The Newtown Pentacle

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oblique thing

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Friday odds and ends, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday’s snow storm really seemed to catch the City of Greater New York flat footed, huh? I actually had to contact Jimmy Van Bramer at one point in the evening to let him know that Broadway in Astoria hadn’t seen a snow plow or salt spreader all day. Within 15 minutes of me contacting the Councilmember, the plows came rolling through, which is one of the reasons that I’m glad my representative in the City Council is Mr. James Van Bramer. It’s also one of the reasons that I detest the Mayor so much, as since he’s been in office basic City services such as clearing roads during snow storms have become dependent on “knowing somebody important.”

Progressive in name only, or PINO, that’s what the Dope from Park Slope is. Every Mayor since John Lindsay has heeded the importance of clearing the roads in Queens during snow events. The Mayor tweeted that he was caught in traffic like “all of his fellow New Yorkers.” Unlike his fellow New Yorkers, the Mayor was in a caravan of NYPD driven SUV’s. His fellow New Yorkers, largely, opted to take the Subway instead. That’s what we do. Unfortunately… MTA… which I’m happy to report that former Borough President of the Bronx and failed Mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer is once again interim chair of. I know…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post were captured around Newtown Creek, as part of a series of night shots which have recently been presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle – in recent weeks. Above is a shot of the Maspeth Plank road site during an unusually low tide, and is one of the few where I actually set up a portable light.

This particular light is an LED floodlight which is nice and bright, but doesn’t have much “throw,” meaning that at close distance it’s particularly effective but that the light diffuses out into nothing after about 5-10 feet. This is a long exposure shot, so the light gathering quality of this sort of exposure allowed me to light up those bits of wood you see which have somehow survived in this spot since 1875 when Ulysses S. Grant was President of the United States and once supported a privately owned bridge across the Newtown Creek called the Maspeth Toll Road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One plans, weather depending of course, on lugging the tripod and camera bag around at night again this weekend. Who knows what I’m going to see? My heartfelt desire would be to somehow get permission to enter Calvary Cemetery at night and record the darkened landscapes there, but that’s not likely to happen.

If you see some weirdo in a filthy black raincoat on the side of the road with a yellow safety vest and a tripod, that’ll be me. Don’t bother me though, I’ll be working.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 16, 2018 at 2:00 pm

mechanically performed

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What I’m doing, while you’re asleep.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given my particularly nocturnal activities of late, it was a shock to the system when I had to arrive at an assignment on the Greenpoint/Williamsburg border yesterday at 7:30 in the morning. It’s been quite common for the last couple of weeks for me to be retiring to the bed at about 4:30-5 a.m. after returning from scuttles about the Newtown Creek with an image packed camera card. Seldom have I been out that late, rather, I’ll get back to HQ sometime just after midnight and then sit down to handle the developing process on the freshly minted pixels.

Pictured above is the Grand Street Bridge as seen from one of the two arms of the East Branch tributary of Newtown Creek. One of the things I find “neat” about these night shots, long exposures all, are details which the limitations of human night vision occluded while in the field. Those whitish gray arcing streaks in the water are reflected light coming from the scales of fishes in the water, which were invisible to the naked eye.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit further up the Newtown Creek, this time along the English Kills tributary, and the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is in focus. This sort of shot is possible only because of my long sought knowledge of every possible point of view on the waterway, which I’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of hours walking around when the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is bobbing about in the sky. That’s why I’d recommend not attempting these sorts of shots “cold,” since daylight observations have revealed to me all the spots where various urban snares and dead falls into the water can be found.

In the case of the shot above, the shoreline surrounding the bridge is decidedly unstable, with soils that are subsiding into the water and held together only by tree roots and subsurface pipes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Safe as houses, that’s how I’d describe the location this (rare for me) vertically oriented shot of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge was gathered, at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road site. As above, so below, at the Newtown Creek.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve come to detest the LED lighting used on this and many other structures in modernity. This system of lighting creates an out of gamut series of colors, are far too bright, and give an otherwise nicely apportioned bridge the appearance of a garish Greek coffee shop back here in Astoria.


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shattered nerves

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English Kills, at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So this is where a humble narrator found himself last evening, but as I had good company with me, one was only mildly terrified by the solemnified majesty of Newtown Creek. This is near the end of all things, where Newtown Creek’s tributary English Kills flows into a sewer which also flows into English Kills. Dichotomies notwithstanding, that’s the Montrose Avenue Railroad Bridge in the left of the shot, which carries the tracks of the Long Island Railroad’s Bushwick Branch over the waterway, and into the luminance of Waste Management’s Varick Street location. It was windy.

This is Brooklyn, roughly 3.7 miles from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were rats.

As my pal Bernie Ente used to advise “the rats at Newtown Creek are well fed and won’t bother you, they don’t care that you’re there, but they might run over your feet.” That didn’t happen, foot wise, but my companion and I did spot a few plump specimens skittering between the shadows. The biggest issue encountered, actually, was when we followed a trod upon path around the borders of the canalized waterway. The brush is still thick, and there were a few fallen trees to contend with, but we were determined to gain access to the spot where the story of Newtown Creek suddenly stops.

That spot has a designation: NC-015.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mounds of litter and garbage that mix with and provide firmament to a tangle of self seeded vegetation and fallen trees can simply be described as “a trip hazard,” but there were more than a few spots encountered on the way to this location that could have easily ended with a broken ankle. It was quite dark, being night time, it should be mentioned. A portable light was used to illuminate the foreground in the shot above, but prior to that it was a silhouette against the water.

3.8 miles from the East River, the western facing point of view above is from above Combined Sewer Outfall #NC-015. It’s the 20th largest of the 400 such outfalls in NY Harbor, in terms of volume, releasing 344 million gallons of untreated wastewater into English Kills a year (last time I checked).


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firmly sustained

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DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, one ventured forth with two goals; first: get a decent night shot showing as much of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge as I could get into frame, second: try and get some equally nocturnal shots of the trains moving around on the Queens side in Blissville. While I was shooting the former, the GPA Bridge suddenly opened to allow a tug and barge through, which is how I got those light streaks in the shot above – they’re the running lights of the tug. Yay.

By the time I got to the Queens side, the railroad guys seemed to have done all the moving stuff around they needed to do for a while, but I hung around for about 45 minutes and waved the camera and tripod around at a few things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, this spot in DUGABO is likely not where Amazon is going to base itself. A humble narrator received several phone calls about the subject yesterday, but I’m as clueless as to that tale as everyone who is not Gubernatorial staff is. The ways of the Dark Prince of Albany are subtle, and manifest in secret. Do not try to peer too deeply at the abyss that the Dark Prince dwells within, for he may notice and fix his gaze upon you. When the Dark Prince reveals his intentions, the children will rejoice, but prior to that only lament will be theirs and ours.

Seriously, not a clue. I’m reading the papers too, that’s all I’ve got. I also have no opinion on “good or bad” yet, since I have no information at all to work with. I’ve asked around as well, and have received a universal “dunno.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home, this odd little monument to workplace safety was encountered in Blissville in front of the world’s largest Fortune Cookie Bakery, a distinction which Long Island City has long enjoyed being the home of.


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nicely scabbed

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Monday continues to suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been burning the proverbial midnight oil for the last few days, working late into the night in the manner which I was once known for. There’s a couple of big projects in the works, which I hope to be telling y’all about in the coming weeks, but there is a dearth of content for the old Newtown Penatcle today, so a few odds and ends are on offer. Pictured above is a food truck observed on the corner of Steinway Street and Broadway in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been running to and fro, and relying on the ever unreliable MTA to get me there. As I often opine – The “A” in “MTA” is for “Adventure.” That’s the M line entering the 46th street station here in Astoria, which one utilized to connect – via the Court Square Station – with the G line and North Brooklyn.

Once upon a time, I used to budget out a little extra time and plan my rides on the Subway in pursuance of getting a seat and taking one train to my destination. These days, I’m more likely to transfer three or four times along the way. When life throws you lemons you make lemonade, and when a Mayor and a Governor play political football with the transit system you figure out how to be agile when traveling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of subways, that streaky light in the shot above is the 7 line exiting the “tube” at the Hunters Point Avenue stop and climbing up the elevated tracks towards the aforementioned Court Square Station. The south western tip of the Sunnyside Yards is what you see in the rest of the shot, along with some of the new real estate development underway which will give everyone another chance to live in a high rise tower rooted into a toxic mess of post industrial ooze.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 5, 2018 at 1:30 pm

exceedingly gruesome

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I still need a vacation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent an interval arguing with a proverbial “angry old white man keyboard warrior” type yesterday afternoon, who accused me of being a “hystrionic hipster clown.” I’ll accept clown, but hipster? I encounter this sort of fellow occasionally in real life, sometimes when I’m conducting a tour. You can always spot them; head cocked back, one eye slightly winced, sour look on the face. They showed up to see me screw up so they can then call me out on something. Usually, they will interject with some obvious thing – “you gonna mention the Long Island Railroad?” or something.

Yes, I will, when we get to that section of the tour. If they continue with the derision, I tend to bury them with a depth of knowledge that they aren’t prepared for, or introduce them to the group and hand them the microphone. Screw with the bull, you get the horns. Given my love of conflict and argument, if you come at me all aggressive like, I’m going to freaking bury you with a smile on my face as I do it. Brooklyn, that’s where I’m from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Getting all granular about every little thing is something that I prefer not to do. I’ve never claimed to be an expert on all things – however – I do possess an enormous knowledge base which covers a lot of subjects. Subway and train people are the worst about this sort of thing, writing you off if you don’t know the model number of some twenty turn screw that the Dual Contracts era engineers had problems with. I know a lot about a lot of things, and know everything about one or two things. Given my particular interests, which generally revolve around Newtown Creek, anything that’s tangentially related to the waterway’s history is something I’ve read up on and at least tried to talk to an actual expert on the subject. That means I know far more than most “civilians” about wastewater management, trash hauling, maritime shipping, and the sociopolitical history of Brooklyn and Queens. It’s a pleasure to meet somebody who wants to share what they know about trolleys or some other esoteric subject, but the vast majority of these armchair scholars just want to hoard their knowledge.

The fellow who was being aggressive and nasty to me yesterday didn’t get the “full treatment,” which is what I call the vulgar display of my well honed internet research powers. Suffice to say that within fifteen minutes of his ugly attentions and nasty commentary, I knew his home address and had a photo of him sitting on his porch in Smithtown out on Long Island. As expected, he was a retired city employee pining for the “good old days.” Seriously, folks, there is no such thing as online anonymity unless you are very, very skilled in hiding your tracks. All I need is your email address and I can follow the wires back to, at least, the corner you live on. Imagine what the cops can do. Don’t make threatening statements online, with the ideation that you won’t get kicked in the skedooch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not offended by the “hipster” or “clown” accusations, incidentally, although “hipster” is a bit of stretch. What pissed me off was the accusation that I’m some sort of transplanted Midwest suburbanite who recently arrived in NYC to disaffectedly enjoy soy mocha lattes at some upscale Williamsburg cafe. I’ve encountered this sort of thing before, and it just ticks me off. Other than something like six to eight composite weeks when I was off galavanting in New England or Europe on vacations, I’ve woken up in New York City every single day for the last fifty one years. I didn’t pick up and move to Long Island or Westchester or …Staten Island… like some goddamned little kid afraid of what he’s seen in the big bad City. That would be giving up, and admitting that the malefic intelligence of the City had beaten you.

It’s standard “keyboard warrior” technique, calling somebody names. Let’s talk face to face, on the street where things are tangible and real. Say it to my face, if you want to deploy your MAGA code words and veiled threats.

Feh. 

Upcoming events


Saturday, November 3rdTidal Toast, a fundraiser party to support Newtown Creek Alliance in our mission to “Reveal, Restore, Revitalize” the Newtown Creek. Since 2002 the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) has been the voice of Newtown Creek; working with industry, agencies, and residents alike to promote awareness, remediation, access, resilient businesses and ecological restoration. This celebration will champion the Vision for the future of the waterway and those that have contributed their time, energy and effort to it.
More information and tickets here. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 2, 2018 at 11:15 am

denizens of

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The horror…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Halloween, Lords and Ladies. The shots in today’s post were actually captured last night, so the pixels are still wet on them. One had a sudden desire to “get out,” and wander through the night. Such sudden callings to commune with the darkness are impossible to ignore, and often it seems as if some other intelligence has taken possession of my actions when such moods suddenly manifest. The filthy black raincoat flapping in the oil stained breeze, a humble narrator often hears the call of the children of the night in the concretized devastations surrounding the loathsome Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not a smell you encounter during low tide at Dutch Kills, rather it’s an aroma that greets you when the black mayonnaise is exposed to the air. That’s when the things which slither and slide through its greasy melange can be observed, and when other things best left uncommented upon are revealed. One is never concerned about those lower intelligences which feed upon and live in the toxic mud, as if you leave them alone they will ignore you in return, rather it’s the shadowy forms moving and chittering beyond the chain link fences which should raise concern.

Given the time of the year, Queens Plaza is avoided assiduously, for autumn is ideal vampire weather and the steel rafters of the elevated subways are infested with the things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Coelacanths have not been spotted in the East River, yet. Saying that, other ancient forms of aqueous life are said to squirm about on the bottom. Were these impossibly intelligent and impressively ancient amphibian things ever motivated to do so, they would rise from the depths to strike down our civilization in order to teach mankind new ways to revel and enjoy ourselves. It’s happened in great cities before, elsewhere.

What do you think happened to the Mayans? Climatological collapse? Feh.


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