The Newtown Pentacle

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Thursday is gristle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described previously, a humble narrator decided to inspect the Triborough Bridge’s rather well used bike and pedestrian path recently. It’s illegal to take photos up there, as I discovered post facto. When an Government Agency doesn’t want you taking photos somewhere, there’s usually a reason. The reason they give will involve the words “security” and or “terrorism,” whereas the words I’d offer include “corruption, incompetence, or malfeasance.”

So, who uses this pathway? Observationally, a lot of bike riders and pedestrians. What they encounter is an (incredibly) unlit and narrow space with stair cases that just sort of appear in front of you without warning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bike rider approaching my position above is also breaking the law, since the MTA Bridges and Tunnels operation instructs that riders on the bike path MUST dismount and walk their bikes. Quite obviously, this isn’t something that happens too often. I saw people riding on electric skateboards and scooters as well.

I’m actually planning on how and with whom I’m going to deal with on this subject. It makes me angry, especially so because Triborough is a toll bridge and fairly flush with maintenance budget cash, unlike the NYC DOT bridges like Queensboro or Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, just as I git to one of the fairly steep stairs, a couple of riders with profoundly bright LED bike lights appeared. Their colorful light helped paint the picture, as it were, of what’s happening up here. Literally the only light other than automotive headlights was being pumped out by these two bikes. Luckily, I always carry a pocket flashlight, but sheesh.

Something different tomorrow, and this won’t be the last time you hear about this particular situation.


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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

April 15, 2021 at 1:00 pm

sentiently over

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Wednesdays just drizzle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, these photos are criminal in nature. Post 911, a lot of NYC became “no photo” zones. The press photographer’s association actually sued the MTA to guarantee the right to take photos in the subways, and as far as the East River and Hudson bridges go – they’re largely owned by three entities – Port Authority, NYC DOT, and MTA Bridges and Tunnels. PA and DOT were out of the banning photography business by 2008 or so, although you still encounter the odd Cop or Security Guard who’d aggressively inquire “why are you taking pictures”?

MTA, on the other hand never explicitly banned photography, instead they invoke some obscure “NY State Authorities” rule which offers the opinion that facilities like the Triborough Bridge are a) private property, b) that whether you’re on the thing or even around them you must follow all instructions on posted signs – even if the sign is missing or you’re not on “their” property. Technically speaking, everybody who’s taken a photo in Astoria Park of a kid’s birthday party which the Triborough is in the background of is a potential member of Al Quaeda to MTA. Remember them? Haven’t thought about Al Quaeda in years. Who’s the enemy nowadays?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, to my point of view, if the Government – and specifically the political patronage mill section of it called the MTA – doesn’t want you to take pictures of something, that’s precisely what you should be taking pictures of. To wit, you’re looking at the unlit and unmarked pedestrian/bike path of the Triborough above.

In some ways I was kind of hoping a cop would show up and ticket me for this, as I’d make a whole megillah out of it. Glad one didn’t, but if photography is such a burning security issue here where were the MTA cops? One way or another, I’m going to start talking about this with the people who sign MTA’s checks soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There isn’t a splash of glitter paint anywhere near the unlit stairwells which just appear in front of you in the dark. The path is set in such a manner that the headlights of oncoming bridge traffic are at eye level while you’re walking in deep shadow. There’s zero path lighting – a string of xmas LED lights secured to the deck would vastly improve things. Then there’s the section over the East River where the “Suicide Fencing” stops and you’re suddenly experiencing a waist high rail as the only thing standing between you and a 105 foot drop to the waters of Hells Gate…

Yeah, I bet there’s a bunch of reason they don’t want cameras up here.


“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

April 14, 2021 at 1:30 pm

assignable colour

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Tuesday, it’s a fizzle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bunch of years ago, a humble narrator was employed by an ad agency called Ogilvy & Mather, specifically their Ogilvy Interactive division. The founder of the company was a guy named David Ogilvy, and one of his maxims was that you should use the products you’re advertising. Selling IBM Typewriters? Buy and use one. Buicks? Guess what you should be driving? It’s actually a fairly good thing to do, getting to know the particular frammistat or whatsis or widget you’re working with or for. Over the years I’ve found myself carrying a FirstUSA credit card, wearing shoes from Nike, or Timberlands, and so on. In my life these days, this takes the form of consuming municipal services.

I’m heavily involved with the whole Newtown Creek thing, therefore I interact with the waterway and the people who work and live along it all the time, as well as the regulators of officialdom. A couple of years ago, my pals at Access Queens and I decided to get smarter about the bus system of Queens so I started riding the bus everywhere I went, often eschewing the much faster mode of transit offered by the subway. If you want to truly understand a product or service, you have to be a customer and a consumer of it first.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last year, I’ve been co-chair of the Queens Community Board 1 Transportation Committee. Recently, I noticed a lot of online chatter about the Triborough Bridge’s bike and pedestrian path, and decided to go investigate the situation for myself. If it comes up, I’d like to have, at least, an informed opinion on the matter. Besides, I’d literally never – ever – walked over Triborough. Kind of crazy when you think about it, given how many other bridges I’ve walked over the last decade, but there you go.

After crossing west of 31st street, Astoria Blvd. becomes Hoyt Avenue. At Hoyt Ave. North and 27th street, there’s a stairway which leads up to the aforementioned path. You’ll encounter a neat metallic bas relief map there, describing the Triborough bridge complex and it’s relationship to Queens, Bronx, Manhattan, and Randalls/Wards Islands. Hidden behind a fence was another sign, one which adjures against the usage of camera equipment on the pathway and threatens strict enforcement, but I’ll swear on a stack of bibles that I didn’t see it until I was exiting the path on my way back to rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a rail for bicyclists to roll their ride down on the stairs, which is in tune with the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority’s rules stating that cyclists need to dismount and walk their bikes over the span. Yes, stairs, on a bike path. Yes, pedestrian and bikes coexisting within a very narrow space…

You want to understand something, use it, Ogilvy indicated.

TBTA, once the crown jewel and center of the “House of Moses,” is now a division of the larger MTA Bridges and Tunnels operation. That’s Moses as in Robert Moses. As much as MTA would enjoy being able to do so, the suspension of First Amendment rights and the specific suppression of photography isn’t something they can do. What they can do is invoke a rule that says “must follow instructions on posted signs.” By their logic, if you encounter a sign that says “jump” and you don’t leap to your death, you’re fair game for prosecution, fines and or tickets. Grrr.

Of course, as mentioned, I didn’t see any posted signs when entering the path since it was hidden and obscured. Ignorance of the law is no defense, they’ll tell you. Thereby – I’m now a villain, a rebel, a pentagenarian delinquent…

Tomorrow – photos from the forbidden zone and my daring foray into the criminal scene of the overworld of the Triborough Bridge, high above Astoria.


“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

April 13, 2021 at 11:00 am

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Thursday has stumbled in again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One found himself in the “happy place,” as I refer to industrial Maspeth, during an extremely low tide. Pictured above is Maspeth Creek, with its exposed mounds of Black Mayonnaise. Maspeth Creek is one of the sections of the larger Newtown Creek which I’d like to see “delisted” as a navigable waterway (according to Coast Guard) and reclassified as an “environmental benefit” area. All of us at Newtown Creek Alliance can talk endlessly about the benefits that such a conversion would bring not just to the entire Newtown Creek waterway but also the industrial business zone surrounding it. Essentially, creating a tidal salt marsh environment here would be so beneficial that it could help offset the impact that the many, many truck based heavy industries of Maspeth create. A guy can dream, huh?

It was aromatic, to say the least, when this shot was gathered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few blocks away, at the Maspeth Plank Road site, you can actually see how low this tide was. It looks like you could just walk out and touch the wooden artifacts of the bridge which once crossed the Newtown Creek between Furman Island and Greenpoint’s Maspeth Avenue, but I would have sunk to mid thigh into the mire. Normally, all of that pebbly sediment is sitting under a few feet of water.

Wish I could say that I planned on hitting this low tide, but it was pure luck and coincidence – I was just out taking a long walk in a place with a virtually zero night time population.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the photography curious, these are all handheld shots. The newish camera I’m sporting these days, the Canon R6, coupled with a couple of fairly “bright” lenses is allowing me to leave the tripod at home when I don’t intend on doing either long exposures or any of the fancy pants focus stacking stuff. I’m not leaving all that behind, of course, but it’s been great fun to leave HQ with just two prime lenses and a camera in tow.

That, lords and ladies, is your Newtown Pentacle Thursday installment.


“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.

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Monday is arisen, and risible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first two shots in today’s post were gathered during a quick visit to Astoria’s Luyster Creek, found on the forbidden northern shore of Queens. I’m told that the rotting wooden structure in the one above used to be a dock. Personally, I don’t have any reason to argue with that. As you can tell, it was low tide when I was waving the camera about and all of the exquisite petrochemical and human excrement smells normally subsumed by the waters of the East River and Bowery Bay were available for easy sniffing.

Y’know, when you’ve taken the deep dive into all of the Newtown Creek “superfun” that I have, your head gets filled up with all sorts of regulatory terms. “NAPL” is non aqueous phase liquid, for instance. “VOC’s” are volatile organic chemicals. What those five dollar terms indicate is that VOC’s – or petroleum derived products – mixing with VOC’s – basically raw sewage – is pretty bad. All this yuck settles down out of the water column and builds up a bed of sediments – called “Black Mayonnaise.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The flowing water found at the head of the canal, here at Luyster Creek, is a bit of mystery. I’ve asked my pals at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation if they have any clue as to where this water is coming from. The theory is that it’s a natural spring being fed by “pore” or ground water, but that’s their best guess. The 20th century did a real job to the forbidden northern shore of Queens.

I’ve added Luyster Creek to my list of waterways, by the way. A group of us are going to head out here this weekend to do a shoreline cleanup, hopefully the first of many such endeavors. The good news is that some of my friends who work for the City are going to help out by letting us dispose of the collected trash in their bins.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Seriously, I haven’t been in Manhattan more than once or twice in the last year. This shot was collected when I was walking home from getting my first vaccination shot at a hospital on the Upper East Side. What a pleasure it was, I tell you, to walk home on a pleasantly warm day and catch that unoccluded East River afternoon sunshine. Sure, you have to dodge out of the way of people riding motorcycles in the bike lanes, which the bicycle people will tell me I’m imagining.

I’m a fan of the bike people’s push to turn the north side of Queensboro’s lower level current ped/bike lane into purely bike, while dedicating the south path for purely pedestrian access. Did you know that the south side lower level roadway used to be a trolley route? The streetcars would exit from the bridge and proceed up Northern Blvd. all the way to Woodside Avenue.


“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

April 5, 2021 at 11:00 am

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