The Newtown Pentacle

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shuddering violently

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Palpable, redolent, and exhausting – that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It has been one heck of a couple of weeks for a humble narrator, and boy oh boy am I beat up. There’s the proverbial “burning the candle at both ends” and then there’s just throwing the candle into a campfire. The latter is what I’ve been up to, and I’ve finally arrived at a short interval whereupon I can relax for a couple of days and “chill.” Busy is better than having nothing to do, but… I like to break words down to reveal their true meaning, and “recreation” is a literal and tangible requirement at the moment. Time to re-create.

I’ve got a book or two which I want to put together, and I’m hoping to have one or the other ready and available for Christmas. Meeting season is also upon me, and it’s time to start annoying the Government people again. Community Board, Superfund, and a new hopeless cause right here in Astoria which I’ve been laying the groundwork for are about to kick into gear. Anything y’all want me to rattle on about with officialdom? Leave me instructions and so on in the comments, and I’ll see if I can get your pet peeve considered and in front of the right people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a mean season in politics coming, what with all the three term incumbents term limited in both Brooklyn and Queens. On both sides of the Newtown Creek, the “powers that be” are all about to change seats after a long period of predictability. New factions and interest groups will be manifesting themselves and pushing their particular apple carts. As is always the case with “sharp elbows,” things are already starting to get ugly, and we’re nowhere near an election at the moment.

It’s going to be an interesting if mean interval, I think. Epic bullshitting is what I expect to hear and see, in our ongoing ideological war between the “Know nothings” and the “Whigs.” As I’m wont to remind and chide – Civilizations end, but life goes on. Also, the war between the Cowboys and the Arabs has been going on for 18 years now, and there’s no end in sight, but nobody talks about that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what sunrise on the new Kosciuszcko Bridge looks like, as a note. Captured this last Sunday morning, which feels like it was a month ago to me. Back Monday with something else that I can’t imagine quite yet.

Don’t know what I’m doing with my time off this weekend, but I’ll have the camera with me. Can’t wait to find out where I’m going to go and what I’m going to see, but you’ll see it here – at your Newtown Pentacle.


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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

September 13, 2019 at 1:00 pm

dominant concern

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Green v. Gray, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Me and my mates at Newtown Creek Alliance, and in the larger environmentalist community, are always rattling on about Green versus Gray infrastructure. So – what does that mean? Basically, it comes down to taxes and “bang for the buck.” That magnificent new Wastewater Treatment plant in Greenpoint, pictured above, cost billions and billions of dollars. It also took literally decades to build. Technological marvel notwithstanding, the cost of that thing was borne by raising water tax and rates on property owners, who passed it on to their tenants in the form of higher rents. The plant is, after all, owned and operated by a City agency, the Department of Environmental Protection or DEP. DEP also handles delivery of drinking water, the upstate reservoirs which supply it, and a few other things (noise complaints, for instance). The agency was created in a 1983 City charter revision which combined multiple offices, including the various sewer systems of the Boroughs, into the current monolithic organization. They inherited a chaotic situation, with sewerage pipes in the ground that combine the flow of sanitary and storm water which were laid out by the independent cities of Brooklyn, Richmond, or LIC/Newtown as early as the 1860’s. During rain events, the storm water pipes introduce vast overages of water into this combined system, and outfalls – there are 400 of them in NY Harbor – act as release valves for the increased flow. That means that untreated sanitary sewerage is released into area waterways along with the storm water. It’s why you can’t go swimming at the beach in NYC after it rains, and is part of the reason why inland waterways like the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek are Federal Superfund sites. The Superfund situation is costing DEP money as well, which means that taxes and fees on water will continue rising, and so will the rent.

Gray infrastructure – as epitomized by the 7+ billion dollar sewer plant pictured above – is expensive to build and maintain. That plant can handle an astounding 800 million gallons of wastewater a day, but in the concretized landscape of NYC, a quarter inch of rain falling citywide translates to a billion gallons of storm water entering the system. Newtown Creek alone receives (estimates vary) between 1.4 and 1.8 billion gallons of untreated “combined sewer outfall” annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Green infrastructure, on the other hand, is fairly cheap to install and maintain. Green roofs, rain gardens, and open land with plantings either drink up rain or allow it to flow down into the ground and feed into the water table. Additionally, Green Infrastructure ameliorates another consequence of having paved over everything with impermeable material – the so called “Maspeth Heat Island” effect.

Heat islands occur in urban spaces devoid of trees and greenery. Masonry and concrete tend to “hold” heat and radiate it back out. Even at night, the industrial neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are demonstrably 5-15 degrees warmer than the residential ones which are generally well planted. This causes area businesses to spend more on climate control for their spaces, increasing their energy usage footprints and the cost of doing business in NYC. Green roofs, like the one pictured above in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section, change the equation. They divert storm water and keep the structure below the roof a few degrees cooler.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It can be heinously expensive to retrofit existing building stock’s rooftops to handle the loading weight of a green roof, and since there’s little to no tax incentive to do so offered by City or State, most building owners like the idea but pass on it. Given that we’re in the middle of a building boom here in NYC, and particularly so in LIC and North Brooklyn, you’d think that all of these “Green New Deal” types would be demanding that new construction incorporate “Green Infrastructure” technology into their projects. Sadly, this isn’t the case, as everything is false and a deception in the worlds of Politics and Big Real Estate.

Me? I’m realistic about life in the big City, the bottom line, and personally won’t do anything which I don’t want to do unless I know there’s a hefty fine I can avoid by doing it. The City currently meters the water going up the pipe into apartment buildings, but doesn’t meter what’s coming back out. Maybe if we did the latter, it would encourage the developers of 40, 60, or even 80 story apartment towers to embrace the Green Infrastructure concept and lessen the impact of their projects on the combined sewer system. It’s probably possible to engineer a net positive on the outflows, which might mean rebates from DEP for providing capacity. Who knows?

Or, we can just keep on building giant multi billion dollar sewer plants which cause your landlord’s water bill, and your rent, to continually rise.


“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

September 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

general noisesomeness

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Things I’ve seen, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday last, the estimable Working Harbor Committee (which I’m proud to be a part of) produced the 2019 Great North River Tugboat Race over on the Hudson River. One had to show up medium early in Manhattan for this one, but a good time was had by all and it was a fairly nice day – weather wise. WHC will be publishing official race results and describing who won what trophy as soon as everyone recovers from the effort.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Val drove into the City for the event, and then gave me a lift home afterwards. While crossing the East River on the Queensboro Bridge, the camera was brandished – as is my habit – and the shot above was collected. Funnily, it reminds me of the opening video scrawl from the ’80s sitcom Taxi.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville section of Long Island City just before sunset offers long shadows for the itinerant photographer to record, and luckily I was there at a particularly picturesque moment.

Back next week, with more sights.


“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.

gradual provisions

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Staying low, and minimal like, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It isn’t easy to avoid other people these days, as the City has become rather crowded. That’s part of the reason I’ve been doing “my thing” at night so much in recent years, I suppose. Avoiding encounters with other people, and their radicalized political views of the world, is nepenthe. My current pet peeve is a phenomena called “virtue signaling,” wherein you’re supposed to espouse sympathy or something for some aggrieved fellow traveler based on their affiliation or perceived membership in some group that receives more than its fair share of societal abuse. This abrogation of the individual is disgusting to me, and my antipathy for modern day “identity politics” is something which a humble narrator has not been shy about.

Just because you’re a homeless poet doesn’t mean you’re not a dick too. I’m sympathetic towards your existential horror and the mean treatment you receive, but all your other qualifiers don’t buy you any special consideration if you’re kicking a dog, breaking into my apartment, or holding up a bodega. Life sucks, toughen up. We’ve all got it bad – disappointments, tragedy, and ennui are part of the human experience. Bah!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More than ever, one’s generational status has been coming up over and over. My older friends who are “Baby Boomers” decry the “Millennial” crybabies. The “Millennials,” on the other hand, are fairly sure that they invented (amongst other things) alternative lifestyles and bicycle riding. Both groups, whose population cohorts dwarf my “Generation X,” like to lecture and comment about society’s perceived sins and injustices. Both groups start sentences with “You can’t say that,” or “You have to.”

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? How many grains of sand are there in the ocean? Let’s throw a handful of rice in the air and try to count the grains before they fall? How much time do we have to waste discussing crap? To my older peeps – what happened to your empathy? To my juniors – nobody really cares about anything, it’s all a god damned game.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What’s the point of trying then? If the deck is stacked against you, why not curl up into a ball in some ditch and just cry yourself to death? If some group you’re a part of is being oppressed by some other group, do you just sit and complain about your lot?

Or do you get angry? Remember – the world only makes sense when you force it to, and you’re not a part of some larger group, you’re an individual. Knock it off with this group identity crap, folks. You’re not a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian. You’re not white or black or trans or whatever. If you willingly join into the groupthink mentality, you’re just a number. Also, the most successful identity politician of the 20th century was Hitler.

It’s not easy to find a place devoid of people these days, as the human infestation has gotten out of control and “colony collapse” disorder seems to be on the horizon.


“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

September 5, 2019 at 1:00 pm

pillared hall

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Getting high in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One managed to get himself invited to a mixer/party being thrown by the Queens Economic Development Corporation in LIC last week, at the Z Hotel rooftop bar. Unfortunately, circumstance didn’t allow for the setting up of a tripod and getting “truly” busy, but I did manage to squeak out a few shots while I was ten or so stories up.

Above, looking eastwards towards Queens Plaza just after sunset.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The POV normally encountered by one such as myself is firmly terrestrial and on the street, of course, so whenever an opportunity to gain some altitude is encountered it is grabbed at hungrily. Also, they had drinks, so…

Last time I was down here it was actually quite late on an early August night, and it was one of the many times that I got caught in the rain this year. That stretch of time right in the middle of the summer season between July and August, when the City was getting hit with daily thunderstorms, saw a humble narrator constantly getting caught outside in sudden downpours. Bother!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Z Hotel’s rooftop is lined with glass panels, which are anchored into the building with metal posts. I used one of those posts to steady the camera, and having remembered to turn off the image stabilizer on my lens (checklist!), and then got into the clicking and whirring action with the camera.

Y’know, this reminds me… I’ve got to get up onto the Empire State Building sometime soon, for a shot of Newtown Creek from up on high.


“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

September 3, 2019 at 11:00 am

firmly determined

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Sunnyside Yards, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned earlier in the week, one has been utilizing a severely limited photo bag for the last half of August, containing two small lenses and a novel form of camera support called an Ultrapod. The latter is basically an aluminum plate with machined screw holes of various sizes punched through it and there’s a tripod head screw mount welded onto it too. A bit of customization is called for, but due to the ubiquitous nature of the screw holes (.25 inch, 20 turn), I mounted latex furniture casters onto it – for friction. The whole thing weighs just a few ounces, even with the tripod head.

That’s Skillman Avenue up there in the shot above, and some monster has left a shopping cart nearby the bike lane. Surely a crime against humanity, and a terroristic act, this shopping cart abandonment must rate up there with the crimes of Mao and Stalin… just ask the bicycle people and they’ll tell you so. #carnage

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the fun things which I’ve been able to do with this minimal sized setup is to exploit some of the holes in the security fencing surrounding the Sunnyside Yards and get the camera lens into a steady position looking through the chain link. The smaller of the two lenses I’ve been using is a pancake lens, the Canon 24mm STM, which has a tiny little piece of glass that it peers through. That itty bitty POV is just small enough to look through these defects in the fencing, and the ultrapod gives me the stability to pull off longer exposures. Right tool for the right job, huh?

The illuminated structure in the upper right of the shot above is the Acela maintenance building, and there’s two trains inside the thing. Just to the right of that is a regular Amtrak trainset which was stopped on the tracks, and the brightly lit white building is the Standard Motor Products structure found on 39th street and Northern Blvd. The shot was gathered from the Honeywell Street truss bridge over the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also gathered on the Honeywell Street truss, the shot above looks southwest across a Amtrak holding yard for what I imagine to be Northeast Corridor rolling stock, but that’s strictly an educated guess as to what they are. Sunnyside Yards is a rail coach yard – meaning that trains cross through, change crews here, stop for maintenance and cleaning – but that you can’t actually catch a train here. The irony of that never ceases to amuse one such as myself, but it is an important reminder that if you want to get technical about railroad stuff – I’m an enthusiast and know more than the average bear – but I’ve never called myself an expert on the subject.


“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

August 29, 2019 at 11:00 am

burned out

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Hey, what’s with all this Northern Blvd. stuff?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know what is to come. In recent years, the NYC Dept. of City Planning was working on something they called “LIC Core,” a planning document centering around Northern Blvd. between 31st street and Woodside Avenue. My understanding is that the planning document has been abandoned, and that the Real Estate Industrial Complex will just be allowed to do whatever they want under the proviso that a politically viable number of “affordable” apartments are a part of their plan. The whole “affordable” thing, and the arithmetic by which the concept of affordability is determined, is a bugbear of political deception which I don’t want to get into.

As mentioned in the past, I’m now a member of Community Board 1 here in Astoria, and before the summer break, a humble narrator was obliged to vote for or against a couple of these projects. Now, when you’re on a community board – and I seem to be the only person in Queens who adheres to this – it’s meant to be like serving on a jury. The petitioner presents their facts, you make inquiries, and then you vote. In the case of two large projects just a few blocks from my own home, I voted yes. Here’s why…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Close to transit, shopping, and City services? Check. Best use of the land? Well, I don’t think used car lots are the best use of the land within one to two miles of the East River. How densely populated is the area already? Well…. let’s just say that when the kids want to experiment with cannabinoids well outside the purview of their parents or just see how loud their car stereos are, the side streets along Northern Blvd. are where they go, as it’s a ghost town at night after all the car lots and mechanics shutter their doors. People sleep in their cars along these blocks, or on cardboard boxes piled up against the walls.

Just like when you’re on a jury, your CB vote is supposed to be based not on personal prejudices or preconceived notions, rather it’s meant to be guided by the presented facts and informed by your personal knowledge of the area. Saying that, my queries and comments to the various entities seeking to develop residential properties in the neighborhood revolved around topics that longtime Newtown Pentacle readers will find familiar – green roofs, truly public space, stormwater capture, hospital beds, school desks, and transit. Also, what are you going to plug the building into, since our electrical power system hereabouts… frankly… sucks.

Also – since this has come up a few times during the summer when I was talking to the press about unrelated Newtown Creek business – I in no way speak for CB1, and if you want an official opinion of the group on anything, talk to the Chair or call the office and ask for one. I’m still new to the Community Board, and getting to know not just my fellow members but also the procedural norms under which it operates. My plan for the next set of sessions, which begin again in September, is to show up and observe the way things work and then vote my conscience on the various issues presented. What you read here is from my personal POV, and all opinions are my own. If I’m speaking “officially” on behalf of any of the groups which I work with, I’ll state that. Otherwise, it’s just some schmuck with a camera mouthing off again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, and I’m still startled at the number of people who have willingly made their homes in Queens Plaza, living along Northern Blvd. seems like a poor choice. You do have fairly regular bus service, but the closest subway stops (other than the 36th street R/M) are all several blocks to the north – in Astoria proper – along Broadway. I’ve long called this stretch of Northern Blvd. the “Carridor” as it’s a super wide primary automobile and truck route that offers some of the scariest street crossings in all of Queens. Really, Steinway at Northern… brrrr…

At the moment, I’m spending some effort on recording what’s found on the Carridor right now, in order to create some kind of record before it all gets swept away by the forces of modernity and the rapacious hunger of the Real Estate Industrial Complex. The history of NYC is a story of wrenching, and quite sudden, change. Take a picture when something catches your interest, as it might not be there tomorrow.


“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

August 27, 2019 at 11:00 am

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