be around the humans, particularly the young ones.

Of course, in my neck of the woods here in Queens, it’s become a rather common sight to see a grown man passed out on the sidewalk, so… Nobody cares.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been fastidious about his return to regular perambulatory pursuits, and on the night these images were captured, a perfunctory local route was chosen. The veritable spring is returning to one’s step, after the broken toe drama which defined the last months of 2019, but muscle tone has definitely degraded during my recovery period. Daily scuttling is required, therefore. A minimum interval of 4-5 miles a day dedicated photowalking time is my goal, although inclement weather can easily derail that routine. So can the sudden and jarring appearance of young adolescents.

After picking myself up from that puddle of tears one shed during the nervous fit, the camera began to be actuated again, a pursuit which corrected ones mood. Several years ago, a group of 12 year olds so thoroughly spooked me that I hid behind a tombstone in Maspeth’s Mt. Zion cemetery for so long that I narrowly avoided getting locked into the facility by its attendants. Amongst men, I am no fierce lion, rather am I tremulous, a fainting goat.

One such as myself is meant for the gentle pursuits of the parlor, and controlled circumstance. No surprises, either. I’m delicate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way back to HQ here in Astoria, several lumbering steps carried me up to the hoary hills of Newtown Road, where a smallish green house has always demanded a certain fascination. The property hosts a driveway set onto a path diagonal to the street grid, and it very well might be a remnant of “Old Ridge Road.” This enigmatic structure is found at the corner of 46th street if you want to examine it for yourself. There’s are obvious additions welded onto an older structure (see the diagonal roofed section, for instance), but you can still see the rugged outline of a small farmhouse in the central section.

Another group of adolescents were noticed approaching from the direction of Woodside, silhouetted lasciviously by street lamps, and from deep within a humble narrator did a wave of anticipate panic begin to rise. One spun on his heels while they were still several blocks away, and I walked at a quick pace back towards the safety of HQ, with its layers of stoutly locked doors.


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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

January 10, 2020 at 11:00 am

intimate circle

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Bulging and watery… eyes staring in from the darkness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

How I’ve missed industrial Maspeth, at night, with its creepy unlit streets and often nonexistent sidewalks. The blind turns, the odiferous hint of marijuana oozing from the windows of passing cars, the discarded liquor bottles and illegal dumping… its been way too long, Queens.

Speaking of too long, as I mentioned at the start of this four day travelogue, I had left HQ in Astoria and scuttled over to the Kosciuszcko Bridge in pursuit of communion with my beloved Newtown Creek. As I was shooting the particular image above, it was noticed that my camera battery had only one bar of charge left in it. Additionally realized was that the first few drops of a prophesied rain event were beginning to pitter and patter into the automotive soot and finely shattered glass which forms those dusty dunes adorning the broken pavement of industrial Maspeth.

That’s odd, thought I, regarding the battery. Ok, I had been doing long exposure tripod shots for a bit, and it was medium cold out, but I so seldom have to change a battery “in the field” that it struck me as weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

No matter though, as a few quick actuations saw me sliding a fresh battery into the camera. I’ve always got at least one extra battery with me, one in the camera sack and another in a pants pocket. I got back to shooting, here along that malignant saraband which carrying automotive traffic between 43rd and 48th streets known as 54th Avenue, which intersects with an off ramp of the Long Island Expressway. This is a corner which the NYC DOT has missed changing the luminaire head of their street lamp over to the modern LED type, and an old style sodium lamp is pushing out orange illumination contrasting with the cold blue light of the newer system. Colormetrics! What fun. Go Mets, huh?

This is when I realized that all of the aches and pains which have been bedeviling me for the last few months had receded into an anhedonic amnesia. If you saw a creepy old guy in a black raincoat on the side of the road last week, cackling to himself briefly while working a camera, that was me feeling like me again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Making way towards Sunnyside, the rain began to drizzle insistently and I decided to had back to HQ in Astoria. One last shot of industrial Maspeth was recorded… that’s actually the corner where an Orthodox Yeshiva stood at the start of the 20th century. For some reason, the presence of a religious academy of that persuasion being based here/then is incongruous to me, and it’s story is something that’s on my research list. More to come at some point hence.

By the time I arrived at Queens Blvd., the drizzle had begun to set up into a proper rain and I decided to pull out my phone and summon a ride for the remaining interval. Somehow I had lost track of time, or perhaps I’m experiencing some sort of Newtown Creek induced missing time, as the clock revealed that it was 3 in the morning.

I was out and alone at the witching hour, in the rain, on a moonless night… and this too was… nepenthe.


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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

January 9, 2020 at 11:00 am

surprising volume

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A whole lot of garbage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The high flying pedestrian and bike lane section of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is something which I’ve been waiting to explore and exploit since I first learned of the bridge replacement project years ago. The bridge(s) officially opened last year, and I personally witnessed our Sith Lord Governor cut the ceremonial ribbon on the project with that red laser sword of his, but Darth Cuomo was fibbing when he said construction was done. The Governor would likely offer that he finds my lack of faith disturbing.

Principal construction, yes, but the contracts for this project don’t end until at least the end of 2020. Within two days of the official opening, vehicle lanes were blocked off by jersey barriers vouchsafing construction equipment and tool sheds, and orange netted wooden breastworks were once again hugging the bridge’s superstructure and perfectly visible to the children of Blissville and Maspeth. While I was on the bridge last week, for instance, a crew of Union electricians were working on perfecting the street lights illuminating the roadway. That’s the Sith way, I guess.

I’m still trying to figure out how to photograph that series of unearthly LED generated “colours out of space’ which the decorative lighting systems produce.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

See that Waste Transfer Station pictured above, found in Greenpoint?

Hostile reaction to the presence of wandering mendicant photographers over the years at this site have marked my general preoccupation with recording its splendors. Once, a brusque exchange with some hard hatted fellow driving a pickup truck resulted in a humble narrator being actively pursued as he walked quickly away from a threatened physical encounter. I lost the guy after darting across Meeker Avenue, but for a minute there I was sweating. It was August, so I was sweating anyway, but…

Don’t mess with the garbage guys, they specialize in making things disappear and go away. Newtown Creek, especially back here, isn’t Disneyworld and it’s real easy to get hurt if you don’t know the lay of the land. Say it with me – BROOKLYN.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite it all, I do love a good mound of trash.

A problem our City has, though, revolves around trucks being the primary means for transporting this material out of the City after it’s processed. Big players in this industry like Allocco Recycling and Sims Metal use maritime industrial resources to float our recyclable waste away on barges, towed by Tugboats. Waste Management has two giant facilities along the Creek which are serviced by railroad, providing the putrescent cargo which the infamous “Garbage Train” hauls through the Fresh Pond Yard and out of Queens over the Hell Gate Bridge. In either example, however, local collection trucks operated by DSNY or private carters focus their routes in on narrow corridors and intersections around the Newtown Creek, logarithmically increasing traffic in the surrounding residential neighborhoods, on their way to and from any or all of these “waste transfer stations.”

As I remind the “bicycle people” all the time, their quest for safer streets is directly related to reducing the personal waste flow of every New Yorker. According to officialdom, the average New Yorker produces about 1,300 lbs. of garbage a year. Reduce that by even a single percentile, and you’ve taken some of these trucks off the streets. Garbage, lords and ladies, will bury us all.

One wishes Darth Cuomo could fix that.


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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

January 8, 2020 at 11:00 am

faded from

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The fabulous Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The otherworldly light cast from the Koscisuzcko Bridge is like no earthly color, instead it’s like some colour out of space.

Its frequencies the other night, gauche and tacky, were magenta and near ultraviolet, and generated by LED luminaire heads mounted on the bridge’s superstructure. The richly saturated color of this radiation wreaks havoc on digital camera sensors, whose engineered color science doesn’t account for wavelengths of such an unnatural hue. The bridge light is the frequent subject of social media conjecture – on overcast nights in neighborhoods as far as ten miles away – with light pulses and coruscates soaring up to impact and stain the clouds.

Often have I seen queries and postulates offered from Queensican or Brooklynite alike as to why the vaulted cloudbanks over that legendarily undefended border between the two boroughs appears pink, purple, or red. Some theorize about extraterrestrials, others about a returned “Astoria Borealis.” I offer that the lighting design takes its cues from certain greek owned coffee shops here in Astoria, which are not noted for their decorative restraint in the area of lighting design.

Here, at the epicenter of the unearthly radiance, is the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

2.1 miles from the East River is where this volcano of LED generated light erupts nightly. The industrial zones of Blissville in Queens and eastern Greenpoint in Brooklyn are painted in whorish coloration by it, and even the preternatural darkness of Calvary Cemetery is punctured by the brightly colored display.

Darth Cuomo seeks to connect the new bridge’s lighting system to other facilities for something described as “the harbor of lights,” which will coordinate the lighting on all the structures which the Governor’s mailed fist controls for special events. If the Mets ever win a pennant, for instance, count on seeing a strobing blue and orange pattern pulsing from of the Empire State Building and then out to all of the NYS owned bridges and tunnels. It should be quite a bizarre sight, as the colour out of space here at Newtown Creek permeates out to the entire megalopolis.

Soon, we shall all know of the colour, and it will be a part of our lives just as we will be a part of its.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is actually a surprising amount of vibration, flexibility, and movement engineered into the new Kosciuszcko Bridge. This is somewhat problematic for my pursuits, regarding long exposure night time shots from its walkway. I can tell you that the fenceline on the bridge has vertical bars that are about 90mm apart from each other, and that my favorite camera lens is about 87mm in width. I would also suggest that I had absolutely nothing to do with this fact, and that I didn’t make it a point of injecting myself into the construction project’s community advisory group in the hope of avoiding the installation of a chain link fence in favor of some other design a bit friendlier to camera work. Saying that, there’s a lot of vibration and sway to deal with when a heavy truck blasts by on the BQE doing 50mph.

Unnatural light and swaying vibration, automotive exhaust, waste transfer stations, the vaporous emanations of a Federal Superfund site on a January night… nepenthe.


“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

January 7, 2020 at 11:00 am

invocation addressed

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Rain, rain, hold still while I take a picture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One didn’t get out too much over the week between Christmas and New Years due to a variety of reasons, amongst them was that spate of drenching rain which hit the neighborhood here in Astoria, Queens. Regardless, inactivity and I don’t enjoy each other’s company, so I set up the camera and experimented a bit right here at home.

If you were making your way down Astoria’s Broadway and saw the silhouette of a weird old guy and a camera up on a tripod in a window, you should have waved. That was me.

Since I’ve lived in this neighborhood, that bodega has had three owners and never changed its name. The first set of owners were brothers, ones whose family had a farm back in Lebanon. Back then, they had great produce, and either brother was your go to for finding out whether or not a pomegranate was ripe or not. They sold it to another Lebanese family, one which had a large group of sons that were all fitness fanatics. I used to call them the “Lebanese Olympic Weight Lifting team” and it was always fun watching what would happen when someone tried shoplifting at the bodega. Older brother Gazi once punched a crook so hard that the fellow lifted about four feet into the air and traveled about six feet horizontally, making a quite satisfying “slap thunk” sound upon his landing. The current owners are South East Asians (Indian or Bangla, I’m not sure), who don’t carry much in the way of produce you’d want to buy, and are not obsessed with going to the gym, but are otherwise nice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever it rains for an extended period, my thoughts always drift toward my beloved Newtown Creek. One of the curses suffered by my favorite waterway involves the “combined sewer outfalls” which transport excess storm water mixed with untreated sewer water directly into it. These NYC owned pipes are often at least a century old, and use a pre modern era approach to waste water management summed up by the old adage “the answer to solution is dilution.” I know way too much about NYC’S sewer system, as a note.

That sewer grate, which is on my corner, is connected to a large pipe found under Broadway which connects all of the corner grates. That large pipe connects to an even larger pipe found at 42nd street called an interceptor. If you stand on the north side of 42nd and a Broadway in Astoria, you can hear water roaring through it through the access or manhole cover. This pipe goes to Northern Blvd. where it takes a right and follows the slope of the street through Queens Plaza, then goes diagonally under the Sunnyside Yards and towards the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek where it outfalls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I dream of dropping rubber duckies into the drain during a roaring thunderstorm, then racing over to Dutch Kills to catch a photo of them popping out of one of the outfalls. I’ve also fantasized while in the grip of somnambulant hallucinations, about pouring tons and tons of gelatin into the sewer, just to see what happens. Yes, I literally dream of such things.

Last night – for instance – I had a dream that I had adopted a gigantic French Bulldog the size of an ox, and that I was able to put a saddle across its back and ride it around. I mention that in an attempt to dissuade you of wondering why I dream about sewers, and to point out that rubber ducky fantasies are hardly the weirdest thing my brain manufactures.


“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

January 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

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